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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITEFunding slide threatens quality of university education
University funding has declined by 23 per cent in real terms over the past decade according to research released last evening by the Association of University Staff (AUS) and the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (NZVCC).
The research report, University income and student numbers between 1980 and 2002, by economists Guy and Helen Scott investigated trends in New Zealand and compared the data with that from relevant OECD countries.
Report findings show that Ministry of Education funding per domestic equivalent full-time student (EFTS) in universities fell, in inflation adjusted terms, from $9609 in 1992 to $7367 in 2002, and that staff to student ratios had increased from 1:12.5 in 1980 to 1:18.3 in 2002.
Speaking at the launch of the report, AUS National President Dr Bill Rosenberg said that public investment in our universities is highly productive but was being allowed to steadily deteriorate. “That cannot be allowed to continue,” he said.
Government assertions that the erosion of university funding which occurred under the previous administration had now stopped were incorrect, said Dr Rosenberg. “Between 1999 and 2002, Government grants to universities fell from 46 per cent to 42 per cent of total operating revenue. Over the same time, income from student tuition fees increased from 23 per cent to 29 per cent, all of that increase being from international student fees.”
Dr Rosenberg pointed to the current cap on tuition fees, through the fees maxima policy, which meant that approximately two thirds of university income was now determined by the Government even though it provided only 42 percent of operating revenue. “Universities have increased their incomes by reliance on at-risk sources such as international student fees and contestable research contracts,” he said. “The report’s authors had commented that this situation reduced job security for staff.”
Dr Rosenberg said that the compound effect of diminished funding and high student to staff ratios would have an effect on the quality of university teaching and research. Most universities were finding it harder to attract good international academic staff and there were predictions of a major international staff crisis within universities by 2010.
The full report and accompanying documents can be found on the AUS website: www.aus.ac.nz

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Injunction stops PBRF release
2. University negotiations heading for mediation
3. New Vice-Chancellor for Lincoln
4. Living allowance campaign launched.
5. Lincoln enrolments off to “flying start”
6. Progress in UK pay talks
7. Private colleges to compete for state funds

Injunction stops PBRF release
The University of Auckland and Victoria University of Wellington yesterday afternoon successfully obtained an interim injunction from the High Court to stop the release of the Tertiary Education Commission’s (TEC) Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) report.
The injunction, which was granted only hours before the release of individual grades to universities, concerned an appendix in the report that attempts to compare the average quality categories or grades of New Zealand universities in the PBRF exercise with British universities in the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE).
Victoria University of Wellington Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon said that vice-chancellors had strongly objected to the inclusion of the information in the report since they found out about it two weeks ago, and had repeatedly sought its removal.
“It is totally invalid and inappropriate to compare the performance of universities in two different countries with significantly different tertiary funding systems and assessed according to quite different criteria. It is like comparing apples with oranges and will damage the reputation and standing of New Zealand’s universities both domestically and internationally,” he said.
University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor Dr John Hood said that the universities had no problem with the publication of the report as long as the international comparisons were withdrawn. “We are only taking this action to challenge the appendix and four related paragraphs which we believe contain flawed international comparisons,” he said. “We are happy to be compared with British universities as long as that comparison is valid.”
Supporting the concerns expressed by the vice-chancellors, AUS National President Dr Bill Rosenberg said that the UK system used departmental assessments based on a limited number of selected staff to determine RAE scores, whereas New Zealand had graded all staff. He said that comparable UK universities have more favourable research conditions, including better staff to student ratios and higher levels of funding.
The General Manager of the TEC, Ann Clark, said TEC would not be releasing the report until it had time to study the implications of the injunction.

University negotiations heading for mediation
An industrial mediator has been brought in to try and make progress between university employers and unions after attempts to negotiate new national collective employment agreements across the sector reached an impasse.
At stop-work meetings held over the last two weeks, university staff comprehensively rejected salary offers of between 2% and 2.8% made by the employers to renew current enterprise-based collective employment agreements. University employers have refused to agree to national collective agreements.
Staff are currently engaged in low level protest activity which is aimed at telling Government and university employers that significant salary increases and national collective employment agreements are urgently needed in the university sector, and must be funded by Government. The protest action, which began on Monday, will continue until the end of next week.
AUS Industrial Officer Jeff Rowe said that unless significant progress is made, a recommendation will be made to union members to take up to ten days strike action. Support for such action was foreshadowed at recent meetings.
Mediation is scheduled to take place in Wellington on Tuesday 23 and Wednesday 24 March.

