AUS Tertiary Update
Minister set to announce additional funding
The Minister for Tertiary Education, Dr Michael Cullen, is expected to reveal the extent to which additional funding will be made available for universities to fund salary increases at a meeting of the Universities Tripartite Forum, scheduled to be held this afternoon.
After last week’s national Budget, Dr Cullen moved to assure university unions and vice-chancellors that, following the next meeting of the Forum, an announcement would be made regarding additional funding. The Minister has acknowledged that there is a case for further investment in the university sector, and says this can be achieved through contingency funding rather than being specified in Budget allocations.
Association of University Staff General Secretary, Helen Kelly, said that, while union members were expecting to see the new money in the Budget, she understood that contingency funding was an appropriate mechanism for this type of issue. “The fact that salary levels in the sector are too low is now accepted by the Government, and the priority for union members is that this is sorted out,” she said.
New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee Chair, Professor Roy Sharp, also welcomed Dr Cullen’s assurance, saying that there was a real commitment from all the parties to meet as soon as possible to make progress on salary problems, which he described as the most pressing issue in the sector.
Budget details relating to the tertiary-education sector can be found at:
in Tertiary Update this week
1. SIT rebuked for heavy-handed and unlawful behaviour
2. Arrangements made for Medicine and Dentistry funding review
3. Auckland academic gets apology
4. WSU ordered to pay sacked worker $10,000
5. Regulations Review Committee rejects students’ complaint
6. Wananga names new Pouhere
7. Faculty Association receives $100,000 to defend academic freedom
8. UK pay dispute back in mediation
9. French business school begins sparkling search
SIT rebuked for
heavy-handed and unlawful behaviour
The Southland Institute of Technology (SIT) has been ordered by the Employment Court to pay more than $27,000 to a former employee who claimed the Institute had breached the terms of his employment contract to such an extent that it forced him to resign. In a decision released this month, Judge Colgan branded the actions of SIT as heavy-handed and inappropriate and not those of a fair and reasonable employer. Not only did the Judge find that the employee, a Dr Kamel, had been constructively dismissed, his decision also delivers a clear rebuke to SIT, saying its behaviour was not that expected of a public-sector employer.
What happened was that Dr Kamel was employed on a two-year, fixed-term position as an energy engineer, but such was the haste with which he was engaged that SIT neither defined Dr Kamel’s position nor encapsulated his job description before an employment agreement was signed. Instead, it was agreed that these matters would be subject to later negotiation.
That did not happen and, such was his frustration at not having matters dealt with, Dr Kamel instructed his solicitor to request that the parties engage in mediation to try and resolve a number issues. These included the absence of an agreed job description and appropriate job title, inadequate facilities, SIT’s failure to acknowledge that research activity was intended as part of his employment, an inappropriate reporting structure and the failure to appoint him as project manager for one of his courses.
Following mediation, and despite agreeing to further mediation, SIT not only imposed a number of demands on Dr Karmel, it also threatened disciplinary proceedings if he did not carry out some teaching it directed him to undertake about a kilometre away from the main SIT campus, in a venue he found unsatisfactory. In protest, Dr Kamel resigned.
In his decision, Judge Colgan held that it was neither reasonable nor lawful for an employer to unilaterally direct what should be the subject of negotiation and agreement between the parties, and then to threaten disciplinary procedures that may include dismissal for disobedience of the employer’s unilateral action. He also held that it was not justifiable for SIT to impose terms and conditions of employment upon Dr Kamel against his will when it had accepted that the issues were matters of negotiation and would be the subject of further mediation. The ultimatums were, the Judge ruled, heavy-handed and inappropriate and not justifiable as the actions of a fair and reasonable employer. Dr Kamel, he ruled, had been constructively dismissed by SIT.
A more detailed view of this case is expected to be published next week in Education Review.
Arrangements made for Medicine and Dentistry
The Tertiary Education Commission has released arrangements this week for its proposed review of the funding arrangements for Medicine and Dentistry degree programmes, and has invited submissions on the appropriate level of government funding. The review will examine student-component funding levels and, if appropriate, recommend adjustments to the funding levels to support high-quality medicine and dentistry pre-employment education and training. Any outcomes of the review will be implemented during the 2007 academic year.
In evaluating the subsidy levels for Medicine and Dentistry, the review will analyse financial-input costs and revenue based on data provided by the Universities of Otago and Auckland, including the effect of the current limitations on enrolments. It will examine the extent to which institutions are able to cross subsidise the cost of provision, compare funding rates with other high-cost courses and take into account any other relevant material.
