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AUS Tertiary Update

Interest free loans historic win for students
The New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA) is describing the passing of the Taxation (Annual Rates and Urgent Measures) Bill on Tuesday night as an historic win for the student movement. It is the legislation which removes interest on student loans from 1 April next year for students and former students residing in New Zealand. It also exempts graduates engaged in fulltime study overseas from accruing interest on their loans balance.
NZUSA Co-President, Camilla Belich, said she was delighted that interest free loans would now become a reality for hundreds of thousands of students and graduates from April next year. “The student movement has been working towards significant and lasting reform to the student-loan scheme for over a decade. This was a wonderful and hard-earned Christmas present for students and graduates all over New Zealand. We recognise that no-interest-on-loans has support from students, graduates, their parents, grandparents and from across the community.”
The Minister for Tertiary Education, Dr Michael Cullen, said the benefit to New Zealand of the new policy would be great, as skilled people would be encouraged to stay in the country, and expatriates encouraged to return home. Borrowers who left or stayed out of the country will continue to pay interest.
Incoming NZUSA Co-President, Conor Roberts, said that the challenges now for the student movement are to ensure that all students receive a living allowance while they study and to try and bring down the “incredibly high” course fees currently charged at New Zealand public tertiary institutions. “An immediate priority must be to ensure that public tertiary education is adequately funded,” he said. “Students also appreciate the support this Bill received from across the political spectrum and recognise all the political parties who helped to make interest-free student loans a reality.”
The Bill was passed by seventy-one votes to fifty, with support from Labour, the Green Party, the Maori Party, United Future and Jim Anderton.
Student representatives from around New Zealand celebrated the passing of the legislation, pulling a Christmas cracker and posing for photographs with Dr Cullen on the steps of Parliament yesterday morning.

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. New Chair for NZVCC
2. “University” refused permission to sue
3. Auckland fees to rise
4. TEC approves additional PTE funding
5. Figures show student-allowance numbers continue to fall
6. Take education out of GATS, say teachers
7. Australia bans student levies
8. Employers warned not to renege on pay
9. Imran to captain Bradford

New Chair for NZVCC
University of Canterbury Vice-Chancellor, Professor Roy Sharp, has been named as the Chair of the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee for the next two years from 1 January 2006. He succeeds current Chair, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Auckland, who held the position throughout 2004 and 2005.
Professor Sharp has Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from the University of Oxford and is a Fellow of the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand. He has had an extensive academic career in New Zealand, initially at the University of Auckland where, between 1973 and 1996, he rose to become Professor of Materials’ Engineering and served as Dean of Engineering, Assistant Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor.
In 1997, Professor Sharp moved to Victoria University, serving as Deputy Vice-Chancellor and, from January to November 2000, as Acting Vice-Chancellor.
He has also had extensive experience in other governance and managerial roles, both nationally and internationally.

“University” refused permission to sue
A Wellington-based company, the University of Newlands, has been refused permission to sue Nationwide News, publisher of The Australian, for defamation after its internet site named the “University” in a 2004 list of 100 “wannabe”, “degree mill” universities it said conferred degrees based on life experience. The “University” has also been ordered to pay $6,000 in costs.
The University of Newlands and its sole director, Rochelle Forrester, sued for defamation, saying that the wannabe university title implied that its courses did not confer proper qualifications. Responding, Nationwide News applied to have the proceedings struck out on the basis that any defamation proceedings should be heard in Australia and, in any event, there was no case to answer. Its lawyer, Bruce Gray, argued that, because the Education Act prohibits use of the name “university” and “purporting to offer degrees”, the University of Newland’s degrees are worthless. He also argued that the “University” either had no reputation to harm, or already had a bad reputation.
According to a report in the Dominion Post, the Court of Appeal said the defamation case could not go ahead. Newlands and Ms Forrester had not shown it had a good arguable case that an act had been done in New Zealand for which damages could be claimed from a party outside New Zealand. Without their showing a good arguable case, New Zealand courts would not assume jurisdiction, the decision said.
Among the factual concerns were that the Court seriously doubted if there was enough evidence to show anyone other than Ms Forrester had downloaded the material in New Zealand. Also, because Ms Forrester was not named in the Newlands website, she could not claim to have suffered harm directly from Newlands being labelled a “wannabe uni”.

