AUS Tertiary Update
Unions, VCs meet today
Association of University Staff National President Nigel Haworth, General Secretary Helen Kelly and Lead Advocate Jeff Rowe, along with representatives from other unions, are meeting with vice-chancellors today in an effort to hammer out the final details of a national “umbrella” agreement, intended to provide a basis on which to continue collective employment agreement negotiations and make progress on tripartite talks aimed at resolving salary problems facing the university sector.
Union members voted last week to postpone planned strike action to allow further discussions to take place with the vice-chancellors, after having been engaged in strike and other protest action following the breakdown of employment agreement negotiations in July.
Negotiations are currently getting under way at each of the universities in an attempt to find satisfactory settlements of site-based agreements, based on acceptable salary increases, a common expiry date and the inclusion of the processes and agreements contained in the national “umbrella” agreement. Those negotiations started at Lincoln on Tuesday this week, Waikato will start tomorrow and Auckland, Victoria and Canterbury on Monday. Negotiations at Massey are expected to resume next Tuesday, with agreement having already been effectively reached at Otago.
At the request of the Secretary for Education, a meeting of the University Tripartite Forum has been scheduled for tomorrow, with further meetings planned for September and November.
Details will be posted on the AUS website as they come to hand.
Also in Tertiary Update this
1. No more funding under a National-led government
2. Wananga remains on political agenda
3. Union members at AUT take industrial action
4. Clark misleads on student allowances, says English
5. A plug for Ed Review website
6. Academics resign over library cuts
7. AVCC on the rocks?
8. Harvard, Princeton top US universities, but Wisconsin best for parties
No more funding under a
Tertiary education will not receive any additional funding under a National-led government, while its possible coalition partner, ACT, says that tertiary-education funding is too high in relation to other areas of education. Labour says it will review long-term funding arrangements to reward quality rather than quantity, and its likely coalition partner, the Greens, say they will ensure funding levels are sufficient to meet costs and the improvement of student-to-staff ratios, library resources, the added costs associated with research and to resolve staff recruitment and retention problems.
The differences were revealed in responses to questions from AUS from eight of the major political parties about tertiary-education policy, or during political forums held in universities in the lead-up to the General Election on 17 September.
Most parties say they will move away from the “bums-on-seats” model of funding, with National proposing to fund on the basis of learner engagement rather than enrolment, impose tighter controls on overall spending and cut courses where the drop-out rate exceeds 50 percent for two years running. Labour says it is moving to a funding model focused on quality and relevance, and has already put in place measures to move from areas of low-quality to those of higher strategic relevance and value. It also says it will emphasise student retention and course completions in future accountability and funding mechanisms.
New Zealand First has no plans to change existing funding mechanisms, while the Maori Party says it would increase funding to cover a “no-fees” policy and increased student allowances. United Future says it intends to incentivise high-quality teaching and address skills shortages through additional funding and restrict entry to university on the basis of academic performance. The Progressives would develop a funding system which would recognise the true cost of teaching and research, support students, remedy the run-down of infrastructure and promote the national interest.
Labour says it will maintain a strong network of viable regional polytechnics, while ACT says it would seek a greater private-sector involvement in tertiary education and allow students to choose private or public institutions in which to study, with funding to follow that choice.
More tertiary education policies from the main political parties will be outlined in each issue of Tertiary Update until the General Election.
Wananga remains on
National Education spokesperson, Bill English, has called for the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, to explain why he has sat on his hands for the last six weeks instead of sacking Te Wananga o Aotearoa’s Council.
On 20 June, Trevor Mallard advised the Wananga’s Council that he had made a preliminary decision to replace it with a commissioner following his investigation into repeated allegations of nepotism and financial mismanagement. In turn, the Council had twenty-one days to respond, following which the Minister was able to make a final decision on what action he would take.
Mr English said yesterday that the public is now owed an explanation as to why the Minister had done nothing, especially in light of the controversy surrounding the use of public money. Describing Labour as having “caved in” and “too scared act”, Bill English said the Minister is now “ducking for cover”. “He’ll lamely argue that legal reason prevented him from taking action, but that’s a sham. The reality is that there is no legal justification for the delay,” he said.
But, in an apparent contradiction of his criticism of Labour’s failure to sack the Wananga’s Council, Mr English has told listeners to Radio Watea that Trevor Mallard should stop trying to run the Wananga and “let them get on with the job”.
Responding to a question from Tertiary Update, Trevor Mallard said that his decision on the future of the Wananga was an important one and one that he had no intention of rushing. “I fully intend to make a decision before the Election. I have asked the Wananga for more information and they are getting back to me and I will make a decision once that happens,” he said. “There is no delay as such, as there never was a set time for the decision to begin with.”
Meanwhile, the Wananga has created six executive director positions as it restructures in anticipation of the Minister’s decision.
Union members at
AUT take industrial action
Members of the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE) have voted, by what is described as an overwhelming margin, to take industrial action in support of a salary claim following the breakdown of collective employment agreement negotiations at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT). In response to a proposal from ASTE for a salary increase of 13 percent spread evenly over two years, AUT Vice-Chancellor Derek McCormack has offered an increase of 7 percent over the two years.
ASTE Assistant Secretary Irena Brorens said that the offer was not acceptable, and union members were now falling further and further behind the rest of the university sector in terms of salaries. She went on to say that AUT management needed to step up to the mark on the salaries issues if they want to compete nationally and internationally in the market for academics. “Our members are qualified, competent professionals who will not sit by and subsidise the university’s activities by accepting pay increases that barely keep pace with inflation,” she said.
Ms Brorens said that withdrawal of goodwill, which started yesterday, would escalate with strike action beginning next week.
