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AUS Tertiary Update

Legal challenge to Lincoln's promotion procedure
Legal proceedings have been filed against Lincoln University by the Association of University Staff (AUS) following the failure of the University to conform to its own annual salary-advancement and promotion guidelines for academic staff. The proceedings, filed in the Employment Relations Authority, also say that the University unlawfully introduced new criteria to the promotions policy allowing it to deny salary advancement on the basis of budgetary constraints.
While the proceedings will centre on the case of a senior lecturer denied salary progression over a number of years, the outcome is expected to have an impact on a number of other staff who have similarly been denied promotion or salary progression.
The University's salary-advancement guidelines provide that senior lecturers can normally reach the top of a six-step salary scale in six years, with the rate of progress of individuals to be determined by “significant contribution” in specified areas. A number of staff have been denied promotion or salary progression despite satisfying the criteria and having received positive recommendations from their managers.
AUS General Secretary Helen Kelly says that the University's reliance on financial resources to decline advancement was not only in breach of its own guidelines but ran completely counter to the principle of merit-based promotion and salary-advancement procedures. “This matter has been to mediation twice, but the University refuses to acknowledge its responsibilities,” she said. “There is no option but to take legal action.”
Earlier, the University refused to provide information requested by AUS under the Official Information Act seeking to know the number of staff employed as senior lecturer below the bar in the past ten years, the rate at which they have proceeded through the steps between the bottom and the top of the salary range and the number of instances where a positive recommendation for advancement made by a manager had not resulted in salary advancement.
The Employment Relations Authority has been asked for a determination that the Vice-Chancellor has breached the academic staff collective employment agreement by unlawfully using budgetary constraints to deny salary advancement, an order requiring the Vice-Chancellor to reassess all affected AUS members in accordance with the proper criteria and an order requiring that the staff member identified in the proceedings be promoted in accordance with the criteria.
A date is yet to be set for the matter to be heard.

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Canterbury to hide assets from Crown
2. Medicine, Dentistry funding review complete
3. Students pumped for fight over fees
4. NZCER agreement settled
5. VCs plan to snub RAE
6. Minister writes over “left-wing” bias
7. Scholar deplores US ban
8. Email makes talks redundant

Canterbury to hide assets from Crown
Following statements reported last week that vice-chancellors are “unconditionally opposed” to being described as part of the wider state sector, it is now being reported that the University of Canterbury is moving to hide from Crown ownership the assets it will acquire from its merger with the Christchurch College of Education. By doing so, the University’s accounts will be tagged for the next two years as not complying with general accounting practice.
A report in The Press says that about $50 million of net assets from the College, including buildings and land, will move into the University’s accounts, but the way the University has chosen to incorporate those assets reflects its determination not to be seen as Crown-owned. The University Council was told that recording the soon-to-be acquired assets as anything other than income revenue could be seen as conceding that the institution was Crown-owned.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Roy Sharp is reported as saying that it was a “necessary evil” to tag the assets as revenue, as “we should not concede to the Government that they own the University”. He said the issue had been discussed by the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee at length during the last two years. “We operate on the principle that the Crown is not the owner ... I don’t think there’s any downside risk, other than from the way we handle communications,” he said.
The Press also reports Council member, Judge Colin Doherty, as saying that the starting point was to make sure whatever the Council does will not “reflect any implication of the Crown owning us or any part of us”.
AUS National President, Professor Nigel Haworth, said that it seemed extraordinary that the University would have its accounts tagged as non-compliant by the Auditor General as a result of removing what are currently Crown-owned assets from public ownership. “While it is important that universities have statutory independence in terms of their academic functions, it is equally important that they are seen to be in public ownership,” he said. “Many university staff have trouble understanding why vice-chancellors have become so pre-occupied in trying to ensure that universities are not seen as public institutions.”

