AUS Tertiary Update
“Retrograde” film change proposal rejected
Victoria University’s proposal to disestablish its film programme has been decisively rejected in the report of the decision panel appointed to consider the proposed changes and submissions on them. The original proposal would have tied a truncated cinema studies programme to the university’s art history and museum and heritage studies programmes and the Adam Art Gallery in a new visual culture “cluster”.
It would also have ended undergraduate teaching of film production and replaced the five existing academic positions with three new ones and was described by Associate Professor Russell Campbell, the head of the film programme, as “profoundly retrograde”. The decision panel appears to agree with Dr Campbell, rejecting the proposed changes to film, leaving it in its present location with theatre, English and media studies, retaining the existing staff numbers, and dismissing the term “visual culture”, as “potentially divisive”.
The panel’s report is in response to more than 100 written submissions, the great majority opposing the changes, and a 1220-signature petition organised by the Victoria branch of the Association of University Staff opposing the disestablishment of film. As well as rejecting most of the proposed changes, the report also supports the future establishment of a Centre for Art Research and Museum Studies involving art history, museum and heritage studies, the art gallery, and some “research into aspects of the moving image”. In addition, it suggests the establishment of a centre or institute for the study of film that would develop “a carefully crafted programme that combines both theory and production”.
To that end, the report proposes the appointment of a director and the establishment of a working party by the vice-chancellor to carry out the necessary planning and strategic work. The working party would comprise no more than five members, including an independent chairperson and a staff member from each of film, design, and a cognate programme. It would consult with undergraduate and postgraduate students and staff in film and theatre as well as representatives of the film industry, and report within no more than four months.
AUS Victoria branch president, Dr Stephen Blumenfeld, welcomed the report. “The decision panel was undoubtedly influenced by the overwhelming support the union’s campaign received from staff, students, and concerned members of the public,” he said. “Throughout the campaign, there were a number of very heartening displays of solidarity and concern for staff and students potentially affected by the proposal. This demonstrates the need for greater staff and student participation in any change proposal arising from the university’s investment plan,” he concluded.
Tertiary Update this week
1. AUS calls for coherence in Auckland governance
2. Elitism or diversity at Auckland?
3. Top three take extra postgraduate funding
4. Chinese students on the rise again
5. Panels secretly ordered to shred research records
6. Endowments with strings attached
7. First Franglais, then Danglish
8. The money’s got to come from somewhere
AUS calls for coherence in Auckland
An AUS submission to the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance calls for “a coherent process for communication and decision-making between local and regional governance that is valued by all the parties and that clearly identifies community and citizen participation throughout”. The commission has been established by the Government to investigate, and make recommendations on, local and regional government arrangements for the Auckland region in the future.
The submission argues that the type of coherent process for which it is calling could usefully be employed to bring together the Tertiary Education Commission, tertiary-education providers, communities, business, and industry to develop a long-term plan for tertiary-education provision in the Auckland region. Noting the importance of such planning for greater Auckland, the submission emphasises the need to acknowledge both a greater degree of diversity and competition among institutions and population growth faster in Auckland than anywhere else in Aotearoa New Zealand.
AUS suggests that this model of cross-sector collaboration at a regional and strategic level could also assist with achieving the goals of the national tertiary-education strategy, which seeks to move tertiary-education provision to a more strategically focused planning process that considers both regional and national objectives for education and training.
Beyond the tertiary-education sector, the submission supports, regardless of the precise governance model finally adopted, greater coherence and co-ordination for the region that will provide a better alignment of functions and funding mechanisms respondimg to the mandate given at each level of local and regional government. These, it says, might include environmental safeguards, regional cultural and recreational facilities, civil defence, and transport infrastructure, especially public transport.
Summarising its central concerns, the AUS concludes that any future governance model must emphasise a greater degree of accountability across the region to the diverse communities that reside there; increased communication among councils, particularly in terms of sharing policy and processes and especially those defined by legislation; a cohesive approach to region-wide issues such as water, transport, and road systems; and flexibility to allow local decision-making while taking cognisance of issues that affect the region more broadly.
Elitism or diversity at Auckland?
A report prepared by Undergraduate Admissions and Equity Taskforce comprising staff and students of the University of Auckland has recommended “the development of elaborate admission policies to better diversify the student body”, according to the NZ Herald. The taskforce was formed when the university decided late last year to restrict entry to all courses as its response to a government funding shift from “bums on seats” to a model based on agreed outcomes.
Among the recommendations adopted by the university’s council is to keep a single ranking system for measuring the academic achievements of prospective students but to “carefully review” students achieving a low score on that system. Opponents of restricted entry argue that creative arts students may be penalised by that ranking system, that already under-represented groups will be disadvantaged, and that entry restriction marks a “return to elitism”, according to the Herald.
