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AUS Tertiary Update 20 June 2002

In our lead story this week…..
The Association of University Staff has announced it is setting up a postgraduate scholarship to be known as the Crozier Scholarship in recognition of the work of Rob Crozier, who has just retired after 22 years as the executive head of the union. The scholarship will be awarded to a student enrolled at any New Zealand university whose research focuses on university or higher education. There are no stipulations on the exact field of study, which could include history, management, industrial relations and economics as well as pedagogy, sociology and the health and wellbeing of students and staff. The scholarship will be administered by the AUS Council and the first one is expected to be awarded in 2004. The scholarship was announced last week during a formal farewell for Rob Crozier held at the Grand Hall in Parliament Buildings and hosted by the minister in charge of tertiary education, Steve Maharey.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. AUT/UNITEC merger speculation
2. Research funding still falls short
3. University apologises over 'minor error'
4. Tertiary Teaching Awards
5. Lincoln deficit better than expected
6. Heretaunga campus to take international students
7. Enterprise scholarship for Auckland business school
8. Student loan no investment says student group
9. UK academics reject pay offer
10. Union supports vice-chancellors' blueprint

The New Zealand Herald reports there is speculation that the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and UNITEC may be laying the groundwork for a merger following talks between the heads of the two institutions. Both AUT and UNITEC have denied a merger is imminent, but say they have been exploring ways to "collaborate better". AUT vice-chancellor, John Hinchcliff is quoted as saying that a merger was a "logical and empirical possibility", but would be very hard work and require the consent of many factions. AUT and UNITEC did at one stage agree to set up a joint campus at the old Corbans Winery Estate in West Auckland, but that plan was subsequently rejected by Waitakere City Council.

The Chief Executive of the Royal Society, Dr Steve Thompson says that while this month's budget increased spending on research above the level of inflation, it is unlikely to see New Zealand reach its "oft-repeated target" of 0.8% of GDP in less than 20 years. Dr Thompson says while there were some winners, other research areas such as social sciences and Maori research "stood still", hovering at $4.3m. and $4.5m. respectively. He says this is a "mere pittance" when viewed as part of the $500m. for science overall. Dr Thompson questions whether "meaningful research" can be done on such budgets. "A new Centre for Research Excellence for Maori Development and Advancement has just been announced under the CoRE process, and that is a good start," he says. "But the budget allocations to social and Maori research do little to build any enduring capacity in these areas, let alone build research excellence. Why these anti-social tendencies in New Zealand?" he asks.

There was a glitch in Canterbury University's latest round of redundancies earlier this month when letters offering a voluntary severance deal were sent to the wrong staff. Academic staff in two departments – Geography and Physics and Astronomy – were sent the letters when the offer was meant to go only to technical staff in those departments. The head of Physics, Professor Phil Butler described the mistake as "another batch of mixed signals" from the vice-chancellor's office. The human resources director, Bruce Jamieson confirmed there had been a 'minor error' that had created anxiety and said letters of apology had been sent to the staff involved.

The minister in charge of tertiary education, Steve Maharey is to present awards for excellence in tertiary teaching at a ceremony in Parliament next Monday (24 June). Nine awards of $20,000 will be presented as well as a supreme award, the Prime Minister's award, of $30,000.

Lincoln University has announced a $1.4m. reduction in its budgeted deficit of $2.1m. for the 2002 financial year, ending the year with a deficit of $749,000. In the annual report, the Vice-chancellor, Dr Frank Wood describes the result as "gratifying" in view of the challenges faced by the tertiary sector, including reduced funding, fees stabilisation and a reduction in domestic student enrolment.

The former Central Institute of Technology campus at Heretaunga in the Hutt Valley is to become an education centre for international students. The Tertiary Education Minister, Steve Maharey and the MP for Rimutaka, Paul Swain have announced that a tenancy agreement has been negotiated with Campus Group Holdings. Campus Group has been running trial classes there since March this year, teaching English to students from Chosun University in Korea. The lease specifies that, because its focus is solely on international students, the venture will not be eligible for government funding.
However, the New Zealand University Students' Association (NZUSA) says the decision will open the floodgates for international private providers to come into New Zealand. Co-president, Charlie Chambers points out that negotiations are currently going on under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) for equal treatment for foreign private providers. "Campus Group Holdings could be eligible for government tuition subsidies regardless of the Minister’s assurances to the contrary,” she says.
AUS is also concerned. “Current Government policy domestically is to move away from the free market in our tertiary education system. In contrast, it seems intent on ensuring that the international tertiary education free market will be able to flourish in New Zealand” says AUS President Grant Duncan.


University academic staff in the UK have rejected a 2.5% pay offer, saying it fails to address the long-term decline in university pay levels. Three unions representing university staff issued a joint statement saying the offer was "completely unacceptable" in the view of the fact that the pay levels of UK academic and higher education staff were now amongst the worst within universities in the developed world. They also point out that, with inflation running at 2.3%, any real term benefits will be eroded by the current offer. Stressing the anger among its members, the Association of University teachers (AUT) – the largest of the higher education unions – says it will call for a ballot on industrial action, including boycotting university exams and student applications, unless there is a significant improvement in the offer.

In Australia, the National Tertiary Education Union has welcomed a proposal from the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee (AVCC) for increased student participation and increased university funding. But the NTEU says it cannot agree with the suggestion that students and their families should help fund this through higher fees. The AVCC suggests 2% of Australia's GDP be invested in higher education. NTEU thinks the bill should be met by the community, business and government in recognition of the benefits that flow from the sector.

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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