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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITEStudent loan interest rate remains at 7%
The announcement this week that the student loan interest rate will be held at 7% has drawn a strong reaction from the New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA).
Associate Revenue Minister David Cunliffe and Associate Education (Tertiary) Minister Steve Maharey have said that the headline student loan interest rate will remain at 7% for the year beginning 1 April 2004. The rate consists of two parts: the base interest rate, which will rise from 4.2% to 5.5%, and the interest adjustment rate, which will fall from 2.8% to 1.5%.
NZUSA Co-President Fleur Fitzsimons said the announcement showed that the Government was continuing its policy of charging graduates higher interest rates than commercial banks are charging. “While we appreciate that students do not accrue interest while still studying, it is an outrage that so many borrowers are stuck paying interest above market rates,” she said.
Steve Maharey said, however, that changes introduced by the Labour-led Government to the student loan scheme are helping to ensure that the costs of tertiary education are being kept affordable. “Most student loan borrowers qualify for some kind of interest write-off and do not actually face the total interest rate of seven per cent. In the tax year ended March 2003, for example, Inland Revenue records show that 70 per cent of students received some kind of interest write-off,” Steve Maharey said.
Ms Fitzsimons said that student loan interest rates are still a major problem for graduates. “Many are working full-time, making compulsory repayments, and still see their loan get bigger,” she said “Being forced to borrow to live is bad enough, being hit with a seven percent interest rate on top of that means borrowers face decades of debt.”
NZUSA also has a claim before the Human Rights Commission that student loans are unfair to women on the basis they pay more for their qualifications due to market interest rates.

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Brash claims on university preference wrong
2. No apology for Auckland V-C
3. Comprehensive PBRF coverage for Education Review
4. University pay offers rejected
5. Students petition for living allowance
6. Strike leaders claim success
7. Universities to be fined if they snub poor students
8. Anger over V-Cs pay hikes

Brash claims on university preference wrong
Claims by National Party leader Don Brash that New Zealand universities have lowered their standards to enable Maori students to graduate are simply wrong, says the Association of University Staff.
Dr Brash told Television One News last week that Maori New Zealanders are sometimes put into positions which they’re not well qualified for, and asserted that non-Maori would think Maori graduates were incompetent on the basis of race.
AUS National President Dr Bill Rosenberg said there was absolutely no evidence to support Dr Brash’s claim that standards for degree programmes varied according to race. “While Maori students may be encouraged into some courses, such as law, through entry quotas, they still had to attain the same academic standards as their peers to progress in their study and to graduate with degrees,” he said. “Maori students earn their degrees in exactly the same manner as their non-Maori counterparts, and using the same assessment standards”.
“Dr Brash’s comments follow similarly inaccurate statements made recently about Tangihanga leave, and appear designed to encourage negative and racist attitudes toward Maori”, said Dr Rosenberg. “Dr Brash’s comments are ill-considered and dangerously divisive”.
Dr Rosenberg also expressed concern that Dr Brash said he would not fund universities with racial quotas. Universities are already underfunded by comparison to their overseas counterparts and he questioned whether Dr Brash would attach other poorly considered conditions to funding if given the opportunity.
New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (NZVCC) chair, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, has also criticised the accuracy of Dr Brash’s comments. He said that the standards of assessment in each discipline are the same for all students and that that his University, Victoria, utterly refuted any suggestion that its Maori alumni had not met the standards required to graduate.

No apology for Auckland V-C
The Association of University Staff (AUS) has declined to apologise to University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor, Dr John Hood, after receiving a complaint alleging that figures reported in Tertiary Update earlier this month, which revealed the Vice-Chancellor’s remuneration package between 2000 and 2002, were wrong.
Dr Doug Northey, former Director of Human Resources at Auckland, told AUS that when the current Vice-Chancellor was appointed, the University was in a serious financial position and he (Dr Hood) had asked the University not to pay his full salary, “thereby making a substantial grant to the University.” Dr. Northey went on to write that the “apparent salary increase deduced” by Tertiary Update “is in fact largely explained by the decision of the Vice-Chancellor to forgo part of his remuneration.”
Dr Northey wrote to AUS National President, Dr Bill Rosenberg, asking for a clear correction and an apology to the Vice-Chancellor.
Figures released by the State Services Commission, however, confirm that in the financial year 1 January 2000 to 31 December 2000, the Vice-Chancellor received a total remuneration package of between $320,000 and $329,999. In the financial year 1 January 2002 to 31 December 2002 he received total remuneration between $370,000 and $379,999. It was correctly reported.
In 1999, the year of his appointment, the Vice-Chancellor received total remuneration of between $250,000 and $259,999 for the ten and a half month period between 15 February and 31 December. He received at least $60,000 more in the following year.
Dr. Northey told AUS that the Vice-Chancellor’s job content and responsibility has increased dramatically with few other positions, if any, having experienced such a change in responsibility. “The University now generates twice the revenues and the demands of the position have increased accordingly,” he wrote.

