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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITESeparate research fund for polytechs?
Concern that the Performance Based Research Fund (PBRF) may result in less money and a diminished status for polytechnics has resulted in the development of a proposal for a separate performance-based research fund exclusively for them.
Association of Polytechnics of New Zealand Director, Jim Doyle, said polytechnics did not want to participate in the PBRF as it currently stood, and that an alternative fund could reward polytechnics not only for conducting applied research connected to the needs of industry, but also by using other criteria such as connections with industry. Polytechnics claim that the PBRF is designed to reward research using university measures and would force polytechnics to behave like universities.
Education Review reports that Associate Education Minister, Steve Maharey, has said that while he is willing to discuss the Polytechnics’ concerns he had not given any approval for work to be done and described talk about the development of an alternative fund as “unwise, premature speculation”.
It has been reported, however, that following discussions with the Association of Polytechnics, the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) and the Ministry of Education are preparing a paper on the subject for the Associate Minister. Mr. Doyle said that while a proposal could be developed soon it would be unlikely to be ready for implementation in 2004.
AUS National President, Dr. Bill Rosenberg, expressed a number of concerns with the prospect of another research fund, saying that the establishment of the PBRF acknowledged the significant additional costs faced by universities running research programmes, including applied research, and the infrastructure to maintain them. He said that creating another new fund would defeat the government’s intention of differentiating the sector and would leave universities exposed to the high compliance costs of the PBRF with little extra funding to show for it.
Dr Rosenberg also pointed out that fragmentation of the fund would further highlight the problems raised by having to share the resource with private training establishments.
It is understood the New Zealand Vice Chancellors’ Committee also opposes the establishment of a separate fund.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Mediation over polytechnic collective
2. Waikato enrolments hit budget
3. Raising the medical enrolment cap
4. Reclaiming public education
5. UK research assessment exercise report released
6. Big pay increase for UNSW general staff
7. Berlin's students protest at threat of fees

Mediation over polytechnic collective
Lack of progress in collective agreement negotiations between the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE) and seven polytechnics has resulted in the parties agreeing to mediation. The mediation, set down to commence on 12 June, will attempt to break an impasse which has seen the polytechnics all file separate claims and state a preference for enterprise bargaining.
ASTE initially filed for an 8% salary increases to be delivered over two years, but had subsequently reduced the claim to 7% in an attempt to make progress. The polytechnic employers are yet to make a salary offer, but have claimed a number of “clawbacks”, including changes to hours of work and leave provisions.

Waikato enrolments hit budget
Falling domestic enrolments and uncertainty over international student numbers have combined to hit Waikato University’s finances. Departments are being asked to cut expenditure by 2.5% and report on their financial position by July.
The University’s domestic enrolments are down to 9502, 4% less than in May last year and the language institute and foundation studies programme are predicting large falls in enrolment in the second semester, mainly due the SARS outbreaks. It is now predicted that against a budgeted surplus of $1 million the language institute will run at a loss this year.

Raising the medical enrolment cap
The Associate Minister if Education, Steve Maharey, has told an audience at the Christchurch School of Medicine that the 40 new placements for medical students, announced recently in the Budget, will be split evenly between the Universities of Otago and Auckland. It will increase the number of fully-funded medical student places from 285 full-time students to 325 per year.
The additional funding will be conditional on the universities implementing a preferential entry system for rural students and specific career initiatives in secondary schools.
Mr. Maharey said that it is hoped that raising the cap will result in greater numbers of graduates, and that it will complement other strategies including better access to GP locum services, improved rosters and, rural workforce retention funding.

Reclaiming public education
The Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC) has organized a conference entitled Reclaiming Public Education, to be held at Massey University (Hokowhitu site) between 11 and 13 July. Key presenters will include US Professor Michael Apple, a renowned international authority on the politics of education, Professors Jane Kelsey and Helen May, and Alliance political party leader, Laila Harre.
Further information, including registration details, can be found at: www.qpec.org.nz

Worldwatch
UK research assessment exercise report released
As the PBRF gets underway in NZ, the just released report of the review of the UK Research Assessment Exercise [RAE] will be of interest to many in the sector. The report's recommendations are presented as a radical overhaul, but not a wholesale rejection of the principles, of the RAE. Like the PBRF, the RAE is largely based on a peer review process - however, there are some significant differences and interested parties in NZ will be studying the lengthy report to gauge its significance for developments here. AUS notes, for example, that while the PBRF is significantly based on individual assessment, that the report recommends that: 'Research assessment should remain an assessment of institutional research quality within a subject area, rather than a review of the performance of individuals'.
The UK Association of University Teachers (AUT) has criticised the report saying that it could split the existing university system and lead to a two-tier sector. It recommends that: one third of English universities should be taken out of the main assessment process for research cash; those doing most research should be scrutinised more rigorously; and the 40 institutions whose research budgets amount to 2 per cent of overall grants, should be assessed separately. At the same time, the AUT General Secretary, Sally Hunt said that, 'However, we're glad [the report] has taken on board a number of criticisms we made about the current RAE, for example the way it only rewards certain types of publications. We also welcome the emphasis on improving equal opportunities and the development of young researchers.'
The UK RAE report can be found on: http://www.ra-review.ac.uk/reports/roberts.asp

Big pay increase for UNSW general staff
General staff at Australia’s University of New South Wales stand to pick up sizeable pay increases with the settlement of their collective employment agreement.
The Agreement provides a package of pay increases worth between 15% and 25% with an average increase of 18%.A ballot of staff is expected to formally approve the Agreement during June.
NTEU General Secretary Grahame McCulloch said “General staff will be particularly pleased about this Agreement. As well as the pay increases, it provides increased job security, a commitment by the university to maintain the size of the workforce, better paid parental leave and other family-friendly improvements. Casual staff will benefit from a 20% pay rise and many will now be able to convert to permanent jobs.
“The pay outcome matches the offers already made to academics, and we are confident of reaching an early agreement with the university covering academic staff.”

Berlin's students protest at threat of fees
Thousands of students and staff from Berlin's three universities and numerous art colleges protested last week against threatened €200 million (£143 million) educational budget cuts over the next four years. The crisis is so bad that the Humboldt University has decided not to admit any new students in the next academic year; the two others are limiting their intake to the very top percentage of applicants. Berlin's 120,000 students currently pay no fees, just a €150 administration fee per semester that gives them free travel on all city transport. Until now, the government's Social Democrat/Green coalition has resisted calls to put a price on education.
(Guardian)

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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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