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AUS Tertiary Update

Tertiary reforms, more in store?
In a series of addresses this week, the Minister for Tertiary Education, Dr Michael Cullen, has expanded on the reasons for his moves to change the funding model for tertiary education in New Zealand. In one speech, to university chancellors, he said that, while participation rates in tertiary education had increased, the pure market model was not delivering and a rather dark underbelly was emerging. “It seemed,” he said, “that, while the economy was crying out for people with skills in high-end manufacturing, engineering, applied science and biotechnology, the tertiary system was happily turning out record numbers of graduates with middling degrees in law, business and communications.” Dr Cullen told the chancellors that the proposed changes to multi-year funding based on agreed profiles are aimed at stopping aggressive competition and achieving a better balance between the subjective choices of students and the priorities that emerge out of an objective analysis of where our economy and society are heading.
“We also need to look more closely at what constitutes a degree and ask ourselves whether it reflects the current reality,” Dr Cullen said. “The Education Act is quite clear that degrees should be linked to research and, while that is very much true of post-graduate degrees, it is somewhat out of step with the reality of undergraduate degrees, whether in universities or other institutions. I am certainly prepared to contemplate legislation to bring the Act more into line with reality.”
Cabinet papers, now publicly available, reveal that councils will be expected to make decisions with a much wider and longer-term set of outcomes and dimensions of quality than is the case at present. They will also be expected to see their role as not just confined to their own institution, but carrying wider obligations as part of a tertiary system and as significant contributors to wider social and economic development.
According to Dr Cullen, the success of the direction he is proposing will depend on the development of quite different mindsets for decision-making in the sector, a much greater willingness to be transparent and openness in relation to different aspects of quality and assurance.
The Cabinet paper can be viewed at:
http://www.tec.govt.nz/downloads/a2z_publications/cabinet-paper-tertiary-education-reforms-the-next-steps.pdf

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Youngest and oldest students borrow most
2. Wananga confirms plans to restructure
3. PTEs offer cash incentives for enrolment
4. Industry Training and Modern Apprenticeships hit new records
5. NZQA in financial trouble, says English
6. University leaders gather to discuss global issues
7. VCs divided over scrapping RAE
8. Oxford loses battle for city-wide injunction
9. Mother sues after son fails to graduate

Youngest and oldest students borrow most
Figures released this week show that students aged under twenty-five or over sixty borrowed the most money per head from the student-loan scheme. Statistics New Zealand’s Integrated Dataset on Student Loan Borrowers (1997-2004) reveals that the median amount borrowed in 2004 by those under twenty years of age was $6,150; for those aged between twenty and twenty-four years it was $6,120; and for those sixty years of age and older it was $6,070. The median amount borrowed through the loan scheme in 2004 was $5,300.
Students aged less than twenty-five years comprised 59 percent of students who borrowed, while only 1 percent of borrowers were in the 60 years and over age range. Interestingly, the number of borrowers aged fifty-five years and over increased more than fivefold, from 504 in 1997 to 2,583 in 2004.
Although 60 percent of borrowers were female, they tended to borrow less than their male counterparts, with the median amount borrowed by women as $5,050, compared with that of $5,630 for males.
According to the data, approximately one-sixth of all borrowers between 1997 and 2004 had paid back their loans in full by March 2005, with the highest rates of full repayment being for people who had studied at honours level or higher in their last year of borrowing (21–25 percent).
Students who took out a loan between 1997 and 2003, and advised Inland Revenue they were overseas in 2004, on average owed $22,640, $11,790 more than those assumed to be residing in New Zealand, who had an average loan balance of $10,850.
It is estimated that about 147,800 people borrowed under the Student Loan Scheme in 2004, a 46 percent increase from 101,300 borrowers in 1997.
The full report can be found at:
http://www2.stats.govt.nz/domino/external/pasfull/pasfull.nsf/web/Hot+Off+The+Press+Integrated+Data+on+Student+Loan+Borrowers+1997–2004?open

