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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITEPBRF results remain on hold
The High Court in Auckland has reserved its decision in an application by the University of Auckland and Victoria University of Wellington to stop the release of the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) report on the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF). The PBRF process measured the quality of research by individual staff at the 22 participating tertiary institutions, and it is intended that future research funding be allocated on the basis of those results.
The Court last week granted an interim injunction after the universities challenged the inclusion in the report of comparisons between the New Zealand universities in the PBRF exercise and British universities in the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE).
Following the granting of the interim injunction last week, the TEC advised it would not release any information about the PBRF results. It promptly postponed the initial release of individual institutions’ results last week and the full public release of the report scheduled for Tuesday this week.
At the hearing of the case on Tuesday this week, Julian Miles QC, acting for the University of Auckland, told the Court that the report’s authors were acting unlawfully in making the comparison between British and New Zealand universities.
The New Zealand Herald reports Mr Miles saying that the case was not about freedom or the University being concerned about a fair comparison with others, but about the TEC acting unlawfully in a public law sense. At a “very late stage” in the process the University of Auckland was told that a large amount of sensitive data it had provided to the TEC would also be used for “a completely different process” from that for which it had been supplied.
Mr Miles contended that the University would not have provided the information if it had known that it would be used in an “improper and inappropriate” way. He said the methodology used for the British comparison was “fundamentally flawed”, and the outcome was likely to damage the reputation and finances of the institutions concerned.
Association of University Staff (AUS) National President Dr Bill Rosenberg said it was significant that the universities’ case was based on their concern that the PBRF data was being used for a purpose other than for which it was supplied. “That is precisely the concern AUS has repeatedly expressed regarding the use of individual PBRF scores within institutions,” he said. “We trust that universities will ensure that care is taken over the proper use of individual scores.”
The High Court is expected to release its decision later this week.

Also in Tertiary Update this week . . . .
1. TEC Chair to leave
2. Mediation progress in university negotiations
3. Qualification completion figures released
4. Former AUT head To establish Centre for Future Studies
5. Former AUS Branch Organiser, Minister’s wife, dies
6. UK fees battle begins again
7. Education cash not enough, say UK universities
8. “Diploma mill” degree claimed by accrediting group member

TEC Chair to leave
The Tertiary Education Commission Chairperson, Dr Andy West, has been appointed as Chief Executive of Ag Research and will complete his work with the TEC on 16 April.
Dr West was initially appointed to head up the Transition Tertiary Education Commission in 2001 and was later confirmed as chairperson of the inaugural Commission which was formally established on 1 January 2003.
The Acting Minister Responsible for Tertiary Education Commission, Margaret Wilson, said Dr West had successfully managed the establishment phase of the Commission. “Under Dr West’s leadership the TEC is achieving the Government’s three tertiary education reform priorities of excellence, relevance and access. In its first full year of operation the TEC has completed New Zealand’s first ever assessment of the research carried out in the tertiary education system, negotiated new charters with more than 500 individual tertiary education organisations, and overseen the very rapid growth in industry training numbers which last year involved 126,870 workers in on-the-job training,” said Ms Wilson.
Deputy TEC Chairperson Kaye Turner will become Acting Chairperson of the Commission. Given speculation about the possibility of her also leaving, Kaye Turner advised today that she will not be leaving the Commission.

Mediation progress in university negotiations
University unions and employers met in Wellington this week with an industrial mediator in an attempt to make progress in national employment agreement negotiations. Negotiations stalled in February after university employers continued to reject proposals for new national collective employment agreements for academic and general staff, and maintained salary offers of between 2.0% and 2.8%.
The mediation adjourned yesterday afternoon without settlement, but with employers’ representatives undertaking to discuss with their vice-chancellors a proposal to increase salaries by 3.5 percent, backdated to the appropriate salary increase date of relevant enterprise agreements, with a further 1 percent to be applied from 1 September 2004.
Any such proposal would be accompanied with joint lobbying by the university employers and unions on the issue of government finding.
The employers are expected to respond to the latest proposal by early next week.

