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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITEPBRF decision awaited
A decision is still awaited from the High Court in Auckland following 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 Court last week reserved its decision on the substantive hearing of the case after earlier granting an interim injunction when 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).
Meanwhile, the University of Auckland has expressed its disappointment at reported comments from the Minister of Finance, Michael Cullen, critical of the legal action taken by the universities and their reluctance to be compared with their British counterparts. University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor Dr John Hood rebutted Dr Cullen’s comments, saying that the University does not fear being judged internationally against British universities or any others. “We only ask that the comparison be on a fair and valid basis,” he said.
Dr Hood said that the Minister appeared to have missed the point that the legal action was driven by a desire to protect export education, something he described as a “major bulwark” of the New Zealand economy
“The sole purpose of our action is to prevent an invalid comparison being released that would do irreparable harm to New Zealand’s image as an education destination for growing numbers of international students,” said Dr Hood. “New Zealand educational institutions are already suffering from the effects of the recent failure of English language schools here. The Government needs to appreciate the threat to the reputation of the entire sector if the TEC is allowed to release a poor piece of work comparing New Zealand and British universities. That will only serve to damage New Zealand’s image even further.”
“We took legal action only as a last resort to protect the ability of the New Zealand tertiary sector to recruit and retain staff internationally, the credibility of New Zealand graduates’ qualifications on the world stage, and our ability to recruit students internationally,” said Dr Hood.
The High Court was expected to release its decision earlier this week, but has not done so yet.

Also in Tertiary Update this week . . .
1. University staff to vote on industrial action
2. International graduate numbers increase
3. Waikato denies merger claim
4. Otago Polytechnic backs living allowance
5. Enrolment figures up at Waikato
6. Industrial action suspended in UK
7. Israeli academics urged to oppose Government’s Palestine policies

University staff to vote on industrial action
University staff members began voting yesterday on a proposal for industrial action after mediation failed to break an impasse in national collective agreement negotiations. Staff will vote, at seven universities over the next week, on a recommendation from union negotiators to take up to five days strike action over a five week period starting from 28 April.
The strike ballot is proceeding after university employers failed to make sufficient progress in mediation to allow for an interim settlement to be reached. The unions are claiming for new national collective employment agreements for academic and general staff and salary increases of up to 10% per year for the next three years. The universities have made pay offers between 2% and 2.8% to renew enterprise (site) employment agreements. All have rejected national agreements.
During mediation, the unions proposed considering a 3.5% salary increase with a further 1 percent to be added from 1 September to break the impasse and allow the unions and employers to jointly lobby Government on funding issues. In response Waikato, Auckland and Canterbury Universities have advised that their current offers of a 2.2% salary increase stands, while Lincoln and Massey have modified their positions slightly. The other universities have not responded.
Association of University Staff (AUS) General Secretary Helen Kelly said that it was imperative that university employers demonstrated they had a genuine resolve to remedy salary problems within the sector. “To date, that has not been the case,” she said. “They are continuing to act competitively and current salary offers are worse than last year.”
The ballot result will be known on 8 April.
In other industrial news, staff at six polytechnics are due to receive back-paid pay increases after signing a new multi-employer collective employment agreement in that sector. Union members at Unitec, Waikato Institute of Technology, Whitireia Community Polytechnic, the Western Institute of Technology, the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and Northland Polytechnic will receive pay rises of between 2.5 and 3 percent.

International graduate numbers increase
The New Zealand university system is now producing more than 2300 international graduates a year, according to the latest report on university graduate destinations. University Graduate Destinations 2003, published by the NZ Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (NZVCC), looks at where the 27,088 eligible graduates from New Zealand’s eight universities in 2002 ended up six months after graduation.
Of the 2310 international graduates reported, 22.1% listed China as their country of origin, up from 3.6% in 2000 when the previous survey was undertaken. By contrast Malaysia, the previous dominant country of origin, has fallen from 36.2% in 2000 to 10.6% in 2002. International graduates are defined in the report as those requiring a permit to undertake study in New Zealand.
Of the domestic graduate population 64.4% (24,778) identified themselves as European/Pakeha, 17.0% as Asian (Chinese, Other Asian), 5.8% as NZ Maori, 2.4% as Pacific peoples and 2.3% as Indian.
Female graduates outnumbered males in both groupings. Of the New Zealand graduates, 57.6% were female while the proportion for international graduates was 55.8%.
In total 9285 graduates responded to a survey on which the report is based. Of these respondents, 8854 were New Zealand graduates, with 64.6% reporting they were in full-time employment six months after graduation. The proportion undertaking further full-time study was 21.9%.
Of the graduates from the New Zealand university system in 2002, 14.2% were aged 40 or older, down by one percent on the equivalent proportion for 2000 graduates. The majority of 2002 graduates (54.7%) were aged between 18 and 24, with a further 15.3% aged between 25 and 29.
The most popular area of study for university graduates in 2002 was commerce/business (26.9%), followed by social and behavioural sciences (26.8%), health (10.6%) and humanities (9.5%).

