AUS Tertiary Update
No need for staff cuts at Massey
The Massey Branch of the Association of University Staff (AUS) has rejected suggestions that staffing levels or future staff salary increases need to be affected by last Friday’s decision of the University Council to hold tuition fees at 2004 levels for next year. It has been reported that staff pay rises and overall staffing levels may be at risk following the decision which saw Massey’s Council members vote, by seven votes to six, to reject the fees increase recommended by University management.
“There is simply no need to reduce staffing levels,” said AUS Massey Branch President, Harvey Jones. “The University’s budget scenarios showed that the only difference between zero and a 5 percent fee increase is the impact on the University’s projected surplus for 2005.”
“Across all of the scenarios presented to the Council, the impact on staff salaries was the same. Even with a 7% fee increase, the University would not have spent a dollar more on staff,” said Mr Jones. “The suggestion that staff numbers will need to be cut is just scare-mongering. Massey is still forecasting a surplus of $6.6 million dollars next year, which is on the back of $45.9 million dollars worth of accumulated surpluses over the past three years. There is no case for cuts.”
Meanwhile, students are delighted with the decision to maintain fees at current levels. “It is a big win for students and shows that the University Council shares the concerns of students about the impact of the massive student loan debt on our economy and society,” said Adam Maynard, President of the Massey University Students’ Association. “We are pleased that the Council has seen sense and agreed not to increase student fees. Government now needs to stop all fee increases and start reducing student fees and student reliance on the student loan scheme.”
Council member and Alumni representative, Dr Liz Gordon, said that Massey had been in the best financial position of all of the universities for some years. “There are some risks on the horizon in terms of a potential large fall in foreign student numbers, but the majority of Councillors felt strongly that the risk should not be borne solely by students through fee increases,” she said. “We wanted to signal to young people that Massey is a University that cares about students and wants to keep debt levels as low as possible.”
Dr Gordon also said that a “no fee increase” solution could not be sustained unless the Government increased funding to universities.
Also in Tertiary Update
1. Feathers fly in community education funding spat
2. University counters gender-bias claim
3. Hood takes reins at Oxford
4. Waikato’s “Rhodes Scholarships”
5. ALP targets higher education
6. Casual workers prop up UK universities
Feathers fly in community education funding
Feathers continue to fly in a war of words between the National Party spokesperson on Education, Bill English, and the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary), Steve Maharey, this time with Mr Maharey telling Parliament he can never trust anything said by Bill English. Yesterday, Mr Maharey called on Mr English to apologise for allegations he made that Aoraki Polytechnic had misused community education funding by enrolling people who had attended a lunch at the Polytechnic at which entrepreneur Mike Tamaki was the guest speaker.
Earlier, in what he described as the “latest funding scam”, Mr English said he had been advised that people attending the lunch could stay and hear Mr Tamaki speak if they filled in a form enrolling them in a “course” at the Polytechnic. “This form made their attendance at the lunch an official community education enrolment,” said Mr English. If true, it would mean that the Polytechnic was obtaining public finding for those attending the lunch.
It turns out, however, that while the lunch was held at the Polytechnic, it was organised by the Aoraki Development Trust (ADT) as one of a number of similar events being held around the country. ADT says there was no charge to the public for the lunch, attendees were not required to fill in any enrolment forms and there was no community education funding.
In a terse exchange in Parliament, Mr Maharey said that he would no longer act on any further funding allegations made by Bill English without independent verification because of Mr English’s “appalling track record”, which includes inaccurate claims about Hauraki Plains College, SiteSafe and a number of courses at the Aoraki Polytechnic.
“When there are real problems we fix them, but Mr English should stop making these scurrilous allegations without bothering to check the facts,” said Mr Maharey. “Once again, Bill English’s claims have turned out to be inaccurate. It is now clear that he absolutely cannot be relied upon.”
Aoraki Polytechnic’s Chief Executive, Wendy Smith, is understood to have demanded a retraction from Mr English, while ADT’s General Manager, Murray Cleverly, questioned Mr English’s credibility. “He’s definitely going to have mud on his face after this one,” he said.
University counters gender-bias claim
The University of Canterbury has moved to ensure its promotion processes at least look to be above-board following its refusal, last week, to enter mediation over a complaint about gender bias in its appointment and promotions processes.
The University is calling for nominations for “gender observers” which it says will be appointed to each of its colleges’ academic staffing committees, as well as the central Academic Promotions Committee (APC), for this year’s promotions round. The gender observers will be elected by members of the female academic staff, with the observer for the APC to be at the academic rank of associate professor or professor.
The observers, who will not have speaking or voting rights, are confined to commenting on process. They will neither be permitted to comment on particular cases, nor to advocate for individual applications during committee meetings.
