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AUS Tertiary Update Vol. 4 No. 24

In our lead story this week…..
Further to our story last week, AUS has made a submission to the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission on salary-fixing mechanisms for New Zealand university staff. It notes the serious deterioration in university salaries since the introduction of enterprise bargaining under the Employment Contracts Act and identifies several international models for the effective setting of university salaries. It argues that the government must accept responsibility for funding an appropriate share of any negotiated salary increase. The submission also suggests two alternative approaches: national co-ordination and agreement about salary levels, job weights and career structures combined with local negotiation about details; or periodic reviews to establish baselines followed by regular local negotiations. The full submission can be viewed at
Member solidarity will be essential as we endeavour to develop a more appropriate salary negotiating structure, and so is increasing our membership. We would urge university staff who are not AUS members but who may be reading this newsletter to join the Association. You can apply to join online at

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Eternal Optimists
2. Government stand means stark choices
3. Massey downplays fees hike story
4. Student borrowers failing to meet the repayment threshold
5. Ireland to boost access to higher education
6. University pay gap 'injustice'
7. Stressed out and sick, but no time to talk about it

Unitec has renewed its bid for university status despite the Government's message that it does not want to see any more than eight universities in New Zealand. The Government introduced a bill in May last year which, if enacted, would set a limit on the number of universities. The Chair of Parliament's Education and Science Select Committee, Dr Liz Gordon says Unitec is arguing that it should be awarded university status on the basis of its achievements. But she says any decision must be based on a wider analysis of what is in the public interest. For more information on the Unitec application, see

With talks on the Government's fee freeze offer to universities apparently deadlocked, the Vice-Chancellors' Committee has written to the Government saying its members are left with no option but to recommend their councils reject the offer. The two sides met on 19 June to discuss the controversial offer, which universities say is so low that it will seriously jeopardise the quality of university education. In a letter sent this week, the Committee expresses concern that the Government has not changed its position in any significant way, with the only offer a "vague promise of something being discussed in the future." The letter says that the Vice-Chancellors are sympathetic to the Government's ideal of stabilising student fees, but adds that "Government's unwillingness to contemplate an arrangement which genuinely meets inflation means that universities now face stark choices". “Universities can decline the Government’s offer, raise student fees by a figure that is likely to exceed $500 per student and in doing so, protect the quality of university education at least to the current level," the letter says. "Alternatively, the institutions could accept the offer but place a freeze on salaries and research funding, and make further staff redundancies and reductions in expenditure in key areas such as equipment and library resources.” The Vice-Chancellors say they are willing to hold further discussions on the issue.

The registrar of Massey University, Adrienne Cleland is downplaying claims that massive student fee hikes are looming at the university. The National party's tertiary spokesman, Maurice Williamson has said papers he received under the Official Information Act show that Massey students could face fee increases of up to 27% if Massey rejects the Government's offer. He said that if the deal was accepted, the papers show that Massey would have to make cuts of $11.5m. Mrs Cleland said the papers presented a number of "different scenarios" and the figures cited by Mr Williamson were at the top end of the scale of possibilities.
The Tertiary Education minister, Steve Maharey said the magnitude of the mooted fee rise underlined the need for Massey to accept the Government's offer. He repeated that there would be no more new money for tertiary education at least until after the TEAC report due in September. "We anticipate being a second-term government. Therefore we have long-term plans," he said.

The New Zealand University Students' Association says IRD figures show that most graduates are not earning enough to pay off their student loans. Co-President Andrew Campbell says statistics for 1999 show that just under 70% of borrowers were earning loess than the $15,000 a year above which they were required to make repayments. Mr Campbell acknowledged that a significant proportion of those would be students still studying, but he said it was shocking that only 12% of borrowers were making more than $30,000 a year. "These figures show that graduates are not walking into the high paying jobs that many think they are,” he says. “Vice-Chancellors should be aware that if they raise fees they will be loading more and more debt on to graduates whose salaries cannot sustain loan repayments.”


Thousands of disadvantaged students in Ireland look set to receive a cheque in the mail after the Government announced it would accept a recommendation to increase grants to these students. The recommendation came in a report by a working party set up last September to examine way of getting more low-income students, people with disabilities and older students into colleges and universities. The Education Minister said the recommendation would be implemented retrospectively so that students studying at the moment who met the criteria would benefit.

In Britain, the Association of University Teachers (AUT) says the pay gap between male and female academics has widened to a "shocking" level over the past 5 years. Figures compiled by the union show women lecturers earned 16% less than their male colleagues compared with 15% less in 1995. The "worst offender" cited by AUT was Leicester University, where women academics earned on average 27% less than men.

Overworked staff at the University of Sydney are playing host to a major occupational health and safety conference, but their union says they are too busy to attend. National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) Branch President, Dr Bronwyn Winter says health and safety has become a major issue, with overcrowded lectures, day long queues in front of faculty offices, irritated students, long working hours and high student: staff ratios. She says concerns were raised with management in March, but the union is still awaiting a response. NTEU has carried out surveys on stress among staff in Australian universities using the same model that AUS used to survey staff workloads in 1994 and 1998 -- and with similar results.
Meanwhile, Australian Vice-Chancellors have condemned the Federal Government's treatment of tertiary education. The comments were made at a Senate inquiry in Sydney. The president of the Vice-Chancellors' Committee, Professor Ian Chubb told the inquiry there had been a steady decline in public funding since 1983, but the fall had become "precipitous" since 1996, when the Howard Government came to office. The result was rising staff-student ratios and a decline in quality of education. And that, we should add, in a country where tertiary institutions receive, on average, 50% more per student in NZ dollar terms than New Zealand universities do.
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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