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AUS Tertiary Update

More investment needed for universities
Ahead of today’s Budget, the Association of University Staff (AUS) is calling for greater investment in New Zealand universities to ensure that they are sufficiently funded to meet the country’s research and education challenges of the twenty-first century.
AUS National President, Professor Nigel Haworth, has warned that the university sector is facing a funding crisis, particularly in terms of salaries, and that this is likely to compromise the high quality and good reputation of New Zealand’s university system unless addressed as a matter of priority. He said that, for example, when compared with Australian benchmarks, New Zealand universities produce graduates at about half the cost per graduate, primarily because New Zealand salary levels have fallen behind acceptable international levels.
Professor Haworth said that New Zealand will need between 700 and 800 new academic staff by 2010-11, a time when it is predicted that there will be a worldwide shortage of academics. By then, the European Union countries alone will need an additional 10 to 15,000 new academic staff just to cope with increasing student numbers. More still will be needed to replace retiring staff.
“Every university system in the world is currently in an increasingly competitive market to recruit and retain top-class scholars and support staff,” Professor Haworth said. “Providing funding targeted at improving salaries is an important part of ensuring the vitality and the high quality of New Zealand universities.”
Professor Haworth said that the long-term well-being of the nation would be better served by increasing investment in universities as part of the 2006 Budget, rather than by cutting taxes as has been advocated by those with a more narrow and short-term outlook.
To publicise the issue of low university salaries and the need for additional funding, union members at Lincoln University held a pre-Budget soup kitchen for staff and students outside the University Library yesterday.
An AUS analysis of the tertiary-education-related measures contained in today’s Budget will be released tomorrow.

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. SIS activities trigger staff concerns
2. Auckland country’s greatest intellectual resource, says VC
3. Wananga appoints new boss, maybe
4. PTEs to contest PBRF
5. Commons holds urgent hearing over pay
6. Sussex votes to save Chemistry
7. Call for widespread reforms
8. Austrian sues over too few lectures

SIS activities trigger staff concerns
Following last week’s reports that discussions are taking place at universities between the Security Intelligence Service and vice-chancellors about possible terrorist threats, the AUS has sought a meeting with Minister of Disarmament and Arms Control, Phil Goff, to discuss the content of those meetings and their implications for universities and their staff.
AUS National President, Professor Nigel Haworth, says that university staff have raised concerns about the ramifications on academic freedom and the autonomy of universities of discussions between the SIS and vice-chancellors. He said that similar activities in other countries had led directly to the harassment of Islamic scholars and students, and had gone far beyond the taking of simple precautions over security. In a recent example, a prominent Islamic scholar, Tariq Ramadan, was denied entry to the United States to take up a tenured university appointment simply because the Bush administration disapproved of his political views.
Professor Haworth said the AUS wanted to discuss the concerns expressed by Mr Goff, including one that New Zealand universities might be misused by terrorist groups like al Qaeda seeking to develop nuclear and other weapons, or that they might inadvertently contribute to developing expertise and knowledge related to chemical, biological or nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
Professor Haworth said that the free circulation of scholars is an integral part of academic and intellectual freedom, and is indispensable for the strengthening of a free and orderly world. “We have seen no evidence supporting state intervention into universities that might lead to such monitoring and harassment of university staff and students, or the restraints on intellectual and academic freedom that have been sanctioned overseas in the name of anti-terrorism,” he said.
In his letter to Mr Goff, Professor Haworth said that the AUS has a particular interest in issues of academic freedom, and union members expect the AUS to work with government to ensure that the right balance is achieved between national security and the university role as a critic and conscience of society.

