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AUS Tertiary Update

Lincoln appeals Authority decision
Lincoln University has appealed a determination (or ruling) to allow a claim of unjustified dismissal to be heard in the Employment Court rather than in the lower-level Employment Relations Authority. In December, the Association of University Staff (AUS) applied to the Authority to have a hearing in relation to the summary dismissal of Associate Professor Glenn Stewart transferred to the Court because it said that a number of matters related to the dismissal were important questions of law.
Associate Professor Stewart, a highly respected scientist with a more than thirty-year career in Ecology and Conservation, was sacked last July after an investigation by the University into a complaint of alleged serious misconduct. At the time of Associate Professor Stewart’s sacking, the AUS said that the University acted unfairly and that the Vice-Chancellor should not have dismissed him.
In December, the AUS argued that, because of the importance of a number of legal issues arising in the case, the Authority should exercise its right to allow the matter to be referred directly to the Court for a ruling. Among those issues was whether, in the circumstances, the dismissal of Associate Professor Stewart was beyond the scope of or in excess of the legal powers vested with the Vice-Chancellor.
In allowing the application from AUS, Employment Relations Authority member Paul Montgomery said that the Authority had some concerns around the standard of proof applying to serious allegations made against an employee, and also concluded that, given the high profile “enjoyed” by both parties and preliminary publicity given to the matter in the local media, public interest was high.
Lawyers acting for the University have appealed the removal decision, saying that they now want the Court to decide whether it or the Employment Relations Authority should hear the dismissal case. The reason given for the appeal is that the Vice-Chancellor is dissatisfied with the determination from the Authority.

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. TEC denies backdown over SIT
2. NZ link to virtual university
3. Changing of the Education guard
4. Expert review, reference group for PBRF
5. Interest-free loans for students on NZ exchange programmes
6. AUT Manukau campus scrapped
7. Massey graduate wins AUS Crozier Scholarship
8. US Higher Education Bill gets strong support
9. Universities back apology
10. Ban on headscarves lifted
11. Saudi students told how to behave

TEC denies backdown over SIT
The Tertiary Education Commission has denied accusations of backing down on its decision to cut funding to the Southland Institute of Technology, saying that its announcement this week of an additional $6.53 million to SIT is for capability development in Southland and cannot be used to fund activities for which other funding was cut last year.
Responding to the announcement of the new funding, Invercargill’s Mayor, Tim Shadbolt, told Television One News that the funding decision was political, in what he described as a hugely important election year. Late last year, Mr Shadbolt reacted to cuts of $6.2 million to SIT’s then funding by threatening to campaign to bring down the Labour Government. Mr Shadbolt’s threats were backed by an advertising campaign which claimed that the changes would threaten the Southland economy and the future viability of SIT.
Strongly denying any political link, the TEC Chair, David Shand, says that he can “only assume the Mayor’s campaign of misinformation is simply based on his own agenda in the Southland region”. TEC says that the new funding for SIT had been under negotiation since early last year and was awarded as part of the Quality Reinvestment Fund, established by Government in 2005 to help institutes of technology, polytechnics and wānanga develop the strengths and capabilities they need for the future. TEC says the funding will be used by SIT to consolidate and enhance the education and training it offers to meet the needs of Southland industry and business. Some of the funding will be used for the establishment of an Industry Training Centre and Business Development Centre, upgrading existing teaching equipment and facilities and improving internal systems and processes.
Meanwhile, the National Party has taken the opportunity to accuse the Government of a cynical stunt, with the Party’s Tertiary Education Spokesperson, Dr Paul Hutchison, saying that the new funding smacked of political expediency. “When the outcry over the withdrawal in funding became too much, Labour simply handed the funding back but called it a one-off grant,” he said.
The Television One News item referred to in this story can be viewed at:

NZ link to virtual university
A strong New Zealand link has emerged in the case of a virtual university that has been denied the right to register in the Solomon Islands, according to a lead story in the current edition of Education Review. The story says that the Solomon Islands Government has rejected an application from a New Zealander, Denis Adonis, representing a group which wants to establish the “University of Honiara Online”.
According to Education Review, the so-called University is said to have its roots in the International Institute of Travel and Tourism, claimed by Adonis to be a New Zealand-based business, which was established online in February 2006 by a Caribbean-based company, Caricon E-learning Group.
In a notice to students on its website, the University of Honiara Online says it wishes to emphasise that it is a virtual and NOT a physical University. “This means that we do not maintain a campus, but an administrative facility,” it reads. “All of our courses are done completely online, while physical training (if required) are [sic] generally contracted to third parties.” It goes on to say that the University is “a [sic] 80 percent virtual and 20 percent physical liberal arts academic institution that was founded on the principle of easily accessible education for a better planet”. It also stipulates that it does not offer any degree courses and will not be offering any postgraduate courses until after an accreditation evaluation process.
Although a search of the Companies Office carried out by Education Review failed to find a company called the Institute of Travel and Tourism, the University lists a New Zealand address in Johnsonville and provides both an Auckland and Wellington phone number. One of those numbers did not work, the other went unanswered.
In an email, a spokesperson for the University said that it was currently in discussion with a New Zealand institution to iron out a partnership arrangement for their flight attendant course. Once that was formalised, the name of the institution would be placed on the website.
In the meantime, the Solomon Islands has refused to allow the company to register in that country and Mr Adonis is understood to be somewhere in the Caribbean.

