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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITEMore talks at Otago, “First-week shutdown” planned at Victoria
Informal talks are scheduled to be held at the University of Otago next Monday in an attempt to make progress in a pay dispute which has already resulted in a half-day strike, and has further action, including withholding of students’ examination results, threatened.
The University has offered a 3 percent salary increase, from 1 May, for general and academic staff below the rank of lecturer, and a restructuring of the salary scales for academic staff at lecturer and above. It would result in increases of between 3.5 percent and 4.8 percent and remove some steps from the salary scale. The unions are seeking a 4 percent increase, backdated to 1 February.
In addition to withholding exam marks, union members will begin a work-to-rule from Monday and may take “limited strike action” called at short notice. Association of University Staff (AUS) Branch President Dr Shef Rogers said that while the strike action would not be aimed at students, it would be designed to have maximum impact. He also said union representatives told University management this week that a harder line would be taken on releasing examination results than during similar industrial action at Otago in 2002. He said the unions would minimise anxiety for students by being clear about any intended action.
Dr Rogers said the University had a short window of opportunity in which to resolve the dispute, and hoped there would be some positive movement during Monday’s meeting.
Meanwhile, general staff at Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) yesterday decided on a comprehensive campaign of industrial action aimed at completely shutting down the administration of the University for the first week of its second teaching trimester which begins on 12 July.
General staff at VUW have rejected a pay offer of a 2.5 percent increase with an additional $350 one-off payment, and are seeking a 4 percent increase in line with their academic colleagues.
The plan of action, entitled “first-week shutdown” will comprise a comprehensive build-up of action including a communications black-out, withholding exam grades and refusing to process student enrolments. That would be complemented by rolling strike action (or lightning strikes), and sustained strike action in selected key areas.
AUS general staff spokesperson, Tony Quinn, said that general staff at VUW did not accept the Vice-Chancellor’s view that they are worth less than those at other universities around the country. “All other general staff have been offered a salary increase of at least 3 percent,” he said. “That is why we have had to adopt a plan of action that will, unfortunately, go beyond the usual protest and result in serious and sustained disruption.”
Mr Quinn said that informal discussions would continue with the University in the hope that agreement could be reached before the July disruption.

Also in Tertiary Update this week . . . . . .
1. English continues attack on TEIs
2. Not so Cool IT at CPIT
3. Share surplus say students
4. Minister on leave
5. Academics call for RAE postponement
6. Fees Bill defeated
7. A nod to Bob

English continues attack on TEIs
National spokesperson on education, Bill English, has continued his criticism of public tertiary education institutions, with Te Wananga o Aotearoa firmly in his sights this week. Mr English says that the Wananga, which has more than 20,000 equivalent full-time students, has failed to meet sixteen requirements of a performance audit. In 2001 it failed an audit carried out by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority on 32 counts.
The audit, which was carried out between July and September 2003, reported that the Wananga failed to demonstrate that it has quality management systems in place, lacked document control, did not show it had appraised staff, and did not have resources available for students before the delivery of training.
Papers released to Mr English showed that some students were completing a third of an eighteen-week course without resources, while a July intake of the Applied Social Services programme had no classrooms allocated, insufficient tables and chairs, and no access to computers for the completion of assignments.
Mr English said the Government had not been taking quality at the Wananga seriously. “It should be restraining the growth or stopping it growing until it meets all quality standards,” he said.
“The Minister should be forced to personally answer to all of those students if, at the next audit, the Wananga fails to show significant improvement,” said Mr English.
Tertiary Update has been advised that the Government has, under its managing growth policy, restricted the Wananga’s growth for the next two years to give it time to consolidate its activities. It has also appointed a Development Advisor to assist the Wananga Council to develop appropriate academic responses and plans.

