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AUS Tertiary Update Vol.5 No.31, 29 August 2002

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AUS Tertiary Update Vol. 5 No. 31, 29 August 2002
In our lead story this week…..
650 members of the combined unions at Otago University attended a stopwork meeting in Dunedin yesterday. Meetings of members at the Wellington and Christchurch Medical Schools will be held today. The Otago meeting discussed the breakdown in collective employment agreement negotiations, after the employer refused to move beyond a 1.5% salary increase. Secret ballots were held to confirm strike action set for Monday 2 September and possible rolling stoppages to follow, if no significant progress is made. The results of these will not be known until after the Medical School meetings but, if other resolutions which were voted on by show of hands are any indication, they will be passed overwhelmingly. The above actions are in addition to the withholding of exam questions which was agreed to by members at meetings last week. These are to be withheld until further notice. In a demonstration of solidarity, a resolution to walk off the job in support of any individual staff member suspended as a result of industrial action was passed with no votes against and one abstention. A senior staff source, quoted in the Otago Daily Times today, said that the proposed action would: “…shut this place down when you consider that most of the permanent staff are involved.”

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Government confirms tertiary plans in Speech from Throne
2. Keeping fees down: Government extends deadline
3. Lincoln and Massey 'exploring' alliance
4. Pentagon backs off controls on basic research
5. 'Teaching Licences' in UK by 2010
6. Reputation at stake?
7. Controversy sees North Carolina affirm academic freedom

There were no surprises this week when the Government confirmed its direction for tertiary education in the Speech from the Throne delivered by the Governor-General, Dame Sylvia Cartwright. In the speech, which traditionally opens a new session of Parliament, the Government said the tertiary education system would be driven by, and rewarded for, a focus on excellence, relevance and success. It confirmed the four key elements of the system would be: the "overarching role" of the Tertiary Education Commission; the use of charters and profiles for public funding to "steer" the system; the development of a tertiary education strategy incorporating the views of "key shareholders"; and, a new funding system to reward performance and reflect strategic priorities. The Government also indicated it was committed to removing barriers to participation in tertiary education - through a thorough review of student support, including extending student allowances, developing a system of maximum fees and introducing scholarship and bonding arrangements in areas where there were recruitment and retention issues. It said, however, that New Zealand would continue to need migrants to fill skill gaps for the foreseeable future.

The Government has extended, to mid-October, the time tertiary education institutions have to consider its fee stabilisation offer for 2003. Contentious funding deals between Government and institutions have frozen students’ tuition fees for the last two years. Vice-Chancellors, however, have so far not agreed to accept the latest fee freeze deal – a 4.5% increase in 2003 funding, in return for no fee increases. The New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee is currently fighting proposed legislative changes that would enable the Government to impose ‘fees maxima’ on institutions to keep fees down. Andrew Campbell, Co-President of the New Zealand University Students’ Association, however, is urging university councils to carefully consider the negative impact of fee increases, stating that: “The tertiary sector needs to freeze fees for 2003 and then get on with the longer-term plan of a new tertiary funding system and equitable fee maxima and fee reductions.” Association of University Staff National President, Dr Grant Duncan, states that, “Universities need better public funding and our response to the idea of the Minister determining how much universities can charge students depends on the size of the Government’s contribution.”

Massey University has confirmed it has been holding "exploratory discussions" with Lincoln University about some sort of partnership. Lincoln Vice-Chancellor, Professor Frank Wood, said Lincoln needed to be aligned with a bigger cluster of institutions and was talking with Massey about how to achieve that without detracting from its links with Canterbury and other Canterbury-based institutions. Massey Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor Robert Anderson, confirmed he had been working with Dr Wood to seek "a creative solution to the challenges facing the South Island institution and the New Zealand land-based economy". Meanwhile, the Minister in charge of tertiary education, Steve Maharey – who has signalled that Lincoln needed to look at its options – said no one was pushing for a merger as the answer. "What we are saying is this is a small institution that structurally has problems in that it teaches relatively expensive courses around science and it may need to think, because of its size and profile, how it can run more efficiently."
The US Defence Department/the Pentagon has backed off proposals that would have required academic scientists doing basic military research to get approval before publishing or airing their work at conferences. The rules are aimed at protecting sensitive technologies, but a suggestion that they apply across the board rather than just to classified material had drawn sharp criticism from researchers. University lobbyists had feared the original proposals would have prompted many institutions to stop working with the military.

In Britain, the Cooke Committee review of tertiary teaching standards is recommending that all new lecturers be expected to have a teaching qualification by 2010. The measure would require all new recruits to take teacher-training courses at their employer institution. The courses would be accredited by the Institute for Learning and Teaching. Other staff would also be expected to demonstrate competence in working with students. Tertiary education union officials have been calling for union involvement in the review, which is one of a series of four aimed at enhancing standards in tertiary education. A spokesperson for the Association of University Teachers said it was important the debate was opened up to the public domain "to make sure the terms were not set by Universities UK, the Standing Conference of Principals, and the Higher Education Funding Council for England".

Australian reports say more and more 'degree mill' universities are being attracted to Australia, after moves by the Canadian and US governments to stop them operating on their territory, with the result that Australia's reputation as a provider of quality higher education is at stake. The Australian Higher Education Supplement says there is an international explosion of "bogus and unaccredited universities" and Australia and New Zealand are among the countries being targeted, because governments are unable or unwilling to combat them. "Phony or unofficial overseas institutions are trying to sell degrees into both countries," the paper says, "local operators are trying to sell degrees internationally and naïve but legitimate local providers are selling courses sourced from questionable overseas entities."

In the United States, a committee of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors has unanimously affirmed academic freedom in teaching, learning, research, discussion, and publication after the full Board failed to pass a similar resolution earlier this month. The debate over academic freedom was raised after controversy over the publication of a book about the Koran by a professor of religion at the campus. An earlier Board meeting had affirmed a resolution on academic freedom by 18 to 10, but the measure failed because of a rule requiring a two-thirds majority for resolutions that did not originate in a Board committee. ********************************************************************************
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, AUS Policy Analyst, email:

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