AUS Tertiary Update
Industrial unrest to continue
University staff will intensify strike and other protest action as the dispute between unions and vice-chancellors over national collective employment agreements and salary increases deepens. This follows strike action last Thursday, when more than 5,000 staff at five universities walked off the job for the day.
Further strike action has been endorsed for some universities on 19 August and others on 29 August, and will be supported by a variety of other actions, including lightning strikes, a refusal to participate in open days, bans on some administrative duties and working to rule.
At Victoria, the dispute has become more personal with staff placing an immediate boycott on all meetings and dealings with their Vice-Chancellor, Pat Walsh, until the dispute is resolved. Bans have also been placed on faculty board meetings.
Union members at both Victoria and Canterbury Universities will also refuse to participate in all Performance-Based Research Fund activities, including preparing documentation and evidence portfolios from which those Universities select the best to forward to the Tertiary Education Commission for assessment. That assessment ranks alongside other universities and forms a basis on which to determine research funding until 2011.
Academic staff at Canterbury decided yesterday that they will not teach for up to eight hours in the coming week, refuse to submit end-of-year examination papers and final grades and withdraw cooperation with academic committees. Other staff will refuse to implement a new student services computer system and ignore compliance requests from management.
Greylisting, or an international boycott, of New Zealand universities will also be considered if a settlement is not reached soon.
Association of University Staff National President, Professor Nigel Haworth, said that, through their commitment to further industrial action, staff have shown that they are prepared to take sustained and prolonged industrial action to settle the dispute. “They believe that resolving this dispute on a national basis is in the best interests of maintaining and enhancing the long-term quality and viability of the sector,” he said.
Professor Haworth said that both the Government and unions had shown a willingness to engage in a collaborative process to find constructive remedies to salary problems but, that for collaboration to be effective, the vice-chancellors needed to end the dispute.
Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Unitec to take action over university-status decision
2. Auckland, Massey, Lincoln secure partnership funding
3. Jobs to go at Waikato, Canterbury?
4. Export Education Levy to be used for marketing
5. Academic calls for clear gag rule
6. MPs to investigate academic brain drain
7. Brunel’s reputation takes hammering
take action over university status decision
The announcement by Auckland Institute of Technology Unitec that it will seek an immediate judicial review of the decision to deny it university status has been described by the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, as a “bloody-minded” approach which ignores the facts of New Zealand’s law.
Yesterday, Trevor Mallard announced that Unitec will not become a university following “clear advice” that the institution does not meet the criteria in relation to two of the key academic characteristics for universities required by the Education Act. “The findings in relation to the academic criteria were from a panel of experts chaired by Sir Douglas Graham, which included international experts. They found that Unitec did not meet the criteria for advanced learning and the development of intellectual independence; nor the criteria for international standards of research and teaching,” said Trevor Mallard. “I was also not convinced there was evidence that establishing Unitec as a university was in the national interest.”
However, Unitec CEO and President, Dr John Webster, said that, if the process had been fair and carried out in good faith, the facts would have made it almost impossible to decline Unitec’s application for university status. On National Radio today, he said that the panel of experts has been misled and used the wrong benchmarks, and that the Government hadn’t understood its application.
“The last thing we want to do is involve the courts again,” Dr Webster said in a written statement. “However, we owe it to our students, staff and stakeholders to ensure that their hard work isn’t simply dismissed out of hand by a Minister who seems intent on ignoring the facts – that we are a university of technology in all but name, and deserve official recognition for that.”
Trevor Mallard said that, in making the decision, he had followed the law carefully and was well briefed. He urged Unitec not to spend more money on a judicial review process which, if successful, would require him to repeat the same process and which would come to the same decision.
Auckland, Massey, Lincoln secure
Auckland, Massey and Lincoln Universities will receive an additional $26 million in government funding following successful applications under the Partnership for Excellence scheme. The Prime Minister, Helen Clark, and Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, announced on Tuesday that $8.95 million would go to a trust established by Massey and Lincoln Universities to enhance research in the agricultural and veterinary sciences. A further $5 million will go to Massey to create a research-based partnership with the equine industries. Auckland will receive up to $12 million to support University initiatives in plastics research and health innovation.
Partnerships for Excellence were established by the Government in 2003 to enhance innovation, encourage greater private-sector investment in tertiary education and foster relationships among tertiary institutions, business and industry. It allows tertiary education institutions to seek government funding for large-scale investment projects that will allow teaching and research partnerships between tertiary institutions and business. To be eligible for funding, projects need to be new and unable to be funded through other means. Private-sector investment is matched by the Government, with such funding to be used for capital costs. The Government has pledged more than $40 million this year in Partnerships for Excellence.
In announcing the funding allocations to Massey and Lincoln, Helen Clark said that the Government was pleased to support projects which will improve the tertiary-education sector’s ability to meet specific industry needs. “The projects will integrate research and learning with industry requirements – in particular developing leaders capable of taking New Zealand’s primary industries into a new phase of productivity and export-led growth,” he said.
