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AUS Tertiary Update

Women, minorities disadvantaged in university research assessment
Men received “A” ratings four times as often as their women counterparts under the new Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF), according to data just released to the Association of University Staff (AUS) by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC). Only 2 percent of women received an “A” rating, compared to 8 percent of men.
A demographic analysis of the results shows that women are much less likely than men to be rated as top researchers, and are over-represented in the “R” category, which has been described as research-inactive. Just over 16 percent of women and 36 percent of men received an “A” or “B” rating, while 53 percent of women and 31 percent of men received an “R”. Women researchers received an average quality score of 1.69, whereas the average for men was 3.14 out of a possible 10.
The results reinforce similar data from the United Kingdom which showed that the female researchers there are almost twice as likely as males to be designated “research-inactive”. Research activity is one of the principal criteria for promotion in universities.
AUS spokesperson Dr Liz Poole said that the release of the data confirmed previously expressed concerns that the PBRF process would discriminate against women who had, for example, taken parental leave or other breaks in duties to attend to family responsibilities. “For many women, those years which are often considered to be potentially the most productive in terms of research are those which coincide with them being out of the workforce,” she said. “Where this occurs it will significantly diminish the assessment results for women staff, and it is difficult to believe that these will not have an influence on promotion.”
Dr Poole said that in order to protect against discrimination, the PBRF should be changed to assess the research performance of groups and not the performance of individuals.
The demographic data also highlight similar concerns about the results for Maori and Pasifika researchers. The average quality score was 1.45 for Maori staff and 1.41 for Pasifika staff, while it was 2.58 for those designated Pakeha/European.
The analysis of data has only been made available after pressure from AUS which has, from the outset, been concerned that the individual nature of PBRF assessment would have a detrimental effect on women, Maori and Pasifika researchers. The TEC initially decided it would not release demographic data after the University of Auckland failed to provide any information about the age, ethnicity or gender of their staff participating in the PBRF exercise.

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. SIT rejects Ombudsman’s recommendation
2. TEC impressed by Cool IT
3. Consultation on College, University merger
4. Nottingham faces academic boycott
5. Nine charged over $A30m fraud

SIT rejects Ombudsman’s recommendation
The Government may change the law after the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) refused to follow an Ombudsman’s recommendation to compensate students for a cancelled course. Six students complained to the Office of Ombudsmen that they were not able to enrol for a National Diploma in Social Services in 2000 after the SIT discontinued the course at the end of 1999. They all completed a National Certificate in Social Services in 1999 with the expectation of continuing on to the Diploma course.
Following the discontinuation of the course, the students started legal action in the High Court against SIT, claiming it was liable for ending their study. They dropped the action after being told it would be unlikely to succeed.
Still aggrieved, the students took their complaint to Ombudsman Mel Smith. He concurred, and recommended that the SIT pay the students approximately $21,000 in course fees and related expenses. The SIT refused, however, saying it had no legal obligation to pay, and that it would be inappropriate to do so.
That move appears to have angered the Ombudsman and the Government. In an unprecedented move, the Ombudsman has written to the Prime Minister and asked that his report on the matter be tabled in Parliament. The Prime Minister, Helen Clark, responded saying that non-compliance with the recommendation is a serious matter, and she has proposed a meeting between the Ombudsman and Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary) Steve Maharey over the issue.
In a statement this morning, Mr Maharey said that the Government was very disappointed with SIT as he expected public institutions to comply with recommendations from the Ombudsman. “Government consulted with the tertiary education sector over a mechanism to deal with student complaints,” he said. “After putting money into the Ombudsman’s office to deal with such complaints, the Government was of the opinion that the Ombudsman’s recommendations would be accepted and acted on.”
Mr Maharey said he would be discussing the matter with the Ombudsman this evening and that, if institutions were not going to comply with recommendations, the law may be changed to require them explicitly to do so. He said that the Tertiary Advisory Monitoring Unit would also meet with the SIT Council to see if the matter could be resolved.

