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AUS Tertiary Update

Protest at Canterbury staff cuts
Staff and students joined together this week to protest at job cuts proposed for the University of Canterbury’s College of Arts. It is expected that around twenty-three academic and general staff jobs will be lost as the College moves to cut $1.6 million from its operational expenditure in what Association of University Staff Branch President, Dr David Small, describes as a “manufactured” financial crisis.
The disciplines targeted for cuts include Education, Art History, History, English, American Studies, Modern European Languages and Sociology.
More than one hundred staff and students attended a forum on Tuesday, following which they marched to the Registry where student representative Daria Wadsworth presented a 2300-signature petition protesting at the cuts, saying that they would affect the University’s reputation as an academic institution. Ms Wadsworth said that the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Roy Sharp, is answerable to each and every student, and that the University should focus on academic quality rather than short-term financial goals. “The University is the critic and conscience of the community and it shouldn’t be run as a business,” she said.
Dr Small said that the disciplines at which the redundancies are aimed comprise the core of the Humanities programme which lies at the heart of any university. “These are disciplines concerned with language, the analysis of historical change, the nature of cultural and social formation and development and how human beings interact with their world,” he said. “Where they do not eliminate them completely, the cuts planned by the Vice-Chancellor will undermine the quality and integrity of these offerings.”
Dr Small predicted that the staffing cuts would lead to Canterbury becoming a less attractive university destination for students.
As a result of Tuesday’s protest, the College of Arts Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ken Strongman, agreed to ask the Vice-Chancellor, who was absent from the University during the protest, to address staff and students at a University forum.
It is expected the final decisions on staff cuts will be made in April, with affected staff to leave the University during the course of the year.

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence closer
2. Workforce review enters second stage
3. Another polytech bailed out
4. Top researchers get funding boost
5. Strike action shuts registration at SA University
6. Staff sue University over AWAs
7. UK unions reject new pay talks

National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence closer
The establishment of a national centre to promote tertiary teaching excellence, to be called Ako Aotearoa: Tertiary Teaching For Learning Centre, has moved a further step closer with the announcement this week that eligible organisations are being invited to submit a proposal for its establishment and operation. The new centre will be established as a not-for-profit organisation with a distinct identity, and will be hosted by an existing tertiary education organisation rather than operating as an entirely independent organisation.
Last year, the Government announced that it would provide $4 million funding per year following recommendations by the Teaching Matters Forum, convened earlier in the year, to provide assistance and advice on the setting up of a centre and to engage with the tertiary-education sector on options for supporting effective teaching and learning. The Forum is a government-appointed group of individuals with interests and expertise in tertiary education, including AUS representative Andrea Haines.
The Government identified the key goals for the Centre as helping to build the teaching capability of tertiary education organisations and educators, providing advice related to teaching excellence to the sector and government agencies and leading research, along with monitoring and evaluating activities related to effective teaching and learning in tertiary education.
The Tertiary Education Commission says that, as well as undertaking research, the Centre will support groups that work with teachers and learners, including existing networks and professional bodies, while remaining relevant and accessible to individual teachers. Importantly, it will create incentives for improvement in quality, such as running and further improving the Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards from 2007.
More information on the establishment of Ako Aotearoa: Tertiary Teaching For Learning Centre, including the Teaching Matters Working Group report on the governance and management of the proposed Centre, can be found at:
http://www.tec.govt.nz/funding/teaching2/ncftte/about.htm

