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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITE$5 million withheld from CPIT
Almost $5 million in government funding is being withheld from the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology in the continuing fallout over the Cool-IT community education computing programme. CPIT has been the subject of investigations by both the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) and Auditor-General after it was revealed that it had received more than $13 million in public funding for running courses which involved little more than handing out CD-ROMs to members of the public. Following the release of the initial TEC report, the CPIT was required to provide evidence that there had been sufficient “learner-engagement” in the Cool-IT programme to justify its public funding.
In the latest move, the TEC has said it will appoint its own assessor after the CPIT failed to make any progress in its own investigation. TEC General Manager, Ann Clark, said that the CPIT Chief Executive, John Scott, had advised that the researcher approached to carry out the assessment had withdrawn from the process. Ann Clark said a decision would be made as soon as possible as to who would carry out the evaluation, but added that the costs of the evaluation would be passed on to CPIT as it remains responsible for demonstrating that learner-engagement took place.
Ann Clark said that $4,985,851.50 would be withheld from the February and March payments to CPIT until satisfactory evidence was available to show that students who enrolled in the course, but did not actually go on-line, had in fact engaged in learning.
Meanwhile, the saga produced an amusing exchange in Parliament on Tuesday this week, with the National Party spokesperson on Education, Bill English, accusing the Associate Minister of Education, Steve Maharey, of doing precisely nothing to police the tertiary sector. “When will he stop giving the impression of a chihuahua savaging a wet lettuce leaf,” he said.
“I am happy the Member thinks he is wet lettuce leaf,” retorted Mr Maharey. “That is what I think of him too, so he is fairly accurate there.”
Mr Maharey said that Mr English failed to understand that tertiary institutions are autonomous and first have to be given the opportunity to show that they have dealt responsibly with public money. “[CPIT] had failed,” he said. “The time is up. Public money is involved and I will ensure that it is evaluated and accounted for.”

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. AUS members to vote on national bargaining
2. Wananga awarded right to offer doctorates
3. Creeping state control of universities says NZVCC
4. Research confirms student loans to blame for brain drain
5. Boutique universities for Australia?
6. On-line degree awarded to cat

AUS members to vote on national bargaining
Association of University Staff members in New Zealand’s seven traditional universities are voting this week to determine whether they will embark on the negotiation of national collective employment agreements for academic and general staff. The vote comes as the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary), Steve Maharey, continues to make strong comments about national multi-employer bargaining in universities and the need for further funding tied to salaries.
Mr Maharey told the AUS Annual Conference, held in Wellington last week, that multi-employer bargaining is consistent with government policy and said that, if AUS members vote in favour of such a bargaining process, the Government would have to start discussing how it could be of more practical help. He said that he was getting to the point where he was interested in a targeted approach to salary issues because, although tertiary education funding had increased by 46.4 percent in real terms since 1999, it had not adequately found its way into salaries.
Conference delegates were told by Mr Maharey that the Government had to continue to find more money and to allocate it more intelligently. “The door is then open,” he said, “to suggestions about how we might target salaries.”
During the same week, Mr Maharey also told Education Review that an area of pressure in terms of funding was university academic staff salaries. He voiced concern that the increased funding in the tertiary sector had not sufficiently found its way into “the pockets of staff” and said he would “apply himself” to the matter as a policy issue.
AUS General Secretary Helen Kelly urged AUS members to participate in the national bargaining ballot, saying that Mr Maharey’s comments clearly showed that national collective agreements would provide the vehicle by which the Government could ensure that targeted funding would find its way into salaries. “It is clear that the pressure to provide a political solution to the sector’s salary problems, which we highlighted in the previous bargaining round, is beginning to have the desired effect,” she said.
Ms Kelly said that a high participation rate, supporting national bargaining, in the current ballot process would send an unmistakable message to the Government and university employers that these issues had to be addressed with urgency.
The ballot closes next Wednesday, and the results will be published in next week’s Tertiary Update.

