AUS Tertiary Update
Union members to vote on national bargaining
Union members in New Zealand’s seven traditional universities will begin voting next week to determine whether the unions will again initiate bargaining for national multi-employer collective employment agreements in 2006. The current enterprise-based collective agreements for academic and general staff are due to expire on 30 April.
Association of University Staff General Secretary, Helen Kelly, said that the AUS Council and Industrial Committee strongly recommended that union members vote in favour of the national bargaining proposal in order to build on the progress made over the past few years to resolve salary and funding problems within the university sector. “Last year’s collective-agreement negotiations resulted in the establishment of the Universities Tripartite Forum, providing the Government, vice-chancellors and university unions with the means to make progress on these issues,” she said. “It was also agreed between the unions and vice-chancellors that ensuring competitive and fair salaries would be given a high priority in the Universities Tripartite Forum’s work plan, and that the parties would use their best endeavours to develop and implement sustainable solutions to the issue of providing competitive and fair salaries for all university staff.”
Ms Kelly said that it was clear that a national approach had increased the collective strength of staff, as it had done for teachers, nurses and doctors, and gave the unions a better basis to bargain effectively for better salaries and conditions of employment. It had also allowed the Government to become involved and work with the parties to find national solutions to the issues facing the sector.
“New Zealand competes on an international labour market for university staff, and it is our view that the national bargaining process has the potential not only to set national terms and conditions of employment, but also to assist with workforce planning, reduce competition and increase cooperation within the country’s universities and help differentiate universities from the rest of the tertiary education sector. As such, national collective agreements are in the interests of a high-quality university system for this country,” Ms Kelly said.
The national bargaining ballot closes in late February, with bargaining expected to commence by early April.
Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. New funding system to be revealed soon
2. Legal challenge to dismissal of fixed-term lecturer
3. Increase in proportion of female graduates
4. NZUSA set to expand membership
5. Hood may face no-confidence vote
6. US scholars speak out on NYU graduate students’ rights
7. Student editor suspended after printing cartoon
8. Budget cuts proposed for US higher education
funding system to be revealed soon
The Minister for Tertiary Education told an audience at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) yesterday that a new funding system for the sector is expected to be announced towards the end of March. Speaking at the opening the new AUT Akoranga Campus Library, Dr Cullen said that his officials are currently working on identifying more effective funding options as part of a move away from a model that rewards enrolment numbers to one which encourages high-quality course design and teaching. “Our ambition is to see a tertiary system that values quality and relevance and provides students with a clear set of educational choices,” he said.
Dr Cullen said that any new funding system must support academic staff who are zealous about their teaching and research. “We need to find ways to foster improvements in the quality of teaching and ensure that learning programmes have better learner outcomes,” he said. “That of course requires a nuanced appreciation of what outcomes learners are seeking.”
In what may be a strong indication that course completions will be one of the measures being considered, Dr Cullen said that there needed to be a minimisation of the number of students who enrol in study programmes but get lost in the system through a lack of forward planning or an inflexible bureaucratic process which does not allow them to tailor their study to their needs and where they live.
“Invariably the outcomes students are seeking go beyond the specific skills for a particular vocation; they are seeking the ability to understand and master new technologies, to negotiate the challenges of a global labour market, and to contribute to a New Zealand society and economy that grows more diverse by the day,” Dr Cullen said. “We are on our way to creating a tertiary sector which provides consistently high-quality education that meets international benchmarks and fulfills the expectations of students and employers.”
to dismissal of fixed-term lecturer
Legal proceedings challenging the dismissal of an assistant lecturer at Massey University were filed in the Employment Relations Authority this week by AUS.
