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AUS Tertiary Update

Separate PBRF assessment for college staff to follow mergers
Staff from the Auckland and Wellington Colleges of Education will be assessed separately from their university colleagues in the next Performance-Based Research Fund quality evaluation exercise if mergers proceed between those Colleges and Auckland and Victoria Universities.
It is understood that the assurance was given to the Universities, anxious to protect their PBRF rankings, after recent discussions with the Acting Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary), Margaret Wilson, and the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC). The TEC has told the Association of University Staff (AUS) that following those discussions it was decided to report the quality evaluation results separately for all newly-merged institutions for one quality evaluation round following any merger.
TEC General Manager Ann Clark has said that separate reporting would not have financial implications, and that all eligible staff in the merged institutions would be assessed. PBRF funding would continue to be based on the overall assessment of an institution, including the results of those former college staff eligible for assessment.
It had earlier been understood that merging colleges would not participate in the next quality evaluation exercise to ensure that the proposed merger between the Auckland College of Education and the University could proceed without prejudicing Auckland’s PBRF ranking. Both the Government and the TEC are saying this is not correct, and the issue of excluding college staff has not been discussed between the parties.
Ann Clark said the separate reporting was being done at the request of the Universities, and would allow them to accurately measure their improvement between assessment rounds. This varies considerably from an earlier reason given to AUS by a senior TEC official, who said the reason was that college staff could not be expected to be fully research-productive following the upheaval of a merger process.
AUS National President Dr Bill Rosenberg said neither reason given by the TEC was very convincing. “Universities are already able to track improvements in particular divisions of a university, without the need for separate reporting,” he said. “If the real reason is, as first given, that a merger will upset research output, the TEC should examine why institutions such as the Auckland College of Education are performing poorly in terms of research output and put measures in place to ensure improvement.”

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Government announces $20 million for Auckland projects
2. Free computer (course) attracts hundreds
3. SIT remains defiant
4. Export education levy becomes law
5. Harvard and Princeton top rankings
6. Half of Australian V-Cs overpaid

Government announces $20 million for Auckland projects
The Government announced this week that it will give the University of Auckland $20 million for two projects under its Partnership for Excellence scheme, a public-private sector tertiary education investment scheme which enables tertiary institutions with private sector funding to seek matching funding from Government for large-scale projects.
The University’s new Institute for Innovation in Biotechnology will receive $10 million to turn research ideas into business propositions, while its Starpath project will receive another $10 million for an “innovative” programme to encourage students to enrol in tertiary study.
Prime Minister Helen Clark said the Government is supporting both projects because it wants to ensure the tertiary education sector makes a bigger contribution to New Zealand’s economic and social development. “The University of Auckland’s Biotechnology Institute will provide a centre for graduate training and research,” she said. Graduate students will be immersed in an entrepreneurial environment where research and its translation into commercial applications are co-located.”
Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary), Steve Maharey, said the Starpath project aims to attract to university studies students who have the ability to succeed, but who have no role models or who face barriers in accessing university. “Close working relationships between the University’s Starpath advisors and local schools and other community organisations will be the key to making university study attractive and accessible to those students,” he said.
The Government’s contribution to both programmes will be offered as no-interest loans which will be converted into capital injections when the initiatives are up and running. The money will be paid in instalments over the next three years at a rate which matches the University’s fundraising in the private sector.
Eleven Partnerships for Excellence proposals were received from tertiary education organisations in this funding round. An assessment panel, set up by the TEC, evaluated proposals against criteria set by the Ministers of Education, and Cabinet accepted the panel’s recommendation.

Free computer (course) attracts hundreds
A free computer course being offered by Northland Polytechnic, in which students who complete the course get to keep their computer, is reported to have been inundated by more than twelve hundred inquiries from prospective students in just a few weeks. It has also become the latest focus of attention by Bill English, the National Party spokesperson on education, who says the Polytechnic is shamelessly breaking the rules on inducements for student enrolments.
The Certificate in Generic Computing is a one-year, full-time course which requires the students to attend the Polytechnic for two hours and study at home for twelve hours per week. According to The Northern Advocate, the Northland Polytechnic has an arrangement with IBM to supply the computers for the TEC-funded course. Those students who pass the course are entitled to keep their computers; those who don’t must return it.
Bill English says that the TEC introduced new rules prohibiting the use of inducements following ongoing controversy surrounding offers of vouchers, cash, computers, cell phones and computers all at the taxpayers’ expense. “The Government said it would put a stop to this type of behaviour, but while they talk tough we haven’t seen a lot of action,” said Mr English. “Northland Polytech is thumbing its nose at the TEC and they are getting away with it because the bureaucrats are too weak to enforce their own rules.”
A spokesperson for Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary) Steve Maharey refuted Mr English’s allegations, saying that the current funding guide only prohibits the use of public funds for inducements, and in this case the computers had been paid for by the trust fund of an external organisation. Mr Maharey said that the Government was opposed to tertiary providers using rewards and inducements to encourage enrolments as it wanted students to think carefully about what study they embarked on, free of influence from free goods or other offers.
“I asked the TEC to rewrite the tertiary funding guidelines to ban the use of inducements of any kind, irrespective of how they are funded,” said Mr Maharey. “This means that it will not be possible to use any funds, including those from third parties, to pay for inducements while receiving any public funding for the same course.”

