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AUS Tertiary Update

PM not well informed, says Canterbury VC
University of Canterbury vice-chancellor, Professor Roy Sharp, has dismissed the prime minister’s suggestion that the university rethink its proposal to cut existing programmes and staff numbers in its college of arts. As reported earlier in Tertiary Update, Helen Clark, after hearing the concerns of affected students over the proposed cuts, called on the university to find another way to make savings.
Professor Sharp’s response, however, when he met those students, was to tell them, “Well, to be honest, I think the prime minister is not very well informed about running a university.” He went on to say, “It’s very easy when you’re that kind of person to say ‘save the money somewhere else’ but, if we try to save the money somewhere else, wherever it is, then the same situation arises: people say you can’t save it there, save it somewhere else.”
Interestingly, this very point is taken up in the Association of University Staff submission on the change proposal. The submission rejects the institutional isolation of individual colleges and accompanying accounting model that produces such a response. Instead, taking account of the university’s overall healthy surplus, it advocates the adoption of a whole-university approach that is essential to the pursuit of interconnectedness and collegiality.
Specifically, the submission identifies four main drivers of change that are, in turn, employed by the university in its justification. They are the setting of arbitrary contribution margins on individual colleges; the imposition of arbitrary staff-to-student ratios on college of arts programmes; an equally arbitrary proposed ratio of administrative-to-academic-staff numbers; and the introduction of the rhetoric of “core” disciplines.
These drivers are seen by the submission as empowering university management to initiate and implement academic-policy changes by circumventing the governance role of the council and avoiding the requirement for proper academic consultation.
In their place, the submission recommends that the current consultation process be halted pending a properly minuted council discussion and directive, consultation with both academic board and community, and acknowledgement of the tertiary education strategy and the national interest.
Among its consequent recommendations are the opening of the contribution-margin model to independent analysis; full discussion of staff-to-student ratios and the proposed general-to-academic-staff ratio; meaningful consultation and discussion about an epistemologically appropriate model for arts programmes; the provision and analysis of alternatives to staff cuts; and urgent meetings with the government to discuss special funding for strategically important programmes.
The complete submission is available at: http://auscanterbury.blogspot.com/2008/03/aus-submission-on-college-of-arts.html

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. No flexibility from Victoria
2. AUS appointment to PBRF reference group
3. Whole-of-organisation approaches to improving teaching and learning
4. Life memberships for Lincoln pair
5. VCs’ pay sends wrong message
6. Corrupt academics, bureaucrats, and politicians
7. Tenure - now see the movie
8. More women graduates but no more jobs
9. Putting in the hours

No flexibility from Victoria
A set of guidelines on “teaching restraints” recently issued to heads of school and deans of faculties by Victoria University’s human resources department is attempting to impose draconian limitations on the ability of academic staff to obtain dispensation from being required to teach at any time between 8.00 am and 6.30 pm Monday to Friday. In the face of legislation coming into force later this year providing for flexible working hours, the university’s timetable policy adopted last December requires full-time academic staff to be available to teach throughout that period, except in the case of “exceptional circumstances”.
While paying lip service to the equity implications of the policy, the guidelines define an exceptional circumstance as “one that is beyond the control of the staff member and which would result in undue hardship if a teaching constraint was not imposed”.
Pointing out that the threshold for such a constraint is high, they set out examples of circumstances that would not meet the criteria. They cover the opening or closing hours of a pre-school, crèche, or school; the availability of a preferred nanny or child carer; a staff member’s residential proximity to the university; public transport or recreational activity timetables; and the timetable for scheduled meetings such as academic or faculty board, except for staff with continuing and significant responsibilities at those meetings.
Lest there be any confusion about the stringency of the policy, the guidelines go on to emphasise that hardship means placing “a severe burden on the employee and which they could not reasonably be expected to endure”.
Reacting to the guidelines, Victoria AUS branch status of women committee convenor, Dr Sandra Grey, said, “It is important for all staff to have a decent work-life balance and certainly crucial that as staff, unionists, and employers we take seriously the difficulties facing parents trying to juggle teaching, research, and care duties.”
“This is a very important equity issue. As we know from national statistics women still take on more of the unpaid work in homes, so they’re likely to be more affected by this attempt to tighten up rules around ‘teaching hours’. However, men with caregiving duties are, of course, still being massively disadvantaged if their dual roles as employee and caregiver aren’t taken seriously,” Dr Grey added.

