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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITEStudent fee protest shuts council meeting
Victoria University students protesting about tuition fee increases forced the cancellation of the university council meeting yesterday in what has been described as “just the beginning” of a national campaign against fee increases by the New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA).
The university council meeting was cancelled after chanting students packed out the public gallery and drowned out council members. Afterwards a group of students staged a sit-in at the university’s reception area. Victoria student president, Catherine Belfield-Haines said students were protesting about a proposed 3% increase in tuition fees for 2004 and said they would “continue to protest until the university agrees not to put fees up.”
NZUSA Co-President, Fleur Fitzsimons said the Victoria protest had given “university bosses the chance to rethink their greedy fee grab.”
Victoria University vice-chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, said he recommended a 3% fee rise as a reasonable compromise between the students’ wish for a fee freeze and the need to improve facilities, give staff salary increases and expand the university to meet growing student numbers. He said the council meeting would be rescheduled.
University of Otago students have warned that they too will take action if their university council tries to raise fees next year. Otago student president, Nick Lanham said a possible “5% increase in fees was 5% too much” and called on the council to set fees at less than 2003 levels.
Meanwhile, the University of Auckland has put fees up by an average of 4.1% for domestic students and by 5% for international students for 2004. Auckland Vice-Chancellor, Dr John Hood said fees would go up because the university could not risk damaging the quality of the education it offers to students. “Rather than see standards eroding, the university is determined to improve the quality and international standing of its education and research,” he said. “Current government policy does not fully address the realities of higher education cost structures.”

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Government agrees to protocol with PTEs
2. Gender pay gap evident in universities
3. Otago Polytechnic recovery plan biased against staff
4. Massey set to centralise aviation courses
5. Top-ups non-negotiable
6. U.S. Awards Academic Grants for Bioterrorism Preparedness

Government agrees to protocol with PTEs
The government is to sign a protocol with the New Zealand Association of Private Education Providers (NZAPEP) acknowledging its role as the leading private tertiary training sector representative organisation and signaling the intent of the parties to work cooperatively together.
Speaking at the Association’s conference in Wellington yesterday, Associate Minister of Education (tertiary), Steve Maharey said that the private tertiary education sector had an assured place in the new tertiary education system complementing New Zealand’s 35 public tertiary institutions. “Establishing effective partnerships between tertiary education organizations, industry, the community, the Tertiary Education Commission and the government is crucial to bringing about the kind of change the post school education system is being called on the achieve,” he said.

Gender pay gap evident in universities
The Minister of Labour, Hon Margaret Wilson, has told university women that there is evidence the gender pay gap exists as much in universities as other sectors of the workforce.
Opening the Association of University Staff (AUS) Biennial Women’s Conference, Ms Wilson said that while academic staff at universities and other tertiary institutions have high levels of education and experience, there was evidence that the gender gap is greater for well paid women than for low income earners. With respect to general (non-academic) staff in universities, Ms Wilson cited the University of Auckland EEO report which found that while women were well represented numerically in the workforce, they were not well represented in senior positions.
The conference was told that the government’s taskforce on pay and employment equity is examining the social, employment, economic, and other factors contributing to pay and employment inequity and to advise government on a 5 year plan to address those inequities. Research shows that women’s hourly earnings lag 15.7% behind men overall, but 21% behind for high earners.
Margaret Wilson, a former AUS member, said more direct support for pay equity would also come out of the review of the Employment Relations Act. She said updating the existing equal pay legislation would make it more accessible and user-friendly and reinforce the fundamental right to equal pay for men and women doing the same job.
More than 60 women from New Zealand universities attended the conference which examined the theme of achieving pay equity for university women. Included among the speakers was Carolyn Allport, National President of the Australian National Tertiary Education Union, who described the approaches being taken in Australia to achieve pay equity for university women.

