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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITEGovernment called on to ditch private savings proposal for tertiary education
The Association of University Staff (AUS) has called on the Government to abandon moves to encourage private savings for tertiary education after the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, announced that “intense policy work” was under way to help people save for their children’s tertiary education. It is expected that the Government will propose private insurance schemes or individualised savings accounts for tertiary study following references about housing, pension and education savings by the Prime Minister in her speech to Parliament on Tuesday this week.
AUS General Secretary Helen Kelly said a private savings scheme to fund individuals into tertiary education would further erode the idea that education is a public good, and would strengthen the notion that tertiary education is a private benefit which should be increasingly funded through individual contribution.
Ms Kelly said AUS is committed to a publicly-funded, high-quality education system which provides equal access for all people, and not just those who can afford to pay. “A private savings scheme is highly regressive,” she said, “and would not only favour those who can afford to save, but would also discriminate against low-income families and groups such as women who take time out from paid employment to meet family responsibilities.”
“The introduction of individualised savings or insurance schemes to fund tertiary education would expose New Zealand to the risk of developing a two-tier tertiary education system: one for those who are able to save privately and another, inferior one, for those dependent on an underfunded public system,” said Ms Kelly.
Ms Kelly also said that an individual savings scheme could well be used as a means of disguising the effects of the controversial student loan scheme, but without reducing the burden on individuals of paying for their tertiary education. “Adequate funding is a state responsibility”, she said, “and Government’s priority should be to fund tertiary education properly.”
Students too have criticised the proposal to establish a tertiary education savings scheme, saying it shows that the Government has failed to address high fees and lack of access to allowances, the reasons tertiary education is unaffordable. “Expecting parents to save for their retirement and pay a mortgage, while also paying back their own student loan and saving for their children’s tertiary education, is a burden a lot of families will not be able to bear,” said Andrew Kirton, Co-President of the New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA).

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. New Minister for tertiary education, new Chair for TEC
2. CPIT boss failed to meet expected standards, says Minister
3. Results fail to ignite Unitec’s bid for university status
4. Wananga, or university?
5. New research shows student debt and fees rise
6. Government helps fund Oxford security
7. LMU boycott lifted

New Minister for tertiary education, new Chair for TEC
In a well publicised Cabinet reshuffle at the end of last year, the portfolio of Trevor Mallard, the Minister of Education, was extended and he has assumed full responsibility for the tertiary education sector. He took over that part of the portfolio from Steve Maharey who, until then, had been the longest-ever-serving minister responsible for tertiary education.
More recent, and less well publicised, was the appointment of Russell Marshall to Chair the Tertiary Education Commission. Mr Marshall, a former Labour Minister of Education, will return to New Zealand to take up the new role when he completes his term as High Commissioner in London.
Previously, as Chair of the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission in 2001 and 2002, Mr Marshall helped set the platform for the establishment of the TEC and current tertiary education strategy.
Mr Mallard said that it is important that the leadership of the TEC is strong to ensure that progress made on the implementation of the tertiary education strategy continues. “Leadership of the Commission requires an understanding of how the broad range of entities in the tertiary sector operates,” he said. “Russell has that range of knowledge, being a former university chancellor and through his involvement with the polytechnic sector and international education. He has also been Chair of the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO.
Mr Marshall will take over from Acting Chair, Kaye Turner, on 4 April.

CPIT boss failed to meet expected standards says Minister
Former Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary), Steve Maharey, has slammed the Chief Executive of the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT), John Scott, saying that at no stage during the investigation into the Cool IT scandal did he see any public acknowledgement of the need to meet the standards of judgement and decision-making that are expected of senior executives leading public education institutions.
CPIT received more than $13 million in public funding for running the Cool It courses which involved little more than handing out CD Roms to the public. An evaluation of the course late last year found that 41 percent of those who had enrolled did not complete the course, resulting in an agreement from CPIT to refund $3.5 million to the Government.
In a letter to Hector Matthews, Chair of the CPIT Council, Mr Maharey said Mr Scott should have looked beyond the Polytechnic’s legal obligation over whether it was required to repay money to the Government. “As you [Matthews] are Chair of the Council, I would expect that you would have in place clear performance expectations of your Chief Executive, which would include standards relating to public communication and behaviour,” he wrote.
Mr Maharey also told Mr Matthews that he wanted the Polytechnic to ensure that it fully acknowledges the serious nature of the concerns that were raised about the Cool IT programme by both the TEC and the Auditor General.
National’s spokesperson on education, Bill English, who obtained the letter under the Official Information Act, told The Press that Mr Scott had to go. “He can resign or do whatever he likes, but he has to go,” he said. “The council and chief executive did nothing until the minister threatened the chief executives job.”

