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AUS Tertiary Update

Auckland University case continues under urgency
The Employment Court is today continuing to hear the case being brought by the Association of University Staff (AUS) against Stuart McCutcheon, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Auckland, over his continuing refusal to engage in negotiations for new national collective employment agreements for university staff.
The Court had initially decided to hear evidence on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, and then legal submissions in the first week of May. After the hearing commenced, however, the Court decided to give it greater urgency and is now hearing the remainder of the case today. It expects to be able to deliver a judgement within a fortnight. On this basis, the University and the AUS have agreed that no strike action, lock outs or suspensions will occur until the Court has given its decisions. Accordingly, the strike action planned by unions at the University for today has been cancelled.
Meanwhile, in an unusual move, the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, has written to the AUS and the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee setting out the Government’s position in relation to wage settlements arising out of the current university collective employment agreement negotiations. He has advised that there is no appropriation or contingency set aside in this year’s national Budget to meet any costs arising from the current wage negotiations. While he confirms that there will be a tertiary education allocation in the Budget, it will not contain any specific provisions for costs arising out of wage settlements, and he states that any settlements must be funded in the normal manner by universities.
AUS General Secretary Helen Kelly said that the timing of Trevor Mallard’s letter, on the eve of the court hearing, was particularly inappropriate. She said the letter was referred to a number of times in Court as part of the Vice-Chancellor’s justification for the position he has taken over the bargaining. “The Minister’s letter has been interpreted by the Vice-Chancellor as an endorsement of his approach to bargaining,” she said. “The Minister must have known this would be the case, and it is a direct intrusion into the proceedings.”
Ms Kelly said, however, that the positive message that could be taken from the letter is that funding and salaries are sufficiently important to the Government for Trevor Mallard to seek permission from Finance Minister Michael Cullen to write. Secondly, it confirms that there will be more money for the sector in the Budget.
Negotiations for the new national collective employment agreements are scheduled to begin on 5 May, with five further days scheduled during the month.
The full text of Trevor Mallard’s letter can be found at:

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Auckland University ordered to reinstate sacked lecturer
2. Panel chairs appointed for PBRF
3. Consultation begins on Unitec’s university application
4. Otago roll grows
5. VUT staff to strike
6. Anti-vivisectionists win right to challenge Cambridge
7. Bought essays fail to hit the mark

Auckland University ordered to reinstate sacked lecturer
The University of Auckland has been ordered to reinstate a permanent lecturer it sacked after refusing to confirm his appointment at the end of an initial period of employment. The Employment Relations Authority has also ordered the University to pay the senior lecturer $10,000 compensation and reimburse all salary lost from his dismissal in November until his reinstatement takes effect.
Employment Authority Member James Wilson has also recommended that the University, in consultation with the Association of University Staff, review its continuation policy to ensure it meets minimum standards of natural justice and is available to and understood by staff, and to ensure that those charged with administering the policy are provided with guidance and support regarding their responsibilities.
The Employment Authority ruled that the lecturer, who had been engaged on an “on-going”, “tenurable appointment”, subject to the completion of an initial four-year term, had been unjustifiably dismissed after being told by University management he had not met the standards required of a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland.
AUS General Secretary Helen Kelly said AUS had told the University that its continuation policy, and the process it was using to dismiss him, were unfair and did not meet the basic standards of natural justice. “Instead of listening and changing tack, the University continued to use the policy and, in doing so, caused the AUS member great distress,” Ms Kelly said. “Because of an unfair policy he was powerless to defend himself.”
Helen Kelly said the University’s disregard for staff and its legal obligations was not the behaviour expected from a large and well-resourced public-sector institution with a statutory obligation to be a good employer.”
The AUS will now work with the University to review its appointment and continuation processes.

Panel chairs appointed for PBRF
Twelve leading academics have been appointed by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) to chair the Peer Review Panels as part of the next Performance-Based Research Fund process. They will oversee next year’s quality evaluation, which will provide the grading assessments that will help set PBRF funding, intended to reward and encourage research in tertiary education organisations. The panel chairs will join the three moderators who were appointed last month.
TEC Deputy Chair Kaye Turner said that the moderators and panel chairs were among New Zealand’s pre-eminent academics. “Their commitment to these roles shows a high level of support for the TEC’s PBRF process,” she said. “We have a solid base of experience represented on the panels. All of the moderators and ten of the panel chairs were involved in the first PBRF round.”
The panel chairs will now work with the TEC to select peer review panel members, and will contribute to the design of the guidelines and procedures for the 2006 quality evaluation process.
The new panel chairs are: Professor Bruce Baguley, Auckland University (biological sciences); Professor Kerr Inkson, Massey University (business and economics); Professor Peter Walls, Victoria University (creative and performing arts); Professor Noelene Alcorn, Waikato University (education); Professor John Raine, Massey University (engineering, technology and architecture); Professor Peter Joyce, Otago University (health); Professor Raewyn Dalziel, Auckland University (humanities and law); Dr Ailsa Smith, Lincoln University (Maori knowledge and development); Professor Vernon Squire, Otago University (maths and information sciences); Pat Sullivan, Massey University (medicine and public health); Professor Joe Tradahl, Victoria University (physical sciences); and Professor Michael Corballis, Auckland University (social sciences).

