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AUS Tertiary Update

Lecturer awarded interim reinstatement
The University of Auckland has been ordered to reinstate on an interim basis a lecturer in its School of Music until the Employment Relations Authority has had the opportunity to hear a complaint that the staff member was unjustifiably dismissed at the end of a series of fixed-term employment agreements. The case, taken by the Association of University Staff (AUS), alleges unjustified dismissal, breach of an employment agreement and a breach of good faith.
The lecturer, Glenda Keam, had been employed at the University on the fixed-term employment agreements between 1996 and the end of 2005, the reason given for the last such agreement was to trial a new course. Ms Keam said there was no new course of study to trial, and it had been stated over the years that the real reason for the fixed-term agreements was that the University did not have enough money to fund a permanent lecturer position. When the University did find the money for a permanent position, however, Ms Keam was not appointed.
AUS lawyer, Peter Cranney, told the Employment Relations Authority that, not only did the University not have a genuine reason for using fixed-term agreements, it also failed to comply with other obligations derived from the Employment Relations Act by failing to state in writing in her employment agreement the way in which Ms Keam’s employment would come to an end and the reasons for it ending in that way. Mr Cranney submitted that the consequence of these breaches of the Act was that Ms Keam was entitled to have her employment deemed to be of indefinite duration.
Acting for the University, Phillipa Muir from the major law firm of Simpson Grierson, argued that the requirements of the State Sector Act to the effect that, where practical, vacant positions must be advertised and the most suitable candidate appointed, meant that Ms Keam’s position could not be changed from fixed-term to permanent.
In its determination released yesterday, the Employment Relations Authority said that a key issue to be considered would be the relationship between the Employment Relations and State Sector Acts. In the meantime, it determined that the balance of convenience and the overall justice of the application favoured Ms Keam, and ordered that she should be reinstated.
The substantive case is due to be heard in May.

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Mystery surrounds future of Massey VC
2. New era for student loans
3. Interest-free student loans for overseas charity workers
4. Graduates head overseas
5. More students coming to tertiary education later in life
6. Global summit for Commonwealth university leaders
7. RAE to be scrapped
8. Chemistry plans criticised
9. “Derisory” university pay offer rejected

Mystery surrounds future of Massey VC
Massey University is mired in a standoff between its Vice-Chancellor and Council, according to a major story in its student newspaper, Chaff, this week. It reports rumours of a crisis so serious that the Council is thought to be considering a vote of no confidence in the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Judith Kinnear, at its next meeting in April.
A letter obtained by Chaff reveals that Professor Kinnear was subject to a performance review last year in which it was determined that she had lost the confidence of senior management staff as well as senior academic staff.
The letter, which was sent to Massey’s Chancellor, Nigel Gould, and Council members by eight professors in the School of Fundamental Sciences, supports Professor Kinnear, saying that the signatories have found no evidence that she has failed in her duties, adding that she has been subject to victimisation and harassment.
Chaff reporter Matthew Russell says that, in their letter, the signatories state their dissatisfaction with the Chancellor’s treatment of the Vice-Chancellor, and provide details of what they believe to be flaws regarding Professor Kinnear’s performance review. “We strongly believe that [Mr Gould’s] actions have the potential to inflict damaging publicity on Massey University about shortcomings in its employment practices, and simultaneously seriously undermine staff morale,” the letter reads.
Although there has not been a formal decision made to end Professor Kinnear’s tenure as Vice-Chancellor, the letter indicates that negotiations regarding terms for the termination of her employment contract are on-going. “The fact that [Professor Kinnear] has been assigned a QC by the University to negotiate an exit package, but not to present her point of view, indicates to us that undue pressure has been exerted on the Vice-Chancellor, and that this borders on harassment,” the letter reads.
Professor David Parry, a spokesperson for the signatories to the letter, said the decision to write to Council members came after a meeting with the Chancellor to discuss their concerns proved to be “very disappointing”.
Most other parties involved could not be reached, or declined to comment on the record.