Workforce review enters second stage
Phase two of the Government’s strategic review of the tertiary-education workforce is well underway with the announcement this week that the Review Team is seeking feedback from the sector on major projects to be undertaken in 2006.
The intention of the review is to carry out a stocktake of the tertiary education workforce and current issues, advise on major workforce supply and demand trends over the next twenty years, and any mismatch, and advise on a framework for describing and understanding future workforce requirements. It is also designed to analyse issues relating to the tertiary education workforce so that a more comprehensive and strategic approach can be taken to them.
A paper prepared by the Review Team and based on initial research and analysis from six scoping papers will form the basis of consultation which will occur through meetings to be held around the country and through direct submissions. Dave Guerin of Education Directions has been engaged to manage this phase of the project, with Doug Martin, Bryan Gould, Lisa Mutch, Stewart Milner, Lis Cowey and David Choat comprising the rest of the Review Team. A steering group of senior Tertiary Education Commission and Ministry of Education officials will oversee the work.
It is proposed that the main research project would be a comprehensive survey of tertiary education staff and stakeholders designed to provide information in a wide number of areas, including key issues in recruitment and retention (salaries, career structures and working environments), workloads, the role of casual and part-time staff, skill shortages, barriers to workforce diversity, links with employers and the community and the effectiveness and availability of professional development.
It also proposed that other research could cover the aging of the workforce, the collection of qualitative data, improving annual staff-data collection and the sharing of best practice.
Consultation closes on Friday 3 March, with major projects to be carried out between March and July 2006. A final report will be presented to the Tertiary Education Commission in August and then released to the sector.
The consultation and scoping papers, along with background information, can by found at:
http://www.tec.govt.nz/funding/et-reviews/s-reviews/workforce/workforce.htm

Another polytech bailed out
The Palmerston North-based Universal College of Learning (UCOL) is the latest polytechnic to be given a financial lifeline from the Government, this time in the form of a $3 million suspensory loan. National Party Education spokesperson Bill English says that the deal will do nothing to solve the financial problems that are becoming endemic in the sector following similar “bail-outs” at the Western (Taranaki) and Wellington Institutes of Technology last year.
UCOL Chief Executive, Paul McElroy, is reported by NZPA as saying that the Education Minister had agreed to a request from the UCOL Council for financial assistance with the running of its Whanganui campus, which continued to operate at a financial loss. “This show of support from the Government highlights the importance of tertiary education in New Zealand and particularly that of Whanganui UCOL,” he said. “The loan will convert to an operating grant on meeting certain conditions in 2006, which entails preparing a seven-year business plan for the Whanganui campus.”
Mr English says, however, that this amounts to little more than a financial subsidy for bad management and will only make the situation worse. “The problems in our polytechs cannot be swept under the carpet. If Dr Cullen thinks the system will be fixed by throwing more money at it he is very much mistaken,” he said. “The polytech sector is sick but Dr Cullen is prescribing the wrong medicine.”

Top researchers get funding boost
High quality research undertaken by New Zealand’s smartest scholars is getting a near $6m boost thanks to the latest round of Bright Future Scheme scholarships. Seventy-two graduate and postgraduate students have been awarded Enterprise Scholarships and forty-seven PhD students have been awarded Top Achiever Doctoral Scholarships by the Tertiary Education Commission.
The newly funded Enterprise scholars will receive almost $600,000 over the next three years, while newly funded Top Achiever Doctoral scholars will receive more than $5 million over the next 36 months of their study.
The Minister for Tertiary Education, Dr Michael Cullen, said that the Bright Future Scheme helps young researchers turn good ideas into innovative new products and services. “It is a good example of government’s commitment towards building a knowledge economy based on highly skilled people. The scheme supports quality research and fosters strong relationships between tertiary education institutions and businesses,” he said.
Top Achiever Doctoral Scholarships help PhD students to undertake first-class research in all disciplines in New Zealand or overseas. On the completion of the scholarship, students doing the research overseas must return to New Zealand for a period equal to that of the scholarship.
The Enterprise Scholarships encourage graduate and postgraduate students to study and research in New Zealand in partnership with New Zealand-based private companies or public organisations, such as crown research institutes. As a result their annual stipend is funded jointly by companies and the government.

