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AUS Tertiary Update Vol. 5, No. 11

In our lead story this week.....
The Tertiary Education Minister Steve Maharey - responding to concerns about the level of university funding raised by the University of Otago Vice-chancellor in his annual report - has strongly defended the Government's tertiary funding record. Dr Graeme Fogelberg said the quality of teaching and research at Otago was in jeopardy as New Zealand's leading universities were "starved" of funding. But Mr Maharey said tuition funding had increased by $158.2m. as a result of higher enrolments and a 2.6% funding increase in last year's budget. The Minister did acknowledge Otago's concerns over its relatively low commerce and humanities fees, which had been effectively frozen since 1999, and said he was considering possible solutions to that. Dr Fogelberg says he stands by his remarks in the annual report.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. E-mail controversy haunts Auckland
2. May we clarify, Minister
3. No change for academic titles
4. Students seek refunds over strike
5. Massey opts for in-house appointment
6. Private training provider in liquidation
7. Calling all technical staff
8. Australian RBA chief warns of waning standards
9. Students sue PNG Chancellor
10. Vote for action at USP

The Auckland University Vice-chancellor's e-mail last week warning academic staff in the biological and biomedical fields not to "talk down" their colleagues in other parts of the university (see "Tertiary Update Vol. 5 No. 10) has prompted fierce debate on the nature of academic freedom. The Association of University Staff (AUS) has called on the university to retract threats to "summarily fire" staff making negative remarks, saying such threats are out of line with its obligations to act as a "good employer". Meanwhile, the Vice-chancellor has written to the New Zealand Herald taking issue with an article it ran headlined "University gags academics with sacking threat" and its implication that academic freedom was under threat at Auckland. Dr Hood says both the article and the implication are inaccurate, and that the original e-mail did not contravene academic freedom as defined in legislation. In a letter of response, the AUS national president Dr Grant Duncan suggests this is to take a very narrow view of academic freedom. "Academic staff are free to criticise their own institution on matters relating to its operations and its research activities, whether the Vice-chancellor likes it or not," Dr Duncan writes, suggesting Dr Hood come up with specific examples. "He should also seek more constructive ways of encouraging collegial behaviour and vigorous debate within his institution," Dr Duncan says.

The AUS immediate past president, Neville Blampied has written to the Minister, Steve Maharey calling for a system for settling salary claims that is in line with the new tertiary education policy framework. Mr Blampied was writing in response to reports of a discussion Mr Maharey's had with Auckland union members on pay-fixing mechanisms. Mr Blampied says while eroded pay rates are the short term issue, in the long-term the focus must be on finding a system for settling salaries to fit in with the new co-operative and centrally-steered direction the government is taking. He says AUS does not necessarily want a return to the Higher Salaries Commission model used prior to 1990 but says the link that existed then between salary decisions and institutional income must be reinstated. He says AUS continues to believe some form of more central wage bargaining is now needed, and says there are a range of options for doing this.

Auckland University says it has decided not go ahead at the present time with a proposal to change its system of academic titles (see "Tertiary Update" Vol. 5 No. 2). It says there seems to be neither the depth of feeling, nor sufficient precedent from other regional universities to justify the change. The university says it received 58 submissions regarding the proposal - representing about 4% of staff. Of these, 35 supported changes, 18 wanted things to stay the same, and 5 were undecided.

Students at Massey and Victoria universities are seeking refunds for lectures they missed during recent staff industrial action. Massey student president Huia Welton said management there was profiting from the strike because staff had not been paid, and the money that students had contributed would go straight into university coffers. Refund forms had been circulated and about 100 students had responded. The students also had the backing of the staff unions. The AUS branch president of AUS, Karen Rhodes said management was giving students a raw deal. But management at Massey is ruling out refunds, saying the percentage of classes cancelled during the one-day strike would have a "minimal effect on the learning outcomes of students".

Massey University Council is reported to have decided it will appoint an acting Vice-chancellor from within the university to fill in until a replacement can be found for Professor James McWha. Professor McWha is off to Adelaide University, and there had been reports that a former vice-chancellor, Sir Neil Waters would stand in. But the Manawatu Evening Standard says it has learned that the university was told it could have legal problems if it appointed as an acting V-C someone who was not on the payroll.

Students at Christchurch-based Careerlink College want their fees reimbursed after the College and its associated company, Impact Training Ltd went in to liquidation this week. Thirty staff have lost their jobs and about 160 students are out of pocket and looking for somewhere else to study as a result. Reports say the liquidator is working with the Ministry of Education to help the stranded students finish their training.

Applications close on 7 June for the 2002-3 QEII Technicians' Study Awards. The grants are available for trained people, including tradespeople who have been working in their current field for at least 3 years. It allows full time study in disciplines such as engineering, science, building, surveying, management, design, agriculture, dairying, technology, forestry, mining and technologies associated with tourism . For more information visit

The governor of Australia's Reserve Bank has warned that the country's universities are not "keeping up" with international standards. Ian Macfarlane told a conference in Melbourne that he was disturbed at the widespread belief that no Australian university could be ranked in the world's top 100. He called for a fundamental overhaul of universities and an end to "national complacency" about the situation.

News reports from Papua New Guinea say the Chancellor of the University, Professor Les Eastcott is being sued by students for contempt of court for failing to register a group of law students after being ordered to do so last month by a National court judge. They case concerns 27 final year law students who were excluded from studies.

Academic staff at the University of the South Pacific have voted unanimously to take industrial action unless the institution speeds up reforms of its staff housing and medical benefit schemes. Staff say the current housing scheme is "discriminatory and ineffectual" and their medical scheme "inadequate" in the case of emergency cases requiring overseas treatment.
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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