According to a staff member spoken to by Tertiary Update, the restriction on eligibility for observers to the APC raises the “interesting question” of who can take on the role given the low number of female associate professors or professors at Canterbury. “For example, the College of Business and Economics has no female associate professors and just one female professor. She is unavailable, meaning it is not even possible for that College to nominate anyone to the Committee which makes all of the decisions on applications for promotion to the rank of associate professor and professor.”
Commenting on its refusal to enter mediation over the gender-bias complaint brought by senior lecturer Sue Newberry, Canterbury’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Roy Sharp, said her claims had been considered exhaustively by the University’s previous Director of Human Resources who said its promotion and review processes were fair and equitable. “With further proceedings pending, the University will be making no further comment on the matter,” he said.
Hood takes reins at Oxford
Former University of Auckland head, Dr John Hood, was officially welcomed as Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University in the United Kingdom on Tuesday this week. He became the 270th vice-chancellor in the University’s nine-hundred-year history, and the first person from outside its academic body to be elected to the position. Dr Hood, who will lead the University for the next five years, has pledged to preserve Oxford’s international reputation, particularly in the students and academics it recruits, the quality of its research and its collaboration with other leading international institutions. In a note echoing his New Zealand refrains, Dr Hood said that funding constraints would need to be addressed in order for Oxford to meet its objectives, and that the University could not simply trade on its long-standing reputation for excellence. “There is intense global competition for the most talented scholars. Over time, an international eminent research university such as Oxford will maintain and enhance its standing only by being well-resourced, and therefore a sustainable and credible competitor. Reputations built on the memorable successes of the past do not in themselves provide stable foundations for the future.” In order to truly qualify for the epithet “world-class”, Dr Hood said that Oxford must continue to excel in a broad range of fields and judge itself against the highest international standards.
Dr Hood recognised that Oxford had “achieved mightily” in recent times, despite the fiscal constraints under which it had been operating. “In essence, the cost of providing a world-class university and the revenue available to fund that are not in harmony,” he said. “Our obligation as trustees for the next period is to work co-operatively and assiduously to remedy this position. We must increase our income while carefully managing the costs. And we must do this within a well-contested strategic framework that informs a regularly-updated, long-term financial plan, thereby allowing accurate operational planning, transparent budgeting and firm financial control.”
Dr Hood takes over as Vice-Chancellor from Sir Colin Lucas who was farewelled at Tuesday’s ceremony.
Waikato University is introducing new scholarships that are intended to become New Zealand’s equivalent of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarships. The Parallel Development Programme (PDP) Scholarships will be available to students who are academic high achievers and who also excel at either arts or sports. PDP scholars will receive a package of benefits including a full-fee scholarship, personal academic support, coaching or training in their non-academic area of excellence, life skills and personal development coaching and a personal development programme.
Announcing the new scholarships at the University Blues Awards held last Friday night, Waikato’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bryan Gould, said the scholarships are a great opportunity for young people who have demonstrated all-round ability. “These scholarships will support a new generation of leaders by creating pathways for exceptional New Zealanders.”
ALP targets higher education
The Australian Labor Party (ALP) this week pledged to deliver more than 20,000 additional placements into higher education, abolish full-fee degrees and reverse planned student fee increases of up to 25 percent. Dubbed its “Aim Higher” package, the programme will double the number of new vocational education and training and TAFE (Australia’s equivalent to polytechnics) places to 36,000 by 2009, and commit $A583 million programme to tackle skills shortages.
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) says the policy, released just days before the Australian election, promises substantial benefits for student and staff as well as universities. “For universities, it is clear that Labor’s package contains more funding than provided by the Coalition, including compensating universities for any loss of revenue from Labor’s decision to abolish [tuition fee] increases that a majority of universities have adopted from 2005,” said Carolyn Allport, NTEU President. “The Union also welcomes the fact that Labor’s funding and programmes do not appear to be connected to workplace relations policies that seek to undermine staff and the reputation of Australian universities.”
workers prop up UK universities
The Association of University Teachers (AUT) has launched a campaign to rid higher education in the United Kingdom of its fixed-term contract culture of employment after latest figures revealed that nearly half of all higher education staff work on a casual or fixed-term basis.
The Unequal Academy, a report released by the AUT, shows that despite the introduction of regulations to prevent the abuse of fixed-term employment contracts, 48 percent of women academics and 38 percent of male academics are employed on a fixed-term basis. A staggering 93 percent of university researchers are still employed on contracts of three years or less, and many other staff are employed on a part-time or casual basis.
Sally Hunt, the General Secretary of AUT, said that the continuing use of fixed-term contracts is a hidden scandal in higher education. “It is about time universities woke up to their responsibilities,” she said. The Government changed the law to stop this abuse two years ago, and universities themselves signed an agreement to reduce the use of fixed-term contracts. Two years on, very few have actually reduced the use of those contracts.”
The AUT’s new Security Alert campaign aims to eliminate the use of fixed-term contracts in higher education.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org