AUS Tertiary Update
Canterbury management confused
Proposals released on Tuesday to cut thirteen jobs from the University of Canterbury’s college of arts show just how confused management is when it comes to running a university, according to the Association of University Staff.
In response to the 340 submissions it received on proposed changes to the college, the university has tempered plans to completely axe its American studies and theatre and film studies programmes and now intends to resubmit two different models for a new college structure for further consultation with staff.
The decision, announced by the pro vice-chancellor for arts, is that American studies would be retained, but with the loss of 4.5 staff. It is proposed that the programme be taught by three full-time staff, giving the programme a staff-to-student ratio of 1 to 45.3, which is 50 percent higher than the highest student-to-staff ratio in any existing programme in the college.
Meanwhile, theatre and film studies will be split into two separate programmes located in different schools within the college, with the loss of one technical position, and film production will no longer be part of that particular programme. The new proposal was never discussed with the head of theatre and film studies and, according to a number of affected staff and students, makes almost as little sense as the plan to axe the whole programme. This raises the question whether the vice-chancellor has fulfilled his contractual obligation to staff requiring that there be an attempt to reach agreement over any planned changes.
Both models for a new college structure involve considerable disruption and uncertainty for the administrative staff. While fewer job losses will be incurred, the implementation of the new structure will not be finalised until the second half of the year. AUS national president, Associate Professor Maureen Montgomery, commented that the proposed changes do not take into account or sufficiently value the specific skills and institutional knowledge of administrative staff: “They cannot simply be moved around a draught board like pieces,” she said.
Dr Montgomery expressed deep concern about the long-term sustainability of the college of arts given the proposal to have larger classes, a high staff-to-student ratio, further savings to be made from staff attrition, and ongoing fiscal constraints to the operational budgets of schools within the college. “This plan does not offer long-term stability to the college of arts and there needs to be an urgent national debate as to what kind of university we want for New Zealand because, at this rate, even history will be history,” she said.
Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Super-union for tertiary-education sector
2. Email scandal at Otago
3. Green light for national salary bargaining
4. PBRF review focus on Māori knowledge
5. Little for tertiary education in China FTA
6. Business-friendly universities for the UK
7. OECD opposes short-term pressures
8. English college lecturers vote to strike
9. “Linguistic terrorism” strikes Portuguese
10. Know your culinary enemy
Super-union for tertiary-education sector
A new “super-union” will be created in the tertiary-education sector with the announcement this week that the Association of University Staff and the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE) will amalgamate to form the New Zealand Tertiary Education Union from 1 January 2009.
The new, 11,500-strong union will represent academic and general staff in New Zealand’s eight universities, twenty polytechnics and institutes of technology, two wānanga, and a number of allied organisations.
AUS members have voted by a margin of 77 percent to amalgamate with ASTE to create the new union following a conference recommendation last December in favour of a proposed merger. ASTE members voted last year to merge and have been waiting on the outcome of the AUS vote. Almost 94 percent of ASTE members who participated in the ballot voted in favour of amalgamation.
The presidents of the two existing unions, Maureen Montgomery of AUS and Tangi Tipene of ASTE, said they are delighted with the strong support from the memberships of the two unions for amalgamation. Each existing union required a threshold of 65 percent of those participating to favour the proposal in the respective ballots for it to proceed.
Dr Montgomery said that amalgamation is a logical move, given that both unions have much in common and are committed to a strong, well-funded, public tertiary-education system. “Both unions have worked successfully together and already collaborate in the negotiation of collective employment agreements in the university sector. The benefits of this cooperation will be enhanced by amalgamation,” she said.
Tangi Tipene said that amalgamation would strengthen both the political and industrial objectives of union members and would allow for the better use of resources. “Already this has been evidenced by the two unions combining to produce a common submission opposing the creation of universities of technology as proposed by the New Zealand First Party,” she said.
Preparations for the formation of the new union are under way, with a rules conference to be held in late July and the two unions to hold a joint conference in November.
Email scandal at
In another emerging email scandal, The Press reports that a computer hacker has infiltrated the University of Otago’s IT system and sent out “hundreds of private messages” which appear to have been written by the dean of the school of surveying, Professor Brent Hall.
