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AUS Tertiary Update

Universities hit by continuing protest action
Universities continue to be hit by industrial unrest following a day-long strike by staff last Wednesday in protest at the refusal of vice-chancellors at six of the country’s universities to agree to national collective employment agreements and make acceptable salary offers. The exception is at the University of Otago where action was lifted after its Vice-Chancellor, Professor David Skegg, offered a 5 percent salary increase and agreed to further discussion on multi-employer bargaining.
Rolling stoppages at the University of Canterbury culminated yesterday with union members in academic regalia marching on its Council meeting. The Council unanimously supported a resolution to participate actively in the Tripartite Forum set up by the Government to bring a high-level resolution to university salary problems. Lincoln University has seen lightning strikes stop a number of lectures, as well as rallies and other disruption to normal duties. A picket, coinciding with a two-hour strike by library staff, was held yesterday at Victoria University during an address to students by National Education spokesperson, Bill English. That action complements an earlier ban on teaching 200 level courses and other disruptive actions. One-hour stoppages are planned for Massey Albany tomorrow and Tuesday next week, while other Massey staff have been taking action short of striking. Lightning strikes are planned at Waikato University following the successful picketing of lecture theatres this week. On Monday, a lightning strike at the University of Auckland was accompanied by a picket of that University’s Senate. Since then, specific buildings have been targeted for rolling stoppages and a lunchtime rally has been held.
More lightning strikes and rolling stoppages will be held over the next few days, with a further full-day strike planned for Thursday 4 August. Further action will be determined if the dispute is not resolved by then.
Association of University Staff General Secretary Helen Kelly said that the industrial action had been well supported, with union members determined that the dispute would have a positive outcome for staff. “We have a number of meetings planned with vice-chancellors to try and reach a national settlement in order that we can concentrate on the more strategic work of identifying and resolving salary problems facing the sector through the Universities Tripartite Forum,” she said.
A full update on the industrial action and bargaining can be found on the AUS website:

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Labour to axe interest on student loans
2. National policy trumped by Labour
3. CPIT staff strike
4. Top teachers recognised
5. PBRF panelists named
6. RAE shifts focus from prestige journals
7. Brunel sacks staff in RAE maneuvering, LMU dispute over
8. Police fire shots in UPNG dispute

Labour to axe interest on student loans
Within a day of its announcement of the date for this year’s General Election, Labour moved to establish student debt as a key election issue with the release of its student-support policy. In a media conference at Victoria University on Tuesday, the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, announced that, from 1 April next year, Labour would abolish all interest charges on student loans for those who reside in New Zealand. Graduates who go overseas for fulltime study will not be charged interest as long as they are studying.
The new policy means that a graduate with a debt of $30,000 who earns $45,000 per year, and factoring in a 3 percent increase in salary per year, would save $20,000 and pay back the loan in nine years. That is, five years less than the time taken currently to pay back a loan of the same size.
At the same time, Labour says there will be an amnesty period in 2006 where those who return from overseas or enter into a repayment arrangement will not be charged the penalty interest for any overdue payments.
Helen Clark says the total cost of the policy is expected to be around $100 million in its first year, rising to around $300 million per annum.
Labour says it will also maintain a simplified, capped student fee structure to provide certainty on fee levels for students throughout the duration of their studies; conduct a specific review of the funding arrangements for medical and dental students; progressively increase parental income thresholds so that at least half of all fulltime students will receive a student allowance; continue to increase parental income thresholds each year by the rate of inflation; increase the personal abatement rate for student allowances each year by the rate of inflation; and increase the number of bonded scholarships to assist students with the cost of fees.
Helen Clark said that the policy contained a real incentive for young graduates to remain in New Zealand, and would encourage those who head overseas for work and travel to return home more quickly.
While students and staff groups across the sector have widely supported the announcement, the curious exception was the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee, whose Chair, Stuart McCutcheon, slated the policy on national radio as blatant electioneering.
For full details, including a loan calculator to determine repayment times, go to:
The Association of University Staff media release can be viewed at:

National policy trumped by Labour
Labour’s promise to end interest on student loans effectively trumped National’s tertiary education policy, which had been released the previous Sunday afternoon. Under National’s policy, from 1 April next year, interest payments on student loans would be tax deductible against income earned in New Zealand, meaning that a graduate with a loan of $30,000, and earning $45,000 per year, would have their tax liability reduced by up to $693 per year. The loan principal would be reduced by $7,540 after ten years.
Announcing the policy, National leader Don Brash said the process would be done automatically by the Inland Revenue Department, and would require no extra work of form-filling for borrowers. “The IRD will credit the tax deduction on interest actually paid to the student loan account of the borrower,” he said. “It will be automatically directed to lowering the loan balance, thus accelerating the repayment of the loan.”
Don Brash also said that reducing the gap in incomes between New Zealand and Australia will be a key theme of National’s election campaign.
National has also said it will abolish community education courses run by tertiary institutions; boost trade, skills and workplace training; freeze government spending on students in sub-degree certificate and diploma courses; introduce spending controls across all tertiary funding; strengthen quality control; fund institutions where students are genuinely engaged and learning; set retention and completion thresholds for continued funding; ensure students have a better choice of courses and providers; reduce central bureaucracy; reform polytechnic councils to ensure better accountability; work for sustainable training provision in the regions; support growth in adult education night courses; and focus on high-value research.
Education spokesperson Bill English said that National would cut back the complex Wellington education bureaucracy because it has “failed spectacularly” to ensure value for taxpayers’ investment in tertiary education. “We will start by cutting the $10 million more for bureaucrats that Trevor Mallard announced last week,” he is as reported saying. “He is pouring good money after bad.”
Further information can be found at:
The Association of University Staff media release can be viewed at:

CPIT staff strike
Academic union members at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology were on strike yesterday in protest at what they describe as an unfair salary offer made during collective employment agreement negotiations. Mike Dawson, a field officer for the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE), said that, despite many months of talking, the parties had not been able to close the gap between the needs of academic staff and what is being offered by the employer. “The employer’s offer, of 2 percent for 2005, 3 percent for 2006 and a further 1 percent for a proportion of 2007, was thoroughly rejected by ASTE members who voted unanimously to take ongoing strike action,” he said. “With inflation running at 2.8 percent, CPIT’s offer was nowhere near [union] members’ expectations of what constitutes a fair pay rise.” Union members are seeking a 6 percent pay rise for 2005.
Mr Dawson said that, while CPIT had a number of internal and external problems to contend with, they were not of the staff’s making, and that staff do not see a raid on their salaries as a solution to these problems. “All of the polytechnics are subject to the same funding regime and, yet, with the exception of one semi-bankrupt institution which offered 2.6 percent, they have had no hesitation in doing better,” he said. “Strike action will continue until a more realistic and acceptable offer is made by CPIT management.”
More than one hundred staff picketed CPIT after a two-hour stopwork meeting.

Top teachers recognised
Dr Roger Moltzen, a senior lecturer at the University of Waikato, was awarded New Zealand’s top tertiary teaching award at the fourth annual Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards at Parliament on Tuesday night. He received the Prime Minister’s Supreme Award and will receive $30,000 to further enhance his teaching career and promote best practice.
Congratulating New Zealand’s top tertiary teachers, the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, said that the awards celebrate excellence in tertiary teaching, promote good teaching practice and enhance career development for teachers. “It is great to be able to applaud and reward people whose skill, passion and commitment to teaching contribute to what is best about New Zealand’s tertiary education system,” he said. “Setting up the Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards was one of the first things this Government did as part of our determination to reform the tertiary education system.”
“Dr Moltzen was selected for this prestigious award because of his exemplarary teaching, ability to deliver excellence over a wide spectrum and for his impact on teachers and principals across the education sector, “ Trevor Mallard said. “It is fantastic that we have teachers at this level of excellence in our tertiary education system.”
Professor Thomas Rades, Stephen Pope, Stuart Petrie, Dr Regina Scheyvens, Dr Colin Quilter and Associate Professor Daniel Brown will all receive $20,000 for the Sustained Excellence award.
Associate Professor Alexander Davies, Associate Professor Andrew Charleson and Professor Kereti Rautangata are all to receive $20,000 for their Excellence in Innovation award.