Wananga awarded right to offer doctorates
Te Whare Wananga o Awanuirangi has been awarded the right by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to offer doctorate degrees in Maori studies, indigenous studies, environmental studies and education. It is the second non-university institution in New Zealand, and possibly the first indigenous institution in the world, to gain the right to provide tertiary study to doctoral level.
The Wananga’s Chief Executive, Gary Hook, is reported as being ecstatic. He said that that the approval meant that the Wananga would be able to achieve its aim of being a place of Maori scholarship. “You can hardly be a place of scholarship if you can’t offer doctoral degrees, so it means we can capture that particular status for ourselves,” he said.
Mr Hook told Education Review that the Wananga began its application for degree-granting status about three years ago, and the approval meant it could enrol up to seven PhD candidates next year. He said that at least thirty people were waiting to commence doctoral study at the Wananga, so it would be no problem to find seven candidates. He said the Wananga accepted the restriction on enrolments because it was a small institution and he could understand the authorities wanting to make sure it could work.

Creeping state control of universities says NZVCC
The New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee has accused the Government of creeping state control of universities and other tertiary institutions with the introduction of the Public Finance (State Sector Management) Bill, currently before Parliament. It says it is yet another example of the Government’s desire to control aspects of university affairs.
The Bill redefines crown entities, including universities, as organisations in which the Government has a controlling interest. As such, it would give the State Services Commission power to conduct “machinery of government” reviews of tertiary institutions. Further concern arises from yet-to-be-announced provisions which are expected to include giving the Minister power to dismiss university council members for “just cause”, providing the right to conduct inquiries into the academic affairs of universities and making university borrowing subject to Treasury approval.
State Services Minister, Trevor Mallard, says that the legislation is aimed at increasing transparency and accountability, and will raise the standard of public service. He said that while the Government had no intention of impinging on academic freedom, most taxpayers would want spending of their money to be transparent through appropriate accountability measures.
NZVCC Chair, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, said that during the term of this Government there had been consistent attempts to erode the autonomy of universities and that the NZVCC had regularly been told by the Government and officials that the Crown has an “ownership interest” in universities. Professor McCutcheon said such claims were especially galling when government funding amounts to only around 40 percent of university incomes.

Research confirms student loans to blame for brain drain
Almost one-third of graduates will leave New Zealand to work overseas, and 67 percent of them will work in another country by the time they are thirty years old, according to a new graduate careers survey released this week. The Australian-New Zealand Graduate Careers Survey 2004 was based on interviews with more than 7,000 final-year students from sixteen universities, including Auckland, Victoria, Canterbury and Otago.
According to the New Zealand Students’ Association (NZUSA), the research confirms that high student-loan debt is driving New Zealand graduates overseas. NZUSA Co-President Fleur Fitzsimons said it showed that the higher a borrower’s student debt, the more likely they were to go overseas. Further, 60 percent of students who left New Zealand encumbered with a student loan since the scheme began have remained overseas.
“A number of studies conducted by students, unions and demographers confirm that student loans are driving our best and brightest overseas,” Ms Fitzsimons said. “The brain drain will get even worse once the tuition-fee rises for 2005 kick in. If the Government really wants a knowledge society, it needs to introduce a living allowance for every student and make fees go down, not up.”

Boutique universities for Australia?
Australia will be the home to hundreds of boutique universities and colleges within a decade if the Howard Government’s plan to open up tertiary education is a success, according to The Australian. It reports incoming University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor, Professor Glyn Davis, saying that higher education in Australia was “on the threshold of radical change”, and predicted a US-style three-tier system with more private colleges and fewer big research universities.
The Howard Government has announced plans to reform the roles of universities and allow for the possibility of “a new breed” of education providers called university colleges or university institutes.
Professor Davis predicted that the first tier of universities would be made up of private and public community colleges offering diplomas, associate degrees and vocational qualifications, the second tier would be public and private teaching-only institutions and the third tier would comprise a small number of public and private universities which would be the only institutions entitled to award research postgraduate qualifications.

On-line degree awarded to cat
A cat has been awarded an MBA degree from an on-line university in the United States after being awarded impressive marks and putting in several semesters’ worth of course work. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Colby, a six-year-old cat, applied for a $US299 bachelor’s degree from the Trinity Southern University, based in Plano, Texas, but was also awarded an MBA, for an additional $US100, on the basis of his life experience.
The Pennsylvania Attorney-General’s office is now prosecuting the University, alleging consumer fraud and illegal e-mail marketing.
The cat’s owner said she was very proud of the cat. After paying another $US99 for Colby’s transcript, she was pleased to discover he had taken four semesters’ worth of business classes, including management accounting, organisational behaviour and total quality management.

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: . Direct enquires should be made to Marty Braithwaite, AUS Communications Officer, email:

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