Otago Polytechnic recovery plan biased against staff
The Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE) has claimed that a recovery plan to turn around a projected $2.28 million loss at Otago Polytechnic is biased against staff and based on inaccurate information. The polytechnic’s business recovery plan, released for consultation in August, proposes to turn its projected operational deficit into a targeted surplus of $2.51 million by the end of 2005, but at the expense of as many as 60 jobs.
ASTE National President, Lloyd Woods, says the recovery plan is unacceptable and fails to acknowledge the poor financial performance of previous management or that the polytechnic is in better financial shape than presented in the report.
The previous chief executive resigned late last year after an Audit New Zealand investigation into what was described as a “botched” redevelopment of the campus resulting in a $2.5 million budget blow-out.
In a submission to the polytechnic council, ASTE challenges the assumption that the only way for the polytechnic to recover financially is to axe staff. It points to a 10.8% growth in equivalent full-time students which would give additional income of $2.75 million, and concludes that the key to the future well-being of the polytechnic is a dedicated staff committed to the provision of high quality education.

Massey set to centralise aviation courses
Massey University is considering centralising its aviation courses after concerns about the overall performance of the School of Aviation which operates out of both Palmerston North and Albany-Ardmore. Originally based in Palmerston North, the School expanded in 1998 with the purchase of Flightline College, an established flying school at Ardmore in Auckland. At that time there were 490 students in Palmerston North and around 40 full-time and 800 part-time students at Ardmore. Acting pro vice-chancellor of Massey’s College of Business, Professor Jack Dowds, said Albany-Ardmore currently had about 500 students and Palmerston North only 50.
Professor Dowds said a consultant’s draft report, aimed at revitalising the school, had made the recommendation to relocate to Palmerston North, saying that it would allow the School of Aviation to interact with the School of Business.
Union members at Albany-Ardmore have raised concerns with AUS about a number of details of the consultant’s report and consultation will be sought with university management prior to any final decision being made.

Worldwatch
Top-ups non-negotiable
British academic staff have been warned by higher education minister Alan Johnson they will sacrifice the chance of a decent pay rise if they fail to back the government over top-up fees.
Mr Johnson said the country faced a stark choice between raising the money necessary for expansion and pay increases through graduate top-up fees, or cutting investment in higher education and student places. He said the government was in no mood for concessions over its central policy of charging fees of up to £3,000 a year in 2006. Tax rises were ruled out as an option by Mr Johnson who said a failure to raise extra cash for higher education from fees would be negligent in the face of chancellor Gordon Brown's clear message that public spending could not be allowed to rise at the rate it has done.
Mr Johnson, a former union leader, also appealed to higher education staff to support top-ups. His call came as members of the two largest lecturing unions, the Association of University Teachers (AUT) and Natfhe, supported a successful motion rejecting top-up fees at the recent Trades Union Congress in Brighton.
More than 130 Labour MPs have signed a motion opposing top-up fees, and the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats also oppose the fees.
Mr Johnson also ruled out a flat-rate fee in place of the variable charging structure proposed by the government. "The more I understand the different cost structures among universities, the huge diversity in courses and the difference in the expected rate of return, the more I reject the argument for what Nicholas Barr describes as the 'communism' of the fixed-rate principle."

U.S. Awards Academic Grants for Bioterrorism Preparedness
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded grants to 12 universities to support curricular development in bioterrorism at health-professions schools. The grants, which are administered by the department's Health Resources and Services Administration, total $4,221,541 and are part of $4.4-billion in federal spending on bioterrorism preparedness in the 2003 fiscal year.
The department also awarded more than $22-million in continuing-education grants to a number of hospitals and medical centres. Among them were several affiliated with universities, including Columbia University, the Medical University of South Carolina, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the University of California at San Francisco, the University of Kansas Medical Centre, the University of Louisville Research Foundation, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, the University of North Dakota, the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Centre, the University of Texas Health Sciences Centre at Houston, Virginia Commonwealth University, and West Virginia University at Morgantown.
The grants will support continuing education in bioterrorism preparedness for health professionals

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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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