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AUS Tertiary Update Vol. 5 No. 26, July 25

In our lead story this week…..
Representatives of the 56 tertiary institutions and other tertiary providers that will take part in the trial of charters and profiles under the new tertiary education regime met in Wellington this week to attend a briefing on the trial. Universities taking part are AUT, Canterbury, Massey, Waikato and Otago. The trial which runs through to October this year, will be followed by full implementation in 2003. Charters and Profiles, seen by Minister Steve Maharey as ‘the tools of transformation that will bring the Tertiary Education Strategy to life’, are one of six key elements in the new tertiary system, the others being: the Tertiary Education Strategy; Statement of Tertiary Education Priorities; Assessment of Strategic Relevance; Funding; and Monitoring and Evaluation.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Summit highlights rise in student debt
2. ATSA reminds Minister of promise
3. Business Roundtable supports investment partnerships
4. Minister backs polytech talks
5. NTEU warning over detention centre involvement
6. European V-Cs call for transparency in trade talks
7. Middle East specialist opposes boycott of Israeli academics

The New Zealand University Students' Association (NZUSA) says latest figures for student debt show that the policy changes of the last few years have failed to curb the growth in student loans. Figures showing a 3.1% increase in student loans over $10,000 were unveiled at the third annual student debt summit held at the Auckland University of Technology. NZUSA co-president Andrew Campbell said the trend was upwards, and that would continue until government attacked the "drivers of debt", especially the lack of access to student allowances. The summit was also addressed by economist, Brian Easton who said students had been forced to pay more for their education to offset tax reductions for those on high incomes. He also attacked the "human capital" theory underpinning the loans scheme. Under this, expenditure on education was treated as an investment which solely enhanced the student's earning power, ignoring the benefits of tertiary education to the wider society. He called instead for a broader vision that recognised New Zealanders had social entitlements to an education. Another speaker, the president of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions Ross Wilson told the summit it was unfair that 44% of university students came from the wealthiest 20% of school districts compared with 9% from the poorest 20% of school districts. "If access to university education is skewed in favour of those already better off, then we worsen inequality, not lessen it." He also stressed the importance of life-long learning to allow workers to upgrade and extend their qualification and knowledge.

The Aotearoa Tertiary Students' Association (ATSA) has made it clear that if Labour is returned to power, the student body will expect to be fully consulted on all changes to the financial support of tertiary students. National president, Julie Pettett says the minister in charge of tertiary education, Steve Maharey had told students that any changes would involve the students' association, and had made the same promise to the governing body of ATSA at their recent conference. "The real question will be whether the proposed changes will offer anything of substance worth consultation with ATSA," she says.

At the same time as AUS raised concerns that the Partnerships for Excellence Framework could put at risk academic freedom if it created too much reliance on private money in tertiary education (see last weeks Update) , the New Zealand Business Roundtable has welcomed the government's announcement of the joint public/private sector investment framework. Policy advisor for the business lobby group, Norman LaRocque said private sector participation could bring a number of benefits to the tertiary education sector, including improved quality, greater efficiency and an injection of capital and management expertise. But he called for a "streamlined" application and review process to encourage private investment while at the same time ensuring taxpayers' investment was protected.

The tertiary education minister, Steve Maharey has assured Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) and the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) that their talks aimed at ending a "turf war" do not contravene the Commerce Act and should resume. The two institutions had suspended preliminary talks on how they might collaborate to end a cut-price fees war that had developed over trades training in Christchurch. According to the Christchurch Press newspaper, the two sides had been looking at how they might "trade off" courses, but the talks stalled over the issue of potential collusion under the Act. Mr Maharey said the government had already signalled it wanted more collaboration in the sector and that Ministry of Education officials had briefed the Commerce Commission on the reforms.


Australia's National Tertiary Education Union has warned the Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN) against getting involved in providing education and other services to immigration detention centres. The company that runs the centres, Group 4 Falck had approached ATN to provide education, recreational and sporting activities for asylum seekers held at the centres. NTEU general secretary, Grahame McCulloch reminded ATN that universities, as public institutions, needed to understand the importance of human rights and reflect this in their work. "While we understand the importance of providing educational and recreational services to those in correctional facilities, the immigration detention centres are not correctional facilities and are clearly an inappropriate means of housing asylum seekers," he said. "We would question the effectiveness of delivering education services in an environment where all freedoms are taken away."
Meanwhile the NTEU, in its submission to the Australian government's review of higher education, has called for the emphasis to be on more co-operation and less competition in the sector. President, Dr Carolyn Allport says universities are suffering from the combined effects of funding cuts and inappropriate competition. “We need reform that encourages universities to share their expertise to benefit the many communities they serve," she says. "Sometimes the best way to encourage diversity and specialisation is through more support rather than more competition."

Vice-chancellors from European universities have called for more openness in negotiations on a global market in higher education after learning by chance that the European Commission had submitted a formal request for bilateral talks on the subject with the United States under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The European University Association (EUA) says it should have been more closely involved as happens in negotiations in other service sectors. The talks with the US bring closer the possibility that US-based for-profit organisations could compete directly with European universities, perhaps allowing them to demand access to state funding and accreditation.

The editor of the "International Journal of Middle East Studies" Juan Cole has countered calls among fellow academics for a boycott of their Israeli counterparts. Professor Cole says suggestions that the Israeli situation can be compared to that of apartheid in South Africa are not valid. He says that while South African academic institutions generally gave their backing to the apartheid government, it is no easy task to find an Israeli academic who "expresses something other than deep distaste for [Israeli Prime Minister] Ariel Sharon". He says a boycott could also forestall important new peace developments, given the role back-channel meetings of Israelis and Palestinians at a university in Norway had played in the Oslo peace process.
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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