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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITEChancellor chastises Massey Council members over fees decision
The Massey University Council has been accused by its Chancellor, Nigel Gould, of failing to acknowledge its responsibilities and letting both itself and the University down following the Council’s decision in September not to increase student tuition fees in 2005. Mr Gould’s criticisms were made in a two-page letter addressed to all Council members following the September meeting, and subsequently leaked to selected media.
In a stinging broadside, Mr Gould said it was abundantly obvious in the fees debate that Council displayed an obvious disregard for its planning processes and the implicit commitment to raise fees inherent in earlier decisions. By way of example, Mr Gould cited the Council’s adoption of the University’s Long Term Financial Strategy, which provides for an extensive programme of capital investment supported by a “stable level of forecast annual financial surpluses”. He also stated that the University’s Profile document, endorsed by Council, makes an explicit commitment that fees would be increased by at least the level of inflation over a ten-year planning period.
“Where does this leave us?” Mr Gould wrote. “Far more important than the [financial impact] is my concern that the Council as the University’s governing body has materially failed in its responsibilities. Either we have shown scant regard for the importance of the planning process, or we have demonstrated absolute contempt in our commitment to it. Equally apparent was the lack of understanding of the University’s financial structures and its dynamics.”
A clearly-piqued Mr Gould continued: “I don’t intend that we debate the issue any further, rather I suggest that each Councillor reflects upon the level of contribution that they have been able to make in the fulfilment of their responsibilities. Next year’s Chancellor should expect that all Councillors, in accepting their responsibilities, will demonstrate a higher level of commitment and consistency than has been the case to date.”
Responding to the criticism, Dr Liz Gordon described Mr Gould’s statements as irresponsible and out of order. Dr Gordon, who was one of the Council members supporting the majority-decision not to increase fees, said that Massey was in a strong financial position for the next year and did not need to raise domestic tuition fees. “According to best estimates, the sole effect of the decision would be to reduce Massey’s 2005 surplus to $6.6 million, with no further cuts needed,” she said.
According to Dr Gordon, the Chancellor’s chastisement has infuriated Council members to the extent that a challenge to his leadership is now likely.

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Candidates line up for top job at Victoria
2. Victoria University and Wellington College of Education to merge
3. TEC records positive year
4. What’s not tops at TOPNZ
5. University staff working to the limit
6. LMU dispute escalates
7. Plagiarist claims unfair dismissal

Candidates line up for top job at Victoria
Three candidates have been shortlisted for the Vice-Chancellorship of Victoria University of Wellington, and they will front a series of meetings and interviews at the University next week. Those named on the shortlist are Professor Pat Walsh, Victoria’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) and Dean of Commerce and Administration; Dr Martyn Forrest, Secretary (Chief Executive), Department of Education, Tasmania; and Professor Shirley Pearce, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Health Schools) and Professor of Health Psychology at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom.
The shortlisted candidates will meet with university managers and make presentations to staff on Monday before meeting the University Council for further presentations and formal interviews. It is expected that the Council will make a decision on the new Vice-Chancellor next Thursday evening, but it may be until mid-December before a formal announcement is made.
The current Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, will leave Victoria at the end of the year to take up the Vice-Chancellorship at the University of Auckland.

Victoria University and Wellington College of Education to merge
Victoria University and the Wellington College of Education will formally merge from 1 January 2005 after being given the green light by the Government this week. The decision follows a request to the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, by the Councils of both institutions to merge.
Victoria’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, said the decision sealed the strategic partnership that both the University and College committed to in 2001. “We are delighted that together we can focus on delivering research-led teaching that provides a broader academic preparation for students and elevates teacher-education to the status it deserves,” he said. “Any aspirations that New Zealand has towards being a knowledge society depend crucially on the quality of education at all levels. A university-educated teaching profession, informed by quality teaching practice is much better placed to deliver this.”
College Principal Dugald Scott, who will become the University’s first Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), said that the University and College had been pursuing a shared vision of developing highly competent teachers since 2001. “By merging, we will be able to provide greater scope and depth to teaching qualifications, widen the range of advice and support for beginning and experience teachers, and to provide greater opportunities for cross-disciplinary, collaborative research that will inform teacher education,” he said.
The merger will create a university of more than 20,000 students and approximately 3,000 staff spread across four campuses and several satellite sites in the Wellington region.

