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AUS Tertiary Update

Funding review the medicine for ailing salaries
The announcement that funding arrangements for Medicine and Dentistry degree programmes will be reviewed has been welcomed by the Association of University Staff National President, Professor Nigel Haworth. He said that Medical and Dental academic staff have for too long subsidised Medical and Dental teaching at the Universities of Otago and Auckland through low salaries and poor conditions of employment, and any move to alleviate this would find strong support.
The Minister for Tertiary Education, Dr Michael Cullen, said that the review, to be carried out this year, will ensure that there is sufficient funding available to maximise training opportunities in order that the country continues to produce the highest-quality graduates.
Professor Haworth said that government funding rates for Medicine and Dentistry remain less in actual terms than they were in 1992, and that current funding levels are now perilously close to compromising the quality of the programmes. “It is our view that the overall funding shortfall in Medicine is around $81,699 over the cost of a degree, or $NZ13,616 per student per annum, and in Dentistry by $64,920 over the cost of a degree, or $12,584 per student per annum,” he said. “That funding shortfall had been borne by students through high fees and by staff through low salaries.”
Professor Haworth said that a significant problem is the disparity between salaries paid to Medical and Dental specialists within the public health system and those in the universities. “Despite an international acceptance that salary rates should be comparable, the current difference in base-salaries is around $20,000 per year,” he said. “Under current salary structures, that differential will balloon to $49,000 within eight years unless action is taken. That is completely untenable.”
Specialists employed in New Zealand’s only Dental School at the University of Otago are paid around half the amount received by their colleagues in private practice.
Professor Haworth said that a major problem faced by the universities is their ability to recruit or to retain specialist staff in an increasing number of clinical specialties.
The review will be carried out by officials from the Tertiary Education Commission and Ministry of Education who are expected to report back to the Minister later this year to ensure any changes can be in place for the next academic year.

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Bargaining ballot closes tomorrow
2. Further legal challenges at Auckland over fixed-term employment
3. Unitec faces industrial action
4. Tertiary innovation and e-learning get $15m boost
5. NZQA announces consultation on foundation learning
6. UK universities face strike action
7. No summer for Harvard President
8. South African strike lifted
9. US withholds visa from Bolivian scholar

Bargaining ballot closes tomorrow
A ballot to determine whether AUS members in New Zealand’s seven traditional universities will initiate bargaining for national multi-employer collective employment agreements again in 2006 will close at lunchtime tomorrow. Similar ballots being conducted by the other unions involved in national bargaining are expected to be completed early next week. The current enterprise-based collective agreements for academic and general staff are due to expire on 30 April.
AUS General Secretary, Helen Kelly, said that representatives from AUS and the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee met with the Minister for Tertiary Education and officials from the Ministry of Education and Tertiary Education Commission last week. “The meeting with Dr Cullen was a constructive one during which we presented new information on university funding and salaries, based on an independent report commissioned by the vice-chancellors and ourselves to inform discussion in the Universities Tripartite Forum,” she said. “We expect to be able to release the report next week.”

Further legal challenges at Auckland over fixed-term employment
Management and union representatives will meet in mediation next Monday following the filing of further legal proceedings against the University of Auckland over the use of fixed-term employment agreements. In the latest case, the lecturer concerned had been employed for ten years on successive fixed-term agreements, but was told that her employment would end because the position she held was being made permanent. She applied for her own position, unsuccessfully, and was subsequently dismissed with one month’s notice.
Association of University Staff Branch Organiser, John Leckie, says that the case is depressingly familiar, with the University of Auckland management having attempted over recent year to replace a number of long-serving fixed-term staff with new ones.
A further case, involving a lecturer employed for seven years on consecutive fixed-term agreements, is being filed in the Employment Relations Authority, and is expected to be referred for urgent mediation. In a manner consistent with most of the recent cases at Auckland, the lecturer was told his position was to be made permanent and that he could apply. His application was, however, unsuccessful.
Fresh legal proceedings have also been issued on behalf of six long-term fixed-term staff dumped from their positions at the Elam School of Fine Arts late last year. They were invited to apply for “new” positions but, again, all were unsuccessful. A further five similar cases from Elam have been successfully settled at mediation.
Mr Leckie said that the University of Auckland was a persistent offender in its use of fixed-term agreements. “The law related to the use of these agreements is perfectly clear and places clear limits around their use, including that they can only be used for genuine reasons based on reasonable grounds,” he said. “University management has consistently used fixed-term agreements in a manner we consider breaches the law but, in a number of situations where their use has been challenged, have attempted to negotiate confidential settlements to resolve the problem. It suggests to us that they are prepared to take a calculated risk that, by negotiating settlements, they will avoid wider attention being drawn to the practice.”

