AUS Tertiary Update
In our lead story this
Education Concerns Further Heightened by GATS Demands
Concerns about the potential impact of the General Agreement of Trades in Services (GATS) on universities have been further heightened by the release of information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) last Friday. At least one country, thought to be the USA, has asked New Zealand to open up its entire tertiary and adult education sectors to foreign competition as part of the GATS agreement.
AUS National President, Dr Bill Rosenberg, said that if accepted this would allow foreign access to subsidies and would place limits on the ability of our government to regulate or manage the sector. It would accelerate commercialisation and widen leakage of scarce public funds to private and international companies,” he said.
New Zealand, for its part, has asked other countries to open up their entire education sectors to foreign competition.
Dr Rosenberg accused the New Zealand Government of putting the university sector, and public tertiary education generally, into an extraordinarily exposed position.
“While the Government has proposed a number of guiding principles to guard against any limitation of its right to provide, fund or regulate public services, including education, it appears to disregard those same principles in the requests it has made of other countries. It is effectively saying to other countries: we expect you to do what we won’t do at home”.
Dr Rosenberg says that AUS is most disturbed that the government has given away any moral high ground in protecting public education by its requests of other countries.
AUS has joined calls for the 28 February deadline for comments to MFAT, and the 31 March deadline for New Zealand’s initial GATS offer to the WTO, to be substantially extended in order to allow proper public debate. AUS will be joining a number of unions, including the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU), and other organisations in a day of protest action on 13 March against public services being included in the GATS.
Also in Tertiary Update this week . . . . .
1. New VC for Canterbury
2. Canterbury Staff to Strike
3. Vic Students Face Additional Charge
4. American Academics Criticise Push towards War
5. Minnesota Pay-Bias Suit Settled
6. Taxpayers may foot EU students' fees bill
New VC for
Professor Roy Sharp has headed off a field of three final candidates to be appointed as the new Vice-
Chancellor of the University of Canterbury. Currently Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Victoria University, Professor Sharp has Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from the University of Oxford and is a Fellow of the Institute of Professional Engineers New Zealand.
Formerly Professor of Materials Engineering, Dean of Engineering, Assistant Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Auckland, Professor Sharp moved to Victoria University in 1997, serving as Deputy Vice-Chancellor and, from January to November 2000, as Acting Vice-Chancellor.
Reaction from staff at Canterbury has been cautiously optimistic. Many are pleased that an external appointment has been made and hope it is an opportunity to resolve a number of outstanding issues, including the current industrial unrest (see story below), the highly contentious academic restructuring and the ailing financial position of the University.
Canterbury Staff to Strike
Members of the unions representing academic, general, maintenance and cleaning staff at the University of Canterbury have voted to strike for 24 hours during that university’s enrolment week (17 – 21 February). The strike vote, taken last Friday, comes after union members rejected a 2% salary offer made in negotiations late last year.
The decision on which day to strike will be made at a stop-work meeting to be held on 17th February – the first day of enrolment. AUS Branch President Jane Guise said that “The vote was overwhelmingly in favour of strike action. Union members have sent a clear message to university management that they will not accept the lowest pay offer to university staff in the country.”
Jane Guise said that the ball is now firmly in the employer’s court. “They can take the sensible approach and meet our revised salary claim of 3% to avert the strike, or they can force members into taking the action that has been planned. The responsibility for disrupting enrolment week rests entirely with them.”
More than 250 staff also attended a rally on Monday this week to voice their frustration at the lack of progress in the pay talks. AUS General Secretary, Helen Kelly, told those at the rally that the 2% offer represented a salary cut in real terms.
Negotiations are due to resume on Monday 10 February with further time set aside on Friday 14 February.
Students Face Additional Charge
Students enrolling at Victoria University are being required to pay all annual tuition fees at the beginning of the year or face a fee of $45 to pay fees by trimester. Until now, students have been able to pay their fees each trimester, but this year those who do not pay their fees in full by the end of February will incur the additional charge.
The new charge has been labelled unfair by Victoria student president Catherine Belfield-Haines. “This charge goes against the spirit of the fee freeze, where institutions are supposed to hold costs to students in exchange for a funding increase. University management are being mean spirited, and making it more difficult for students to save for their fees through part time work,” she said.
University administrators say the charge has been introduced to pass on the administrative costs to those who pay by instalment.
American Academics Criticise Push towards War
Nearly 30 American professors and students, just back from a trip to visit academics in Baghdad, have signed a statement calling for scholars to oppose a U.S. war with Iraq and instead to create academic exchanges with the country.
The trip, dubbed an "Academic Airlift," was the first of three planned visits to Iraq by American faculty members and was organized by Conscience International, an Atlanta-based humanitarian-aid organization. Subsequent trips are scheduled this spring and fall.
Besides professors and students from 28 universities, members of the group included Bianca Jagger, who is on Amnesty International's executive committee. The group was led by James E. Jennings, president of Conscience International and a former professor of history and Islamic studies.
Minnesota Pay-Bias Suit Settled
The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System has reached a tentative settlement with a group of female faculty members at Minnesota State University at Mankato who had alleged in a class-action lawsuit that they were paid less than their male counterparts. Although the university system did not admit to intentional discrimination, it agreed to pay the women a total of more than $500,000 in back pay and raises.
The lawsuit was filed in 1998 and was certified, four years later, as a class action on behalf of all non-adjunct female faculty members who worked at the university from the 1996-97 academic year through until January 8, 2002.
Preliminary approval of the proposed settlement agreement; under which 324 female faculty members will receive a total of $360,000 in back pay, was given last week. Thirty-eight of the women who are current faculty members will also receive prospective pay raises totalling nearly $146,000. The original plaintiff in the case, Susan Burum, a professor of political science, will receive an additional $15,000. A hearing on final approval of the settlements is set for March 28.
Taxpayers may foot EU
students' fees bill
Thousands of students from the European Union may be able to study free in Britain because the government has not worked out how to make them repay tuition charges. Unlike British students, the government has no power to enforce repayment of their debts by deducting money from their salaries through the tax systems of their home countries. The Student Loans Company will be responsible for chasing up those who fail to pay. Damian Green, the shadow education secretary, said he would be demanding an explanation in the Commons after inquiries by The Times established that the Department for Education and Skills has not drawn up plans for recouping the money.
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AUS Tertiary Update is compiled weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the union and others. Back issues are archived on the AUS website: http://www.aus.ac.nz. Direct enquires to Marty Braithwaite, AUS Communications Officer, email: email@example.com