Qualification completion figures released
Only 40% of domestic students who started a qualification in 1998 had completed it within five years, with 51% leaving without completing their qualifications, according to figures recently released by the Ministry of Education. The new report, Retention, Completion and Progression in Tertiary Education 2003, provides the first comprehensive analysis of qualification completion, retention and progression of students in formal tertiary study in New Zealand.
The report reveals, however, that New Zealand performs above OECD averages at all levels of tertiary study. The graduation rate for New Zealand students after five years in academic or theoretically-based study was 42%, well ahead of the OECD average of 30.3% but behind Australia at 42%. For vocationally-oriented study, the New Zealand graduation rate was 17% compared with an OECD average of 11%.
The report also shows that 29% of domestic students who started a qualification in 2002 had completed in three years, a further 15% were still studying towards completion and 56% had left without completing.
Retention and qualification rates improve the higher the level of qualification studied, according to the figures. After 5 years study, 53% of students had either completed degrees or were still studying towards completion. Of those starting an honours or masters degree, 59% had completed after five years and a further 2% were still studying. It was estimated that between 54 and 57% of those starting a doctorate had completed within the five years. By contrast, 30% of those starting a certificate programme completed within 5 years, while 66% left without completing. Similarly, 32% of those starting a diploma course in 1998 had completed by 2002, with 64% leaving without completion.
Progression to higher levels of study was highest for students completing certificates, at 17%. 13% of those completing a diploma and 15% of those completing a degree progressed to further study while 6% of those completing an honours or masters degree continued with doctorate study.
The full report and summary can be found on the Ministry of Education website:

Former AUT head to establish Centre for Future Studies
The retiring Vice-Chancellor of the Auckland University of Technology (AUT), Dr John Hinchcliff, is launching a new Centre for Future Studies. Dr Hinchcliff says the study of the future is about “visioning, scenario building, scanning and disciplined speculation based on a wide ranging understanding of trends.”
He says Future Studies is a well established discipline internationally but until now there has not been a university research centre covering the area in New Zealand. “We spend the rest of our life in the future,” he said, “so a disciplined approach that is not about crystal ball gazing or divination is critical for us to explore where we are heading.”
Dr Hinchcliff says futurists internationally have tended to be historians, sociologists, ecologists and psychologists but he would look to the inclusion of scientists, engineers, economists, philosophers and business people to integrate their wisdom and their inter-related insights to the discipline.

Former Branch Organiser, Minister’s wife, dies
Tertiary Update reports with sadness the death of Liz Mackay, wife of Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary) Steve Maharey. Liz Mackay, a former AUS Branch Organiser at Massey University, passed away last Friday in Palmerston North after a long battle with cancer.
The Prime Minister, Helen Clark, has appointed Margaret Wilson as the Acting Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary) and the Acting Minister responsible for the Tertiary Education Commission until further notice.
AUS and Tertiary Update express condolences to Steve Maharey and family.

UK fees battle begins again
“Rebel” Labour MPs in the United Kingdom are launching a fresh attempt to stop top-up fees. Amendments being tabled by leading rebels would, if approved by Parliament, strike out proposals for English universities to be allowed to charge variable tuition fees of up to £3,000 a year.
The Higher Education Bill scraped through the House of Commons at second reading by just five votes in January and rebels are hoping to boost their ranks when it returns to the House next Wednesday.
Norwich North MP Ian Gibson, who tabled the rebel amendment, said it would get rid of negative elements of the Bill while retaining favourable parts, including the introduction of maintenance grants and the deferment of payment of fees until after graduation.
If passed, the amendment would force universities to continue with their flat-rate level of £1,125 a year, preventing different universities from charging varying amounts for courses.

Education cash not enough, say UK universities
Charles Clarke, the UK Education Secretary, set out his three-year budget this week, confirming that an extra £8.5 billion would be shared between nurseries, schools, colleges and universities between 2005 and 2008. He promised universities that funding per student would be maintained in real terms. However, Universities UK, which represents vice-chancellors, argued that £8.8 billion extra funding was needed for universities alone to repair their crumbling buildings and improve their spending per student.

“Diploma mill” degree claimed by accrediting group member
A member of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools in the United States, which accredits approximately 600 private career-training institutions, claims a doctorate from what has been described as a “notorious diploma mill” based in Liberia.
Michael Davis, who was appointed to the Council in June last year, holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Saint Regis University, which is based in Monrovia, Liberia.
State investigators in Georgia have recently determined that Saint Regis was not a legitimate institution. Alan Contreras, Administrator of the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization, said there was no doubt that Saint Regis is bogus. “The entity called Saint Regis University is a notorious diploma mill that pretends to have approval from the Government of Liberia but appears to be operated by people in the United States,” he said.
Saint Regis’s web site says that students can earn degrees “with no further courses or classes, based on what you already know!”
Mr. Davis, who paid about $3,000 for the degree, said he said he was not sure now whether Saint Regis was legitimate.

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: Direct enquires to Marty Braithwaite, AUS Communications Officer, email:

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