Auckland country’s greatest intellectual resource, says VC
With an improved international ranking, more than 30,000 equivalent full-time students, 4,300 staff and an operational surplus of $19.5 million, Auckland has stamped its place as New Zealand’s largest and strongest university, according to its Vice-Chancellor, Stuart McCutcheon. In an introduction to the recently published 2005 Annual Report, Professor McCutcheon says that the growing international recognition of the University’s standing and its leading position locally are strong and independent indicators of the quality of teaching and research in New Zealand.
The University of Auckland was last year ranked at fifty-second in the 2005 Times Higher Education Supplement World University Rankings, up from sixty-seventh in 2004. Rankings for individual disciplines all improved, some significantly so, with Arts leading the way at twenty-fifth place and Bio-Medical Science thirty-third. “The University of Auckland is New Zealand’s greatest intellectual resource,” Professor McCutcheon writes. “It is the country’s largest, strongest and highest quality pool of tertiary teaching and research talent.”
Professor McCutcheon says that he is “very encouraged” by indications that the Minister for Tertiary Education intends to seriously overhaul existing tertiary-education-funding arrangements, adding that, when adjusted for purchasing power parity, current funding levels are only 50 to 60 percent of those in public universities in Australia and about one-third of those in the United States and Canada.
In other key statistics, the Report shows that the student-to-academic-staff ratio at the University of Auckland has improved from 16.7:1 in 2001 to 16:1 in 2005. The total number of enrolled students was 39,420 and 9,887 qualifications were awarded.
Auckland’s other university, AUT, reports that it made an operational surplus for 2005 of $7.2 million, $1.4 million less than budget, but still slightly ahead of its 2004 financial performance. It had 15,483 equivalent full-time students (22,659 enrolled students) and almost 1800 full-time equivalent staff.
The University of Auckland 2005 Annual Report can be found at:
http://www.auckland.ac.nz/shadomx/apps/fms/fmsdownload.cfm?file_uuid=20268851-C6B0-51A7-6136-555CAF39FE69&siteName=uoa
The AUT 2005 Annual Report can be found at:
http://www.aut.ac.nz/resources/annual_report/2005_annual_report_web.pdf

Wananga appoints new boss, maybe
A report published yesterday in the Waikato Times, that Te Wananga o Aotearoa has appointed a new Chief Executive, has been described as premature by a Wananga media spokesperson. An announcement is, however, expected to be made later this week when it is understood that Acting Chief Executive, Bentham Ohia, will be confirmed in the position.
Earlier in the week, the Times reported that Mr Ohia would be offered the position and was working through details such as salary with the Wananga and the State Services Commission. Mr Ohia, who was the Deputy to former Chief Executive, Rongo Wetere, has been employed at the Wananga for ten years. He is reported as saying that the last year had been a terrible one for the Wananga, and that he is looking to move the institution forward in the long term and beyond.
The Wananga’s management is currently working on the last stages of 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 expected that the final restructuring plans will be released next week as the institution moves to turn around a forecast operational loss of between $13 million and $27 million. The forecast deficit is attributed to a slump in enrolment numbers.

PTEs to contest PBRF
At least five private education providers intend to contest the Performance-Based Research Fund this year, most of them citing respect and reputation as key to their decision to put staff research portfolios forward for evaluation, according to Education Review.
Confirmed starters include AIS St Helens, Bethlehem Institute, Bible College of New Zealand, Carey Baptist College and the Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design.
In the last PBRF round, two of those providers, Carey Baptist College and the Bible College of New Zealand, received rankings above those of the Auckland University of Technology, Unitec, Waikato Institute of Technology and all four colleges of education.
Education Review reports Independent Tertiary Institutions (ITI) Executive Director, Dave Guerin, as expecting more PTEs to enter this year’s PBRF than did in 2003. Guerin said one factor likely to drive up participation was that more money would be at stake because the full amount of research funding would be removed from Student Component subsidies and placed in the PBRF from next year. He also said that ITI members believed they were doing a good job, and the PBRF provided them with an opportunity to prove that.
A Carey Baptist College spokesperson, Martin Sutherland, said the College contested the PBRF because it recognised the link between research and teaching at degree and postgraduate level, and because funding was involved. Bible College Dean of Studies, Tim Meadowcroft, said his institution was concentrating on those staff who had a realistic chance of improving their grade, while Bethlehem Institute Executive Dean, Amy Edwards, said the Institute’s return to the PBRF showed that it was serious about doing research and doing it to the required level. Similarly, Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design Chief Executive, John Shaw, said participation in the PBRF enhanced the reputations of the College and of its staff.

