AUS Tertiary Update
Auckland staff get 4.5% as national negotiations
Negotiations for new national collective employment agreements for university staff resumed in Wellington yesterday afternoon, getting off to a late start after again being disrupted by airport closures. They are continuing today. The unions are responding to claims which have been made by the various university employers, and it is hoped that the universities will table their initial salary offers and advise their position on inclusion in the proposed national agreements.
Meanwhile, the University of Auckland has agreed to extend to union members the same 4.5 percent salary increase it paid to non-union staff from 1 May, and it will continue to engage in national bargaining. This follows mediation after a previously-reported Employment Court decision which held that Auckland must join with the other universities in the multi-employer bargaining process, and that its offer to non-union staff alone “…should not have been in a manner which could be seen to undermine the union’s position in the bargaining or the bargaining itself”.
University of Auckland representatives had previously attended and observed the national negotiations, but had refused to formally participate.
In a further twist, Auckland’s Vice-Chancellor, Stuart McCutcheon, initiated bargaining with the Association of University Staff (AUS) and other unions for a single-employer collective agreement for general staff at the University. This was believed to be a tactical attempt by the University to counter its involvement in national bargaining and force the unions into concurrent single-employer bargaining. As a part of that process, the unions were required, under the provisions of the Employment Relations Act, to ballot union members to determine their willingness to participate. The ballot, which concluded last week, resulted in 91.4 percent of the 385 staff who took part voting against bargaining for a single-employer collective agreement.
The AUS General Secretary, Helen Kelly, said the decisive result showed that general staff members at Auckland resoundingly rejected local bargaining as proposed by the Vice-Chancellor. “The Vice-Chancellor’s interim payment of a 4.5 percent salary increase for Auckland staff is a good start, we now need to get on with the national bargaining process and together find positive national solutions to salary and funding problems,” she said.
Meetings will be held to report progress to union members at all universities in the first fortnight in June. Negotiations will continue following those meetings, on 14 and 15 June.
Also in Tertiary Update
1. University staff call for more investment in tertiary education
2. Unitec claims support in bid for university status
3. Waikato, Otago announce scholarships
4. National says Labour plans to override TEC
5. Academics to consider withdrawing Israeli boycott
6. Universities on alert over animal terrorism
7. Monash loses more on South African university
University staff call for more investment in
University staff are calling on the Government for further resourcing in high-quality tertiary education, saying that last week’s Budget has provided little real additional new investment for the university sector.
Funding for tertiary education announced in the Budget which will have a direct benefit to universities included an additional $75 million over the next four years for the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) and an increase of 2.6 percent to student component funding, at a cost of $165.7 million, over each of the next four years.
A further $132 million from this and previous budgets will be used to increase funding rates for strategically-relevant subject areas, including natural and physical sciences.
Approximately $54 million will be spent over the next four years improving access and affordability for students, and a further $20 million will support international education and international PhD scholarships. An additional $46 million will be spent over the four years strengthening ability, quality and capability in a range of initiatives centered mainly on industry training.
AUS National President, Professor Nigel Haworth, said that, while the $75 million increase to the PBRF would be welcomed by staff, there was little else for universities in the Budget, other than an inflation-related catch-up in funding rates.
“The Government shares our concern that university salaries have not kept pace with international rates, but it still needs to address this issue,” said Professor Haworth. “Government needs to work with unions and vice-chancellors to implement mechanisms to fix this problem and ensure the recruitment and retention of the highest-quality staff in our universities.”
Professor Haworth went on to say that university staff welcomed recent announcements that the Government would be looking closely at a re-allocation of funding in the tertiary education sector, the details of which are expected to be released in the next few months. He said that if the Government’s indications are relied upon, significant levels of funding will be shifted away from low-quality, low-cost courses and into the types of high-quality courses run by universities.
“Trevor Mallard has made it clear that he wants to move funding away from low-quality providers and qualifications. If the high quality of our university degrees and research is to be protected, he must move that funding into universities,” said Professor Haworth.
An AUS summary of the main points for the tertiary education sector in the Budget can be found at:
claims support in bid for university status
Auckland tertiary education institution Unitec says it has received a boost from the business sector and local government as its fight to gain university status enters its final stages. Submissions on whether Unitec’s application for reclassification as a university is in the national interest closed last week, with the institution claiming that the majority supported its bid. Only eighteen of the seventy submissions received opposed Unitec’s application.
Those in support included the Employers’ and Manufacturers’ Association (EMA) and the Waitakere and Auckland City Councils. A recent Colmar Brunton poll also showed that 87 percent of residents in West Auckland and Waitakere believed their area would benefit from a locally-based university of technology, with 75 percent specifically supporting Unitec’s application.