Not so Cool IT at CPIT
The Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) spent $230,000 more on incentives for its Cool IT online computer course than it has previously disclosed, according to fresh reports in The Christchurch Press. According to The Press, a Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) report shows that CPIT spent $311,693 on incentives to boost the number of people enrolling in the Cool It programme, a community education programme for which it has received more than $15 million in government funding.
The TEC report showed that CPIT spent more than $93,000 on music, book and petrol vouchers for people enrolling in the programme, and another $217,000 to schools, libraries and community groups, who received $20 for each student they enrolled. The CPIT had earlier reported spending only $80,000 getting people to enrol in the course. Each person who enrolled was given a free compact disc containing free computer courses, but was not required to have any further contact with CPIT.
The Press reports that the TEC has confirmed that former Christchurch Mayor Vicki Buck introduced the Cool IT programme and Brylton Software to the Polytechnic in May 2003. From there, Brylton Software and the CPIT set up a joint venture to run the Cool IT programme, with Ms Buck on the joint venture committee. Ms Buck is a director and shareholder of Brylton, and is also CPIT’s Development Manager.
Answers to an Official Information Act request made by The Press shows that the CPIT has no written evidence that Ms Buck has declared a conflict of interest over the programme.
It is also alleged that Brylton has received more than $5 million as part of the deal with the CPIT, leading to a complaint to the Auditor-General by National Party education spokesperson Bill English.
The CPIT is soon to release its 2003 Annual Report which will show a $4.8 million surplus, up more than $1.5 million on 2002. The surplus comes on top of a 28 percent growth in domestic full-time students, many of whom were enrolled in CPITs Cool IT programme.

Share surplus say students
The Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA) has called for the University to cut student fees and increase staff salaries after it was revealed in its latest Annual Report that Victoria posted a surplus of $7.3 million in 2003. “The University’s claim that it was forced to raise fees and that it cannot afford to meet staff pay claims is hollow given its massive surplus,” said Amanda Hill, VUWSA President.
Ms Hill said that Victoria has the highest student-to-staff ratio in the country, putting academic quality at risk. “In 2003, we had 22.5 students for every staff member, up from 20.8 in 2002,” said Ms Hill. “Reductions in staff-to-student ratios puts immense pressure on our academic staff and brings into question the quality of education available at Victoria in such large classes. Some classes defy safety regulations, enrolling more students than can be safely seated in a lecture theatre.”
“It is obvious that profit rules the thinking of Victoria’s management; the well-being of staff, quality of education and financial burden on students all trail behind the almighty dollar,” said Ms Hill. “The time is right for the University to cut student fees and increase staff wages.”
For the first time in recent years, all of New Zealand’s eight universities posted surpluses last year. They ranged from $1.9 million at Waikato to $14.6 million at Massey.

Minister on leave
The Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary) Steve Maharey is on extended bereavement leave following the death of his wife, Liz Mackay, earlier in the year. Mr Maharey returned to work after Ms Mackay’s death to ensure work was completed on the Budget, but has now been granted six weeks leave.
The Prime Minister, Helen Clark, has appointed Margaret Wilson as the Acting Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary) and Acting Minister responsible for the Tertiary Education Commission while Mr Maharey is absent.

Worldwatch
Academics call for RAE postponement
Academics have called for a postponement of the next Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) in the United Kingdom, due in 2008, because of political manoeuvring between and within universities to maximise results. The results of the RAE are used in determining public funding for universities.
The Association of University Teachers (AUT) says universities are already “playing games” with staff, moving those researchers they see as weak or “not fitting in” into teaching-only positions, disestablishing other positions and encouraging retirements. Others were actively engaged in poaching top researchers to boost their ratings.
AUT Assistant General Secretary Paul Cottrell said that AUT did not have any confidence in the RAE and it was clear it should be postponed. “While the funding councils have said that new arrangements will eliminate game-playing, it is already clear that many institutions have begun to play games,” he said.
The vice-chancellors, represented by Universities UK, are generally in favour of the RAE. Professor Ivor Crew, the President of Universities UK, told the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee that vice-chancellors would oppose plans to postpone or scrap the RAE.

Fees Bill defeated
The British Government’s plans for university top-up fees has suffered a setback when peers inflicted three separate defeats on the Higher Education Bill during its report stage in the House of Lords this week. An amendment that defers the fees for those students planning a gap year in 2005, and restricts them for the first three years of a degree course, was passed. Another amendment, which guarantees that all tuition fee income would be in addition to, and not in replacement of, public funding to universities, was also passed. The Government is likely to oppose the amendments when the Bill returns to the Commons.

A nod to Bob
Bob Dylan is to be awarded an honorary degree by St Andrews, Scotland’s oldest university. Announcing the honour yesterday, the University’s Principal, Dr Brian Lang, said that Bob Dylan was an iconic figure for the twentieth century, particularly for those whose formative years were the 1960s and 70s. “His songs and, in particular, his lyrics, are still part of our consciousness. We are very pleased to take this opportunity of honouring such a major artist,” he said.
Bob Dylan, who is currently on tour in Europe, will attend the graduation ceremony in Fife next week to receive his honorary degree.

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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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