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AUS Tertiary Update

Agreement reached with vice-chancellors
University staff unions and vice-chancellors agreed, last Friday, to an historic national umbrella agreement, setting out the terms for the parties to work together on a collaborative basis to address major funding and salary issues facing the university sector. It also provides an overarching context for the settlement of local employment agreements, negotiations for which are now underway.
Under the national umbrella agreement, the parties will work actively and co-operatively with each other through the University Tripartite Forum, recently established by the Government, to consider and resolve long-standing salary problems and, more broadly, funding problems in the sector. The agreement requires vice-chancellors and unions to work actively with each other, to establish co-operative and open relationships and to implement relevant agreed outcomes from the Forum into collective agreements.
The umbrella agreement will be signed by the vice-chancellors from all New Zealand universities and the seven unions representing university staff.
Speaking on behalf of the combined university unions, Professor Nigel Haworth said the proposed national umbrella agreement was potentially the most significant bargaining development in the sector in fifteen years. “We have long argued that our industrial campaign must have a political solution as well as an industrial one, and the Government recently recognised this with the establishment of the University Tripartite Forum,” he said. “The proposed umbrella agreement will provide a basis on which vice-chancellors and unions are able to approach the Forum with a common purpose, and ensure the best outcomes for the sector.”
“We have agreed to a solution that provides the benefits union members are seeking from a national agreement,” said Professor Haworth. “We want a national approach to resolving salary issues and this agreement, together with the Tripartite Forum, meets this expectation.”
The Forum is expected to meet soon after the General Election, and both unions and vice-chancellors want to see the work of the group reflected in the next Budget.
Union members at the Auckland University of Technology may also be included in this agreement although their current industrial negotiations are separate from those at the other seven universities.
The outcome of negotiations at each of the universities will be reported to union members over the next fortnight.

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. University salaries a priority - for most
2. University profits up
3. AUT staff to escalate industrial action
4. Massey to set tuition fees this week
5. Anger at new Brunel recruits
6. Scramble for places at top British universities
7. USQ to close Dubai campus

University salaries a priority - for most
Resolving long-standing problems with university salary levels will be a priority for most political parties, but not all. While Labour has said it is committed to identifying and resolving salary problems through a tripartite process, National will not give any commitment to tripartism, adding that salary levels are an issue to be determined at each institution. National’s possible coalition partner, ACT, is more blunt: it says it would disband the University Tripartite Forum.
The differences were revealed in responses to questions from AUS to 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 to be held on 17 September.
All of the other parties questioned said they supported the tripartite process to resolve the salary issues, with most adding that it needs to be supported with additional funding. Labour says it supports multi-employer bargaining, as does the Green Party, Jim Anderton’s Progressives and United Future. The Maori Party says participation in multi-employer bargaining is a matter for staff to decide to ensure their rangitiritanga is protected, while National says that multi-employer collective agreements are a matter between the negotiating parties, not for government. Neither New Zealand First nor Act supports multi-employer bargaining, with the latter adding that it would cut taxes in order to retain skilled workers.
Among the other policies being promoted, the Greens say they would strengthen measures to prevent freeloading and support measures to bring government back into the salary-setting process; the Progressives would establish a small Tertiary Education Staffing Unit to provide specialist advice to government, benchmark academic salaries with other relevant countries and introduce arbitration to resolve disputes in the public sector.
Further tertiary-education policies from the main political parties will be outlined in each issue of Tertiary Update until the General Election, and a detailed summary can be found in the current issue of AUS Bulletin.

University profits up
In its annual summary of tertiary institution performance, Education Review this week reveals that university sector profitability increased in 2004, while the polytechnic sector experienced more deficits and a greater overall decline than in 2003. Heading the university rich-list was the University of Otago, with a surplus of more than $29 million (or 7.8 as a percentage of income), followed by the University of Auckland with a surplus of $19 million (or 3.3% of income). Waikato trailed the field, with a surplus of $1.3 million (or 0.8 percent of income). It is the second year running in which all universities have turned a surplus for the year and, aside from Waikato, all universities have increased their surpluses from 2003.
Amongst the polytechnics, the highest surplus of $6.5 million was achieved at Whitireia (14.9 percent of income) with Aoraki second at $5 million (20 percent of income). Amongst those running a deficit were the Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology (0.25 million), Tairawhiti Polytechnic ($3.4 million) and the Western Institute of Technology ($2.6 million). University aspirant Unitec turned a loss of $1.5 million, well short of its $4.5 million surplus in 2003. Figures from the troubled Wananga o Aotearoa were unavailable at the time Education Review went to print.
Among them, universities generated income of $2.14 billion, up from $1.94 billion in 2003, and polytechnics earned $864 million, up from $828 million in 2003.
Using annual report information compiled by the Ministry of Education, Education Review reports that universities’ working capital, that is, current assets over current liabilities, improved by $27 million (to a negative balance of $50 million), while polytechnics’ working capital improved by $1 million (to a negative balance of $49 million).
Student numbers also continued to grow. Universities had 126,658 equivalent full-time students (EFTS) last year, of which 24,162 were international students, while polytechnics had 96,706 EFTS of which 9,425 were international students.
Overall, universities employed more than 17,000 full-time equivalent staff and polytechnics employed more than 8,000. Perhaps to their credit, the institutions with the poorest overall financial performances spent the highest proportion of their income on staff.
Interestingly, Education Review apologises for the late publication of its annual analysis due, it reports, to the refusal of some institutions to provide information before publication of their annual reports.