Wananga confirms plans to restructure
Te Wananga o Aotearoa began a further round of consultation this week about a proposed restructuring process in which it is estimated that around one quarter, or 300, of its 1200 staff will lose their jobs. It is understood that it is hoped the reduction in staff numbers can be achieved through a mix of voluntary redundancies and a contraction in the number of jobs available in a new structure.
In a statement released yesterday, the Council Chair, Craig Coxhead, said that staff would receive briefings setting out the current position and how the institution is addressing problems that have been identified. “The primary issue remains the need for the Wananga to live within its income and become a more efficient organisation while continuing to deliver innovative, effective and valued educational options for our students,” he wrote.
Mr Coxhead said that, according to the current cost structure and forecast enrolments, the Wananga would run a deficit for the year of between $13 million and $27 million if it did not restructure. Even if the restructuring proposal is implemented, the institution will face a deficit of around $13 million in the first half of the year, exclusive of redundancy costs, but is then predicted to enter a period of recovery in the second half of the year. “Te Wananga o Aotearoa should achieve a modest surplus, in line with Ministry of Education guidelines, in 2007 and thereafter,” Mr Coxhead said.
A consultation document, released yesterday, provided details of how a proposed new structure would work, how it would address identified issues and what the potential impact would be on staff. Staff will then have until 21 April to provide feedback to management.
Mr Coxhead said it was proposed that cost reductions will come in many areas, with significant savings to be made, not just in staff costs, but also in property, general procurement, security, vehicles, information technology and asset replacement.

PTEs offer cash incentives for enrolment
Some private training institutions (PTEs) are allegedly using the student-loan scheme to provide cash incentives to boost enrolments, according to the National Party Associate Education spokeswoman, Pansy Wong. She has told Parliament that the PTEs appeared to be offering “cash-back rewards” of as high as $3,000 to migrant senior citizens as an incentive for them to draw down student loans from StudyLink to pay tuition fees of as high as $9,000.
According to Mrs Wong, the PTEs concerned are targeting older people, particularly migrants seeking to learn English, who then take on heavy student loans without understanding exactly what the implications are.
Mrs Wong said that a number of complaints about the practice had been made to StudyLink, but that they had not been acted on. She asked the Minister for Tertiary Education for an assurance that he would review alternative and more appropriate ways of providing English-language lessons for senior citizens, to avoid their being burdened with hefty student loans.
“The number of student-loan applicants at PTEs over the age of sixty has more than doubled in the past year, with total debt for over-sixties standing at more than $85 million, most of which is unlikely to be repaid because people on pensions earn less than the $16,000 loan-repayment threshold,” said Mrs Wong.
It is understood that the Tertiary Education Commission is to investigate the allegations.

Industry Training and Modern Apprenticeships hit new records
The total number of Industry Trainees in New Zealand reached 161,676 at the end of 2005, 22,079 or 16 percent more than in 2004, according to the latest Tertiary Education Commission figures released this week. At the same time, the total number of Modern Apprentices was 8,388 at 31 December 2005. It is 1,213, or 17 percent more, than at the same time in 2004.
According to the Minister for Tertiary Education, the numbers have exceeded the aim of the Government and industry to get 150,000 workers into the Industry Training system by the end of 2005. “These figures show that the Government is more than delivering on its promise to raise skill levels in the workforce. We need to do that if we are to improve productivity and continue transforming New Zealand into a high-wage, higher value-added economy,” said Dr Cullen.
The Government is backing Modern Apprenticeships with funding of $38 million for up to 11,000 Modern Apprentices by the end of 2007. Well over a thousand people have now successfully completed their Modern Apprenticeships.
Industry Training provides workers with structured on and off-site training linked to the New Zealand Qualifications Framework. Total funding for Industry Training has increased from $58.6 million in 2000 to $129 million in 2005, an increase of 120 percent.

NZQA in financial trouble, says English
The New Zealand Qualifications Authority faces a financial crisis, according to the National Party Education spokesman Bill English. He said that figures released by NZQA show that it ran up an $8 million deficit between 1 July last year and 31 January this year on a total budget of $52 million.
“There is no way NZQA can claw back the $8 million shortfall in the last five months of the financial year, so Labour will have to either bale the organisation out, or subject it to another round of restructuring and redundancies,” said Mr English. “NZQA is blaming the new deficit on its overestimation of the number of foreign fee-paying students sitting NCEA.”
Mr English said that its financial problems showed that NZQA was out of touch with the realities of the foreign-student market and perceptions of NCEA.
The latest NZQA Annual Report 2004/05 shows an operational deficit of $5.645 million for a year, described by the Acting Chair, Catherine Gibson, as profoundly difficult.

