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AUS Tertiary Update Vol 5 No 17

AUS Tertiary Update Vol 5, No 17 May 22, 2002
In our lead story this week…..
The Government announces the details of its 2002 Budget in Parliament this afternoon, but in line with the trend in recent years, has already released information about several initiatives for tertiary education. The Associate Minister of Education, Marian Hobbs has announced an extra $8m. for adult education and the Minister responsible for tertiary education, Steve Maharey, has announced two initiatives involving extra funding of $21m. An extra $10m. will go to supplement the $35m.Tertiary Education Strategic Change Fund, established last year to provide one-off grants to help institutions adapt to the new tertiary education regime. He also announced $11.6m. to improve information about the skills needed in the economy. Announcing the initiative at an industry training organisation conference, the Minister said it would allow the Skills Information Action plan released last year to be fully implemented.
The Association of University staff (AUS) has welcomed the skills funding announcement but says it is overdue. "AUS has lobbied for such an approach to labour-market information consistently over the last decade," says National President, Dr Grant Duncan. He says the university sector urgently needs information on academic staffing given the student bulge coming through the school system, plus the pending wave of retirements caused by the ageing of the academic workforce. The situation was complicated by the fact that salaries were not high enough to retain the best staff and loans and debt were discouraging talented students from completing the higher degrees needed for academic jobs. Dr Duncan also warns against expecting universities to respond rapidly to any short-term skills shortages because it takes three to five years for a university student to graduate and become available for employment.
The Council of Trade Unions (CTU) also welcomes the new spending on forecasting skills shortages, but Secretary Paul Goulter says more action is needed. “Investment in training and retraining, better pay rates to attract people, and involving workers and their unions in improving how work is organised are also needed to address the issue of skills shortages,” he says.
We will have a special Budget special edition of “Tertiary Update” tomorrow.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Polytechnic role in regional development
2. Call for staff issues coverage in new government project
3. Twenty years of 'sabotage'
4. National policy for bigger bursary awards
5. Not knowledge, but how you use it that counts
6. South African conference on sector changes

In another pre-Budget announcement, the government has announced a new fund to allow the country's polytechnics to take a more active role in regional development. The scheme will get underway next January with funding of $2m. Polytechnics will be able to apply for grants of up to $300,000 to fund initiatives that will contribute to regional economic growth. These could include collaborations with local industry and iwi as well as local development and initiatives to meet skills shortages or improve management capacity. The announcement has been welcomed by the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE). Its National President, Jill Ovens, points out that regional polytechnics have been "in melt-down state" in recent years because of under-funding, poor management decisions and direct competition with private providers. "Demoralised" staff were pleased with the acknowledgement that polytechnics are "crucial players in regional development, particularly in the area of skills development".

AUS is calling on the government to include broad staffing issues in its recently-announced Collaborating for Efficiency project. The aim of the project is to "gain efficiencies through diagnosing and sharing best practice" in the public tertiary education sector with "staffing costs" one area of focus. AUS National President, Dr Grant Duncan, says he hopes the project will not be a continuation of the negative policies of the 1990s, when the emphasis on efficiency was more relevant to profit-focused businesses than public education institutions. He says developing "collaborative strategies" on staffing issues would be of tremendous benefit to the efficiency and effectiveness of tertiary education. Dr Duncan says job evaluation is a good example. "Currently, each institution, at great cost, employs consultants and devotes significant resources to developing its own job evaluation scheme. Given that each institution employs the same occupational groups, it seems logical to suggest that a common, national scheme would be more appropriate – and a better use of resources that are urgently needed elsewhere in the system."
AUS is approaching the government to discuss union representation on the steering group that will oversee the project work.

A Wellington lawyer has told students at a Massey University capping ceremony that New Zealand universities have been sabotaged by successive governments for nearly 20 years. Speaking at the College of Business ceremony in Palmerston North, Stephen Kos said that since 1984, governments had chosen to starve universities of the funding they needed to do their work to a reasonable standard and said they had engaged in "sabotage" under the guise of parsimony. "It is sabotage, because the trends and consequences are evident to the meanest of intellects and it is a fundamental principle of law that people are responsible for the foreseeable consequences of their actions." Mr Kos, a partner in law firm Russell McVeagh, cited university research showing the decline in government funding of universities over the period amounted to around 35%.

The National Party says that if it became Government it would substantially increase the value of Bursary so that students are adequately rewarded for their exam successes. It says it would pay students with A Bursary $2000 and those with B Bursary $1000, rather than the present $200 and $100 respectively. National leader, Bill English, called the current rewards for Bursary exam success "a joke".

The Minister of Research, Science and Technology, Pete Hodgson, has told graduating students that it is not what they learn at university, but how they use that information that is most valuable. He was speaking at a Massey College of Humanities and Social Sciences graduation ceremony in Palmerston North. "Knowledge changes with society, as prejudice and social mores change," Mr Hodgson said. "What today's graduates have proved is their ability to absorb new information and their ability to apply cynicism, scepticism and discernment to this information”. He also welcomed the big increase in the number of people opting for a tertiary education and said this was the result of a change of attitude among New Zealanders to higher education.


The South African National Tertiary Education Staff Union (NTESU) is planning a conference in mid-July next year on the topic "Changing Working Conditions in Higher Education". The conference will be held in Durban, and NTESU is inviting participation by unionists and others in the tertiary education sector who have been involved in planning, negotiating and researching issues that affect the working lives of employees in higher education institutions. Papers, workshops and panel discussions are planned on topics including career paths, the impact of technological change and globalisation, the roles of staff in higher education, the changing economics of the sector, governance, grievance, quality assurance, and equity issues.

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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