PBRF panelists named
The panelists for the 2006 Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) Quality Evaluation were named this month by the Tertiary Education Commission. The 172 academics have been organised into twelve peer-review panels to assess forty-one subjects in next year’s process. The majority of the panel members are from the New Zealand research community, and work in tertiary education institutions, crown research institutes and the private sector. Forty come from overseas. They will join the three moderators and twelve peer-review panel chairs appointed earlier in the year.
Welcoming the appointments, the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, said that the appointment of so many top people is a great vote of confidence in the fund. “More than 70 percent of the appointees took part in the last PBRF round in 2003,” he said. “The results from the 2006 PBRF Quality Evaluation will give us the best-ever picture of the research strengths, and the research areas needing development.”
By 2007, the PBRF will be the government’s major method of funding and rewarding research in tertiary education organisations. PBRF funding is projected to rise to $230 million in 2009.
The fill list of PBRF panelists can be found at:

RAE shifts focus from prestige journals
The Education Guardian reports that senior academics overseeing the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise in the United Kingdom have urged universities to abandon their obsession with top journals, saying they will treat equally all types of research and journals across all subjects.
Sir John Berringer, who chairs the panel that will assess biological sciences, is reported as saying: “The jolt will come for those [academics] who take the mindless approach – ‘I have so many publications in journals X and Y, therefore I am excellent.’ It is terribly important to break the link that publishing in a journal such as Nature is necessarily a measure of excellence.”
Similarly, the Director of Research for the Higher Education Funding Council for England says that the exercise is about ensuring that high-quality research is disseminated by “whatever means”. In some cases that might be a patent application, in others conference proceedings.
If successful, the move could signal a major culture-shift in universities where academics are pressured to publish papers in top-ranking journals to gain appointment and progression.

Brunel sacks staff in RAE manoeuvering, LMU dispute over
As the manoeuvering gets underway for the 2008 RAE exercise in the United Kingdom, Brunel University management have moved to improve its research rating by axing staff. While around sixty teaching-only or “research-inactive” staff have already negotiated voluntary redundancy packages, a further two were told last week that they would be made compulsorily redundant. Included amongst them is the local Association of University Teachers’ (AUT) Branch President, Alan Harrison, sparking added fears that he has been selected because of his trade-union activities.
This action has resulted in AUT calling for a “greylisting” of the University, meaning that union members refrain from participating gin any voluntary links with Brunel, including withholding collaboration on research projects, journal contributions and participation in academic conferences. More information on the Brunel dispute can be found at:
Meanwhile, the bitter fifteen-month dispute at London Metropolitan University (LMU) over the attempted imposition of new, inferior employment agreements for more than four hundred staff appears to have been resolved. A joint statement from LMU management and lecturers’ union NATFHE issued yesterday advised that after two days of negotiation, with the assistance of an industrial mediator, agreement had been reached on a revised contract of employment and interpretation agreement for teaching staff at the University.
The statement says that the agreed revised contract will be recommended to the University Board of Governors and to NATFHE members through a ballot. Both parties say they hope that agreement will be part of a new start in relations at the University.

Police fire shots in UPNG dispute
The University of Papua New Guinea Council will today consider whether to abandon classes for the remainder of the term after class boycotts and student protests over the introduction of a new academic-grading system turned violent entering their third week.
Student demonstrators have clashed with police and University security guards and, on Monday night, police fired warning shots to disperse the crowd after two buses were burnt and attempts were made to destroy a campus workshop.
The Vice-Chancellor, Les Eastcott, has introduced a dusk-to-dawn curfew in a bid to control the continuing unrest.

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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