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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITEUniversity refuses mediation on discrimination claim
The University of Canterbury has refused mediation after the Human Rights Commission agreed to investigate a complaint by a senior lecturer, Sue Newberry, of gender bias in the University’s appointment and promotion processes. Dr Newberry says she laid the complaint with the Commission after experiencing difficulties when attempting to remedy a long-standing problem over her academic placement. She had been advised by senior management to undergo the internal investigation process, but felt bullied and subject to intimidation when trying to address the issue with them.
The Commission asked the University to formally respond to the allegation, and although it has responded to the complaint, it has declined mediation. This means the matter will have to be heard formally in the Human Rights Review Tribunal if it is to be progressed.
Canterbury’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Roy Sharp, told the Commission that the issues raised by Dr Newberry had been fully canvassed, and he is of the view that the University’s promotion process is fair and equitable. The University did not consider that she had been subject to discrimination by reason of age or gender. Professor Sharp said that Dr Newberry’s skills and contribution to the University had been fairly recognised, and that she had been given a fair hearing.
Dr Newberry said she was “amazed” at the process which led to her complaint to the Commission, and regarded the conclusion of the University’s initial investigation as unfair, selective and misleading. She says this was then compounded by a staff appointment in her area that reinforced her concerns over the University’s conclusion. “The rejection of mediation is consistent with the University’s attitude towards the internal investigation,” she said. “Based on the information I provided to the Human Rights Commission, it sought to mediate on two grounds. Those were discrimination, under section 21 of the Human Rights Act, and ‘offering less favourable terms of employment’, under section 22. Nothing has changed, and I will continue with my complaint.”
Dr Newberry will now refer the complaint to the Director of Human Rights Proceedings who will decide whether the Commission will take the case to the Tribunal.

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. $21.5 million Business Links Fund for polytechnics
2. Increase funding, keep fees low, says AUS
3. Scholarships stepped-up
4. New leaders for NZUSA
5. A correction
6. Injunction stops LMU strike
7. University bosses plan RAE revolt

$21.5 million Business Links Fund for polytechnics
The Government has released details of a new four-year, $21.5 million fund intended to enable institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs) to develop industry plans setting out how they intend to meet the needs of business and industry. The fund, established in this year’s Budget, is the trade-off to polytechnics for the money they will lose through the implementation of performance-based research funding.
Announcing details at the Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics of New Zealand’s “Research That Works” conference this week, the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary), Steve Maharey, encouraged institutions to think carefully about how they can build on their links with business and professional stakeholders over the next four years. “All tertiary education organisations, but particularly ITPs, have to become more focused towards the needs of their communities and local economies,” said Mr Maharey. “If they are aligned to the economic direction of their communities they will be able to contribute more strongly to regional development.”
Funding for each ITP will be based on the content of an engagement plan, with each institution able to apply for between $100,000 and $300,000 per academic year. “Next year, $5 million of funding will be available, so the average grant will be about $250,000,” said Mr Maharey. “I’m expecting some high-quality plans to be put forward.”
In order to access money from the fund, ITPs will have to submit an initial proposal in the form of an engagement plan, which will then be considered by an expert panel appointed by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC). It will assess the quality of the business-engagement plan and, if it is approved, carry out annual evaluations in subsequent years. The TEC is expected to approve the first business-engagement plans early next year.
Mr Maharey said the funding would increase to $6 million in 2007 and then $7 million in 2007.
It is understood that ITPs that access this funding will not be eligible to be assessed for performance-based research funding.

Increase funding, keep fees low, says AUS
The Government should increase overall funding to universities in order to ensure that student tuition fees are kept to a minimum according to Dr Bill Rosenberg, National President of the Association of University Staff (AUS).
Dr Rosenberg was responding to a statement by the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary), Steve Maharey, in which he urged the governing councils of universities to think carefully about how much they need to increase student tuition fees so they are kept as low as possible for next year.
Government funding of universities per student has declined by 21 percent in real (inflation-adjusted) terms over the decade to 2002, and New Zealand’s public investment in tertiary education is now lower as a proportion of GDP than the average for other OECD countries. It is significantly lower than in Australia and the United States.
“It is clear is that Government needs to boost funding rather than leave tertiary institutions having to consider further increases in student tuition fees,” said Dr Rosenberg. “Fees must be kept as low as possible, but in order for that to happen funding needs to be seriously addressed. The Government can well afford this with its mountainous budget surplus, and the spending would fit in well with its economic and social strategies.”
“It is a cheek for the Minister on one hand to continue to underfund the universities, but on the other to tell them they should not increase tuition fees,” said Dr Rosenberg. “The increase in public funding for universities for next year has been set at less than the level of inflation. Clearly that will be insufficient to meet increased costs faced in the sector, including salary claims for parity with comparable staff elsewhere, which all acknowledge is necessary.”
Mr Maharey has defended the Government’s record on fee increases and student debt, saying that students are $1200 better off in terms of fees than they would have been under a National Government. He said that after next year, when students would face fee increases of no more than 5 percent, fees would return to being tightly regulated by government.
Dr Rosenberg said, however, that the Minister must also intervene to increase funding if he is to ensure that universities can deliver high-quality education without increasing tuition fees.