New Vice-Chancellor for Lincoln
Professor Roger Field has been appointed Vice-Chancellor of Lincoln University, effective from 1 April. Professor Field has been the University’s Acting Vice-Chancellor since the retirement of Dr Frank Wood in October last year, and he has also served in that capacity on two other occasions. Announcing the appointment, Chancellor Margaret Austin says that Professor Field comes to the position with an outstanding combination of academic and administrative experience at a senior level and as a notable contributor to tertiary education in New Zealand, Australia and Europe.
The appointment was unanimously supported by the University Council and Mrs Austin said the selection process was robust and comprehensive, and included consultation with groups drawn from all sectors within the University. “Professor Field is a respected as an educator, researcher, manager and leader and he has a reputation for decisiveness, clarity and excellence,” said Mrs Austin. “He is a strategic thinker whose management strengths are recognised by his peers and by the University Council. “He has played a major role in the development and implementation of recent organisational and structural reviews at Lincoln University from which significant successes have already flowed.”
AUS National President Dr Bill Rosenberg welcomed Professor Field’s appointment, saying that his standing as a researcher and academic would be invaluable in his new role.

Living allowance campaign launched.
The Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA) has challenged University management, Wellington City Councillors, Members of Parliament and Government Ministers to sign a national petition demanding a living allowance for all tertiary students. The petition is part of a national campaign launched by the New Zealand Students’ Association (NZUSA) seeking to gain a living allowance at the level of the unemployment benefit for all tertiary students.
VUWSA President Amanda Hill said that most of the people being asking to sign the petition had received their tertiary education for free but many of them now supported a system that restricts the current living allowance to only a third of tertiary students. “By signing the petition in the year before a general election, members of the Government and University management are publicly supporting a return to the free education that they received” she said.
Last week the Vice-Chancellor of Auckland University of Technology (AUT), Dr John Hinchcliffe, signed the petition saying that he believed students should be supported while they gain qualifications at AUT. “We know that too many students are forced into working long hours to finance their degrees. A living allowance would permit them to concentrate on their studies,” he said.

Lincoln enrolments off to “flying start”
A 15 percent increase in equivalent full-time student (EFTS) registrations at Lincoln University has been one of the best first-term enrolment results in recent years and lays a firm platform for a buoyant 2004, according to incoming Vice-Chancellor, Professor Roger Field. “With mid-year entry and our end of year summer schools still to come, Lincoln is off to a flying start,” he said.
Bolstering the traditionally strong international enrolment at Lincoln has been a solid 3 percent lift in the domestic EFTS total. “This domestic boost is particularly encouraging given the highly competitive domestic recruitment market,” said Professor Field.

Worldwatch
Progress in UK pay talks
Intervention by the British Trade Union Congress (TUC) has resulted in signs of a resolution to the current dispute between university employers and the Association of University Teachers (AUT) over a proposed new pay framework for academic and related staff at UK universities.
In a statement TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber has said that he will be writing to the AUT and employers “setting out jointly agreed positive proposals, which it is hoped will form the basis for a rapid resolution of the current dispute.”
The intervention of the TUC follows months of negotiations between the unions and employers which culminated in strike action in February followed by a boycott on student assessment, including a refusal to mark essays and exams.
Under the employers’ proposals many academic and related staff would have lost up to £2000 per year.

Private colleges to compete for state funds
Private colleges in the US state of Washington will be allowed to receive state aid for students enrolling in high-demand programs, under a controversial budget provision passed late last week. The proposal is now being considered by the Washington Governor’s office.
Some public-college officials have voiced concerns about allowing private institutions to benefit from public dollars when there is not enough state aid to meet the needs of state colleges and universities. “We're expanding the pool of institutions competing for a limited amount of money that already is not enough,” said Larry Ganders, assistant to the president at Washington State University. He argued that public institutions in Washington have the space to enrol more students but are simply limited in how many they can take by state regulation.

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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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