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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITEIn our lead story this week…..
Auckland VC moves against sector bargaining
University of Auckland’s Vice-Chancellor, John Hood, has taken the unusual move of trying to persuade staff against AUS proposals for national bargaining, even before he knows or has considered what is being proposed. In a letter, intended for all staff but delivered to non-union staff late last week, the Vice-Chancellor sets out a number of reasons why he does not want national or multi-employer bargaining for Auckland. In an unprecedented action, he has invited non-union staff to a series of workshops intended to show the University’s position on national bargaining, saying that the views of non-union staff will influence the University’s position when bargaining with the unions.
In his letter to non-union staff, the Vice-Chancellor incorrectly states that AUS and the University have been in discussion over the past three months and goes on to intimate that by entering into national employment agreements, Auckland will be restricted from offering good terms and conditions of employment to staff, and that academic freedom, including the right to appoint staff, will be compromised. He even suggests the library collection is at risk.
AUS National General Secretary, Helen Kelly, said that the Vice-Chancellor’s letter is misleading, intended to undermine national bargaining and to put non-union staff off joining the union. She said that the university may be acting unlawfully. She described the Vice-Chancellor’s actions as getting out of hand. “He has previously written to staff on matters relating to bargaining, and on each occasion we have objected. We recently reached an agreement that he would no longer do this. By writing to non-members he has reneged on the tenor of this agreement and we are now seeking legal advice.”
Helen Kelly said that AUS had asked to meet with the NZVCC to discuss national bargaining but they had been “too busy” to meet.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Education, training or work?
2. Budget cuts on cards at Canterbury
3. International fees increase at Otago
4. New NZQA Chair
5. Australian budget blow for students & staff
6. UK Tories would scrap tuition fees

Education, training or work?
The Budget will contain a comprehensive package of initiatives to ensure that all 15 to 19 year olds are in education, work or training by 2007. The $56.6 million package includes expanding the Gateway programme, funding 2,500 more modern apprenticeships annually, reintroducing student allowances for some 16 and 17 year olds and introducing specialist programmes to help young people make the transition from school to training or work.
Launching the package on Monday this week, Prime Minister Helen Clark said the package targets the group of young people who neither enroll in tertiary education nor get a job after leaving school. “It is estimated that, at any point in time, this group comprises 10 to 17 per cent of those aged between 15 and 19, or approximately 27,000 to 45,000 young people. We do not want this wastage of young people to continue”, she said.
Associate Education Minister (Tertiary), Steve Maharey, said that the government does not intend raising the school leaving age.
Of the package $23.6 million will be used to expand the Gateway programme to make it available to 12,000 students, $14.6 million will go to increasing the number of modern apprenticeships from 5,000 to 7,500 from 2006 onwards, $7.1 million will be used to pilot an intensive programme in South Auckland to support young people who leave state care to live independently, $5.4 million will be allocated for regionalised programmes to assist school leavers enter work or training, and $3.7 million will go to expanding support for young people who have completed youth training and who are now in the workforce.

Budget cuts on cards at Canterbury
Audits are being initiated in eight academic departments at the University of Canterbury in an effort to find savings of more than 20%. New Vice Chancellor, Professor Roy Sharp, announced the audit in an email to staff saying its aim is to achieve a more transparent system of resources allocation and to reduce the level of cross-subsidization of departments. The eight departments to be audited have been identified as those which currently have a retention rate of more than 85% of the income they generate. That means they contribute less proportionately to central services and shared resources such as libraries, buildings and information technology infrastructure.
Departmental heads have been asked to find ways of saving between $73,000 and $1.4 million and an audit team of academic staff and external advisors will audit departments from 3 June. Their recommendations will be reported to the Vice Chancellor by 29 July.
AUS Branch President, Jane Guise, expressed concern that the level of budget cut foreshadowed by the Vice Chancellor was likely to lead to further redundancies. “You cannot cut a departmental budget by more than $1 million without it having an effect on staff. Naturally staff are concerned that despite significant redundancies a year ago, there may be further cuts yet.”

International fees increase at Otago
The University of Otago Council has approved increases in international tuition fees of between $US500 and $US3,000, bringing the new fee levels to between $US7,000 ($NZ12,300) and $US26,000 (NZ45,000) per year. Dr Roberto Rabel, Director of the university’s International Office said that factors considered in recommending the fee increases included market prices and competitor behaviour, exchange rates, minimization of risk and positioning the university as a high quality provider.
OUSA President, Nick Lanham, said that the university failed to show that the fee increases were in the university’ interests and that it would be unwise to approve the increases until the case had been made out. He said that in the absence of adequate market research there was no evidence to show that income potentially lost as a result of lower student numbers would be offset by the additional income per student. Neither would establishing a high level of fees automatically correlate with recognition as a high quality provider.

New NZQA Chair
Professor Graeme Fraser has been appointed as the new chair of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). Professor Fraser was chair of the Committee on University Academic Programmes and recently the acting Vice Chancellor of Massey University. Education Minister, Trevor Mallard, says Professor Fraser’s extensive academic and administrative experience make him ideal for this new position. His appointment follows the resignation of Dr Frank Wood who became the chair in 1999.

Australian budget blow for students & staff
The Australian Budget, announced on Tuesday this week delivered $1.2 billion in new public funding for higher education as part of a “reform” package which comes at a significant cost to students and staff. The package includes partial fee deregulation, the doubling of full-fee places, workplace relations reforms and a restructuring of university governance bodies. It means that by 2013 user-pays principles will be firmly entrenched in the tertiary sector and universities will operate on a competitive marketplace.
Universities will be offered $400 million to replace collective employment agreements with individual workplace agreements. In the move, described by the Opposition as “blackmail”, university heads are being offered cash incentives to implement industrial reforms akin to New Zealand’s now rejected Employment Contracts Act. National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) President, Dr Carolyn Allport described the proposed reforms as an ideological attack on the union and said the NTEU would oppose them.
The other major change in the Budget is the plan to increase students’ tuition costs by around 30% and to extend the student loans scheme. New proposals would see tuition fees of up to $A8,355 a year by 2005 for courses such as medicine, dentistry and law, and student loans attracting interest of 3.5% above CPI.
Regional universities will receive an additional $A122 million for “serving the community”.

UK Tories would scrap tuition fees
Free university education for all students was announced on Monday this week as a key part the British Conservative Party’s platform for the next election. Conservative leader, Iain Duncan-Smith said that the Tories would fund the abolition of fees by scarping the government’s target of getting 50% of all 18 to 30 year olds into university by 2010. Mr Duncan-Smith described university fees as a tax on learning. Roderick Floud, president of Universities UK, said. "Abolishing the target that 50 per cent of young people should go to university would save little money in the short run and leave the UK lagging behind other countries in the world knowledge economy."
The Association of University Teachers (AUT) described the Tories’ proposals as being damaging to the Government’s current programme to widen participation in higher education. Assistant General Secretary Paul Cottrell said “any proposals to reverse the widening of access can only be damaging to our economy and our society. Scrapping the access agenda indicates either a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of higher education or a complete lack of concern about widening participation.”

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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