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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITEIn our lead story this week…..
Otago fails in case against AUS
Otago University has failed in a bid to have to have strike action taken by AUS members during last years collective agreement negotiations declared unlawful. After failing in an earlier attempt to get an interim injunction to prevent a series of rolling strikes, Otago took AUS to court seeking a substantive declaration that the strikes were unlawful and that AUS had breached good faith obligations.
University management attempted to convince the Court that the rolling strikes, which they labeled “secret strikes”, were unlawful on the basis that they were called at short notice and that AUS not given advance notice or details of who was taking strike action and when.
In its decision the Court held that the University’s arguments were “without merit’ and failed to even make out the factual allegations on which its arguments were based.
AUS Otago branch President, Mark Peters criticised the University for financial waste in taking the case. “University management has spent tens of thousands of dollars in litigation against the AUS, trying to prevent union members from exercising their lawful right to strike”, he said. “The legal costs, staff time and negative publicity generated by these weak cases have not been in the interests of staff, students, or the wider university community.”
Council of Trade Unions president Ross Wilson said that the University’s action was a clear example of employer attempts to defeat the intent of the Employment Relations Act. "Otago University wasted the time of a Full Court of three judges with a case which clearly had no merit in fact or law," he said." It is cases like these which give employers a bad name.”
Otago University Director of Human Resources, Stephen Gray, has said that the University would not be appealing the decision.

Also in Tertiary Update this week . . . .
1. New vice chancellors take up the reins
2. Adult and Community reference groups named
3. Operation surpluses posted
4. Auckland sells land to Crown
5. International call for education to be excluded from GATS
6. Higher-education enrolment doubles in Western Europe in 25 years

New vice chancellors take up the reins
New vice chancellors took up the reins at Massey and Canterbury universities this week. New Zealand’s first woman vice chancellor, Australian Judith Kinnear, was welcomed to Massey’s Palmerston North campus on Monday by several hundred staff at the university staff club. Formerly deputy vice chancellor at Sydney University, Professor Kinnear has said she intends to spend the early period of her vice-chancellorship “listening and learning”, meeting staff and other members of the University and wider community.
Professor Roy Sharp, formerly deputy vice chancellor at Victoria University, received a similar welcome at Canterbury where several hundred staff turned out for a formal welcome. Professor Sharp said his first job was to get all staff on board to find a solution to Canterbury’s problems.

Adult and Community reference groups named
Dr Andrew West, Chair of the Tertiary Education Commission, announced the appointment of seven community sector experts to the Commission’s Adult and Community Education (ACE) Reference Group today. “The seven panel members comprising the Tertiary Education Commission ACE Reference Group were selected from a list of leading New Zealand educators, spanning the spectrum of adult and community education,” said Dr West.
Panel members include Geoff Pearman, Director of Continuing Education, at the University of Canterbury and Sandy Morrison, a lecturer in the department of Maori Studies at Waikato University.

Operational surpluses posted
News that Otago and Victoria Universities have posted annual financial surpluses in 2002 has drawn a positive reaction from the Association of University Staff (AUS). Responding to the announcement of an operational surplus of $6.3 million at Victoria, AUS Branch President, Robyn May, said that the financial surplus, combined with an increase in student numbers, reflected the very hard work performed by staff at Victoria over a number of years. Coming on top of surplus of $5.3 million in 2001 she said that sustained operational surpluses mean that the University is now well placed to deal with the serious salary anomalies which exist in the university sector. “Recruitment and the retention of staff are significant issues for many faculties at Victoria, and these have not been alleviated in recent pay rounds”, she said.
Similar sentiments have been expressed at Otago where a $13 million surplus has just been announced. While University management say that the surplus includes a one-off payment of $6.04 million from the Government after the University won legal action over the funding of dentistry, AUS Branch President, Mark Peters, says that the surplus clears the way for further investment in staff. He maintained that staff salaries remain well behind acceptable domestic and international comparators and said that Otago needs to address its recruitment and retention problems now rather than later. “Investment in buildings and infrastructure will be useless without core staff to teach and research”, he said.

Auckland sells land to Crown
Auckland University has sold a property, at Waikawa Bay at the northern end of the Coromandel, to the Crown for $3.54 million. The 300ha was gifted to the University last year by an American millionaire, Paul Kelly, and it was put up for tender to raise funds for its new business school.
Conservation Minister, Chris Carter put together the deal involving the Nature Heritage Fund, The Department of Conservation’s land acquisition fund and the Government’s discretionary fund to buy the land. The purchase followed “difficult” negotiations, in which the University had earlier refused to extend the tender deadline to allow negotiations to continue with the Crown. Chris Carter has said he will move to ensure similar wrangles over land held by state-funded institutions will not happen again.

International call for education to be excluded from GATS
Education International, representing 26 million teachers and education personnel around the world, has written to the New Zealand Prime Minister expressing its astonishment that the government has asked other countries to open their education systems to commercial competition under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).
"It is our belief that your request for the full opening to foreign competition, including in the area of Research and Development, of the educational systems of other countries is at odds with what is proposed in the Guiding Principles that you will apply to New Zealand", wrote its General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen. "We have difficulty understanding why New Zealand makes requests of others that it says it is not prepared to accept for itself."
Education International "believes that liberalisation of trade in the education sector is a mistake. The implementation of the right to education, a collective as well as an individual right, is to benefit society as a whole and is a governmental responsibility. Trade in education services is based on a premise that everything is a commodity that can be bought and sold to serve economic interests."
Commenting on the letter, AUS National President Dr Bill Rosenberg, said that the letter added further authority to the call from AUS and other education unions for the government to remove education from the GATS agreement. "It confirms our view that the government has undermined our ability to protect public education by its extraordinary requests to other countries to open their education systems to foreign competition’, he said.

Higher-education enrolment doubles in Western Europe in 25 years
The number of higher-education students in Western Europe has doubled in the last 25 years, according to a new study by the European Union. The biggest increase has been in Portugal, where more than four times as many students were enrolled in 1999-2000 as in 1975-76. In Finland, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, and Spain, the number of students has at least tripled. The lowest growth has taken place in Germany, where the number has increased by a factor of only 1.5.
Growth has peaked in some countries with the number of students stabilised in Belgium and the Netherlands since the 1995-96 academic year. Numbers have been falling in Germany and France since 1995-96, and in Italy since 1997-98, because of the shrinking college-age population.
The study examined higher education in 30 countries: the 15 members of the European Union, three Western European countries outside the union (Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway), and 12 candidate countries, most of them formerly Communist nations of Central and Eastern Europe.

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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: Direct enquires to Marty Braithwaite, AUS Communications Officer, email:

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