AUS Tertiary Update
International warnings against staff cuts at Auckland
A number of senior academic staff in some of the world’s top universities have written to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Auckland warning about the damage to the University’s international reputation if proposed staff cuts go ahead. Among them are senior professorial staff from Cambridge University and Kings College in the United Kingdom, the University of California at Berkeley, George Washington University in the US capital and the University of Paris.
The warnings follow recent announcements that the University of Auckland proposes to shed fifty-four academic positions, six alone of which will come from the twenty-four-strong staff establishment in the English Department. The proposed cuts come at a time when the University has climbed in the Times Higher international university rankings from fifty-second in 2005 to forty-sixth this year.
A number of the letters warn, not just of the potential damage to the University’s international reputation, but also of the effect that short-sighted and short-term managerial decisions have on morale, levels of disaffection and an increasing overall distrust of university management.
On Tuesday, the Association of University Staff Auckland Branch President, Associate Professor Peter Wills, told Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report that the process being undertaken by the University was nasty, brutish and short, and done with little thought to departments such as English. “You cannot cut a department by one quarter and maintain the integrity of its teaching programme,” he said. “One real effect on staff is that they no longer feel security of tenure. Your job can be gone in the twinkling of an eye if what you teach isn’t the student flavour of the month.”
Associate Professor Wills said that the University needed to take a longer-term view, with decisions about matters such as staff and programme cuts based on enrolment figures and other indicators over a decade. He added that government had a responsibility to provide an economic buffer to deal with such situations as had arisen at Auckland.
Auckland’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, said that many of the letters were from academics who described themselves as “bewildered”, indicating that they did not know what’s going on. He said that several faculties had more staff than the University’s enrolments could justify.
The Morning Report interview can be heard at:
in Tertiary Update this week
1. Mediation over implementation of policy
2. Auckland and Lincoln fees increase
3. Critic named best student publication
4. TES evaluation report now available
5. New AUS national officers elected
6. Universities urged to spy on Muslims
7. Classes resume at Gallaudet University
8. Poll says government wrong over future of research funding
9. University makes golf compulsory
implementation of policy
Lawyers acting for the Association of University Staff and Massey University are meeting in mediation today after that University introduced, without agreement, significant changes to the performance review and planning (PRP) policy for academic staff. AUS believes that the new policy, implemented earlier this month, has been applied in breach of the University’s collective employment agreement.
At stake are changes which significantly alter the PRP process from one which is used exclusively for staff development to one which can be used to inform performance-related disciplinary processes, including those which could lead to dismissal. Under the new policy, the process could also be used to deny promotion or performance-based salary increases.
In further changes, the policy’s rights of appeal have been changed. Previously, where there was a disagreement between an academic staff member and a head of department, attempts were made to reach a resolution between the parties under the guidance of a senior academic. Under the new policy, a manager can make a binding decision without any attempt at an agreed resolution.
Issues of confidentiality have also arisen. Previously, information developed under the policy could be released or used only with the consent of the parties but, under the new policy, that right to confidentiality has been lost.
AUS Massey Branch Organiser, Lawrence O’Halloran said that the changes unilaterally introduced by the University fundamentally changed the nature and purpose of the original policy. Previously, it has encouraged a full and frank discussion between an academic staff member and department head, with a view to collegially setting performance targets and providing a constructive mechanism for examining why previous targets may not have been met. “To now try and use this information to implement sanctions where performance targets have not been met means that academic staff will no longer be prepared to talk openly with management about their performance, nor to make ambitious plans which run any risk of not being fulfilled,” he said. “Staff development and performance management are separate principles, and our intention in mediation today is to reach agreement that the original policy will apply.”
and Lincoln fees increase
In part of what seems to have become an increasingly predictable pattern, Auckland and Lincoln have become the latest universities to increase student-tuition fees for 2007 by the maximum or near to the maximum increase permitted under the Government’s Fee Maxima regulations. The regulations restrict tertiary-education institutions from increasing domestic tuition fees by more than 5 percent without specific exemption from the Tertiary Education Commission.
Fees at the University of Auckland will rise by an overall average of 4.7 percent, comprising an average increase of 3.7 percent for undergraduate courses and $500, or an average of 9.8 percent, for postgraduate courses. Fees at Lincoln will rise by an average of 4.98 percent.
Predictably, also, Auckland’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, has said the tuition fee increases are regrettable but unavoidable, while Lincoln’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Roger Field, described the hike as inevitable.