The review documents say that, while it is acknowledged that student fees are an integral component of the overall revenue received by the Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, student fee levels will not be reviewed as part of the process.
Submissions regarding funding rates will close on 16 June, following which an evaluation report, including recommendations, will be finalised and then presented to the Minister for Tertiary Education by 27 July. If required, a paper will be presented to Cabinet by the Minister on 30 August.
Details of the funding review have been welcomed by the National President of the Association of University Staff (AUS), Professor Nigel Haworth, who says that for far too long medical and dental academic staff have subsidised teaching through low salaries and poor conditions of employment. He said that an AUS submission to the review would concentrate on the need for university salaries to be at equivalent levels to those of medical specialists employed by district health boards.
Auckland academic gets
A University of Auckland academic, Associate Professor Peter Wills, has received an apology from the Sunday Star-Times after it carried stories in April giving the impression that he called New Zealand Victoria Cross winner, Clive Hulme, a coward, and that his war-time actions were “unsanctioned murder” in disguise.
The apology came after the newspaper carried a headline, “The bravest war hero can still be a coward in disguise”, over a Soapbox contribution from Associate Professor Wills.
Associate Professor Wills said that when the issues are sensitive and complex it is difficult to ensure that the media accurately report controversial opinions. “Once one part of my detailed argument was quoted completely out of context there seemed no going back in the minds of the public,” he said. “I was subjected to extraordinary abuse by mail, email, telephone and published letters to the editor of the Sunday Star-Times. Criticism rolled in from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, as well as New Zealand.”
Associate Professor Wills said that, although his experience had demonstrated the perils of exercising academic freedom and commenting on matters of national importance and public sensitivity, he still considered it incumbent upon university staff to express considered opinions on controversial issues of current interest.
WSU ordered to
pay sacked worker $10,000
In more employment-relations news this week, the Waikato Students’ Union (WSU) has been ordered by the Employment Relations Authority to pay $10,000 compensation to a former employee it says suffered a level of stress more serious than in most cases of its type heard before the Authority.
The Authority was told that the employee, Jacqueline de Souza, was appointed as the WSU Advocacy Coordinator in late 2002 and, on the same day, elected as WSU Vice-President. As a result, the outgoing Executive passed a resolution revoking Ms de Souza’s employment agreement, and she was later sacked by Mr Daniel Philpott, the then new President. Later, she was reinstated by the new Executive after resigning her position as Vice-President, but all was not well. Evidence was given of an increasingly strained relationship between the President and Ms de Souza, added to by the leaking of a letter by Mr Philpott to the Waikato Times in which he was critical of Ms de Souza.
Due to the constant stress she suffered, Ms de Souza found it necessary to take medical advice and, in September, take a week’s stress leave. During that week, she was advised by the WSU Executive that it was going to review all of its staffing requirements as a result of financial difficulties. She was, it seems inevitably, declared redundant.
In his determination, Employment Relations Authority Chief, James Wilson, said that the WSU President was responsible for providing Ms de Souza with a safe workplace, but did not do so. Acknowledging that some workplaces can be more “robust” than others, Mr Wilson said that Mr Philpot’s action in leaking the letter to the Waikato Times caused distress and humiliation to Ms de Souza which was both predictable and unnecessary. In fact, he said, there was evidence to suggest that Mr Philpott’s behaviour towards Ms de Souza was a deliberate and sustained attempt to cause her stress and humiliation.
Review Committee rejects students’ complaint
The New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA) says it is disappointed with the decision of Parliament’s Regulations Review Select Committee this week rejecting a complaint regarding changes to the Student Allowance scheme.
NZUSA representatives appeared in front of the Committee in March to argue that removing the Independent Circumstances Allowance for working and married students breached Parliamentary standing orders. Last year, changes to the allowance regulations removed the Independent Circumstances Allowance for working and married students aged under twenty-five because it was considered discriminatory under an interpretation of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
NZUSA Co-President, Conor Roberts, said that, while the Committee found the changes to the allowance scheme to be justified, the fact remained that, by removing the Independent Circumstances Allowance for working and married students, the Government had simply further ingrained an unfair and discriminatory parental means test for students aged under twenty-five. “We think this is unfortunate. The Committee should have sent a clear message to the Government that it was unfair to remove the allowance, and only allow students to receive support if they pass the harsh parental means test.” Mr Roberts said. “This simply compounds another existing form of discrimination by testing students’ eligibility for an allowance on their parent’s income until they turn twenty-five. It’s hypocritical to justify getting rid of one form of discrimination while entrenching another.”
