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AUS Tertiary Update Vol 4 No.33 27 September 2001

AUS Tertiary Update Vol. 4 No. 33, 27 September 2001
In our lead story this week…..
Russell Marshall, Chairperson of the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission [TEAC] says that recent media comment on the awaited fourth report is based on an earlier draft paper and that: “..we have moved a fair way beyond where we were when that draft was done”. A media statement from Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, stemming speculation has also been released. However, the leaked information is being taken seriously by many in the sector. The report is the last of TEAC’s major reports on the future of the tertiary education. It is due to go to the Minister in October – and, according to latest information, will be released for public consultation in November. The New Zealand Herald report [26.9.01] says a confidential draft it has received recommends that a cap be placed on entry to popular university undergraduate degrees. The newspaper says the cap would take effect in the second year of courses, and would mainly affect students in the arts, commerce and business. Entry would be based on "merit" and possibly some "social objectives". The paper says the recommendation is aimed at helping institutions stabilise tuition fees and make quality improvements as Government funding would be spread across fewer students. Students who missed out might still be able to study the papers of their choice, but could pay a higher tuition fee to do so. The newspaper says other recommendations include giving public institutions funding priority over private providers where there is duplication of courses across the tertiary sector. It also recommends that private providers should go without funding if "quality failures" are detected by a new set of performance benchmarks. Other proposals include performance-based systems for research and tuition.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Students go ape over government funding
2. Spotlight on foreign student pilots
3. Campus meetings on U.S. attacks
4. Big demand for expert comment
5. Student concern at Bush antiterrorist proposals
6. Missing! Humanities and Social Sciences Ph.Ds
7. Kabul University struggles to survive
8. Ansett demise hits universities
9. Swedish initiative for virtual university

Students in Dunedin, Wellington, Palmerston North and Hamilton are being encouraged to dress up as apes today as part of a national day of action by the New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA). The dress-up day is underlining the students' message to government – "If you fund peanuts, you’ll get monkeys". NZUSA co-president, Andrew Campbell said that if New Zealand was truly committed to being a knowledge nation, it needed to make better tertiary funding a priority. "This year's fee freeze stand-off between government and tertiary institutions demonstrated that if student fees are to be decreased and staff paid better then a lot more money needs to be put into the system," he said. While students appreciated that their fees were now being frozen, they were concerned that the quality of their courses would be affected if such arrangements "carried on indefinitely."

The Head of Massey University's School of Aviation, Professor Graham Hunt, says security agencies In New Zealand have tried to check on the background of students at the school who come from the Middle East, but says the Privacy Act prevents the school giving out details of its students. Professor Hunt says the School has trained pilots from 23 countries over the past decade, including some from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Middle East nations. He doubted would-be terrorists would bother to train at Massey, however, because they would not want to "wade through" a masters degree in aviation just to get flight training when they could do that through a commercial flying school.

The Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control, Matt Robson is to hold a series of meetings on university campuses to discuss disarmament issues in the light of this month's terrorist attacks in the United States. He said the attacks mean the Government's disarmament agenda took on even greater urgency. Meanwhile, the University of Waikato is hosting a panel discussion on the consequences of the attacks. Panellists include MPs Keith Locke and Doug Woolerton and academic staff from Waikato.

There has been a strong demand from the media for expert analysis and comment from New Zealand academics and their colleagues internationally in the wake of the attacks on New York and Washington. Experts in strategic studies, international relations, Islam, Afghanistan, terrorism and refugee issues have all been in demand as the media covers the attacks and their aftermath. Most universities publish a media contact directory – as a guide to the expertise of academic staff available to the media

College and student groups in the United States are opposing parts of the anti-terrorist legislation proposed by the Bush administration, saying they would give Federal officials excessively broad access to private student records. The proposals currently before Congress would allow Education and Justice officials to access the college records of any student – without the student's consent – if officials reasonably believed that viewing them could help prevent, or prosecute, incidents of domestic terrorism. The U.S. Students' Association says the proposal is so broad that it amounts to "open invitation for law-enforcement officials to racially profile students of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent" and rifle through their private records.

A British report has highlighted a serious shortage in post-graduate enrolments in the humanities and social sciences, saying it threatens the future academic staffing of universities. The report was prepared by Professor Robert Bennett of Cambridge University and was commissioned by the British Academy. In a survey of 721university departments he found that the output of Ph.Ds and graduate enrolment was insufficient to replace existing academic staff members, especially for Chinese language, communications, economics, European languages, financial management, and linguistics. Mr. Bennett attributed the decrease to poor financial support for Ph.Ds and low pay for academics, as well as the impact of debts incurred to pay for undergraduate programs.

Staff and students at Afghanistan's Kabul University – already struggling after decades of invasion, war, and neglect – are braced for escalating problems with the threat of war hanging over the country. Founded in 1932, the university was on the front-line during the civil war that followed the departure of Soviet forces in 1989. The Taleban victory in 1996 also had serious consequences. At that stage, 60% of staff and undergraduates were women, but they were barred from teaching and studying. Some have been allowed back to train women in the medical school, which is the only part of the university still functioning thanks to aid from a Californian university.

Twenty-three Australian universities have had more than AUS$45m. in travel spending grounded along with Ansett airlines. The universities had discount deals for domestic and international travel with Ansett, negotiated through the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee. The AVCC said it would use the large volumes of university travel to negotiate a new deal with Qantas, Virgin Blue or any other airline filling the gap left by Ansett's demise.

The Swedish government is proposing creating a nation-wide virtual university by consolidating the online courses offered by most of the country's 39 state universities. Legislation currently before Parliament would set aside US$20m. to get the project underway next year. Students will be able to choose courses from any institution taking part. It is hoped the initiative will open up tertiary education to people living in isolated areas of Sweden's arctic north.
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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