Knowledge of the break-in and of the dispatch of emails to university staff and others as far away as Canada, which began in September last year, has apparently been suppressed for well over a month and the university is still not commenting on specifics. In an email circulated by the university to staff last month and subsequently leaked, the science pro vice-chancellor, Professor Vernon Squire, casts doubt on the authenticity of the emails and expresses full support for Professor Hall.
Other university sources are quoted as saying that some of the emails discuss sensitive matters such as salaries, grants, thesis-examiners’ reports, and staff appointments and resignations while others contain personal abuse. One surveying-staff member is said to have taken stress leave as a consequence of the content of the leaks.
The paper quotes the university’s communications manager as describing its computer systems as robust and “in place to prevent such breaches”. She adds that the university is concerned that security has been compromised but that it is inappropriate to give details when a police investigation is under way.
While The Press claims that the AUS is understood to be pressuring the university to take action over the content of the emails, its Otago organiser, Shaun Scott, was unprepared to comment at this stage. Dunedin CIB’s Detective Sergeant Brett Roberts has confirmed that the police have been approached by the university but would would not reveal when.
light for national salary bargaining
Members of the major unions representing staff in New Zealand’s universities have voted overwhelmingly to support the negotiation of national collective employment agreements in the next bargaining round. The ballot has endorsed a recommendation by the unions to move from enterprise-based bargaining at each university to the negotiation of one national collective agreement for academic staff and another for general staff.
More than 95 percent, 1906, of the 1993 academic staff who participated in the ballot voted in support of the proposal, and 94 percent, 1802, of the 1907 general staff also voted to support national bargaining. The result means that bargaining with the universities will be initiated in April and it is expected that formal negotiations will commence in May.
Combined unions’ spokesperson, Marty Braithwaite, said he was pleased with the result as, following last year’s negotiations, the unions have been engaged in a tripartite process with the government and vice-chancellors to find solutions to long-standing funding and salary problems facing the university sector. “The high number of union members voting in this ballot, along with the high level of support for national bargaining, has given us a very clear mandate to continue this process with university employers,” he said. “It also shows that university staff appreciate the link between funding and salaries and support the view that the best means to improve salaries is through a national collective bargaining process.”
Mr Braithwaite added that the unions’ position would be strengthened by the inclusion of AUT and that he expected university employers to support the decision of union members and recognise that the salary crisis in the sector was an issue that would only be resolved on a national basis and with the cooperation of university employers, unions, and the government. “We are providing the vice-chancellors with the mechanism of national collective employment agreements to make this happen,” he concluded.
PBRF review focus on Māori
The New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (NZVCC) reports that its Māori standing committee, Te Kāhui Amokura, recently met Dr Jonathan Adams, independent strategic reviewer of the Performance-Based Research Fund. The discussion focused on the fund’s Māori knowledge and development (MKD) panel, with Te Kāhui Amokura strongly supporting its retention for future PBRF rounds and agreeing that it should be “leading edge and multidisciplinary”.
The meeting noted that the work of the MKD panel had tended to be defined by methodology rather than subject area and the importance of building Māori academics’ confidence in the panel. This could be achieved by clearly defining the research paradigm within which it operates so that its legitimacy and usefulness can better be understood. It was also suggested that the panel’s guidelines would need to be clearly focused in order to ensure that its distinctive approach to research can be discerned.
During the meeting with Dr Adams, it was agreed that Te Kāhui Amokura could have a significant role in developing the scope of the panel and he invited it to forward a submission based on the matters raised in the meeting.
AUS vice-president Māori, Dr Fiona Te Momo, has applauded the actions of Te Kāhui Amokura in meeting with Dr Adams and supporting the funding and retention of the MKD panel.
She went on to say, however, that, “Although Te Kāhui Amokura is likely to have a significant role in developing the panel’s scope, I am concerned that only a small proportion of Māori academics may be invited to contribute.” Dr Te Momo urged the Tertiary Education Commission to engage extensively with Māori academics and researchers in the sector through their organisations such as the Association of University Staff.
tertiary education in China FTA
Any gains for tertiary education from the signing of the free trade agreement with the People’s Republic of China are likely to be limited to spin-offs from the high profile the agreement has given New Zealand, according to Education Review.
