AUS Tertiary Update
Students arrested during fee
Twelve students were arrested at Massey University yesterday during a protest over tuition fee increases. Those arrested are due to appear in the Palmerston North District Court on Friday facing trespass and related charges. Among those arrested were the New Zealand University Students' Association (NZUSA) co-president Fleur Fitzsimons and Massey University Student's Association president Andrea Grant.
The students were protesting after Massey University Council voted last week, by eight votes to five, to approve a 3.5 per cent increase for next year's tuition fees. Council member Liz Gordon said there was no need for Massey to increase fees as the university is in good financial shape and the council had been provided with no evidence that the increase in fees would enhance quality.
Concern has been expressed at the manner in which yesterday’s arrests were made. NZUSA co-president Roz Connelly said she understood there had been very limited negotiation before the arrests, and AUS Massey Branch President Harvey Jones said he was concerned at the heavy handed way in which the students were dealt with. He said he hoped it was not a signal of the way in which Massey would deal with any future disagreements with staff or students.
“To my knowledge, the student's demands were not heard and real negotiation did not occur,” he said. “Universities are supposed to be places of collegiality and discussion and, although we don’t condone militant action and occupation of buildings, I can understand the reasoning for such action when a major 'stakeholder' is not listened to”.
Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ken Heskin, said the students had broken down two doors and that thousands of dollars of damage had been done to the Registry building.
Victoria University has also been hit with student protests over the setting of tuition fees for 2004. After forcing the cancellation of the September council meeting, students disrupted a similar meeting last week where fees were due to be set forcing it to be shifted to a secret location. About 45 students filled the public gallery of the initial meeting and used whistles, cymbals and trumpets to protest against a proposed fee rise. Attempts to call that meeting to order were drowned out and, after a formal warning to be quiet, public were excluded and the meeting shifted.
A six hour occupation of the Hunter building followed the meeting but was short-lived when Victoria vice-chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, warned the students they could be banned from campus for two years if they remained. A public notice, mourning the death of democracy, was placed in the Dominion Post on Monday by students claiming their right to be heard was silenced as a result of the change to the meeting venue.
Victoria University has increased fees by 3% for 2004.
Also in Tertiary Update this
1. Student loan debt predicted to hit $14 billion
2. Negotiations delayed, mediation for university staff
3. Call for more R&D spending
4. Lincoln vice-chancellor retires
5. Online student loan service launched
6. Sydney strike successful, national action planned
7. SA to Fight Commercialisation of Education
Student loan debt predicted to hit $14 billion
The latest Student Loan Scheme Annual Report, tabled in parliament this week, shows that the overall gross student loan debt is expected to reach $14.4 billion by 2020. While the figure is down from an estimated $17 billion reported last year and $20 billion estimated in 2000, AUS National President Dr Bill Rosenberg says the long-term burden placed on students and graduates is completely unacceptable.
While the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary), Steve Maharey, said the findings in the report are a “concrete sign of the government’s ongoing moves to make tertiary education more affordable for students,” Dr Rosenberg says the Minister had failed to do anything more than make a marginal reduction in the rate at which student debt is growing.
Dr Rosenberg called on the Minister to take a hard look at the overall public investment in university funding with the purpose of relieving student debt and to improving conditions for staff.
NZUSA co-president Fleur Fitzsimons says Mr. Maharey “could not have chosen a worse time to try and show how good the student loan scheme is”. She says student debt has doubled under Labour and will double again. “Maharey has huge problems on his hands and his system of fee maxima is clearly not making tertiary education more affordable. While debt forecasts may have reduced, they still show debt will hit $14.5 billion by 2020.”
mediation for university staff
Collective agreement negotiations between university employers and unions have been delayed after the parties failed to agree on aspects of a bargaining protocol intended to govern conduct during formal negotiations. University employers declined to commence bargaining without further progress on the protocol and the matter has been referred to mediation.
The areas of disagreement include attempts by some employer representatives to limit the participation of staff representatives by restricting the numbers of staff to be released and the number of days they will be released for negotiations, and by placing limits on which of the unions’ negotiating team members will have access to information required for bargaining.
AUS advocate Jeff Rowe said that while a number of issues had been agreed an impasse had been reached on the remaining issues. He said he was disappointed at the delay but was confident that outstanding issues would be dealt with through mediation.