Unitec faces industrial action
Allied (administrative and support) staff at the Auckland institute of technology Unitec are picketing the institution today and tomorrow following the breakdown of collective agreement negotiations. Their union, TIASA, says a vote for industrial action was overwhelmingly carried after members rejected a 2.5 percent pay offer from Unitec in response to the union’s claim for a 4.5 percent increase.
TIASA Employment Relations Advisor, Shirley Walthew, said this week that staff were outraged at what they considered to be an unreasonable and insulting offer, particularly given the support shown to Unitec by staff during its recent fifteen-month period of financial difficulty. “They accepted a low wage increase in last year’s collective agreement negotiations, and have endured extensive reviews that have resulted in redundancies, increased workloads and additional pressures and stress,” she said. “Our members expected some acknowledgement and recognition of their endeavours, and not the dismissive approach shown by Unitec.”
Ms Walthew said that staff are determined not to accept less than their counterparts elsewhere in the sector, particularly those in the Auckland region. “It is not lost on us that Unitec has spent considerable time and effort in recent years trying to achieve university status,” she said. “If it wants be considered a university it needs to follow the recent examples of AUT and the University of Auckland, both of which agreed to salary increases of 4.5 percent last year.”
Meanwhile, industrial action proposed at Wellington Polytechnic WelTec has been lifted following further negotiations between TIASA and WelTec management. It is understood that an offer to increase salaries by 3.1 percent and a further 3.15 percent over a two-year period will be put to ratification.

Tertiary innovation and e-learning get $15m boost
Another $15 million will be spent in the next financial year on twenty-one projects which will improve e-learning and foster innovative ideas in the tertiary sector, according to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Dr Michael Cullen.
The twenty-one projects to be funded in the 2006/07 financial year were proposed by a wide range of education providers from around the country. They include the Tairawhiti Polytechnic in Gisborne, which is being funded to improve the ability of teachers across other education institutions to easily develop interactive e-learning content. The University of Auckland is being supported to develop a curriculum to encourage secondary school students to consider careers in the vital area of biological sciences. Other projects include support for Maori e-learning initiatives and measures to enhance e-learning in rural communities.
The latest funding is on top of the $47 million already allocated to 54 Innovation and Development Fund (IDF) and e-learning Collaborative Development Fund (eCDF) projects over the past three years.
“All of the projects are exciting, cutting-edge initiatives which will have a significant, positive impact on the delivery of tertiary education,” said Dr Cullen. “Initiatives such as these are exactly what the two funds were set up to encourage. Innovation is the key to creating the high-performing tertiary-education sector New Zealand needs to help transform our economy.”
A full list of successful applicants can be found at:
www.tec.govt.nz/funding/strategic/idf/successful_applicants

NZQA announces consultation on foundation learning
The New Zealand Qualifications Authority announced this week that it is consulting with tertiary education organisations about proposed new quality-assurance requirements for adult literacy, numeracy and language, described together as “foundation learning”.
The proposed requirements are part of a series of improvements being developed for foundation learning linked to the Government’s 2001 Adult Literacy Strategy, 2003 Adult ESOL Strategy and Learning for Living projects.
NZQA Acting Chief Executive Karen Sewell said that foundation learning matters because it gives many New Zealanders the means to restart their education. “To ensure that foundation learning is being provided to a high standard, we need a clear and shared understanding of what good delivery means in this specialist field,” she said.
Providers and others in the tertiary-education sector are invited to give feedback and make suggestions to enhance the proposed quality-assurance requirements. The deadline for feedback is 7 April 2006 with the Foundation Learning Quality Assurance Requirements due to be finalised in late 2006.