Changing of the Education guard
Yesterday’s announcement that the National Party Education spokesperson, Katherine Rich, is not to stand at the next general election followed the resignation from Parliament on Tuesday of the New Zealand First Education spokesperson and Chair of the Education and Science Select Committee, Brian Donnelly.
Described as one of the worst-kept secrets of the political year, it has been confirmed that Mr Donnelly will take up the position of High Commissioner to the Cook Islands. During his time in Parliament, Mr Donnelly has been the Minister of the Education Review Office and Associate Minister of Education. Most recently he has been calling for the establishment of a new category of university, a university of technology, through his Education (Establishment of Universities of Technology) Amendment Bill
Announcing her decision not to stand at the next election, Katherine Rich said that she had no doubt that National would win the next election and that being in John Key’s Cabinet would have been a huge privilege and honour. “I do not doubt my ability to fill such a role. However, after much thought, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that with two young children I would not have been able to do justice to it without unfairly impacting upon their lives,” she said.
East Coast MP Anne Tolley will take over as National Party Education spokesperson.

Expert review, reference group for PBRF
An independent expert review of the $230 million Performance-Based Research Fund for tertiary-education organisations is getting under way this week. The review will be undertaken by Dr Jonathan Adams of Evidence Ltd from Leeds in the United Kingdom. TEC says that the terms of reference for this review have been developed in consultation with the tertiary-education sector.
The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) Acting Chief Executive, Dr Colin Webb, says that ongoing valuation is important for testing, maintaining and enhancing the effectiveness and credibility of the Fund. “The independent expert review underlines our commitment to the Fund and the key role it plays in the tertiary-education reforms as we continue to improve the quality of tertiary education and research,” he said.
The review will involve consultation with stakeholders across the sector, including the Association of University Staff (AUS), as well as an extensive literature and data review. It is expected that the review will be completed by the end of June this year.
Meanwhile, the TEC has announced that, in preparation for the next Quality Evaluation Round of the PBRF, it is to establish a Sector Reference Group (SRG), whose role it will be to provide advice on what changes, if any, should be made to the design, implementation, timing, nature and conduct of the Quality Evaluation. The SRG will be chaired by Professor John Hattie and will comprise no more than fifteen members, including a representative each from the AUS and the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee.
Once the membership of the SRG has been decided, a first meeting will be held on 28 March 2008 to approve its terms of reference, agree on the scope of the work required and outline a schedule for future meetings. The second meeting is scheduled for 9 May.

Interest-free loans for students on NZ exchange programmes
The Minister of Revenue, Peter Dunne, has announced that the Government is to extend interest-free loans to people studying full-time overseas as part of formal exchange programmes. Mr Dunne says that extending the exemption to include these students will remove an obstacle to further education and training that will ultimately benefit New Zealand when they return from their overseas study.
To qualify for an interest-free student loan, borrowers must generally be in New Zealand for 183 or more continuous days. However, the loan provision does not currently include students enrolled with a New Zealand provider who are studying overseas as part of a formal exchange programme.
For the exemption to be granted, a student’s New Zealand tertiary provider must certify that the study is full-time and towards a qualification of a minimum of level seven on the New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications.
Mr Dunne said the change would be included in a bill scheduled for introduction later this year. The exemption would be backdated to apply from 1 April 2007.

AUT Manukau campus scrapped
The Manukau City Council has scrapped plans for a joint venture with the AUT University to establish a new tertiary-education campus at a site believed to be on Great South Rd in Auckland, according to a report in the Manukau Courier.
The Council and AUT had been planning the campus since last year but, last Thursday, the Council abandoned forming the proposed joint venture to buy a site and buildings and lease it back to AUT for the campus. The land and buildings were expected to cost less than $60 million but the Council had said there would be no direct impact on rates.
Last year, Manukau Mayor, Len Brown, said that the Council saw the campus proposal as a unique opportunity to focus on the priority goal of closing the education skills gap in Manukau and to empower the City’s youth. “We have 450,000 people in the southern Auckland region, and we need direct access to a designated university,” he said. “This proposal aims to help enlarge the skills base of local people, especially young people, to provide new opportunities from next year to fill the new, often highly technical, jobs that are being created by our burgeoning industries.”
The Courier reports that, while the Council discussed the matter behind closed doors, a statement explaining the decision to abandon the plan said that, while a collaborative approach for establishing another campus in Manukau is worthwhile, the requirements of the Council and AUT could not be met.
There were 301 submissions on the plan from the public with 222 opposed, including the Manukau Institute of Technology.