Mediation will take place in Christchurch on Monday 13 October with formal negotiations expected to follow on Tuesday 14 October.
Call for more R&D spending
A recent report from the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology (MoRST) shows that private sector spending of $524 million on Research and Development is less than a third of the average in the OECD countries. It has prompted a call by the Royal Society for increased investment in R&D by business.
The OECD averages for R&D activity shows that 69% is undertaken by business and 17% by higher education, while in New Zealand 37% is undertaken by business and 31% by higher education. Two thirds of the total numbers of researchers in New Zealand are employed in universities.
The report said that while there had been a steady increase in total overall R&D spending since 1994, it was still only just over a half of the levels spent by other OECD countries. New Zealand spent around $1.416 billion, or about 1.15% of gross domestic product compared with average OECD spending of 2.25%. Total government spending on research in New Zealand is 0.54% of GDP, compared with 0.71% in Australia and the OECD average of 0.67%.
AUS National President, Dr Bill Rosenberg said the release of the figures was further evidence that the government needs to increase investment in R&D if New Zealand is to increase research capacity, but cautioned against a reliance on private sector funding for public research.
Lincoln vice-chancellor retires
Lincoln University vice-chancellor Frank Wood has retired unexpectedly after his health deteriorated rapidly in recent weeks. He is understood to be in hospital awaiting surgery. Deputy vice-chancellor Roger Field has been appointed acting vice-chancellor.
Dr Wood’s retirement was announced on Monday by Lincoln’s Chancellor, Margaret Austin. Dr Wood took up the role of vice-chancellor in March, 1997, and was reappointed for a further five-year term last year. He is a former chair of the NZ Qualifications Authority and was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year’s honours list for services to tertiary education.
Online student loan
Associate Education Minister (Tertiary) Steve Maharey launched an online student loan, allowance and bursary application system this week. The system will allow students to complete their loans and allowances applications in one session.
The website address is https://sao.studylink.govt.nz
Sydney strike successful, national action planned
A 24-hour strike by general and academic staff at Sydney University on Tuesday this week was a major success according to the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU).
The strike, which completely closed down the university, was held in response to Sydney University’s last minute decision to renege on the signing of a three-year agreement because it did not comply with the government's recently announced workplace relations requirements. Staff were due to ratify a new collective employment agreement which would have given salary increases of 15% over three years.
“The strike builds momentum for what will no doubt be a very successful one-day stoppage at universities across Australia planned for October 16,” said NTEU General Secretary Grahame McCulloch.
“NTEU members are opposed to the government’s plan to deny universities $404 million in funding unless they adopt hardline industrial requirements, including placing staff on Australian Workplace Agreements and removing limits on casual employment”.
“The outcome from Sydney University serves as a warning to the government of the industrial turmoil that will follow if it pushes ahead with its unwarranted interference in the workplace arrangements at universities,” said Mr. McCulloch.
“The Sydney University strike also puts university management on notice that they cannot take the middle ground on this issue. Management can either give in to the government’s meddling or they can support staff and their commitment to high quality higher education”.
Meanwhile, university staff in the United Kingdom have been warned by their unions to expect industrial action if pay negotiations with employers do not make substantial progress.
In a letter to members of the Association of University Teachers (AUT) General Secretary, Sally Hunt, and President, Terry McKnight, have said that the pay offer currently on the table would result in an effective pay freeze next year. The national executive of the AUT will meet on 16 October to consider its next moves.
SA to Fight Commercialisation of Education
South Africa is expected to contest a resolution at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) pushing for education to become a trade service, reinforcing SA's opposition to the liberalising of its higher education sector in accordance with the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) general agreement on trade in services (GATS).
The resolution could pose a threat to SA's already delicate and complex transformation process, as the country is preparing to merge its higher education institutions to address the inequalities in the system, boost quality and standards and make them more globally competitive.
Education Minister Kader Asmal said he believed that treating education as a commodity under the WTO rules would spell the death of a developing country's public institutions. He said that trade will commercialise education, raise costs and lead to a two-tiered system, one for the rich and one for the poor.
Asmal will push for education to be kept within the ambit of UNESCO as part of "multilateral co-operation and public good" not for "selling and trading" as specified under Gats.
Tertiary Update is compiled weekly on Thursdays by the Association of University Staff
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