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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITEIndustrial action continues at Victoria and Otago
Expect few phone calls or emails to be answered today by general (non-academic) staff at Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) as industrial action continues over the failure to renew their collective employment agreement. Staff have claimed a 4 percent salary increase, in line with their academic colleagues, while the University has made a new offer of 2.5 percent with a one-off payment of $350.
The two-day ban on phone calls and emails, which started yesterday, follows strike action on 31 May in protest at the then offer of 2.2 percent. More action, including non-cooperation, a partial withdrawal of labour and unannounced strikes, has been threatened unless the dispute is resolved.
Association of University Staff (AUS) General Secretary Helen Kelly said that despite further negotiations following the strike action, Victoria University continued to make the lowest pay offer to general staff of any university in the country.
General staff spokesperson Tony Quinn said the employer’s message was clear. “The University believes general staff are not worth any more than 2.5 percent. The University has not argued that it cannot afford to pay; rather, it has chosen to show it believes general staff are worth less than their academic counterparts.”
In another move, AUS has issued proceedings in the Employment Relations Authority saying that VUW has breached the good faith bargaining requirements of the Employment Relations Act by offering the pay increase to staff who are not union members. Helen Kelly said she interpreted the University’s move as an attempt to undermine the bargaining process.
Union members at VUW will meet again on 16 June to consider further action.
Meanwhile, staff at the University of Otago walked off the job last Thursday afternoon in protest at that University’s position in negotiations for the renewal of both the academic and general staff collective employment agreements. More than 450 staff marched through the University during the protest and have threatened further action until the dispute is resolved.
The University has offered a 3 percent salary increase, from 1 May, for 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 increases of between 3.5 percent and 4.8 percent, and remove some steps from the salary scale. The unions are claiming a 4 percent increase, backdated to 1 February.
In a letter to the University Council, AUS Branch President Dr Shef Rogers has warned that if there is no progress, union members will continue with public protest, and will refuse to submit exam marks until settlement is reached.
In response to a request by the unions for further discussions, Otago’s Human Resources Director Stephen Gray has advised that the University “sees no point in a further meeting” unless the unions have a new proposal “which delivers a settlement that maintains the elements of the current offer.”

Also in Tertiary Update this week . . .
1. “Elite” role for universities needs to be debated
2. English inconsistent on community education courses?
3. International student fees to hike
4. Average rating from international students
5. South African MBAs axed
6. Commons to investigate e-University collapse

“Elite” role for universities needs to be debated
The Government is urging a debate on how the unique knowledge-creation role of the nation’s universities can be ensured. In a speech to the Royal Society of New Zealand, Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary) Steve Maharey said that government policy has refocused the university sector on its primary role of creating and transferring knowledge. He said it is now important to develop a national consensus about how to ensure the nation’s universities consistently push knowledge boundaries and make a genuine contribution to New Zealand’s economic and social development.
“It is essential we reposition our universities as the institutions to influence the direction and quality of our research, and ensure that they become the elite institutions they were intended to be,” Mr Maharey said. “A recent discussion paper issued by the Tertiary Education Commission asks some hard questions about how best to achieve this transformation. Questions like whether universities should cut back on or abandon their sub-degree programmes in favour of expanding their postgraduate offerings, and whether it should remain a requirement that staff teaching undergraduate programmes must also be active researchers.”
Mr Maharey said the Government had increased resources for research in the tertiary education sector with recent initiatives including an additional $33 million into the Performance-Based Research Fund by 2007, a new high-speed internet superlink between tertiary education and research organizations in New Zealand and overseas, the establishment of seven Centres of Research Excellence and an additional $212 million in the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

English inconsistent on community education courses?
After spending much of the last month attacking the Government over the value and spiraling cost of community education courses, National Party spokesperson on Education, Bill English, is now warning polytechnics that they could each lose more than $1 million in taxpayer funding.
Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary), Steve Maharey, announced a reduction in funding for community education in the Budget, from $5,700 per equivalent full-time student this year, to $5,000 next year. He also announced that the total funding for the category would be capped.
According to Mr English, the Tairawhiti Polytechnic in Gisborne now stands to lose up to $2.8 million, Manukau Institute of technology in Auckland up to $1.9 million and the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) up to $1.3 million.
Last month Mr English described enrolments in a Te Reo Maori community education course at Tairawhiti as a “scam” which was “getting more outrageous by the week”, and he has criticised computer courses from which it was alleged that CPIT had received more than $15 million in public funding.
This week Mr English lodged a complaint with the Auditor General calling for an independent investigation into the potential conflict of interest with CPIT’s Cool IT computer courses. It has been alleged that CPIT’s Development Manager, and former Christchurch Mayor, Vicki Buck is a director of the software company which is in a joint venture with CPIT to run the Cool IT courses.