Worldwatch
University leaders gather to discuss global issues
Nearly 300 university leaders from thirty countries met in Adelaide this week to discuss the role higher education can play in dealing with such global issues as HIV/AIDS, gender equality, social disadvantage and sustainable development.
The theme of the Association of Commonwealth Universities’ (ACU) triennial Conference of Executive Deans was “University Futures”.
The ACU is the world’s oldest and largest inter-university organisation, with more than 500 member universities in five continents. Its aim is to strengthen the universities through the promotion of international co-operation and understanding.
Vice-Chancellor of the host University of Adelaide, Professor James McWha, said that universities are being asked to take on roles in regeneration and economic and sustainable development, while at the same time maintaining quality and ensuring national competitiveness against tightening funding regimes.
In a keynote speech, the New Zealand Minister of Education, Steve Maharey, outlined what his Government sees as the universities’ role in transforming New Zealand from a commodity-producing nation to a knowledge-based country. “The inclusion of national-development goals in the life of the academy has not always been easy. The proposition being debated comes down to this: universities are too important to have anything less than a pivotal role in any modern nation building. But what is the nature of that role? It involves protecting the ‘academic heartland’, while at the same time fostering a ‘developmental periphery’ that gets involved in all the challenges facing the surrounding community,” he said. “By academic heartland I mean the well established role for universities to challenge the boundaries of current knowledge, question the status quo and be the storehouse of rigorous thought on the issues that challenge modern societies.”
Mr Maharey’s speech can be found at:
http://www.aus.ac.nz/news/2006/mahareyspeech.pdf

UK VCs divided over scrapping RAE
Almost a third of university heads in the United Kingdom would scrap the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, according to a poll conducted by The Times Higher. The revelation that so many vice-chancellors would get rid of the RAE follows last week’s announcement in Chancellor Gordon Brown’s Budget that the Treasury wants to replace the 2008 exercise with a more simple, metrics-based assessment.
Of the eighty-one vice-chancellors who replied to the survey, twenty-four said they would kill off the RAE before the 2008 exercise. Two-thirds of vice-chancellors, however, were in favour of going ahead with the 2008 exercise. Two vice-chancellors favoured allowing certain subjects to opt out of the RAE.
The results of the survey are expected to be confirmed by a separate poll carried out by the university employers’ organisation, Universities UK, to be presented to its Board this week.
The Treasury has said that the 2008 RAE will be scrapped only if the move is supported by a majority of UK universities responding to a consultation document due to be published in May.

Oxford loses battle for city-wide injunction
Britain’s Oxford University lost an application this week to have an injunction against animal rights activists extended across the whole city. A current injunction allows a demonstration opposite the University’s new £20 million biomedical-research laboratory site each Thursday between 1pm and 5pm, but places a ban on all protest activities, including the use of amplified noise or cameras within a designated exclusion zone. Protesters are also banned from demonstrating in areas where student examinations are taking place.
Animal-rights activists have targeted the University over the last few years, causing, at one stage, the abandonment of construction at the new facility and suggestions by the Prime Minister that the army would be brought in to protect the University.
Charles Flint, the University’s Queen’s Counsel, had argued that the extension of the exclusion zone was necessary as University premises were spread throughout the city, and the whole of the University was the target of intimidation and harassment.
From the Education Guardian

Mother sues after son fails to graduate
The mother of a man who failed to graduate from a Japanese university has filed a lawsuit demanding that the Director of the University and two other employees pay back money she gave them as an advance payment in thanks for her son’s graduation.
The forty-four-year-old man, who failed to graduate after being struck off the register at Saitama Medical School, earlier filed a lawsuit seeking invalidation of his expulsion, and fought the case all the way to the Supreme Court, but lost.
The mother, who said she paid 4.5 million yen as thanks for her son’s graduation, has described the University’s actions as “malicious”.
According to the lawsuit, the man entered Saitama Medical School in 1985. He studied until the sixth and final year, but repeated classes for several years before the 1996 university year. The man failed to graduate and the limit for his time as a student expired. At the University’s suggestion, he continued re-enrolment examinations until 1999, but failed all of them.
From the Mainichi Daily News

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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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