AUS Tertiary Update
Criticism of research funding “absurd”
University staff have condemned as absurd National Party leader John Key’s criticism of Tuesday’s announcement by the government of $700 million in new funding for research, development, and innovation in pastoral and food production and his threat to scrap the fund.
The new money results from a recommendation in the 2006 report of the Food and Beverage Taskforce which warned that New Zealand producers would have to become a lot smarter if they were to deal successfully with stiff competition from low-cost, high-volume producers internationally.
It is intended that the funding will grow over the next ten to fifteen years to about $1 billion as a result of interest earned and ultimately peak at $2 billion, as industry is expected to match the government’s contribution.
The New Zealand Fast Forward Fund is described by Prime Minister Helen Clark as part of a drive to transform the economy into an innovative supplier of high-value goods and services. “This happens to be a critical industry sector which supplies about 57 percent of our export earnings from goods and it could do a lot better. It’s going to need a huge push from innovation to do that,” she said.
Addressing the precise focus of the initiative, agriculture minister Jim Anderton identified four areas for concentration: sustainable pastoral systems, research and education capability, food innovation clusters, and internationalisation.
While most groups have welcomed the new funding, however, the National Party leader has labelled the New Zealand Fast Forward Fund a “gimmick”, saying the model carries a considerable risk and will be at the mercy of the way in which the fund is invested. He has also threatened to scrap the fund if National becomes the government
Others have said that the new funding comes too late or is too narrow in its application just to the primary sector.
Association of University Staff national president, Associate Professor Maureen Montgomery, said that the new funding is the biggest-ever single investment in science and innovation in the primary sector and should be welcomed, not criticised. “This fund recognises the continuing importance of primary production to the New Zealand economy and the level of investment would pay significant dividends in the government’s aims to transform this country’s economy,” she said.
“For the National Party leader to dismiss the funding as a gimmick and threaten to scrap the new fund indicates that either he has little understanding of the research needs of the country or he is playing political games which assist no one.”
Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. UK visa restrictions counter-productive, restrictive
2 Unitec bill doomed?
3. Student numbers, quality caused SIT cuts
4. ASTE settles CPIT collective agreement
5. Australian universities “in crisis”
6. Uproar over forced retirement of feminist academic
7. US law, business, engineering professors highest-paid
8. End of the Chinese curse
restrictions counter-productive, restrictive
Moves to reduce the free movement of academics into the United Kingdom have been labelled as counter-productive and unnecessarily restrictive by the Association of University Staff.
At present, academics can enter Britain for a period of up to twelve months visa-free but, in proposed widespread changes to immigration rules, the British government is planning to limit that period to three months.
AUS national president, Associate Professor Maureen Montgomery, says that academic staff work in a highly mobile international market and the free exchange of academics among countries is necessary in order to advance research and the world’s knowledge base.
“Any moves to make it more difficult for New Zealand academics to enter Britain are not only unnecessarily bureaucratic but would be counter-productive because they will impede collaboration on internationally important research between New Zealand and British academics,” she said.
Associate Professor Montgomery said that universities recruit as many as 60 percent of new staff members from overseas countries and any restriction on the immigration of academics would compound a forecast staff-recruitment and retention crisis in British universities by the end of this decade.
“It appears that the motivation for the planned changes comes from the fear of an increased number of illegal immigrants to Britain, but there is no evidence to suggest that New Zealand academics pose any sort of risk,” Associate Professor Montgomery said.
AUS supports moves by the New Zealand government to oppose the proposed new immigration rules.
Unitec bill doomed?
The private member’s bill intended to introduce a new institutional category of “university of technology” already appears doomed with submissions only just closing, according to Education Review. With the departure from parliament of the bill’s original sponsor, Brian Donnelly, submissions loaded against it, and an apparent lack of interest from the National Party, even the bill’s new sponsor, Dail Jones, is reported as being unsurprised if it should fail.
Of the twenty-five submissions received, the six in favour apparently originate in Unitec’s West Auckland locale and the eighteen against include those from all New Zealand universities; one submission is undecided.
What is seen as a thinly veiled attempt to give Unitec access to the title of “university” has resulted in a rare degree of unanimity. Education Review quotes National Party tertiary-education spokesperson Paul Hutchison as saying that, “My reading of the polytechnics is that Unitec is right out on its own in wanting this to happen. In terms of educational priorities, I certainly don’t see it as a main one.”
