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AUS Tertiary Update Vol.4 No.22

In our lead story this week…..
Staff at Canterbury University are calling for more rigorous accounting after revelations of budget errors pushing the deficit up to around $7m. this year. A recent Council meeting heard that the university's superannuation contributions had been understated by $1m. because of a clerical error. An unexpected jump in depreciation of $2m and a blowout in salary adjustments had also contributed to the deficit. The Vice-Chancellor, Daryl Le Grew indicated there would need to be "some very difficult decisions" as the university struggled to shave $6m. from its budget on an ongoing basis. He said a team set up to look at where savings could be made had found that the university was over-staffed in some areas, and work was going on to establish a staffing formula that linked staff numbers with enrolments. AUS Branch Organiser, Marty Braithwaite, says the latest financial information has come as a surprise to staff. Previously, the Vice-Chancellor had given assurances there wouldn't be redundancies when AUS raised the possibility of this. "Staff are feeling incredibly apprehensive about what the future holds."
Meanwhile, the University has decided to drop its controversial $100m loan deal that would have seen the university's land and buildings leased to a trust in return for the money. The scheme had been on hold after some council members insisted Inland Revenue rule on it first. However, it has now been revealed that it was never submitted to the tax authorities, but was simply dropped. One Council member, accountancy lecturer Alan Robb, has asked financial staff how much the deal has cost to date, but at last reports was still awaiting a reply. The Council was told work was now under way to establish a more flexible and simplified funding structure for consideration at the August meeting.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
Nobel brain drain
Victoria's battle for books
The student loan dilemma
Massey top spender on ads
Academic freedom under attack in Canada
Pubscience website in jeopardy
Labour's plans for clever Australia

The scientific community in Otago says the visit home of New Zealand-born Nobel Prize winner, Professor Alan McDairmid highlights the brain drain concerns facing New Zealand science. Professor McDairmid has been working overseas for the past 45 years, but when he once tried to get a scientific job in his homeland, he was unable to get work. The Vice-President of the Otago Institute, Dr Dave Grattan says that if New Zealand was to become a "knowledge society", top scientists needed more opportunities to remain in this country, or return here from abroad. He suggests reversing the scientific brain drain requires a more secure career path for young scientists.

The Victoria University Students' Association (VUWSA) has called on the Government to increase funding to universities after a report by Victoria's Librarian that the university cannot afford to buy enough new books and journals to keep up with academic research. The Librarian told the Academic Board that the library was largely confining purchases to the books needed for specific courses because of funding problems. Since 1997, the library budget for new books and journals has been capped at $2.9m, and a combination of market price increases and exchange rate losses has seen its purchasing power cut by 43%. VUWSA Education Vice-President, Nick Henry says: "The current funding offer from the Government is barely enough to cover inflation. The Government needs to make a significant investment in universities if we are to be able to meet our basic needs, let along keep up with international research". We'd agree there!

Student representatives say calculations obtained from the Ministry of Education show that student debt will cripple the economy within the next two decades unless the Government does something to relieve the burden on students. The New Zealand University Students Association obtained the figures under the Official Information Act. NZUSA says they show that nurses will take 23 years to pay off their student loans, GPs just over 20 years, and secondary teachers around 16 years. Co-President, Andrew Campbell says that does not take into account the years that women take time out of the workforce to raise children, meaning they will take much longer to pay the money back. And Chris Hipkins, President of VUWSA says the Government has also seriously underestimated growth in the level of student debt. In 1999 it was saying it would hit $11.6bn, by 2020, but is now saying it will be $19.4bn by then. "It won't be long before accumulated student debt is the single largest item on the Government's balance sheet," he says.

Massey University was top of the list for spending on advertising for students this year. Figures from AC Nielsen show Massey's budget for advertising increase 149% to $480,000. Next biggest spenders were Auckland at $329,000 and Victoria at $151,000. Massey University Students' Association describes the expenditure as "extremely exorbitant" and sickening, saying the money should have gone on teaching instead. But a university spokesman says Massey's spending was influenced by its strong emphasis on extramural students.


The academic staff association at the University of Toronto has filed a notice of breach of academic freedom against their university over the dismissal of an eminent psychiatrist, David Healy. Dr Healy was professor of psychiatry at the university, as well as a clinical director at the related Centre for Addiction of Mental Health (CAMH). He was told he was being dismissed after delivering a paper at an international conference in Toronto. In it, he expressed concern that large pharmaceutical companies might be avoiding research that reveals hazards associated with their products. He referred to controversy over whether or not widely-prescribed antidepressants such as Prozac can lead to suicide in some patients. Prozac's manufacturer is a private donor to CAMH. The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has also been campaigning on Dr Healy's behalf. It says his case is the latest in a recent series of disturbing academic freedom cases at Canadian universities. Dr Healy's paper is being presented online by the medical journal, Nature Medicine at

A US Department of Energy website of scientific information is in jeopardy as the result of a bill approved by the House of Representatives. PubScience (at offers researchers free access to more than a thousand peer-reviewed physical science journals rather than searching multiple websites, publications, and references. But a report by a House Committee accompanying the Department's appropriation bill asks that it carefully review its information services such as Pubscience. According to the report: "The committee is concerned that the department is duplicating technical information services that are already available from the private sector."

The Labour party in Australia has pledged that, if it becomes the next government, it will double the country's research and development commitment over the next ten years and significantly increase public funding to universities. It's "Knowledge Nation" policy also provides for financial incentives to study, and promises to create at least 1,000 commercial and university positions to encourage Australian scientists and researchers to return home. The National Tertiary Education Union President, Dr Carolyn Allport calls the document "visionary", but says it will require a huge re-investment of public dollars in education, research and public infrastructure. "The report doesn't tell us where the money will come from," she points out.
AUS Tertiary Update is produced weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the union and others. Back issues are archived on the AUS website:

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