AUS Tertiary Update
Strikes to hit universities, more foreshadowed
Strike action will proceed on Thursday 4 August at five universities, with widespread disruption planned to occur at Auckland, Waikato, Victoria, Canterbury and Lincoln. More than 5,000 academic and general staff will strike in protest at the continuing refusal of their vice-chancellors to agree to national collective employment agreements, or to make acceptable salary offers.
Striking staff will hold meetings to vote on proposals for a further one-day strike on 19 August, rolling stoppages, working-to-rule and bans on some administrative functions until the dispute is resolved.
Those universities not affected tomorrow are Otago, where strike action had already been cancelled, and Massey, where staff voted yesterday to postpone their strike action following a letter from their Vice-Chancellor, Professor Judith Kinnear, saying that she is prepared to continue negotiations. This includes considering settling multi-employer agreements as an interim solution which, she agrees, appears to preserve the position of all parties in the short-term. She has undertaken that her negotiation team will discuss this with other universities as multi-employer agreements can only be achieved if the majority of other universities are agreeable.
AUS National President, Professor Nigel Haworth, said that Professor Kinnear’s position provides a welcome sign, and indicates that she recognises that vice-chancellors can sign the unions’ proposal and see whether their fears over national agreements are real or imagined. “The Government has initiated a process to consider and resolve salary problems: it is now up to the vice-chancellors to agree to national collective agreements and let the University Tripartite Forum deal with salary issues on a sector-wide basis.”
Professor Haworth said that, while Massey was yet to make an acceptable salary offer, lifting Thursday’s strike action would allow negotiations to continue.
Negotiations are under way at Lincoln today, and further discussions will take place with the Vice-Chancellor at Otago on Friday with the intention of establishing a firm commitment at that University to multi-employer agreements.
Meanwhile, staff have asked vice-chancellors to invest salary savings from strike action in merit and needs-based scholarships for students. They argue that it is the employer who benefits from the financial savings following strikes, but the students who missed classes
“The universities saved the value of the salaries of thousands of striking staff, and have collected student fees for the duration of strike action,” said Professor Haworth. “University staff work with the students everyday. They want nothing more than to ensure students have access to the best possible education provided by the best possible staff. Students upset with staff are shooting the messenger. We encourage students to stand with the staff and demand that the employer take responsibility for the disruptions caused to students.”
Also in Tertiary Update this
1. Criticism of loan policy lurid, says PM
2. McCutcheon out of step, say students
3. CPIT staff again on strike
4. Numbers up, income down for English-language providers
5. WelTec gets government assistance
6. Academic freedom row brews after controversial comments
7. Professor loses Botswana deportation appeal
8. Harvard President’s pay rise leads to resignation
Criticism of loan policy lurid, says
In a rather unusual description, the Prime Minister Helen Clark has described as “lurid” criticism by the Westpac Bank of Labour’s policy to scrap interest on student loans for New Zealand-based graduates from 1 April next year.
Westpac Chief Economist Brendan O’Donovan last week asserted that the policy was potentially fatally flawed, saying that the fiscal risk and long-term economic impact of the proposal could blow out to $700 million, rather than the $300 million forecast by Labour.
Not mincing words either was the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, who described Westpac’s analysis as ‘dodgy” and driven by dubious motivation and apparent self-interest. “It has become evident to me that Westpac has got its own reason for releasing this analysis – it will lose money,” he said. “Westpac has a ‘Graduate Package’ where they buy out up to $10,000 of a graduate’s student loan at a discounted rate as a loss leader in order to try and capture a very valuable mortgage business.”
“Westpac’s analysis is an outrageous exaggeration. It is unfair and misleading not only to students, but also to the public,” Trevor Mallard said. “New Zealanders need to be given accurate information on which to make decisions. Inflammatory, self motivated garbage like the analysis from Westpac is totally unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, opposition political parties have continued to attack the policy in Parliament this week. Questions from National leader Don Brash, along with Bill English and John Key, dominated Question Time on Tuesday, with most questions aimed at getting the Government to confirm that the policy had not been costed by Treasury, and that it would reduce New Zealand’s net worth by around $1.7 billion by 30 June 2007.
McCutcheon out of step, say
New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee Chair and University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor, Stuart McCutcheon, is out of step with reality, according to students. The reaction was in response to Stuart McCutcheon description of Labour’s promise to wipe student-loan interest for New Zealand-based graduates as electioneering that could limit much-needed investment in the sector; that New Zealand already spends heavily on student financial aid and that what is needed is a $300 million boost to university tuition subsidies to improve education quality.
George Hamption, President of the University of Canterbury Students’ Association, said that Stuart McCutcheon should value what the change in policy would potentially do for students instead of focusing on what never would have been. “Any potential funding does not come from a vote allocated to tertiary education alone, but from a fund dedicated to Labour’s third term in government,” he said.
The President of the Auckland University Students’ Association, Greg Langton, said there was no evidence to suggest that the funding allocated to the student-loan-interest policy would have been otherwise allocated to general university funding. “It is short-sighted not to see that, nor to be able to distinguish between the two issues,” he said.
Mr Langton said that, while students agreed that more funding was needed for universities, the Government had recognised that student debt was an issue which needed to be addressed as a priority.
New Zealand University Students’ Association Co-Presidents, Andrew Kirton and Camilla Belich, agreed that tertiary institutions need to be adequately funded, but also said that tuition fees should come down. “As staff and students we have worked hard to present a united front to the public and to government on tertiary funding issues” they said. “It is a pity that Stuart McCutcheon has chosen a more divisive path.”