TEC impressed by Cool IT
As reverberations continue over the level of public funding poured into Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology’s (CPIT) Cool IT computer courses, it transpires that the Tertiary Education Commission and the Tertiary Advisory Monitoring Unit (TAMU) knew about the nature of the courses from the outset, and that the TEC was impressed with the “platform”.
The TEC’s review, released last week, shows that at the start of the project in mid-2003, CPIT sought to make the TEC aware of the programme. TEC’s then Chair, Dr Andy West, visited CPIT on 22 September 2003 to “see what they were doing” and was “by all accounts … impressed with the product”. CPIT maintains that it invited Dr West to consider the need for a separate funding category related to e-learning initiatives, such as Cool IT, but that Dr West advised that the current Community Education Programme would continue to be the “appropriate category for this type of initiative”. Public funding was then pumped in at the rate of $738.80 plus GST for the more than 18,000 people who enrolled in the programme.
A paper discussing the intended joint venture to run the Cool IT programme was presented in the section of the 17 September 2003 CPIT Council meeting from which the public was excluded. The paper set out potential risks to the programme, including the concern that the initiative could be seen by TEC and TAMU as an “EFTS harvesting model”. The paper then proposed that the product be demonstrated to both agencies prior to December 2003 to dispel those concerns.
There can be little doubt that it was an EFTS harvesting model. In its initial consideration, CPIT estimated that the costs associated with the operation of a pilot programme would be as little as 10 to 15 percent of income and, on that basis, would not require any capital investment. The estimate of an operational profit of between 85 and 90 percent was based on preliminary forecasts of 5,000 enrolments. The margin was improved further by enrolments over 5,000 because fixed costs had been covered and the costs associated with each additional enrolment were limited. Each additional CD-Rom added less than $5 to the operating costs.
Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary) Steve Maharey told Parliament last week that enrolments in the Cool IT programmes were now being evaluated and, if CPIT could not prove that learning had taken place, it could be asked to repay some of the core funding it received.

Consultation on College, University merger
Education Ministers Trevor Mallard and Steve Maharey have announced the start of consultation on a proposed merger between the Wellington College of Education and Victoria University of Wellington (VUW), due to take effect on 1 January next year.
“Public submissions on the proposal are now invited,” said Mr Mallard. “The proposal suggests that a merger would protect and enhance the teacher education currently being provided by the two institutions. They entered into a strategic alliance in 2001 with the view that they would eventually merge.”
Mr Maharey said that the College would not graduate world-class teachers unless students gained specialist subject knowledge as well as strong teaching skills. “A merger will enable the College to extend its research capability with the support of Victoria’s internationally distinguished researchers,” he said.
Under the merger proposal VUW would establish a College of Education consisting of schools and a Faculty of Education to oversee the academic programmes taught by the schools. The current Karori Campus will be retained as one of the University’s four campuses.
Details on the consultation can be found at: www.vuw.ac.nz/home/about_victoria/consultation.html

Worldwatch
Nottingham faces academic boycott
Nottingham University will face a global academic boycott within six weeks unless it negotiates a pay and grading settlement in line with that agreed in the United Kingdom between national university employers and the Association of University Teachers (AUT). The national agreement on pay was reached in March 2004 after AUT members took industrial action across the UK. It included signing up to a National Framework on new salary scales and grading structures.
The threatened boycott follows Nottingham’s latest pay offer, which the AUT alleges backtracks on the commitment to honour the national agreement. The current offer introduces performance-related pay for staff, would lead to reductions in career earnings of nearly £9,000 over six years for some, and removes the entitlement to belong to the national university pension scheme for others.
AUT General Secretary Sally Hunt has written to the Vice-Chancellor of Nottingham threatening to “greylist” the University from 20 September unless it is prepared to negotiate in line with the national agreement.
Greylisting is considered the ultimate professional sanction in the academic world. It would mean academics across the globe refusing to cooperate with the university, in effect banishing it from the global academic community. For a leading international university like Nottingham this could have serious implications for its reputation, both in the United Kingdom and overseas.
More information on the dispute can be found at: www.aut.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=879

Nine charged over $A30m fraud
Nine former staff and building contractors collectively face more than 2,000 charges after allegedly defrauding Australia’s Victoria University of Technology and its predecessor, the Melbourne Institute of TAFE, of more than $A30 million over an eight-year period from 1993.
The alleged frauds involved maintenance contractors who won tenders and then returned “kickbacks” to administrators and contractors who provided false invoices for work which was not done. It is believed some money raised from the fraud was laundered through a stable of racehorses, with some of those charged allegedly being given shares in racehorses in return for approving work that was never done.
University management has told staff that the fraud is threatening their ability to negotiate a competitive pay settlement this year. In response, General Staff Vice-President, Bruce Lindsay, has called on the State and Federal Governments to provide additional funding to the University to alleviate the situation, saying that staff and students should not be disadvantaged by footing the cost of the fraud.

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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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