AUS Tertiary Update
Tertiary sector set for shake-up?
The Minister of Education has signalled major changes across the entire tertiary education sector in the wake of Christchurch Polytechnic’s Cool It debacle last year, and continuing turmoil over various allegations against Te Wananga o Aotearoa. Responding to questions at a packed press conference on Monday, Trevor Mallard hinted strongly at changes to both funding mechanisms and governance structures.
Trevor Mallard told reporters that there had been a major shift in funding in the past seven to eight years from degree to non-degree programmes, many of which he described as “useless”. He said the growth in non-degree programmes, which are funded at approximately the same level as degree courses, had not been planned, and he was not convinced taxpayers were getting good value for money. He described courses in which students were simply given a DVD or video to learn from as a much different proposition from the classroom teaching government had envisaged when it set funding rates. “Technology has meant that we have had an enormous amount of change in the cost of provision for courses. In some cases this has been exploited by institutions….The taxpayer just cannot stand paying $5,000 for something that’s worth $200 or $100,” he said.
In what appeared to be frustration at his limited power to intervene more directly at Te Wananga o Aotearoa, Trevor Mallard told reporters that governance structures suitable for a university may no longer be appropriate for other types of tertiary education providers. He pointed out that the whole sector was governed under rules necessitated by the statutory protections of institutional autonomy and academic freedom given to universities, but a polytechnic on the West Coast, he mused, did not have those same characteristics and need not necessarily be governed in the same way.
Also in Tertiary Update this week . . .
1. Review should mean less waste in tertiary education courses
2. Wananga hands over control, whistleblowers invited
3. Massey tops spending on marketing
4. College and university talk merger
5. PBRF panel member nominations close Friday
6. VCs’ salaries at “outrageous levels”
7. Ukraine orders universities to reinstate students
8. Australian university market to be deregulated
Review should mean less waste in tertiary
Reinforcing the Minister’s comments about tertiary institutions was the announcement by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) that it is to review the strategic relevance, quality and value-for-money of a number of courses run by private tertiary education providers, and to examine overlapping provision in the sector, including the duplication of trades-focused training, between industry training organisations and institutes of technology and polytechnics. Included amongst the courses to be reviewed for their usefulness are diving, hairdressing and a number associated with the beauty and cosmetics industry.
The review has been welcomed by university staff, who say it should lead to less money being wasted on tertiary courses which are of low quality and value, and which should never have received public funding in the first place. Association of University Staff (AUS) National President Professor Nigel Haworth said that it should result in additional funding being available for universities, which are providing high-quality courses and which are accountable and transparent in their operations. He said that university staff are tired of working in an under-funded environment when they know money is being pumped into unsatisfactory courses in other parts of the sector, sometimes in direct competition to quality courses in universities. “Universities are particularly accountable for both their funding and the quality of their courses. They have representative councils, active student bodies, active alumni and unions. They are accountable under numerous statutes and are audited by an academic audit unit. No other tertiary institutions are so closely scrutinised,” he said.
“We currently have a number of non-university institutions being funded to teach degrees which produce research results insufficient even to register in the Performance-Based Research Fund Quality Evaluation exercise. By funding degree courses in universities, government gets the double benefit of teaching and research,” said Professor Haworth. “We hope that this review will remove the inequity and enable funding to be redirected to universities, where it is both deserved and needed.”
Wananga hands over
control, whistleblowers invited
Te Wananga o Aotearoa (TWOA) agreed yesterday to hand over its financial control to a Crown Manager following another week in which allegations and counter-allegations continued to swirl around the embattled institution. It brought to an end something of a stand-off between the Minister of Education and the Wananga after its Chief Executive, Rongo Wetere, had rejected the Minister’s attempt to control its finances while an Auditor-General’s investigation takes place. Earlier, Mr Wetere told National Radio that the Government was trying to force the Wananga into insolvency and later, at the Hui Taumata Maori economic development summit, said that Trevor Mallard had “lost the plot” and was “trying to bring the Wananga down”.
The tension escalated after Trevor Mallard announced a package of actions and interventions in response to concerns and allegations about TWOA. They included the immediate appointment of a Crown Observer, Brian Roche, to the Council, broadening the terms of an Auditor-General’s inquiry into a range of allegations made against TWOA, changing the Wananga’s borrowing conditions by requiring it to delegate financial powers to the Crown Observer, who would then become a Crown Manager, and withholding a $20 million suspensory loan.
One of the more unusual features of Trevor Mallard’s package was the appointment of an “in-confidence” point of contact for whistleblowers who have matters they consider should be investigated under the Protected Disclosures Act. The move appears to be an attempt to stem the flow of information to opposition political parties which have continued to make further accusations of impropriety against TWOA. In the latest, ACT MP Ken Shirley alleged that TWOA awarded a non-tendered $12 million contract to an air conditioning and refrigeration company owned by Mr Wetere’s son, also a salaried executive of TWOA.
Prime Minister Helen Clark also joined in the fray, asking to table documents in Parliament showing that Mr Wetere was a front-runner for office in the National Party.