Worldwatch
Commons holds urgent hearing over pay
Union and employer representatives were called to an emergency hearing before a House of Commons committee last night as the pay dispute in United Kingdom universities becomes increasingly bitter. The Education and Skills Select Committee ordered the hearing after the Association of University Teachers (AUT) and the lecturers’ union Natfhe rejected a “final and best” offer from the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA) and reaffirmed support for continuing industrial disruption.
Union representatives told the Committee that their pay claim is affordable and justified, and there seemed to be a recognition amongst MPs that lecturers are underpaid. “This is no surprise as more than 180 MPs have expressed support for better academic pay,” said Roger Kline, Natfhe spokesperson. “What we cannot understand is why universities have only offered the same as last year, despite £3.5 billion of extra new money available from this year, and why it took them seven months after we submitted the pay claim for them to come up with any offer. We deliberately submitted our claim early to avoid the current crisis. They have been sleepwalking into this mess.”
Natfhe and the AUT have claimed a salary increase of 23 percent over the next three years and are refusing to mark exams until their demands are met. The employers have offered 12.6 percent over the same period.
The dispute escalated last week when AUT members voted to continue indefinitely with industrial action until the employers make a better offer. At its Annual Conference last week, AUT members acknowledged that the graduation of 300,000 final-year students could be jeopardised by the marking boycott, and also warned that students could graduate with “substandard degrees” if their marks were “cobbled together” by non-academic staff.
Meanwhile, at least nineteen vice-chancellors are reported to have told the UCEA that they will withhold pay from staff taking part in the action, and more are expected to follow. Deductions range from 10 per cent to 100 per cent of salaries.
In response, the unions are writing to vice-chancellors, pointing out that feelings are hardening on campuses and that increasing threats to dock pay or suspend hundreds of staff would do nothing to resolve the dispute or get exams marked.
From Natfhe, the Education Guardian and Times Higher Education Supplement

Sussex votes to save Chemistry
The University of Sussex has abandoned its controversial plans to axe its Chemistry Department following intense criticism from scientists across the country. At an extraordinary University Council meeting this week, members voted to adopt a recommendation from the Vice-Chancellor, Alasdair Smith, which will see the Chemistry Department retained and expanded to include Biochemistry.
Professor Smith had initially wanted to scrap Chemistry and merge it with Biology, but his proposal was widely condemned by academics, the Royal Society and the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee.
The Head of Chemistry, Dr Gerry Lawless, who led a vocal campaign to save the Department, applauded the decision, saying they could now go forward to build on their excellence in Chemistry at Sussex.
Earlier this month, the Commons Committee described the proposal to close the Department as “seriously flawed”, and said the decision was handled “particularly ineptly”. The Committee’s highly critical report also accused the Vice-Chancellor of failing to make any attempt to save Chemistry.
From the Education Guardian

Call for widespread reforms
Europe’s universities are riddled with “rigidities and hindrances”, according to a strategy document published this week by the European Commission. The paper calls for “immediate, in-depth and co-ordinated change”, ranging from the regulation and management of systems to the governance of universities.
Publication of the paper comes in response to a request made at an informal European Union summit last October, at which time government heads asked the Commission to identify areas for action that could be used to drive a growth and jobs agenda towards economic competitiveness.

Austrian sues over too few lectures
An Austrian student union is taking legal action against Graz Medical University on behalf of a student who is demanding compensation for loss of future earnings because of a lack of lectures. The student is one of about 140 medical students who are likely to have to sit out an entire semester or more because the University failed to provide enough lectures on three modules.
Stefan Schaller said the student union, of which he is Chair, was demanding compensation for loss of future earnings because the student would not be able to enter the job market as soon as he would have liked. The union is also demanding a refund of his tuition fees, with Mr Schaller adding that he hopes the case will set a precedent. “We have taken action because legally we are in a position to claim compensation, but as always our main goal is to find a better solution, namely an increase in lectures,” he said.
Gilbert Reibnegger, the University’s Vice-Dean, said that such a move would be impossible. “Unfortunately, we have only a certain number of qualified professors, and they are already up to their ears in lectures and tutorials. It is just not possible for them to conduct more.”
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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