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AUS Tertiary Update Vol.5 No.5, 28 February 2002

AUS WEB SITEAUS Tertiary Update Vol. 5 No. 5, 28 February 2002
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In our lead story this week…..
UNIVERSITIES STRIKE ON MONDAY
In an unprecedented move, staff at five universities will strike this coming Monday, 4 March. Staff at Waikato, Massey, Victoria, Lincoln and Canterbury have rejected employer offers of salary increases of between 1.5% and 4%. Staff at Auckland and Otago universities, who have settled their employment agreements, will be holding lunchtime meetings to support their colleagues. The New Zealand University Students’ Association has expressed support for staff action, with NZUSA co-President Andrew Campbell stating that: “The underfunding of tertiary education, leading to low staff salaries has both short-term and long-term quality implications for students”.
The union claim of 8% for most groups of staff is intended to begin to bring university salaries back to a level comparable with international and national trends. For the past decade, university staff pay rises have failed to keep pace with inflation.
Last year, the CPI was 4% and average national pay settlements were 3.1% - while university staff rises averaged 1.6%. During the 1990s, consumer price rises totalled 18.7%, but on average, a lecturer’s pay increased 15.6%, a senior lecturer’s by 13.2%, and a professor's pay by only 10.2%. On the other hand, MPs' salaries went up by 37%, and Vice-Chancellors saw their pay go up on average by 96%.
It amounts to a situation that the Association of University Staff calls "a national disgrace". There has been increased participation in university education during this same period, but that expansion has been achieved on a "shoestring" and staff have borne the cost. Their working conditions have been eroded, in turn severely affecting the quality of education and threatening the international credibility of New Zealand universities. AUS notes that the Government’s draft Tertiary Education Strategy calls for institutions to "invest in the recruitment, retention and development of their teaching and research personnel". AUS believes this cannot happen until the Government commits to a schedule for systematically and substantially increasing its investment in New Zealand’s tertiary education system while at the same time adopting a more centralised approach to negotiations on staff salaries and working conditions. Currently, it appears that neither is being considered. A series of rolling stoppages is expected to follow the strike.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
The MacDonald’s School of Business?
TAMU at home with TEC
Students march on Trafalgar Square
Call for university ombudsman
Plug for e-learning network

THE MACDONALD’S SCHOOL OF BUSINESS?
The AUS National President, Dr Grant Duncan, has warned that academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and credible university degrees must all be safeguarded in any moves towards developing close partnerships between business and universities. In a recent media release, the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard indicated the Government's commitment to encouraging significant private sector funding for tertiary institutions. He referred to a proposal for the Government to contribute up to $25m. to build a new business school at the University of Auckland, on the understanding that matching contributions would come from private donors. Dr Duncan says AUS does not oppose close partnerships, and even joint ventures, between universities and private organisations. But he says these partnerships must not in any way suppress freedom of speech in the interests of the commercial partner, and courses need to be delivered by independent teacher-scholars who can encourage innovative and critical thinking. Dr Duncan stresses that any such joint ventures should be subject to the same scrutiny and requirements that apply to public institutions. He is also critical of the fact that the University of Auckland proposal has been accepted in principle by Cabinet, but has not been subject to any form of public consultation or scrutiny. "Tertiary education sector groups are currently being consulted about the future Tertiary Education Strategy – a supposedly planned and co-ordinated approach to development of the sector – yet Government appears to be developing policy by stealth here, in a behind-the-scenes collaboration with one favoured university," Dr Duncan says. "If New Zealand is seeking genuinely leading-edge innovation, one thing we can do without is a proposal that in any way smacks of the MacDonalds Hamburgerology degree factory".

TAMU AT HOME WITH TEC
AUS, along with other tertiary education sector groups, has written to the government calling for the Tertiary Advisory Monitoring Unit (TAMU) to be moved from the Ministry of Education to the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC). The letter points out that, given TAMU's role of negotiating and monitoring charters and profiles, allocating funds and building the capacity of institutions, it seems logical that the unit should be integrated into the TEC. It adds that TAMU is also currently responsible for monitoring equal employment opportunities in the tertiary sector and since this is an area that must be considered in each institution's charter and profile, this is another powerful reason for having the unit as part of TEC.

WORLD WATCH

STUDENTS MARCH ON TRAFALGAR SQUARE
About 3,000 students from across Britain this week staged a march to London's Trafalgar Square to protest at what they say is inadequate support for university students. The marchers blocked traffic as they called for an end to subsidised loans and the reintroduction of regular cash payments. Those were scrapped by the Labour government in 1998. The protestors heard a speech from the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who called for tax increases to pay for student support. But the Education Secretary, Estelle Morris, rejected the students' claims, saying that whatever the outcome of a current review of student support, students would still have to make a contribution to the costs of their studies.

CALL FOR UNIVERSITY OMBUDSMAN
In Australia, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) is calling for the appointment of a university ombudsman in the wake of allegations of preferential treatment in student admissions to Melbourne University. The allegations concern the son of the International Olympic Committee Vice-President, Kevan Gosper and his wife Judy. NTEU National President, Dr Carolyn Allport, says the integrity of the university's student selection processes appears to have been compromised, and prospective students who missed out will feel rightly aggrieved. She also says university staff have been pressured, with the management attempting to silence any staff member who criticises its conduct. Dr Allport says the setting up of an Ombuds office for higher education would strengthen existing whistleblower legislation and provide an avenue for aggrieved students to pursue a remedy.

PLUG FOR E-LEARNING NETWORK
The director of a global e-learning consortium has told a conference in Sydney that online courses offered by universities must be more flexible and integrated with university services if they are to meet the needs of today's sophisticated students. Neil McLean – who has just been appointed to the new post of pro vice-chancellor for e-learning at Macquarie University – said students wanted to access services and materials from home. From the teaching point of view, e-learning had stretched academics by making them highly accessible, meaning accessibility had to be better managed and the job of changing and updating online materials made easier if online education was to be cost-effective. Mr McLean also welcomed a trend in the past year towards co-operation in developing e-learning. "It is still competitive, but there's a growing awareness that it's too big and too tough to do it alone – that through collaboration one might get better technical solutions," he says. "It's sharing knowledge in terms of building the next generation of infrastructure."
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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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