According to Professor McCutcheon, Auckland’s costs are forecast to increase by 5.5 percent next year, leaving the University facing an overall revenue shortfall of $7.3 million. “Our costs are forecast to increase by 5.5 percent. If we wanted to offset the low increase in government subsidy rates and maintain this year’s income per student at the same level in real terms next year, we would have had to increase fees by an average of 11.6 percent,” he said. “But because of the constraints of the fees maxima policy, fees will increase by a much smaller percentage, leaving the University with a revenue shortfall next year. This will affect expenditure levels.”
Meanwhile, Professor Field said that, while the Government’s student-component funding has risen by 2.5 percent, an inflation rate running at close to 4 percent immediately eroded any benefit. “We must meet the Government’s expectation that through teaching and research we contribute to the ‘national good’ and the ‘knowledge economy’, and we must also meet the expectation of our students that we give them an internationally competitive standard of education and an internationally credible qualification,” he said. “Naturally we regret the need to increase fees, but we have little option if we are to maintain the quality of our teaching, research and service.”
Critic named best
Otago University student magazine Critic was named the best publication by a panel of media experts for the second year running at the annual Aotearoa Student Press Association (ASPA) awards held in Auckland recently in association with the NZ Listener.
Critic scooped five of the fourteen categories, including Best Columnist, Best Reviewer, Best Feature Writer and Best News Writer. Victoria University’s Salient was placed second and Auckland University’s Craccum third. Other winners included Craccum Editor Ryan Sproull (Best Editorial Writer), Critic’s John Hartevelt (Best News Writer) and Ryan Brown-Haysom (Best Feature Writer).
Although student magazines are often associated with controversial issues, this year’s judges commented on the number of investigative stories on tertiary education which were broken in student media before being picked up by television and newspapers. Student media led the way on stories as diverse as Otago’s student code of conduct and Palmerston North's business school restructuring
One judge, Olivia Kember, a TVNZ reporter and Sunday magazine features writer, said that Critic has a tone – intelligent, perceptive and witty – which carries through every page. “The design is slick; the headlines smart; the articles relevant, well-written and engaging,” she said. “I like the way Critic treats topics judiciously but without heaviness or pretension. Even the small items are inventive and funny. It's a very accessible, enjoyable read.”
The Aotearoa Student Press Association comprises thirteen publications from the country's university and polytechnic campuses. This was the fifth annual ASPA prize giving and the third held in association with The Listener.
TES evaluation report now
A new report covering stage one of the evaluation of the Tertiary Education Strategy 2002/07 and focusing on how effective the Strategy has been in creating change in the tertiary-education system is now available on the Ministry of Education website.
The report, Getting Started: Report on Stage 1 of the Evaluation of the Tertiary Education Strategy 2002/07, provides a mid-term review of progress, covering the first three years of the Strategy, and draws together information from recently released reports on the use of the Strategy, profile objectives and monitoring of the Strategy, as well as other sources.
The Executive Summary says that, overall, the TES has provided a basis for engagement between the Government and the tertiary-education sector and that there is broad acceptance of the value of having a Tertiary Education Strategy. It says that the Strategy has provided a sense of there being a tertiary-education system that encompasses and connects all post-school learning.
The report says that the TES has informed a greater focus on quality of education and research. However, the broad nature of the TES has allowed tertiary-education organisations to focus on the aspects that best fit their strategies.
Where the TES has been explicitly linked to funding, shifts towards improved outcomes are already apparent. This is exemplified by the growth in research production, supported by improvements to quality and reputation, in response to the shift to performance-based research funding. However, in areas where there is no strong link between funding and strategy, shifts towards improved outcomes are not apparent. For example, within the context of a demand-driven student-funding system, there has been a continued focus on increasing certificate-level provision, with few apparent improvements in participation and outcomes at degree level and above.
The full report can be found at:
AUS national officers elected
The Association of University Staff has announced its new national officers for 2007, following an election for the post of Academic Vice-President. Current National President, Professor Nigel Haworth from the University of Auckland, has been elected unopposed for a third one-year term and Dr David Small has been elected as the new Academic Vice-President.
Cate Wartho from the University of Otago will continue for a second term as General Staff Vice-President, Fiona Te Momo from Massey University Albany as the Maori Vice-President and Associate Professor Maureen Montgomery from the University of Canterbury has been returned as the Women’s Vice-President.
James Oxnam, from the University of Canterbury, has been elected as the Academic Support Vice-President and Lyndsay Ainsworth as the Library Vice-President.
Returning Officer, AUS General Secretary Helen Kelly, said that the contested election for the position of Academic Vice-President had resulted in a high turnout of voters indicating that there was a healthy interest in senior elected positions within the union.
The officers will commence their one-year terms on 1 January 2007.
