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AUS Tertiary Update Vol 4 No 29

In our lead story this week…..
Labour’s 1999 election campaign pledge to lower tertiary tuition fees has been met, in part at least, by two successive years of fees deals, plus the recently announced top-up of $34.7m (not due to kick in until 1 July 2002). Fees haven't exactly gone down, but they have certainly not increased. However, we would pose the question – at whose expense? Tertiary Update can come up with only one answer – staff at our tertiary institutions. They have paid the price in terms of major redundancies, a pay freeze, worsening staff to student ratios and a massive increase in workloads. Might we suggest that if the coalition government had been serious in keeping its promise, it would have provided funding increases reflecting the rate of inflation. At the very least, there should have been increases of 2.3% last year, and 2.6% this year on the income institutions get from student fees. Clearly, university staff are considered the peasant workers of the Knowledge Society.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. More please, say university staff!
2. Investing for innovation – Minister
3. Dental drain as debts loom large
4. Transition TEC at work
5. Industrial action at polytechs
6. Quality higher education linked to economic health
7. Court backs untenured tertiary teacher

The Association of University Staff is welcoming comments by the Associate Minister of Education, Steve Maharey that the extra funding recently announced for the public tertiary education sector was made available as the result of a funding moratorium on private training establishments. AUS National President, Neville Blampied describes it as "a positive step" and says he hopes it indicates the Government's is making re-building New Zealand's public tertiary system its first priority. He says years of funding crises have been destroying the university system in this country, while private tertiary providers have seen their funding increase by more than 650% since 1999. And Mr Blampied takes issue with ACT MP Dr Muriel Newman who suggests the Government's increased investment in the public tertiary sector goes against OECD trends. "Most countries we compare ourselves with are investing heavily in public tertiary education, and in particular university education," he says.

The Tertiary Education Minister, Steve Maharey says there must be investment in a range of areas, including information technology, research and development, innovation, skills training, and lifting education levels if New Zealand is to prosper in a global environment. He suggested linking tertiary education and research institutions to the "levers of economic and social development" to build the nation's innovation infrastructure. Mr Maharey suggested land-based industries such as fishing, agriculture and aquaculture were obvious points of leverage, along with tourism and new industries such as film.

A survey of dentistry students at Otago University has found that less than half of the graduates are remaining in the country, with the rest flocking overseas to earn higher salaries and pay off debts of between $50,000 and $100,000. The Dental Council's "Workforce Analysis" report shows only 23 of 54 dentistry students graduating in 1996 were still in the country last year. According to the figures, retention rates four years after graduation are at about 43% – compared with rates in earlier years of 50% to 70%. Student representatives say they hope new government funding, which has halved the cost of dentistry tuition, may mean more students remain in New Zealand after they qualify.

The transitional Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) began work this week with a meeting of the Charters and Profiles Working Party. The working party is chaired by transition TEC Deputy Chair, Kay Turner. AUS representative on it is Margaret Ledgerton.

Lincoln University is calling for the literacy standard for university entrance in the proposed National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) to be strengthened. The new qualification will replace the University Entrance exam in 2004. The NCEA will introduce new numeracy and literacy requirements to get into university, but a draft proposal currently circulating among universities is being criticised as being vague on literacy requirements because it fails to specify the number of credits students will require.

Tutors at EIT, NMIT, Tairawhiti and Northland polytechnics have voted to take industrial action over negotiations for a multi-employer collective agreement covering the four sites. ASTE National President, Jill Ovens says the action is over attacks on conditions as well as a salary offer that includes a $300 lump sum this year and 1% next year. The union says the offer is "insulting" and means tutors' salaries lag behind those of local primary and secondary teachers.

The president of the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee has told business leaders that universities are not being funded in line with their value to society. Professor Ian Chubb said any independent assessment of the university sector would conclude that "the value of the end product universities provide is significantly higher than the nation is paying". Thrown into the deep end by government abandonment, he said Australian universities had built the export of education into a $3 billion a year industry, risen to new levels of entrepreneurship, built closer relationships with industry, and achieved management efficiencies. But he said universities were not widget factories. "We cannot endlessly drive down unit costs while improving quality with management efficiencies and new technology," he said.

A United States report has found that maintaining a quality tertiary education system is critical to attracting and retaining high-paying jobs. The report was commissioned by the National Education Association (NEA) and is based on interviews with 64 state legislators in all 50 U.S. states. The report finds that even though legislators understand the importance of higher education institutions to the economic viability of their states, colleges and universities are often among the first budget items to have funding cut when budgets get tight. "What this report shows is what we've known in the education community all along – higher education faculty members make important contributions to the financial health of their state," said NEA President Bob Chase. "I urge all of our political leaders to remember how indispensable our higher education faculty are to reviving the economy." The report is available at:

Also in the U.S., a federal appeals court has ruled that a non-tenured member can sue administrators at Jefferson Community College who refused to renew his contract after a student complained he had used offensive words in a classroom discussion. The decision is seen as protecting the academic-freedom rights of non-tenured professors. The teacher asked students to de-construct words such as "girl," "lady," "faggot," "nigger," and "bitch" during an interpersonal-communication course. The session was examining how language is used to marginalise and oppress minority groups. However, one Black student complained to her church minister who in turn warned the college that African-American enrolments would suffer unless the dispute was resolved to the student's satisfaction. A month later the college declined to renew the teacher's contract.
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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