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AUS Tertiary Update

Auckland breaches employment obligations, again
In a breach of the Employment Relations Act (ERA), the University of Auckland has failed to pass on to the Association of University Staff (AUS) hundreds of requests from new staff wanting information on union membership.
The Act stipulates that an employer must, where a new employee agrees, inform the union that the new employee has entered into an individual employment agreement by starting work as a new employee. At Auckland, new staff were given the option of ticking a box requesting that the union be notified that they had entered into an individual employment agreement with the University. If they subsequently joined the union, they would then be covered by the terms and conditions of the relevant collective agreement. Since this obligation was introduced in October 2000, hundreds of staff have “ticked the box”, but the University has not passed on the information to the AUS.
AUS General Secretary Helen Kelly said that the University simply didn’t bother to forward the names on. “Not passing on this information could have denied those staff union membership and frustrated their opportunity to be covered by collective agreements,” she said. “We recently contacted all non-union staff in the University and were told by a number that, although they had ‘ticked the box’ they had not subsequently heard from the union. Some assumed the union had simply not bothered to contact them, while others thought ‘ticking the box’ meant they had joined the union.”
Helen Kelly said that AUS wrote to the University in March and pointed out that there was a penalty included in the ERA for this type of breach, and requested the names of all the people who had asked for the union to be notified of their employment at the University. “We have now received the names of around two hundred and fifty current staff whose names weren’t passed on to the AUS. There are, presumably, many more that have since left the University,” she said.
Helen Kelly said the explanation from Auckland’s Human Resources Manager, Perry Skilton, that “the system of informing AUS did break down for a period”, was implausible. “The University’s failure was consistent with its behaviour over the last few years, and its attitude to union membership generally,” she said. “The ERA stipulates that every employer who fails to comply with the requirement to pass on the names is liable to a penalty imposed by the Employment Relations Authority. AUS is now considering whether to pursue this matter further.”
Meanwhile, the Employment Court is expected to give a decision early next week on the substantive case being brought by the AUS against the University of Auckland, after the University refused to engage in national collective bargaining and gave non-union staff a 4.5 percent salary increase.

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Doubt over claim that NZ degrees amongst most expensive
2. $21m boost for international education
3. Changes to international student policy
4. Students, international union weigh in behind AUS
5. Graduate teachers strike at Yale and Columbia
6. Canada invites international graduates to stay
7. Global academic network formed

Doubt over claim that NZ degrees amongst most expensive
A claim by an independent Washington-based research institute that university study in New Zealand is among the most expensive in the world has been labeled seriously flawed and based on out-of-date information by the Acting Minister of Education, David Benson-Pope.
Global Higher Education Rankings – Affordability and Accessibility in Comparative Perspectives 2005, published by the Educational Policy Institute (EPI), showed that out of fifteen countries analysed, New Zealand was the second-least affordable, behind Japan. Sweden was ranked as the “most affordable” because of a combination of low education costs, generous grants and the high take-up of loans.
The report compared the countries on the basis of six measures of affordability which, taken together, provided a weighted overall ranking. It placed New Zealand near the bottom of the ranking because of high costs and low national incomes. Access to higher education in New Zealand is not ranked in the report.
David Benson-Pope disagrees, saying that the survey bases most of its findings on data which are incorrect. “The level of fees is overstated, and the data are based on figures from 2000 and 2001. It ignores the effect of major changes in student support policy and assistance introduced since then,” he said. “Fee information is also unweighted, and assumes a distribution of students across fields of study that bears little resemblance to reality. The Institute has also misrepresented average student loan data from the Student Loan Scheme annual report, again to New Zealand’s disadvantage.”
Mr Benson-Pope also said that New Zealand’s cost of living figures presented in the report were “just not true”, and had understated New Zealanders’ incomes by 10 percent while overstating the incomes in countries such as Canada, Japan and Ireland.
Students, however, are demanding an immediate end to high fees and restricted access to student allowances, saying the report proves that tertiary education in New Zealand is unaffordable. New Zealand University Students’ Association Co-President Andrew Kirton said that New Zealand was ranked a “shameful” fifteenth out of sixteen countries, behind Australia, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The full report can be found at:

$21m boost for international education
The Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, has announced additional Budget spending of $21 million on international education over the next four years to further boost the industry in New Zealand and strengthen bilateral links offshore. Trevor Mallard said the new funding would lower the cost of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) study to domestic levels for new international students in New Zealand, where they are supervised by leading researchers at New Zealand universities, from the beginning of 2006. It also allows the children of all international PhD students to attend schools without paying international student fees
Speaking from India, where he is leading the first-ever education mission to that country, Trevor Mallard said the new funding would speed up the establishment of the off-shore education counselor network with three new education counsellors. It allows for the expansion of the network from four to at least seven countries or regions by the end of 2006. The network aims to strengthen long-term education partnerships with key countries and regions.
“This brings the government’s investment in international education to over $70 million across the five years from June 2004 to 30 June 2009,” said Trevor Mallard. “This underpins our commitment to increasing and strengthening education as a key part of New Zealand’s strategic relationships with the rest of the world. It also reflects our desire to help the industry diversify across more markets.”
While in India, Trevor Mallard signed a new India-New Zealand Education Co-operation Arrangement intended to strengthen and deepen the ties between education institutions and academics in India and New Zealand.

