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AUS Tertiary Update

Canterbury agreements settled
Union members at the University of Canterbury yesterday ratified the settlement of their four main collective agreements, bringing to an end several months of industrial disruption. Union members will receive a salary increase of 5 percent from 1 August, with 2.75 percent backdated to 1 May.
Canterbury is the first of the universities to settle local agreements following the achievement of a national umbrella agreement between vice-chancellors and the combined university unions the previous week. Under that agreement, which becomes effective when all local collective agreements are finalised, the parties will work actively and constructively with each other through the University Tripartite Forum to consider and resolve long-standing salary and funding problems in the university sector and to implement these outcomes in collective agreements.
The Association of University Staff (AUS) Canterbury Branch President, Dr David Small, said that, through their collective efforts including successful strike action, staff had shifted the University from its original offer of 3.25 percent, and into agreeing to a national process for future salary discussions. Union members had also been successful in putting the issue of salaries on the political agenda. “It has always been our view that the resolution of the salary problems facing the sector would be through a political as well as industrial process. The agreement we have reached places an enforceable obligation on the vice-chancellors collectively to give the salary issue a high priority in the tripartite process; use their best endeavours to develop, agree and implement sustainable solutions to providing fair and competitive salaries; and to implement, as appropriate, agreed outcomes into collective agreements.”
Staff at Victoria, Auckland, Otago, Massey and Lincoln Universities will vote, over the next week, on the ratification of local agreements. Negotiations are resuming at the University of Waikato where the salary offer, at 3 percent, remains the lowest in the country.
The Tripartite Forum Working Group is currently preparing background papers on salaries and funding, with the Forum to meet in October.
AUS General Secretary Helen Kelly said it is the unions’ intention and expectation that quick progress will be made on the salaries issue and that the Government will be in a position to provide funding through the next Budget.

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Research policies revealed
2. Students react to Massey’s planned fee hike
3. Speculation mounts over Wananga
4. Top researchers receive $4.2 million
5. Some Australian universities plan to cancel existing collectives
6. UK lecturers accept 3 percent pay deal
7. USQ staff and students demand compensation

Research policies revealed
Labour says it will invest $160 million more for research between 2005 and 2008 and lift the total value of the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) to $250 million per year by 2010 if it regains the government benches in the General Election on 17 September.
Announcing Labour’s policy late last week, the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, said that new projections of degree and post-graduate student numbers show that the existing PBRF pool will grow to over $112 million in 2006, $188.7 million in 2007 and $200.5 million in 2008. He says that increased support would be given to the Centres for Research Excellence beyond 2008/09, when funding for the seven centres will be reviewed, and $8 million in new funding would be provided to strengthen areas of university research deemed important to New Zealand’s society and economy.
On its website, the National Party says it will focus on high-value research and supports further growth and development of high-quality blue-skies and strategic research in tertiary institutions. It will continue with the existing rules and funding for the PBRF and ensure all institutions offering degrees can meet the statutory requirement for related research capacity. National’s possible coalition partner, ACT, says it would not alter the PBRF.
In response to questions from the Association of University Staff, the Greens provided the most comprehensive response to questions on research: They support moving the PBRF unit of assessment to groups rather than individuals, say that research funding should take into account public good and expressed concern about the commercialisation of research and the discriminatory nature of the PBRF for women.
United Future says it supports the PBRF, but would make it easier to administer, New Zealand First would broaden the definition of research and the Progressives says they strongly support investment in research. The Maori Party says it is concerned about the exclusion of some research from PBRF, especially for Maori researchers, and believes publicly-funded research should be accountable to people, not governments.
All parties, with the exception of ACT, support the current requirement for degrees to be taught by people engaged in research.
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 at: http://www.aus.ac.nz/publications/bulletin/2005/Sept/SeptPolicies.pdf

Students react to Massey’s planned fee hike
The New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA) has condemned a move by Massey University to try to increase undergraduate tuition fees by 10 percent for 2006. At its meeting last Friday, the University Council adopted a recommendation from senior management, by ten votes to five, to increase fees by the 10 percent, in part a consequence of the decision of the previous year not to increase fees for 2005.
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 authorisation.
NZUSA Co-President Andrew Kirton described the move by Massey as reckless, irresponsible and showing contempt for current students and future Massey graduates. “Students at the three Massey campuses in Albany, Palmerston North and Wellington will suffer hundreds of dollars in fee hikes next year,” he said. “We just hope the TEC has more sense than the majority of the current Massey Council, and rejects Massey’s claim for a further 5 percent [over the maxima] increase.”
This week, the Massey University Students’ Association (MUSA) called on all political parties to be honest about fee setting. MUSA President Iain Galloway said that, following the decision by the Massey Council to seek a 10 percent fee increase, students and the public have the right to know if the massive annual fee hikes of the 1990’s were coming back into fashion. “Whilst the main political parties opened their campaigns promising laudable adjustments to the student-loan scheme, the menace of rocketing fees appears to be a case of giving with one hand and taking away with the other,” he said. “Students need to know for sure what policies they will be voting for this election. I think it’s time everyone came clean on this issue.”
Massey University Chancellor, Nigel Gould, said the Council endeavoured to keep fees down last year, but could only do that for a certain amount of time if the University were to continue to invest in its facilities, the staff and the quality of its teaching and research.
It is not known at this time when TEC will consider Massey’s application.