The government is said to be unlikely to support the bill though currently maintaining that its final position is uncertain.
The Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics of New Zealand submission apparently reflects “a range of views that were not forcefully held”. Its executive director, Dave Guerin, is quoted as saying that the umbrella organisation’s members “generally felt that the time was not right for the creation of a university of technology category or that it was an important issue”.
Student numbers, quality caused SIT cuts
In a postscript to earlier Tertiary Update stories covering cuts to the funding of the Southland Institute of Technology and Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt’s campaign to topple the Labour government, the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) has revealed that the cuts were the consequence of quality concerns following the more than doubling of student numbers in its SIT2LRN distance-learning programmes.
The Press reports TEC group manager communications, Andrew Bristol, as saying, “We were concerned about that rise and the impact it might have on quality. How were they managing the rise? Were they still looking after everybody?” When SIT failed to respond to those questions and provide assurances about its ability to care for that number of students, funding was returned to 2006 levels.
SIT is quoted as responding that none of its SIT2LRN programmes had exceeded the government’s EFTS cap or 15 percent growth limit and that it had not been advised that those particular TEC concerns were the reason for the funding cut.
An Official Information Act request by The Press has disclosed that SIT2LRN retention rates, the proportion of students finishing a course, averaged 78 percent in 2007. Average completion, the proportion passing all components of a course, was 56 percent with rates ranging from 25 to 76 percent.
Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics of New Zealand executive director, Dave Guerin, is quoted in the paper as saying that those figures range from “OK to good”.
ASTE settles CPIT collective agreement
After more than a decade of continuing conflict around collective-agreement bargaining at the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT), an ASTE initiative has resulted in a constructive resolution of outstanding issues.
Association of Staff in Tertiary Education members at CPIT have voted overwhelmingly this week in favour of ratifying a new collective agreement after a proposal was put forward by both parties for a “rollover” deal in addition to salary increases for 2008 and 2009.
Union members approached the polytechnic late last year and suggested the rollover as a way to avoid the conflicts of the past years. This was seen as particularly important as CPIT makes progress towards its new form as agreed with the Tertiary Education Commission as part of the tertiary-education reforms.
ASTE National President Tangi Tipene said on Tuesday, “The CEO of CPIT, Neil Barnes, clearly supported the union’s view that changes are best made in an environment of goodwill rather than of friction and adversity.”
“ASTE members were very pleased with the decision by the union to negotiate a rollover and felt able to accept a salary increase that, while they might feel it should be more, is acceptable to both parties,” she went on to say.
Ms Tipene added that the salary increases of 3.5 percent for 2008 and a further 3.5 percent for 2009 will at least keep members’ salaries up with the movement of the CPI. “This deal reflects the bargaining strength of our members and the good sense and goodwill of the CPIT management.”
Australian universities “in crisis”
Placing the blame squarely on the Howard coalition government for years of under-investment, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has described that country’s universities as being in need of a financial boost to ensure their productive future. “Our universities are in an unfolding state of crisis. Unless we fix the system long-term we are on a very insecure footing for the future,” he said.
Picking up the theme, Education Minister Julia Gillard has suggested that universities can “look forward to a productive conversation with the government about overcoming the financial burden”. She identified three major areas of concern: Liberal government red tape and micro-management; the need for a shared understanding with the government about a vision for the future and their ability to embrace “real diversity”; and dealing with the financial legacy of the Howard years.
Describing that legacy as one of funding constraints and capital and maintenance backlogs, she claimed that the Howard government had cut public funding to universities by 4 percent during 1996 to 2004 while the OECD recorded an average increase in public funding of tertiary education in the same period of 49 percent. “They understand that the problem can’t be fixed overnight. We understand it’s a real burden the sector is bearing,” she added.
Noting that universities had also fallen behind under the Keating government, Universities Australia chief executive, Glenn Withers, supported the proposed $A6 billion Higher Education Endowment Fund and a further $A6 billion for facilities and maintenance.
National Tertiary Education Union president, Carolyn Allport, welcomed the approach, saying, “We need to improve career advancement and career progression and have a brighter future to offer our young researchers.” She added that it would also be necessary to address the problem of “spiralling student-staff ratios” as well as “the importance of intellectual freedom within our institutions, which was a very vexed issue under the coalition”.
