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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITEMajor salary boost sought for university staff
University unions are recommending a salary claim of up to 30% for academic staff over the next three years in pay negotiations expected to get under way soon with university employers. A similar claim, to increase general (non-academic) staff salaries by 16% over the same period, along with a proposal to develop a national job evaluation scheme, will also be recommended.
The claims are expected to be endorsed by union members at a number of meetings over the next fortnight in the seven universities to be covered by the two proposed new national collective employment agreements for academic and general staff.
The academic salary claim is based around comparisons with the major Australian universities and domestic relativities with other groups of teachers. It is also intended to address recruitment and retention problems forecast to hit universities internationally by the end of the decade. Estimates are that more than 230,000 new academic staff will be needed by 2010 in the five countries (including New Zealand) from which New Zealand universities recruit the majority of their academic staff.
Spokesperson for the university unions, Association of University Staff General Secretary Helen Kelly, says analysis shows that New Zealand salaries lag significantly behind those in Australia. “On a straight conversion basis, New Zealand salaries are as much as 22% behind and, even when using OECD Comparative Price Level data, it is apparent that purchasing power value is up to 13% behind. Higher superannuation and leave benefits give the Australians a further margin of at least 11% on their New Zealand counterparts,” she said.
Ms Kelly said that the proposed national job evaluation scheme for general staff would provide a mechanism to ensure that there is a consistent and equitable approach to salary-setting across the entire New Zealand university sector. “The current national skills shortage makes it imperative that university employers recognise that the role of highly skilled general staff is essential to ensuring and maintaining the high quality of New Zealand’s research-based university education.”

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. TWOA hits back at critics
2. Mallard maintains research link to stay
3. $7.5 million donation to Business School
4. Lincoln in sound financial position
5. $4.4 million to support top researchers
6. New figures show big increase in student loans
7. Botswana professor detained
8. University heads sacked over skit
9. Harvard President to temper style

TWOA hits back at critics
Te Wananga o Aotearoa has back at critics this week with its Council Chair, Craig Coxhead, challenging ACT MP Ken Shirley to repeat outside the protection of parliamentary privilege allegations that it has misused public funding. It also announced that it will create two new positions, those of Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer, to support its Chief Executive, Rongo Wetere.
The Wananga has come under sustained attack over the last few weeks, including accusations from a number of quarters that it siphoned off millions of dollars into shelf companies to line the pockets of senior management and their families, offered students inducements in direct contravention of government policy, enrolled tutors in programmes they were teaching, purchased learning programmes from family members and associates for inflated sums and purchased property at an exclusive resort.
In a written statement, Mr Coxhead urged students and staff to ignore election-year political hype, and assured them that it is business-as-usual at TWOA. “TWOA has some of New Zealand’s leading business figures sitting on its Audit Committee,” he wrote. “Our organisation is one of the most audited in the land. There is nothing to hide, but much to be proud of.”
Similarly, in a memo to staff, Mr Wetere said that TWOA would strongly oppose any political agenda and would vigorously refute the misleading allegations that seek to undermine its hard work and dedication. “I can assure you all that there is no solid basis for these concerns when matched against the achievements of our institution. Our organisation has proven, through the success of our students as well as an endless stream of government audits and reviews, that we can produce high-quality results in both an academic and financial sense.”
In a bulletin entitled Setting the Record Straight, Mr Wetere responded further, denying eleven specific allegations, including that TWOA had purchased a literacy programme for “an extraordinary seven-figure sum” from his fiancée. “This is simply not true and a deeply hurtful allegation to the people concerned,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, the Government is awaiting a report from the Auditor-General investigating allegations of conflicts of interest at TWOA before it acts further. In turn, Auditor-General Kevin Brady has said that the scope of his inquiry may be widened following the current allegations.

Mallard maintains research link to stay
In his first formal meeting with tertiary education staff unions, Minister of Education Trevor Mallard has confirmed that he wants the research-teaching link in New Zealand degrees to be maintained and protected. Trevor Mallard said he supports retaining the legal requirement for degrees to be taught mainly by people engaged in research. This view was also supported by the majority of submissions on last year’s Tertiary Education Commission paper on the distinctive contributions of tertiary education organisations, where the idea of breaking the link between tertiary teaching and research was floated. Association of University Staff National President, Professor Nigel Haworth, said he welcomed Trevor Mallard’s comments. “Protecting and strengthening the Education Act requirements for research is vital if the international standing of New Zealand degrees is to be maintained. TEC must pay attention to the widespread opposition to separating research and teaching and look instead at ensuring that the current requirement is being met by all degree granting providers.”

