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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITEBig losses for polytechnics with fee-maxima
The viability of a substantial number of polytechnic courses has been threatened by the introduction of fee-maxima in 2004. ASTE, the union representing polytechnic staff, says that those advising government on fee-maxima failed to properly take into account course costs when considering the new maximum fee levels able to be set for students in the tertiary sector. As a result some polytechnic students face the prospect of having courses cancelled or qualification programmes axed mid-stream. Other students, in low cost areas, face significant fee increases to cross-subsidise high cost courses.
The recent Budget set maximum fee levels for tertiary courses, which include both tuition fees and courses costs, and it is the latter which have not been properly considered says ASTE National President, Lloyd Woods. He said there are significant areas where the Fees-Maxima Working Group, the group which advised government on the matter, had insufficient information on which to base its advice or had simply underestimated the true level of course costs.
Mr. Woods said those polytechnics which offered overseas (such as the London-based City & Guilds cookery course) qualifications, or where there were high compliance or materials costs, stood to lose most. He cited the example of aviation courses where actual course costs were in excess of $10,000 and the potential losses for polytechnics could be as much as $5,000 per student. Similarly, maritime courses with sea-going and firefighting elements cost more than $13,000 per student to run, and could result in losses of around $2,000 per EFTS. Outdoor education, broadcasting, performing arts, professional cookery, photography and forestry courses are also expected to be hit hard with losses of between $1,000 and $2,000 per student.
Some polytechnics estimate that the financial loss could be as high as 17% across the sector, with one polytechnic estimating its loss alone to be more than $3 million. Mr. Woods said that unless there is some recognition of the problem by government, polytechnics will have to absorb the additional costs, cross subsidise, or cancel courses.
Mr. Woods said that polytechnics were further disadvantaged because they were not eligible for the moratorium on fee-maxima whereby private providers whose current fees and course costs are higher than the maxima will have a year to comply.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Assessment criteria for charters cause concern
2. University boosts regional profile
3. Waikato merger plans with AUT
4. Tairawhiti Polytech settles
5. Australian VCs oppose funding links

Assessment criteria for charters cause concern
Assessment criteria recently announced for tertiary education organisation charters have drawn a sharp reaction from the New Zealand Vice Chancellor’s Committee (NZVCC). NZVCC describes the assessment criteria as “coming out of left field” and say they cannot easily be aligned with the content of charters.
The assessment criteria expand the original charter requirements in a way that NZVCC says blur the distinction between charters and profiles. It had originally been understood that charters would be brief documents, setting out the broad goals and strategy of an organisation, while profiles would contain the expanded detail of the strategy against which the organization would be measured. The assessment criteria recently announced require significantly greater detail and are much more prescriptive than expected. Reports indicate that the changes have been driven by Treasury and the Tertiary Advisory Monitoring Unit (TAMU). AUS and other sector groups say there has been little or no consultation. Some of the changes are seen as unnecessary and expensive, and indicate that charters, rather than profiles, will become the main document against which institutions will be measured.
NZVCC says that the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) requires charters to be completed by 30 September, a goal which would have been attainable under the original charter content proposal.
AUS understands that the tight timeframe has been in part driven by concerns at government level at the time it is taking to implement tertiary reforms.

University boosts regional profile
The University of Otago is Dunedin’s biggest employer and claims to have injected $771.1 million into the Dunedin economy in 2002, according to the University’s Economic Impact Report released this week. It is an increase of more than $30 million (or 3.6%) on 2001. The report also claims that the Christchurch and Wellington Schools of Medicine pumped more that $19.7 million and $23.8 million respectively into those cities, and the Auckland centre contributed $1.3 million to the Auckland economy.
The University has 2994 full-time equivalent staff, of which just under half are academic staff, making it the largest employer in the region ahead of the District Health Board with 2306 staff and the third placed, meat company, PPCS with 740 staff.
Vice-Chancellor, Dr Graeme Fogelberg says that the result shows that “as well as enjoying the status as a national leader in tertiary education and one of the largest businesses in the South Island, the University also continues to contribute significantly to the New Zealand economy as a whole.”
AUS Branch President, Mark Peters, noted that the University employed in excess of 6% of the local workforce, and said government would need to address underfunding of the university sector and resolve important recruitment and retention issues if Otago was to maintain its position as “an institution of major significance”. Mr. Peters said that staff salaries contributed around $118.8 million into the local economy, up $10.6 million on 2001, and that the University had a responsibility to ensure that pay rates and conditions of employment set the benchmark for the region, and that academic salaries maintained international relativities.

Waikato merger plans with AUT
As foreshadowed in Tertiary Update a fortnight ago, Waikato University and the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) have agreed to begin talks about closer integration of the two institutions. Waikato’s acting Chancellor John Jackman said in a statement that “the Councils of Waikato and AUT believe there could be potentially significant benefits from an arrangement to cooperate which needs to be investigated. Our talks will investigate how best this can be done.
“Any eventual developments will need to work for both institutions and the communities they serve. We will also want to proceed in a way that is consistent with the thrust of government policy,” he said.
Waikato’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bryan Gould, says he intends that Waikato staff will be kept up to date with developments”.
Meanwhile proposals to develop a campus in Manukau are on hold while Manukau City Council conducts a study to determine the tertiary education needs of the city’s residents. It is expected that this will take two to three months.

Tairawhiti Polytech settles
Staff at Gisborne’s Tairawhiti Polytechnic have voted to accept a pay deal which gives a salary increase of 3% per annum in each of the next two years. The pay increase will be backdated to 2 March. Other changes agreed to by staff include improvements to parental leave provisions and the inclusion of policy on consultation. ASTE National President, Lloyd Woods, says that the deal has resulted in Tairawhiti staff pulling out of multi-employer negotiations with seven polytechnic employers.
Meanwhile stalled negotiations with the six remaining employers heads to mediation in Auckland today in an effort to make progress in those talks.

Australian VCs oppose funding links
The Australian National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has welcomed a request by the Australian Vice Chancellors’ Committee (AVCC) to the Federal Government to drop plans to link university funding to radical changes in university governance and workplace relations. The Budget included significant financial inducements for vice-chancellors and universities to replace collective bargaining with individual employment contracts.
AVCC President, Professor Deryck Schreuder, said one of the key areas of concern in the Federal Government’s higher education reform package is the linking of additional new funds to governance and workplace relation reforms.
“The AVCC has argued that funds to support the quality of teaching and learning should best be tied to areas related to performance in those areas, and not contingent upon workplace and governance reform.”
NTEU General Secretary Grahame McCullough welcomed the call by AVCC, saying that “the NTEU’s position on any attempt to tie additional university funding to governance and workplace relations is clear: It is a recipe for confrontation between staff and management and will create a bureaucratic and administrative nightmare for universities.”

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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