The Massey AUS Branch Organiser, Lawrence O’Halloran, says that legal intervention was sought because mediation between the parties had failed to resolve the problem. He said that the University first employed the assistant lecturer on a three-year, fixed-term agreement, but then continued to employ him after its expiry. The staff member subsequently received a fresh offer of fixed-term employment for a further year, retrospective to the expiry of the previous agreement. Not surprisingly, the staff member declined to accept the new offer because, by continuing his employment beyond the expiry of the initial fixed term of employment, he believed his employment was ongoing. He also believed that the University did not have a genuine reason, based on reasonable grounds as required by the law, for using a fixed term agreement for his position on the basis that the work he was employed to perform was on-going and, therefore, permanent.
What occurred next, however, was that, ten days before the end of what would have been the second fixed-term of employment, the staff member was sent a “reminder” from one of the University’s Human Resources advisors that his employment was due to end. He was told to return his keys, parking card and staff identification, and his employment terminated.
Mr O’Halloran said that the University was not entitled to rely on the expiry of a purported fixed-term agreement to dismiss the staff member but, if it had a justifiable reason, such as redundancy, to end the employment, it was obliged to consult the union and endeavour to reach agreement on alternative options or pay redundancy compensation. He said the University had also failed to comply with an important requirement of the Employment Relations Act by failing to advise the staff member, before accepting his initial term of employment, of the reasons that his employment would be brought to an end at the expiry of his fixed-term engagement.
Meanwhile, an application, filed in the Employment Relations Authority in November, to prevent the dismissal of a lecturer employed on five successive fixed-term agreements at the University of Otago has been settled.
Increase in proportion of female
During the last ten years there has been a gradual increase in the proportion of female university graduates, with, of course, a corresponding decrease in the proportion of male graduates, according to NZUniGradStats, a new publication from the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (NZVCC). During that time, the university-graduate population increased by 45.2 percent, from 21,389 in 1995 to 31,048 in 2004. Of domestic graduates in 2004, 58.9 percent were female, while 56 percent of international graduates were female.
The publication, based on the results of the NZVCC annual survey of graduates from New Zealand’s eight universities, looks at the 31,048 students who became eligible to graduate with a degree, postgraduate qualification or diploma in 2004, and the 10,441 graduates who responded to the survey.
Reflecting the increasing reliance of universities on international students, the report shows that the proportion of international graduates grew by 464 percent, from 1015 in 1995 to 5728 in 2004. Most of that growth occurred between 2002 and 2004, reflecting the rapid increase in student numbers from China.
During the last nine years of data collection, the proportion of European/Pakeha graduates has declined, with a corresponding increase in the proportion of Asian graduates. The proportions of New Zealand Maori and Pacific Peoples’ graduates has remained relatively constant.
Not surprisingly, the University of Auckland produced the highest number of graduates (7,955) in 2004, well ahead of the second-placed Massey University with 5691. Victoria University had the highest percentage of students graduating with more than one qualification, at 8.7 percent, followed by the University of Otago with 8.1 percent.
The full report can be found at:
set to expand membership
The University Students’ Association is to expand its membership to include polytechnic students’ associations following the collapse of their national body, ATSA, in 2005, according to a report in Education Review. At its recent national conference, NZUSA decided to review its structure so it could deal with issues specific to polytechnics.
NZUSA Co-President, Joey Randall, is as reported saying that members were very clear that all students should have national representation, with fellow Co-President, Conor Roberts, adding that the Association had increased its mandate to represent students throughout New Zealand. “Most issues facing students were common across the two types of institution”, he said.
NZUSA had begun discussions with polytechnic students’ associations interested in joining NZUSA and was looking at strategic planning and structural reviews, such as setting up parallel internal mechanisms. A postal ballot, to be held in mid-March, will decide on a name change to reflect the proposed wider membership.
Education Review reports that, as well as continuing to push for increased access to the student allowance, NZUSA would respond to developments in the sector such as changes to funding structures.
Hood may face no-confidence vote
Senior figures within Britain’s Oxford University are considering a vote of no confidence in its Vice-Chancellor, reflecting continuing opposition to his management style, according to the Times Higher.