From The Age
Uproar over forced
retirement of feminist academic
Britain’s University and College Union (UCU) has joined a growing international uproar over the forced retirement at age 65 of Sheila Rowbotham, the renowned feminist and historian who is currently a professor at Manchester University. Professor Rowbotham will be remembered by many as the author of the 1970s’ best-seller, Hidden from History: 300 Years of Women’s Oppression and the Fight Against It.
Roger Kline, UCU head of equality and employment rights, said this week, “Too many universities seem incapable of recognising the invaluable contribution their staff can make beyond the age of 65. The idea that university staff should suddenly completely stop teaching or research on their 65th birthday, when they may have much to contribute to the work of the university, to their students and to the pursuit of knowledge, is plain foolish.”
“UCU has already had to lodge a number of employment tribunal claims alleging age discrimination. This is not just to do with whether particular individuals have been discriminated against but whether a default retirement age in itself is legal.”
“All the claims are awaiting the outcome of a European Court of Justice decision on the British government’s use of a ‘default retirement age’ of 65,” he added. “Sheila Rowbotham's enforced retirement, which is being challenged by UCU along with other cases at Manchester University, is just the latest such case.”
Professor Rowbotham responded to widespread expressions of support by saying, “I am overwhelmed by the support from students, colleagues at Manchester, and from further afield. Unfortunately the corporate ethos and ‘bottom line’ appear to have got a grip across academia whatever the cost to students or the reputation of institutions. My case is simply one of a number of such cases and I would like to deeply thank all those who have expressed support so far.”
US law, business, engineering
The average salary of college faculty members in the United States rose by 4 percent in the last year, according to a survey conducted by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR).
Law professors had, for the most part, the highest average pay, no matter what their status or where they worked. Full professors of law earned an average of $US129,527 in 2007-8 and associate professors earned $US94,444 on average. Assistant professors of law earned an average of $US79,684, a figure that was topped only by business professors at the same level, the survey found. Among instructors, those in law were the top earners, with an average salary of $63,174.
Other disciplines that commanded high salaries were engineering and business. Average salaries for full professors in those disciplines were $107,134 and $102,965 respectively. Among new assistant professors, those in business had the highest average salary at $86,640. Their average pay topped that of their counterparts in law by about $7,700.
The three disciplines with the lowest average salaries for full professors were English, visual and performing arts, and parks, recreation, leisure, and fitness studies, the survey found. Those faculty members earned about $76,000.
Average salaries at private institutions rose by 4 percent in the same year, compared with 3.7 percent the year before. At public institutions, average salaries climbed 3.9 percent, the same increase as the previous year. Public baccalaureate colleges, however, saw a 4.5 percent increase in average salaries, up from 4.2 percent.
The salary information included in the CUPA-HR survey was reported by 838 public and private institutions and covers about 211,400 faculty members. The survey categorises salaries by discipline and rank rather than by institution.
The full report is available on the CUPA-HR website: http://www.cupahr.org.
From the Chronicle of Higher Education
End of the Chinese curse
The People’s Republic of China’s highly respected Beijing University is considering the introduction of a regulation that will require its students to mind their manners by proposing to ban cursing and rumour-mongering on the internet.
According to its president, Xu Zhihong, in the Beijing Morning Post, the university, concerned about abusive comments and rumours on internet forums, is considering amending its student rules, by which its students are supposed to abide and take as moral guidance. The university, however, has yet to decide what penalties would be incurred as the regulation is still being deliberated upon, said a university spokesperson.
In addition, the university is also endeavouring to guide the behaviour and speech of its teachers, the paper reported Xu as saying. A committee of professors and experts from the university is working to revise a regulation guiding teacher morality and underscoring the academic ethics of its staff.
Last year, Beijing Normal University professor Ji Guangmao gained the nickname “Professor Mudslinger” in the media after posting blog entries insulting and cursing fellow academic, Zhong Hua, of Sichuan Normal University, who had criticised one of his books. Ji finally succumbed to pressure from internet users and deleted the disparaging remarks from his blog.
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: www.aus.ac.nz. Direct inquiries should be made to the editor, email: email@example.com.