They added that, while the policy of no interest on student loans will not solve the student debt burden, it will go along way in making it more manageable.
CPIT staff again on strike
Union members at the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology were again on strike on Tuesday this week, and are contemplating further action in protest at the breakdown of collective employment agreement negotiations. CPIT management has offered a 2 percent salary increase for this year and 3 percent next year, while staff are claiming a 6 percent increase this year.
Speaking on behalf of staff, Association of Staff in Tertiary Education Field Officer, Mike Dawson, said that there had been no approaches from management to try and find a resolution since the issuing of a strike notice more than a week ago. “This is an appalling indictment on an organisation that professes to be concerned about the effects of industrial action on its student community,” he said.
Mr Dawson said that the parties were due in mediation today, but unless there was a significant improvement in the offer from CPIT management, strikes, stop-work meetings, working-to-rule and other substantive action would continue. “Staff cannot, and will not, continue to subsidise the system with huge and increasing workloads while their earning capacity continues to diminish,” he said. “Our members are absolutely definite about this. They are not prepared to take what is effectively a pay cut compared to inflation.”
Numbers up, income down for
A survey of English-language-education providers, released yesterday by Statistics New Zealand, shows that in the year to March 2005, there were 51,456 foreign students enrolled in English-language schools in New Zealand, bringing in $156 million in tuition and related fees.
Overall, there was a 1.5 percent increase in student numbers compared to the year to March 2004, but that followed a 29.1 percent drop in student numbers the previous year. It means that there are 20,047 fewer students now than in the year to March 2003.
Revenue from tuition and related fees fell by $56.8 million, from $213 million in the year to March 2004, on top of a decrease of $44.9 million in the previous year. The lower tuition revenue reflects a greater number of students enrolling in shorter English-language courses and some providers lowering their fees.
WelTec gets government
The Wellington Institute of Technology (WelTec) is to receive Crown loan support of $9 million, following an approach to the Government indicating the institution has underlying problems with funding.
WelTec Chief Executive, Dr Linda Sissons, described the institution as being in a “challenging financial situation” because of its position as New Zealand's largest provider of trade training. “Eighteen percent of our EFTS (equivalent full-time students) is funded through Industry Training Organisations, which gives
only 10 percent of our revenue,” she said. “Technology and staff for these kinds of programmes are specialised and expensive. WelTec must make ongoing investment in technology for its programmes to continue to be relevant, up-to-date, and able to meet industry needs.”
Linda Sissons said that the Government had recognised the situation and has also acknowledged that WelTec had remained focused on the Government’s direction for the polytechnic sector. “This allocation of resources recognises WelTec's high value to the economy,” she said. “Internally we are seeking every opportunity for efficiencies to reduce costs while retaining our high level of delivery. No programmes or qualifications will be withdrawn while there is a demand for them.”
Academic freedom row brews after controversial comments
A major row over academic freedom is brewing in Australia following the banning from teaching of a law professor at Macquarie University after he made controversial comments about immigration. Associate Professor Andrew Fraser has had his classes cancelled following a letter he wrote to his local suburban newspaper claiming Australia was becoming a Third World colony by allowing non-white immigration. Canadian-born Fraser, a lecturer at the University for 29 years, says African migration increases crime, and Asian immigrants are turning into a ruling class that threatens the social, political and economic interests of “ordinary” Australians.
University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Di Yerbury, said Associate Professor Fraser’s classes had been cancelled and he was ordered not to teach until further notice.
The National Tertiary Education Union has stepped into the dispute, saying that academics have the fundamental right to state their views publicly, even though these views may be unpopular or controversial, and that universities have a responsibility to promote critical discussion and debate.
NTEU and The Australian
Botswana deportation appeal
Australian Professor Kenneth Good, who was deported from Botswana last month as a “threat to national security,” over his criticism of Botswana’s democracy and his correspondence with Survival, lost his appeal in the Botswana courts on July 27.
Professor Good, who has taught political science at the University of Botswana for fifteen years, was deported from the country on 31 May, and is now in London. He had written and spoken against the evictions of Bushmen from their ancestral homes in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
In a recent statement, Professor Good said that his deportation is another sign that the Government of Botswana is heading in an increasingly autocratic direction. “It is a defeat for democracy and free speech,” he said
Botswana’s President Mogae said on BBC TV’s Newsnight programme on Monday, “[Professor Good] is a rogue and a vagabond, he’s not a gentleman. I am determined to keep him out of this country.”
pay rise leads to resignation
A decision to give a pay rise of 3 percent to controversial Harvard President, Lawrence H Summers, has led to the resignation of the only African-American on the American University’s governing Board, according to a resignation letter released yesterday.
In his letter of resignation, Conrad Harper said that Dr Summers had insulted people attending a Native American conference, alienated Black professors and suggested that women might not have an “intrinsic” aptitude for science and engineering. The latter incident caused a significant backlash earlier in the year.
Mr Harper said he believed it was in the best interests of the University that Dr Summer resign, saying that his statements demeaned those who are under-represented at the top levels of major research universities. He said that he had become increasingly dissatisfied with Dr Summers’s leadership, and was unhappy with the way the Board decided to give him a pay increase.
Dr Summers received a base salary of $US563,000 in the 2004-05 academic year.
New York Times
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