AUT staff to escalate industrial action
Union members at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) have promised more industrial disruption following strike action which brought the institution to a standstill on Tuesday. More than 550 members of the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE) marched down Auckland’s Queen Street during Tuesday’s strike, leaving the AUT’s campuses virtually empty of staff and students.
The action follows the breakdown of collective employment agreement negotiations, during which AUT’s Vice-Chancellor, Derek McCormack, offered a salary increase of 3.5 percent for this year and a further 3.5 percent for next year in response to a salary claim from staff of a 6.5 percent per year increase in each of the next two years.
Irena Brorens, ASTE Assistant Secretary, said that classes at AUT would be further disrupted by lightning strikes over the coming weeks if the Vice-Chancellor does not make an improved pay offer, adding that a withdrawal of goodwill, which began last week, would now begin to affect the University’s recruitment, marketing and promotional activities.
Ms Brorens said that staff would not accept salary rates falling further and further behind the rest of the university sector, and that they had no option but to strike given the Vice-Chancellor’s position. “The effect on students will be much greater if the salaries’ issue for academics is not addressed,” she said.
Ministry of Education figures, revealed in the Education Review analysis reported above, show that personnel costs per equivalent full-time staff member at AUT are the lowest of all the country’s universities at $57,389 against a university average of $69,142. Overall wage costs at AUT, as a proportion of expenditure, were 55.4 percent against a university-average of 58.5 percent.

Massey to set tuition fees this week
Massey University plans to set tuition fees for 2006 at its Council meeting tomorrow, with a recommendation from senior management that one of the options for consideration will be to increase undergraduate fees by 10 percent. The recommendation will be considered in the closed session of the Council meeting, meaning the public and media will be excluded from the debate. If the proposal is adopted, the Council will need to apply to the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) for an exemption from the Government’s fee-maxima policy, which limits increases to a maximum of 5 percent without specific exemption. It would be the first time ever an application has been made by a university for a blanket exemption; usually they have been restricted to individual courses, such as for medicine.
Students have reacted with predictable anger to the proposal, saying that the Council has abandoned its usual practice of setting fees at its October meeting and holding the discussion in the public session. Massey University Students’ Association President, Iain Galloway, said there was an element of under-handedness about the process, and he described the September consideration of fee levels as a “massive error of judgment”. “In an election year, Massey could be facing policy changes that could have a substantial effect on its income. The Council could make a far more informed decision knowing who will be in government for the next three years,” he said. “The TEC is in the process of changing its policy regarding exemptions for fee-maxima, but nothing has been finalised. Why should the Council be forced to fly blind on such an important issue?”
Chancellor Nigel Gould is reported as confirming that the proposed 10 percent fee increase will be discussed in the “public-excluded” session of the Council meeting, adding that Massey’s fees did not increase last year and are currently around 10 percent less than the average of New Zealand universities.

Worldwatch
Anger at new Brunel recruits
Staff have reacted angrily to the news that Britain’s Brunel University has appointed as lecturers two close relatives of senior staff soon after making forty-five academics redundant. The Times Higher reports that the daughter of a pro vice-chancellor and the niece of a senior professor in Education have been appointed to fixed-term positions in the University’s School of Sport and Education.
Brunel University is currently under a “greylisted” sanction called by the Association of University Teachers (AUT) after the sacking of two academics for so-called “over-teaching”, and the redundancy of forty-three others. The University has decided to replace non-research-active staff in an effort to boost its research status ahead of the next Research Assessment Exercise.
AUT spokesperson Justine Stephens said that, at the same time AUT members had been thrown on the scrapheap, it could appear that the two recruits had been appointed on their family tree rather than their research.
Brunel management has announced that its programme “to reduce the number of non-research-active staff” has finished.

Scramble for places at top British universities
A record number of British universities are closing their doors to applicants after an unprecedented scramble for places by students desperate to avoid higher tuition fees. Admissions tutors at dozens of institutions say that they are full only days after the start of the “clearing” exercise to match students to available vacancies. Some universities reported that they were full by the end of the first day. Tens of thousands of candidates who are still searching for places because they failed to get the A-level grades for their chosen courses face disappointment as a growing number of universities pull out of clearing.
Meanwhile, universities in Australia and New Zealand are to offer thousands of pounds of scholarships to British students who have failed to gain a place in clearing and wish to study abroad. Prompted by reports that up to 60,000 school-leavers may fail to gain a university place in Britain this year because of the rush to avoid £3,000 top-up fees, seven universities from Queensland to Canterbury have pledged financial assistance. Annual undergraduate fees usually range between £4,100 and £5,400. With a lower cost of living, however, academics say that it is now academically and financially worthwhile for British students to study in the southern hemisphere.
The Times

USQ to close Dubai campus
The Toowoomba-based University of Southern Queensland (USQ) has decided to abandon its controversial campus in Dubai’s Knowledge Village less than a year after its opening, leaving stranded more than three hundred students in business administration, information technology and mass communication.
Last year, three senior USQ staff were suspended after it was discovered the campus was being set up in Dubai and had enrolled more than one hundred students without the knowledge of the Vice-Chancellor or the University Council. Despite referring the matter to Queensland’s Crime and Misconduct Commission, the Vice-Chancellor decided to press ahead, saying the planned campus should proceed.
Now, in announcing the decision to shut up shop, the Vice-Chancellor has cited unacceptable changes imposed by its landlord, Knowledge Village, which “shifts all the financial risk of the campus to USQ.”
Local news reports say that the 300 affected students, who were about to start their third semester of study, are considering legal action against the University if fees are not refunded.

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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: marty.braithwaite@aus.ac.nz

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