Medicine, Dentistry funding review complete
A review of the funding for teaching Medicine and Dentistry at the Universities of Auckland and Otago has been completed, but its findings and any recommendations remain under wraps.
While it is understood that the Minister for Tertiary Education, Dr Michael Cullen, has accepted the findings of the review, the Tertiary Education Commission will advise the Minister of options on the way forward when he returns from overseas.
Any recommendations arising from the review were due to have been considered by Cabinet by the end of September, with the intention that any funding outcomes will be implemented by the beginning of 2007.
Submissions to the review were received from Auckland and Otago Universities, student organisations, professional associations and the Association of University Staff, and identified funding and the academic workforce as among the main issues which need to be addressed.
Four of the submissions referred to the discrepancy between the salaries of Medical and Dental specialists employed by the two Universities and those employed by district health boards, with a gap of up to $30,000 per year identified. Reference was also made to the reliance of the Universities on an evaporating level of “good will” from clinical teaching staff, the aging of the workforce and the heavy workloads faced by those Medical and Dental academic staff who are required not only to engage in teaching and research but also to be up-to-date in clinical practice.
Three of the submissions referred to a “real” decline in funding, saying that the costs of health training have risen at a faster rate than inflation.
AUS National President, Professor Nigel Haworth, said that the quality and sustainability of the medical and dental teaching programmes in New Zealand would be compromised unless immediate action is taken to resolve funding and salary problems. “Unless Government addresses these issues, then top-quality candidates will no longer be interested in pursuing medical and dental academic careers in New Zealand,” he said.

Students pumped for fight over fees
The Auckland University Students’ Association (AUSA) has signalled its opposition to predicted moves by the University to increase domestic tuition fees for 2007 with the launch of a “Fight the Fees” campaign yesterday.
While the University of Auckland Council is due to set tuition fees for 2007 at its next meeting on Monday16 October, the proposed fee levels will not be revealed until then. It is widely expected, however, that the University will try to increase tuition fees by 5 percent overall, the maximum permissible under the Government’s current Fee Maxima policy.
Student President Dan Bidois said that AUSA would be campaigning solidly over the next two weeks to highlight the problems with raising tuition fees as the solution to an increase in University costs. “AUSA recognises that the University’s costs are increasing at a rate higher than the Government is funding them, however, students at Auckland already pay the highest tuition fees in the country,” he said. “Students are burdened with meeting those fees, along with the higher costs associated with living in the Auckland region. All of this results in greater levels of student hardship and debt.”
Mr Bidois said that, while the University has indicated that its costs will rise by more than 5 percent in 2007, the Government has only committed to a 2.5 percent increase in funding for that same period. He said he did not accept that students should be saddled with greater financial problems because of the Government’s failure to fund the university sector adequately.
AUSA Education Vice-President Xavier Goldie urged the University Council and the Vice-Chancellor, Stuart McCutcheon, to work more closely with other tertiary-education-sector organisations such as AUSA, the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations and the Association of University Staff to pressure the Government to increase its commitment to quality university teaching and excellent research.

NZCER agreement settled
AUS members at the New Zealand Council for Educational Research, Te Runanga o Aotearoa mo te Rangahau I te Matauranga, recently ratified the settlement of their collective agreement for 2006-2007. A total package of 3.85 percent was negotiated, with 3.6 percent being added to salaries as well as an increase in the maximum employer contribution to superannuation. A feature of this agreement is that members with a student loan may opt to have the employer contribution directed to that in preference to a superannuation scheme.
Other matters subject to discussion included support for study leave to obtain further qualifications and an additional week’s annual leave. New clauses in the agreement include a provision to negotiate a return to work on reduced hours after parental leave and supportive provisions for breastfeeding at work.
In a media release in early August to support International Breastfeeding Week, NZCTU Secretary Carol Beaumont said: “Breastfeeding is a workers’ rights issue that sits alongside quality childcare provision, the right to return part-time or full-time and longer and better paid parental leave with better eligibility criteria.”
NZCER is an independent, educational research organisation with a bicultural focus and provides educators, students, parents, policy makers and the public with innovative and independent research, analysis and advice. Established in 1934 through grants from the Carnegie Corporation, it became a statutory body in 1945. NZCER is not formally attached to any government department, university or other educational organisation. It has an international reputation for producing quality educational research and research-based resources. The site is almost wholly unionised.
Salary rates and collective agreements negotiated at the seven universities as part of the AUS national bargaining process are currently being updated on the AUS website. They can be viewed by following the Pay and Conditions link at:
www.aus.ac.nz