Massey graduate wins AUS Crozier Scholarship
Clare Mariskind, an MEd(Hons) graduate from Massey University, is the winner of the Association of University Staff Crozier Scholarship for 2008. Clare receives $5000 to assist with PhD study at Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Education Studies on the topic “Tertiary teachers’ experiences of student diversity: a narrative and discursive investigation”. The scholarship honours long-serving AUS Executive Director Rob Crozier and supports postgraduate study in a number of fields, including issues to do with ethnicity, gender and/or other socio-economic factors affecting tertiary-education staff and students.

US Higher Education Bill gets strong support
The American Federation of Teachers says that a Bill to renew the United States Higher Education Act for the next five years is an important piece of legislation that will make higher education more affordable and no longer just a dream for millions of low-income and middle-class families.
The Higher Education Act Bill, which was last renewed in 1998, touches on an enormously wide range of issues, including giving the Education Department significantly more authority to regulate private student loans, dictating that colleges develop plans to give students legal ways to download movies and music and requiring that institutions explore technologies to stop illegal file sharing It also bars the US Education Department from issuing regulations governing higher-education accreditation, extends from two to three years the period the Federal Government uses to calculate the student loan borrowers default rate and allows for students to receive Grant funds year-round, instead of just during the traditional academic year.
The legislation would also require states to maintain their financial support of higher education, crack down on diploma-mill institutions by directing the Education Department to publish lists of accredited institutions and accreditation agencies and toughen standards for teacher-education programmes.
From The Chronicle of Higher Education

Universities back apology
Australian universities have backed the historic apology to Aborigines for their “profound grief, suffering and loss” made by that country’s Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, in Federal Parliament this week.
Deakin, Melbourne, Victoria and RMIT universities are all reported as endorsing Mr Rudd’s apology and adding their own. Deakin held its own minute of silence to mark the occasion, with its Vice-Chancellor, Sally Walker, saying that she congratulated the Government on taking the symbolic action in such a way as to allow indigenous and non-indigenous Australians to commence a shared healing process.
The University of Melbourne formally apologised to Aborigines for the wrongs of the past and encouraged staff to watch the historic apology this week. “The University records its deep regrets for the injustices suffered by the indigenous people of Australia as a result of European settlement,” Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis said.
Similarly, Victoria University Vice-Chancellor, Elizabeth Harman, said the Federal Government’s national apology to indigenous Australians was a significant moment in history. “Saying sorry is an important first step towards true reconciliation and the establishment of equal opportunity for all Australians,” Professor Harman said.
Universities Australia welcomed the apology, saying that it hoped it would help the way forward and improve education outcomes for indigenous Australians.
From The Australian

Ban on headscarves lifted
The Turkish Parliament has voted to amend its Constitution to lift a decades-old ban on Islamic head scarves at Turkey’s universities, despite fierce opposition from the secular establishment. Tens of thousands of Turks demonstrated in the capital, Ankara, against the amendments and called for the Government's resignation. “Turkey is secular and will remain secular,” they chanted, many waving flags.
Head scarves have long been prohibited at universities in predominantly Muslim but fiercely secular Turkey, a country seeking to join the European Union.

In a final decision, lawmakers voted 411-103 to approve two constitutional amendments that will providethat everyone has the right to equal treatment from state institutions where “no one can be deprived of (his or her) right to higher education”.
The changes must be signed by President Abdullah Gul, who is widely expected to approve the amendments.
Nesrin Baytok, a Republican legislator, said approval of the law “would turn Turkey into Afghanistan” in a domino effect. “You are not opening the door of freedom, you are shutting it forever for the girls,” he said. “The heads of many girls are shaved by their brothers to force them to wear head scarves.”
From the Associated Press

Saudi students told how to behave
Over 3,000 students from Jeddah in Saudi Arabia who are going abroad as part of the King Abdullah Scholarship Programme, including some to New Zealand, are attending four-day orientation courses offering them tips on how to behave in their host countries. Workshops provide the students with knowledge about their destination countries, including how to respect the traditions of the countryto which they are travelling.
As part of the orientation, students are able to ask questions about the limits of dealing with people of the opposite sex and are warned against marrying non-Saudis, especially non-Arabs. Around twenty students who married abroad last year had to cut short their scholarships and return to the Kingdom.
It also transpired that the bad attitude of students last year resulted in seventy-one students being forced to return from the United States, thirteen from New Zealand and five from Malaysia.
The orientation programme is part of scholarship procedures, with students having to log in and log out of sessions using special cards provided with barcodes. Attendant timings will be sent to the Ministry of Education and those who do not attend 30 percent of the orientation programme will be deprived of their scholarships.
From Arab News

More international news
More international news can be found on University World News

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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