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AUS Tertiary Update Vol. 4 No. 35

In our lead story this week…..
Five education unions, representing 65,000 members across the sector, have renewed their battle to prevent trade in education services being further liberalised under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). New Zealand is one of two countries that have tabled papers promoting the idea of extending existing trade commitments for education under the new trading regime. The issue is coming up for discussion at a meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Geneva this week. AUS President, Neville Blampied, has written to the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, on behalf of the five unions expressing "serious misgivings" about the proposal. He says it will leave national public education systems open to transnational education enterprises. He also stresses that the concept of education as "a tradable service" is fundamentally incompatible with the principle of a "quality public education that is free and universally available." Mr Blampied is calling on the government to withdraw the paper it has tabled and to speak "forcefully" against the extension of GATS commitments on education. Instead he wants New Zealand to push for education and related services to be excluded from the agreement. He is also calling for an urgent meeting with the Minister to discuss the issue. As well as AUS, the other unions are ASTE, NZEI, PPTA and TIASA.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Clause 33 enacted
2. More pay offer rejections
3. Otago ahead of budget
4. CORE funding announced
5. Proposal to keep Kiwis abroad in touch
6. Graduate tax proposed
7. Pay parity 'neglected'

Parliament has passed new legislation for the governance of tertiary education institutions, including the controversial clause that allows the minister to remove a university council and appoint a commissioner in its place. AUS and the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors' Committee had lobbied strenuously against Clause 33, arguing that either universities be excluded from this part of the legislation, or that the matter be put aside until the introduction before the end of the year of the Education Amendment (No. 3) Bill. That is expected to establish and clarify the role of the Tertiary Education Commission in the new-look set-up for the sector. However, the legislation did see some amendments put forward by the Green Party in return for its support. The Green's tertiary education spokesperson, Nandor Tanczos said his party shared tertiary sector concerns over the circumstances under which a university council could be replaced. The amendments mean a commissioner can only be appointed when an institution can no longer pay its debts, making it what he calls "a last ditch option". The Green Party support was also contingent on the legislation being reviewed and the results being reported back to Parliament in five years time. AUS welcomes the Green Party action.

Staff at Victoria University in Wellington are the latest to reject their pay offer as the sector pushes for an 8% rise in salaries. They rejected an offer of 1.8%. Massey staff are expected to reject their offer of 1.5% a year for the next three years (with a review in year two and three if funding increases), while academic and general staff at Waikato are unhappy with their zero offer. There has been no offer yet from Otago (see next article).
And we must record that the 1.5% increase accepted by general staff at Lincoln University (see "Tertiary Update", Vol. 4 No. 34) was a settlement of negotiations which had commenced before the current recommended national claim was set.

The University of Otago is ahead of its budget by $4.5m due to higher than expected commercial income and external research grants. A financial report tabled at the latest council meeting showed the university had an operating surplus of $13,785,000 at the end of August, well up on the budgeted surplus for the period of $9,244,000. The report also said Vote:Education funding was expected to be more than $1m ahead of budget by the end of the year, due mainly to favourable changes in the student funding mix. But the report also indicates that the university remains under financial pressure, with problems with recruitment and retention of staff. "Tertiary Update" notes that the surplus will be welcome news for Otago's human capital - its staff - who have been waiting for the university to table an offer in the current round of negotiations.

The government has unveiled its criteria for the Centres of Research Excellence Fund. The emphasis will be on research that is of world-class, contributes to New Zealand's development, and incorporates knowledge transfer activities, especially in research training. Further information is contained at the Royal Society of New Zealand website at

Plans are underway to set up a professional society for New Zealanders working in knowledge-based industries in Silicon Valley in California. The idea has come from a Canterbury University graduate, Professor David Teece, who is now working at the University of California at Berkeley. He is working with businessman Stephen Tindall and the Tindall Foundation to set up the Society of Silicon Valley Kiwis. They envisage setting up an Internet database that New Zealand companies wanting to hire Kiwis who have had experience abroad would be able to use to access potential employees. As well, the society would hold meetings to update New Zealanders working in California on developments and opportunities in New Zealand, and give New Zealand entrepreneurs the opportunity to keep in touch with developments in the knowledge-based industries. The plan is to eventually extend the idea to other parts of the world.


The British government is considering doing away with tuition payments and student loans for university students and replacing them with a special income tax on graduates. The Prime Minister, Tony Blair told last week's Labour Party's annual conference that a better way had to be found to combine state funding and student contributions, fuelling speculation that major changes were on the way. Reports say that a 2% tax on university graduates is a frontrunner to replace loans and fees. The supplementary tax would apply for up to 25 years but it is possible that graduates entering public service professions and those in low-income employment might be exempt.

A British lecturers' union has accused universities of doing little to ensure female lecturers are on a par with their male colleagues. Tom Wilson of NATHFE says latest statistics on pay for full-time academics show that men are, on average, paid £2,190 more than women. He says the gap rises with age, and is worse in the higher positions. In the 51 to 60 age group, Mr Wilson says, women's pay has fallen an average of 14% behind men's. The problem occurs across the board, even in areas such as education where women have traditionally made up a larger proportion of the workforce. Mr Wilson says the gender gap is also wider where pay is determined by local, rather than national, bargaining. He says most universities are ignoring the problem, despite that fact that NATHFE had set equal opportunity targets for them earlier this year. The other British university staff union, the Association of University Teachers, welcomes the latest findings, saying they support its own research on the pay gender gap in universities.

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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