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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITEIn our lead story this week…..
Victoria to set up foundation course with Auckland PTE
Victoria University has reached an agreement with Auckland’s Academic Colleges Group to run its pre-enrolment courses in central Auckland. Academic Colleges Group, a private training establishment which describes itself as the largest pre-university education provider in New Zealand, currently runs pre-foundation and foundation courses for AUT and Auckland University. It also provides learning from pre-school through to secondary school level where students take NZQA University Bursary and Cambridge International Examinations.
The year long foundation courses for Victoria University aim to provide international students with an “innovative and comprehensive” introduction to university study, providing English language competency, independent research and thinking skills.
“We expect eventually up to 300 international students beginning their pre-university studies in Auckland and transferring to Wellington to complete their undergraduate degrees,” said Victoria’s Vice Chancellor, Stuart McCutcheon.
The Auckland foundation programme is expected to assist Victoria’s planned growth in international students from the current level of 12% to 16% of enrolments.

Also in Tertiary Update this week . . . .
1. Students up campaign on fees
2. Government to invest $28 million in e-learning
3. SARS concerns hit tertiary institutions
4. Victoria to buy railway station?
5. NZAAU annual report released
6. Australian colleagues earn praise
7. Industries criticise degree quality
8. US lecturer keeps job despite anti-war comment

Students up campaign on fees
Students throughout the country are demanding that tertiary education be made more affordable through lowering tuition fees. The new fee maxima, where the government sets maximum levels for tertiary fees rather than leaving individual institutions free to set their fees at any level, will be announced in the Budget on 15 May.
New Zealand Universities Association (NZUSA) co-president, Fleur Fitzsimons, said that students expected the “much vaunted fee maxima to deliver fee decreases for next year”.
To make their point, students will hold nationwide activities to draw attention to the issue, including sending post cards to the Associate Minister of Education tertiary), Hon. Steve Maharey.
Otago University Students’ Association campaign co-ordinator, Phil Baskerville, said that setting the fees at a maximum of $1,000 would be a first step to getting rid of fees altogether. “Our long term goal is a well funded tertiary sector with no fees and no debt.”

Government to invest $28 million in e-learning
The government is to invest $28 million in e-learning developments in the tertiary sector with the establishment of the E-Leaning Collaborative Development Fund. It follows recommendations from the E-Learning Advisory Group, set up last year, and will be used to fund capital projects over the next four years. It comes on top of $9.8 million set aside in the 2002 budget for the development of e-learning capability in the tertiary sector.
Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary), Hon. Steve Maharey, said the funding would be used to ensure tertiary providers could take advantage of technology-assisted tools to enhance student learning. “We are talking about our students being equipped with the skills to participate in an innovative New Zealand,” he said.
The announcement coincides with news around 3,000 people have enrolled this year for Waikato University’s 169 subjects taught over the internet.

Tertiary institutions not immune from SARS concerns
Concerns about severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus have hit tertiary institutions as students and staff return from affected areas.
Last week three Massey staff returning from Asian countries were sent home on full pay for a week, and the university has advised staff not to travel to affected areas until further notice. Two staff at Rotorua's Waiariki Institute of Technology and two from the International Pacific College in Palmerston North will work from home for 10 days as a precautionary measure after returning from Asia. Students at some institutions who have arrived from affected areas are being housed separately, or kept away from classes for 10 days, again as a precaution against spread of the virus.
However it appears not all tertiary institutions are taking adequate precautions. Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE) president, Lloyd Woods, said he was aware of a case in Auckland where students, arriving from a SARS affected area, started classes within two days of arrival in New Zealand. Mr Woods described one employer’s offer to provide masks for staff teaching recently arrived international students as a “ridiculous solution, especially when students learning English need to see the teachers’ mouth and hear a clear voice”.

Victoria to buy railway station?
Victoria University is understood to be currently in negotiation with Transrail to buy the historic Wellington Railway Station as part of a plan to purchase more downtown Wellington property. Valued at more than $70 million, and protected by a Category 1 historic places designation, the 66 year old brick station is adjacent to Rutherford House, already owned by the University, and across the road from the old Government House, Victoria’s law faculty,
Increasing student numbers at Victoria has prompted the University to look looking at acquiring more space for commerce and law.

NZAAU annual report released
The New Zealand Academic Audit Unit report for 2002 has been released this week. The report outlines activities undertaken during the year and reports on progress against a number of objectives. The report will be available on the NZAAU website: www.aau.ac.nz

Worldwatch
Australian colleagues earn praise
The Australian Higher Education Industrial Associations’ annual conference, held in Melbourne last week, has been told that the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has been “stunningly successful” in maintaining strong wages and conditions for academic staff over the past decade. Flinders University Law professor, Andrew Stewart, told the conference that the NTEU had been able to hold the line on standardisation of conditions of employment in a number of key areas, including wages. Wage variance at professorial level was about 10% between the best payers, Sydney and Melbourne universities, and the lowest payer, the University of Southern Queensland.
NTEU General Secretary Grahame McCullough has warned, however, that wage disparity between institutions would probably increase this year because of the limited funds available at some institutions. He said he supported the idea of a national bargaining framework which could set minimum wages and key conditions at a national level.

Industries criticise degree quality
A Higher Education conference, held at Loughborough University in the UK, has been told that the number of add-ons aimed at broadening the appeal of higher education courses has weakened core subject areas. Employers are reported to have become widely concerned that broadening higher education participation has watered down the quality of British university degrees. The conference was told by David Lathbury, the head of process chemistry at AstraZeneca, a company which employs hundreds of graduates, that as the world grows more complex, degree level education – particularly in the sciences – was moving in the opposite direction. There seems to be an emphasis on generalist skills at the expense of core subjects he told the conference.
The head of resourcing at Qinteq, which employs about 300, physics, engineering and maths student a year, said there had been an undeniable fall in scientific standards among graduates.

US lecturer keeps job despite anti-war comment
A Columbia University anthropology lecturer who called for "a million Mogadishus" in a public attack on the military campaign in Iraq is to keep his job despite demands for his dismissal from 104 Republican congressmen. University president Lee Bollinger condemned assistant professor Nicholas DeGenova's statements, but said disciplinary action would be "inappropriate" under the principle of academic freedom.

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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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