Auckland fees to rise
Undergraduate student fees are to increase by an average 3.9 percent next year for domestic students studying at the University of Auckland following approval of the 2006 fee structure at the University Council’s meeting on Monday. Fees for undergraduate programmes will increase by between zero and 5 percent and most postgraduate programmes by 7.7 percent.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon said that, while the increase is moderate in comparison with those made by other universities for next year, the University of Auckland still faces a major shortfall in its budget which will require the University to make savings in other areas. “Costs relating to domestic students will increase by approximately $18.8 million in 2006. Domestic student fee increases will cover only $4.7m (26 percent) of this sum and the increase of 2.6 percent in government funding for next year will provide only another $5.8m, leaving a shortfall of $8.3 million,” he said.
Professor McCutcheon said that the Government’s fee-maxima regime restricts the University’s freedom to set fee increases by setting a 5 percent cap on undergraduate-fee increases, and a $500 cap on postgraduate fee increases. He said the University has repeatedly made the point that the fee-maxima policy and a funding regime based on the Consumer Price Index are out of step with the needs and unique cost structure of a research university. “We have an obligation to our students and other stakeholders to maintain quality teaching and research programmes. That means we have to increase student fees as one of a package of measures to assist in closing this funding gap.”
Auckland University Students Association (AUSA) President Greg Langton said that if the Government did not make any real changes to the way that tertiary institutions are funded, it would be inevitable that institutions would raise fees wherever they could. “AUSA calls on the Government and new Tertiary Education Minister, Michael Cullen, to make real progress on the issue of long-term tertiary funding to ensure that universities are able to meet rising costs of providing quality degrees without continually raising student fees,” he said.

TEC approves additional PTE funding
Private Training Establishments are to receive $2 million in reinvestment funding next year to support qualifications of high strategic relevance. The Tertiary Education Commission has approved the additional money to expand thirty-one current qualifications and six new courses, including certificates in social services, film and television production, call centre and employment skills and travel and tourism.
“This extra money will be used to expand existing provision or to provide new qualifications which meet the needs of learners and employers,” says Clare Ward, TEC Steering and Investment Group Manager.
Money for the 2006 reinvestment allocation has been freed up from this year’s PTE, Aviation and Dive reviews, as well as money saved from the reduction in Short Award provision and previously unallocated PTE funding.

Figures show student-allowance numbers continue to fall
Figures posted on the StudyLink website show that 54,621 students received a student allowance during the period from July to September 2005, 4,031 less than for the same time last year and 7,077 less than in 2003, according to the New Zealand University Students’ Association.
“Student-allowance eligibility under this Government has continued to fall throughout 2005, despite the Labour-led Government announcing in Budget 2004 that more students would receive allowances this year,” said Camilla Belich, NZUSA Co-President.
“The 7 percent decrease in students receiving allowances shows that the small changes to allowance-eligibility criteria haven’t worked and haven’t given more students allowances,” she said. “The answer to this problem is simple and long overdue. A living allowance for all students would mean students would know what they are entitled to when they study. Students would no longer be forced to borrow to live and, as a result, total student debt and borrowing would reduce.”
“Michael Cullen must act immediately to ensure that Labour’s policy of 50 percent of all students receiving an allowance is implemented by Budget 2006 at the latest because, at the moment, Labour is well short of this goal,” Ms Belich said.

