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AUS Tertiary Update Vol. 5 No. 9

In our lead story this week…..
Industrial action continues around the country today
While Victoria members began a 24-hour strike at 1 p.m. today, colleagues at Waikato, Massey and Lincoln were attending members’ meetings to discuss progress in negotiations.
The Victoria strike centres on the university’s refusal to withdraw a late claim relating to the term of the contract. Meanwhile, Victoria students who have missed lectures are filling out forms requesting a pro-rata fees refund.
Waikato and Massey members will be informed about the latest developments in negotiations that have continued this week. At Massey, AUS and the university were in mediated discussions on Monday 25 March with a second session scheduled for tomorrow. Lincoln members are being addressed by the Vice-Chancellor and Human Resources Manager, who will endeavour to explain the financial basis for refusing to increase the university’s offer.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. AUS urges change to status of proposed TEC
2. Massey VC jumps ship to Australia
3. On-again merger at Otago
4. Commonwealth Universities concerned at government ‘micro-management’
5. New General Secretary for AUT
6. Rank injustice

AUS urges change to status of proposed TEC
Last week, Rob Crozier, AUS General Secretary and Margaret Ledgerton, Policy Analyst made an oral submission to the Education and Science Select Committee in relation to the Tertiary Education Reform Bill (see written submission at AUS supports the Tertiary Education Commission in principle but is nevertheless strongly critical of its proposed status as a Crown Agent, “giving effect to” policies determined by the Minister of the day. Rob Crozier urged the Committee to give serious consideration to making the TEC a body that would “steer” the tertiary sector “having regard to” Government policy. TEC should also become the principal policy adviser on tertiary education to the Minister, rather than the Ministry of Education, as set out in the Bill, and TAMU should be assimilated into TEC. AUS called for a review clause to be included in the legislation if these changes were not agreed to.
AUS joined other submitters (NZVCC, NZUSA and most of the universities) in expressing concern at the proposed powers of the Minister in the draft legislation.

Massey VC jumps ship to Australia
Massey Vice-Chancellor, Professor James McWha has been appointed as Vice-Chancellor of Adelaide University. Prof McWha will be remembered most for his “repositioning” project, which led to the lay-offs of more than 100 staff, and for the lavish expenditure on buildings at Albany and Massey’s Wellington campus. Prof McWha, who currently chairs NZVCC, has been at the forefront of the market-driven system during his time at Massey. Staff have accordingly expressed the hope that the new Vice-Chancellor should “…be a servant of the university rather than its master.” It is rumoured that Sir Neil Waters may be appointed acting VC while the search for a permanent replacement continues.

On-again merger at Otago
The on-again, off-again merger between Otago University and the Dunedin College of Education seems to be on-again. A proposed merger between the two organisations in 1997 did not reach fulfilment and led to Otago restructuring its Education Faculty, laying off staff and going into direct competition with the College. The current College principal, Dr Roger Green, says that the merger has many benefits, but was mainly aimed at avoiding unnecessary duplication.

Commonwealth Universities concerned at government ‘micro-management’
The Council of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) is currently meeting in Dunedin. Professor Michael Gibbons, London-based ACU Secretary-General, has said that universities in New Zealand and elsewhere are being encouraged by governments to contribute to the development of a wealth-generating “knowledge economy”. This, in his view, requires an element of experimentation and exploration. However, governments were seeking greater central planning control and becoming increasingly involved in ‘micro-management’ of university education and this risked undermining the “knowledge society” benefits if universities could not maintain their independence to experiment.

World Watch
New General Secretary for AUT
Sally Hunt has been announced as the winner of the election to lead the UK’s largest academic trade union, pledging to fight planned cutbacks and job losses in UK universities. The Association of University Teachers (AUT) is the largest TUC trade union to back a woman for the top post.
Currently Assistant General Secretary, Ms Hunt, will take up the position of AUT General Secretary with immediate effect.
Sally Hunt wants “…to lead a rejuvenated and re-focused union better able to fight poor management decisions, cutbacks in research funding and burdensome red tape. The Government has to realise that it cannot deliver world-class research and ever wider participation on the cheap.”

Rank injustice
Peter Lawrence writing in “Nature” recently says the practice of citing the principal investigators as senior author in science publications is leading to a loss of credit for the actual innovators and discoverers. He gives the example of the discovery of HIV, widely attributed to Gallo, who “spent much of the mid-1980s travelling, yet managed to author up to 90 papers per year!” The modern research lab is a production line where credit flows to the top. Post-doctoral fellows are treated little more than glorified technicians with precious little time to innovate or reflect. He attributes the high drop out rate of women PhDs to the “aggression and competition “ that is a feature of research laboratories. Lawrence calls on leaders to address the injustice of not giving credit where credit is due.

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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