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AUS Tertiary Update Vol. 5 No. 10

In our lead story this week….. UNIVERSITIES 'STARVED'
The Vice-Chancellor of Otago, Graeme Fogelberg has strongly criticised the government's level of funding for universities. In his review of the year, Dr Fogelberg made it clear he believed funding shortfalls threatened the quality of teaching and research in this country. "While New Zealand's leading universities are starved of funding, those tertiary institutions abroad with whom we must benchmark favourably in order to achieve and maintain a global reputation are moving ahead as their governments significantly boost funding," he said. Otago, he added, had reviewed its budgets, made extensive cuts, and put all but absolutely essential capital funding on hold. "A serious consequence of this remorseless pressure is that staff, both academic and general, are dealing with higher levels of stress as a result of ever-growing workloads," he added.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. More from 'Auckland Corp'
2. Waikato nears settlement; Victoria still at impasse
3. Christchurch College of Education to buck merger trend
4. Misuse of government funding confirmed
5. Students opposed to savings scheme for tertiary education
6. Birzeit University surrounded
7. Strike over at Dalhousie
8. Woollongong loses Steele case

An AUS member at Auckland has sent us the following email message, which was recently sent to all staff in the School of Biological Sciences by the Director. We have reproduced it in full.
“I have already personally talked to many of you about this matter – for the others please read this e-mail very carefully. The Vice Chancellor is concerned that competition within the biomedical research community has led to some individuals talking down in public other parts of the University. From our perspective this means talking down the Liggins institute or the Medical School. He has evidence that this had happened at relatively high levels, and he is concerned that this can have a negative impact on the recruitment of new staff and graduate students. It could also adversely affect potential income from investors, sponsorships and partnership appeals. The matter is serious, and the V.C. did not mince his words when he said that anyone caught talking down another part of the University will be “summarily fired”. It is recognised that competition for research funding and top graduate students is fierce – and we need to present ourselves in the best light. Please do so by showing all the best attributes of SBS without putting down the others. Take care of the fact that we all work for the same “company”, and we either rise or sink together. Food for thought.” [Indeed! – Ed..]

University of Waikato union members have voted to send their employer's latest offer to ratification. The offer is for a 3.2% increase on all personal salaries, backdated to 1 October last year in the case of union members. A working party will be set up to come up with a transparent mechanism for budgeting for legitimate salary increases in the future. Meanwhile, staff at Victoria University of Wellington held a 24-hour strike last week over a claim from the university to alter the traditional term of the employment agreement. AUS branch co-presidents say that if that was accepted, it would compromise the union's ability to bargain effectively in future negotiations.

The principal of Christchurch College of Education, Ian Hall says his institution is in good shape, and is unlikely to follow its counterparts in Dunedin, Auckland and Wellington and pursue a merger with the neighbouring university. Dunedin College of Education is the latest to announce a merger, saying it will merge with Otago university in 2004. Last year, the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission recommended that colleges of education should lose their protected status and merge or align themselves more closely with universities. But Dr Hall says that has been overtaken by the Tertiary Education Reform Bill, which includes colleges as stand-alone institutions.

The minister in charge of tertiary education, Steve Maharey says initial investigations into the New Plymouth-based Practical Education Training Centre (PETC) have confirmed misuse of government funding in the case of enrolments for its distance travel courses. The minister says that as a result he has asked the Ministry of Social Development – which administers student loans – to look at the records of all PETC distance travel students enrolled during 2001. Mr Maharey said a system had also been set up to identify and monitor closely any suspicious enrolment activity to prevent something similar happening again.

The New Zealand University Students Association (NZUSA) has written to the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard opposing a proposal that an individual savings scheme be set up to fund tertiary education, so avoiding student debt. The proposal would see parents setting up individual accounts under a private savings scheme to pay for their children's higher education. NZUSA says it opposes the idea mainly because education is a public good, and should be fully funded by the state.

Massey University Council is keeping mum on reports (see "Tertiary Update" Vol. 5 No. 9) that a former Vice-chancellor, Sir Neil Waters might temporarily fill in when Professor James McWha leaves to head Adelaide University. However, Sir Neil is quoted as saying he has been "invited to be available" but not formally asked to take on the job. Staff union negotiator Peter Blakey says he does not think the Massey unions would have a problem with Sir Neil stepping in as interim vice-chancellor.

AUS has received a moving letter from Riham Barghouti at Birzeit University on the West Bank describing the turmoil as Israel troops moved on Ramallah, base for the Palestinian Authority and President Yasser Arafat. He describes the worrying reports of occupation and "total destruction" coming through and comments: If this is not terror then I don't know what is and I don't know what more we can say or do," adding: " Hopefully, some day the world will wake up and say what is happening is wrong and we will be able to keep working and studying and moving freely with no constraints and no fear. "Tertiary Update" takes up that call and encourages the Government to lend its voice to the growing calls for a peaceful solution to the Palestine–Israel conflict.

In Canada, staff at Dalhousie University have reached a tentative agreement with the university's board of governors, raising the possibility of an end to a strike that began about a month ago. Staff walked out on 4 March, saying the university left them no alternative, after talks on a new settlement broke down after six months of unsuccessful negotiations.

The Australian Federal Court has dismissed an appeal by the University of Woollongong against an earlier ruling that it had acted illegally when it sacked Dr Ted Steele early last year. The president of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), Dr Carolyn Allport said the decision sent a strong message to university employers that they "must abide by their enterprise agreements based on the standards of justice and fairness". She called on the university to honour its commitment to reinstate Dr Steele if it lost the appeal. AUS was among a number of organisations which wrote letters of protest to the Woollongong Council.

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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