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AUS Tertiary Update Vol.5.No.2, 7 February 2002

AUS WEB SITEAUS Tertiary Update Vol. 5 No. 2 , 7 February 2002
In our lead story this week…..
The new Association of University Staff National President, Grant Duncan, says the prospect of strike action by staff at six of the country's seven university is a reflection of the frustration felt by university staff over many years. In a speech in Wellington, Dr Duncan pointed out that salary offers had yet again been below reasonable expectations. He predicted that with an increase in staff/student ratios, and hence workloads, universities would face "grave difficulties" in recruiting and retaining staff of an international calibre unless the situation changed. Referring to the changes currently underway in tertiary education policy, Dr Duncan said he hoped these would result in real improvements to the quality and international standing of New Zealand university education and research, and in tangible benefits to all university staff. "We must acknowledge that policy reforms can only succeed if they respect and support the personnel who staff the institutions that delivery the goods." He also called for "all forms of knowledge" to be valued – not just science and engineering – "as essential components of the strategy to improve out society and to remain in step with a rapidly changing world". While universities earned export income and produced many profitable commercial spin-offs they represented more than an economic asset. 'They are complex organisations which sustain a huge wealth of diverse knowledge," he said. In his speech, Dr Duncan also paid tribute to the support and dedication of the small staff at AUS and to the union's Executive Director, Rob Crozier, who retires in the middle of this year after 22 years with AUS and its forerunner the Association of University Teachers. Replacing him would, Dr Duncan said, be "one of the most significant decisions that the Association will make for some time to come".

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
Auckland to go it alone with titles?
8%er returns next week
New 'visits' fund established
Controversy over targeted research plan
British academics seek 13% pay rise
Candour a thing of the past?

Auckland University has circulated a discussion paper proposing to change its system of academic titles from the current one based on the U.K. approach, to a U.S. system of assistant, associate and full professor. Critics will point out for one university in New Zealand to have a different system of academic titles from its seven counterparts seems ridiculous. More important, however, is the fact that the present system is entrenched in the collective agreement for academic staff at Auckland. As a result, any changes would be a matter of negotiation. “Tertiary Update” notes the discussion document's paper’s about ranges of rates and can't help wondering: Is this just a backdoor way of introducing them?

The 8%er – the other AUS electronic weekly publication – will be back next week. This members’-only publication will begin the countdown to the day of action on Monday 4 March and keep members up to date with negotiations around the campuses.

The Ministry of Education has announced a new fund – the International Education Visits Fund (IEVF) – to encourage short visits overseas by New Zealand educators to publicise New Zealand's export education industry, and to provide some financial assistance to bring key education policy and opinion makers to this country. The fund has been established under the government's Export Education Strategy to raise awareness of New Zealand education and qualifications overseas and to help build relationships. Under the fund, successful applicants will receive money towards travel and living costs for speaking engagements, missions and attendance at offshore forums. There will be two funding rounds this year. Applications for the first close on Friday 1 March. Applications should be sent to the International Policy and Development Unit, Ministry of Education, 45-47 Pipitea Street, P. O. Box 1666, Thorndon, Wellington. More details can be found at

A row has blown up in Australia over the federal government's plan to direct one-third of the Australian Research Council's grant money into four priority science areas – nano and bio-materials, genome/phenome research, complex/intelligent systems, and photon science and technology. The news that the ARC would direct $170m. over five years to the four areas has brought criticism that the result will be a narrowing of the national research effort. Particularly incensed are social sciences and humanities researchers. The Academic of Humanities president, Professor Iain McCalman is quoted as saying he was "disturbed" by the decision to focus on science alone when his organisation had put forward four areas it believed were of national priority. "While no one would argue the importance of the four [chosen] areas," Professor McCalman is quoted as saying, "an enormous amount of money has been put on four horses that they think will produce the goods." The government says the move is a first step in a broader process of national priority setting.

British university lecturers are to seek a 13% pay rise in a joint pay claim from the Association of University Teachers (AUT) and the Natfhe. It is the first time the two unions – which together represent 62,000 British academics – have made a joint pay claim. They say the pay rise is needed to prevent a recruitment and retention crisis that would prevent universities reaching the government's target of 50% participation in university education by 2010. As well as the 13% pay rise, the claim also calls for a minimum starting salary of £24,000; a professorial minimum of £42,000; a rise in hourly paid rates by the same average as full-time salaries; and, action to close the gender pay gap. The claim has yet to be endorsed by the memberships.

A report just issued in the United States has found that the system of evaluating professors and students is one that "fears candor". The report, "Evaluation and the Academy: Are we doing the right thing?" was sponsored by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Its authors found that the inflation of student grades, and uncritical letters of recommendation for staff were harmful practices that undermined fairness in higher education. The report's authors conclude that grade inflation results from a more "student-centred" faculty trained during the 1960s as well as the increased use of student evaluations of staff. The report gives the example of a study conducted at the University of Washington that found that lecturers who gave higher grades were more like to receive positive student evaluations. The report is available at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences' website at
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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