Changes to international student policy
In tandem with Trevor Mallard’s Budget announcement from India, Immigration Minister Paul Swain has released details of what are described as enhancements to immigration policy which will make it easier for international students to work and study in New Zealand. Mr Swain said the changes will allow eligible students to work for up to twenty hours per week during term, instead of the current fifteen, and give more opportunities for international students to get work permits after they have completed their studies. In addition, anyone undertaking a course of twelve months or more will be able to work full-time during the summer. Partners of students studying in areas of “absolute” skill shortage, and partners of all postgraduate students, will be able to apply for an open work permit for the duration of the student’s course of study.
Mr Swain said he was determined the increased work opportunities for international students, which will come into effect on 4 July, would not affect New Zealanders wanting work.

Students, international union weigh in behind AUS
Students are urging the Government to increase funding to tertiary institutions to cover staff pay increases following a letter, reported last week, from the Minister of Education to the AUS and the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee saying there would be no money in this year’s Budget for staff salary increases.
“Students support pay increases for tertiary institution staff, but this should not come at the expense of students,” said Camilla Belich, NZUSA Co-President. “It is the Government’s responsibility to adequately fund the tertiary sector. Staff will never have internationally comparable pay levels, which would attract and retain academic staff, unless Government wakes up to this reality.”
At the same time, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), representing more than 48,000 academics in universities and colleges across Canada, has written to the University of Auckland’s Vice-Chancellor expressing concern at his behaviour relating to national bargaining.
The letter, from CAUT President Loretta Czernis and Executive Director James Turk, urges the Vice-Chancellor to “abandon his ill-considered position” of refusing to bargain nationally. “AUS has worked diligently to encourage vice-chancellors and staff to work together to end the competition among New Zealand universities that has made it easier for the government to refuse to meet the funding needs of New Zealand universities,” they wrote. “But you, alone among vice-chancellors, have attempted to sabotage this effort by refusing to bargain nationally and, at the same time, offering non-union staff a 4.5% pay increase. The latter is arguably a violation of employment law as well as a nasty and divisive action.”
It continues: “Your actions are marring [Auckland’s] reputation, and, should they continue, will cause us and other national associations of academic staff to ask our members to think again about accepting positions at Auckland or participation in events sponsored by Auckland.”
The CAUT letter can be viewed on the AUS website.

Graduate teachers strike at Yale and Columbia
Graduate teachers at Yale and Columbia Universities in the United States are on strike this week in an attempt to get back the right to form a union, after the Bush-appointed National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) stripped them of the protections of US labour law. It is the first-ever multi-campus strike in the history of the Ivy League, and is expected to cause significant disruption as both Universities use graduate assistants to deliver a significant portion of their undergraduate teaching.
On 13 July, 2004, the NLRB ruled that the right of graduate teachers to form a union is not protected under US labour law. It reversed a four-year-old unanimous NLRB decision that previously gave graduate teachers the right to bargain collectively. The two Democrats on the Board objected strenuously, calling the ruling “woefully out of touch with contemporary academic reality.”
Significant majorities of graduate employees at both Universities have stated their preference to deal with employment issues by forming a union and bargaining a contract with their employer. This majority preference in favor of unionisation on both campuses has been certified by public officials in New York and Connecticut.
The graduate teachers are also demanding that their Universities voluntarily recognize them outside of US labour law.
More information can be found at:

Canada invites international graduates to stay
While the New Zealand Government moved this week to make this country more attractive to international students, the measures it has adopted look very similar to recent moves in Canada. In a bid to increase international student numbers from 50,000 to 70,000, the Canadian Government has just announced that it will spend $C10 million over the next five years on two pilot schemes to “help make Canada a destination of choice for international students”.
The first of the schemes, announced by the Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, will allow international students at public institutions to work off-campus while completing their studies so that they can “experience the Canadian labor market and gain a wider understanding of Canadian society”.
The second scheme will entitle students to work for two years, rather than the current one year, after graduation, on the condition they work in cities other than Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver.
Other measures being taken to attract foreign students include allowing them to transfer between programmes of study and institutions without applying for a change to the conditions of their study permit.
Most international students in Canada come from South Korea, followed by China, Japan, the United States and France.

Global academic network formed
“Academici”, a recently-established global networking platform linking academics, academic-related associations, societies, academic services, students and academic-related business has been set up by a group of academics in the United Kingdom. The platform functions on three key levels: as a networking tool among colleagues; as a discussion base with specialist forums moderated by peer-reviewed experts; and as a central reservation for publications with links to relevant libraries and academic services.
“Academici” can be found at:

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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