AUS Tertiary Update
University negotiations break down
Negotiations for new national collective employment agreements between university unions and vice-chancellors have broken down. Universities will now, for the first time ever, face prolonged national strike action.
The negotiations, which resumed in Christchurch on Monday this week, broke down after all of the university employers maintained their previous refusal to agree to national collective agreements, insisting on single-employer agreements with salary increases ranging from 2.0 percent (Massey) to 4.5 percent (Auckland). Some of the universities have also now initiated single-employer bargaining in an attempt to force the unions to abandon claims for national agreements.
Combined university unions’ spokesperson, Jeff Rowe, said staff negotiators had hoped that vice-chancellors would have taken a more constructive approach following the decision by Minister of Education Trevor Mallard, last week to establish a Universities Salaries Group to investigate and resolve long-recognised salary problems in the sector. “On that basis, the unions put a proposal to employers that they agree to the two national collective agreements, offer a common national salary increase of 5 percent and participate in the USG,” said Mr Rowe. “This was proposed as a means of engaging in tripartite discussions, aimed at finding a sustainable, long-term solution to the salary problems in the sector.”
Mr Rowe said the rejection of the unions’ position, and the luke-warm support for the Government’s USG proposal, led the unions to question the employers’ commitment to resolving salary and funding issues at all.
Association of University Staff (AUS) General Secretary, Helen Kelly, called on university councils to now step into the dispute, saying it was an important governance matter. “That the vice-chancellors are jeopardising a significant opportunity to work constructively with the Government and unions to find solutions should be of major concern to councils,” she said. “Even if vice-chancellors are prepared to risk the long-term quality and reputation of New Zealand universities, their councils should not.
National strike action is proposed for 20 July and 4 August, with rolling stoppages scheduled for the intervening fortnight. The unions will also hold meetings over the next fortnight to consider escalating that action.
In response to the breakdown of negotiations, Green Party Education spokesperson, Nandor Tanczos, said he supported the staff’s call for a multi-employer agreement. “Staff salaries continue to lag behind comparable countries and need to be addressed with some urgency if we are to retain good academics,” he said.
Also in Tertiary Update this
1. VC accused of jeopardising University Salaries Group
2. Preliminary decision taken on Wananga
3. Senior positions to go at Waikato
4. Students lodge complaint with Committee
6. Plans for Australian mega-university
7. Australia private university goes under
8. Graduates rely on parents’ money
9. Mumbai VC proposes dress code
VC accused of jeopardising University
According to the University of Auckland Branch of the AUS, it is of serious concern that Auckland’s Vice-Chancellor wishes to broaden the agenda of the University Salaries Group (USG) to include all university funding issues.
The Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, announced last week that he is setting up the USG to consider and resolve issues around salaries in the university sector.
AUS Auckland Branch President, Associate Professor Peter Wills, said that salaries make up approximately 56% of that University’s expenditure, and represent the most pressing issue for AUS members and the Government. “It is disappointing, therefore, that the Vice-Chancellor is publicly jeopardising the USG initiative by attempting to change its focus,” he said.
“While the Vice-Chancellor is critical of the unions for having a narrow focus on improving salaries, it is the unions’ view that salaries have suffered at the expense of other priorities for the last 15 years, both here and at other universities, and it is now time for university employers, in cooperation with the Government, to formulate a proper, long-term solution to the problem for the benefit of both staff and fee-paying students,” said Associate Professor Wills.
“The union has “won” the establishment of the tripartite salaries group. In terms of the battle to improve the position of university staff, it is the most significant development for as long as many of us can remember,” said Associate Professor Wills. “As a union we are also keen to address issues such as staff/student ratios, and improving the quality of teaching and research facilities and equipment, but when the Government acknowledges that university salaries are a major problem and creates a forum to discuss and resolve the relevant issues, then everything should be done to use that limited opportunity to the maximum.”
Associate Professor Wills said he urged the Vice-Chancellor and the University Council not to squander the opportunity to address salary issues by trying to change the Government’s mind on the term of reference for the USG.
Preliminary decision taken on
The Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, announced this week that he has taken further steps towards the appointment of a commissioner to Te Wananga o Aotearoa. In a letter to the Wananga Council Chair, Craig Coxhead, the Minister says that he has formed a preliminary view that the Council should be dissolved and a commissioner appointed in its place.
The Wananga now has twenty-one days to make submissions on why it considers the Minister’s preliminary decision should not be confirmed. If the Council does not provide convincing evidence or reasons for the Minister to change his mind, a commissioner will be appointed in July. Trevor Mallard’s letter gives the Council until 11 July to respond.
In his letter, Trevor Mallard cites amongst his concerns the failure of the Wananga to submit audited financial statements for 2004, its approval of an unauthorised loan to the Aotearoa Institute, the lack of a business plan for 2004 and 2005, exposure to a likely reduction in income and indications that, without assistance from the Crown, the institution may not be able to pay its bills.
Trevor Mallard said that the decision had not been taken lightly. “The appointment of a commissioner is the highest level of intervention available to the Government, and requires a high threshold to be passed before a commissioner is an option,” he said. “I have received advice that indicated convincingly that there is a serious level of financial risk, and risk to the operation or long-term viability of the Wananga.”
“More fundamentally, the Council has not been able to convince me that it will not continue to struggle with the reality of the Wananga’s situation, or provide necessary leadership or capability to work proactively with the Crown Manager to reduce risk,” Trevor Mallard said.
The Wananga is reported, however, as remaining confident that it can mount a case to continue to run the institution. “We are confident that our submission and the restructuring plan we are already implementing will give the Minister confidence in the quality of our governance and avoid the dissolution of the Wananga’s Council,” said Mr Coxhead.