The university’s deputy vice-chancellor (academic), Professor Raewyn Dalziel, who also chaired the taskforce, is quoted as saying that, “As a university we are committed to academic excellence and to reflecting the diverse communities which we serve. The report provides a clear framework for managing entry in a way that is fair and equitable.”
These assurances are rejected out of hand by the Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC), which describes the restriction policy as “deplorable” and the report as an attempted “whitewash”. Reflecting that schools work hard to get students up to the level of university requirements, QPEC says that Auckland “will now give many of these students the fingers”. “This university,” it adds, “would prefer to create an elitist institution for New Zealand and overseas students from priviliged backgrounds ahead of opportunities for local students.” Identifying Māori and Pasifika students as among those most likely to be disadvantaged by the new policy, the coalition predicts that they will “face yet another hurdle to university study”.
The University of Auckland lags behind AUT, Massey, Otago, Victoria, and Waikato universities in its proportion of full-time-equivalent Māori students, according to the Herald story.
Top three take extra
Education Review reports that three universities, Auckland, Canterbury, and Otago, have received more than $2 million in additional funding from the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) Priorities for Focus fund to enrol more postgraduate students or provide extra support for those already enrolled. The money is in addition to their normal funding through the Student Achievement Component.
As well as enabling the three universities to enrol several hundred more postgraduates, the article suggests, the additional money could increase their share of the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) because of the consequent increase in postgraduate completions. The three universities already top the PBRF scores.
According to Education Review, the University of Otago received the greatest share of the new money, $1 million, for “support for postgraduate students in order to achieve the target for increased proportions of postgraduate students” and to support specific, targeted undergraduate enrolments.
Despite the University of Auckland receiving $850,000 specifically “for additional postgraduate students”, it announced that the money would be used to support existing students and not to take in more. The University of Canterbury received $750,000 on the same basis.
In addition to the postgraduate funding, Massey University was awarded $900,000 for its Kia Maia strategy for Māori development of and investment in technology and Lincoln University $500,000 to improve strategies for “meeting stakeholder needs” in key agricultural areas.
The TEC tertiary network director, David Nicholson, is quoted as saying that TEC has no agenda to establish particular “research universities”. “The [PBRF] has indicated that Auckland, Otago, and Canterbury Universities have very considerable research strengths and depth. The TEC seeks to support and further enhance those strengths through its funding, just as it does for the particular research strengths of each university,” he said.
AUT, Victoria, and Waikato Universities did not receive any Priorities for Focus funding.
on the rise again
Bucking a trend that appears to be dogging two of its competitors for international students, Australia and the United Kingdom, New Zealand’s education system is apparently experiencing a rebound in enrolments by Chinese students.
Their numbers soared in New Zealand in 2003 and 2004 to the extent that some universities drew as many as a quarter of their students from overseas, mostly from China. But numbers have been dropping steadily ever since, though the pipeline effect of that boom is still working its way through the system.
Last year, however, new enrolments by Chinese students rose for the first time since 2001-02 and, this year, new enrolments are expected to rise again, according to export-education industry body Education New Zealand. The organisation’s communications director, Stuart Boag, said new Chinese enrolments are likely to exceed 3,500 for 2007-08, an increase of 20 percent on the previous year.
“We haven’t seen a number like that since 2003-04,” Mr Boag said, adding that Chinese students are reappraising New Zealand after a phase when first Australia and then Britain were “flavour of the year”. “The Chinese student of today is looking around in a fairly discerning way and New Zealand is not coming up short,” he said.
Mr Boag added that, despite several years of decline in overall numbers, Chinese students are still the single largest bloc of long-term international students, with most in the university sector. They are closely followed by Japanese and Korean students, who are concentrated in short-term programmes at English language colleges and primary and secondary schools.
Unlike New Zealand, the UK recently recorded a drop in new Chinese enrolments and Australia has suffered a fall in new enrolments by foreign students overall, although China remains the biggest supplier.
From John Gerritsen in University World News
Panels secretly ordered to shred research records
A funding council team has secretly instructed panels assessing academics’ work as part of the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), the UK equivalent of the PBRF, to destroy all records of how they reach their conclusions, Times Higher Education has revealed.
The move, which has been condemned by a freedom-of-information campaign group, is aimed at avoiding challenges to panel decisions by academics using freedom-of-information or data-protection laws. It will see evidence such as notes and minutes explaining the panels’ decision-making process shredded before the final RAE results are published.
In a confidential letter sent to panel members last November, Ed Hughes, head of the team managing the RAE on behalf of the UK’s four funding bodies, including the Higher Education Funding Council for England, sets out a timetable for the destruction of records. These include personal notes taken by panel members and the panel secretariat, workbooks recording emerging decisions about each submission, and draft minutes of meetings.
