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AUS Tertiary Update

TEC starts consultation on reforms
The Tertiary Education Commission has outlined more details about the proposed tertiary-education reforms recently announced by the Minister for Tertiary Education. In meetings with sector groups held this week, TEC Chief Executive, Janice Shiner, said the next stages of the reforms is about putting in place the mechanisms that, broadly speaking, will enable the Government to invest in a plan of provision and be confident that the plan has been achieved.
Ms Shiner told the audiences that tertiary-education organisations will be required to develop plans which reflect government and regional priorities, and set out the specific education needs they will meet and how they will meet them. Organisations would then be funded on a multi-year basis, following which they would be measured against their plans.
According to Ms Shiner, the Government wants to see the different parts of the sector playing to their strengths and working together in more complementary ways. She said that current thinking is that clarifying the general roles of tertiary-education organisations within a more differentiated tertiary-education system will allow more depth to develop by focusing expertise, building capability in key areas and allowing for more complementary relationships with other types of organisation.
A background paper provided for the meetings, identifying the distinctive contributions that the various types of tertiary-education organisations will make, indicates that that consideration will need to be given to the extent to which the current description in the Education Act will help to ensure the roles of universities are clear and well understood, and what outcomes will be sought from them.
In response to questions, Ms Shiner indicated that, while they will remain primarily the responsibility of individual institutions, governance arrangements would be considered as a part of the quality-assurance process. She also said the reforms would not mean the end for competition in tertiary education.
It is expected that Cabinet papers, identifying the specific measures needed to implement the reforms, will be finalised in June, alongside which the next Tertiary Education Strategy and Statement of Tertiary Education Priorities will be developed. It is intended that the proposed changes will then be worked through with the sector during the latter half of 2006 and 2007, with the changes scheduled to be implemented in 2008.

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Technician entitled to ACC
2. Debt sends students packing
3. Consultation under way on college mergers
4. Open Poly coughs up
5. ITPNZ announces new boss
6. Oxford tops Guardian rankings again
7. AAUP leaders arrested in protest action
8. UK pay talks to resume
9. Plan to set aside places for poor attacked

Technician entitled to ACC
In a decision released yesterday, the District Court has held that a University of Auckland employee is entitled to full accident-compensation coverage for occupational asthma arising from a claim for a work-related gradual-process injury.
In an appeal against the decision of the Accident Compensation Corporation to refuse cover, the lawyer representing the Association of University Staff (AUS) on behalf of the staff member argued that the bronchial asthma she suffered was caused by or contributed to by sustained, significant workplace exposure to chemical agents. Evidence was that, although the worker had a pre-disposition to asthma, she experienced a high and sustained level of exposure to chemicals in the workplace from 1972 to 1977, and then from 1979 to 1989, working with various chemicals in the absence of respiratory protection. From 1989, then employed in the University’s School of Biological Sciences, the technician was routinely exposed to the chemicals xylene, glutaraldehyde and formaldehyde in an unventilated laboratory. During that time, the employee experienced headaches, fatigue and irritability and later, when working in the Zoology Department, suffered an extension and intensification of symptoms when exposed to aerosol fresheners. The medical diagnosis was of an allergic reaction caused by “bronchial hyperactivity to aerosols in building”.
Defending the decision not to provide cover, the ACC lawyer argued that it was up to the staff member to prove a causative association between a work-related property and the onset of asthma, submitting that ACC cover should not be gained simply because there is something in the manner of the work tasks or work environment which aggravates a condition or causes it to flare up.
In his decision, Judge Ongley accepted medical evidence that it was more likely that her work exposure to chemicals contributed to, or induced, the worker’s asthma. He added that it was not up to the worker to prove the causative association in the face, as in this case, of conflicting medical opinion or the absence of clinical evidence.
AUS General Secretary Helen Kelly said that the decision was a good one, not only because it reinforced the right of workers to ACC cover for gradual-process injuries, but also because it illustrated that workers, through their unions, can successfully challenge unjust decisions.

