AUS Tertiary Update
Industrial tension simmers at Auckland
Industrial tension at the University of Auckland appears destined to intensify with the Vice-Chancellor, Stuart McCutcheon, set to give non-union staff a 4.5 percent pay increase from next Monday. That is despite an application by the Association of University Staff (AUS) to the Employment Court for an urgent ruling that the Vice-Chancellor is acting unlawfully by refusing to enter national multi-employer negotiations, and denying union members a pay increase unless they engage in single-enterprise bargaining.
A decision was expected from the Employment Court on Tuesday, but it has now been delayed until at least Friday this week.
Meanwhile, the University has reacted to the lead story in Tertiary Update last week, in which it was reported that it had further breached the Employment Relations Act by failing to pass on to AUS the names of hundreds of new staff wanting information on union membership. In a broadcast email, the University’s Human Resources Director, Kath Clarke, claimed that the breach was not intentional, and was corrected as soon as the University was made aware of it. She said that staff could now be assured that if they had requested the union be notified that they had joined the University, their details had now been forwarded.
AUS General Secretary Helen Kelly said, however, that it was difficult to accept the explanation that the employer’s failure to pass on names was unintentional. “The problem was not corrected as soon as the University was made aware of it, as it claims,” she said. “The issue was raised with the employer on a number of occasions since 2000, including with the then Director of Human Resources, Doug Northey, and more recently with some of the current human resources staff. From time to time, some names were forwarded to AUS, but then it would stop again.”
“This employer seems to be very efficient when it is attempting to undermine the union, such as by offering non-union staff a pay increase, refusing to bargain and threatening to cut off the union’s access to the University email system,” Ms Kelly said. “It seems, however, to have trouble when it comes to meeting its obligations to the union, as evidenced by the fact that the names of some two hundred and fifty current staff were not forwarded to the AUS.”
The Employment Court decision will be notified once it has been received by the AUS.
Also in Tertiary
Update this week
1. Otago VC calls for increased university funding
2. 2004 a good year for Canterbury
3. Wintec sacks staff, posts large surplus
4. Christchurch PTE faces strike action
5. Teaching Matters Forum meetings in May
6. Oxford dons rebel against VC’s plans
7. Egyptian professors protest government interference in academic life
8. Woman earns £100,000 helping students cheat
Otago VC calls for increased
The University of Otago Vice-Chancellor, Professor David Skegg, has described the underfunding of New Zealand universities as an issue of major concern in his foreword to the University’s 2004 Annual Report. Professor Skegg says that while the Government has invested considerably more in tertiary education, this has been largely directed at polytechnics (including community education) and wananga rather than research-led universities. “Consequently, there is a constant struggle to achieve international standards of scholarship and research,” he writes. “The problem was highlighted this year by the revelation of serious budgetary problems in Health Sciences, particularly Medicine and Dentistry. A major concern is that, in employing clinical academic staff, the University is not funded to match the salaries offered by public hospitals.”
Professor Skegg continued: “Our degrees are very highly regarded and much research of global significance is being reported. I am hopeful that the New Zealand Government will recognise the need to make a greater investment in research-led universities such as Otago, as they hold the key to the social and economic progress of the nation.”
Professor Skegg’s foreword refers to the “vigorous debate” over the level of tuition fees for both domestic and international students, noting that the Tertiary Education Commission had approved fee increases of 10 percent for medical and dental students for 2005.
Continuing concerns over the training of medical specialists were also expressed this week by the University’s former Dean of Medicine, Professor John Campbell, in his role as Chair of the New Zealand Medical Council. In response to reported shortages, he said that New Zealand must train its own medical specialists, and should offer fewer medical school places to [high fee-paying] overseas students. “We’re not training enough of our own and we’re a First World country,” he told The New Zealand Herald. “You really have to ask why we are not self sufficient.”
The University of Otago Annual Report can be found at:
a good year for Canterbury
The University of Canterbury’s audited accounts for 2004 show a financial surplus of $6.1 million, ahead of both the budgeted figure and the financial recovery plan target for the year. The University’s income grew to $185.2 million, up $4.8 million on 2003, and nett total assets were up by $11 million to $368 million.
Chancellor Robin Mann said the result had been a particularly good one, being ahead of where the University had undertaken to be in terms of the recovery plan, negotiated with the Tertiary Advisory Monitoring Unit, after recording a $4.2 million operating deficit in 2001.
The University’s trust funds also grew during 2004, reaching $76.5 million and generating $9.1 million in revenue.
In the University’s Annual Report, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Roy Sharp, said that 2004 was an excellent year, building on the advances of 2003 in the areas of enrolments, finances, planning and community and stakeholder engagement. “In addition, fresh ground was broken with a new organisational structure and a number of public acknowledgements of the University’s excellence in teaching and research,” he said.
Meanwhile, enrolments at Canterbury this year are up by 1.4 percent (176), with both domestic and international student numbers higher than at the same time last year by 0.6 percent (62) and 5.5 percent (114) respectively. First-year domestic enrolments have grown by 1 percent (26), ending the downward trend of the last few years.