Clark misleads on student allowances,
“Helen Clark willfully misled Kiwis when she claimed that Labour had increased the number of students getting student allowance,” according to National Education spokesperson, Bill English. Referring to the TV One leaders’ debate on Tuesday night this week, Mr English said that Miss Clark’s statement, that the Labour Government had more students getting allowances, was not supported by the facts. “The number of student-allowance recipients has actually fallen under Labour. Just because she repeats it doesn’t make it true,” he said. “In 1999, 64,292 students received student allowances, by 2004 that number had fallen to 60,826. This fall occurred despite the huge increase in student numbers over that period.”
Mr English concluded that the Prime Minister would do well to stop fibbing and face the facts. “Students should look to Labour’s track record before trusting extravagant Labour Party promises,” he said.
Showing that it truly is election season, the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, hit back, saying that National’s student loan calculator is misleading voters. “Their student loan calculator is just as shonky and dishonest as their tax calculator as it understates the benefits of Labour’s student-loan policy for people with large loans,” he said. “The calculator only calculates savings for a maximum $40,000 loan. If your loan is higher, then it will underestimate how much you will save, and the distortion grows the higher the loan.”
Meanwhile, research from the first-ever Carlin Valenti Election Forum, billed as New Zealand’s newest on-line listening company, shows that students with loans rate the Labour Party’s student loan policy ahead of National’s. The Forum, which surveyed 2469 people with student loans, resulted in students giving Labour’s policy an average score of 4.4 out of 6, leaving National trailing at 2.9. Labour’s overall policy also rated at 3.6, while National scored 1.7. Not surprisingly, the survey also showed that Labour’s student-loan policy had the strongest appeal amongst Labour and Green voters, but gained little traction from New Zealand First, United Future and National. Researcher Duncan Stuart said the result showed that Labour’s policy would be successful in shifting Maori and Green Party voters back to Labour.
A plug for Ed Review website
Education Review’s website is still free to use, but not for much longer. Updated every Friday morning, the website contains news stories from the latest edition of the Education Review. The current edition covers problems with the Government’s plan to charge foreign PhD students the same fees as domestic students, why Unitec is deferring a decision on legal action over its university-status bid, and the Government’s announcement of more secondary teachers for 2006. The site is at www.educationreview.co.nz and is currently accessible free of charge.
Academics resign over library cuts
Six academics have resigned from key posts at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in protest at what they see as the downgrading of language studies. The University is proposing to make redundant four senior librarians as a part of the restructuring of the 1.2 million-volume library, which is respected internationally for its African and Asian collections. The redundant librarians would be replaced by junior clerks.
Academics say that the reputation of Japanese, Korean and Chinese studies would be put at risk by the decision to sack the librarians who speak those languages and help tend to the University’s collection of books and documents. The library would be left without a Mandarin speaker.
John Breen, the head of the University’s Department of Japan and Korea, was one of the six academics to resign this week. The University has not yet released the names of the other academics.
The University also refused to comment, but a statement on its website says that, due to increasing numbers of students, scholars, media and business users of the library, SOAS is, in fact, planning to extend two sections of its library.
Peter Mitchell, from the Association of University Teachers, said one of the union’s concerns was the haste with which the redundancies are being pushed through. “They were only announced on August 15, and if they are confirmed, they [the librarians] will be out by Friday, paid in lieu of notice,” he said. “It’s an appalling way to treat individuals who have over twenty years’ experience.”
Education Guardian and Times Higher Education Supplement
AVCC on the rocks?
The Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee is not an effective check against increasing intervention by federal education ministers and is likely to keep losing influence, according to one of Australia’s most experienced university administrators.
In his book, Making and Breaking Universities, which was launched in Sydney this week, Professor Bruce Williams, a former AVCC Chairman and a long-serving Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sydney, called for the establishment of an independent universities’ commission to advise the federal minister and to offer critical comment.
Professor Williams said that the trouble for the AVCC is that it has become “so large with so many different interests involved”. He predicted that groupings reflecting distinct interests, such as the Group of Eight research universities, would continue to rise in prominence as the AVCC declined.
In calling for an independent commission, Professor Williams said that the Federal Minister has become in effect Director-General of Higher Education, something he viewed as “dangerous”. He added that he was apprehensive about tendencies under Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson, such as giving special treatment to regional universities in Coalition seats, Dr Nelson’s 2003 suggestion he would deny funding to degree programmes he regarded as “cappuccino courses” and the new league table used to distribute money for teaching and learning.
Professor Williams said this league table was “an example of stupidity which a universities’ commission would be able to criticise pretty trenchantly”, but that AVCC members, occupying very different positions in the league table, would be less effective than a commission in challenging such an intrusion.
From The Australian
Harvard, Princeton top US universities, but
Wisconsin best for parties
Harvard and Princeton Universities have tied for the top place in the annual college rankings compiled by US New & World Report, with Yale and the University of Pennsylvania coming in at third and fourth respectively.
In other rankings, the University of California at Berkeley topped the list of public universities, with the University of Virginia second and the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Michigan at Ann Abor tying for third. Williams College topped the rankings of liberal arts’ colleges, followed by Amherst and Swarthmore Colleges.
The rankings are released each year with US News’s annual college issue in the book America’s Best Colleges, but are controversial because many college officials argue that they ignore crucial characteristics and rely too heavily on colleges’ reputations.
More controversial, though, is the award for Top Party School 2005, which has gone, this year, to the University of Wisconsin. Billed as the ultimate academic accolade, the top party award is based on a survey of 110,000 students by the Princeton Review. It has, however, been dismissed as “junk science” by University of Wisconsin Chancellor, John Wiley.
The US News rankings can be found at:
From The Chronicle of Higher Education
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: email@example.com