The leaked letter warns that, if academics on the panels make personal notes and hold them for longer than twenty days, they may need to be released to comply with legislation if a “relevant request for information” is received.
“We strongly wish to avoid dealing with such requests and the associated burden they would place on panel members and the secretariat. It is for this reason that we ask you to exercise caution in creating personal notes, destroy them at the latest twenty days after creation, and do not disseminate them,” it says.
Maurice Frankel, the director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, described the approach as “extremely negative” and said that the RAE team had “lost all sense of proportion”.
From Zoe Corbyn in Times Higher Education
Endowments with strings attached
When Stanley J Seeger gave Princeton $NZ2.4 million for Hellenic studies nearly three decades ago, the gift’s income paid for two courses in modern Greek and trips to Greece for five. The Seeger money, however, which must be spent only on matters Greek, is now worth over $39 million, multiplying through aggressive investing like the rest of Princeton’s endowment.
So the university offers Greek, Greek, and more Greek. “Institutions do get shaped by the interests of donors,” said Robert K Durkee, vice-president and secretary of Princeton.
As the nation’s wealthiest colleges and universities report on their finances to Congress, seeking to head off federal requirements that they spend at least 5 percent of their ever-growing endowment income, new attention is being paid to how endowments are structured, and on the restrictions imposed by donors.
Aides to the Senate Finance Committee, which sent out a query in January about endowment practices to the 136 wealthiest colleges and universities, say they have received 131 responses and have begun to scrutinise them. The responses, some of which universities have made public, show that at some, including Harvard and the University of Texas, 80 percent or more of the endowment is constrained by donors’ wishes.
Recent interviews with college officials show that, while many restrictions are for broad uses like faculty chairs and student aid, others are less central to the functioning of a modern university. Some are outright quirky.
“Endowment funds are in some ways like a museum,” said Mark G Yudof, the chancellor of the University of Texas System. “Sometimes they are visionary. Sometimes they aren’t. Land titles was a big business in another era; now, professors and students are not that interested in the subject.”
From Karen W Arenson in the New York Times
First Franglais, then Danglish
A new report from an ad-hoc language committee warns about the demise of native language instruction at universities in Denmark. The Danish Language Council has recommended changes to university legislation to oblige universities “to ensure the Danish language doesn’t disappear completely from higher education”.
In the past twenty-odd years, universities in small western-European countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands have readily embraced English as the language of instruction in large parts of higher education. Today, the net result for students is that the world is their oyster and the net result for universities is that they have placed themselves in more attractive positions in the market for international students than some of their bigger neighbours elsewhere in Europe.
But the swift advance of English as the main language of instruction comes at a price. Some countries are worried that eventually their small languages will come under threat. Others, such as Denmark, are concerned that university graduates will no longer be able to share their achievements with their own nationals in their mother tongue. Such at least was one of the conclusions in the report.
The scale of the problem is indicated by the statistics: at the Copenhagen Business School, almost half of the teaching is now in English; at the Danish University of Technology, English is now the sole language of instruction in all postgraduate programmes.
“Universities must work at the cutting edge of their fields of study and the English language is crucial for them,” acknowledges Sabine Kirchmeier-Andersen who, as director of the Danish Language Council, was a member of the committee. “But they also have a responsibility to disseminate their knowledge for the benefit of society. They cannot leave it all to journalists who often do not have sufficient background knowledge to effectively pass on this information.”
From Ard Jongsma in University World News
The money’s got to come from somewhere
A Scottish university principal, the equivalent of a New Zealand vice-chancellor, who had recently criticised under-funding in higher education, spent $NZ71,000 of public money on sprucing up his two bathrooms. The lavish costs were part of a $118,000 makeover for the official residence of the University of Dundee’s Sir Alan Langlands, who subsequently backed a round of redundancies.
The $71,000 went on items including new fittings, wiring, plumbing, and a water pump. The costs increased following a dispute over the quality of one of the new bathroom’s fittings, which had to be pulled out and replaced. Sir Alan also splashed out $6500 on painting and decorating costs, while $18,000 was found for the replacement of original sash-and-case windows. Another $13,500 was doled out for “general maintenance work”.
Perhaps understandably in view of this expenditure, Sir Alan, who has been Dundee’s principal since 2000, recently described the Scottish government’s funding package for universities as “disappointing”.
The university had planned to extend its voluntary redundancy scheme in order to deal with its tight financial position and it had already pushed through severance packages for staff as a way of servicing the university’s deficit. However, figures obtained by the Sunday Herald reveal that these financial problems had not prevented the principal’s residence from receiving the $118,000 facelift in 2004-05.
The work was approved by the university secretary under powers delegated by the university court without a vote.
From Paul Hutcheon in the Scottish Sunday Herald
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