Wintec sacks staff, posts large
Around thirty-seven staff at the Waikato Institute of Technology have been made redundant less than a month after the institution unveiled a $54.4 million campus development plan, and at the same time as it reported a $1.7 million operational surplus for 2004. The surplus is an increase of more than $1.1 million over that posted in 2003.
According to the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE), the staff cuts were the culmination of a series of reviews in which the institution sought to achieve a savings target of $1.6 million. The ASTE National President, Lloyd Woods, said he understood that the cuts were made in order that Wintec could borrow money to finance the campus development plan.
Wintec Chief Executive Mark Flowers is reported in the Waikato Times saying that the reviews were necessary in order to bring staffing costs down to the same level as other organisations. He said that staff numbers had not been reviewed in recent years, so the layoffs were a result of Wintec playing “catch-up”. “In the short term, it’s just to make sure that we are financially sustainable,” he said.
Lloyd Woods denied that the institution had been overstaffed, and said that the cuts, coming at the same time as the operational surplus was revealed, would have a profoundly negative effect on staff morale. “We’ve got a lot of unhappy people up there,” he said.
Christchurch PTE faces strike action
Union members at the Design and Arts College, a private training establishment in Christchurch, will take strike action next week in protest at the breakdown of employment agreement negotiations, after rejecting a 2 percent salary offer. Members of ASTE had initially claimed an increase of 5 percent.
ASTE National President Lloyd Woods said that union members were frustrated by the refusal of the College to make a decent salary offer, and strike action now seemed inevitable. “The vote to take strike action was unanimous, as the 2 percent offer was unacceptable and failed to recognise either the increased productivity of staff or the increased cost of living,” he said. “Accepting the offer would mean a further erosion of salaries against the accepted standards in the sector.”
Mr Woods said that, while the staff were reluctant to take strike action, they were entitled to a fair salary deal and were prepared to fight for one.
Teaching Matters Forum meetings in
The Teaching Matters Forum will be hosting a series of regional meetings around New Zealand during May as part of the consultation process for the establishment of the National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence. The Forum was established by the Minister of Education to provide advice on the setting up of the National Centre, expected to be underway later this year, and to engage with the sector on supporting effective teaching and learning. It is also intended to promote effective teaching practice.
The objective of the May meetings will be to identify needs in ensuring effective tertiary teaching and learning, and looking at how the National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence can assist teachers.
Those attending will have an opportunity to meet with Forum members, along with tertiary education teachers and officials from across the sector.
More information about the Forum and regional meetings, and a discussion document on options for the form and function of the National Centre of Teaching Excellence can be found at:
Oxford dons rebel against VC’s plans
Dons launched an historic challenge this week to plans to hand over more powers to business as part of a shake-up of the rules and regulations that govern Britain’s Oxford University. In a big test of the leadership of the new Vice-Chancellor, John Hood, more than 100 of the University’s senior staff questioned moves, which they fear could impinge on academic freedom, to restructure the way the university is run. They are worried the proposals are being rushed through without proper consultation.
Professor Hood, who was appointed last year, stoked controversy in February when he published proposals to streamline Oxford’s decision-making system. It included a plan to set up a small board of trustees, composed of alumni with strong corporate links, which would take over the running of the University.
But the idea that Oxford’s future should be left in the hands of business leaders for the first time in 800 years has angered the Congregation, the dons’ ancient parliament of 3,552 academics.
Earlier this week, it emerged that the Congregation had tabled a second motion warning of a threat to academic freedom, which it says is being undermined by the University’s academic strategy that seeks joint college/university reviews of individuals’ performances.
Professor Hood’s proposal, set out in a green paper in February, would see a 150-strong academic council, including all thirty-nine heads of colleges, brought into a single structure.
Egyptian professors protest government
interference in academic life
Academic staff at two Egyptian universities staged pro-democracy demonstrations this week, calling for an end to interference by Egypt’s state security services in academic life, including the content of lectures and recruitment decisions by individual departments.
Staff at both Cairo and Menia Universities supported the silent protests called by an informal faculty organisation, known as the Ninth of March group, which holds an annual ceremony to reassert the autonomy of Egyptian universities
Protests organised by academics which explicitly criticise the state are a new phenomenon in Egypt, where universities have long been largely politics-free zones. Students are forbidden to distribute information about political parties, and student-council elections are monitored by state-security officers to ensure that national politics are not discussed on the campus.
One participant said that police interference was a constant thorn in the side of Egyptian academics. “For example, last year I invited a TV anchor to deliver a guest lecture on globalization,” he said. “The security services ordered me to cancel the lecture, with no explanation. Now more of us are speaking out against this interference.”
Faculty protests are expected to continue on other campuses.
Chronicle of Higher Education
£100,000 helping students cheat
A British woman who earns £100,000 a year helping students cheat their way to everything from undergraduate degrees to PhDs has said she doesn't care if people think she is a “degenerate”. Dorit Chomer lives a life of luxury by selling thousands of essays, papers and dissertations for fees ranging from £50 to £2,000. From a spare room at her £1 million home in Finchley she controls an empire which has become one of Britain's most prolific sources of plagiarised material, used by students from every walk of life.
The Evening Standard
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: firstname.lastname@example.org