Massey tops spending on
Massey University topped spending by public tertiary institutions on marketing in 2004, according to the latest estimates provided to the New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA) by AC Neilson. Massey’s bill was $3.16 million, up by more than 47 percent on its 2003 figure of $2.15 million and more than $1 million ahead of the nearest other university, Auckland, which spent an estimated $2 million.
Public tertiary institutions collectively forked out a record amount of more than $26.5 million on their marketing for the year, $3 million more than in 2003, and $13 million more than in 1999.
Among the other big spenders was the Auckland University of Technology at $1.6 million, up by 56 percent from 2003, Christchurch Polytechnic at $1.45 million, Manukau Institute of Technology at $2.5 million, University of Otago at $1.65 million, Open Polytechnic of New Zealand at $3.1 million, and Waikato University at $1.1 million. The Wananga o Aotearoa spent $666,000, up a massive 97 percent from its $338,000 in 2003.
NZUSA Co-President Camilla Belich said it was sickening that students had paid out millions more in tuition fees just so the public tertiary institutions could go out and spend “a whopping” $26 million in marketing simply to compete with each other.
“These figures prove that last year’s $19 million increase in fees was completely unjustified. Students would be outraged to know that the real reason they are paying hundreds of dollars in increased fees is for yet more fruitless marketing campaigns,” said Andrew Kirton, the other NZUSA Co-President.
university talk merger
The University of Canterbury and the Christchurch College of Education have announced they are to hold formal merger talks following the recent announcement by the College that its continued independence is unsustainable. The intention of the talks is to develop a business case for a merger and a proposed structure for a merged institution. A detailed proposal, including a consideration of the academic issues, will be presented to the next meetings of the respective Councils in March and April.
The decision to enter detailed talks follows a resolution by the College Council at its February meeting to seek a merger from 1 January 2006 with a university, with Canterbury named as the most eligible candidate.
College Principal Dr Graham Stoop said the move reflected New Zealand and international trends towards teacher training being undertaken within a university setting, in line with other professions such as law and engineering.
University Chancellor Dr Robin Mann said his Council had taken a very positive view of the proposal to merge the two institutions. “There’s been a long association between the University and College and we are very good friends. I look forward to seeing the detailed proposal and the business case next month,” he said.
If both institutions elect to pursue a merger they will need to consult the Tertiary Advisory Monitoring Unit and the Tertiary Education Commission, following which a final decision will be made by the Minister of Education.
The Dunedin College of Education will consider its future when its Council meets this month, but it has no immediate merger plans in mind.
PBRF panel member nominations close
Nominations for the twelve Performance-Based Research Fund peer review panels for the 2006 Quality Evaluation close this Friday. The TEC says it is keen to ensure that the panels comprise people of high standing in their respective subject areas, and that each panel has an appropriate range of expertise to cover the subject area for which it is responsible.
Current panel chairs and moderators will assist in the selection of panel members using agreed panel selection criteria. It is expected that membership of the panels will be announced by late April.
Further information can be found on the TEC website www.tec.govt.nz
VCs’ salaries at “outrageous levels”
The salaries of the United Kingdom’s vice-chancellors have been labeled as outrageous by lecturers’ union NATFHE after it was revealed this week that they have doubled in the last decade to an average of £210,000 for the top twenty earners.
While the pay for vice-chancellors has doubled, lecturers’ salaries have only increased by between 35 and 40 percent over the same time. NATFHE spokesperson Roger Kline said that while several vice-chancellors say their institutions are under financial pressure and are struggling to implement the national pay agreement, they are able to reward themselves handsomely. “This will go down badly with teaching staff and researchers whose recent pay rises have barely kept up with inflation.”
Leading the vice-chancellors’ salary field is Professor Laura Tyson of University College London who picked up £310,000 in the 2003-04 year, while the biggest winner was Dr Brian Roper, Vice-Chancellor of the industrially troubled London Metropolitan University. His salary has increased from £84,888 in 1994 to £190,000 last year, an increase of 124 percent in the decade.
orders universities to reinstate students
Universities in the Ukraine must reinstate students and staff who were expelled or fired last year because of their political activity during the presidential elections, according to an order issued last week by the Ministry of Education and Science.
The Ministry warned that those who failed to comply with the order, issued on behalf of President Viktor Yushcenko, would be held liable for violating the constitutional rights of the affected students and staff.
Chronicle of Higher Education
university market to be deregulated
Overseas colleges and private universities will be encouraged to open up in Australia as part of the Howard Government’s higher education reforms. Education Minister Brendan Nelson has outlined a push to relax the strict guidelines that currently stop overseas and privately-run institutions claiming the title of university, saying that a shake-up would offer students greater choice.
Academics and the Australian Labor Party say that the plan would devalue the reputation of Australian courses, and would rob the work “university” of meaning.
Dr Nelson is to release a report recommending a major overhaul of the “national protocols” governing which institutions can claim the title of university and what academics can teach. If implemented, the changes would also present a dramatic departure from the rules governing publicly-funded universities, allowing them to become research-only or teaching-only institutions.
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: email@example.com