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AUS Tertiary Update

Tertiary education, student loans take centre stage
Student loans and tertiary education seem set to take centre stage in this year’s general election, with the leaders of New Zealand’s two main political parties addressing youth and education issues in their first major speeches of the year. While both parties say that they are aiming to keep those under the age of eighteen in education, training or work, they have also gone head-to-head on student-loan policies.
National leader, John Key, says that the current interest-free student-loan scheme he once described as irresponsible will be kept, a reason for the turn-around being his party’s loss in the last general election. Mr Key says National will also help students get out of debt more quickly by means of a repayment bonus of 10 percent for voluntary lump-sum payments of $500 or more in the first ten years following the start of repayments by the borrower. “For example, if a borrower pays $800 off their loan in a lump sum above and beyond the compulsory requirement, the Government would take $880 off their loan balance,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Minister for Tertiary Education, Pete Hodgson, has reminded students that Labour has improved student support every year that it has been in government, and has signaled that student living costs will be addressed in the Budget through increases to student allowances and loan entitlements and the widening of eligibility criteria. Mr Hodgson said that improvements made by the Government to the affordability of tertiary education started in November 1999 with the reduction of dentistry fees from $20,000 to $10,000 a year and have gone on to include controlling tuition-fee rises, removing interest payments for student loans for most people, introducing an automatic increase in how much a student can earn without affecting the allowance and increasing the threshold of parental incomes for allowances.
Meanwhile, the proposed improvements to student-loan policies have not been universally well received. Business New Zealand says that both parties are vote-buying, with the half-billion dollar cost per year of the interest-free student-loan policy diverting money from funding teachers, facilities and world-class research. According to its Chief Executive, Phil O’Rielly, tertiary institutions can’t get the funding to attract and keep key staff. “There is some good work going on in education policy, but much more needs to be done. Pouring money into interest-free student loans is not addressing our fundamental needs in tertiary education.”
Similarly, the right-wing lobby group, Education Forum, has described National’s position on student loans as a barrier to tertiary quality, adding that National’s backtrack means it has missed a chance to directly address the problems caused by the interest write-off policy, providing little incentive to repay loans, giving disproportionate benefits to better-off students and increasing financial barriers to the quality and performance of the tertiary-education sector.

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Jobs marked to go at Canterbury
2. Shadbolt welshes on gaol promise
3. Research shows massive student-debt increase
4. New boss wanted for TEC
5. Modern Apprentice target met
6. Links explored between Lincoln and Polish university
7. Chilling message on academic freedom
8. Universities assert right to publish
9. University, Union settle case
10. And now, for your homework . . .

Jobs marked to go at Canterbury
As many as twenty-three jobs will be lost from the University of Canterbury’s College of Arts in a move described by the Association of University Staff (AUS) as potentially damaging to the long-term viability of the College.
Among a number of measures revealed in a restructuring plan released last week, the University proposes to axe Theatre and Film Studies and American Studies and reduce the number of schools within the College from twelve to eight in a bid to cut more than $2 million from the College budget. The debate has also raised the spectre of what University management considers core to the University’s mission, with the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Roy Sharp reported as saying the proposed redundancies would allow for growth in other areas.
AUS Canterbury Branch President, Professor Jack Heinemann, said, however, that the decision to cut staff numbers appeared to be largely based on financial forecasting done under the now-outmoded bums-on-seats funding model, despite the new tertiary-education strategy which allows for additional funding for strategically important areas. “There is no evidence that the University has worked with the Government and the Tertiary Education Commission to secure additional funding for these areas,” he said. “The Government is trying to reduce wasteful duplication and competition among universities. A nationally unique programme such as American Studies neither duplicates nor competes. Senior management is so focused on cutting that they don't seem to be able to capitalise on promoting.”
Professor Heinemann said that University management should be asserting the case for better funding instead of taking the easy option of cutting staff numbers to save money. “There must be a case for the strategic value of our Arts College to be made to the Government. That is the kind of vision and leadership our campus needs,” he said.
Professor Heinemann said that successive rounds of staff cuts, interspersed with hiring freezes, have pushed the University to a tipping point and that AUS would be supporting affected staff and fighting to maintain a strong College. “AUS will be arguing that management needs to take a long-term approach and reflect on the implications of disestablishing entire academic programmes and courses, he added. “If Canterbury is to maintain a position as a leading and academically vibrant university, then senior management needs to inspire funding reforms both locally and nationally, rather than simply balancing the books.”