Debt sends students packing
A new report released this week shows that the size of a student loan was a statistically significant factor in the likelihood that a borrower was overseas five years after finishing study. The report showed that those with a loan balance of more than $8,000 were more likely to be overseas than those owing less than $8,000.
The Ministry of Education report, Do student loans drive people overseas – what is the evidence?, followed 23,000 students who finished studying in 1997 with a student loan, and looked at who was likely to be overseas in 2002. The study was based on information from the Ministry of Education, Statistics New Zealand and Inland Revenue.
Releasing the report, the Minister for Tertiary Education, Dr Michael Cullen, said that, as well as the loan balance owing, factors such as level and field of study, age, ethnic group and citizenship status also influenced the likelihood of people living overseas.
The New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA) says, however, that the report confirms what it has known all along, that the larger students’ debts, the more likely they are to be overseas. “This is outrageous. New Zealand is losing its best and brightest because of high student debt which keeps them from returning home,” said Conor Roberts, NZUSA Co-President. “We need to stop the drivers of debt: high fees, low public funding of tertiary education and declining access to student allowances.”
Dr Cullen said that, while loans are not the only factor in people going overseas, they are clearly having an effect. “This report confirms that we were right to make changes to the loan scheme as one way of encouraging New Zealanders to stay and contribute to our society,” he said. “There isn’t anything wrong with young people spending time overseas after they finish their studies. It’s only a problem if they don’t return. In fact, research suggests that New Zealanders who live overseas pick up new skills and insights they are able to contribute to the New Zealand economy when they return.”
The report can be found at:
http://educationcounts.edcentre.govt.nz/publications/tertiary/indexDate

Consultation under way on college mergers
Submissions about the proposed mergers of the last two remaining colleges of education with their local universities are being called for from the public by the Minister for Tertiary Education, Dr Michael Cullen. If approved, the mergers would see the Dunedin College of Education become part of the University of Otago, while the Christchurch College of Education would join the University of Canterbury.
If the mergers proceed, approximately 980 students and 210 staff from the Dunedin College of Education would transfer to Otago University, while approximately 4403 students and 531 staff from the Christchurch College of Education would transfer to the University of Canterbury.
In associated changes, the Christchurch College of Education’s School of Business would transfer to the University of Canterbury to allow current students to complete their qualifications. Similarly, the College's National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Arts is likely to transfer to the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, with which discussions are in progress.
According to Dr Cullen, the mergers would create new university-based Colleges of Education specialising in their areas of academic strength. “The Colleges would develop new degree programmes, students would also be able to enter the teaching profession through a variety of pathways within a university setting, and education faculty staff would have greater opportunities for collaborative research,” he said. “These are critically important mergers. They bring together the strengths of the Colleges and Universities and will support the national need for excellence in teacher education.”
Submissions close on 9 June, following which the Minister expects to make a final decision in July in order that the mergers could take effect from 1 January 2007.

Open Poly coughs up
The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand has come to an agreement over an Australian request for money to cover the cost of finding new education providers for students stranded by the closure of its Australian subsidiary, Stotts Correspondence College, according to a report in Education Review.
Earlier in the year, Tim Smith, the National Executive Officer of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET), said that the reputation of New Zealand education and training providers overseas had been severely tarnished as a result of the behaviour of the Polytechnic’s management after it refused to assist with the costs associated with the relocation of the six hundred students left high and dry after Stotts went into receivership in December last year. The students, who had paid course fees in advance, were left without an education provider or a refund.
Education Review reports Tim Smith as now saying that an agreement had been reached with the Open Polytechnic and, while he would not disclose the amount paid, he was satisfied that the Polytechnic had met all its obligations to ACPET and to its tuition assurance scheme.
Open Polytechnic Chief Executive, Paul Grimwood, was apparently not available for comment.
The Polytechnic bought Stotts Correspondence College and its subsidiary, Stotts Correspondence College New Zealand, in December 2001. The Australian arm of the business failed to prosper, with annual reports showing the Polytechnic invested $423,000 in it. In 2002, the Polytechnic advanced the Australian operation $818,000 but, by 2004, it made a loss of $500,000.

ITPNZ announces new boss
The Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics of New Zealand this week announced the appointment of Martin Eadie as its new Executive Director. Currently a Group Manger with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, Mr Eadie will take up his position on 22 May.
ITPNZ Chair, Dr Neil Barns, says he is delighted with the appointment of Mr Eadie as he is a well respected and experienced professional who understands intimately the various central agencies and representative groups with which the ITP sector must deal. “Martin has a strong background as an education official in both government and industry training,” he said. “He believes the importance of the ITP sector as a contributor to the country’s social and economic well-being should not be under-estimated, and says the current government reforms in tertiary education make it an exciting and challenging time to join.”
While he is confident the sector can deliver on the Government’s goals, Mr Eadie said he strongly believes it is important that the reforms include the expertise within the ITP sector
Mr Eadie replaces the former ITPNZ Executive Director, Jim Doyle, who left last month after leading the organisation for seventeen years.

