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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITEBudget blow-out in community education
University leaders have been described as “incensed” after revelations of a blow-out in spending on community education. Last week, the Government announced it would consult tertiary education organisations about future funding after community education course costs rocketed from $48 million in 2002 to around $90 million last year.
The New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (NZVCC) says that Government ignored a warning given half-way through last year about the blow-out and, as a result, planned improvements in other areas of tertiary education will not now proceed.
The number of community education equivalent full time students (EFTS) increased from around 3800 in 2001 to almost 14,000 in 2003, and is forecast to be as high as 20,000 this year. Most of the growth has occurred in the polytechnic sector, concentrated around a group of institutions known as the Tertiary Accord, which run free language and computing courses.
Community education courses are funded at $5707 per EFTS and have a much lower level of quality control than other programmes. Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary) Steve Maharey is reported to have acknowledged that the Government had heard of institutions offering free computer training to businesses, while classifying such courses as community education in order to get EFTS funding.
Mr Maharey said that in the 2000 academic year $16 million had been allocated for community education and Ministry of Education projections were that the cost this year could reach $115 million.
Mr Maharey said that there were concerns about whether untargeted growth in community education courses was meeting the objectives for tertiary education set out in the Tertiary Education Strategy. “We have got a significant blow-out and an inability to explain it as good spending within the kind of strategy we are following,” he said. “It is likely that some specific changes will be introduced to limit expenditure in classification 5.1 (Community Education).”
AUS National President Dr Bill Rosenberg said he was alarmed at the ease with which large amounts of money have been found for courses of debatable quality and purpose. “The universities, with layers upon layers of quality controls and regulations, are fighting to stand still financially. The blow-out in community education funding undermines the credibility of Government claims that it cannot afford to remedy university funding problems,” he said
The NZVCC has written to the Minister expressing “extreme displeasure” at the situation and the flow-on effect to other areas of tertiary education expenditure.

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Students back staff in campaign for more pay
2. Sector prepares for PBRF release
3. Enrolment figures up
4. Fogelberg attacks levy as rip-off
5. Funding research to be released
6. French researchers urge brain drain reversal
7. Nottingham may be greylisted
8. UCLA employees accused of selling corpses

Students back staff in campaign for more pay
The New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA) is backing the AUS campaign for more pay. “Quality academic and general staff are what hold New Zealand’s universities together,” said Fleur Fitzsimons, Co-President of NZUSA. “It’s time that university management and Government recognised this and came up with the funds necessary to recruit and retain university staff.” Ms Fitzsimons said that students appreciated the hard work of university staff, and supported their pay keeping up with comparable professionals in New Zealand and internationally.
“University staff have been put off too long now by vice-chancellors who are more eager to spend up on advertising campaigns, or by giving themselves big pay rises,” said Ms Fitzsimons. “If the universities and the Government don’t act now, they will be responsible for greater industrial action, unhappy staff and unhappy students.”
“Students and staff will continue to work together to fight for better wages and conditions for staff, and for better student support in the form of a living allowance for all students,” said Ms Fitzsimons.
Victoria University Students’ Association (VUWSA) President Amanda Hill has said statements by their Vice-Chancellor indicated he values expensive architecture over the quality of teaching staff. “While the University has spent $400,000 on the infamous “steps to nowhere” at the entrance to Easterfield building, they will not fund staffing to an adequate level,” she said. “Students recognise the need for high quality staff and will support any industrial action. Inadequate government funding, coupled with the refusal of institutions to agree to a national collective employment agreement, has led to poor pay for staff, high tuition fees and fewer front-line services for students.”

Sector prepares for PBRF release
The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) will publicly release Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) assessment results on 23 March with a budget-style lock-up for news media and tertiary sector representatives in the four main centres. Following the release, Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary) Steve Maharey, the TEC Chair Dr Andrew West, and PBRF Moderation Panel Chair Dr Paul Callaghan will participate in a video conference giving media the opportunity to question them on the content of the report. A video conference for tertiary institutions will also be held that day before the results are made public at midday.
On Wednesday next week, individual institutions participating in the PBRF will be given passwords to encrypted CDs which give the individual institutions’ results. Each staff member in the 22 institutions involved in the PBRF process has been given a mark of A, B, C, or R (research inactive), and each institution and department will be given a rating between 0 and 10 based on the average marks of their staff. The ratings are based on the research performance at each institution based on the research output of staff over the past six years. While departmental and institutional scores will be made public, individual marks will not be publicly released.
AUS National President Dr Bill Rosenberg said that while there had been plenty of media speculation on the rankings among universities, it was clear the PBRF results would confirm that the seven traditional universities were the top research institutions in New Zealand’s tertiary education system. Dr Rosenberg said he hoped this would prompt the Government to increase university funding overall and not just the research component.

