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AUS Tertiary Update

Auckland’s University and College of Education to merge
A proposed merger between the University of Auckland and the Auckland College of Education has been given the green light, and will go ahead from 1 September. Announcing the merger yesterday, the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, said it would provide clear education benefits, which would flow on to schools.
“By combining Auckland University’s research focus with the College’s professional practice focus we will be able to train high quality teachers that are better suited to New Zealand’s needs than can be trained by either institution operating separately,” said Mr Mallard.
The University and College have been assessing options for greater collaboration since 2002, culminating in a joint merger proposal to Government in October 2003. It is expected that the combined institution will have a total roll of over 30,000 students.
According to the Government, the merger will build the professional capacity of teachers to meet national educational priorities and support high-quality educational leadership; create a world-class centre for teacher education research which will underpin and support educational policy and development; and produce graduates with the research, subject expertise and educational understandings to enable them to teach in ways that will reduce the current disparities in educational achievement.
Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary), Steve Maharey, said there are substantial benefits to the College partnering with a research-led institution such as the University of Auckland. “For example, the business case submitted by the merger partners outlines plans to develop a world-class institute with a view to becoming a centre of excellence that will make a significant impact on educational policy and practice,” he said. “Post merger, the University plans to invest the merger’s efficiency gains into more research and more scholarship.”
The College’s Epsom site will become the primary home for the new Faculty of Education, but it will retain current outlying campuses at Kaikohe and Whangerei, and the University’s programmes at the Manukau Institute of Technology.
The University intends to employ all of the College staff on the terms and conditions of employment existing at the point of merger.

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Four PBRF complaints upheld
2. Wananga registers university name
3. Students intensify pressure over loans and debt
4. Six-figure bill for VCs’ farewells
5. Landmark settlement at UTS
6. Army OK to defend lab

Four PBRF complaints upheld
An update on the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF), released this week, shows that four from a total of forty-one complaints about the PBRF process have been upheld by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC).
The complaints, received from eight tertiary education organisations (TEOs), were made under the categories of: consideration of nominated research outputs by the panels; transfers of evidence portfolios between panels; panel expertise and specialist advice; data entry errors; errors in the assessment process; and application of special circumstances.
One of the complaints which was upheld was the assigning of a wrong Quality Category to a researcher because of a data-entry error. As a result of this complaint, the TEC has checked all the data-entry. No other details of the complaints have been released, but the Association of University Staff (AUS) has written to the TEC to ascertain whether checking data-entry information has revealed any other errors.
The process for resolving complaints involved an initial investigation by the PBRF team, a review by the TEC General Manager, a further review by two external reviewers and then a formal response to the TEO concerned.
AUS National President Dr Bill Rosenberg said that the grounds for complaint were extremely limited. They had to be made by the institution rather than the individual, and could only be related to administrative or procedural errors. He also said it was a concern that data-checking hadn’t taken place as a matter of course, and it shouldn’t have taken a complaint to ensure that the results were accurate.
No PBRF rankings of TEOs have changed as a result of the complaints process.

Wananga registers university name
Te Wananga o Aotearoa has registered the name “University of New Zealand Ltd,” and says a bid for formal university status is on the cards, according to a report in Education Review. The Wananga’s website uses the translation “University of New Zealand” to follow its own name, and its Chief Executive, Rongo Wetere, said he did not see a great deal of difference between a wananga and a university.
The use of the term university is protected under the Education Act, with the characteristics of a university including “having a diversity of teaching and research, especially at a higher level, that maintains, advances, and disseminates knowledge and develops intellectual independence, and assists the application of knowledge, develops intellectual independence, and promotes community learning.” A wananga is “characterised by teaching and research that maintains, advances, and disseminates knowledge and develops intellectual independence, and assists the application of knowledge regarding ahuatanga Maori (Maori tradition) according to tikanga Maori (Maori custom).”
Education Review reports Mr Wetere saying that the Wananga understood what the Education Act said about the use of the term university, but was of the view that it was discriminatory. “We have within our powers the ability to put in place university degrees as well as cover the whole field of training from community courses right through to tertiary courses,” he said. “In terms of what we do there is not much difference between ourselves and a university.”
Vice-Chancellors’ Committee Director, Lindsay Taiaroa, said that there is “all the difference in the world” between that Wananga and a university. “Most of the Wananga’s courses were at a low level on the Qualifications Framework, many of them at secondary school level, whereas most universities had only about 2 percent of their courses at sub-degree level,” he said.
While the Wananga may see similarities with a university, a look at the Companies Office website reveals a significant number of companies using the name university in a manner which does not appear to conform with the Education Act. Among these are the Auckland-based New Zealand University of Golf, the Tawa-Linden and Tauranga Universities of the Third Age, the University of Newlands, the Melbourne University Private (NZ), and Invercargill’s Southern University of New Zealand. Another, the University of Tamaki, recently folded with debts of $112,000 after the Director advised that “projects embarked upon and high research costs were not viable”.