Worldwatch
Oxford tops Guardian rankings again
Oxford University has retained its place as the United Kingdom’s best university, according to the Guardian’s annual university guide, published this week. The league table, which assesses teaching quality, staff-student ratios and graduate job prospects, is dominated by Oxbridge, with London-based institutions such as the London School of Economics, Imperial College and the School of Oriental and African Studies close behind.
The research, which was compiled by the Guardian and Campus Pi, an applied research department at Brunel University, reveals that, for the second year running, Oxford has beaten Cambridge to the top spot, with London emerging as home to the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh-placed institutions. The remaining top-ten-ranked institutions were Warwick, Bath and Bristol Universities.
The top twenty places are dominated by the elite Russell Group of institutions, with the University of Central England the highest-ranking former polytechnic in forty-eighth spot.
The annual guide includes a list of every institution, the fees it will charge and the bursaries and scholarships available in order to help students find the best deal.
As well as teaching, the staff-student ratio and job prospects, the guide also takes into account the average entry qualification, spending per student, the value-added improvement each university gives students and its record on attracting candidates from under-represented groups.
The Guardian’s annual guide information can be found at:
http://education.guardian.co.uk/universityguide2006/story/0,,1765251,00.html

AAUP leaders arrested in protest action
The American Association of University Professors’ President, Jane Buck, and President-elect, Cary Nelson, were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct in New York City last Thursday during protest action in support of striking graduate assistants at New York University (NYU). According to the Chronicle for Higher Education, this is the first time that AAUP officials have taken such action, as the organisation is better known for issuing solemn statements on the minutiae of academic freedom, censuring institutions after long investigations into their actions and generally defending the academic profession with the utmost seriousness.
Graduate assistants at NYU have been engaged in industrial action since late last year, after University management said that it would not recognise, or work with, their Union, an affiliate of the United Automobile Workers’ Union. Instead, it offered new individual contracts and made a number of threats, including blacklisting, against teaching assistants who do not accept the new agreements.
Addressing students and labour leaders, Cary Nelson said that the arrests were a watershed moment in the struggle for employee rights. “The NYU administration has recklessly maximized the tension with its graduate employees. Those of us who support them must now stand our ground or there will be no ground left on which to stand,” he said.
Meanwhile, striking janitors at the University of Miami have reached an agreement to end a two-month walkout that included hunger strikes by workers and students. The Times Higher reports that the workers returned to their jobs yesterday. About a quarter of the University’s 425 janitors have been on strike since early March. Several weeks after the strike began, the University agreed to raise the minimum wages of its contract employees, but workers continued to strike, alleging unfair labour practices and demanding union representation.

UK pay talks to resume
Pay talks between universities and the higher education unions in the United Kingdom will resume next Monday, following a meeting on Tuesday this week facilitated by the arbitration service. Both sides have agreed to the talks to try and bring an end to the current assessment boycott that is threatening students graduating this summer.
The unions Natfhe and AUT instituted a ban on the marking of coursework and exams from Wednesday 8 March following strike action in protest at the failure of the university employers to make an acceptable pay offer.
The unions have claimed a 23 percent pay increase over the next three years, while the employers have offered 6 percent over two years.
Following the agreement to resume negotiations, union members have agreed to carry out some banned duties and have said that, if a satisfactory pay offer can be agreed and ratified, then the full assessment boycott will be stopped.
The unions have warned, however, that, if the University and Colleges Employers Association is not serious about its intention to deliver a credible offer to the unions, the sanctions will be reinstated and the industrial action stepped up.

Plan to set aside places for poor attacked
The Indian Government is facing protests over its plans to reserve 27 percent of all university places for students from castes known as “Other Backward Classes” which comprise 52 percent of India’s population. The move would raise the total percentage of places reserved in government-funded universities to 49.5 percent, as a 22.5 percent quota for “Scheduled Castes and Tribes”, the Indians once known as “untouchables”, already exists.
The move, contained in a draft Bill to be submitted to Parliament this month, has prompted accusations that the Government is politicising higher education to win the support of lower classes who constitute a sizeable voting constituency.
Many students and professors, particularly at elite professional institutions, are reported as strongly opposing the proposal, saying that it would fill classrooms with undeserving and academically unprepared candidates. Opponents say that the Government needs to improve elementary and secondary education for the disadvantaged.
Student groups across five states have threatened to take action, calling the proposal “regressive” and an attack on meritocracy.
Opinion polls show overwhelming public opposition to caste or class-based reservations. “Widening the reservation net is not the way to overcome social disparities,” one academic said. “The fact that such disparities still exist after 60 years of quota systems in education and jobs shows that the policy is flawed.”
From the Chronicle of Higher Education and 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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