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AUS Tertiary Update

University strike action lifted
Industrial action, including strike action planned by university staff for tomorrow, has been lifted as a result of progress made in negotiations between vice-chancellors and unions on Monday.
At meetings held around the country over the last three days, union members voted by a margin of eight to one to postpone planned strike action to allow further discussions to take place with the vice-chancellors.
Union members at New Zealand’s universities have been engaged in strike and other protest action following the breakdown of employment agreement negotiations in July.
Speaking on behalf of the combined university unions, AUS National President Professor Nigel Haworth said he was hopeful that the developments in bargaining may provide a way forward in the current industrial dispute, and union members had agreed that the action should be stopped to enable further negotiations to develop.
Further discussions are likely to be held next week.

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Policy differences revealed in election run-up
2. Unitec told to drop university-status claim
3. Canterbury institutions secure partnership funding
4. Auckland’s medical degree accreditation renewed
5. Waikato plans $30m campus upgrade
6. NZ universities in top 500
7. Teaching downgrade an option
8. Education Minister awarded an “Ernie”

Policy differences revealed in election run-up
Policies promoted by political parties show that the results of the General Election, which is to be held on 17 September, will have a significant impact on tertiary education. Responses to questions from AUS to eight political parties reveals stark contrasts in attitudes to funding, staffing and salaries, research and teaching, governance and student support.
The differences stem from the core philosophies and strategies that govern the sector. Labour, for example says it supports a collaborative tertiary education system, where differing types of institutions are complementary, not competitive, whereas National says it supports student choice and considers competition a fact of life. National believes the charter and profile process is an expensive waste of money, while Labour says the charters and profiles strike a good balance between institutional autonomy and ensuring good use of taxpayer funding.
Labour believes the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC), as an independent body, is an important safeguard of academic freedom. National is on record as saying it would cut TEC funding and what it describes as the education bureaucracy.
Those parties with a smaller representation in Parliament are likely to influence the tertiary education policies of the major parties. ACT, National’s likely partner, says it would allow more universities to be established, and supports increased competition among the existing ones. Like National, it would not distinguish between private training institutions (PTEs) and public tertiary institutions, and would allow funding to follow students into either public or private training institutions. Labour’s likely partner, the Greens, says, however, that PTEs should be funded only when they are not competing with the public sector, and can demonstrate quality, value and performance. That is consistent with Labour’s other likely partner, the Progressives, which would restrict public funding to PTES to qualifications that are in the public interest and unavailable through public institutions.
Among the more interesting platforms is that of United Future, which would establish a new Educational Standards Authority to monitor tertiary providers, requiring them to account for all funding received. The Maori Party intends to remove current limits on the use of the term “university” and allow more universities to be established, and would apply a Treaty-based model of funding to PTEs. New Zealand First says that, while it sees no need for additional universities, it would allow universities of technology to be established.
More tertiary education policies from the main political parties will be outlined in Tertiary Update until the General Election.

Unitec told to drop university-status claim
Union members at Auckland institute of technology Unitec have told its management that they are totally opposed to the institution spending any more money in its pursuit of university status. It follows last week’s decision by the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, not to grant university status to Unitec, and the subsequent announcement by the institution that it would seek an immediate judicial review of that decision.
Lloyd Woods, National President of the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE), said that staff passed a resolution at a meeting demanding that Unitec suspend all expenditure directed towards achieving university status. He said that, while ASTE had not taken any position on the original application for university status, “there is now very strong feedback that John Webster (Unitec CEO) and his Council should take the decision on the chin and get over it, especially given that Unitec is looking at institution-wide reviews of expenditure.”
“Unitec has held a reputation for excellent provision of a wide range of programmes, from certificates to degree-level, for many years, but a further waste of learner dollars puts that reputation at risk,” said Mr Woods. “Further legal action, whilst no doubt being seen as petulant, will only exacerbate the confusion and turmoil that is being experienced currently by staff. Funds should be used to ensure the recruitment and retention of quality staff to maintain the quality and scope of programmes expected at a leading institute of technology.”
Meanwhile, Maori Party co-leader and educationalist, Dr Pita Sharples, said he was flabbergasted by the Minister of Education’s decision not to award university status to Unitec. “Government has deliberately gone outside of the criteria to decline this application,” he said. “The negative repercussions from such a decision are enormous. The needs of Waitakere and West Auckland have been ignored; there has been insufficient recognition of the seamless education service to disadvantaged students at Unitec, and the decision is totally unfair to the Unitec students and graduates who have undertaken university-level studies.”

Canterbury institutions secure partnership funding
The University of Canterbury and Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) have between them secured more than $14.5 million in government funding following successful applications under the Partnership for Excellence scheme.
The University of Canterbury will receive $9.7 million towards the establishment of a new $20 million national information and communications technology (ICT) teaching and research facility, called UCi3, aimed at increasing the number of talented graduates for the ICT sector. CPIT will receive $4.9 million to create a student-services centre, a library and educational facilities for a learning and innovation centre called TradeFIT. The centre will include a simulated residential subdivision in which trainees will be able to gain skills in a number of key infrastructural trades.
Minister of Education Trevor Mallard said that six Partnerships for Excellence proposals had been funded so far this year, creating a climate for joint investment on a scale never seen before in the tertiary education sector.
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. They allow 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.

