AUS Tertiary Update
Budget provides little
Funding for universities, announced in last Thursday’s Budget, shows that the Government continues to place little value on university education says Association of University Staff (AUS) National President, Dr Bill Rosenberg. The Budget package for the tertiary sector has drawn sharp criticism from staff and students, and a mixed reaction from universities.
Dr Rosenberg said that while welcoming the security provided by triennial funding, the new funding levels announced are well below those needed to adequately begin to restore the funding decline of the last decade, or to improve salaries and cover additional institutional compliance costs resulting from current changes in the sector. It means that over the next three years, the Government will provide a real increase of 1.2% (or 0.4% per annum) into a sector it acknowledges is woefully under-funded.
His criticism was echoed by New Zealand Vice Chancellors’ Committee (NZVCC) Chair and University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor, Dr John Hood, who said that while the funding would help “hold the line” against further erosion of the tertiary sector, it would have only a limited impact on improving its capacity to deliver world-class higher education. “There remains a need to significantly boost university revenue” he said. “The level of funding increase is not sufficient to meet staff salary expectations and the need to purchase major equipment items while maintaining existing infrastructure.”
Students are threatening campus protests and occupations after the government lifted a three year fees-freeze and introduced a schedule of fee maxima which would allow undergraduate student tuition fees to lift, on average, by between $400 and $800. No limits are placed on maximum fees for postgraduate study, although increases of more than $1,000 will require approval from the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC).
Dr Rosenberg said a consequence of the low increase in new funding means that any real growth in university income will come out of students’ pockets. “The new fee-maxima allow for significant increases in tuition fees and students, not surprisingly, are predicting that maximum fee levels will quickly become the norm. Increasing tuition fees sets the scene for tension between students and staff and is a convenient way for universities to increase income while blaming staff and unions for it occurring.”
New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA) President, Fleur Fitzsimons said that big fee rises were almost inevitable for students and would be opposed. “We could well see a return to the protests and occupations that we saw in the 1990’s,” she said. Ms Fitzsimons’ comments were echoed by Otago University Students’ Association spokesperson, Catherine May, who threatened “registry occupations and students marching again”. Waikato University student President, Daniel Philpott, predicted that Labour would lose votes as a result of the Budget, saying the Government had failed to live up to its promise of making education more affordable.
The NZVCC has claimed student predictions that tuition fees could rise by more than $1,000 “would seem to be exaggerated” in light of NZUSA’s calculations that the new maxima are, on average, $833 higher than current fees. In his statement on behalf of the NZVCC, Dr Hood has indicated that tuition fees are unlikely to increase to the new maximum levels saying that “fee setting is the preserve of university councils acting in a collegial and consultative fashion”. Nevertheless, Otago Vice-Chancellor Dr Graeme Fogelberg has said the fees-freeze had cost his University more than $4 million and it was likely he would recommend increases.
Waikato Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bryan Gould, welcomed the increased funding, saying that it was a good day for universities. Massey Vice-Chancellor, Professor Judith Kinnear, said the Budget represented a much-needed further investment in New Zealand.
On the positive side Dr Rosenberg said AUS welcomed the $150,000 delivered to fund the first stage of a workforce planning review. “We welcome this review, which we have advocated for some time, but the big question is how the likely results of the review can be addressed at current funding levels. We also welcome the research funding announced, particularly for the important but usually forgotten social sciences,” he said.
Full details of the Budget’s tertiary education
package can be found on the AUS website
Also in Tertiary Update
1. Otago struggling to attract medical staff
2. PTEs unhappy with fees maxima
3. NZQA investigating complaints against PTEs
4. Research output under stress
5. London Allowance pay dispute over
struggling to attract medical staff
Otago University says it is struggling to attract medical academic staff because it cannot match salaries paid by district health boards. In the year to 31 March the University advertised 63 positions and filled only 26 of them. The University has calculated that to pay joint clinical staff a salary similar to that paid by a district health board, it would need an additional $2.7 million per year, or $3186 for every student. University sources said the difference in salaries had increased to such an extent over the last 5 years that a number of staff were leaving the university to work for the local health boards. If the trend continued the viability of some medical courses could be threatened in near future.
The Budget announcement that the annual intake of medical students will rise by 40, from 285 to 325, will do little to alleviate the crisis.
PTEs unhappy at fees
Private Tertiary Education (PTE) providers are unhappy at being required to comply with fee maxima regulations announced in the Budget. Kevin Smith, President of the New Zealand Association of Private Education Providers, said that setting fee maxima too low will result in mergers and some providers “simply shutting their doors”. Dave Guerin, executive director of the Careers College’s Association, has said his Association does not support the government’s tertiary education price-freeze, “especially when PTE income is 10% below that of public institutions”.
AUS National President, Dr Bill Rosenberg, said that the PTEs could expect little sympathy from the public sector. Commenting on the fact that most PTEs will be exempted from submitting profiles to the TEC this year, he said those receiving public money should be subject to the same accountability measures as the public sector.
PTEs whose fees are above the maxima have a one year moratorium on complying with the fees maxima, but in the interim cannot increase fees.
NZQA investigating complaints against
The Christchurch Press has reported that complaints against three Christchurch private training providers are under investigation by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. The complaints relate to alleged cheating, misleading advertising and a refund not being given. Complaints were made against 14 Christchurch providers last year. Of the successful complaints four were against providers that had not refunded students’ fees, and one was about assessment procedures and the incomplete awarding of credits. Five complaints were found in the providers’ favour and the remainder were not followed through.
output under stress
University research is suffering as a result of endless paperwork and a lack of funding as New Zealand falls behind Australia in research output says a retiring a Massey University academic. Richard Heerdegen, who recently left Massey after 40 years, said the number of students per lecturer had more than doubled during this time and that accountability seemed to be derived from having to fill out countless bits of paper. “One of the things which has been lost in this quest for efficiency is the ability to spend time talking to other staff and students,” he said. The quality of teaching hasn’t declined, but lecturers have to spend a lot more time preparing”.
London Allowance pay dispute over
A consortium of employers' representatives and staff unions is to be established to seek a long-term solution to the London Weighting cost-of-living allowance needs of university staff in the capital. The plan was agreed during recent negotiations for improved London Weighting allowances, after strike action by unions in London universities and Higher Education colleges.
The unions have accepted a 6.5% pay offer on London Weighting, but hope for significant longer-term improvements. Lecturers and other staff in the new universities recently accepted an offer of a 5% increase on 2002 allowances rising to 6.5% from August 2003.
The recently agreed London Weighting increase will increase pay for academics receiving an Inner London allowances by £170 to £2523 a year.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org