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AUS Tertiary Update

English accused of playing parish pump politics
The Acting Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary), Margaret Wilson, has accused National Party education spokesperson Bill English of cynically playing parish pump politics after he “burst into print” warning that polytechnics will face funding cuts as a result of the Government’s intention to cut enrolments and funding to community education courses.
Ms Wilson told the Education and Science Select Committee last week that community education enrolments would be cut by 30 percent following the recent Budget announcement of a reduction of $114 million in community education funding over the next three years. Cuts to EFTS funding, starting next year, are designed to save around $40 million.
Funding for community education courses grew from $13 million in 2000 to an estimated $115 million this year, leading to criticism by Mr English about the value of a number of courses, including the Cool IT computer courses at the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology.
Mr English said that the cut in enrolments would add to the losses at polytechnics, already faced with another $80 million in reduced funding over the next three years. “The Government is vacillating over whether to negotiate funding cuts or force them on polytechnics across the board,” he said. “The blow-out was caused by a handful of polytechnics, but these actions will punish everyone for the actions of a few. These cuts will be serious for some polytechnics with large community education funding and they are likely to resist the policy.”
Margaret Wilson said that Mr English’s comments were in stark contrast to his strident calls over the past months to cut funding for community education courses, which he has previously labelled as a scandalous spending of taxpayers’ funds.
“This latest criticism from the National Party has absolutely no credibility,” said Ms Wilson. “Bill English has spent months demanding funding cuts, yet now that the Government has announced new funding arrangements he has suddenly decided that the status quo must be allowed to remain.”
Ms Wilson said that tertiary education providers are negotiating with the Tertiary Education Commission to establish profiles which will set out the courses for which they will receive public funding in 2006 and beyond. “In order to receive public funding, institutions will need to demonstrate that their courses meet community needs. This may result in fewer community education places being allocated to particular institutions,” she said.

Also in Tertiary Update this week . . . .
1. Pay settlement at Victoria University, ballot for Otago
2. Export education levy changes move closer
3. Honorary degree for departing VC
4. Joint campaign to raise skill level in industries
5. $210,000 medical degrees
6. Women crack glass ceiling

Pay settlement at Victoria University, ballot for Otago
General (non-academic) staff at Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) today voted to accept a new pay offer from the University. Acceptance of the offer, which was for a 3 percent salary increase from 1 May 2004, brings to an end a six week dispute which saw VUW general staff take strike action and threaten a University-wide shut-down during the first week of second semester enrolments.
General staff have been claiming a 4 percent pay rise, in line with their academic colleagues.
Association of University Staff (AUS) general staff spokesperson, Tony Quinn, said that the improvements in salary offer came as a direct result of industrial action. “The strike on Monday 31 May resulted in the employer’s offer being increased from 2.2 percent to 2.5 percent, and the threat of a “first-week shutdown” raised that offer further to the current 3 percent.”
“While union members remain unhappy about the disparity with their academic colleagues, they are delighted with their success in improving the offer,” said Mr Quinn. “Union participation is at an all-time high, and staff have the confidence that if need be they can repeat an effective industrial action campaign in the future if salary claims are not addressed in a satisfactory manner.”
Meanwhile, staff at the University of Otago have voted by a majority of 62 percent to send a proposal to settle new collective employment agreements to ratification. More than 650 union members voted at the stopwork meetings held on Tuesday this week.
The proposal that will go to ratification is for a 3.5 percent salary increase for general staff and academic staff below the rank of lecturer from 1 June, and a minimum increase of 3.5 percent for academic staff from lecturer and above from 1 May. Some academic staff will receive increases of up to 4.65% through a realignment of salary scales to provide that University of Otago salary rates are among the highest in New Zealand.
AUS Otago Branch President Dr Shef Rogers said that he was disappointed that Otago union members were forced to endure protracted negotiations and industrial action to achieve a similar settlement to that at the University of Canterbury. “I am pleased that union members turned out in strong numbers and expressed themselves clearly, but in the end more wished to settle than engage in a fight with the outgoing Vice-Chancellor,” he said.
Ratification meetings will be held next Wednesday and require a 60 percent vote for acceptance.