It quotes Education New Zealand chief executive, Robert Stevens, as commenting that “the agreement reiterated education commitments China made to the World Trade Organisation in 2005” and committed that country to maintaining its current list of approved New Zealand tertiary-education providers. Currently, all this country’s public institutions are on that list as well as six degree-granting private training establishments that were added in 2006.
He added that it is significant that the agreement excludes the education sector from most favoured nation (MFN) status, meaning that New Zealand would not automatically gain any future liberalisation commitments China might give to other countries in the field of education. “ He sees, however, the short-term rise in New Zealand’s profile as “an excellent thing”.
Minister of education Chris Carter has also celebrated that rise in profile, saying that, “At this moment in China, our country’s profile just couldn’t be higher, so this has been the perfect opportunity to make sure Chinese students see New Zealand as an education provider of first choice.”
Former AUS national president Bill Rosenberg warns, however, that there are other considerations: “GATS-plus commitments under the agreement limit New Zealand’s choices in regulating ‘other education’ providers owned by China-based investors, including language schools, Chinese language assessment services, and private, specialist scool-level institutions outside the compulsory system.”
“This is despite language schools having damaged New Zealand’s reputation in the past. In addition, China-based owners of private educational institutions get a higher level of investment protection, including the right in some circumstances to take the New Zealand government to international arbitration,” Dr Rosenberg added.
Business-friendly universities for the UK
The United Kingdom’s University and College Union (UCU) has warned against giving businesses too much influence over the content and design of university courses, as the government launched plans to make universities more business-friendly. The UCU argued that plans outlined by the universities secretary, John Denham, would stifle innovation in higher education.
The high-level skills consultation from the department of innovation, universities and skills urges much more involvement of employers in designing and paying for university courses. In particular, the proposal includes provision of 30,000 new university places to be co-funded by employers, with most future spending increases going towards business-focused degrees which will be partly designed by them.
However, UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said, “Affording the private sector a major say in the curriculum today will mean less innovation and invention for tomorrow as university staff are forced to prioritise policy that focuses purely on the numbers game.”
“The most effective way for universities to contribute to society and the economy is by allowing them to retain their principal missions as places of research and scholarship,” she added. “We would advise against embracing any new form of league tables or target-driven approaches to measuring higher education.”
She went on to say, “Experience has taught us that such an approach generally lowers quality, rather than raises it, and is a bureaucratic nightmare.”
Ms Hunt argued that problems putting the government’s flagship 14-19 diplomas in place were down to confusion over curriculum organisation and content in the Diploma Development Partnerships, which are led by business. “The main reason why the first five diplomas are running very close to deadline is the confusion created in the sector by those very partnerships.”
“Put simply, business leaders are not educationalists,” she said.
OECD opposes short-term pressures
Effective tertiary education is a sure-fire way to achieve economic growth, a new report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development says. But universities should avoid striving for quick fixes such as swift commercialisation of studies and funnelling research resources into the latest scientific hotspot, such as nanotechnology or IT.
In its Thematic Review of Tertiary Education, a three-year study of tertiary-education policies in twenty-four countries, the Paris-based OECD has devised a comprehensive set of proposals designed to help its rich-country members devise effective higher-education policies.
For the economists of the OECD, successful universities and colleges are crucially important. “Tertiary education matters for economic development,” declared Aart de Geus, OECD deputy secretary-general, at a Lisbon conference where the review report was launched. “Globalisation has intensified competition and there are important new players in the world economy,” de Geus said.
He reported that the OECD had calculated that each extra year of education could lift a country’s economic output per person by around 6 percent. But he and his economists advised universities and colleges to take a long view when examining the contribution they might make towards enriching their countries.
Therefore, research and innovation policies at government and university level must take “a long-term perspective to ensure the system is capable of contributing to future economic growth, technological progress, and sustainable development”.
In this regard, the OECD is concerned about some of the indicators used to measure the quality of research conducted in tertiary education, claiming they are problematic. “Linking funding to quantifiable output measures, such as publications and patents, has had unintended impacts on the quality of research, skewing it away from basic work that could have a bigger economic impact in the long term,” the report said.
From University World News
English college lecturers vote to
Further education lecturers in England have voted to strike on Thursday 24 April in support of a demand to bring their pay up to that of schoolteachers. Lecturers in over 250 colleges were balloted by the University and College Union and the result shows solid support for industrial action: 65.5 percent of those voting supported strike action and 86.2 percent also supported other forms of industrial action short of a strike.
