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AUS Tertiary Update Vol 5 No 27

AUS Tertiary Update Vol. 5 No. 27, 1 August 2002
In our lead story this week…..
The Association of University Staff [AUS] has called on the incoming Labour-led minority Government to ensure that the Tertiary Education Reform Bill is passed into law without undue delay. The National President of AUS, Dr Grant Duncan, says that although university staff have many reservations about the Tertiary Education Strategy, the fact that the new legislation had not been passed prior to the election had caused "some uncertainty" in the sector. "AUS would favour some minor amendments to the Bill and there are significant concerns about the impact of the Tertiary Education Strategy, but we would not like to see any major about-face or disruption in the overall policy direction," he says. "As neither the Greens nor United Future oppose setting up a Tertiary Education Commission it should be business as usual for the tertiary education sector”. Dr Duncan notes that both parties have a number of tertiary education policies that would be of benefit to the university sector.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Post-election issues for universities
2. University industrial negotiations on again
3. Private institutions threaten legal action over cash freeze
4. AUT hails academic freedom victory
5. NTEU acts over Monash V-C's resignation
6. British delegation calls for Israeli academic boycott

AUS has produced a briefing paper focusing on current major issues in the university sector and will be seeking appointments to discuss these with incoming political party spokespeople on tertiary education as soon as practicable. They include a range of workforce issues linked to demographic changes and the composition of the university workforce, and the current framework for the negotiation and funding of salaries. Given more than a decade of declining or, more recently, static government investment, AUS also emphasises the urgent need for a firm commitment by government to a long-term, sustained schedule for significant new investment in the university system.

The next schedule of collective employment agreement negotiations has begun for university staff, with the University of Otago the first institution to begin the bargaining process. AUS will be initiating bargaining at most universities in the next couple of months. Both the Public Service Association and the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education will be involved in joint bargaining with AUS at some of those sites.

The chairman of the Association of Private Education Providers, Kevin Smith, says the Association is consulting lawyers over the freeze at 2001 levels of the amount of public money they may receive. The private institutions say the freeze represents a broken promise that has cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars. Last year the Government announced a 12-month moratorium on the establishment of any new private tertiary institutions [PTEs] seeking public money or offering new qualifications that were already available elsewhere. But some institutions gained exemptions to set up new courses on the understanding they would attract government subsidies. Then, in this year’s Budget, the Government announced the pool of money available would be frozen at last year's levels – around $150m. for the 400-plus PTEs - effectively cutting, the private providers say, the amount of money available for those new courses. AUS, along with other tertiary education groups, has supported the moratorium, emphasising that the public education system must come first in the Government’s funding priorities. Public funding of PTEs rose from $1.98 million in 1992 to over $151 million in 2001.


In Britain, the Association of University Teachers (AUT) has welcomed a vote by the Upper House of the British Parliament, the House of Lords, to include a defence of academic freedom in the Government's Export Control Bill. The AUT has been working with the employers' group, Universities UK, to have academic freedom enshrined in the proposed legislation. The two groups have also worked with Government officials and members of the House of Lords on an amendment enshrining academic freedom that was acceptable to both universities and the Government. The General Secretary of the AUT, Sally Hunt, thanked members of the House of Lords of all political parties who had ensured the principle of academic freedom was not compromised.

The Monash branch of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) is to seek a report from the council of Australia's Monash University on its selection process after the rapid departure last month of newly-appointed Vice-Chancellor, David Robinson, for plagiarism (see "Tertiary Update" Vol. 5 No. 25). A meeting of staff and students at the university passed a motion expressing grave concern at the impact of the incident on the "good name and reputation" of the university and called for a focus on teaching and research excellence to rebuild its reputation. The NTEU will also seek negotiations for an improved selection process for senior management, including increased staff and student representation in the process.
Meanwhile, reports of corruption have been dogging academic institutions around the world. A recent Chronicle of Higher Education report states that in the United States, colleges are engaged in what many academics think of as a losing battle to prevent students from buying term papers and admissions essays online. In Japan, a senior vice-minister resigned in July after publicly admitting that he had used his political influence to help a supporter's grandson get into Teikyo University's medical school. While in Britain, a Sunday Times newspaper reporter, posing as a wealthy parent wanting to get his child into a University of Oxford college, was reportedly told the child would be admitted if he made a sizeable donation to the college.

A delegation of British lecturers and students have called for an academic boycott of Israel after a visit to the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza. In a report in the Times Higher Education Supplement [26 July], the delegates say they were left in no doubt that the boycott was justified. They say the Israeli government has destroyed the Palestinian education system by preventing students from attending universities and schools. Curfews, they report, have caused months of disruption to lectures at Bethlehem University, meaning up to one-third of the syllabus has had to be dropped. Roadblocks have also prevented students from small villages from getting to university. The delegation found strong support for the boycott among Palestinians, many of whom see the actions against universities as a concerted assault on Palestinian education rather than an consequence of increased security as the Israelis suggest.

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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