Worldwatch
Strike action shuts registration at SA University
Student enrolment at South Africa's University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) has been effectively shut down as strike action by staff enters its second week. Thousands of staff and students have marched under the banners of education for all, decent working conditions and academic freedom. One of the University’s five campuses is under heavily armed police occupation and serious clashes between police and strikers are reported by the daily media as looking increasingly likely.
Staff are calling for improved working conditions and the sacking of Vice-Chancellor William Mokgoba over what has been described as the "messy" merger of the Natal and Durban-Westville Universities to form the UKZN.
Unions say the redeployment of staff into positions in the new University structure was carried out without proper union consultation, and that they are prevented from participating in many decision-making structures. When included, they say they are subject to an increasingly authoritarian style of management. “It is of great concern to us that this attitude of management has served to erode academic freedom at UKZN. Many members of staff no longer feel free to criticise members of the Executive or the manner in which the University is run. Any criticism is viewed as opposition to transformation at the University,” a Union spokesperson said.
Compounding the problems, staff have been offered a 4 percent increase conditional on the reduction of sabbatical, leave, retrenchment and fee remission conditions in response to an 8 percent salary claim. By contrast, University management, in addition to a 4% increase for 2006, have received bonuses of up to 12 percent of their salary packages, understood already to be among the highest in the country.
National Tertiary Education Staff Union spokesman, Professor Kesh Govinder, said that a meeting with University management this week failed to reach a compromise, and so the strike action would continue at the Howard College campus in Durban.
From NTSU and the Independent Media Centre, South Africa

Staff sue University over AWAs
Australian academics have launched a multimillion-dollar class action against the University of Ballarat for allegedly misleading staff by encouraging them to sign individual employment contracts. Law firm Maurice Blackburn Cashman is acting for up to 700 academics and general staff at Ballarat who will be seeking $A7 million in damages when they lodge the action in the Federal Court in Victoria.
Staff accuse the University of breaching the Workplace Relations Act by supplying false and misleading information late last year to induce to staff to take up Australian Workplace Agreements.
At issue is the University’s insistence to staff that key employment conditions would be safeguarded if they moved on to individual contracts. According to the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the legal team, however, staff who sign AWAs will lose entitlements including the right of access to the Industrial Relations Commission for arbitration and protection against disciplinary action or termination. They would also be subject to inferior redundancy entitlements.
The legal action follows a tussle between the NTEU and the University of Ballarat over the Government's higher-education workplace relations requirements. Ballarat’s NTEU branch president Jeremy Smith, who is the legal action's primary applicant, described it as being a long time coming. “We find ourselves in a situation where the University will only offer AWAs to deliver pay rises to staff, and in return for signing an AWA. It’s our belief that they are giving away key employment conditions,” Dr Smith said.
From The Australian

UK unions reject new pay talks
Academic unions have rejected a move by British university employers to reopen pay negotiations, refusing to put on hold planned industrial action unless vice-chancellors put a “substantive offer on the table”.
The Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA) has written to the Association of University Teachers (AUT) and lecturers’ union Natfhe, offering to resume pay talks later this month, but on the proviso that the unions “put on hold any industrial action authorised by the two unions.”
Union members are voting on a recommendation for industrial action over the breakdown of negotiations in a ballot which will close later today.
The unions say that, despite having submitted initial pay claims in October last year, the employers have failed to make any “substantive response”. Responding to UCEA’s request to reopen negotiations, AUT Deputy General Secretary, Malcolm Keight, said that, while the unions were committed to constructive negotiations, their past dealings with UCEA indicated that procrastination was a popular employer tactic. “We felt driven to ensure that staff concerns were properly addressed in a timely matter. To attempt to make a deferral of action a condition of commencing meaningful negotiations would only be interpreted by our members as further procrastination,” he said.
Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, last week confirmed that universities would receive £6.5 billion excluding the additional income from top-up fees. This includes a 6.7 percent increase in the teaching grant for 2006-07, and a 7.3 percent increase for research.
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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