AUS appointment to PBRF reference group
The appointment of Dr Grant Duncan, AUS academic vice-president, was announced on Friday to the fifteen-strong sector reference group created to provide advice to the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) on the design, implementation, timing, nature, and conduct of the Performance-Based Research Fund 2012 quality-evaluation process.
Dr Duncan, a nominee of the Association of University Staff, is a senior lecturer in social and public policy programmes at Massey University, Albany. His appointment will ensure that the concerns of university staff about the operation of the PBRF are considered by the TEC.
The primary goal of the PBRF is to distribute the research component of the government grant to the tertiary-education sector according to the research profile of participating institutions. That profile is assessed on the basis of the research performance of individual staff members through a quality-evaluation process.
Dr Duncan has taken a particularly active role in the development of AUS policy in this area since 2002 and has an active research interest in the PBRF, which falls within his field of specialist expertise.
“My job on the reference group is to advance the concerns of university staff about the PBRF, as reflected in AUS policy,” Dr Duncan said. “AUS members have also put forward a number of alternative approaches to the assessment of research quality and productivity, and to the current funding-allocation model. AUS hopes that the sector reference group will be a forum that is open to critical examination of the problems that the PBRF has created, and to alternative approaches.”
Dr Duncan said that university staff have expressed particular concerns about the accountability within the current PBRF model falling upon the shoulders of the individual as the unit of assessment and about the misuse of the individual quality scores and evidence portfolios for internal management purposes.

Whole-of-organisation approaches to improving teaching and learning
Ako Aotearoa, in partnership with the Association of University Staff, Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics of New Zealand, the Tertiary Accord of New Zealand, and the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education Te Hau Takitini, is hosting a series of regional seminars intended to discuss the development of strategies to enhance the quality of teaching and learning in New Zealand’s tertiary sector. Ako Aotearoa is a national centre established to promote high-quality tertiary teaching and learning.
The seminars will be held in Christchurch on Monday 7 April, Auckland on Monday 14 April, and Wellington on Friday 18 April.
The objective of the programme is to engage senior executives of institutions, academic managers, and practitioners in joining up some of their thinking on how institutions can best support teaching and learning.
“With the recent past being dominated by developments in research, especially the PBRF, it is great to see some new activity around what supports quality teaching. Student evaluations of teaching are now commonplace, and they have their place, but they are prone to biases, and they do not necessarily give any indication of actual learning outcomes,” said AUS academic vice-president, Dr Grant Duncan.
“There is always scope for innovation in organisational systems and practices to promote improvements in the experiences and opportunities that students gain from their university studies. AUS will be interested to hear of any ideas for improvements in policy or in teaching practice that may be of relevance to our members,” he added.
Rather than simply providing an opportunity for broad-ranging discussion of good teaching, it is proposed that the key question for the seminars be how institutions can ensure that they support good teaching and learning practices within their organisations, particularly as the sector looks to engage with a new quality-assurance system more focused on provider self-assessment.
Envisaged outcomes include stimulation of thinking about strategic approaches to supporting quality teaching and learning and the identification of possible projects for strategic improvement which might be funded by Ako Aotearoa.

