AUS Tertiary Update
Allegations continue over
The Christchurch Polytechnic (CPIT) has received more than $15 million of public money for running computer courses that simply require it to hand out CD-Roms to members of the public, according to The Christchurch Press. It has been revealed that CPIT enrolled 18,493 people in four Cool IT courses, for which it then received $795 in funding per course for each student.
It has been reported that the Cool IT students, who were recruited at random in Christchurch shopping malls, libraries, and schools, were not required to attend classes or complete course work. They did not have any contact with teachers. According to The Press, the students simply had to sign up and accept the CD-Roms which contained the four courses.
The CPIT also paid schools and libraries $20 for every person they enrolled and spent $80,000 on book vouchers as rewards for people who signed up.
Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary) Steve Maharey said that while $15 million was a sizeable amount of money, the CPIT had done nothing outside the rules. He told Parliament yesterday that the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) had advised him that CPIT’s community education courses, which include the Cool IT programmes, met funding requirements. He said any question of whether the particular programmes are a good use of public funding will be assessed this year through the TEC’s profile negotiations with individual institutions.
A spokesperson for Mr Maharey said that while the rules for the community funding programme had not changed since the previous National Government, the problems with funding had become evident last year. He said that community education funding had now been capped and details would be provided in next week’s Budget.
The Cool IT programme is a joint venture between CPIT and Christchurch company Brylton Software. Tertiary Update reported last week that former Christchurch Mayor and current CPIT Development Manager Vicki Buck is a director of Brylton.
Also in Tertiary
Update this week . . . .
1. Staff call for greater involvement in VC appointment process
2. Angry reaction to budget blow-out
3. No poaching says Maharey, but . . .
4. Collective agreements settled
5. Announcement soon on South African MBA programmes
6. Petition opposes PeopleSoft installation
Staff call for greater involvement
in VC appointment process
University staff have called for increased involvement in the appointment processes for new vice-chancellors after the Association of University Staff (AUS) was excluded from any participation in the selection of a new vice-chancellor for the University of Auckland.
It is understood that interviews for the vice-chancellorship have been completed and an offer of appointment made to one of the applicants.
AUS National President Dr Bill Rosenberg said that university councils are empowered by statute to seek advice from relevant parties, and may invite appropriate people to be involved in either an examination of the applications or in the council’s deliberations for such an appointment.
The AUS Auckland Branch President, Associate Professor Peter Wills, said the University of Auckland Council had only allowed the involvement of a small group of staff after its initial appointment process failed to find any suitable candidate for the position. It then restricted staff participation to those on the University Council and a few others who have only now been identified after the event. “The secrecy surrounding this appointment process is unacceptable,” he said. “It is extremely disappointing that, despite numerous attempts to raise the issue with the Chancellor, the AUS has been prevented from briefing candidates on staff concerns at a time when a delicate industrial situation exists and Auckland staff have not yet ratified a collective employment agreement with the administration after backing away from a national strike.”
“It is both logical and reasonable to widely consult and involve staff in such an appointment, given that the vice-chancellor is to be the University’s senior academic leader and senior manager,” said Associate Professor Wills. He said a vice-chancellor requires the confidence and support of all staff, and it had been the usual practice in New Zealand universities to involve staff and AUS widely in the process.
The appointment process at the University of Auckland can be contrasted with that at Oxford University in England, where Dr John Hood is soon to take up the Vice-Chancellorship. His appointment there was subject to ratification by the staff.
Dr Rosenberg and Associate Professor Wills called on the Chancellor and University Council to consult with staff and the AUS to establish a policy on future appointment processes for new vice-chancellors.
Angry reaction to budget
Students and the AUS have reacted angrily to reports that the cost of the University of Otago’s new Registry entrance has blown-out to $4.7 million, more than double the original estimate of $2.2 million. The new estimates were released by the University to the Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA) following an Official Information Act request.
OUSA President Andrew Cushen is reported on the Otago Daily Times (ODT) saying that it was mind-boggling that the University is prepared to waste nearly $5 million on the project when, by their own admission, the University library and other facilities desperately needed more funding. “This is a disgusting waste of money,” he said. “Putting grand entranceways and useless bridges ahead of teaching resources is stupid when the quality of education is increasingly being compromised.”
Acting AUS Branch President Dr Shef Rogers said this week that it was a worrying waste of University money at a time when the university and unions were still unable to settle on a salary rise for staff. “Union members will be angry that, at a time when they are being forced to contemplate taking (industrial) action in support of their salary claims, large sums of money are being squandered on unnecessary glamour projects, such as the St. David Street redevelopment,” he said.
