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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITEMisuse of PBRF data has consequences for funding
The misuse of individual Performance-Based Research Funding (PBRF) scores potentially has consequences for an institution’s funding, according to Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary) Steve Maharey. Speaking recently to the Association of University Staff (AUS) Council, Mr Maharey said that tertiary institutions had been written to on more than one occasion warning them to respect the privacy of PBRF scores.
Letters subsequently released to AUS by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) stress the need to maintain the confidentiality of Quality Category Information collected from staff, and caution against the use of that information for purposes other than for which it was intended.
In letters to tertiary institutions, the TEC General Manager, Ann Clark, says that the PBRF Working Group has stated that tertiary providers should not use individual staff PBRF quality scores unless prior permission has been obtained from the individual concerned. She goes on to say that the TEC relies “on the internal ethical and policy frameworks of institutions to ensure the confidentiality of Quality Category Information, and that it is not used elsewhere or for unintended purposes.”
Ann Clark says that the evaluation is “a summative assessment of achievement over the previous six years and takes no account of current research activity or the potential future research contributions of staff members. Neither does the PBRF assess the contributions to teaching, the wider community or administrative functions that may be valuable components of staff performance.”
The comments were echoed by the then PBRF Implementation Manager, Roger Staples, who wrote that institutions should be very cautious when drawing conclusions from the results of the first quality evaluation, and particularly from the individual scores.
AUS National President Dr Bill Rosenberg said that despite the warnings from the Minister and the TEC, some universities have engaged in behaviour which could place PBRF money at risk.
Dr Rosenberg said he was pleased to hear the Associate Minister’s statement that funding to those institutions which misuse the results may be at risk. “AUS has seen too much evidence to date of such caution being ignored by university managers,” he said. “However, concerns about putting their research funding at risk could see the adoption of better practices around the confidentiality and use of the individual PBRF scores. We would like to see the TEC make it clear to institutions that research funding is at risk for institutions that break the rules. The absence of enforcement will reinforce our view that the next round of the PBRF should not use the same individually-based methodology.”
Dr Rosenberg said the TEC’s letters emphasise that PBRF results are unlikely to be suitable for other purposes, especially any kind of assessment of the performance of university staff. “AUS branches have been resisting attempts by some university managements to use PBRF data for non-PBRF purposes, and to widen distribution of individual scores, and we will continue to do so,” he said.

Also in Tertiary Update this week . . . . . .
1. AUS launches ejournal
2. University staff take top tertiary-teaching awards
3. Victoria general staff to vote on new pay offer
4. Manukau identifies tertiary education needs
5. A clarification
6. New York students to be tested on academic skills

AUS launches ejournal
The AUS has launched an electronic journal, The New Zealand Journal of Tertiary Education Policy – Nga matauranga hikohiko o Aotearoa, which is intended to provide a forum within which issues concerning tertiary education in Aotearoa/New Zealand can be identified, discussed and debated.
The journal’s Executive Editor, Neville Blampied, says that since “Learning for Life”, in 1989, tertiary education in New Zealand has experienced fifteen years of constant re-examination and review – the Green paper, the White paper, the four reports of the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission – as well as many other policies and proposals. “Shifts in policies have had major effects on students, on staff and on the character and operations of tertiary education institutions themselves, sometimes for the better, often for the worse,” said Mr Blampied. “Policy development and implementation have run well ahead of analysis, critique and evaluation.”
AUS has supported the development of the new journal because it is committed to improving and sustaining a quality higher education sector for New Zealand, and because part of its mission is to help formulate policy and assist union members in their role as critic and conscience of society.
The first issue of the Journal features articles by former AUS National President, Dr Grant Duncan, The Tertiary Education Strategy and the will to know, and an investigation of university research by Auckland University of Technology academic, Keith Rankin, entitled Where Gift and Market Economics Meet.
The next issue will be published in the last quarter of 2004, and is planned to have a focus on the Performance-Based Research Fund and its future implications and effects.
The journal, with full editorial details, can now be viewed on line at:

