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AUS Tertiary Update Vol. 4 No. 39 8.11.01

In our lead story this week…..
The Association of University Staff (AUS) has cautiously welcomed the fourth and final report of the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission (TEAC) and says its recommendation for a review of the cost categories for funding is an absolute imperative for action. The national president, Neville Blampied says the categories were established in the early 1990s and have been cut regularly since then. "It is an acknowledged fact that these cuts have resulted in a fall in the value of course funding of more than 20% in real terms over the past decade," he says. "It is vitally important, therefore, for the Government to commit itself to giving this review priority and commencing it as soon as is practicable. Mr Blampied also welcomed the report's recognition of the importance of staff in the tertiary sector, calling it "a welcome change after a decade of neglect by previous governments".

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Industrial action spreads over pay claim
2. Global unions day of action
3. Signing of agreement with waning
4. Adjust allowance thresholds – students
5. Massey Registrar appointed to Kiwibank
6. Southern Polytechs braced for trouble
7. Legal opinion backs free trade fears

Staff at Wellington's Victoria University have voted to step up their industrial action in support of their pay claim by delaying the submission of student grades and withdrawing their goodwill. Staff also voted to escalate their industrial action until their claims were settled, and a further stopwork meeting will be held on 13 December. Campaign co-ordinator, Reece Walters, says the vote indicated the anger of staff. "The outcome of this meeting sends a clear message to Victoria University's Vice-Chancellor and the government that our staff mean business." The University is offering Victoria staff an increase of 1.8%.
Meanwhile academic staff at Lincoln have withheld second semester examination results for a week as part of their industrial action campaign following the breakdown of pay negotiations. Lincoln Association of University Staff (AUS) branch president, Jim McAloon said that by the 2 November deadline, 80% of undergraduate results were missing from the database, showing outstanding support for the campaign among staff. "While some may have tried to downplay the effect of the proposed action, to find such unity among academic staff sends a very strong message to management," Dr McAloon said.
And AUS members at Massey are to hold a stopwork tomorrow (Friday) to vote on their revised pay offer of 1.8% a year for three years. Jenny Collett of AUS Massey said union negotiators would recommend that members reject the offer.

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) has called a day of action tomorrow to coincide with the opening of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting in Doha in Qatar. ICFTU has called the action to highlight the threat globalisation poses to workers' rights. In New Zealand, individual unions and CTU Local Affiliate Councils will mark the day with local activities. AUS members are invited to participate in activities that are taking place in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The current WTO meeting is of particular interest to AUS and other education unions in light of New Zealand's support, with Australia and the United States, for the further liberalisation of education services. A recent CTU conference called on the government to support the removal of education from all such international trade agreements. Meanwhile, the combined education unions (AUS, ASTE, NZEI, PPTA and TIASA) are awaiting a response from the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, Minister of Education, to a number of questions on the issue they want answers to (see also “World Watch” below).

The government has signed an agreement with Te Whare Wananga o Aotearoa in Te Awamutu that for the first time recognises wananga as an integral part of the state tertiary education system. The agreement follows a Waitangi Tribunal report recommending capital works funding for wananga. Under the agreement, the wananga receives $40 million over 3 years with a suspensory loan facility for the three years after 2003. In return, the wananga must meet targets for student growth and retention, and infrastructure development. Negotiations are still in progress for assistance for the remaining wananga.

The New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA) says the government should immediately adjust the threshold for student allowances to make up for the fact that the select committee tertiary inquiry has failed to suggest ways of alleviating student debt. NZUSA says the thresholds for allowances based on parental income have not been adjusted in ten years, and says increasing students' access to allowances would help students out, and slow down the rise in student indebtedness. Co-President Andrew Campbell said it was hard to image that the income thresholds set in 1992 were never supposed to be adjusted. "There are thousands of students who should be receiving student allowances who are missing out," he said. NZUSA statistics show 33% of full-time tertiary students are currently eligible for an allowance, down from 45% in 1993.
Meanwhile NZUSA has released new research showing that students from the wealthiest 20% of schools are nearly five times more likely to go to university than students from the poorest schools. Students from the top schools are also 50% more likely to attend polytechnics than their counterparts from low decile schools. Co-president, Andrew Campbell says the research shows that equal access to tertiary education remains a myth in New Zealand.

Massey University's registrar, Adrienne Cleland has been appointed a director of Kiwibank. Mrs Cleland has worked as a private consultant in the banking and financial sectors and worked for many years in marketing and account management for the BNZ.

Regional polytechnics in the South Island fear a drop in enrolments as a result of the fees war between Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) and Christchurch Polytechnic. The two have pushed down fees for trades courses in Christchurch, and the Chief Executive of the West Coast polytechnic, Tai Poutini says his institution, among others, is bracing for a possible fall in student numbers as a result. "Southland has found people are attracted from outside the region to do courses because they're free, and the same effect could be found in Christchurch," he says. Association of Staff in Tertiary Education president Jill Ovens says SIT's zero fees scheme is sparking a "supermarket war" around the country, with a North Island polytechnic now signalling it would also implement zero fees. "We're seeing price wars that will lead to the demise of institutions, she said."

An international trade law firm is of the opinion Canada's public university system lies unprotected under key international trade rules – an opinion that contradicts the Canadian government's assurances that higher education is exempt from current negotiations on the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The 26-page opinion says the narrow scope of trade tribunals could allow international private education providers to argue for the opening up of public sectors under government protection. Where government subsidised its own services, GATS rules would mean an equivalent subsidy also had to be given to private providers. Executive Director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, Jim Turk, says the only way Canada's public universities can be protected is to have higher education on an equal footing with national security, meaning there could be no private service providers.

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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