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Massey Vice-Chancellor retires this week



NZVCC News Bulletin    Vol. 8  No. 2     26 February 2008



Lead item …


Massey Vice-Chancellor retires this week


Professor Judith Kinnear, the first woman to lead a New Zealand university, retires from her post as Vice-Chancellor of Massey University this week.  From next Monday, Professor Ian Warrington, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Palmerston North), will be Acting Vice-Chancellor until Vice-Chancellor Designate Steve Maharey takes up the role later in the year.  Professor Kinnear’s five years at the Massey helm were marked by what Tertiary Education Commission officials describe as a valued commitment to high quality teaching and research.


Many tributes were paid to Professor Kinnear during a round of functions taking in Massey’s campuses in Palmerston North, Albany and Wellington.  Research, Science and Technology Minister Pete Hodgson, a Massey alumnus, referred to Professor Kinnear’s contribution to growing the science capability of the university and New Zealand itself.  Former Massey Chancellor Morva Croxson, who headed the council at the time of Professor Kinnear’s appointment, spoke of her engagement with the Palmerston North community and her on-going commitment to her academic discipline.


Other items …


ACRI rebrands as Science New Zealand


The Association of Crown Research Institutes has been rebranded as Science New Zealand in a move which the Royal Society describes as “a launch of a science companies’ lobby to plug the value of research”.  Science New Zealand foundation chair Dr Alex Malahoff, chief executive of GNS Science, says making the link between science and the ability of New Zealanders to have choices for themselves, their families and communities, is a key task for the organisation.  As well as GNS, the other Science New Zealand members are AgResearch, Crop & Food Research, ESR, HortResearch, IRL, Landcare Research, NIWA and Scion.  Crown Research Institutes are Crown-owned companies formed under the Crown Research Institutes Act 1992 to undertake research which benefits New Zealand, and to facilitate the uptake of science and technology.


Interest free loans for students overseas


The Government has announced its intention to extend interest-free loans to students studying full-time overseas as part of formal exchange programmes.  To qualify for an interest-free loan, borrowers must generally be in New Zealand for 183 or more continuous days.  One exemption to this requirement applies to students engaged in full-time study with an overseas provider but there is no current blanket exemption for students enrolled with a New Zealand provider who are studying overseas under exchange programmes.  To be granted an exemption, such students must have a New Zealand tertiary education provider that can certify that the study is full-time towards a minimum of level seven on the New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications.  The change will be included in a Bill scheduled for introduction later this year with the exemption backdated to April 1, 2007.


Universities Australia put heat on Federal Government


Universities Australia have released a position paper calling for the Federal Government to “commence further action on its election promises to the higher education sector from the 2008 Budget”.  As well as further implementation of commitments made to the higher education sector prior to the election, Universities Australia propose a national internship scheme, a tertiary student computing fund and changes to social security regulations to remove scholarships from taxable income levels, and lower the age of independence for social security purposes to 18 years.  In a further recommendation which has special resonance in the New Zealand context, Universities Australia want core university funding expanded in the Budget to account fully for the real costs of provision.  That equates to an additional A$210 million for 2008/9.


The peak body for the Australian university system is also asking for A$3 to A$6 billion to be allocated from the Budget surplus to the existing Higher Education Endowment Fund as part of the Future Fund.  This would allow Australian universities access to project funds for infrastructure of A$150 to A$300 million per year.  Finally, Universities Australia seek the establishment of a new A$6 billion HECS (Higher Education Contribution Scheme) Fund from either securitisation of the existing HECS or additional Budget surplus.


Focusing on ‘strengths and specialties’


Meanwhile, the new Rudd government in Australia has renewed calls for universities to diversify, according to an Australian Associated Press report.  At the same time, any move towards teaching-only institutions has been ruled out.  Innovation, Science and Research Minister Kim Carr told a Senate estimates hearing last week that universities needed to focus on their strengths and specialties, rather than try to be all things to all students.  Carr was reported as responding to Liberal senator Mitch Fifield who had pressed him on whether he thought too many universities were opting to run a catch-all campus.  At the Senate’s education, employment and workplace relations committee hearing, Carr said there needed to be a higher level of concentration of research effort.  “That does not mean that we’re in the business of running teaching-only institutions or that we take the view that there aren’t world-class areas of performance in each institution.  Our intention is to encourage universities to have a world-class performance in their areas of strength.”


The Dawkins reforms of higher education which took place in Australia during the 1980s are coming under increasing criticism.  Many teachers’ colleges and technical institutes were transformed into universities offering “broad-scope” courses.  In a further development last week, ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Chubb said Australia would fall behind its international competitors unless it targeted increased tertiary funding where it could deliver results.  He called for a major overhaul of university funding, the introduction of national degree standards and a review of government support for students.  That pronouncement was followed by education minister Julia Gillard telling ABC Radio that the new administration wanted to undo “11 years of neglect” of universities under the Howard government, which had put less into tertiary education compared to other countries.  “We’ve slipped  behind when it comes to public investment in universities, we’ve slipped radically behind.  We want to work with the higher education system to keep rebuilding our universities and we understand it’s going to be a big job.”  The AAP story did not mention that Australian universities continue to be resourced at much higher levels per student than their New Zealand counterparts.



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