Senior positions to go at
Four senior positions are to be axed at Waikato University, and two new positions created, as part of what is described as the University’s new strategic management and administrative structure. Going are the two current Deputy Vice-Chancellors (academic and research), Chief Financial Officer and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Tauranga). In their place will be a new Deputy Vice-Chancellor and a new Head of Corporate Services whose positions are described as encompassing the full range of academic and operational responsibilities. The new positions are described as “significantly different” from any of the existing positions and will be externally advertised. Those who have lost their jobs have been told they are able to apply for the new ones.
A new management structure sees the current Senior Management Group cut from sixteen to ten, with the number of managers reporting directly to the Vice-Chancellor being cut from eighteen to thirteen.
In a letter to staff, the new Vice-Chancellor, Professor Roy Crawford, said that the new structure provides for streamlined and efficient decision-making, and provides clear role responsibilities. It also foreshadows an intention to review the organisational structure of the University’s faculties, schools and committees.
“What we’re doing makes the Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive less involved in day-to-day management so we can provide leadership and vision,” Professor Crawford told the Waikato Times. “This is a very positive move for the University and [one] that most large organisations do.”
Students lodge complaint with
The New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA) has lodged a complaint with Parliament’s Regulation Review Committee over the recent cuts to the Independent Circumstances Allowance for students, saying the changes to regulations were based on an incorrect interpretation of the Bill of Rights Act. The changes, announced in the 2004 Budget, resulted in around 6,000 students aged under 25, who are or were married, as well as students who are financially independent of their parents, losing their entitlement.
NZUSA Co-President Camilla Belich said that a legal opinion found that the changes were not a correct interpretation of the Bill of Rights Act. “It is contrary to the purpose of the Bill of Rights Act to use it to remove existing rights,” she said. “A living allowance for all students would remove the age discrimination students currently face when trying to access student allowances. We want the Regulations Review Committee to disallow the new regulations and immediately reinstate the Independent Circumstances Allowance.”
The University of Auckland’s Vice-Chancellor, Stuart McCutcheon, earned passing reference at the memorial service for trade unionist Sonja Davies last Sunday. A photo was shown of Sonja on parade after a graduation ceremony at Victoria University, where she was awarded an honorary doctorate. Parade day was extremely hot, and a person walking next to Sonja lent her his sunglasses. It turned out the kind person was Stuart McCutcheon, then Victoria’s Vice-Chancellor.
The story told at the memorial service was that, after reading newspaper reports from recent court cases between the AUS and University of Auckland, Sonja retracted her view of the kind Vice-Chancellor, and became very disapproving. She quipped to the storyteller that she should not have given him back his glasses that day!
Plans for Australian mega-university
Three West-Australian universities are considering joining to form Australia’s first mega-University. The proposed University of Perth, which would result from a merger of Edith Cowan, Murdoch and Curtin Universities, would have more than 70,000 students across twelve campuses, a combined budget of $A750 million and assets worth more than $A1 billion.
The merger is reported as being pushed by Edith Cowan University Vice-Chancellor, Millicent Poole, who argues that the proposal is being driven by the Federal Government’s higher education reforms.
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), which represents academic and general staff, says that preserving the quality of education offered to students, the career opportunities and conditions of staff and the broader public interest must be the central features of any merger. NTEU spokesperson Mick Campion said that any proposal would need to be able to demonstrate clearly how it will improve the quality of provisions for students and how it will benefit the West-Australian community in terms of its implications for research.
university goes under
Australia’s first private university set up by a public institution is to close after eight years and losses of at least $A20 million. Melbourne University Private, which is also registered as a company in New Zealand, was set up in 1997 by the University of Melbourne with predictions that it would attract 10,000 students and generate $A250 million a year in revenue.
From the outset, the private arm of the University struggled. By 2001 it has lost $3 million and leaked business reports revealed that it was at risk of insolvency. It also came under political pressure when the Government threatened to withdraw its accreditation because it didn’t carry out research.
Current students will be absorbed into the public arm of the University.
Sourced from Education Guardian
Graduates rely on parents’
Almost 60 percent of university graduates in the United Kingdom rely on their parents for financial support three years after they graduate, according to a survey carried out by the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) of 1200 people who graduated in 2002.
Head of Graduate Banking at RBS, Donna Ewing, said the research reveals that over half of graduates were surprised by how much they still relied on their parents for financial support after graduation.
The average debt of graduates this year will be £13, 501 according to some estimates, and the National Union of Students (NUS) say this could rise to nearly £34,000 under the new system of top-up fees when most students will pay £3,000 a year in fees.
Hanna Essex, NUS Vice-President, said that forcing students into such ridiculous levels of debt is ultimately going to put young people off higher education.
Sourced from Education Guardian
Mumbai VC proposes dress code
The Vice-Chancellor of Mumbai University has come out with a controversial proposal to impose a dress code on women and men. He wants the student community to dress modestly.
“We are planning to advise the principals of all colleges to come up with a dress code so that boys and girls dress modestly. This does not mean that we are prescribing any guidelines or rules,” said Vijay Khole, Vice-Chancellor of Mumbai University.
The Vice-Chancellor claims this is not an attempt to impose moral dictates.
But for a city that revels in its free spiritedness, any such move is an unwelcome intrusion. “We are above 18. A dress code may not necessarily result in good performances,” said one student. “There's a limit to everything. Okay, if you ban short skirts, but then you should not ban t-shirts,” said another.
Next on the cards, says the Vice Chancellor, is a formal meeting with college principals in August to discuss how colleges can come up with their own dress code.
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