Worldwatch
UK universities face strike action
Universities across the United Kingdom will be brought to a complete halt on Tuesday 7 March by a day of strike action, with an assessment boycott beginning the following day. Lecturers, researchers and academic related staff will refuse to cover colleagues’ work, mark students’ work or take part in the exam process as part of an ongoing boycott.
Union members voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action last week and warned today that, unless the employers make a concerted and swift effort to resolve their pay dispute, millions of students would be left with coursework unmarked, lectures and seminars cancelled and their exam programmes thrown into chaos.
The university unions, AUT and NATFHE, are angry that the employers have reneged on public promises to use new government funding, and the extra billions from top-up fees, to improve pay.
AUT General Secretary, Sally Hunt, said the decision to take industrial action was not taken lightly, but the employers had not made a pay offer despite having months to do so.
NATFHE General Secretary, Paul Mackney, said that lecturers are now demanding that their salary levels be restored to those of comparable professionals after years of comparative decline.
Figures released today by the Trade Union Centre say that lecturers are underpaid by almost £10,000 a year, and that their salaries have declined in real terms by 40 percent over the past twenty years.

No summer for Harvard President
Controversial Harvard President, Lawrence Summers, announced his resignation this week, heading off a vote of no confidence in him proposed by the University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences for next Tuesday. It would have been the second vote of no confidence against Dr Summers in eleven months.
Last year, Dr Summers caused outrage after saying at an academic conference that innate differences, including their “intrinsic aptitude”, might contribute to the low number of women in Science and Engineering. He continued to be embroiled in controversy, including several clashes with Harvard faculty members leading to the resignations of some high-profile scholars, most recently that of the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
In his resignation letter, Dr Summers said he had reluctantly concluded that the rifts between himself and segments of the Arts and Sciences Faculty made it “infeasible” for him to advance the agenda of renewal he saw as crucial to Harvard’s future. “I believe, therefore, that it is best for the University to have new leadership,” he wrote.
Next Tuesday’s vote of no confidence would have been symbolic because Dr Summers continued to retain the support of Harvard’s governing Board. A University spokesperson said, however, that the decision to step down was made because the situation had became untenable.
Dr Summers’ resignation will take effect from 30 June.

South African strike lifted
Staff at South Africa’s University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) have ended nine days of strike action pending negotiations with University management. Agreement on the broad principles for resolving the dispute is reported to have been reached between the unions and University Executive.
Staff were 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. In response to a claim for an 8 percent salary increase, staff had been offered 4 percent conditional on the reduction of sabbatical, leave, retrenchment and fee-remission conditions.
National Tertiary Education Staff Union spokesperson, Professor Kesh Govinder, said the unions are confident that the final agreement under discussion would alleviate the main concern of union members, indicating that a salary increase would not be conditional on concessions on conditions, and that current staff will be protected against having new condition of employment imposed on them.
There has been no word on the call for the sacking of the Vice-Chancellor.

US withholds visa from Bolivian scholar
A Bolivian scholar hired by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln has been unable to take up his post because the United States Government has withheld his visa, apparently without reason. The case has again raised concerns at what critics have described as the arbitrary use of government power to keep foreign academics out of the US.
Barbara Weinstein, President-elect of the American Historical Association, said that the Government’s reason for not issuing the visa seems related to his ethnicity. “He has certainly never been a member of any movement that would be of a security concern to the US Government,” she said.
The latest situation parallels the recent case of Tariq Ramadan, a prominent Swiss Muslim scholar who was appointed to a tenured professorship at the University of Notre Dame in 2004, but was unable to assume the post after the Federal Government revoked his visa. Ramadan has since taken up a position at a British university.
From The Chronicle for Higher Education

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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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