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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITETEC clams up over Otago fee maxima exemption
The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) has clammed up after it was reported by the Otago Daily Times earlier this week that the University of Otago has applied to increase tuition fees for next year by up to 10% for arts, social sciences, law, medicine and dentistry courses, twice the maximum increase set by the fees maxima policy announced earlier in the year by Associate Education (Tertiary) Minister, Steve Maharey.
It has long been known that Otago’s vice-chancellor, Dr Graeme Fogelberg, was furious that his university was caught with some of the lowest tuition fees in the country when the new fees maxima policy was introduced and it was expected that Otago would apply for an exemption.
When questioned by Tertiary Update, however, the TEC refused to confirm whether or not it had received an application for an exemption from the University of Otago, or to provide any other details. In response to a series of written questions about the nature of and the reasons provided by Otago to justify an exemption, the TEC General Manager, Ann Clark, said that the information (reported in the Otago Daily Times) was disclosed in error. “The TEC expresses its sincere apologies to Otago University for this disclosure. We will not be making any further comment on the issues,” she said.
Otago University financial controller John Patrick declined to say whether or when an application had been submitted, saying that “any dealings of this nature between the University and the TEC are commercially sensitive and therefore confidential”. Mr Patrick said the “university council will discuss 2004 fees in the public session of their meeting on 9 December 2003”.
Otago is the only university in New Zealand yet to set fees for 2004.
AUS National President Dr Bill Rosenberg said it was unhelpful that neither the university nor the TEC would reveal details of the process by which an application would be dealt with. “This is a matter which is clearly in the public interest and disclosure should be paramount,” he said. “The reference to commercial sensitivity indicates that, once again, competition between institutions in the sector is getting in the way of the public interest”.
The TEC has also refused to reveal when an application by the Dunedin College of Education for permission to lift its fees by 10% will be considered.

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. PBRF assessments underway
2. Polytechnic strikes lifted
3. New VC for AUT
4. AUS Bulletin on line
5. Overhaul of Turkish institutions shelved
6. Graduate debt soars for students from poorest families
7. Crackdown on bogus degrees in South Africa

PBRF assessments underway
Associate Education (Tertiary) Minister Steve Maharey told Parliament on Tuesday that he does ‘not know of a single person in the country who opposes a performance-based research fund (PBRF)’. Mr Maharey was responding to questions about progress being made by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) to improve the quality of information on research output in the tertiary education sector.
Starting this week, almost 6,000 New Zealand researchers will have portfolios of their work assessed as part of the process to determine funding that will be provided for research from the new PBRF. “This fund is specifically targeted at rewarding academics undertaking excellent research,” says Dr Andrew West, TEC Chair. “For the first time this country will have a clear picture of exactly where excellent academic research is occurring. For instance, the public will be able to compare the quality of research between the departments at different universities and across academic disciplines.”
“Tertiary education organisations will learn the outcome of the portfolio assessments next February and, shortly after that, we will publish the results. No academic’s individual assessment will be made public. However, we will be publishing the outcomes for each of the 22 participating organisations, together with the results for each subject area and nominated academic unit,” said Dr West.
About 160 academic researchers, including internationally respected experts, make up the twelve panels which will examine the work of tertiary sector academics who have submitted portfolios of their research over the past six years. This peer review of portfolios is one of three components which will determine the funding tertiary institutions receive from the Commission’s Performance-Based Research Fund.
The PBRF will eventually have well over $134 million of funds to allocate, of which 60 percent will be distributed on the basis of the panels’ assessments of each participating academics portfolios.

Polytechnic strikes lifted
The Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE) has lifted strike action planned for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week in order to return to mediation with the six polytechnics and institutes of technology with which they have been engaged in employment agreement negotiations since January this year.
It follows strike action at the six institutions last week over the failure of the employers to agree to a multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) in the sector, and over the level of salary increases offered. The salary offers ranged between zero and 2.5% but are dependent on a number of concessions to existing conditions of employment.
ASTE National President Lloyd Woods said that by taking strike action last week ASTE members had demonstrated their depth of feeling about the employers’ offers. “We hope that they will have taken account of these feelings when we meet in mediation,” he said.
Mr Woods said the issue had also been muddied by some of the employers who were now attempting to undermine the multi-employer process by initiating bargaining on an enterprise, or single employer, basis. He said that the union believed this breached the Employment Relations Act and would be seeking legal advice.
“In withdrawing the planned strike action for this week and engaging in further mediation, our members are taking every opportunity to advance the MECA negotiations in a constructive manner,” said Mr. Woods.
Mediation is taking place in Auckland today.

New VC for AUT
Auckland’s University of Technology (AUT) has announced that its current deputy vice-chancellor, Derek McCormack, will take over as vice-chancellor from 1 April next year. He will replace Dr John Hinchcliff, who led the transition of the organisation from the Auckland Institute of Technology to AUT.
A statement from AUT says that Derek McCormack has taken the leadership role in a wide range of the University’s recent developments including its extensive campus redevelopment programme and its transition to university status, development of the AUT strategic plan and review of the council, charter and constitution.
Prior to his role as Deputy Vice-Chancellor Administration, he held positions including General Manager, Corporate Services Director, and Associate Director Academic.
Derek McCormack was also national president of the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE) and has participated at a national level in many developments in education over the years. He holds a Masters degree in Biochemistry and began his career as a biochemist working at Otago Polytechnic before moving on to work in roles in tertiary education management.

Worldwatch
Overhaul of Turkish institutions shelved
The Turkish government has shelved plans to assume direct control of universities and dismiss their rectors and deans after a wave of criticism from academics and the media. The Islamic-based government's proposals were seen as an attempt to undermine the secular education system. Eight rectors opposed to the move held meetings with a senior general from the Turkish army. The army, the guardian of secularism, has unseated three governments since 1960. It is deeply suspicious of the current administration.
Rectors will now submit their own reforms to the ministry of education by the end of the year.
Late last month, 40,000 students and academic staff took to the streets in Ankara to protest at the reforms.
The government remains committed to ending a ban on religious headscarves in universities. The ban was part of legislation to protect secularism by forbidding religious dress in state buildings.

Graduate debt soars for students from poorest families
Students from Britain's poorest homes have nearly 50 per cent more debt on graduation than those from middle-class homes, according to research for the Department for Education and Skills compiled by Claire Callender of London South Bank University. The average student debt has almost trebled over the past four years to £8,666, the study says. The report also reveals that students' annual expenditure has gone up by 15 per cent over the period. The government claimed students’ increased spending showed their standard of living had risen. Alan Johnson, the minister for higher education, said the report proved the government "absolutely right to abolish upfront fees".

Crackdown on bogus degrees in South Africa
South Africa is struggling to contain an explosion in university degree fraud. More than 15 per cent of South Africans are estimated to have obtained their jobs on the basis of bogus education credentials. The huge scale of the problem has forced South Africa’s leading universities to create a National Qualification Register to help employers to confirm the veracity of academic claims.

AUS Tertiary Update is compiled weekly on Thursdays by the
Association of University Staff
PO Box 11 767 Wellington, New Zealand.
Phone (+64 4) 915 6690, Fax (+64 4) 915 6699
Back issues are archived on the AUS website: http://www.aus.ac.nz.
Direct enquiries to Marty Braithwaite,
AUS Communications Officer,
email: marty.braithwaite@aus.ac.nz

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