Comprehensive PBRF coverage for Education Review
Education Review is planning comprehensive coverage of the PBRF results. This is expected to include a full listing of the published grades, reports on the future of the PBRF and its likely impact, expert commentary, and interviews with key players. Education Review editor, John Gerritsen, advises that annual subscriptions should be ordered as soon as possible in order to receive the PBRF edition and 47 other issues. Annual subscriptions are now available at a discounted rate of $135 for AUS members. To subscribe to Education Review, email subs@apn-ed.co.nz or phone (04) 4711 600 and ask for a subscription at the AUS member rate.

University pay offers rejected
Stopwork meetings at Victoria and Waikato Universities have comprehensively rejected pay offers made to university staff during national bargaining for new collective employment agreements, and have endorsed plans for protest and industrial action throughout the early part of the year. The meetings, which started this week, will continue throughout next week.
AUS lead advocate Jeff Rowe said that university employers had refused to agree to the new national collective employment agreements and had made pay offers between 2.0% and 2.8%. “Those offers are unacceptable,” he said, “and left the unions’ negotiating team no option but to recommend rejection.”

Students petition for living allowance
Tertiary students have launched a petition for a living allowance for all students to curb a growing student debt crisis. “We're calling on the Government to introduce a living allowance for all students regardless of their age or their parents’ income,” said Fleur Fitzsimons, Co-President of the New Zealand University Students' Association. “Currently, only a third of students are entitled to allowances, the rest forced to borrow through the student loan scheme for "basics like food and housing,” she said.
Ms Fitzsimons said Labour had been talking about living allowances since they were elected in 1999 and it was time for them to put their money where their mouth is. “It's time Labour showed that it supports students and is genuinely committed to dealing with the ever-growing student debt mountain.”
Students will be presenting the petition to the Government in mid-April.
The latest student loan scheme report released by Inland Revenue showed total student debt of more than $6 billion and the proportion of student loan borrowers with large debts is increasing. Over 500 extra borrowers have loans of more than $40,000 since the last quarterly report, with the biggest student loan in the country now at $179,732.
More than 379,000 people now have student loans under the scheme.

Worldwatch
Strike leaders claim success
Academic and student leaders today claimed to have “crippled” universities across the United Kingdom, bringing campuses to a standstill in protest over top-up fees and low pay.
The Association of University Teachers (AUT) released a statement claiming that the universities of Leeds, Glasgow, Liverpool, Sussex and University College London, among others, had been “all but shut down” with no lectures taking place. Leeds University confirmed that the shut-down was “pretty comprehensive.”
The President of the National Union of Students (NUS), Mandy Telford, said that up to two million further and higher education students had opted out of classes to protest over the Government's plans for top-up fees.
“Students have turned out in record numbers and joined lecturers in protest at government proposals to introduce fees,” she said. “There is now an increasing number of universities, academics, students and the general public who are vehemently opposed to future students being charged up to £3,000 to study at university.”
The AUT, which is striking this week over a new pay deal which they say will leave some of their members worse off, claimed the action was unprecedented. General Secretary Sally Hunt said that the way in which union members have crippled the UK higher education system was symptomatic of the extreme anger felt by staff over the issue of pay and conditions.

Universities to be fined if they snub poor students
UK universities will face fines of up to £500,000 and be prevented from charging higher tuition fees if they fail to stick to agreements to “secure a broadly based intake of students.” The threat emerged this week as the Education Secretary Charles Clarke published details of the powers given to the Office for Fair Access to force universities to attract more applications from prospective students who are at present “under-represented”.
They include those from the three lower social classes, from state schools and colleges, from poor performing schools, from "low participation neighbourhoods", from some ethnic minorities, and those with children or "eldercare" responsibilities or who have a disability.
The regulations state that, in extreme circumstances, universities would be fined for failing to stick to agreements by the new Office for Fair Access.

Anger over V-Cs pay hikes
Vice-chancellors in the United Kingdom have accepted pay rises far higher than those offered to their staff, prompting accusations of double standards from academic unions. The average pay rise in 2002-03, the latest year for which figures are available, was more than 6%, taking the average vice-chancellor's pay package to £135,000, according to a survey by The Times Higher Education Supplement. Academics were offered 3.5% over the same period.
Members of the Association of University Teachers are on strike across the UK this week in protest at low pay offers.
Sally Hunt, General Secretary of the AUT, said that the results of the vice-chancellors’ salary survey go to show why so many academics and related staff are willing to take industrial action over pay. “At a time when the employers are telling staff there's only enough money for pay rises just above 3% per year, it emerges that on average in 2002-03, vice-chancellors received increases of more than 6%,” she said.

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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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