Unitec Chief Executive, Dr John Webster, said that business organisations had a clear understanding of Unitec’s university of technology profile, and strongly supported the institution’s direction. He said that the EMA recognized the need for a new type of university to support business growth, and that Unitec is well placed to meet that need. Similarly, the Waitakere City Council has said that Unitec’s status as a university of technology is vital to its long-term strategies.
The Minister is due to make a decision on whether the awarding of university status to Unitec is in the national interest by 1 July.
Unitec says it will proceed with High Court action seeking $3.5 million in damages against the Minister of Education and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) over the five-year delay in determining its application for university status. In a hearing which begins in 2 July, the Court will also be asked to determine whether its application for university status has been unlawfully suspended, and whether there has been a breach of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
Waikato, Otago announce scholarships
More than 450 students at Waikato University have been awarded Tearaway Waikato University Scholarships, each worth $3,000, in what is the single-biggest university scholarship scheme in the country. To receive a scholarship, students need sixty credits or more at NCEA level 3 or 4 in no more than 4 New Zealand Qualifications Authority subjects, and to gain university entrance. Students must also be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident and enrol in a full-time programme of study at Waikato University. Recipients may use the $3,000 towards their course fees or accommodation at the University’s halls of residence.
Meanwhile, the University of Otago has announced that all secondary school duxes will be eligible for first-year undergraduate scholarships in 2006. The scholarships, worth $3,500 each, can be used towards the cost of accommodation in a residential college or hall and/or fees.
Announcing the scholarships, Vice-Chancellor Professor David Skegg said that Otago, as a national university, wanted to ensure that, with the dux scholarships, at least one outstanding student from every school in the country had the opportunity to study at Otago. “No matter the size of the school or its academic reputation, this gives high-achieving students a chance to attend New Zealand’s finest university,” he said.
National says Labour plans to override
National Party Education spokesperson Bill English says that confidential plans for changes in tertiary education funding show that the Tertiary Education Commission has been a “huge waste of taxpayer dollars”. Mr English says that the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, has plans to cut polytechnic funding by scrapping community education over the next few years and dropping all short courses unless they are paid for by industry.
A request for details of the confidential plan referred to by Mr English is yet to receive a response.
In a press release, Mr English says that, while publicly defending education bureaucrats, behind closed doors the Government is looking at plans to bypass the TEC because it has become so ineffective. “[Trevor Mallard] is trying to wriggle out of the embarrassment of Steve Maharey’s grand but failed plans for tertiary education,” he said.
At the same time, a report in the Dominion Post says that the TEC has been singled out for cuts if National wins the General Election. The TEC, it says, has come under regular attack from National’s Bill English who says that taxpayers have had no return on the $210 million spent on the “dysfunctional bureaucracy and its nutty plans”.
Academics to consider withdrawing Israeli boycott
The Association of University Teachers (AUT) in the United Kingdom will meet today in a special conference after pressure to overturn its controversial decision to boycott Israeli Universities. AUT members voted, at its annual conference last month, to cut links with Haifa and Bar Ilan universities, claiming they were complicit with the abuse of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
The decision is reported to have led to an angry backlash within AUT, with some members mobilising the international academic community to protest at the decision. Haifa University also announced it would take legal action against the AUT.
The Times Higher reports that Labour peer Lord Mitchell has stepped into the row, appealing to the lecturers to overturn their “misguided” decision to cut ties with the Israeli universities.
Universities on alert over animal
The British Government is warning universities to be on high alert for attacks by animal rights extremists after it was revealed that Oxford University is proceeding with its new £18 million animal research facility on a secret site. The Times Higher reports that Lord Sainsbury, the Science Minister, called a meeting with vice-chancellors from key research universities to offer to help improve security to prevent activists targeting other institutions.
Building contractors stopped work on Oxford’s new animal research facility in July last year after being threatened by activists.
It is understood that the new Oxford facility is now being pre-fabricated off-site and, once pre-fabrication has been completed, a large team of contractors will be brought in to erect it in a “military-style” operation.
Lord Sainsbury is expected to reassure vice-chancellors that the Government and police are committed to protecting the universities, and will invite them to seek assistance on legal and security issues at an early stage.
Monash loses more on South African
Australia’s largest university, Monash, has reported a 2004 loss of $A12.3 million at its offshore university, Monash University South Africa, located just outside Johannesburg. It follows previous losses which have increased from $2.7 million in 2001 to $8.6 million in 2003. More than $55 million has been ploughed into the University to date.
The losses have prompted a warning from the Victorian Auditor-General, Wayne Cameron, about high-risk overseas investments. He predicts that big losses will continue despite Monash calling in consultants to try and stop the flow of cash. “Off shore campuses, research developments and commercial activities by universities are inherently high-risk ventures,” he has written. The financial risks were compounded by problems such as the potential changes of government, greatly fluctuating exchange rates and the fact that universities may not be able to sell overseas campuses if they hit trouble.
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