Waikato denies merger claim
Waikato University Vice-Chancellor Professor Bryan Gould has said a recent report in the Waikato Times, that the University is discussing a merger with Te Wananga o Aotearoa, is seriously misleading. In a statement to staff, Professor Gould said there had been discussions last year after the Wananga approached the University but these had not progressed and no further merger talks were planned.
“We have no intention of entering merger discussions (with the Wananga),” Professor Gould told AUS. “No such talks have taken place and I see no prospect of them doing so.”
Professor Gould said he did not believe the Waikato could maintain its university status if such a merger went ahead, but said he would be glad to have closer and more collaborative relations with the Wananga. It is reported that informal discussions on that basis are continuing between the two Councils.
Last year the University failed to secure a merger with the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) which would have seen the University become one of the biggest and most influential tertiary institutions in New Zealand.

Otago Polytechnic backs living allowance
The Otago Polytechnic Council has endorsed a national petition by the New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA) calling for a universal student allowance. “Otago Polytechnic Council’s unanimous support of a living allowance for all students shows great understanding of the severe issues facing many students” said Otago Polytechnic Students’ Association (OPSA) President, Rachel Dibble.
“With Council and community support there is a clear message to the Government that student debt is unacceptable.” The petition is part of a national campaign to gain a living allowance set at the level of the unemployment benefit for all students. Currently less than a third of full-time students are eligible for the student allowance. “Others are forced to borrow simply to eat and pay rent,” said Ms Dibble. “With student debt rapidly approaching $7b this may be the Government’s last chance to make a positive change and rectify ten years of generational theft,” said Ms Dibble.

Enrolment figures up at Waikato
Final enrolment figures at Waikato University show an increase of 133 students over the same time last year according to Dr Wendy Craig, Director of Student and Academic Services. Figures just released show that at 22 March, new domestic students had increased by 6% (143 students) compared with the end of March 2003. The number of students coming directly from school has increased by 21%. Total international students are 7% (169 students) higher than last year, with growth concentrated in degree-level enrolments.
Marketing Director Stephen Knightly says the University has had success with particular targeted groups this year. “The University did not do mass market TV advertising or large billboards, instead we focussed on key groups such as school leavers,” he said. The number of A and B Bursary students enrolling at Waikato has increased by 17%, to 474 students.

Industrial action suspended in UK
Delegates at the Association of University Teachers (AUT) conference in the United Kingdom have voted to suspend industrial action and ballot members on a new pay offer from university employers. If accepted, it would see salary increases of between 8.7% and 24.7% over two years for academic and academic-related staff.
The renewed offer comes after the rejection of an earlier attempt by university employers to restructure national pay scales which, if accepted, would have led to a loss in career earnings of up to £2,000 per year for some staff.
According to AUT General Secretary Sally Hunt, the new offer will produce significant additional pay increases, targeted initially at those at the lower end of the salary scales, and will protect the link between academic and academic-related staff. It would also ensure academic-related staff have the same pay protections as academic staff.
The new offer will be voted on over the next four weeks.

Israeli academics urged to oppose Government’s Palestine policies
Israel’s academic leaders have been asked to take a public stand against their Government’s violation of academic freedom at Palestine universities in the occupied territories in an on-line letter conceived by Lawrence Davidson, a professor of history at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Professor Davidson and several other American and British academics have led a campaign to boycott Israeli universities in protest at Israeli’s military action plans against the Palestinians.
According to the letter, “the Israeli Government has set up a system of roadblocks and checkpoints that make it difficult or impossible for Palestinian teachers and students to reach their universities, colleges and schools. It’s a policy of harassment, arrests, random shootings and assaults,” the letter continues.

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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