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AUS Tertiary Update

Tertiary education to be more industry-led?
The Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Cullen, told guests at a breakfast meeting at the Hamilton Club this morning that it is now time to shift the balance of our tertiary education system towards a more explicit industry-led approach. Dr Cullen’s speech concentrated on the importance of tertiary education as a part of the larger process of producing an adult population with skills relevant to the New Zealand economy and communities.
“The tertiary education system is one of the key engines of workforce productivity, and hence of economic growth,” he said. “We have a system that is in many respects world-class, with world-class researchers and world-class teachers. But we need to be able to ask ourselves how well-focused these resources are.”
Dr Cullen said that while the system was geared towards drawing a greater proportion of New Zealanders into tertiary education, it is not clear they acquired relevant skills as a result, and added that it may be time to get industry more closely involved in the tertiary education system. “This kind of engagement between tertiary institutions should be a standard part of their business, to assist them in identifying the skill needs; ensuring that qualifications match the competencies businesses want; and helping them in the monitoring of quality,” he said.
“We also need to be able to link tertiary research to the priorities of our key industries,” said Dr Cullen. “The recent analysis for the Performance-Based Research Fund showed that New Zealand academics are world-class in areas such as philosophy and criminology; but we need to be able to ensure that we are world-class in biotechnology and the other disciplines that, in the medium to long-term, will pay the bills.”
Association of University Staff spokesperson Marty Braithwaite cautioned against any move to increase the influence of industry or business in tertiary education, saying that the market-driven approach had previously failed both students and the economy. “The current skills’ shortage in New Zealand is a direct result of the failure of industry and business to maintain adequate skills-based training, and to plan and prepare for the future needs of the economy,” he said. “Dismantling the traditional apprenticeship system was a clear example of how the narrow agenda of industry was inconsistent with the broader interests of New Zealand. The Government appears to be ignoring the social benefit and broader value of education, and seems intent that tertiary education will be little more than vocational training.”
Mr. Braithwaite said it was important for Government to invest in all academic disciplines, not just those which Dr Cullen referred to as paying the bills.

Also in Tertiary Update this week . . .
1. HRC to investigate gender bias claim
2. New rules for community education
3. Working parties, White Paper on funding and salaries
4. Students gear up on fees campaign
5. UK university staff set for new union
6. Researchers failing to disclose conflicts of interests

HRC to investigate gender bias claim
The Human Rights Commission (HRC) is to investigate a claim by a University of Canterbury senior lecturer, Sue Newberry, of gender bias in the University’s promotion process. Dr Newbery laid a complaint with the Commission after experiencing difficulties when attempting to remedy a long-standing problem over her academic placement, and felt bullied and subjected to intimidation when trying to address the issue with University management.
The HRC has agreed to pursue Dr Newberry’s complaint, which means that the University will be asked to respond formally to the allegations and attempt mediation.
An HRC report, released last month, shows that women at Canterbury are the worst represented of any New Zealand university in top academic positions. The New Zealand Census of Women’s Participation in Governance and Professional Life shows Canterbury has two women (3.33 percent) out of a total of sixty professors, and four women (5.47 per cent) out of seventy-three associate professors. Nationally, 15.65 percent of professors and 15.97 percent of associate professors at the eight universities are women. Around 40 percent of all academic staff are women.
Dr Newberry says that the problems at Canterbury are broad, and since she first raised the issue she had been approached by other women in a similar position. She said she believed the University needed to acknowledge the inherent biases in the system and set processes in place to rectify them before things would improve.
The AUS University of Canterbury Branch says it has received feedback from a number of women who have indicated similar experiences and concerns relating to applications for promotion, and is calling a meeting of academic women staff to discuss and clarify the nature and extent of the problem. It is hoped that a set of recommendations for changes to the promotions policy and process will come out of the meeting. The Branch will then table these for discussion with the Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Equity and Diversity.