Life memberships for Lincoln pair
Two long-serving Lincoln University AUS members were presented with life membership certificates at a celebration held at the university last week. Associate Professor George Hill and Dr Rupert Tipples had been awarded the honours at the AUS annual conference held last November, along with Waikato’s Varvara Richards and Canterbury’s Bill Rosenberg.
Both men have had a remarkably long involvement as union members and leaders, being involved in supporting workers in tertiary education since long before the AUS was established. In each case their service to the union in a range of activities spans over thirty years.
Since the formation of the AUS, Associate Professor Hill has served extensively on the local AUS committee, and also on the national committee and council, including a period as national president.
He was instrumental in setting up Lincoln University’s voluntary lecturer-evaluation system and has served many times on the promotions committee. His current significant contribution involves heading industrial bargaining for the AUS at Lincoln University and being part of the national AUS industrial committee.
Dr Tipples joined the AUS from a background in union activity in the United Kingdom. He has frequently served in significant roles as Lincoln’s AUS president, and is currently co-president with Lyndsay Ainsworth.
He is noted for his tenacity and persistence in helping individuals with issues that have affected their employment. Especially important has been his influence in promoting the AUS benevolent fund to members in need of financial support.
Lincoln AUS members are delighted that both men are continuing in roles within the union and that their vast institutional knowledge is still available to the union and the university.
Their life membership certificates were presented by Maureen Montgomery, the current AUS national president, and Nanette Cormack, the acting general secretary of AUS, at a staff celebration of the achievements of both men at Lincoln University.

World Watch
VCs’ pay sends wrong message
The United Kingdom’s University and College Union (UCU) has reacted to the release of a recent survey of vice-chancellors’ salaries by saying that its results send out the wrong message to staff. The Times Higher Education-Grant Thornton survey reveals that vice-chancellors enjoyed an average pay rise of 8 percent from 2005-6 to 2006-7 and that 56 of them have a higher annual salary than the prime minister.
The union is concerned that vice-chancellors’ pay goes largely unchecked and there appear to be no clear principles that determine how big the rises are or why they are awarded. Academic staff are subjected to much greater scrutiny in terms of their pay and UCU believes that vice-chancellors should not be immune to such analysis. It is calling for much greater transparency and clearer guidelines setting out the reasons for vice-chancellors receiving the increases they do.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “At a time when some universities are pleading poverty and suggesting they may have problems fulfilling commitments on staff pay, it does seem a little distasteful that vice-chancellors have once again enjoyed above-average pay increases. Vice-chancellors’ pay continues to fall outside of the type of scrutiny their staff are subjected to and how they merit big increases is never properly explained.”
“They should be subjected to performance-related pay, like their staff are,” Ms Hunt added.
“If they do perform well enough to merit reward, then they should receive a bonus, rather than a massive pay boost that tops up their final-salary pension scheme. It is vital that universities ensure there is proper scrutiny of vice-chancellors’ pay and pension provision if we are to avoid suspicions of one law for those at the top and another for the rest.”

Corrupt academics, bureaucrats, and politicians
A Siberian university student bit back when a bribe he was asked to pay a teacher to pass an examination failed to deliver the success expected. The final-year student at Tyumen State Agricultural Institute more than 2,000 km east of Moscow complained to state prosecutors when his 39-year-old senior lecturer in the faculty of soil science and agrochemistry demanded a 2,000 rouble ($NZ106) bribe. The student told investigators that, although the bribe was paid, the expected exam pass was not forthcoming. An investigation into this case, and other suspected incidents of financial extortion at the institute, is under way.
Corruption in Russian higher education has long been an endemic problem. The most recent in-depth study into the problem was carried out by Moscow’s Indem Foundation, a democracy-oriented thinktank run by Georgy Satatov.
The four-year study, which tracked corruption across Russian society between 2001 and 2005, put the annual cost of the black market in bribery at $3.7 billion, with higher-education institutions accounting for $US720 million of that in 2005.
Overall, corruption across the higher-education sector accounted for about 21 percent of the total market, with two in every three students and their families willing to resort to paying education officials, administrators, and tutors to secure places, exam results, or other benefits.
The Indem study, based on representative interviews with 2,000 Russians in 2001 and 3,000 in 2005, found both an increase in the number, range, and cost of bribes and the willingness of ordinary people to pay them.
From University World News