The Prime Minister and Minister of Education also announced an increase in government tuition subsidies for years 3, 4 and 5 of undergraduate veterinary science. It means that Massey University will receive around $1.3 million additionally per year in student-component funding.
Jobs to go at Waikato,
More than thirty jobs will be axed at Waikato University as the impact of falling rolls hits home, according to a report in the Waikato Times. The University faces a deficit of up to $2 million and a 4.9 percent drop in enrolments, a situation worse than initially predicted. Despite earlier hopes that there would be no job losses, Waikato’s Vice-Chancellor Roy Crawford said it was a changing environment and they had to face reality. He said that Waikato University had been affected by the same trends that had hit other universities, while limited government funding and rising costs had contributed to the situation.
AUS Branch Organiser Sandy O’Neil said that job losses identified by the Waikato Times were, at this stage, only proposals, and she hopes that a genuine consultation process would look at other options. “Redundancies should be a last option,” she said.
Meanwhile, at Canterbury, a memo to staff from the Pro Vice-Chancellor of Arts this morning said that a variety of strategies, including staff cuts to some academic programmes, are being followed to deal with a serious financial shortfall in the Arts College budget for 2006. It is understood that up to nineteen staff may go in an effort to cut $1 million from the budget. While the University did not respond to a request for comment, a staff member said that there had not been proper consultation before the decision had been taken, and that cuts could be made to operational budgets in order to save jobs.
Education Levy to be used for marketing
Millions of dollars of the Government’s Export Education Levy will be spent on marketing in an attempt to reverse declining international student revenue, a move supported by many in the export education sector, according to the Education Review.
Offshore visa applications were down by nearly 5,000 compared with the previous year, and English-language school income in the year to March 2005 was $313 million, 27 percent less than in the previous year.
Faced with a continuing decline in equivalent full-time international students, Education New Zealand announced recently that levy funds would move from professional development to marketing. Professional-development spending will fall from $845,000 last year to $280,000 this year.
Education New Zealand Chief Executive, Robert Stevens, said that most of the levy would now be spent on “demand generation”, a move he describes as industry responsiveness to a highly dynamic operating environment. “If demand returned in the future, more could be spent on professional development,” he said.
The export education fund will spend $3.28 million on the 2005-06 year, 2.69 million of it on marketing, promotion and communication.
While a number of English-language providers are concerned about the drop in spending on professional development, most agreed on the need to increase the marketing budget. The move has also been supported by Education Minister, Trevor Mallard.
Source information from Education Review
Academic calls for clear gag rule
An expert on defamation and racial hatred, Lawrence McNamara, has told a forum at Macquarie University in Australia that it is dangerous to try and draw too tightly the gag on academics speaking beyond their area of expertise. The forum followed the banning from teaching of a Macquarie law professor, Andrew Frazer, after he made controversial comments claiming that Australia was becoming a Third World colony by allowing non-white immigration.
Although condemning Frazer’s views, Mr McNamara said it was important that academics are able to speak widely. “The nature of our research and analytical skills is both specific and generalist,” he said. “Moreover, the need for interdisciplinary engagement is vital and that takes us to the periphery of our expertise sometimes.”
He said it was “dangerous and inappropriate” to apply the gag too tightly. What was at stake was not the protection of any individual academic but “the independence and integrity of the search for truth. The University should be a sufficiently robust institution to cope with the views of any one staff member.”
Meanwhile, African community leaders are planning legal action against Andrew Frazer, saying that his comments on race have exposed them to daily abuse and attacks.
MPs to investigate
academic brain drain
British members of parliament are examining a looming crisis in universities after a report found that the country’s top academics are quitting for better-paid jobs. The report, Recruitment and Retention of Academic Staff in Higher Education, has warned that relatively low pay in the United Kingdom was a major factor behind current staffing problems.
The quality of candidates, particularly for top-professorial jobs, is in decline, according to the study conducted for the Government by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. It found that sexism, race discrimination, low pay and red tape all threaten the future supply of university staff, and said that the problem comes at a time when more academic staff will be needed to meet the Government’s target of getting 50 percent of young people into university.
“Pay in the United States is higher for comparable academic staff, and the difference is particularly marked at the top end of the earnings distribution,” the report says. “Thus pay is likely to be a factor encouraging outflow of academics from the UK to the US.
Interestingly, the report notes that UK universities pay better than those in New Zealand, a country which may provide a “fruitful source” of new recruits.
Times Higher Education Supplement
Brunel’s reputation takes
Academics around the world are helping boost support for the greylisting of England’s Brunel University by the Association of University Teachers (AUT) after the sacking of two academics for “over-teaching”. AUT called for the greylisting after Brunel management decided to replace non-research-active staff in an effort to boost research status. It threatened compulsory redundancies and dismissed the two staff.
In a message to Brunel management, the 48,000-strong Canadian Association of University Teachers said that it had sent an urgent message to members, encouraging them to refrain from all voluntary links with Brunel University. The Brunel letter continued: “The reputation of your University within the international academic community is suffering. Your success in attracting students and high-quality staff is at risk because you have now gained a reputation as an employer who resorts to compulsory redundancy rather than a negotiated settlement.”
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