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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITEIn our lead story this week…..
Panel members appointed to the PBRF
The full membership of the 12 peer review panels being established to support the implementation of the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) has been announced by Dr Andrew West, Chair of the Tertiary Education Commission.
153 panel member appointments have been made of which 45 are women, 16 are Mäori, three are Pacific Peoples, and 36 are from overseas. Three quarters of panel members are from the New Zealand research community and the majority come from universities, although there are some from polytechnics, wananga, colleges of education, Crown Research Institutes, and the private sector.
Dr West said that the role of the panels is to evaluate the quality of the research contributions of those teaching degree-level programmes and undertaking research in tertiary education establishments. “The peer review process will assess quality based on a variety of measures including research outputs, peer esteem factors and contribution to the development of new researchers and a vital high-quality research environment,” said Dr West.
AUS National President, Dr Bill Rosenberg, said he was impressed by the overall calibre of panel members and was pleased that the proportion of overseas participants seems significant enough to satisfy the need for international input. The panels appeared to have a good balance.
Dr Rosenberg expressed concern about the workloads of both academics in preparing for the review process, and of panel members given the very broad range of disciplines and specialities each panel must cover. He said that there will need to be close monitoring to ensure the job can be done effectively, and results are a fair reflection of the quality of research carried out in a wide range of disciplines.
The full list of panel members can be found in the TEC website at:

Also in Tertiary Update this week . . . .
1. Vice Chancellors call for halt on GATS
2. Canterbury budgets tighten
3. University enrolment figures mixed
4. Otago begins search for new VC
5. American academics oppose threatened invasion of Iraq
6. Funding squandered on consultants

Vice-Chancellors call for halt on GATS
The New Zealand Vice-Chancellor Committee (NZVCC) has told government that it does not support education services being included in the General Agreement of Trades in Services (GATS). In a submission to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the vice-chancellors have echoed AUS views that education is a public good and not a tradable commodity.
NZVCC says that New Zealand should exercise caution before putting the quality, integrity, accessibility and equity of our higher education institutions and system at risk. It says that the lack of research on the potential implications of extending GATS to include education would make it remiss of the NZVCC to endorse such an extension.
Concern is expressed by the NZVCC about the unsatisfactory definitions of “private” and “public” sectors within the GATS agreement, particularly given the degree of integration between public and private tertiary education in New Zealand. The high level of government funding which goes into private tertiary education and the amount of private funding which goes into the public sector makes it impossible, says the NZVCC, to separate out certain sub sectors or certain types of institutions for the purposes of GATS without impacting on other parts of the system.

Canterbury budgets tighten
Heads of Department at the University of Canterbury have been presented with financial spreadsheets ranking the university’s 38 departments in order of financial performance. They identify more than $4.7 million in savings which could be made, leading to speculation that new vice chancellor, Professor Roy Sharp, will deal with the University’s financial problems as a matter of urgency. Five major departments, mostly in core sciences, are shown to be running at losses of between $115,000 and $827,000.
Departmental budgets have been heavily pruned over the past few years and fears have been expressed that budget cuts could lead to further reductions in staff. More than 130 staff have taken voluntary severance from the university in the last two years.
AUS Branch President, Jane Guise said that she hoped Professor Sharp would take a long term view, including assessing the potential benefits of new PBRF funding to science and engineering, before considering staff reductions.

University enrolment figures mixed
Provisional figures indicate that university enrolments for 2003 are generally up on the same time last year. The number of full fee-paying foreign students continues to grow and appear to be cushioning the overall impact of sluggish domestic numbers.
The best results appear to be from Otago which has reported a 10% growth in enrolments, up 1400 from last year. Canterbury has released interim figures showing 11,184 enrolments at the end of February, nearly 500 up on last year with foreign students making up 12.5% of the roll.
Victoria had 13,952 students enrolled by the end of the first week of lectures, and while it is an increase of 1,221 over the same time last year, a preliminary analysis indicates that EFTS may be slightly down. The number of foreign students has increased by around 25% and is on target to meet Victoria’s target of 16% foreign student enrolments by 2010.
Waikato’s overall enrolments were reported to have fallen by 783 on 2002, down from 11,551 to 10,768, although numbers are expected to rise in the next few weeks as pre-enrolments are confirmed. Full-fee paying foreign EFTS were at 1340, up by 28% on the comparable date in 2002.
Lincoln, Massey and Auckland universities have not yet responded to requests for enrolment information but Ministry of Education figures show that enrolments at Lincoln have fallen over the last 5 years from 4085 in 1997 to 3066 at 31 July 2002. It is understood that currently around 40% of Lincoln’s 2003 students are foreign, up from 30% last year.
Final enrolment and EFTS figures are expected to be released in April.

Otago begins search for new VC
The University of Otago has started advertising for consultants to assist in the appointment of a new vice-chancellor. Current vice-chancellor, Dr Graeme Fogelberg, is due to retire towards the middle of 2004 and the university council hopes to have a replacement named by the end of 2003.
The successful consultant will be expected to carry out a worldwide search and to advise the appointment committee, which consists of 7 council members, 5 members of the academic senate, the student president and the general staff member on the university council.

American academics oppose threatened invasion of Iraq
Fourteen thousand American intellectuals, most of them academics, have signed a statement that appeared as an advertisement in The New York Times this week condemning a possible U.S. war with Iraq. The ad says "On the eve of battle, 14,000 U.S. writers, academics, and other intellectuals say NO TO WAR." It calls waging war at this time "morally unacceptable," and says: "No compelling evidence has been offered of an imminent threat to our security that would justify the use of military force."
Joshua Cohen, chairman of the political science department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, coordinated the ad campaign and collected the signatures via a Web site. He decided to start an online petition last month, when foreign academics asked what stance American intellectuals were taking on the war. He said that professors had donated the $50,000 it cost to place the ad.

Funding squandered on consultants
British academics are demanding an investigation into a government scheme to retain and recruit staff after discovering that less than a third of the £50m earmarked for the scheme found its way into lecturers' pay packets and up to £10.5m was spent on work by consultants.
A breakdown of the way the money was spent showed that 30 per cent, or £15m, went on recruiting and retaining staff. A similar amount was spent on staff development and training. Twelve per cent was spent on reviewing university staffing levels and nine per cent on job evaluation both of which, the Association of University Teachers (AUT) says, involved hiring consultants to do the work. The AUT is writing to the National Audit Office to demand an inquiry, complaining that cash was "squandered".

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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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