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AUS Tertiary Update

Minister sets up salaries group
The Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, has given the green light to a proposal from the Association of University Staff (AUS) to establish a University Salaries Group to consider and resolve issues around salaries in the university sector. In a letter to university unions and vice-chancellors, delivered on Tuesday night, the Minister agreed to the establishment of the group to consider and resolve issues around salaries in the sector. It will comprise the Minister (or his representatives), the vice-chancellors and the unions.
Government officials have been directed by the Minister to set up, as soon as possible, a University Tripartite Forum to focus on high-level strategic salary issues, and provide information to inform future budget and bargaining strategies.
The union’s proposal included setting up a tripartite group to identify and agree on the extent of the salary and funding issues, determine options for resolving them, make recommendations on actions with a focus on building a sustainable salary structure in the sector and provide advice and assistance on implementing the recommendations.
AUS National President, Professor Nigel Haworth, said that the decision to set up the salaries group was a decisive and significant breakthrough which will provide a platform for constructive engagement between government, the vice-chancellors and the unions. “It could determine salary levels which are needed to allow New Zealand universities to maintain pace with the international market, and provide an evidential basis for future funding and Budget considerations,” he said.
“The Minister’s approach is exactly that which the unions have been seeking for some time and, importantly, recognises that the remedy to salary problems in the sector needs the active involvement of the Government,” said Professor Haworth. “It is clear evidence that the unions’ national multi-employer bargaining campaign was the appropriate way in which to address sector-wide salary issues, despite the continuing opposition of the vice-chancellors. It is now time for them to acknowledge this, conclude the current bargaining round constructively and use this new opportunity to its maximum benefit.”
The Minister has directed that a meeting be set up “asap” to discuss terms of reference and membership of the Salaries Group.
The proposal from the AUS can be found at:
The Minister’s response can be found at:

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Negotiations adjourned, marking ban withdrawn
2. Christchurch Polytech faces budget, staff cuts
3. QPEC releases education fact files
4. Temporary head for NZQA
5. Education news on-line
6. Union merger on cards
7. Cornell boss steps down after dispute with Board
8. Violent students intimidate staff
9. Reality TV for tuition fees

Negotiations adjourned, marking ban withdrawn
The threatened withholding of students’ grades by university staff has been withdrawn while collective employment agreement negotiations continue between university unions and university management.
Last week, university staff voted to withhold marks indefinitely, and take strike action over a two-week period from 20 July, unless satisfactory progress was made in negotiations this week.
Staff unions are proposing new national collective employment agreements for academic and general staff, and are seeking a major salary boost to address what have been acknowledged by the Government and university employers to be inadequate salary levels in the sector. Industrial action was threatened after employers made salary offers of between 2 percent and 4.5 percent on the basis of single-employer collective agreements.
The negotiations, which resumed in Christchurch this week with the assistance of an industrial mediator, will continue on 20 and 21 June.
The combined unions’ spokesperson, Jeff Rowe, said that the progress made in negotiation over the past two days with the delivery of the letter from the Minister of Education had been sufficient to withdraw the threat of withholding of marks. He said, however, that proposed strike action may proceed if the negotiations do not reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Christchurch Polytech faces budget, staff cuts
The Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) has confirmed that a high-level financial performance review currently underway could result in cuts to staff, courses and capital expenditure, according to the Christchurch Press. It says the Polytechnic is considering redundancies in the face of a $3 million deficit.
A memo, obtained by The Press, says that the cost of running CPIT is currently exceeding income and, without intervention, the institution will be looking at a deficit of between $2.8 and $3 million this calendar year. “Our response is a thorough high-level review of our services, our costs, and on the return on the considerable investment on all the assets of the institution. This includes staff, programmes and capital, and we are asking everyone with the capability and the willingness to add constructively to the review,” the memo reads.
CPIT Chair Hector Matthews is reported as saying that government funding reviews are likely to contribute to the forecast deficit. Earlier in the year, CPIT agreed to repay to the Tertiary Education Commission $3.47 million after being exposed as having received more than $13 million of taxpayer finding for its Cool-IT programme, one of several controversial Community Education programmes which prompted the funding review.
CPIT said that no decisions would be made on the future, including job losses, until the review had been carried out.
A staff member, who asked not to be identified, has questioned the timing of the review, saying it has come as collective employment agreement negotiations get underway. “Earlier in the year, CPIT management were predicting increased enrolment and forecasting an operational surplus for the year. It seems coincidental that the revised projections have been released at the same time staff have claimed a 12 percent salary increase over two years.”