International student fees to hike
International students continue to protest, and some are threatening not to return to study in New Zealand after decisions this week to increase international tuition fees by around 20% at the University of Otago and by 10% at Waikato University.
Students at Waikato protested last Friday in anticipation of the fees increase, which was approved yesterday by the University Council, and more than 200 students staged a noisy protest outside the Otago Council meeting on Tuesday this week. The Otago fees will rise between 19 percent and 23 percent for 2005.
Waikato University Student Union President Sandy Pushpamangalam said that international tuition fees had increased by 28 percent in two years at Waikato, and described yesterday’s Council decision as a cynical move by the University to extract even more money from struggling international students.
The New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA) has now launched a nationwide campaign to “grandparent” the existing fees of currently enrolled international students. “Grandparenting” refers to a policy of charging a set fee for the duration of an international student’s study for their qualification, and would allow them to budget for their qualification costs before making a decision on where to study.
NZUSA Co-President Fleur Fitzsimons said that international students will be holding a conference at Lincoln in August to discuss the campaign for the grandparenting of international student fees.

Average rating from international students
Only 36 percent of international students believe that New Zealand education is good value for money, according to a report on the results of a national survey on the experience of international students in New Zealand. The report, which was released this week, surveyed 3,000 international students on such issues as factors influencing choice of New Zealand as a study destination, educational experiences and academic progress, and satisfaction with institutional services and facilities.
Students from Europe, North America, South America and Australia were more likely to see New Zealand as good value than those from China or other Asian countries. While 36 percent of respondents agreed they received good education value for money in New Zealand, 22 percent disagreed and 41 percent were unsure. Forty-five percent said they would recommend New Zealand as an education destination, while 22 percent said they would not.
Most students reported that their educational progress was good (44%) or average (40%), with tertiary students reporting better progress than secondary or private language students. They reported that they did not find routine academic tasks difficult. Students evaluated their programmes of studies (courses content, feedback, quality of instruction and assessment procedures) in the average to good range.
When asked about future plans, the majority of students (53%) planned to remain in New Zealand after completing their current course of study. Forty-two percent planned to continue their education in New Zealand, 20 percent planned to return home for further study and 13 percent planned to continue their education in another country.
The full report can be found on the Ministry of Education website: www.minedu.govt.nz

Worldwatch
South African MBAs axed
South Africa’s Council for Higher Education has stripped accreditation from ten of the country’s twenty-eight programs offering masters degrees in business administration (MBA).
Concerned at the proliferation of such programmes, the Council, an independent body established by the Government in 1997, spent two years evaluating the quality of thirty-seven programs at twenty-eight institutions, on the basis of standards including research, teaching and student diversity.
Among the ten MBA programmes that lost their accreditation were some top public institutions, including the University of Natal’s School of Business, but most were small, private institutions. Each met less than 15 percent of the Council’s minimum standards.
Most of the MBA students in institutions that lost accreditation will have to transfer to other programmes.
None of the ten institutions are allowed to accept new MBA students, but degrees already granted will remain valid.
The Council confirmed the accreditation of eighteen MBA programmes. Six of them met more than 80 percent of the Council’s minimum standards. The other twelve have one year to improve the quality of their MBA programs, or else they will lose their accreditation.

Commons to investigate e-University collapse
Members of Parliament are to investigate the collapse of Britain’s e-University, a £62 million Government project it hoped would emulate the success of the Open University on a global scale. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) is currently dismantling the UKeU, the company set up to run the project.
By last year the e-University had enrolled only 900 students, well down on the 5,000 it had hoped to attract. Only 215 of the students were actually using the e-learning platform, developed at a cost of £20 million.
A spokesperson for the House of Commons said members would be seeking to establish whether the Funding Council should have intervened at an earlier stage. He said that Hefce officials are expected to appear before the Education Select Committee and can expect a “grilling” on the e-University debacle.

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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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