Results fail to ignite Unitec’s bid for university status
Long-time university contender Unitec has seen its number of research degree completions fall from nineteen in 2002 to none in 2003. That is in contrast to the 7 percent national increase in the number of research degrees completed in the same period reported in the TEC’s Performance-Based Research Fund Annual Report for 2004. According to the report, Unitec will lose $126,640, or 4.84 percent, of its public funding in 2005, leaving it with only 0.91 percent of the PBRF funding available nationally.
The poor showing came as Unitec announced that it intends to sue the Minister of Education and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) for more than $3.5 million compensation for losses incurred as a result of what it describes as multiple breaches of its constitutional rights over its application to be considered for university status.
The legal action follows the introduction last year of the Education (Establishment of Universities) Amendment Bill, which will give the Minister of Education sole authority to determine whether any application by an institution for university status will proceed to NZQA for assessment. The legislation was viewed by many as a move to block Unitec, whose application for university status has been repeatedly stalled since 1996.
Unitec’s Chief Executive, Dr John Webster, says its case relies on fundamental constitutional principles. “Essentially, the Government has not complied with the law,” he said. “It has breached Article 1 of the Bill of Rights 1688 by purporting to suspend the operation of the Education Act without the consent of Parliament. It has breached Chapter 29 of the Magna Carta 1267, which says that justice delayed is justice denied. It has breached the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and ignored the administrative law rules of natural justice.
“We have been trying to get our application for university status considered since 1999, and we are still waiting.”

Wananga, or university?
The New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (NZVCC) has complained to the Minister of Education and the Advertising Standards Authority that Te Wananga o Aotearoa is now describing itself as the University of New Zealand. Last year, Tertiary Update reported that the Wananga had registered the name “University of New Zealand Ltd” in 2002 and was accompanying its name, Te Wananga o Aotearoa, with “translation, University of New Zealand” on promotional and marketing material, including its website.
The Wananga has now dropped the word translation, prompting the NZVCC to take action on the basis that the description is misleading and deceptive. “Basically, they’re saying they’re the University of New Zealand which they are not,” NZVCC Executive Director Lindsay Taiaroa told Education Review. He said that students from overseas would not realise the Wananga was not a university and domestic students who had not been to a university might also believe the Wananga was a university.
Mr Taiaroa said that the NZVCC wanted to guard against misuse of the word university, which is a protected term under the Education Act.

New research shows student debt and fees rise
Average student debt has risen by 36 percent and fees have risen by 34 percent since 2001, according to new research released this week by the NZUSA. The survey, which questioned tertiary students about their financial and socio-economic position, found that average debt is now 60 percent higher than it was in 1998, students were borrowing more from their parents and many believed their student debt would have a detrimental impact on their ability to buy a house, save for retirement or undertake further study.
NZUSA Co-President Camilla Belich said the report was bad news for students starting out the academic year. “Most will be paying even higher fees, and 6,000 will have their entitlement to the independent circumstances student allowance cut.”
Education Minister Trevor Mallard has, however, disputed the validity of the survey, saying that only 4,000 of 100,000 students had filled in and returned the form. He said that the survey over-represented the problem, with most students having a debt of less than $10,000.
Andrew Kirton, NZUSA Co-President, said that the Government could expect to hear about the disastrous impact of student debt everywhere they go as part of the students’ election year campaign against student debt.

Government helps fund Oxford security
The British Government has agreed to help cover the cost of protecting Oxford University’s controversial £18 million biomedical research facility from animal rights activists, and has announced five-year jail terms for activists who try and drive animal testing centres out of business.
The Science Minister, Lord Sainsbury, said the Government would help cover the additional costs faced by the University, including security, when work resumes shortly. Work was stopped last year when the main contractor pulled out of the project after being targeted by protesters
Legislation currently being rushed through Parliament will prohibit sending abusive letters and leaflets as part of a campaign to cause economic damage to research units, and activists who disrupt the “supply chain” to research facilities by targeting companies which trade with them, or individuals who work for them, will be liable for up to five years imprisonment.

LMU boycott lifted
The academic boycott and industrial action at London Metropolitan University have been lifted following an agreement between the lecturers’ union NATFHE and the University to enter talks. The dispute arose mid way through last year when LMU management threatened to dismiss 387 academic staff if they refused to accept new, inferior employment agreements.
In a joint statement, the parties said that talks would be held and any “resultant proposals” would be considered by the LMU Board of Governors and NATFHE members around 16 March.
It has also been agreed that no academic staff will be dismissed over their refusal to accept the new employment agreements while discussions between the parties take place.

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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