New rules for community education
Government funding for enrolments in community education will be cut by 30 percent in 2005, and a further 30 percent in 2006, on enrolment numbers averaged between 2002 and 2004, according to new rules released yesterday by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC). The cuts come after concerns were raised about the level of uncontrolled growth in community education (funding classification 5.1) which was uncapped as a part of the 1998 Budget. This year’s Budget reintroduced a cap on the number of enrolments in community education and reduced the funding rate from $5,707 per equivalent full-time student in 2004 to $5,000 in 2005.
Acting Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary), Margaret Wilson, said that the cap would allow 43,500 equivalent full-time students to be funded over the 2004-2006 period, and that these would be allocated by the TEC as part of its process of negotiating funding profiles with tertiary education institutions this year.
“Following recent growth, we need to get back to basics with community education,” said Ms Wilson. “We want to bring community education delivered in tertiary education institutions more into line with other forms of Adult and Community Education.”
Ms Wilson said the Government had agreed on five priorities which the TEC would use in deciding whether or not to fund particular programmes. They are: targeting learners whose initial learning was unsuccessful; raising foundation skills; strengthening communities by meeting community needs; encouraging lifelong learning; and strengthening social cohesion.

Working parties, White Paper on funding and salaries
University unions and employers are to meet soon to convene working parties following the settlement of new collective employment agreements across the sector. As part of the enterprise settlements at the seven universities, it was agreed to convene two working parties, one to look at the “future shape” of bargaining in the sector, and the other to develop a “White Paper” on funding and salaries to inform joint lobbying of Government.
A small working party, including AUS representatives Nigel Haworth, Helen Kelly and Jeff Rowe, will analyse and report on various bargaining options. It will consider the likely impact on salaries and conditions of various types of employment agreement, including multi-employer, multi union collective agreements. It will examine the potential each type of employment agreement has to enhance possibilities of government funding, and will also look at their effect on university autonomy and the unique characteristics of each university. The working party is expected to report by 31 October.
The AUS representatives on the other working party will be Bill Rosenberg, the current AUS National President, Jeff Rowe and Helen Kelly. The White Paper is expected to develop a detailed case for overall university funding and funding of salary increases which can be used for both lobbying and bargaining purposes.
A tripartite meeting of Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary) Steve Maharey, the vice-chancellors and the university unions is expected to be scheduled for August when Mr Maharey returns from leave. The meeting will discuss issues facing the sector, and Mr Maharey has advised that he has already written to the employers exploring possible dates.

Students gear-up on fees campaign
The fight to stop tuition fee increases at public tertiary education institutions came a step closer as students at the New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA) conference last weekend met to plan their campaign for fee reductions in 2005.
The student representatives also discussed a campaign to achieve a living allowance for all students, stabilising international student tuition fees and challenging the privatisation of the New Zealand tertiary education system.
NZUSA Co-President, Fleur Fitzsimons, said that many of the tertiary institutions now had huge surpluses and should be reducing fees. “We saw widespread protest action against fee increases last year. Tertiary institutions, councils and the Government can expect to feel the heat from angry students again this year if fees go up,” she said.
Auckland University Students’ Association President and conference Organiser, Kate Sutton, said that while the Government had increased access to allowances in the Budget, many students were still being forced to borrow in order to live. “We will not give up the fight for living allowances until all students are entitled to a living allowance to cover their basic cost of living,” she said.

UK university staff set for new union
Two unions, the Association of University Teachers (AUT) and the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE), met last week to begin detailed work with the intention of creating a single new union to represent union members in higher and further education in the United Kingdom. The new union will bring together AUT’s members in the old universities and NATFHE’s members in the new universities and colleges.
Initial proposals for the new union will be put to the national executive committees of the two unions in October, with firm proposals to be put to the conferences of the respective unions early next year. If the proposals are agreed, members would be asked to dissolve their current organisations and create a new union of over 100,000 members.

Researchers failing to disclose conflicts of interests
A significant number of researchers are not complying with leading journals’ requirements that they disclose financial ties that could lead to bias, according to a report released in the United States this week by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a watchdog group.
Using publicly available information, the report’s author looked at the financial ties of authors of original research articles that appeared between December 2003 and February 2004 in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of The American Medical Association, Environmental Health Perspectives and Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology. Out of 163 studies the author found thirteen papers where readers were not informed of financial ties that they considered relevant to the studies.
The Editor of the New England Journal of Medicine has disputed the findings, saying that of forty-two articles analysed from that journal, only two were cited as having unreported financial conflicts of interests. The Editor said both links were weak enough that they did not need to be reported.

AUS Tertiary Update is compiled weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the Association of University Staff and others. Back issues are available on the AUS website: . Direct enquires should be made to Marty Braithwaite, AUS Communications Officer, email:

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