TEC records positive year
Nearly 120,000 people were involved in training programmes funded by the Tertiary Education Commission at 30 June 2004, and just over 250,000 equivalent full-time students were funded during the year, according to the Commission’s first full annual report, tabled in Parliament this week.
Acting Chair Kaye Turner said the report highlights the TEC’s achievements in meeting the priorities set by the Government, and demonstrated that the TEC had been successfully established as an organisation. It shows that the TEC met or exceeded its performance targets in Industry Training, Modern Apprenticeships, Training Opportunities Programme and Support for Youth.
In addition, the TEC introduced a number of new funding initiatives, including the Performance-Based Research Fund which required the assessment of nearly 6,000 evidence portfolios. Two new strategic funds were established during the year, the Innovation Development Fund and e-Capability Development Fund, and the TEC supported the Regional Polytechnics Development Fund administered by New Zealand Trade and Industry.
The report also says the TEC achieved its desired outcomes in administering targeted scholarship funding and exceeded the target numbers of Adult Community Education networks.

What’s not tops at TOPNZ
Lecturers at The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand in Wellington say they are dismayed and disgusted at the latest, and reportedly final, pay offer in negotiations to renew their current collective employment agreement. The offer of a one-off payment equivalent to 2.5 percent of individual salaries, without any increase to listed salary rates, has been described as a kick in the teeth by Lloyd Woods, the National President of the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE).
“To be offered a once-only payment with no real salary increase is nothing short of insulting,” said Mr Woods. “It is very hard to believe that TOPNZ could not afford the additional cost of about $180,000 if the offer of 2.5 percent was added to the permanent salary rates for the 130 academic staff affected. With millions of dollars wasted on never-completed major IT projects, and recent job losses brought about by costly failures at the institution, it is easy to see why staff are angry and morale is dropping markedly.”
Mr Woods said that TOPNZ staff already receive salaries “thousands of dollars” lower than other Wellington institutions, and there came a point where “staff could not take any further losses in order to save the institution from its mistakes. “If this is the final offer from the employer, then sadly but surely we will have members having to take industrial action yet again at TOPNZ.”
ASTE members will be balloted tomorrow on such industrial action.

Worldwatch
University staff working to the limit
A survey looking at the stress levels of academic and academic-related staff working in British universities has found that 50 percent of them are suffering from borderline levels of psychological stress, higher than in other occupational groupings including doctors, managers and professional staff.
The report, Working to the Limit, was published this week by the Association of University Teachers (AUT). Its authors, Gail Kinman and Fiona Jones from the Universities of Luton and Leeds, surveyed 1,100 staff from 99 universities. Nearly half of those who participated said they were constantly under strain, over two-thirds said they found their work stressful, and 78 percent said they believed the status of their profession was in decline. Almost half said they had considered leaving higher education.
The authors say the results of the study suggest that staff believe the levels of stress they experience had increased and job satisfaction had been eroded significantly in the five years since an earlier study. This was generally attributed to the rapid changes in working conditions, in particular the dramatic increases in student numbers, the cutting of public funding and increased accountability associated with the introduction of teaching quality assessment and the Research Assessment Exercise.
AUT General Secretary Sally Hunt said that the massive rise in student numbers and the increasing pressure to produce highly-rated research, at the same time as maintaining teaching quality and keeping up with the growth in paperwork, have taken their toll. “Academic and related staff have suffered,” she wrote, “So too have their families.”
The full report can be found at http://www.aut.org.uk/media/pdf/4/7/workingtothelimit.pdf

LMU dispute escalates
Academic staff at the London Metropolitan University voted yesterday to ballot members on industrial action as a dispute over new contracts of employment deepens. Earlier, the University threatened to dismiss 387 academic staff if they refused to accept new, inferior employment agreements by 31 August, following the merger of the University of North London and London Guildhall University to create LMU.
In the latest moves, the University has issued dismissal notices to two lecturers for saying they will not sign up to the new agreement, telling one of them that he must repay two months’ salary. The dismissal notices were issued just as the University and lecturer’s union, Natfhe, had agreed they would use the University’s Disputes Committee to consider ways of resolving the long-running dispute.
Roger Kline, the head of Nafthe’s higher education department, said the timing of the dismissal was astonishing. “What does this say about the University’s professed concern for students when they sack two lecturers about whom there have been no complaints, and whose crime is to object to the new contract,” he said. “We are not going to sit on our hands while this happens.”
Mr Kline said that staff were “fuming” because the University had escalated the dispute just as the parties had agreed to try and seek a resolution through the University disputes process. “I have rarely seen lecturers so angry,” he said. “The University has made a real mistake if our restraint has been interpreted as weakness.”
The ballot on industrial action will be held in December with strike action, if supported, likely to take place as early as 11 January 2005.

Plagiarist claims unfair dismissal
A fine arts professor who admitted plagiarising sections of a book is suing New School University in the United States for unjustified dismissal and is seeking reinstatement, according to a report in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The New School University announced that, soon after admitting plagiarism, the professor had resigned his position. Later, though, the professor said he did not resign, but was unfairly dismissed in breach of his contract.
A lawyer acting for the professor says that his client may have inadvertently copied a couple of pages from another writer, but dismissing him was “rather harsh.”

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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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