UCU, along with other further education unions, submitted a joint pay claim for a 6 percent increase or £1500, whichever is the greater, for 2008-09. The unions will meet employers again on 1 May.
Thousands of college lecturers, including large numbers who are part-time and hourly paid, can’t reach the higher pay levels enjoyed by schoolteachers. And no further education lecturers get the allowances enjoyed by 50 percent of schoolteachers, worth between £2,364 and £11,557 a year on top of the pay scales.
Growing workloads are also a major concern. As well as teaching, lecturers carry out course development, lesson preparation, marking, professional development, and administration. A quarter of lecturers already teach more than 850 hours a year, jeopardising quality in UCU’s view. The lecturers want negotiations on common conditions of service across all colleges.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of UCU, said, “College lecturers feel undervalued, despite their successes, which the government has recognised. The considerable difference in the average pay of lecturers and teachers doing the same work is grossly unfair. It is more than four years since the employers agreed to move lecturers to the same length pay scales as school teachers but 47 percent of colleges still haven’t done that. The treatment of FE staff is a scandal. Pay has been further eroded by below-inflation pay awards.”
Plans to drop the letters c, p and h from some Portuguese words have provoked outrage among academics who describe the move as an act of “linguistic terrorism”. “The proponents of change say that there will be a breakdown in communication, and that Brazil will take over in the future if we do not do something,” says António M Feijó, professor of literature at the University of Lisbon. “I think that this proposal is both absurd and reckless.”
An international conference in Lisbon later this month will seek to impose a system of standardised spelling reform that was initially supported in 1990 by the governments of Portugal, Brazil, Angola, and East Timor, among others. The agreement they ratified, known as the orthographic accord, was never fully put into practice but has now been given fresh impetus by José Sócrates, the Portuguese prime minister, who seeks a timetable of six years for its introduction.
Portugal’s recently appointed culture minister, José António Pinto Ribeiro, has argued that “it is necessary to unify the Portuguese language in order to consolidate it internationally”.
The orthographic agreement proposes, for example, the elimination of the letters c, p and h from the European and African spelling whenever they are silent. It establishes common guidelines for capitalisation but will allow some divergence in the case of particular spellings such as the English word “fact”, which is spelt facto in Portugal, Asia, and Africa and fato in Brazil and East Timor. The divergence in the spelling will depend on the dialect of the region.
This flexibility, however, is exactly what makes the whole new proposal flawed, according to its detractors. “It is only partial standardisation because there will be optional adoption depending on how different countries pronounce words,” says Feijó. He also argues that the USA and UK have different spellings for a large number of words but that this diversity has not affected the power or influence of the language.
From University World News
Know your culinary enemy
Soon after starting research for his book on the multicultural history of food, Panikos Panayi found his name on a rightwing website, under the heading “Know your enemy”. A serious, slightly diffident professor of European history at De Montfort University, he had committed a supposedly hostile act by raising the possibility that fish and chips may not be entirely British.
Frying was a typically Jewish way of eating fish, he had suggested, while chips were probably pre-dated by French pommes frites. The idea proved so controversial that it prompted newspaper headlines. Some interpreted the attempt to deconstruct a British national dish as akin to attacking the nation itself.
It was a clear demonstration of how intimately connected people perceive food and national identity to be. But according to Professor Panayi, this perception is wrong. He argues that dishes don’t have a nationality. Examine any one of them closely and you are likely to find influences from all over the world, not only in the ingredients but in the way they are served and eaten.
Rather than being a symbol of nationality, he says, “what people eat is a really important symbol of the integration and assimilation process”. In his view, it is impossible to understand what British food, and especially eating out in Britain, is about without also studying immigration.
So, for Professor Panayi, “saying foods have a nationality is extremely bizarre”. At best, it is sometimes possible to say that foods are regional, with wheat changing to rice between regions in India, for example.
But even this can only be taken so far. He takes from his shelves a book on British cuisine, the kind of concept that irritates him, which is divided into regions. The section on south-east England is written by Gary Rhodes and Atul Kochhar. “I’m not sure what that says apart from that curry has become part of “south-east English cuisine”, although curry is also part of Midlands cuisine, since baltis are supposed to come from Birmingham,” he says.
From Harriet Swain in the Guardian
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