Consultation begins on Unitec’s university application
Formal public consultation began this week on whether the establishment of the Auckland tertiary education provider Unitec as a university would be in the national interest. The Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, has asked the TEC for advice on whether the establishment of Unitec as a university is in the interests of the tertiary education system and the nation as a whole.
The TEC has been asked to carry out the associated consultation process with the sector and other relevant bodies. In turn, the TEC has written to tertiary institutions and has placed advertisements in major newspapers calling for public submissions.
The TEC will then consider the public submissions, and undertake an assessment based on the overall pattern of national and regional provision of tertiary education as it relates to the needs of learners, business and communities and the priorities as expressed through the Government’s Tertiary Education Strategy. Public submissions close on 20 May.
The TEC assessment is in addition to, and independent of, an assessment being undertaken by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to determine whether or not Unitec meets the required characteristics of a university as defined by the Education Act.
More information about the consultation process and the TEC assessment criteria can be found on the TEC website:

Otago roll grows
University of Otago enrolments are up by 2.1 percent on the same time last year, according to the latest figures released this week by the Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Gareth Jones.
An analysis of the enrolments at 31 March shows a 1 percent increase, or 145 equivalent full-time students (EFTS), in the number of domestic enrolments, and an 11.9 percent, or 196 EFTS, increase in international student enrolments. The number of students enrolled in postgraduate studies is up by 13.9 percent.
The analysis showed, however, an expected drop in the number of first year enrolments, attributed to a fall in the number of first-year international students.
Professor Jones said that it was pleasing to have achieved an overall enrolment growth in 2005, and to have achieved it at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, and especially in enrolments for postgraduate research study. He said that while the 2.2 percent decline in domestic first-year enrolments was a “little disappointing”, it seemed to be largely the consequence of a very strong job market, with the tougher entrance requirements of NCEA being a secondary factor.
Although the overall first-year intake is currently down by 3.1 percent, it is still the University’s third highest ever Professor Jones noted.

VUT staff to strike
Staff at Melbourne’s Victoria University of Technology have passed a vote of no-confidence in their Vice-Chancellor, Professor Elizabeth Harman, and will strike for two days on 28 and 29 April. Staff represented by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) have been locked in protracted industrial negotiations since 2003, a period they say has been marked by a deteriorating relationship between staff an management over a range of issues. They include enterprise bargaining, management moves to dismantle the Academic Board and job losses arising from a faculty reorganisation.
NTEU says that since taking over as Vice-Chancellor in October 2003, Professor Harman’s tenure has been associated with an unprecedented sense of crisis and deterioration in the quality of the University’s core activities of teaching, research and scholarship.
A planned forty-eight hour strike over Easter was suspended when Professor Harman agreed to key union items, including a new three-year collective employment agreement, but NTEU says she subsequently reneged on the deal.

Anti-vivisectionists win right to challenge Cambridge
Anti-vivisection campaigners this week won the right to challenge the legality of animal experiments at Britain’s renowned Cambridge University, after evidence emerged that scientists had ignored safeguards that protected laboratory monkeys. The High Court ruling came after an animal rights group managed to infiltrate a laboratory where experiments were being carried out to help develop treatments for Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases.
During the investigation, a campaigner working as a technician discovered monkeys that had the tops of their heads sawn off to help induce strokes in their brains. Some of the animals had been left unattended for up to fifteen hours and were often in poor condition.
A spokesperson for Cambridge University said that, while they understood that many people would find the use of animals in medical research distressing, such research methods must continue if life-saving advances are to be made in medicine.
Education Guardian

Bought essays fail to hit the mark
Students who think they can beat plagiarism detection software or get top marks by paying an internet ghost-writing service to produce essays, may need to think again, according to the Times Higher. An experiment at Loughborough University, in which students bought essays from internet services that write one-off pieces of work, found they were of poor quality, sometimes riddled with mistakes and unlikely to earn more than a low grade.
In an experiment, carried out in conjunction with BBC Radio Four and which will be broadcast in Britain tomorrow night, students were asked to buy a 1500 word, one-off essay on a specified topic from the internet. The purchased essays were then marked and subjected to anti-plagiarism software.
The best of the essays, delivered by Degree Essays UK, was marked at 56 to 58 percent, while the worst, from Essays-R-Us, was marked at 42 percent. It contained basic errors and suffered from “appalling English”.
Essays-R-Us charged £205, but warned customers that they accept no responsibility for any inaccuracies that may arise from time to time.
Researchers also confirmed that the bought essays were more easily picked up by anti-plagiarism software.

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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