Universities urged to spy on Muslims
Lecturers and university heads across Britain have reacted with anger and alarm to plans by the Government to encourage academics to spy on their students. They said the measures, outlined in a leaked document obtained by the Guardian, were misplaced and likely to be counterproductive in the drive to root out extremist activity on university campuses.
According to the proposals, ministers are to ask staff to spy on “Asian-looking” or Muslim students, informing Special Branch of anyone they suspect of being involved in Islamic extremism. They will be told to inform on students to Special Branch because the Government believes campuses have become “fertile recruiting grounds” for extremists.
The Department for Education has drawn up a series of proposals which are to be sent to universities and other centres of higher education before the end of the year. The eighteen-page document acknowledges that universities will be anxious about passing information to Special Branch for fear it amounts to “collaborating with the ‘secret police’”. It says there will be ”concerns about police targeting certain sections of the student population (eg Muslims)”.
Paul Mackney, joint General Secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), has likened the call to an anti-Muslim McCarthyism which has serious consequences for civil liberties by blurring the line between what is illegal and what is possibly undesirable.
Sally Hunt, the other joint UCU General Secretary, said that government attempts to restrict academic freedom or freedom of speech on campus would be opposed. “Academic freedom is a key tenet of any democratic society, even if this sometimes means the discussion of ideas that many would find unacceptable. Universities have traditionally encouraged debate, allowed students the opportunity to broaden their horizons and challenged opinion,” she said.
From the Guardian and UCU
Classes resume at Gallaudet University
Classes resumed on Monday this week at Gallaudet University, the premier US higher-education institution for the deaf, while faculty members voted overwhelmingly in support of students calling for the resignation of the incoming President.
The campus was closed for three days last week after protesters blocked all entrances, leading to the arrest of 133 protesters last Friday night.
Although the University re-opened on Monday, students remained camped out at the main entrance but did not attempt to block access, partially out of respect for the twice-yearly faculty meeting. The faculty meeting, attended by 168 of the University’s 221 academic staff, voted by a margin of 82 to 18 percent to demand that the University’s new President, Jane K. Fernandes, resign or be removed. In a similar vote earlier this year, 68 percent of the faculty voted no confidence in Fernandes.
Those opposed to the presidency of Fernandes, currently Gallaudet’s Provost, say that she isn't open to different points of view and that the selection process did not reflect the student body’s diversity. Fernandes is scheduled to take office in January.
The faculty also voted no confidence in the Board of Trustees and outgoing President I. King Jordan. Jordan said after the vote that Fernandes would not resign.
The students who were arrested Friday night were freed after paying a $US50 fine.
From Fox News
says government wrong over future of research funding
More than 81 percent of academics do not support British government proposals for the future of research funding, according to a poll released by the University and College Union (UCU).
The Government announced earlier this year that the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) would be scrapped after 2008, saying that a replacement system would involve moving to metrics to assess research.
The UCU poll of more than 1500 academic staff also reveals that over 41 percent of academics believe the Government should abandon plans to stick with the 2008 RAE and scrap it immediately. Only 13.2 percent said that the RAE should remain unchanged. The poll coincides with a major UCU conference where academics will debate what they feel needs to happen to really improve research funding.
While pleased that the RAE is to be scrapped, the UCU has expressed its concern that the people most affected by the changes, the staff, have not been allowed to have any real input into what should replace it.
Sally Hunt, UCU joint General Secretary, said that the RAE was a fundamentally flawed system which has done enormous damage to research, scholarship and teaching in higher education, and had led to the unfair treatment of staff, particularly women, and to departmental closures and job losses. “Academics are keen for a change from the RAE, but metrics are not the right change. In fact, they are a step backwards,” she said. “It is incredible that proposals were drawn up without any representation from the people who do the research. Although the voice of the profession is absent from the Government’s proposals, we will continue to press for it to be properly heard.”
University makes golf
A Chinese university aiming to produce “socially elite” graduates is to make golf compulsory for students, according to reports in the China Daily newspaper. Golf, once said to be reviled in Communist China as a symbol of western decadence, has become hugely popular among the newly affluent since the first golf course opened on the mainland in the early 1980s. Students majoring in management, law, economics and software engineering at Xiamen University in China’s southeastern Fujian province would be required to take a course in golf “to achieve their elite ambitions”.
The University’s President, Zhu Chongshi, is reported as saying that golf is not only good exercise but will teach students communication skills and benefit their future careers. “The highest embodiment of the education system is producing socially elite people with the best education,” he said.
Meanwhile, a British university is offering its students a chance to learn the origins and development of England’s most enduring legendary figure, Robin Hood. Nottingham University will offer the postgraduate course from October next year.
China Daily and BBC
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: firstname.lastname@example.org