Mr Roberts said that the Student Allowance scheme stipulates that students are dependent on their parents until they turn twenty-five, but that NZUSA’s research shows that only 28 percent of students receive any financial support from their parents.
Wananga names new
In a statement released last Friday, Te Wananga o Aotearoa Council Chair, Craig Coxhead, has confirmed the appointment of Bentham Ohia as the institution’s new Pouhere or Chief Executive. Mr Ohia has been Acting Chief Executive since December 2005, following the resignation of the Wananga’s founding Chief Executive, Rongo Wetere.
Mr Ohia’s roles at Te Wananga o Aotearoa have included Campus Director, Satellite Provider Manager, Academic Manager, Assistant to the Chief Executive and, under the former structure, Director of Te Kura Matauranga Maori.
According to Mr Coxhead, Bentham Ohia was clearly the outstanding candidate in the contestable process. “Bentham and his management team will provide the leadership required to implement the restructuring and lead this institution towards a stable and prosperous future. His long experience with the Wananga gives him a unique understanding of the educational needs of Maori and the role Te Wananga o Aotearoa plays in meeting those needs,” he said.
Faculty Association receives $100,000 to defend academic freedom
The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has donated $C100,000 to the University of Regina Faculty Association (URFA) to help it protect academic freedom at the First Nations University of Canada (FNUC).
The donation, the first of its kind given by CAUT’s Academic Freedom Fund, was announced at a news conference last Friday. “Academics across Canada want to help our colleagues at FNUC who have been facing unprecedented interference in the operation of their institution,” said John Baker, CAUT Treasurer. “We believe it is vitally important for the future of FNUC that the academic freedom and other rights of faculty and the rights of students and staff be respected.”
FNUC was plunged into crisis last year when several administrators were dismissed, with others later resigning in protest over alleged political interference in the institution.
URFA President Dorothy Lane welcomed the donation, saying the money would be used to help the Association proceed with a number of grievances. “This will help us to continue the fight to protect the rights of faculty and to ensure that FNUC regains its place as the premier First Nations’ university in Canada, if not North America,” she said.
CAUT established the Academic Freedom Fund in 2001 to aid in the defence of academic freedom. The fund is described as a “catastrophic insurance” plan to guarantee sufficient support for any local association when a case takes extraordinary resources.
UK pay dispute back in
Mediation between university unions and the University Colleges and Employers’ Association (UCEA) will continue today in a further effort to resolve the increasingly bitter pay dispute in the United Kingdom. The parties agreed to the mediated talks, which started on Tuesday and continued for seven hours yesterday, with the assistance of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.
Speaking on behalf of the unions, Sally Hunt, the General Secretary of the Association of University Teachers said the unions remained committed to resolving the dispute as quickly as possible and approached the talks on a positive basis. “We hope that the offer of talks without pre-conditions indicates that the employers share our desire to bring about a swift resolution to the dispute. We have hit a critical stage of the year now and it is in everyone’s interests to get things resolved as quickly as possible,” she said.
The unions have claimed a pay increase of 23 percent over three years, while the employers’ have made what they describe as a final offer of 12.6 percent over the same time.
Meanwhile, university employers have been called back to the House of Commons to explain comments made to the media after an emergency hearing into the lecturers’ pay dispute last week. UCEA representatives will appear at a specially convened hearing after they claimed in a press release that the Education Select Committee was backing them in the escalating pay battle. Their statement had later to be replaced with a watered-down version after it was brought to the attention of the Select Committee. UCEA was also forced to apologise for the misrepresentation.
Additional reporting from the Education Guardian
French business school begins sparkling search
The corks will shortly be popping at a French business school as it begins its search for a Professor of Champagne. The Reims Management School is looking to capitalise on its location in the heart of France’s champagne region by creating the new post, which will be funded by the Comité Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne (the council for champagne wineries), the City Council and five illustrious champagne houses.
The new chair is being established in response to the growing business needs of the industry, which is seeing increased competition from other sparkling-wine producers. As well as having teaching and research responsibilities, the new Professor will look at the challenges facing producers, such as how to increase exports.
More than 300 million bottles of champagne are produced each year by the wineries of the Champagne region of north-east France, about 40 percent of which are exported.
From the Education Guardian
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: email@example.com