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AUS Tertiary Update Vol 5 No 28 8 August 02

AUS Tertiary Update Vol. 5 No. 28, 8 August 2002
In our lead story this week…..
The Association of University Staff (AUS) is welcoming aspects of both the United Future and Green Party policies on tertiary education as negotiations continue on the form of the new Government following last month's election. AUS National President, Dr Grant Duncan, says that concerns remain regarding United Future’s industrial policy and clarification is needed on aspects of the Party’s tertiary education policy. He welcomed, however, United’s commitment to increasing base funding for tertiary institutions as well as to a review of the current cost categories of tertiary institutions so that these better reflect the real costs of providing for students. "United Future’s general policy statements reflecting a commitment to encouraging collaboration and recognising the special role of universities as institutions of research as well as learning are also positive," says Dr Duncan. He also welcomed the Greens acknowledgement in its policy that there has been a long-term fall in the real value of government subsidies for tertiary education and its commitment to ensuring those subsidies are sufficient to meet real costs. Given AUS concern regarding the need to emphasise research, scholarship and learning in the humanities and social sciences, as well as technical and vocational education, Dr Duncan said that it was reassuring to see that the Green Party’s policy included the view that: Education should be seen not only as the acquisition of job skills; but as an integral part of life-long learning that fosters the gaining of wisdom, the fulfilment of human and societal potential and the advancement of knowledge…. . AUS will be seeking a meeting with both United Future and the Green Party as soon as possible.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Rationalisation at Lincoln
2. VUW to consider limits on commerce students
3. MPs more qualified than rest of workforce
4. Lawsuit student blames government
5. California master plan for higher education
6. Seven killed in bomb in student cafe

While noting that most areas of teaching and research will remain viable, AUS Lincoln Branch is dismayed at the rationalisation process announced by the university yesterday. AUS Branch President, Dr Jim McAloon, acknowledged that the university is operating under considerable difficulties because of virtually static Government funding. “This Government has done almost nothing to relieve the pressures in its first term. Government inaction is ironic given its rhetoric about the importance of knowledge,” said Dr McAloon. “Cuts are particularly evident in the field of natural resources engineering and the public need to know that Government policy is forcing universities like Lincoln to withdraw their support from future oriented programmes like this one. This is one of the few engineering courses which is required to recognise the total dependence of human society on the health and stability of ecosystems”. Dr McAloon fears that despite the extent of changes indicated, there may be more to come with consequences for administrative and technical staff.

Victoria University of Wellington's senior management is to consider a proposal by one of the university's commerce faculty to limit the number of students accepted for first-year papers because of concerns over the language competence of some students. Colin Jeffcoat, who is Associate Dean for undergraduate students at the Faculty of Commerce and Administration says an increasing number of students whose first language was not English were having trouble understanding basic words during lectures. The problem was not with overseas students, he said, because they had to sit an English proficiency test before being accepted for study. Rather it was with permanent residents and New Zealand citizens whose first language was not English. Dr Jeffcoat says putting limits on the number of students accepted to do first-year commerce was the only way to tackle the problem in time for the new year.

A look at the credentials of the new crop of MPs suggests more of them have a university qualification than in past parliamentary terms, with 64% of the MPs entering Parliament for the first time having a university qualification. Analysed on a party basis, the Green Party takes the honours for having the most MPs holding degrees, with 88% of its members holding a university-level qualification. New Zealand First has the smallest proportion of degrees among its MPs – 46%. Tertiary Update notes that the high representation of university qualifications amongst the latest intake of MPs is far from representative of the rest of the workforce. According to data from the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), only 14% of the New Zealand workforce between the ages of 25 and 64 have a university-level education. That compares with 20% for Australia, 19% for the UK, 21% for Canada, and 30% in the United States.

In Britain, a mature law student who was awarded £30,000 from Wolverhampton University in settlement of his allegations of poor teaching and inadequate facilities says he blames the British Government for his negative experience. Mike Austen told the The Times Higher Education Supplement, he believed there would be a flood of students following his lead and pursuing lawsuits as a result of the Government's failure to fully fund the expansion of higher education. Among Mr Austen's complaints were errors in exam papers, cheating in exams, and 60 students trying to cram into seminar rooms designed to hold 15. He also alleged breach of contract because he was told certain modules would be available when they were not. "[The Government's] policy of inclusion is being implemented without regard to ensuring proper accommodation for the greater number of students and without regard to maintaining standards," Mr Austen explained. "It is my view that Wolverhampton University is a classic case of what must happen under current policy."
Legislators in the US state of California are putting the final touches to a new higher education plan that proposes increasing the power of the state's community-college board, sets aside research funds for state priorities, and for the first time includes guidelines for elementary and secondary schools. Higher-education officials are welcoming the proposal to link public schools in with higher education and say giving the community-college board greater power over campuses state-wide should help overcome a situation in which local boards had often worked in opposition.

The Islamic militant group, Hamas, has claimed responsibility for a bomb attack in a crowded cafeteria at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Seven people were killed and more than 80 others were injured in the explosion, which happened as Israeli, Arab and foreign students ate their lunch. Hamas said the bombing was in retaliation for an Israeli air strike in Gaza last week in which 15 people, including 9 children, died. The café was in the Frank Sinatra Centre – a gathering place for students of many nationalities, and seen as an example of ethnic and racial harmony despite the 22-month-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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: Direct enquiries to Margaret Ledgerton, Policy Analyst:

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