Shadbolt welshes on gaol promise
Invercargill’s celebrity Mayor, Tim Shadbolt, appears to have backed away from risking gaol as part of his self-proclaimed campaign to bring down the Labour Government in protest at cuts of $6.2 million in public funding to the Southland Institute of Technology (SIT). Late last year, Mr Shadbolt said he would spend up to $300,000 on anti-Government advertising, more than twice that allowed under the new Electoral Finance Act, adding that he had been to gaol twice before, spent five years doing periodic detention and had been arrested thirty-three times. “I’m not going to be intimidated at this stage of my life,” he told The Press.
Mr Shadbolt subsequently took out a series of advertisements in newspapers on 31 December 2007 calling on readers not to vote for the Labour Party. “I have had to publish this appeal to you today, because tomorrow this will be subject to the Electoral Finance Act, and I am not willing to register with the Government just for the right to free speech,” the advertisement reads. Obviously forgetting that he is able to place advertisements under his own name, Mr Shadbolt went on to say that the legal representative of the Council is not the mayor, so it would be the CEO who would get arrested, not him.
Meanwhile, the Quality Public Coalition says that Mr Shadbolt is wrong to complain about the loss of some government funding for courses run by SIT outside of Southland. “Narrow parochialism has a limited place in education and it would be a tragedy for all young New Zealanders, including those from Southland, if Mayor Shadbolt’s campaign to undermine the new funding mechanism is successful,” it says. “We applaud the Government’s policy to change from “bums-on-seats” funding to funding based on three-year approved plans for tertiary education with the focus shifting to quality education rather than pointless and wasteful competition. Our major criticism is that it has taken Labour almost nine years of lost time to implement the policy.”

Research shows massive student-debt increase
Average student debt has risen by 54 percent since 2004 and is now $28,838 per student, according to new research released last week by the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA). Other main findings of the research include average student debt over 147 percent higher than it was in 1998, students looking beyond the student-loan scheme to pay for essential living costs, core living costs (food, accommodation, transport) significantly increased and 88 percent of students considering that student loans will impact on their ability to buy a house
NZUSA Co-President, Paul Falloon, said that, for the majority of students, living expenses now far outweigh incomes and they are forced to borrow to live. He said that government policy is still ignoring the key drivers of student debt: continual increases in tuition fees and basic costs of living.
Mr Falloon said that the research showed the student-allowance scheme and the rules governing eligibility are completely out of line with the current financial demands on students. “The problem is obvious,” he said. “The proportion of students with access to a student allowance is just 37 percent and, of those, the average student allowance is now only $70 per week.”
The research was carried out by TNS Conversa and has been conducted every three years since 1994 following the introduction of the student-loan scheme in 1992. It details the financial and socio-economic situation of students at polytechnics and universities throughout New Zealand and provides the most comprehensive picture of the destructive impact of user-pays education.

New boss wanted for TEC
The Tertiary Education Commission has started its search for a new Chief Executive, with current head, Janice Shiner, due to step down in the middle of this year at the end of her three-year tem and return to the United Kingdom.
An advertisement, first published last weekend both in New Zealand and overseas, calls for applications from an outstanding leader, capable of taking the organisation and the tertiary-education reforms to the next stage. The TEC’s Board says it is looking for someone who can maintain and build good relationships with the sector, other government agencies and key stakeholders that are critical to the success of the new way of investing. It is also looking for someone who can continue to build the TEC as a high-performing organisation focused on delivery and improving outcomes for students.
It is expected the new chief executive will take up the appointment on 1 July.
For those interested, the advertisement can be found at:

Modern Apprentice target met
A government target to have 14,000 Modern Apprentices in place by the end of 2008 has been reached with more than a year to spare, according to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Pete Hodgson. The September 2007 quarter statistics show a total of 14,411 Modern Apprentices, of whom 10,534 are still in training and 3877 have successfully completed their apprenticeships. Industry Trainee numbers are also up, with 133,412 at 30 September 2007, up from 124,829 for the same quarter a year earlier.
Mr Hodgson said that the Government launched the Modern Apprenticeships programme in 2000 and set about rebuilding trade training in New Zealand. “We went on to set the 14,000 goal and we have achieved that ahead of schedule,” he said. “The 10,534 Modern Apprentices in training today is a 12.6 percent increase on the 9,355 at the same quarter last year.”
According to Mr Hodgson, trade training is a top priority for the Government. “This was reflected in the Budget 2007 commitment of an extra $53 million over four years to support increased workforce participation in industry training,” he said. “The Government’s total investment in the Industry Training Fund will reach $180 million by 2010 – more than three times what it was in 2000. In the same timeframe, Modern Apprenticeship funding will have gone from zero to $49 million per annum.”