University staff take top tertiary-teaching awards
University staff have taken the top awards at the 2004 Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards ceremony held at Parliament last night. Dr Gary Bold, a physics lecturer at the University of Auckland, received the Prime Minister’s Supreme Award worth $30,000 in prize money. He was one of twelve academics from nine tertiary institutions presented with the awards designed to celebrate excellence in tertiary teaching, promote good teaching practice and enhance career development for tertiary teachers.
In addition to the Supreme Award, Sustained Excellence Awards, worth $20,000 each, were presented to tertiary teachers showing sustained excellence and excellence in innovation. All seven winners in this category came from universities. Four other teachers were presented with Excellence in Innovation Awards.
The Prime Minister, Helen Clark, said the awards are an important element of the Government’s aim to enhance the quality of tertiary education. “These teachers make an important contribution to New Zealand, and inspire others to lift their own teaching practice,” she said. “Great teachers attract students to tertiary education. The group of award winners selected this year are of a very high calibre and highlight the strength of the staff at New Zealand’s tertiary institutions.”
Acting Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary), Margaret Wilson, said the winners were required to report back to Government on what they had spent the award money on. She said it was common for recipients to spend money on new equipment, research and attending conferences so that they could enhance their knowledge and find new ways to share it with students.
Supreme Award winner Dr Bold said that after forty-three years grappling with university teaching, he finally felt that he was getting the hang of it.

Victoria general staff to vote on new pay offer
General (non-academic) staff at Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) will consider a fresh pay offer tomorrow, after VUW management increased its salary offer this week from 2.5 percent plus a one-off payment of $350, to 3 percent. General staff took strike action and voted on a campaign of sustained disruption after an initial pay offer of 2.2 percent was rejected. Staff have been claiming a 4 percent increase, in line with their academic colleagues.
Association of University Staff General Secretary, Helen Kelly, said that the meetings on Friday would determine whether the offer would go to a formal ratification ballot.
Informal discussions are continuing at the University of Otago in an attempt to resolve an impasse in the negotiation of new collective employment agreements for academic and general staff. AUS Branch President, Dr Shef Rogers, said that union and University representatives met for three and a half hours on Monday and were continuing to talk in an attempt to secure a deal.

Manukau identifies tertiary education needs
Existing tertiary education institutions do not adequately serve the diverse needs of the City, according to a report commissioned to examine the possibility of having a second tertiary institution in Manukau City. The report, A Review of Tertiary Education Supply and Demand Relevant to Manukau, which was released this week indicates that the City can support increased university-level education.
The report was commissioned early last year after moves by the Manukau City Council to establish a “leading” university campus in the area. At that time Waikato University was named as the “preferred provider”, but all moves were put on hold after the TEC and other providers entered the debate about who should provide public tertiary education in the area.
While the new report says that the population of Manukau is expected to grow by 110,000 over the next two decades, it also says there are a number of challenges facing the area. Unemployment rates are high, with a quarter of the unemployed people under the age of twenty-five. A quarter of the population has no qualifications, more than a third have no post-school qualifications and only 7 percent have a degree.
The report says, however, that a wide range of education and training will be needed if Manukau residents are going to be sufficiently skilled to meet future employment demands. Current projections reveal there will be more than 40,000 jobs created over the next eight years, of which almost 60 percent will require post-school qualifications. It also says that while a high proportion of the population may not be ready for university-level study, the only gap in tertiary education in Manukau is the absence of a local university. It remains the largest population centre in New Zealand without a university.
While the report says that existing institutions in the wider Auckland region can absorb some of the expected future demand, a local university would bring economic benefits to the City, provide easier access for local students and may alleviate perceptions that existing universities in the region do not adequately cater for Maori and Pasifika students.
The Council is to organize a forum for stakeholders later in the year, following which any decisions will be made.

A clarification
In last week’s Tertiary Update we stated that a report, which showed the amount of money the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) spent on incentives for people enrolling in its Cool IT computer courses, was written by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC). The TEC has advised that the report was, in fact, written by CPIT for the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary).

New York students to be tested on academic skills
The State University of New York will require each of its sixty-four campuses to regularly test a representative portion of its undergraduate students.
The proposal calls on the system’s four-year institutions and two-year colleges to test 20 percent of their undergraduates every three years to measure their writing, critical-thinking and quantitative skills. The testing is scheduled to begin in the autumn of 2006.
Results of the new tests would be used to track how well individual campuses meet the University’s educational standards, and how much the campuses are able to improve their instruction over time. The results also would be used to identify effective teaching practices that might be shared across the system.
The tests would not be used to establish requirements for students to graduate or to enter specific university programmes, officials added. Nor, they said, are the tests being created for use in any kind of performance-based budgeting process.

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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