Students intensify pressure over loans and debt
Students are intensifying the pressure in their campaign on student debt and loans in the lead-up to the 2005 general election. Yesterday, students with over $30,000 student debt, along with student leaders, presented a petition with more than 35,000 signatures to Parliament’s Education and Science Select Committee calling on Government to introduce a living allowance for all students.
New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA) Co-President, Fleur Fitzsimons, said the petition sends a very clear message to all political parties that a living allowance for all students is the next step in dealing with the student debt crisis.
Earlier in the week, a report was released which said that student debt is putting borrowers off having babies and shutting them out of home ownership. The report, The Wealth of a Nation, contains a number of stories about the negative effects that student debt has on their lives. “Student debt is acting as a contraceptive at the very time when young people are looking to settle down and start families,” claimed Ms Fitzsimons. “The report backs up research conducted by NZUSA on nurses and teachers which shows that student debt is a barrier to borrowers forming families.”
Meanwhile, students are vowing to continue a discrimination case with the Human Rights Commission against the student loan scheme, following a Crown Law opinion to Government which says that the scheme is not discriminatory and that women are not economically disadvantaged, despite their longer loan repayment times. Students will write a formal response to Crown Law’s opinion, and will then engage in mediation with the Ministry of Education and Crown Law, expected to be in a few weeks.
Student debt was $6.2 billion at March 2004, and Treasury predicts it will hit $10 billion in the next five years. The average student loan is $14,559.

Worldwatch
Six-figure bill for VCs’ farewells
Queensland’s Auditor General is reported to have “fired a salvo” at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) for running up more than $A118,000 last year on dinners and farewell gifts to farewell their vice-chancellors.
An audit report reveals that QUT paid $A53,000 for a dinner for long-serving Vice-Chancellor Professor Denis Gibson, and USQ spent $A41,000 on dinner functions for out-going Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Swannell. Each also received art works valued at more than $21,000. QUT was “ticked off” by the Auditor for presenting Professor Gibson with a video costing $A16,200 to make and featuring his farewell events.
The Auditor says the spending could be considered excessive and wants tighter guidelines adopted for entertainment expenses which must be approved by the universities’ councils. Queensland’s Education Minister has sought assurances from the chancellors at the State’s six other public universities that spending on entertainment is maintained at a “reasonable level”, and has asked USQ and QUT to advise her on strategies they plan to implement to avoid the same thing happening again.

Landmark settlement at UTS
The Australian Industrial Relations Commission this week certified a new employment agreement for around 1700 academic staff at the University of Technology in Sydney (UTS) resulting in a salary increase of 19 percent over three years and up to 26 weeks paid parental leave.
Conditions for casual staff have also been improved to include the immediate implementation of a 23 percent loading. UTS has one of the highest levels of casualised academic work in the State.
Dr Keiko Yasukawa, the UTS Branch President of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), said that the agreement delivered a competitive salary outcome. “NTEU members were keen to ensure that the new agreement delivered outcomes which did not diminish conditions for staff, and improved conditions for staff who have been disadvantaged due to systemic and historical reasons,” he said.

Army OK to defend lab
The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has given permission for the Army to assist Oxford University construct a new animal research facility after threats made by animal rights activists to disrupt construction. Mr Blair has said the Army can be deployed to protect the £18 million project at Oxford if activists make it impossible for building contractors to complete the work.
It comes as Oxford confirmed that the construction company in charge of the project terminated its contract after a campaign of threats against its shareholders and attacks on its suppliers.
The Science Minister, Lord Sainsbury, told the Times Higher that the Government is determined that the building would go ahead. “We can’t allow it to be stopped by this kind of terrorism, and we will make sure it is built,” he said.
One of the country’s top brain surgeons based at Oxford said the presence of the Army would be welcomed by researchers. Professor Tipu Aziz said that the activists were holding the nation’s health hostage. “It would be crazy to think how much money has to be spent on security that could be better spent on better facilities and more research,” he said.
The British Government said today that new powers to clamp down on animal rights extremists would be announced later in the week.

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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: www.aus.ac.nz . Direct enquires should be made to Marty Braithwaite, AUS Communications Officer, email: marty.braithwaite@aus.ac.nz

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