SIT remains defiant
The Southern Institute of Technology continues to defy an Ombudsman’s recommendation that it pay approximately $21,000 in compensation for a cancelled course. The Ombudsman upheld a complaint by six students that they were not able to enrol for a National Diploma in Social Services in 2000 after the SIT discontinued the course. They completed a National Certificate in Social Services in 1999 with the expectation of continuing on to the Diploma course.
In a snap debate in Parliament last night a resolution calling on SIT to comply with the Ombudsman’s recommendations was carried, with only the eight ACT MPs voting against it. Invercargill MP Mark Peck said that if the SIT continued its stance it would be defying Parliament, something he described as extremely serious. Mr Peck said he had written to the Speaker, Jonathon Hunt, suggesting that the SIT be summonsed to Wellington to explain why it would not comply with the Ombudsman’s recommendation.
The SIT earlier angered the Ombudsman and the Prime Minister, saying it had no legal obligation to abide by the recommendation and that it would be inappropriate to do so. In turn, the Prime Minister told the SIT that non-compliance with the recommendation was a serious matter and suggested that the law would be changed to ensure compliance if the matter was not resolved.
Subsequent discussions between the SIT and the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary), Steve Maharey, appear not to have resolved the matter. Education Review reports SIT Chief Executive Penny Simmonds saying that, while SIT gave due respect to the Ombudsman’s opinion, it has declined to pay the money on legal advice and “on the grounds that it is given public money to provide public services and meet obligations.” She said the easy option for the Institute would be to pay the money, but in doing so it would set an unfortunate precedent.
Mr Maharey told Parliament yesterday that he had met the Ombudsman and had taken advice on what steps need to be taken to ensure “that we have integrity” around the Ombudsmen’s decisions.

Export education levy becomes law
Parliament passed the Education (Export Education Levy) Amendment Bill this week, allowing Government to levy private education providers in order to protect international students against their collapse. The introduction of the Bill followed the high-profile collapse last year of Carich and Modern Age, which saw the Government reimburse foreign students left out of pocket by the collapse. Education Minister Trevor Mallard said that in future the industry, and not the public, would ensure that the interests of students were protected in such situations.
Under the provisions of the Bill, Government reserves the right to use levy money to reimburse caught in future collapses.

Worldwatch
Harvard and Princeton top rankings
Harvard and Princeton Universities have tied for the top spot in the United States college rankings compiled by US News and World Report, with Yale and the University of Pennsylvania following in third and fourth places respectively. The University of California at Berkeley was the top public university, with the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and the University of Virginia tied for second. Williams College topped the rankings of the liberal arts colleges.
The rankings, which are released with the US News annual college issue and in the book America’s Best Colleges, prompt criticism by many university administrators who argue that they ignore crucial characteristics about institutions and rely too heavily on colleges’ reputations. Research shows, however, that only about one in four students who are about to enrol look at rankings, and fewer consider rankings when choosing a college to attend.

Half of Australian V-Cs overpaid
According to a study comparing the salaries of vice-chancellors with business, more than half of Australian vice-chancellors are overpaid. Topping the list is the University of Queensland’s Vice-Chancellor who is overpaid by 51 percent when compared with a business of similar size and annual revenue. University of Western Australia Honours student Lisa Soh analysed the salaries of thirty-four vice-chancellors over a five year period, and used a mathematical formula for the comparison with business. She concluded that half the vice-chancellors were overpaid and half underpaid.
Most vice-chancellors receive a remuneration package valued at between $A300,000 and $A500,000, with the Vice-Chancellors of the Universities of Sydney and New South Wales receiving $A771,000 and $A750,000 respectively.

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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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