Scholarships stepped-up
Step Up Scholarships are being extended to enable more university students from low-income backgrounds to study in a wide range of fields, according to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary), Steve Maharey. The scholarships for students entering degree-level courses in human and animal health are being expanded to include students up to the age of twenty-four. From 2006, they will also be available to school-leavers studying science and technology.
Mr Maharey said that the expansion of the age eligibility would mean that the number of students in human and animal health expected to benefit from the scholarships would increase from 169 this year to 400 in 2005 and more than 600 in 2006.
In 2006 a new category will provide 175 Step Up Scholarships for science and technology-based qualifications at degree level. Those scholarships will be available to students in their final year of school, or within one year of leaving. Recipients will pay a flat fee of $2,000 a year, irrespective of the tuition fees for their chosen course, with the scholarship paying the remainder of the normal tuition fee.
“Step UP Scholarships are all about ensuring access for people from low-income backgrounds into strategic fields of study,” said Mr Maharey. “The scholarships will help the students to participate in tertiary education and provide New Zealand with skills critical to the country’s success.”

New leaders for NZUSA
Camilla Belich and Andrew Kirton will be the Co-Presidents of the New Zealand University Students’ Association for 2005, and Karen Price the Women’s Officer. All were elected at NZUSA’s annual conference held in Dunedin last weekend.
Andrew Kirton is currently an NZUSA Co-President and former President of the Lincoln University Students’ Association, while Camilla Belich is currently the NZUSA National Women’s Rights Officer and a law student at Victoria University of Wellington (VUW). “I am really excited about the potential to achieve positive change for students both in the lead-up to and after the general election,” said Ms Belich.
“As long as university students are forced to borrow to live and fees are going up, we have plenty of work to do,” said Andrew Kirton. “Next year we will be campaigning aggressively for lower fees and a living allowance for all students.”
New Women’s Officer Karen Price was previously on the VUW Students’ Association Executive.
Current Co-President, Fleur Fitzsimons, will step down in December after two years in the position.

A correction
In our story last week, headed “Massey to coordinate social sciences programme”, we reported that Massey University is to coordinate an $8 million programme to improve the capacity of social sciences in New Zealand. We reported that the network of social scientists is made up of senior researchers from the Auckland, Massey, Canterbury, Victoria and Lincoln Universities and the Family Centre in Lower Hutt. We omitted the University of Waikato from that list. Professor Richard Bedford, Adjunct Professor Judge Michael Brown, Professors Judy Motion, Neil Ericksen, Ted Zorn and Jacques Poot are the researchers involved from Waikato.

Worldwatch
Injunction stops LMU strike
A High Court injunction has stopped a strike planned by lecturers at the London Metropolitan University this week. The Court’s decision was based on a complaint by LMU management that the lecturers’ union, the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE), failed to fulfil a number of technical requirements in its balloting processes for industrial action.
The dispute is centred on the threat to sack 387 academic staff if they refused to accept new, inferior employment agreements following the merger of the University of North London and London Guildhall University to create LMU. In April, the University told staff they had until 31 August to accept the new agreements or be dismissed.
The ensuing dispute led to strike action in June and an academic boycott since July. This week’s intended strike was planned to coincide with freshers’ week, when thousands of new students take induction classes at the University.
NATFHE officials are reported to be furious at the University’s injunction application. “The University’s use of anti-trade-union legislation to prevent our members from exercising their right to strike is deplorable and will only increase the determination of staff,” said NATFHE General Secretary, Paul Mackney. “We shall now consider ways of escalating the campaign, including continuing and strengthening the existing academic boycott. We shall consider re-balloting all of our members and find appropriate actions in order to bring the dispute to a successful conclusion.”

University bosses plan RAE revolt
University bosses in the United Kingdom are planning to challenge the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), their equivalent to the PBRF. According to the Education Guardian, vice-chancellors believe they were “duped” into agreeing to the RAE, and the heads of the three main university groupings are discussing alternatives, with a view to approaching the Government with proposals.
The Russell Group of elite research universities, Campaigning for Mainstream Universities, representing the new universities, and the 94 Group of small research universities have united to question the RAE. They said that the sector was jaded with the RAE. “The RAE plays games and focuses attention on the exercise in universities as if it’s the only thing that matters,” said Professor Michael Stirling, the Chairman of the Russell Group.
A House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee report published this week is critical of the RAE’s impact on research in the UK.
A spokesperson for the Association of University Teachers said the union was delighted that others shared its views on the need to dispose of the RAE.

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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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