AUS Tertiary Update
Academic and general staff at the University of Otago were issued with suspension notices yesterday afternoon, less than twenty four hours before they were due to walk off the job in protest at deadlocked pay negotiations.
On Monday this week Otago staff voted by 408 votes to 93 to take strike action this afternoon, and gave the unions’ bargaining team power to call further “rolling action”, including withholding exam marks. The vote occurred after a failure to reach agreement between the unions and University in negotiations to renew the University of Otago academic and general staff collective employment agreements.
The unions are claiming a 4% salary increase, backdated to 1 February. In response, the University is offering a 3% salary increase, from 1 May, to general staff and academic staff below the rank of lecturer, and a restructuring of the salary scales for lecturer and above. This would result in salary increases of between 3.5% and 4.8%, and remove some steps from the salary scales.
Association of University Staff (AUS) Otago Branch President, Dr Shef Rogers, said that the unresolved issues centred on differential pay offers, backdating, and the overall level of the pay increase offered. Dr Rogers said the attitudes of the parties had hardened after the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Graeme Fogelberg, emailed staff directly outlining the offer and implying that the unions had not accurately reported it. He said that a number of staff believed that the Vice-Chancellor’s action was unnecessarily provocative in the current industrial climate.
In an email to staff yesterday, the University’s Manager of Employee Relations, Lynne Tana, advised that the University would be deducting pay for all staff absent from work due to participating in strike action. “Without confirmation from your Head of Department, that you either worked or were on approved leave, your pay will be deducted for the duration of the strike”, the email read. “If you participate in the strike this email constitutes a suspension as required by Section 87 of the Employment Relations Act 2004.”
AUS lawyer Peter Cranney said today that the notices issued by the University were void, having been issued before strike action began. He said that employees could only be suspended once they were on strike.
The University has advised the unions it considers bargaining is at an end; however the unions have suggested further discussions or mediation in an attempt to resolve the dispute.
Meanwhile, negotiations will resume at Victoria University of Wellington this afternoon after general (non-academic) staff took strike action on Monday this week in support of a claim to increase salaries by 4%. More than 200 staff braved cold weather to picket the University on Monday to protest at the offer made by VUW to increase salaries by 2.2%.
Also in Tertiary
Update this week . . . .
1. New Auckland Vice-Chancellor appointed
2. PBRF costs higher than rewards
3. Universities starved in Budget
4. International students angry at fees rise
5. “Plagiarist” to sue University
The University of Auckland announced the appointment of Professor Stuart McCutcheon as its new Vice-Chancellor on Tuesday this week. Professor McCutcheon, who is currently Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University of Wellington, will take up his new position on 1 January 2005. He will succeed Dr John Hood who leaves at the end of this month to become Vice-Chancellor at Oxford University.
Auckland’s current Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Raewyn Dalziel, will serve as the Acting Vice-Chancellor during the six month period between Dr Hood’s departure and the time when Professor McCutcheon takes up his new position.
The appointment process for a new vice-chancellor for the University of Auckland has been one of the most secretive undertaken by a New Zealand university. AUS Auckland Branch President, Associate Professor Peter Wills, said it had been unacceptably secretive and the University Council had only allowed the involvement of a small group of staff after its initial process had failed to find any suitable candidate for the position. It then restricted staff participation to those on Council and a few others who were only identified after the event.
PBRF costs higher than rewards
Cost estimates released by seven universities have shown that they each spent between $116,000 and $1.63 million to participate in the recent Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) exercise. According to a report in The Christchurch Press, most say they will have spent more on taking part in the exercise than they will gain in funding increases in 2004.
The Press says that the costs reported did not include the true cost of participating in the exercise as they did not include the thousands of hours put in by academic staff compiling portfolios and research data.
Lincoln University has estimated its PBRF compliance cost at $243,000 but says it will only receive an additional $242,000 in funding this year. Likewise, the University of Canterbury said that recorded PBRF compliance had cost it $440,000, double the amount budgeted for, but received a net increase in funding of $381,000 this year. The compliance figure did not include an estimated 17,500 hours of academic staff members’ time spent on the process.
The University of Auckland, which was ranked first in the PBRF exercise, said that while PBRF compliance had cost around $400,000, not including staff time, it only received an additional $1.6 million funding in 2004.
The universities received net increases in funding through the PBRF exercise of between $202,000 at Victoria, and $1.8 million at Otago.
Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary), Steve Maharey, has advised that later in the year he will announce further funding related to the results of the first PBRF assessment. This is expected to be an injection of new funding, although details are not known at this stage.
Universities starved in Budget
Universities will receive a funding increase of 3.2% per student in 2005, only 0.9% more than the inflation rate, and nothing additional for research as a result of last week’s Budget. It is the lowest overall funding increase across the whole of the education sector, and less than delivered in last year’s Budget.
AUS National President, Dr Bill Rosenberg, said that Government now controlled more that 60% of university income, but continued to starve the sector of desperately needed additional funding. “As a result of this Budget, government funding per student in 2005 will still be substantially less, in actual terms, than it was fifteen years ago. For example, an arts degree attracted government funding of $7,505 per student in 1991, but will attract only $6,049 per student in 2005,” he said.
Dr Rosenberg said that recent research, commissioned by the AUS and the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors' Committee, revealed that government funding of universities had fallen in real terms by 23% over the last decade.
“Last week’s Budget does nothing to alleviate the funding crisis which has become apparent in the university sector,” said Dr Rosenberg. “Spending on tertiary funding in New Zealand remains lower than the OECD average, and universities have fared worst within the sector.”
Dr Rosenberg said that the failure to substantially increase research funding was particularly disappointing. “After the efforts to establish the Performance-Based Research Fund, we had expected the Government to show that it had a real commitment to the future of research. Clearly it has not,” he said.
“This Budget undermines the long-term quality of university education and inhibits the enhancement of an economy and society based on increased knowledge,” said Dr Rosenberg.
An Innovation Conference for tertiary education institutions, also announced in the Budget, would do nothing to address the basic funding of salaries, staffing levels, and infrastructure according to Dr Rosenberg. “It is nothing but an effort to draw attention from the fundamental issues facing the sector,” he said.
Dr Rosenberg said it was time the Government differentiated its policy on universities and funded them in a manner which enabled them to meet their specific role as it has begun to do for community childcare centres and public polytechnics in the Budget.
More detail on tertiary education spending in the Budget can be found at http://www.aus.ac.nz/0815%20-%20tertiary%20education%20-%20the%20new%20zealand%20budget.htm
students angry at fees rise
International students have reacted angrily to reports that the University of Waikato is planning to increase tuition fees for international students in 2005. A proposed fees increase has been discussed by the University’s Finance Committee, but will remain confidential until the Council meets next week.
Waikato University Student Union President Sandy Pushpamangalam said that while they did not want to see another fees increase for international students, it seemed inevitable. “International students at Waikato University cannot afford to face a further fee increase and consider that the University is betraying them by increasing student fees again in 2004,” she said.
“A graduate student enrolled in 2001 for four years is currently affected by an increase of more than 50 percent due to fees increase, inflation, and other factors,” said Ms Pushpamangalam. “International students are left to suffer as they are not eligible to apply for any assistance in New Zealand. In many cases, they cannot apply for extra money once the loan is approved. Further, they are not eligible to work more than 15 hours due to immigration regulations.”
“The University management has a stereotypical view of international students as rich kids with flash cars. It is simply not true. The reality is that most of them pay for their studies using a student loan or by mortgaging the properties in their home country,” said Pushpamangalam.
Students are running a nationwide campaign for grand-parenting of international student fees meaning that a student who enrols in a course can calculate how much they will end up paying by the end of their studies.
International students will be protesting against the fees increase on this Friday to call for no increase and to introduce fees grand-parenting.
“Plagiarist” to sue University
A student who admits down-loading material from the internet for his degree plans to sue his University for negligence. Michael Gunn claims the University of Kent should have warned him his actions were against the regulations.
The Times Higher Education Supplement reports that Gunn was told on the eve of his final exams that he would get no marks for his course work.
Michael Gunn, a 21-year-old English student, told the Times Higher that he did plagiarise, but never dreamt it was a problem. “I can see there is evidence I have gone against the rules, but they have taken all my money for three years and pulled me up the day before I finished,” he said. “If they had pulled me up with my first essay at the beginning and warned me of the problems and consequences, it would be fair enough. But all my essays were handed back with good marks and no one spotted it.”
David Nightingale, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Kent University said he would not comment on individual cases because the external examiners’ meeting for the School of English would take place next week, when exam entries would be considered. “I would stress that throughout their time at Kent, all students are given clear guidelines, as well as practical advice and support, as to what constitutes plagiarism,” he said. “These spell it out that it is not acceptable under any circumstances.”
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: email@example.com