Worldwatch
Take education out of GATS, say teachers
In a statement released yesterday to delegations to the sixth World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong, Education International, the global union representing more than 29 million teachers and education workers, has called on member countries to remove education services from the General Agreement on Trade in Services.
EI President, Thulas Nxesi, said that, because there are so many unanswered questions about the impact of GATS on education, and because there is so much at stake, EI believes a precautionary approach must be adopted. “[The WTO] must neither make nor seek any commitments that constrain the rights of governments to regulate education as they see fit, including research, audio-visual services and libraries,” he said.
The statement also recommends that countries do not make commitments on private-education services. “As the boundary between public and private education becomes increasingly blurred, the danger is that commitments taken in private education could easily expose the public system,” said Nxesi. “Teachers are deeply disturbed by the recent New Zealand-led establishment of a ‘friends of education exports’ group that is specifically targeting education services.”
“We believe strongly that, at its root, GATS is in conflict with educational values,” said Nxesi. “The GATS is a commercial agreement designed to expand business opportunities for investors. Education, by contrast, is a human right that serves the public interest and must not be treated as a commodity subject to commercial trade rules.”
The statement, which was adopted by participants to EI’s higher-education and research meeting in Melbourne last week, also recommends that countries do not make commitments on private-education services.
The Association of University Staff is an affiliate of EI and participated in formulation of the statement. The statement and an update on the WTO negotiations can be located at:
http://www.ei-ie.org/en/news/20051214c.htm

Australia bans student levies
Australian universities will be banned from levying compulsory student-union fees after the Government gathered sufficient last-minute support in the Senate to pass its controversial voluntary-student-union legislation late last week. It means that universities will face heavy penalties if they attempt to levy students for such services as childcare, counselling and sporting clubs.
Instead, the Government will set up an $80 million compensation fund for struggling universities to fund recreational and sporting infrastructure.
Andrew Nette, Policy and Research Coordinator for the National Tertiary Education Union, said that the passage of the legislation marked an international first for Australia. “To the Union’s knowledge, we are now the only OECD country that prohibits the collection of non-academic fees to support extra-curricular campus activities,” he said. “The Government has rushed through this legislation on the last parliamentary sitting day of the year for the sake of fulfilling an ideological obsession that has nothing to do with the welfare of students.”
Mr Nette said that an estimated 4,000 jobs would be lost as a direct result of the legislation “Services such as childcare, personal, housing and financial counselling and assistance, careers and employment services as well as academic advocacy and advice are essential to the capacity of many students to continue their studies, whether this be in metropolitan or regional areas. It is these services that help facilitate students’ capacity to attend university, and the skilled student-organisation staff that administer them, that are the least likely to survive under a user-pays system that will ensue with the passage of this legislation.”

Employers warned not to renege on pay
Universities in the United Kingdom are being warned of industrial disruption next year if they do not honour a commitment that at least one-third of the extra income from student “top-up” fees and additional university grants will be spent on improving staff pay.
The unions representing higher education staff, AUT and NATFHE, confirmed their intention to ballot their members on industrial action if the employers do not honour that commitment at a meeting scheduled for 10 January 2006.
In April 2004, the then Minister for Higher Education, Alan Johnson, said that university vice-chancellors, lobbying for the introduction of top-up fees, had cited low academic pay, saying that, in general, at least a third of the £5 billion income from fees and extra grants would be put back into the salaries and conditions of the staff.
In a joint statement AUT and NATFHE General Secretaries, Sally Hunt and Paul Mackney, said that union members are increasingly annoyed at vice-chancellors who are prepared to renege on the promise they made to make pay a priority. “We have little desire to disrupt the studies of millions of hard-working students, and remain optimistic that this can be resolved without the need for industrial action,” they said. “Students back our call for improved pay because they have little desire to be taught by poorly paid, de-motivated lecturers. We hope the universities are equally keen to avoid any disruption and will urge their employers’ association to come to the table with a fair offer in January. If they don’t, then we will be forced into industrial action.”

Imran to captain Bradford
Pakistan’s former cricket-captain-turned-politician Imran Khan has taken up the illustrious post of Chancellor of the University of Bradford in Northern England.
Although Khan’s is a figurehead appointment, he says he hopes to play a role that will go beyond the conferring of university degrees twice a year. The decision to offer him the post is a tribute to his status as an international cricket star, an indication of how popular he is among overseas Pakistanis, many thousands of whom are settled in Bradford, and who see him as an inspirational role model. “Imran will be a role model for young people in the university and the city, strengthen our links with South Asia and he will be a valuable bridge between east and west,” Bradford University Vice-Chancellor Chris Smith said earlier this week.
Khan said that, when approached to be Chancellor, he researched the University and was “very impressed”.
From The Times Higher Education Supplement

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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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