Links explored between Lincoln and Polish university
Connections between Lincoln University and Poland’s oldest and largest agricultural university, Warsaw University of Life Sciences (WULS), were marked with a campus visit by a high-level academic delegation from the Polish capital. The aim was to identify and discuss opportunities for future collaboration between the two universities.
The delegation, comprising the Chancellor, a faculty dean, two vice-rectors and an administration official, spent an afternoon at Lincoln University giving presentations on capabilities, research, programmes and other aspects of WULS.
Lincoln University and WULS shared a five- year Memorandum of Understanding, signed in 1999 and at the time believed to be the first such agreement between any New Zealand university and Poland. Since then, Lincoln has had some contact with the Polish University associated with a research project in immunology.
WULS was founded in 1816 and has a student role of 25,000. A number of its courses are taught in English and it attracts a significant number of international students.

Chilling message on academic freedom
A professor of Political Science has been convicted of insulting the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the revered founder of modern Turkey, and given a fifteen-month suspended prison sentence. Atilla Yayla, a professor at Gazi University in Ankara and head of the Association for Liberal Thinking, was charged in connection with a 2006 speech in which he said the era of one-party rule under Ataturk, from 1925-45, was not as progressive as the official ideology would have Turks believe.
Yayla called the ideology “regressive in some respects”, and also criticised the many statues and pictures of Ataturk on office walls, saying Europeans would be baffled to see so many portraits of just one man. He insisted that he was not insulting Ataturk but questioning his legacy. He said he was also challenging the rigid way in which some followers interpret Ataturk’s principles as opposing liberal reforms, and their imposition of strict secular laws such as the ban on head scarves at universities. “As an academic, I must be free to think, to search and share findings,” Yayla said. “If Turkey wants to be a civilized country, academics must be able to scientifically criticize and evaluate Ataturk’s ideas.”
Turkey, which aspires to join the European Union, faces criticism for failing to protect freedom of expression, with several prominent Turkish journalists and writers having have been tried for insulting “Turkishness” and state institutions.
Gazi University fired Yayla over the controversy, but he was later reinstated.
From Associated Press

Universities assert right to publish
The Australian Group of Eight (Go8) universities have written up a manifesto to ensure the work of researchers is not interfered with by funders, whether public or private. The right-to-publish statement was released last week after Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Minister, Kim Carr, announced a charter to protect academic freedom in science agencies.
University of Sydney Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Go8 committee member, Professor Merlin Crossley, said the Go8 document was “preventive medicine”. The statement would be used as part of contracts between researchers, the university and the funder to ensure “that academic work is carried out in an open and independent environment”.
The statement says that the right of university-based experts to publish the results obtained from properly constructed research, regardless of the funding source, is a critical component of academic freedom and one that has come under some threat in recent years in Australia.
The Go8 says it recognises that backers are entitled to specify the scope of study and to monitor the work at arm’s length. However, they would not accept funding where the funder has the right to interfere in, or alter, the conduct of sponsored research, or where the funder has the right to alter, suppress or indefinitely delay publication of all or part of the outcomes.
Professor Crossley said that, if it was discovered tomorrow that smoking causes cancer, they would like to tell the Australian people rather than having to suppress that because they didn’t read the funding contract.
The Australian

University, Union settle case
Staff at the University of Ballarat in Australia will be able to opt out of Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs), equivalent to individual employment agreements in New Zealand, following an out-of-court settlement between the University and the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU).
The union alleged that the University had knowingly misled staff in relation to the AWAs and had breached provisions of the Workplace Relations Act.
The University has denied that it has knowingly or otherwise misled staff or breached the provisions of the Act. As part of the settlement it has agreed that all staff who entered into an AWA are to be given an opportunity to terminate their AWA and to move on to a collective agreement.
In a joint statement with the University, the NTEU Branch President, Dr Jeremy Smith, said he was glad the Union was able to put a difficult period behind it and to see people who were employed on AWAs given the opportunity to move back to coverage by the collective agreement. “We think this creates a more positive environment for negotiating the next enterprise agreement, and ensures that all University staff have the opportunity to benefit from it,” he said.

And now, for your homework . . .
Part of a master’s course at the University of Kent’s School of Architecture has been described as sick after it emerged that students were required to design a fully operational torture device. Illustrated with a skull and a view of a Gestapo electric torture chamber, the instruction handed to a class of students was to “design, construct and draw a fully operational prototype torture device based on ergonomic principles”. Students were encouraged to “be original” and told they could use historical precedent as a point of departure or attempt to develop something completely without precedent. “Through design development we hope you may advance your understanding of ergonomics as it pertains to torture,” the instruction read.
The Head of the University’s Architecture Department, Professor Don Gray, confirmed that one of twelve students had complained. “The only person who has raised any objection has been given the opportunity to address the project from a different angle,” he said. “I agree that it is a slightly shocking introduction to a very serious long-term design project. I'm neither justifying it or defending it but that is how we are going about it.”
The two-week project was designed by course tutor Mike Richards in advance of a project to design a new headquarters for Amnesty International.
Education Guardian

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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: . Direct enquires should be made to Marty Braithwaite, AUS Communications Officer, email:

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