QPEC releases education fact files
The Quality Public Education Coalition has released a series of fact files which, it says, will add much-needed depth to the debate around education in the lead-up to this year’s General Election. The forty-two fact files are the result of research on the privatisation of education in New Zealand, and examine a number of key issues across the whole education spectrum.
Among the fact sheets are a number relating to tertiary education, including an examination of the increasing cost to students of tertiary education as governments follow “neo-liberal” education policies, the funding of tertiary education, the rapid growth and government funding of private training establishments, the growth of student debt, the deterioration in working conditions and pay rates and a description of the vocational training programmes for people with low educational qualifications.
Also included is information on the possible effects of the General Agreement on Trades in Services on education in New Zealand.
The research was supported by the main education unions, including AUS and the New Zealand University Students’ Association.
The fact files can be viewed at:

Temporary head for NZQA
The New Zealand Qualifications Authority has announced the appointment of Karen Sewell as Acting Chief Executive for the next four months. Karen Sewell will take leave from her current roles as Chief Executive and Chief Review Officer of the Education Review Office.
Announcing the appointment late last week, Acting Qualifications Authority Board Chair, Catherine Gibson, said she was delighted to have Karen Sewell on board. “Karen has more than thirty years experience in the education sector and is widely respected. The Board has every confidence that she has the experience and skills to lead this organisation over the next four months,” she said.
NZQA will look at appointing a permanent Chief Executive to replace former head, Karen Van Rooyen, when the outcome of the Education Sector Review is known.

Education news on-line
Education Review, the country’s only weekly newspaper for the education sector, is now available on line. It can be located at:
The June issue of Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor is also now on line and can be found at:

Union merger on cards
The two main unions for university staff in the United Kingdom are poised to merge, following positive recommendations from the annual conferences of each union. If the merger between the Association of University Teachers (AUT) and the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) proceeds, the new organisation will represent more than 115,000 university staff.
NAFTE General Secretary Paul Mackney said that the conference vote recommending the merger was an important step towards a single, strong, dynamic organisation for education professionals. “A single union will be much more effective in the face of employer intransigence over pay, and much more influential in dialogue with government over education policy. It will be the biggest post-school education union in the world,” he said.
Sally Hunt, General Secretary of AUT, said that the final decision to merge would be “put in the safe hands” of ATU and NAFTHE members who will vote on the issue later in the year. “I hope that members will now vote for a new union that will take us forward, provide real leadership for the sector and which will deliver positive results for members,” she said.

Cornell boss steps down after dispute with Board
The President of Cornell University in the United States will step down at the end of June, citing differences with the University’s Board of Trustees over Cornell’s future as the reason. Jeffrey Lehman told alumni attending Cornell’s reunions weekend that it had become apparent that he and the Board have different approaches to how the University can best realise its long-term vision. “These differences are profound, and it has become absolutely clear that they cannot be resolved,” he said.
Board Chairman Peter Meinig said he believed the decision was in the best interests of President Lehman, the University and all of its constituents. Other Board members declined to comment.
The differences which led to the resignation are reported as remaining a mystery, but speculation relates it to the departure of the University’s Chief Development Officer, who left suddenly after twenty-five years’ service, just as the campus was in the early stages of major capital development.
The Chronicle of Higher Education

Violent students intimidate staff
Universities and colleges in the United Kingdom have recorded 1,000 incidents of student aggression towards staff in the last five years, according to an investigation by the Times Higher. Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveals that staff have been injured or subjected to death threats, stalking, sexual harassment and indecent exposure. Students have also been found in possession of offensive weapons and, in one case, it is reported that an assault on a staff member led to a student being gaoled.
Both the AUT and NAFTHE have called on the higher education sector, including funding councils, to take action. AUT’s Sally Hunt said the figures were a worrying trend and have brought to light what for many years has been a hidden issue.

Reality TV for tuition fees
Realty television has come to campus in the United States with a series that pits students against each other for university tuition fees in what is being billed as the “first show ever to celebrate higher education as the ultimate American prize”.
Ten students will compete for a prize valued at $US240,000 in a six-part series, The Scholar, which is to be filmed at the University of Southern California. Students will be taped and subjected to pressure-filled sudden death exams, brain teasers, maths and physics challenges and leadership tests.
Times Higher

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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