Dr John Hood, a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Auckland and the first “outsider” to head the University in its 900 years, has been accused by some academics of trampling on centuries of tradition in the way he has embarked on change, including proposed governance reforms.
A senior Oxford scientist told the Times Higher that, if Dr Hood continues to be inflexible, he did not see any alternative to a no-confidence vote. “One scenario would be to collect a number of signatures to debate the motion that this Congregation has no faith in the Vice-Chancellor. His position would then be untenable,” he said.
Peter Oppenheimer, President of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, is reported as saying that it was conceivable that there would be a vote of no confidence. “You wouldn’t think that one individual could cause so much divisiveness and such an unpleasant atmosphere in such a short time. It is very much a personality issue. If there wasn’t the sense that he is trying to control everything and trample on Oxford’s traditional way of taking decisions, what has to be done now would not be done.”
Dr Hood's proposals for a more corporate style of governance sparked a bitter dispute last year, but the University insisted that this had died down.
US scholars speak out on NYU graduate
Leading scholars in the United States released a statement this week calling on New York University President, John Sexton to recognise the right of employees to choose whether and how they wish to be represented in collective bargaining. The statement, prepared by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and endorsed by more than a dozen of the country’s most prominent labour law, labour history and industrial relations academics, responds to Sexton’s announcement that the NYU administration will not deal with the University’s graduate-student employees through a representative union of their own choosing.
Graduate Assistants at NYU have been engaged in industrial action since last year after University management said that it would not recognise, or work with, the Union representing staff. Instead it offered new individual contracts and made a number of threats, including blacklisting, against teaching assistants who do not accept the new agreements.
“The principle at stake is fundamental,” said Roger Bowen, General Secretary of AAUP. “Employers do not have the right to identify, and thereby to control, who shall represent a group of employees.”
The teaching assistants say they will remain on strike until the University recognises their union, which is an affiliate of the United Automobile Workers.
Student editor suspended
after printing cartoon
This week’s edition of the University of Cardiff student newspaper, Gair Rhydd, has been recalled and its editor suspended after it reprinted one of the twelve cartoons originally published in a Danish newspaper, and which have resulted in Muslim protests around the world.
A student-union spokeswoman said that Tom Wellingham, the editor of the paper, which won newspaper of the year at last year’s Guardian Student Media Awards, had been suspended alongside three other journalists. “The editorial team enjoys the normal freedoms and independence associated with the press in the UK, and are expected to exercise those freedoms with responsibility, due care and judgment,” she said. “The students’ union very much regrets any upset caused or disrespect shown by the publication of the controversial cartoon and has taken immediate action by promptly withdrawing all copies of this week's edition of Gair Rhydd at the earliest moment possible.”
The students’ union has launched an investigation into how the images came to be published in the paper, which has a potential readership of more than 21,000 students.
cuts proposed for US higher education
The United States budget request for the 2007 fiscal year had little good news for financially needy students, particularly those who are not high academic achievers, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Under the spending plan, the maximum Pell (student) Grant would remain at $US4,050 for the fifth year in a row and, for the second consecutive year, President Bush is calling on Congress to eliminate the Perkins Loan Program used to provide loans to students from low and middle-income families.
Mr. Bush’s budget proposal would also end the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnerships programme, which matches each dollar that states commit to need-based aid. In addition, it would leave both Federal Work-Study and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, which augment Pell Grants for needy students, at their 2006 levels.
Overall, President Bush has requested $US54.4 billion in appropriations for the Department of Education in 2007, a decrease of $US3.1 billion, or 5.5 percent, from the current year’s level. The 2007 fiscal year begins on 1 October.
While briefing education lobbyists on the plan this week, Margaret Spellings, the Education Secretary, acknowledged that the budget proposal was austere, but denied that it would harm low-income students.
“This is a tough budget year,” she said. “No doubt about it.”
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: firstname.lastname@example.org