Export education levy changes move closer
Proposed changes to the Education (Export Education Levy) Amendment Bill, which would allow funds levied against private education providers to reimburse international students and state agencies facing financial loss through the failure of private training establishments (PTEs), have been reported back to Parliament by the Education and Science Select Committee. The changes follow the Government having to pick up the cost of reimbursing international students after the high-profile collapse of two large PTEs, Modern Age and Carich, last year.
Announcing the proposed changes, Minister of Education Trevor Mallard said the move was being taken to protect the $2 billion export education industry, and stated that the sector, not the taxpayer, would meet the cost of any future failures.
The Select Committee has recommended that provisions which provide for a retrospective increase to the levies, and for the Minister to prioritise how levy funds will be used, be removed from the legislation.
The Association of Private Providers of English Language (APPEL) has described the Bill as “wretched”, giving the Minister “unique and illogical power to compel honest, ethical institutions to cough up for losses if competitors close down, for any reason”. APPEL Chairperson Patrick Ibbertson says that no other legitimate business in New Zealand would be subject to such a harsh regime, and that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and Ministry of Education, which are responsible for monitoring and regulating the industry, had completely failed to check out some private providers.
AUS National President Bill Rosenberg said, however, that it was entirely appropriate that PTEs faced a higher levy than public providers given their performance in the sector. “The failure rate of PTEs risks damaging the entire sector, and this is not a cost which should be picked up by the taxpayer or public institutions,” he said.
The export education levy currently supports a range of industry-wide development and risk-management activities, including professional development, research, quality assurance and promotional activities.

Honorary degree for departing V-C
Departing University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor Dr John Hood has been awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree after a unanimous vote by the University Council last night. Dr Hood leaves the University at the end of the month to become Vice-Chancellor at Oxford University in England.
Chancellor John Graham said that Dr Hood would be remembered as one of the University of Auckland’s “great vice-chancellors”. “Dr Hood leaves the University with challenging academic programmes, robust exciting research activities, an active talented staff both academic and general and a strong able student body. The University finances are strong, the infrastructure remarkably improved,” he said.
“His tenure has been a time of remarkable progress,” said Dr Graham. “Although we regret his departure, Dr Hood’s appointment to lead one of the world’s great universities is a tremendous source of pride for this University, for Auckland and for New Zealand as a whole.”
Professor Stuart McCutcheon, currently Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University of Wellington, will take over as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Auckland next year.

Joint campaign to raise skill level in industries
A joint Government, business and union campaign to raise skill levels in four key industries was launched yesterday by Acting Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary), Margaret Wilson. The campaign targets tourism, furniture, retail and hospitality employers, and promotes the benefits of on-the-job training customised to meet industry needs. It is being run under the banner of a Skill New Zealand campaign which aims to increase participation in industry training from a current figure of 127,000 to 150,000 trainees by 2005, and ultimately 250,000 trainees.
Margaret Wilson said that involving more workers in industry training provides the short-cut to increased productivity and profits for employers, and better pay and conditions for workers.
“The training coincides with a significant boost in funding for work-based learning, with the Industry Training Fund doubling to $120 million by 2006 from the $60 million available when the Government came into office in 1999,” said Ms Wilson.

Worldwatch
$210,000 medical degrees
Medical degrees costing domestic students $A210,000 will be offered in Australia for the first time next year, with Melbourne University planning to charge $A35,000 a year for full-fee degrees in dentistry, medicine and veterinary sciences. It means that a five-year dentistry degree would cost $A175,000, and a six-year degree in dentistry would cost $A210,000.
Under new legislation in Australia, universities are able to charge full fees for Australian medical students for the first time, within a cap of 10 percent of places, and increase the number of full-fee students in other courses from 25 percent to 35 percent of places. Full-fee degrees allow students who miss out on government-funded places to enrol in courses of study.
Former Australian of the Year and University of New South Wales Vice-Chancellor John Yu has warned that the fee reforms had gone too far and would breed greed rather than good doctors.
Melbourne University is expected to generate $A26 million a year from the full-fee places.

Women crack glass ceiling
New figures from the United Kingdom show that more women than men were promoted to professorships in 2002-03, and that almost twice as many women as men were promoted to senior lecturer grade.
The latest staffing figures, from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, showed that while women were advancing more rapidly, the number of men at lecturer level fell by 625 last year, and by 715 in 2001-02, promoting claims that men are leaving university careers because of low pay and increased regulation.
The National Association for Teachers in Further and Higher Education says the drop in the number of male lecturers was a damning indictment of academic pay, but at the same time welcomed the narrowing of the gender divide.
The figures show that the number of female professors rose by 175 in 2002-03, compared with an increase of 170 men, and the number of women at senior lecturer level increased by 370, compared to an increase of 190 men. Men continued to form the majority at all levels of staff ranks in higher education.

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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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