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AUS Tertiary Update

Auckland faces prolonged strike action
The University of Auckland faces prolonged industrial action after union members voted by an overwhelming margin to take strike action in protest at their Vice-Chancellor’s refusal to participate in the negotiation of national collective employment agreements and his giving non-union staff a 4.5 percent salary increase.
In a secret ballot held at a stopwork meeting this morning, almost 500 union members voted by a margin of over 97 percent to take industrial action at the University, starting next Thursday with a half-day strike. That will be followed by a series of two-hour strikes over the following weeks, following which union members will meet again, on 12 May, to consider further action.
Speaking on behalf of the combined university unions, AUS General Secretary Helen Kelly said the strength of the vote, and the commitment to sustained industrial action, was the most decisive statement that the University’s staff could make to their Vice-Chancellor. “It shows unmistakably that they are outraged by his behaviour, and will not tolerate his calculated attempts to scuttle the effort being undertaken by the unions to seriously resolve the long-standing funding and salary issues which threaten to compromise the university sector.”
Ms Kelly said the dispute could be easily resolved if Vice-Chancellor now accepted his legal obligations and participated in the national bargaining process.
Meanwhile, the Employment Court has agreed to hear with urgency the case being brought by the AUS against the Vice-Chancellor, firstly with evidence to be heard next Tuesday and Wednesday, and then with closing submissions to follow in the first week of May. The case will be heard before a panel of three judges.
In the legal proceedings filed earlier in the Employment Relations Authority, the AUS has alleged that the Vice-Chancellor has acted unlawfully and is undermining bargaining, not just by his refusal to participate in multi-university negotiations, but also by offering the salary increase to non-union staff on the eve of the negotiations. It is also claiming that the move to give non-union staff the 4.5 percent salary increase is discriminatory.
Formal negotiations between the university unions and the other six universities are scheduled to get under way on 5 May, with six days set aside during the month for negotiation.
Further information on this dispute can be found at:
http://www.aus.ac.nz/national_bargaining/2005/Auckland/background.htm

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Relevance and quality will guide funding
2. SSC to review education agencies
3. Canterbury University/College merger delayed
4. Otago, AUT post healthy surpluses
5. To save, or not to save
6. Brunel lecturers to strike
7. Chinese students head to Britain
8. Russian Minister pelted with eggs

Relevance and quality will guide funding
Relevance and quality will guide tertiary education funding, according to a new Statement of Tertiary Education Priorities (STEP) released by the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, on Tuesday. He told Parliament that STEP makes it clear that low-quality courses and providers have no place in the publicly-funded system, and that the previous approach of funding “anyone who comes in the door” will be scrapped.
Trevor Mallard said that the new STEP, which will be in place until 2007, would focus on “securing the shifts that the tertiary education reforms were designed to bring about”, so that funding priorities would target the provision of education that is of high quality and relevant to New Zealand’s needs.
Funding will shift from areas of low-quality provision to areas of higher strategic provision. “For instance,” Trevor Mallard said, “vocational programmes with relatively poor employment outcomes will not be a funding priority, and neither will programmes that only relate to personal interest or hobbies and have no other benefit.”
Similarly, different types of institutions will be expected to take on more clearly defined roles. Universities will be expected to centre on research and connecting with the rest of the world, polytechnics to provide vocational, regional and niche training and Wananga to provide Maori-centred education and promote the development of kaupapa Maori.
While many tertiary education institutions will be pushed to become more vocational, universities will not, according to Trevor Mallard. “In some cases, they might even end up being less,” he said. “They might be more focused on the strategic areas of the economy of New Zealand; in some cases, more emphasis on biotechnology, ICT, creative industries. What you might see is some shuffling between universities and polytechs about who teaches what, and it might mean that universities become slightly less vocational.”
Under the STEP, government agencies and tertiary education agencies will work together to focus on taking responsibility for, and actively working to improve, the quality of teaching; to ensure access to excellent education and training that is relevant to New Zealand’s needs and the needs and goals of employers, communities and the country; and to enable knowledge, teaching and research activities to better support innovation and the social, economic, environmental and intellectual development of New Zealand.
The latest STEP will guide tertiary education organisations in preparing their profiles for 2006-08, which the Tertiary Education Commission will consider for funding purposes.
The STEP can be located at http://www.minedu.govt.nz/goto/step
Additional reporting by Keith Ng, “Salient”.

SSC to review education agencies
The State Services Commission is to review the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, the Tertiary Education Commission and the Tertiary Advisory Monitoring Unit as part of what is described as the on-going stocktake of the capability of education sector agencies.
In a move that some have interpreted as a response to funding problems with community and sub-degree programmes and continuing public criticism of the agencies to be reviewed, the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard said that, while the review is routine, it will focus on quality assurance and value for money.
Trevor Mallard said that the tertiary education system had been through a period of sustained change aimed at lifting the quality of teaching and learning, and lifting the education standards of the poorest achievers. “Concerns have been raised recently about agency capacity as these reforms are bedded in,” he said. “It is now timely to review the roles, responsibilities and capabilities of the three agencies. On the basis of this, [the review] will make recommendations to ministers on what work may be needed going forward, to ensure the educational needs of New Zealanders will be met.”
The review will look at the current roles and responsibilities of the agencies, and the clarity of those roles; the capability of the agencies to undertake their roles and responsibilities; the issues and pressures impacting on the agencies; the effect of current structures and governance arrangements; and whether there is any work needed to address any resulting issues.
In Parliament, the Opposition Education spokesperson, Bill English, asked Trevor Mallard to confirm that the Government had spent $210 million setting up the Tertiary Education Commission and that it has, in the last two years, seen massive blow-outs in low-value tertiary education courses, and is currently investigating rumours that there were 30,000 enrolments in diving courses in 2004.
The review will be reported to the Minister by 20 May.