Worldwatch
VCs plan to snub RAE
Universities in the United Kingdom have delivered what has been described as a crushing blow to the Government's planned research assessment reforms, rejecting all the key recommendations for replacing the Research Assessment Exercise with a metrics-based system for evaluating research and allocating grants.
The elite research universities and the vice-chancellors’ body are united in their opposition to Treasurer Gordon Brown’s controversial plans to allocate general block grants to universities, funding worth more than a billion pounds a year, solely on the basis of the research income they have earned. They have also rejected using statistics on journal citations to decide which research teams should get the available money.
Instead, Universities UK and both the Russell and 1994 groups of research-led universities are urging a full investigation into applying a full “basket of metrics”, incorporating measures of research income as well as research outputs and quality and employing panels of academic experts to guide the use of metrics in different disciplines.
The universities’ responses crystallise a growing unease across the higher-education sector that the Treasury-driven proposals represented a crude and ill-thought-through attempt to reform the future allocation of general research grants to universities. The highly volatile outcomes of potential allocation schemes caused widespread alarm when unveiled three months ago by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
From the Times Higher Education Supplement

Minister writes over “left-wing” bias
In what has been described as an “extraordinary intervention”, the Australian Minister of Defence and former Minister of Education, Brendan Nelson, has written to Macquarie Vice-Chancellor, Steven Schwartz, after one of his constituents complained of “left-wing” bias in a history subject.
Although a spokesman for Dr Nelson said that the Minister was just passing on a complaint from a constituent, a copy of the letter obtained by The Weekend Australian shows that Dr Nelson penned a note at the bottom of the letter that reads: “I am very concerned about this and would appreciate your personal attention to these issues which I find disturbing.”
The initial complaint came from a postgraduate student, Douglas Brown, enrolled in the Master of Arts subject Rights and the Evolution of Australian Citizenship, who demanded that the University rewrite the unit guide and delete half the articles because the readings were so left-wing the course was an attempt at “indoctrination”. Senior academics who investigated the complaint rejected the claim.
Professor Schwartz would not comment on the Nelson incident but moved to quell growing fears in universities about the erosion of academic freedom in the post-September 11 environment. “It’s absolutely fundamental ... that we safeguard academic freedom ... if we're going to have a lively and effective university sector and if we're going to have a fair and lively society as well,” he said.
The latest incident comes after another senior minister, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, recently warned a South Australian academic that his research could breach new terrorism laws.
From The Weekend (?) Australian

Scholar deplores US ban
Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan has attacked the United States Government for being “afraid of ideas” after it denied him a visa despite dropping earlier allegations that he had “endorsed terrorism”.
Professor Ramadan, a research fellow at Oxford University’s Centre for Middle East Studies, was prevented from taking up a post at Notre Dame University in 2004 after the US Government invoked provisions of the US Patriots Act to revoke his work visa. Last week, the Government confirmed that Ramadan would not be allowed entry to the US.
Professor Ramadan wrote on his website that, while he was glad that the State Department had abandoned its allegation that he endorses terrorism, it had found a new reason to deny his visa application. “I think it is clear from the history of this case that the US Government’s real fear is of my ideas,” he wrote. “I am excluded not because the Government truly believes me to be a national security threat, but because of my criticisms of American foreign policies ... I am saddened ... that the United States Government has become afraid of ideas and that it reacts to its critics not by engaging them but by suppressing, stigmatising and excluding them.”
Meanwhile, a leading scholar says the British Government’s fear of terrorism and illegal immigration is damaging international academic research, after five Moroccan colleagues were refused entry to the UK.
The Director of the Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies at the Open University (OU) spoke out after being forced to cancel a five-day international workshop when his North African collaborators were prevented from entering the country despite full sponsorship by the OU and impassioned pleas to visa officials from the Vice-Chancellor.
From the Education Guardian

Email makes talks redundant
An email letter to five academics at Nottingham Trent University warning them that they were facing the threat of redundancy contained more information than the University was bargaining on. The letter, inviting the five to discuss their futures, mistakenly displayed “deleted” paragraphs giving notice of their dismissals and setting a date for departure.
Sent by the Human Resources Manager, the letter stressed that it was not notice of dismissal, adding that a meeting would provide an opportunity to “make any alternative suggestions as to how redundancy might be avoided”. But the email also displayed edits, including one saying that their employment will be terminated by reason of redundancy.
The University and College Union (UCU), which described the error as a “massive clanger”, is now warning that the mistake could cost the University more than embarrassment and could lead to a major legal battle. “Under the law, employers must give the employee a genuine opportunity to put forward suggestions for avoiding dismissal before the final decision is made,” said UCU official Andy Pike. “For a human resources practitioner to send a letter that seems to make clear that this procedure is not being followed is amazing. We often suspect that employers just go through the motions when it comes to this.”
A spokesperson for Nottingham Trent said that “every opportunity” had been taken to redeploy staff and that it was unfortunate that the draft had been visible.
From the Chronicle of Higher Education

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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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