Speculation mounts over Wananga
Speculation is mounting over the future governance of Te Wananga o Aotearoa, with a television report that the Minister of Education is intending to back down on his threat to replace the institution’s Council with a commissioner and the circulation of a consultation report on the Wananga from the Auditor-General.
On 20 June the Minister, 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.
While nothing further has been announced publicly, last week TVNZ News ran a story to the effect that the Minister was in the process of striking a deal that the Council could stay on condition that the Wananga’s Chief Executive, Rongo Wetere, went. The story added, however, that Dr Wetere intended to resist any moves to facilitate his departure.
The Minister has declined to comment, saying that the issue was an important one and that he had no intention of rushing a decision.
Meanwhile, in a press statement yesterday, ACT MP Ken Shirley says that the circulation to interested parties of a consultation report into the Wananga from the Auditor-General points to a gross wastage of substantial amounts of public money. He said that, while the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and the Tertiary Education Commission carry most of the direct flak, “it is clear that those bodies were implementing political directives to shower the Wananga with enormous amounts of taxpayer’s money”.
“Regrettably, the terms of reference establishing the Auditor-General’s enquiry specifically excluded the examination and integrity of enrolments and the content and the output of the courses,” Mr Shirley said. “What we saw was tens of thousands of students enrolled in highly spurious courses all designed to maximize the capture of taxpayers.
The report is not yet publicly available.

Top researchers receive $4.2 million
Forty research grants were announced this week by the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, in the latest round of Top Achiever Doctoral Scholarships. These scholarships are available to students enrolling in or applying for a programme of PhD study, and provide support for up to three years’ full-time study. Recipients are paid an annual stipend of $25,000, $3,000 per annum towards attendance at conferences and annual course fees.
The latest round of scholarships, worth more than $4.2 million over the next three years, included research projects from a variety of disciplines.
Trevor Mallard said that the scholarships ensure that PhD students have the support they need to undertake research that New Zealand needs to underpin New Zealand’s ongoing social and economic development. “These scholarships confirm the Labour-led Government’s commitment to increasing the numbers of highly-trained researchers and highly-skilled graduates in a variety of disciplines,” he said. “Our Government is very committed to supporting and strengthening research. As a country New Zealand needs top researchers – they are an important part of our work in growing the economy and lifting the level of innovation, and they also help us with our understanding of social needs.”
Some of the students are undertaking research at an overseas university but, on completion of the scholarships, they must return to New Zealand for a period equal to that of the scholarship.

Worldwatch
Some Australian universities plan to cancel existing collectives
Australia’s National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has condemned a “secret” plan by some university employers to unilaterally cancel existing collective employment agreements if they do not meet the Federal Government’s new industrial-relations plans.
Under changes which are to be introduced into Federal Parliament this week, universities are being required to incorporate harsh new conditions into employment agreements or risk losing access to around $A280 million in new funding. The new conditions include forcing staff from collective employment agreements onto individual ones, known as Australian Workplace Agreements, and eliminating all caps on casual employment.
In a leaked letter reported in the Australian Financial Times, the Australian Higher Education Industry Association has requested the Federal Government to allow universities to simply cancel their existing agreements.
NTEU General Secretary Grahame McCulloch said that such a course of action would see university staff conditions slashed, including reductions in the minimum salary rates and in areas such as job security, academic freedom, workloads and parental leave. “The cancellation of any agreement would also be certain to provoke major opposition from staff at any university that went down this path,” he said.
Meanwhile, a report in The Australian says that a group of universities is also pushing to have provisions for instant dismissal included in their workplace rules, going well behind the requirements of the Federal Government for workplace reform.

UK lecturers accept 3 percent pay deal
Lecturers in the United Kingdom’s “post-92” new universities have accepted a pay offer of 3 percent for 2005, but have vowed to campaign for a significant pay increase in 2006, demanding that a third of top-up fees and other new university income is spent on pay.
Members of NATFHE, the UK university and colleges’ lecturers’ union, which represents 20,000 staff in “new” universities and higher education colleges, voted this week by a margin of seven to one to accept the new pay deal and mount the campaign.
NATFHE Higher Education Head, Roger Kline, says that lecturers have received salary increases of only half that of other public-sector employees in recent years and trail badly behind equivalent professionals in the UK and internationally. He said NATFHE believes unions must challenge the current funding arrangements and seek a commitment from employers to allocate funding to improve pay. “When trying to justify the introduction of top-up fees, ministers led university lecturers, MPs and the public to believe that a third of this income would be used to improve pay,” he said. “We are going to test their commitment to that. We cannot continue to let lecturers’ pay slide down the national and international league tables, losing purchasing power and damaging recruitment to the profession. The high quality of higher education must be maintained by rewarding lecturers accordingly.”

USQ staff and students demand compensation
Staff and students at the University of Southern Queensland’s failed Dubai campus are demanding compensation for closure of the campus, but USQ Vice-Chancellor, Bill Lovegrove, says the matters are the responsibility of USQ's former Dubai partner, the International Academic Corporation.
Last week, the Toowoomba-based University 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.
A joint letter to USQ from MBA students who have had their courses cut short makes several demands, including that all their remaining units be offered by distance education at no cost and with no completion dates. They are also seeking free education for those who choose to come to Australia to complete their programmes.
This week USQ expanded an offer of four free units to eight for students who want to continue their studies by distance education or on campus in Australia.
Staff have called for the same redundancy payouts as Australian academics, saying the closure has left many of them unemployed. “Not only did the University fail to officially notify the staff of the closure, there has been no mention of satisfactory compensation for the loss of working hours, jobs, cover for outstanding marking, and September classes,” an unsigned staff letter says.
Professor Lovegrove said that USQ had approached IAC about meeting its employer obligations and had sought help from Knowledge Village, the Dubai landlord.
From The Australian

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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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