Canterbury University/College merger delayed
The University of Canterbury Council has agreed to support a merger with the Christchurch College of Education, by the beginning of 2007, however, rather than from 1 January 2006 as previously proposed. Canterbury Vice-Chancellor Professor Roy Sharp told his Council that a number of elements of the approval and configuration process for a merger were outside the University’s control, leading to the decision to delay the implementation. One of those factors is election-year timing, and the difficulty of gaining ministerial and Cabinet approval, a required part of any merger proposal, during that time.
Support for a merger is subject to the completion of a detailed business case which is expected to be presented to a special meeting of the Academic Board before going to the University Council on 30 May.
The College of Education Council will consider the case at its Council meeting next week.

Otago, AUT post healthy surpluses
Both the University of Otago and the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) have posted healthy annual operating surpluses for 2004. At $16.35 million, Otago’s surplus is more than three times ahead of its $5.1 million budget expectation, while AUT posted a surplus of $7.1 million, $1.4 million ahead of its budget.
The Otago Daily Times reports that Otago University trusts also had a strong year, generating an operating surplus of a further $14 million, more than three times the $4.5 million 2003 surplus. The University’s Chief Financial Officer, John Patrick, described the latest core annual financial report as encouraging. It was a big improvement over recent low levels of profitability, he is reported as saying. There had been a disappointing result in 2003, when the University had achieved only a $3.1 million core surplus.
AUT’s Annual Report says that 2004 was very successful financially, with total revenue increasing by $22 million, or 13 percent, and an increase in total equity of $23 million, or 16 percent. Enrolments grew by 3.3 percent from 15,226 equivalent full-time students in 2003 to 15,728 in 2004.

To save, or not to save
The Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, has told Tertiary Update that work on a tertiary education savings scheme is going ahead, notwithstanding a story last week in which we stated that it had been shelved because of policy design issues.
Instead, it has been confirmed that work on the savings scheme is proceeding, but will not be part of this year’s Budget savings initiatives. A spokesperson was unable to say when details might be announced.
Meanwhile, a proposal for a compulsory savings scheme, which would only allow withdrawals for specific purposes, including tertiary education and repaying student loans, has been floated by a group called the New Zealand Institute. It would cost $4 billion and has been rejected at this stage by Finance Minister Michael Cullen on the basis that it is unaffordable.

Worldwatch
Brunel lecturers to strike
Lecturers at Britain’s Brunel University have voted to take industrial action, including a one-day strike, over the University’s plan to make sixty staff redundant. Members of the Association of University Teachers (AUT) will take industrial action over the next month, after 71 percent of those participating in the ballot voted in favour of the action.
The vote followed the announcement by the University that it would make redundant academics it considered research-inactive in a move to boost its research output ahead of Britain’s next Research Assessment Exercise in 2008.
AUT General Secretary Sally Hunt has condemned the handling of the dispute by Brunel’s Vice-Chancellor, Steven Schwartz’s, and welcomed the strike ballot result. “The depth of anger that Professor Schwartz has caused among our members is reflected in the over-two-thirds majority for strike action,” she said. “We would urge the University management to step back from the brink by an immediate lifting of the threat to make staff compulsorily redundant.”
The AUT has also threatened injunction action to protect staff against compulsory redundancies.
Professor Schwartz is reported in the Times Higher as saying overall staffing numbers would not be cut at the University, as ninety new research-active staff would be recruited and £160 million spent on new facilities.

Chinese students head to Britain
Britain’s Higher Education Statistics Agency has reported that nearly one in six overseas students in Britain is Chinese, as universities are reported to be looking increasingly to overseas students to boost flagging funding levels. More than 12 percent of the Chinese students were studying Business Studies, and 9.2 percent studying Biological and Social Sciences. Since 2002-03, the number of Chinese students has risen from 35,155 to 47,740 last year.

Russian Minister pelted with eggs
Russia’s Minister of Education, Andrei Fursenko was pelted with eggs and heckled as he recently revealed plans for a new three-tier university system led by twenty elite institutions and 200 second-tier institutions. He was announcing the first of the “all-Russian” state universities during a visit to Krasnoyask, capital of one of Russia’s largest regions in Siberia.
Mr Fursenko was stuck by two raw eggs thrown by protesters angry at plans to create the new universities through mergers and closures of other institutions.
The Siberian university will house 80,000 students, and has been chosen to be the first of the elite group of universities because, according to Mr Fursenko, Siberia is the “heart of Russia”.
Times Higher

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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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