$7.5 million donation to Business School
The University of Auckland’s Business School will benefit from a $7.5 million donation, understood to be the biggest-ever single contribution to a New Zealand tertiary education institution from a private citizen. Owen Glenn, an expatriate entrepreneur, has boosted fundraising for the Business School with the donation which will be spread over five years.
University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, said the donation was a landmark for New Zealand. “Many overseas institutions, particularly in the USA and Britain, work in a philanthropic environment where gifts and bequests to learning institutions are the norm. This contributes greatly to their success and international status. But donations on this scale are rare in New Zealand education and Mr Glenn’s gift sets a new benchmark for this country.”
The Business School’s fundraising target of $75 million will, it says, enable the University to provide world-class programmes and facilities, and draw top academic talent to New Zealand.

Lincoln in sound financial position
An operating surplus of $5.3 million for 2004 has been posted by Lincoln University on the back of a “buoyant and diverse range of activities connected with its core business of teaching and research.” In a statement released this week, Lincoln Vice-Chancellor Professor Roger Field said the surplus was in line with the University’s target, but was enhanced by a particularly successful 2004.
Professor Field said that a revenue increase of $10.8 million over the previous year, to $82.4 million, led to improvement across core business performance. He reported that international tuition fees increased by $4.2 million, while research contracts increased by $3.1 million. “The University’s surplus for 2004 is particularly notable insofar as it was achieved in an environment of increasing operating costs, particularly related to compliance costs, and personnel expenditure.”
“It must be concluded that Lincoln University is in a sound financial positions,” said Professor Field.

$4.4 million to support top researchers
The Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, has announced that forty-four students have been awarded Top Achiever Doctoral Scholarships worth nearly 4.4 million. A further sixty students are soon to be advised of their success in the Enterprise Scholarships Programme.
Trevor Mallard said that the students who have been awarded the doctoral scholarships by the Tertiary Education Commission will receive just under $550,000 this financial year, and nearly 4.4 million over three years. “This government is committed to developing world-class research in this country, and these scholarships are designed to support research at PhD level in all disciplines and increase the supply of highly-trained researchers and highly-skilled graduates,” he said.
The majority of the awards went to the University of Auckland, with twenty-two, the University of Otago with five, and Canterbury and Victoria each with four.

New figures show big increase in student loans
Figures released in the student loan scheme’s December 2004 quarterly report show that the number of people with student loan balances over $60,000 has grown by a third since 2003, and those with loans over $80,000 have grown by 67 percent over the same period. The report also shows a 9 percent increase in student loan borrowers currently overseas.
New Zealand Students’ Association Co-President Andrew Kirton said the situation for students was getting worse. “This is what happens when the Government allows fees to go up by hundreds of dollars year after year and slashes living allowances for independent students,” he said. “The Government must act now to reduce fees and widen access to allowances to ensure an entire generation of New Zealanders is not burdened with a lifetime of debt.”
Education Minister Trevor Mallard has said that while he knows more needs to be done to improve student loans and allowance rules, Labour is committed to giving students a fair go. He said that between 2000 and 2004, students had been saved $250.9 million in interest charges as a result of the Government’s interest write-off policy. “Labour has kept its word to students and their families by making tertiary education more accessible and more affordable,” he said.

Worldwatch
Botswana professor detained
A seventy-two-year-old Australian professor was arrested last Friday night on the orders of the President of Botswana, shortly before he was due to give a seminar critiquing the growing autocracy in that country. Professor Kenneth Good of the Department of Political and Administrative Studies at the University of Botswana was detained and given forty-eight hours to leave the country after it was learned he was to give a paper, ‘Presidential succession in Botswana: No model for Africa’, at a departmental seminar this week.
Professor Good has appealed the deportation order and the matter is due to be heard on 7 March. The Court has ordered Immigration not to harass Professor Good in the meantime.
Professor Good’s colleagues at the University of Botswana say his deportation is an assault on academic freedom and an affront to the fundamental values of democracy. The Academic and Senior Support Staff Union said the action taken against Professor Good undermined academic integrity and it vowed to support him to the very end.

University heads sacked over skit
Two senior staff at the Baranavichy University in Belarus have been sacked after being accused of failing to control students who poked fun at the country’s President, according to a report in the Times Higher. In the opinion of the provincial authorities, the University’s Pro-Rector and her deputy were responsible for a skit performed at a student comedy festival in Minsk last November. The Brest Regional Executive Committee decided that the behaviour was unacceptable because disrespect for the President was disrespect for the country, and the pair were sacked.

Harvard President to temper style
The President of Harvard University, Lawrence Summers, has promised that he will temper his management style and treat people with more respect following a threat by academic staff to hold a no-confidence vote over his leadership style.
Dr Summers apologised this week for remarks he made at an Economics meeting in January in which he suggested that women might be under-represented in the top tiers of science and mathematics because of innate differences of ability from men.
In a statement reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Mr Summers said that his remarks had substantially underestimated the impact of socialisation and discrimination on the gender gap, and that he should have left such speculation to those more expert in the field.
“I am committed to opening a new chapter in my work with you,” he told staff. “I pledge to you that I will seek to listen more carefully and to temper my words and actions in ways that convey respect and help us work together more harmoniously,” said Mr Summers. “No doubt I will not always get this right. But I am determined to set a different tone.”

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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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