New era for student loans
From this Saturday, no further interest will be charged on student loans for those who live in New Zealand. Under the new policy, announced by the Government last year, students who borrow from 1 April will only have to repay what they borrow. Those with existing loans will not be charged any further interest.
The Minister for Tertiary Education, Dr Michael Cullen, said the change continues the Government’s progression in making tertiary education more affordable. “No more will students and graduates be burdened with the compounding cost of interest provided they remain in New Zealand. This will save them thousands of dollars in many cases, and knock years off repayment times,” he said.
Those with student loans who travel overseas to work will still have to pay interest. “The change is designed to encourage them to stay in New Zealand or to return more quickly to contribute to our economy and society,'” said Dr Cullen.
Dr Cullen told Parliament on Tuesday that around about 470,000 New Zealanders will benefit from the new policy. He said that around 350,000 will get an immediate benefit, and some 120,000 people who are already studying interest-free under Labour’s 2000 policy will benefit when they finish studying.
Meanwhile, the architect of the current student-loan scheme, Dr Lockwood Smith, the National Minister of Education between 1990 and 1996, has admitted that one of the fundamental planks of his scheme was unfair and regrettable. In an interview in the Sunday Star-Times, he admitted to being troubled by the requirement that students be tested for eligibility for loans on their parents’ income until the age of twenty-five. “It was the equity, the fairness of it. I would have preferred, if we couldn’t have made it universal, then a less severe scheme that hit wage and salary earning families less hard,” he said.
In something of an unusual occurrence, the New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA) has found itself in complete agreement with Dr Smith. “It’s great that Dr Smith now understands the absurdity of means-testing students on their parents income until they turn twenty-five; its just a shame he didn’t do anything about it while he was in charge,” said Conor Roberts, NZUSA Co-President. “We call upon Dr. Smith to immediately introduce a Private Members Bill into the House in order to rectify this unfair policy.”

Interest-free student loans for overseas charity workers
Student-loan borrowers working overseas as volunteers with any of forty-eight named charitable organisations may be exempted from paying interest on their student loans while working for those organisations.
The Minister for Tertiary Education, Dr Michael Cullen, said that borrowers living overseas for more than six months will generally not qualify for the new interest-free student loan-policy which comes into effect on 1 April. “However, the law gives Inland Revenue the discretion to grant an exemption for certain borrowers who are overseas, including post-graduate students, government employees and people who work for free or for a token payment for a charitable organisation operating overseas,” he said. “The regulation signed this week specifies the forty-eight charitable organisations that are covered by the exemption.”
“It will still be up to Inland Revenue to decide if individuals working for those organisations qualify for the full interest write-off under the policy,” Dr Cullen said.
The write-off will apply for a maximum of two years.

Graduates head overseas
Nearly a quarter of New Zealanders with tertiary degrees are living overseas in one of the thirty other member nations of the Organisation of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), according to a report released this week. That number is second only to Ireland, at 25 percent, and well ahead of the next groups of countries, Austria, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal and the Slovak Republic, all at more than 10 percent, and the Czech Republic, Germany and the Netherlands at close to 9 percent.
The 2006 OECD Factbook shows, however, that New Zealand is among those countries with close to zero net-graduate-population movement, because it gains as many immigrants with tertiary degrees as it loses. Further research shows that, of those New Zealanders who leave the country, one half intends to return, a quarter does not intend to return and a quarter has not decided.
In terms of educational outcomes, the Factbook shows that tertiary attainment, as a proportion of the population of New Zealanders aged between twenty-five and sixty-four, has increased from 22.9 percent in 1991 to 30.9 percent in 2003.
The 2006 OECD Factbook can be found at:
http://lysander.sourceoecd.org/vl=3698656/cl=11/nw=1/rpsv/factbook/

More students coming to tertiary education later in life
Over the latter part of the 1990s and early 2000s, there has been an increase in the number of students beginning tertiary-education studies later in life, according to a new report just published by the Ministry of Education. The report, From school, work or unemployment: A comparison of pathways in tertiary education, shows that the traditional pathway of entering tertiary education directly from secondary school has reduced significantly since 1998. Then, 43 percent of first-time domestic students came directly from secondary school, 32 percent from the workforce and 16 percent were not employed or beneficiaries in the previous year. By 2004, 26 percent came directly from secondary school, 53 percent from the workforce and 12 percent were not employed or beneficiaries in the previous year.
The report describes the pathways taken by a cohort of 54,400 domestic students who first studied in 1998 at tertiary education institutions, and follows their interactions with the tertiary sector in the seven years until the end of 2004.
The report, authored by Scott Usher, can be found at:
http://www.minedu.govt.nz/index.cfm?layout=document&documentid=11101&data=l