The first stage of the new entrance has cost $1.3 million, more than double the original estimate of $611,000. The later stages, yet to get underway, have risen similarly with a new avenue expected to have almost trebled in cost from $600,000 to $1.5 million.
Dr Rogers said that more than $4 million recently awarded to the University in the Performance-Based Research Fund was achieved through the hard work of staff. “That money, and other money coming into the University, should be directed towards improved salaries and working conditions for staff, and improved services for students, not over-priced entranceways,” he said.
The ODT reports that neither the University’s Vice-Chancellor Dr Graeme Fogelberg nor Property Director Barry MacKay could be reached for comment.
No poaching says Maharey, but . .
Associate Education Minister (Tertiary) Steve Maharey says there is no proof that Australian universities are poaching top high-school students after reports that some of New Zealand’s best students are being lured with lucrative Australian scholarships.
The Australian recruitment strategy is alleged to include the Australian universities making direct approaches to top Year 13 students from Auckland Grammar and private schools including Kings College and Christ’s College, running recruitment seminars, and offering scholarship worth up to $40,000 each.
While Mr Maharey said that only two students had been approached, others are warning that such competition is inevitable.
New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee Chairman, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, said that there is a clear risk to New Zealand’s economic well-being if Australia takes “our best and brightest” students. He said that Australian universities enjoy at least a third more per-capita resourcing than their New Zealand counterparts, and the gap is increasing. It meant the Australians could afford to offer such scholarship schemes as well as being able to provide the quality of education that better resourcing brings.
Collective agreements settled
University of Canterbury academic staff voted narrowly yesterday, by 91 votes to 90, to accept a new collective employment agreement which will increase salaries by 3.5% from 1 May. General and trades staff and cleaners have also voted to accept the new offer. The settlement comes after an earlier decision to defer national bargaining in the university sector and conclude local enterprise agreements at individual universities while discussions are held on a number of broad funding and salary issues in the sector.
AUS General Secretary Helen Kelly said today that the narrow margin in the academic staff vote at Canterbury reflected a strong desire and commitment by university staff to resolve long-standing salary discrepancies. She said that the union remains firmly committed to having these issues addressed at a national level.
Waikato University staff have accepted a salary offer of 3%, 2% of which will be backdated to 1 October 2003, and Victoria academic staff have accepted 4% from 1 May. Lincoln staff have accepted an increase of 3%, back dated to 1 March.
General staff at Victoria have voted not to put a salary offer of 2.2% to ratification, and propose to take strike action in protest. Those at Otago have elected not to consider salary offers of 2.5% for general staff and 3.5% for academic staff on the basis of the level and differential nature of the offers. Negotiations at Otago will get underway this week.
Voting at Auckland and Massey will not finish until Friday and will be reported next week.
Announcement soon on South African MBA programmes
The South African Council on Higher Education is due to complete a review this month in response to an apparent proliferation of Masters in Business Administration programmes in the Republic. The review included private and public institutions, some of which are from franchised providers.
Around thirty-eight programmes have been assessed against set of thirteen criteria and a process of self-evaluation, and have tested the ability of each institution to sustain quality of teaching, learning, and research.
In accordance with current Quality Assurance mechanisms, it is expected that institutions will be given full or conditional accreditation, or may have their accreditation withdrawn from next month.
It is expected that another report, later in the year, will provide benchmarking criteria for “good practice” measured against international standards, and highlight areas which are considered to need improvement.
Staff at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) at San Luis have signed a petition protesting a plan by campus administrators to seek a $15-million loan to install PeopleSoft software.
At issue is a recent decision to press ahead with using the software, which manages student records, even as other cash-strapped campuses at California State are delaying the upgrade.
The petition asks the institution to “immediately halt the plans for implementation of the student-administration module of PeopleSoft until the State's budget situation improves,” and until campus information-technology officials have conducted “a thorough and transparent cost analysis of other alternatives in the upgrading of our current software.”
The petition also asks that the decision to take out a multimillion-dollar loan for the project be reconsidered.
“We believe it is unjustified to spend millions of dollars to implement an expensive software package at a time when we are facing the worst budget crisis in the history of our University,” the petition reads.
PeopleSoft’s Chief Technology Officer is a member of the “President's cabinet” at Cal Poly, a group of forty-nine business executives that helps shape campus goals.
PeopleSoft is used in some New Zealand universities.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org