Auckland’s medical degree accreditation renewed
The University of Auckland’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences has taken another step forward in securing maximum accreditation for its medical programme from the Australian Medical Council, the accrediting organisation for Australian and New Zealand medical schools. The ten-year renewal of accreditation, until June 2015, is for the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) degree in the School of Medicine.
The School of Medicine has received a full and unconditional six-year accreditation from the Australian Medical Council, and a further four years will be confirmed in the fifth year of accreditation, subject to the submission of satisfactory annual reports. The renewal comes ten years after the School’s initial accreditation.
The accreditation review panel commended the strong culture of research within the School, with many teachers being active researchers, the high-quality teaching resources and the large number of highly-motivated and committed clinical teachers.
The panel highlighted the adoption of an evolutionary approach to curriculum development and an outcome-based curriculum, a focus on national health priorities and an active student body committed to contributing to the quality and development of the programme as some of the strengths of the School.
Presenting the findings of the accreditation review, the panel chair said that the team had been greatly impressed by the on-going commitment of the University, staff and clinical teachers to development and delivery of a high-quality medical course that is relevant to the healthcare needs of the communities of New Zealand, the Pacific and beyond.

Waikato plans $30m campus upgrade
Waikato University has revealed plans to spend $30 million upgrading its campus, just days after announcing that up to thirty jobs will be axed, according to the Waikato Times. The plan includes the development of an indoor events centre, a student centre and main entrance, an upgrade of the Performing Arts Academy and the development of an information commons. The upgrade is intended to make attending the university “an experience”, according to the University’s Foundation Director, Gerald Bailey.
While some of the funding would come from external sources, the balance will be funded from the University’s capital development budget.
University management would decide which project would be built first, but Mr Bailey said the development would help the University achieve distinctiveness, reports the Waikato Times. “We want to attract the best students,” said Mr Bailey. “This would make the University visible and exciting.”

NZ universities in top 500
Five New Zealand universities have made it into the annual Shanghai Jiao Tong University ranking of the top five-hundred universities in the world, up from three last year. The University of Auckland is ranked between 203 and 300 in the world, or between twenty-four and thirty-six in the Asia-Pacific region, while the University of Otago has slipped from between 202 and 301 in 2004 to rank between 301 and 400 (thirty-seven and sixty-five for Asia-Pacific) this year. Canterbury and Victoria Universities have joined Massey to be placed between 401 and 500 (sixty-six and ninety-three for Asia-Pacific).
The Shanghai Jiao Tong ranking measures universities by several indicators of academic or research performance, including articles published in journals such as Nature and Science , staff and alumni winning Nobel or other prestige prizes, and on academic performance with respect to the size of the institution.
The original purpose of the ranking was to measure the gap between Chinese universities and world-class universities, particularly in aspects of academic or research performance. The current ranking is intended to help compare and identify universities wordwide. Shanghai Jiao Tong says, however, that the quality of universities cannot be precisely measured by “mere number”, and that no ranking is absolutely objective. It cautions against reliance on such rankings, including its own.
American universities, again headed by Harvard, comprise eight of the top ten universities internationally, with Cambridge rising from third to second and Oxford slipping from eighth to tenth. Japanese universities occupy four of the top five places in the Asia-Pacific region, with the Australian National University ranked third after Tokyo and Kyoto Universities.
The full report and tables can be found at:

Teaching downgrade an option
British universities have been told that academics should be able to spend more time on research and spend less time on teaching and administration in an effort to improve recruitment and retention in higher education. A study by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research warns that the introduction of teaching-only or research-only universities or jobs would also be liable to exacerbate recruitment and retention problems.
Instead, the Government-commissioned study concludes that academic workloads should be cut, salaries increased, more foreign staff recruited, career progression enhanced and researchers given more job security.
One of the report’s authors has suggested removing some administration from academics and spreading teaching over more staff, a move which would require more funding.
The Higher Education Minister, Bill Rammell, said that the report had proved useful, in particular in its exploration of what motivates academic staff, who are the key to the success of higher education. The Science and Technology Select Committee will consider the report soon.
Times Higher Education Supplement

Education Minister awarded an “Ernie”
Australia’s Minister of Education, Brendan Nelson, picked up an “Ernie Award” in the political category at an annual gong ceremony held this week in the New South Wales Parliament and hosted by NSW Upper House President, Meredith Burgmann. “Ernies” are Australia’s top awards for sexist behaviour or remarks in the public domain.
Brendan Nelson earned his nomination after his couldn’t-care-less comments about the risk to on-campus childcare facilities if government moves proceed to dismantle student organisations at Australian universities. He told vice-chancellors that if they could afford to pay their staff nine months paid parental leave, they could afford to subsidise all childcare on campus. “I would be most surprised if they weren’t prepared to subsidise that in some way,” he said.

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