Enrolment figures up
Preliminary figures at Canterbury and Waikato Universities show that their student numbers are up this year. The University of Canterbury reports an increase in student numbers of 4.8% on 2003, with 12,254 enrolled for the first semester. First year enrolments have risen by 90 to 2,560 students.
Concerns had earlier been raised by students and staff that problems in a new enrolment system at Canterbury could lead to a fall in enrolments, but the figures released by the University show both international and domestic enrolment figures are up.
Overall enrolments at Waikato University are up by 988 (11%) on the same time last year, according to interim figures. Domestic student enrolments have increased by 245 (3%), while international enrolments are ahead by 743 (47%).
Dr Wendy Craig, Director of Student and Academic Services, said that a very pleasing aspect of the figures has been the extra number of bursary students enrolling at Waikato this year. “Already there is a 10% increase in the number of students who attained an A or B Bursary in 2003,” she said.
All eligible students will receive one of the Mercury Energy – Waikato University 40th Anniversary Scholarships worth $3000 for an A bursary and $2000 for a B Bursary. “It’s good to know our one-off initiative to celebrate our anniversary will benefit a wide number of students this year,” said Dr. Craig.

Fogelberg attacks levy as rip-off
University of Otago Vice-Chancellor Dr Graeme Fogelberg has told a meeting of his University’s Council that a government levy on international students was a “rip-off” of funds which could have been better used by the University itself.
The Government imposed a 0.5 percent levy on international students’ fees last year to set up a fund to promote New Zealand’s tertiary institutions to prospective international students. Dr Fogelberg told his Council that a report released by the Ministry of Education showed that at least some of the money was sitting in a bank account rather than being used for promotional purposes.
The Otago Daily Times reports Dr Fogelberg saying the levy had cost the University $77,800 in its first year and was “effectively just another tax” on the University’s income. Universities collectively have contributed $560,000 to the fund, equating to 29% of its total.

Funding research to be released
Research investigating trends in New Zealand university income and student-staff ratios will be released in Wellington next week by the AUS and the NZVCC. The independent research, jointly commissioned by the AUS and NZVCC, examines funding and student-staff trends between 1980 and 2002, and compares New Zealand data with that from other OECD countries.
The main findings of the report will be published in Tertiary Update next week. Media enquiries can be directed to marty.braithwaite@aus.ac.nz or rod@nzvcc.ac.nz

Worldwatch
French researchers urge brain drain reversal
Some two hundred directors of laboratories and scientific research teams in France have resigned from their administrative duties, via electronic mail, as part of a protest to Government about funding available for research. On the surface, the action is symbolic, but it could soon lead to paralysis of the French research sector.
A petition by researchers calling on their Government to provide more money to prevent the brain drain and provide extra funds for research has notched up over 57,000 signatures since January. An offer of an additional €294m (£198 million) and 300 extra research jobs this year from science minister Claudie Haigneré has yet to appease the movement of protest, nor have last-minute appeals by Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the Prime Minister.

Nottingham may be greylisted
The University of Nottingham in the UK is under the threat of greylisting by the Association of University Teachers (AUT) after strike action there yesterday over the introduction of a local pay and job evaluation scheme.
A resolution to greylist the University, which would mean censure by the AUT, may be tabled by AUT's National Executive Committee’s annual conference in Scarborough later this month
Greylisting is a form of academic boycott whereby information about a censured institution is circulated to academic associations worldwide and to the media. Those who are considering academic contact (such as job applications, attendance at conferences and research collaboration) with such an institution are asked to seek advice from AUT beforehand.
AUT Assistant General Secretary Martin Machon reported that last-minute talks were called by the University in an effort to avert the strike and greylisting threat, but agreement was not reached.

UCLA employees accused of selling corpses
Police officers from the University of California at Los Angeles have arrested an employee who oversees the donation of cadavers to the medical school after an investigation into allegations that he and another university employee sold corpses and body parts for personal profit.
The employee has been Director of the university's "Willed Body Program" since 1997. The program makes donated bodies available for research and medical education.
The arrested man was hired to manage the program in 1997, one year after UCLA was sued in a class-action lawsuit that accused the university of disposing of about 18,000 donated bodies "without dignity" between 1950 and 1993.

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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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