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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITEIn our lead story this week…..
Debate Continues over GATS and Education
Responding to concerns from AUS about the potential impact of the General Agreement of Trades in Services (GATS) on education, Associate Education Minister, Steve Maharey, has assured tertiary staff that the government has no intention of opening up New Zealand’s public tertiary education system to further foreign competition.
Mr Maharey has said the Government has signalled its intention to retain the current regulatory framework, particularly in respect of the allocation of public subsidies, but he has acknowledged that one country, understood to be the United States, has already stated it wants the matter up for negotiation.
While welcoming the assurance AUS has sought meetings with the Prime Minister and senior Government members to ensure that public education and other public services are explicitly excluded from GATS. AUS National President, Dr Bill Rosenberg, said that the Government's assurance (as published on MFAT's web site) is only for the initial GATS offer, due on 31 March, and does not preclude offers being made during the course of the negotiations. “Neither does it acknowledge the dangers to public education in the GATS commitments made in 1994, including one to open primary, secondary and tertiary education to international competition”, he said.
Dr Rosenberg said that AUS retains deep concerns that intense pressure from other countries will lead to Mr Maharey’s assurances being compromised. This is reinforced by the New Zealand Government's request to other WTO members to open their entire education systems, public education included, to commercial competition. “It is a staggering inconsistency,” he said. “How seriously will other countries take our principles when we are making demands like this of them?"
Dr Rosenberg said Government must ensure that public education and other public services are explicitly excluded from GATS and pointed to the European Commission’s announcement in the last few days that it will not be making any requests of other countries in a number of public service areas, including education.

Also in Tertiary Update this week . . . . .
1. PBRF Peer Review Panels Closer
2. Auckland to Sell Gifted Land.
3. Canterbury Pay Offer Improved
4. Student Loan Arrears hit $71million
5. Australian Students Pay More, Get Less
6. Academic Freed
7. Hull University Acts Unlawfully with Redundancy Threat

PBRF Peer Review Panels Closer
More than 550 nominations from academics and experienced researchers have been received by the Tertiary Education Commission for membership of the peer review panels being established to support the implementation of the Performance-Based Research Fund.
Tertiary Education Commission chair, Dr Andrew West, said that the “quality of the nominations is outstanding and there will some difficult decisions to make” when appointing the panels. Chairs of the 11 peer review panels will be announced later in February with full panel membership to be announced in mid-March.
Dr West also announced that Professor Paul Callaghan, the Alan MacDiarmid Professor of Physical Sciences at Victoria University, has accepted the role as chair of the Moderation Panel which has been established to ensure consistency across all of the peer review panels. Professor Callaghan will also be a member of the PBRF steering group.

Auckland to Sell Gifted Land
Auckland University is planning to sell a $3.5million property to raise funds for its new business school. The 300ha property, at Waikawa Bay at the northern end of the Coromandel, was gifted to the University only last year by an American millionaire, Paul Kelly, and tenders for the sale of the land close this Friday.
The potential for it to be sold to developers has raised the ire of local environmentalists who have been working to get the property into public ownership, believing it would compliment 2000ha of beachfront which already belongs to the Department of Conservation.
Prime Minister, Helen Clark, is amongst those calling on the University to sell to the Crown. She said that “it is very rare for there to be an undeveloped bay on the Coromandel Peninsula and we have to look to future generations of New Zealanders being able to enjoy such open spaces.” She said that it would be highly desirable for the University to facilitate Government’s efforts to buy the land.
It is understood that Conservation Minister, Chris Carter, has been unable to negotiate a deal to buy the land, and the University has refused to extend the deadline for tenders.

Canterbury Pay Offer Improved
Canterbury University lifted its salary offer to staff from 2.0% to 2.6% in employment agreement negotiations which resumed on Tuesday this week. Staff had earlier voted to take strike action and hold stopwork meetings during enrolment week in protest at the 2% offer. The new offer is still the lowest of any New Zealand university in the current round.
Canterbury Branch President, Jane Guise, said further negotiations are planned for Friday this week and hoped for an offer meeting the union’s new claim of 3%. The final offer will be put to union members at a stopwork meeting to be held on Monday morning, called to discuss progress in negotiations. If a settlement is not reached strike action will proceed during that week.

Student Loan Arrears Hits $71Million
More than $71 million is owed in overdue student loan payments according to figures released by the Department of Inland Revenue for the October to December 2002 quarter. They reveal that 34,375 borrowers were late with payments, with almost half the overdue amount owed by borrowers now living overseas. The total amount overdue has jumped from around $48 million at the end of December 2001.
Student loan borrowers owed around $4.5 billion at the end of December with the average loan balance around $13,000 and the highest loan at $166,000. Between October and December the Inland Revenue Department wrote off more than $500,000 owing to the bankruptcy of borrowers.

Worldwatch
Australian Students Pay More, Get Less
A Productivity Commission Report into Higher Education Funding in Australia shows that Australian Universities are now more reliant on student income than most of their overseas counterparts. The report, entitled “University Resourcing: Australia in an International Context” shows that Australian universities typically receive a higher share of their revenue from students than universities overseas and indicates that Australian students are making a higher contribution to the cost of their education than overseas students. At the same time, government funding for tertiary education dropped from 1.5% of GDP in 1995 to 1.2% in 1999.

Academic Freed
Australian academic, Lesley McCulloch, was released this week after five months imprisonment in Indonesia. She and American nurse, Joy Sadler, had been charged with violating visa regulations after she published reports of human rights abuses and exposed the Indonesian Military’s legal and illegal business interests in Aceh.
McCulloch intends to return to Australia to write an account of her experiences, and to work at Deakin University where she has a three year grant to work on a project on security sector reform in Indonesia.

Hull University Acts Unlawfully with Redundancy Threat
Hull University, in the United Kingdom, has been found to be acting unlawfully in threatening to make 90 staff redundant, under powers its Vice Chancellor should not have been given. The judgement was made by the universities “ombudsman”, the Visitor, and the University has been ordered to reconsider the decision made by the Vice Chancellor and a redundancy committee.
The verdict follows call from the Association of University Teachers to investigate what it described as “gross mismanagement” at the University.
The Visitor determined that the University had acted outside its powers by improperly delegating redundancy powers to the Vice Chancellor and by acting on decisions taken at a University Council meeting during which the Council was inquorate.

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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: marty.braithwaite@aus.ac.nz


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