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AUS Tertiary Update Vol. 5 No.30, 22 August 2002

AUS Tertiary Update Vol. 5 No. 30, 22 August 2002
In our lead story this week…..
Academic and general staff union members at Otago University have voted to withhold exam questions after university management refused to increase their offer of a 1.5% salary increase. They have also voted for a half-day strike unless there is progress in the negotiations. More than 350 members attended meetings to discuss the breakdown in negotiations between Otago university management and a combined union team. The combined unions’ spokesperson, Dr Shef Rogers, said union members were appalled that the employer offer remained below the rate of inflation, effectively forcing staff to take a cut in income. He said members felt they had no option but to take action to achieve a reasonable settlement. "Unfortunately, it seems this is the only thing the employer will listen to," Dr Rogers said. The union side, he added, had believed the university management had come to realise staff salaries were a priority for the institution after the campaign of action waged by Otago staff earlier this year in support of their salary claim. "We are disappointed to be back in conflict so soon, and we hope that the offer can be increased quickly." Dr Rogers said the Otago Students' Association had been informed about the vote for further action and understood staff anger at the "paltry" salary offer. A stopwork meeting has been called for 28 August, by which time the union negotiators hope the employer will have an improved offer on the table.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
Student leaders call for action on debt issues
Tertiary education still 'failing' Maori students
Warning on state of Canada's tertiary education
Degree traders sets up in Australia
Partnership call to broaden UK tertiary provision

Student leaders have been highlighting the plight of students who accrue debt from short-term courses, but then cannot earn enough to pay it off over a short period of time. The President of the Otago Polytechnic Students' Association, Phil Baskerville, says figures show that women graduating from a one-year polytechnic certificate course will take 23 years on average to repay their student debt. Men with diplomas or certificates take, on average, seven years to clear debt. Mr Baskerville says it appears the impact of debt was worse for many polytechnic graduates than it was for university graduates and meant low-income people were being disadvantaged. "… means many average New Zealanders in basic trades pay more for their education than lawyers and doctors," he says. And the co-President of the New Zealand University Students' Association (NZUSA), Andrew Campbell, says the years polytechnic graduates take to pay off student loans is "way out of proportion" to the time they take to complete the courses. He says a major part of the problem is that only around 20% of polytechnic students are entitled to an allowance; meaning the remaining 80% put themselves in significant debt simply to pay their living costs.
The figures for average student loan repayment times for polytechnic students were prepared by NZUSA on data provided by the Ministry of Social Development. They show that women graduates who have taken a three-year Bachelors degree take, on average, 28 years to repay their student debt.

The Aotearoa Tertiary Students' Association (ATSA) says its research shows that Maori students are more likely to drop out of study or fail to gain qualifications than their non-Maori counterparts. The research also finds that Maori students are more likely to go into debt to fund their study than non-Maori. ATSA President, Julie Pettet, says the higher drop-out and failure rate among Maori students indicates that tertiary institutions are failing to cater for their needs: "Quite apart from the social costs and personal financial loss Maori suffer, institutions face substantial waste as a result of this completion failure," she says. "Student attrition is a total waste of teaching resources, time and financial capital that is spent on the delivery of educational opportunities." The ATSA research shows Maori students have borrowed more than $880m. under the student loan scheme since it began in 1992. Interest charges bring the total they owed to nearly $1bn – one fifth of the current $5bn. owed under the scheme. “Last year ATSA held a hui which discussed the financial and social issues facing Maori tertiary students. It was realised then that a second hui which focused on Maori student retention was needed, " said Ms Pettet. ATSA, therefore, is holding a hui this week to discuss the financial and social issues facing Maori tertiary students.


The Executive Director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers has warned the country's Liberal Government that it has a choice of being remembered either as the Government that rebuilt Canada's tertiary education sector, or the Government that effectively destroyed it. Jim Turk told Liberal MPs at a meeting of the Government's post-secondary education caucus that years of federal under-funding had seriously undermined Canada's universities and colleges. Mr Turk said since the Liberals took power in 1993, Federal Government financial contributions to provinces to fund the core operating costs of institutions had declined by 14% in real terms. "The impact of these reductions isn't difficult to see: rising tuition fees and student debt, fewer faculty, larger classes, reduced library holdings, and buildings and facilities that are literally falling apart," he said, and warned: "The situation is simply not sustainable." All too familiar issues for New Zealand’s tertiary education sector.

Reports from Australia say an organisation that offers degrees for sale on the Internet has set up shop in Sydney. Through its website, Chancery International University offers PhDs for $US1000 and Bachelor and Masters degrees for $US800 and is reportedly using the address of a local businessman who runs a legitimate mail re-direction business from his home. It appears that Chancery advertises on many Asian and African websites, using its Australian address and exploiting Australia’s established reputation as a provider for international students. An Adelaide academic, George Brown – who keeps track of fake degrees being offered on the Internet – has alerted the Australian authorities to the apparent scam.”The anonymity of cyberspace and the ease of website creation makes this a global problem,” says Brown.

Britain's Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE) has called for a new model of regional collaboration between old and new universities, higher education colleges and further education colleges to help meet government targets for expansion and social inclusion – and to meet the demands of today’s students and business leaders. In a CIHE paper, Chief Executive, Richard Brown, warns, however, that Britain should develop its own brand of "multiversity" rather than importing models from the US, or creating British versions of American community colleges. "These have proved less flexible and less successful at widening participation than is often realised," the paper says.
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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