Tenure - now see the movie
Higher education has often provided plots for film, most often student-oriented movies such as Animal House or Orange County. Stories of faculty members also appear, with a number of academic novels having been dramatised.
Now, however, it’s tenure that’s about to have its fifteen minutes of Hollywood fame. Blowtorch Entertainment begins shooting next month on Tenure, which is about a college professor coming up for tenure in competition with a female rival who has recently arrived at the fictional Grey College.
Brendan McDonald, the producer, said that he viewed academe as “one of the interesting worlds to explore” and added that he viewed the project as “lampooning the tenure process”.
Some experts on tenure and/or the artistic portrayal of professors are dubious that the movie can be either true to the realities of academic life, popular with moviegoers, or both. And their analysis reflects thinking about why tenure, a source of much drama for people in academe, doesn’t tend to be a top storyline for the rest of the world.
At least one film scholar, however, thinks that the forthcoming film might do well. Chuck Tryon, who is on the tenure track as an assistant professor of film and media studies at Fayetteville State University, could see the film succeeding with the indie film crowd and “creative class audiences”, whose members include many academics or people who know academics.
The biggest difficulty Tryon envisions is the reality that, for many professors, the intellectual action is in their minds and not necessarily something that can be filmed in a way that would be “visually interesting.” He added that “since my ongoing pursuit of tenure typically involves me sitting in front of my laptop until 1.00 am, I don’t know how interesting that would be to watch.”
From Inside Higher Ed

More women graduates but no more jobs
It is reported that the government of Saudi Arabia has urged the kingdom’s private sector to play a bigger role in creating jobs for the rising number of women graduates. UNESCO and Saudi government figures show that women make up 58 percent of the total student population at universities.
The Saudi higher-education minister, Dr Khaled Al-Anqari, has said that this is a record for women’s education in the region. But such an impressive achievement in tertiary-education participation is not matched in the workplace: only 16 percent of Saudi women work, mostly in education, where the system of classroom segregation provides opportunities generally lacking in the private sector.
During a recent visit to the kingdom, the UN’s rapporteur on violence against women urged the government to establish the necessary infrastructure for women’s participation in all government institutions and private businesses, and in decision-making processes.
For his part, Saudi labour minister Ghazi Al-Gosaibi argued against rapid change, saying the issue of segregation would not change overnight. “In fact if, we try to change things forcefully, then that may complicate matters,” Al-Gosaibi said.
One sign that the issue of female graduate employment may be being addressed seriously is the drafting of sexual-discrimination legislation by the kingdom's advisory Shoura Council.
Maha Al-Hujailan, a medical researcher at King Khaled University Hospital in Riyadh, is one of only a few women to have discussed the issue publicly. Her research revealed that women graduates were confronted by sexual harassment within the workplace and when applying for jobs. Al-Hujailan said the absence of legislation opened the door for violators and made Saudi women “easy prey”.
From University World News

Putting in the hours
The chair of the philosophy department at the University of Akron was removed from his position earlier this month after he balked when a dean told him that department chairs had to be present on the campus from 8.00 am until 5.00 pm each weekday unless they had received written permission from the dean to be absent.
Howard M. Ducharme Jr. had been the chair of the philosophy department at Akron for the last eleven years. He said he had never heard of an attendance policy for department chairs until Ronald F. Levant, dean of the college of arts and sciences at the university, called him at home one day last month at 4.30 pm and asked him why he wasn’t at his desk.
Dr Ducharme, who said that particular day had begun with a 6.30 am breakfast meeting, told the dean he was working from home. He met the dean a day later and was told, he said, that “being on leave is a military concept, and when one is away from their duty station without permission, they are AWOL”.
Dr Ducharme then complained about the policy to the university’s provost. He also sent an email message to other department heads in the college detailing his interactions with Dr Levant. He received a registered letter on 10 March saying that the dean was removing him as chair of the philosophy department. Dr Ducharme, who has been at the university for twenty-two years, continues to work as a professor at Akron.
According to his employment contract as chair, Dr Ducharme said, he was to spend about 20 percent of his work time on his administrative duties. Like all department chairs at Akron, he was considered a manager and as such was not represented by the university’s faculty union.
From the Chronicle of Higher Education

More international news
More international news can be found on University World News:
http://www.universityworldnews.com

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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: www.aus.ac.nz. Direct inquiries should be made to the editor, email: editor@aus.ac.nz.

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