Worldwatch
Global summit for Commonwealth university leaders
The executive heads of universities from five continents will meet at the University of Adelaide next month for a four-day summit meeting to consider the key questions and challenges facing higher education in the Commonwealth and globally. Named University Futures, the summit will seek to place the universities at the heart of development and change in all regions of the Commonwealth.
The summit, which has been organised by the Association of Commonwealth Universities, the University of Adelaide, the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee and the New Zealand Vice Chancellors’ Committee, will be attended by some 300 delegates from thirty-five countries from every part of the Commonwealth.
A key intention of the four days will be to outline ways in which Commonwealth universities will work together and with partners from government, business and society to shape solutions to many of the world’s most pressing problems. It will feed directly into the meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government in December.
The conference will hear from university, government and business leaders on such issues as sustainable development, renewing the African university, civic engagement, free trade, regional economic development, social disadvantage, gender as a barrier to opportunity in university management, HIV/AIDS and the role of university leadership and the role of the universities in shaping national strategies for science, technology and innovation.
Former New Zealand Prime Minister and WTO Director-General Mike Moore and current Minister of Education, Steve Maharey, will both address the conference.

RAE to be scrapped
The British Research Assessment Exercise is to be replaced with a “metrics-based system for assessing research quality”. That means that the scheduled 2008 assessment exercise will be the last.
In his Budget speech last week, Chancellor Gordon Brown said that, while the Government is strongly committed to the dual support system (teaching and research) and to rewarding research excellence, it recognised some of the burdens imposed by the existing RAE. He said that the Government wanted to ensure that institutions continue to have the freedom to set strategic priorities for research, undertake blue skies research and respond quickly to emerging priorities and new fields of enquiry.
The Government will launch a consultation process in May on its preferred option for a metrics-based system for assessing research quality and allocating Quality-Related funding.
The Association of University Teachers has welcomed the scrapping of the RAE, saying that it had fostered a short-term, over-selective approach to higher-education funding which had led to department closures and job losses, as well as encouraging a culture of game-playing and discrimination.
Meanwhile, the Australian National Tertiary Education Union has urged the Government there to postpone the proposed implementation of a controversial new Research Quality Framework, similar to the RAE.

Chemistry plans criticised
Members of the British House of Commons Science and Technology Committee held an emergency evidence session on Monday this week to question the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex, Alasdair Smith, about proposals to close the University’s Chemistry Department.
The session heard that Sussex had been subjecting its Chemistry faculty to “a kind of malign neglect” over recent years, making no attempt, for example, to find high-calibre replacements for senior researchers who left or retired.
Plans to close the Department had been kept secret from all but a select group of senior management because the Vice-Chancellor feared the decision would be publicly attacked. It was revealed that he had not told the Head of Department or funding agencies about the proposal to close the Department.
After the session, the Chair of the Common’s Committee, Phil Willis, said that he would make a report to the Government calling for stronger oversight of science in universities. He said that the Vice-Chancellor had revealed that the proposal to close the Department was ill-thought-out, with no commercial merit and no academic merit and which clearly needed to go back to the drawing board.
From The Scientist and Education Guardian

“Derisory” university pay offer rejected
The academic unions, AUT and NATFHE, have branded as derisory a pay offer from university employers in the United Kingdom, and as showing that they are not serious in attempting to resolve the current pay dispute. The two unions were barred from pay talks this week between the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association and the non-academic unions at which a pay offer, to increase salaries by 6 percent over two years, was made. The unions have claimed 23 percent over the next three years.
Sally Hunt, AUT General Secretary, said that making a pay offer without input from the biggest academic unions was a pointless publicity stunt. “I am amazed that the employers could possibly think this derisory offer would satisfy our members,” she said. “This dispute can only be resolved when there is a serious offer on the table.”
Roger Kline, Head of the Universities Department at NATFHE said the pay offer was less than half what vice-chancellors paid themselves, and is “way short” of what the union would regard as the basis for a settlement. “Employers have not yet got the message that our members are serious about a significant pay increase. We are very disappointed but remain available for discussions if the employers wish to make a serious offer,” he said.

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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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