AUS Tertiary Update
New TEC chief executive named
The Tertiary Education Commission has announced the appointment of Professor Roy Sharp, currently vice-chancellor of the University of Canterbury, as its new chief executive, commencing on 4 August. Professor Sharp, an engineer by profession, has previously been deputy vice-chancellor at the University of Auckland and Victoria University of Wellington and chair of the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (NZVCC).
He has also served on the councils of Te Rūnanga o Raukawa and Unitec as well as those of Auckland, Victoria, and Canterbury universities and is currently deputy chair of the NZVCC after serving two years as chair.
In announcing the appointment, TEC board chair David Shand described Professor Sharp as having “a well-developed understanding of sector issues and the sector’s interaction with industry, business and other groups.” He added, “I am confident that Roy will be able to successfully complete implementation of the new way of investing in tertiary education while, at the same time, building the capability of the TEC and ensuring the organisation maintains its reputation for achievement.”
Welcoming the appointment of Professor Sharp, Association of University Staff national president, Associate Professor Maureen Montgomery, said that the appointment of a chief executive from the university sector would ensure that there is a clear understanding of the issues facing universities and their role within the tertiary-education strategy. “AUS has worked well with Professor Sharp in his role as chair of the NZVCC, particularly in the establishment of a tripartite process among the universities, government, and university unions. Through that process, around $46 million in new funding was made available to university staff in funding for salaries,” she said. “We are confident that we will continue that positive working relationship with Professor Sharp at the TEC.”
The NZVCC has also welcomed Professor Sharp’s appointment, particularly in light of its view “that university funding has been progressively run down over a sustained period”. NZVCC chair, Professor Roger Field, said, “My fellow vice-chancellors look forward to Professor Sharp making a difference when it comes to the appropriate recognition of universities’ role as the principal providers of research in this country and the educators of the professional workforce.”
Tertiary Update this week
1. Bargaining ruling goes with Auckland VC
2. Domestic higher-level-student numbers increase
3. Otago’s Treaty-relationship commitment extended
4. TEC starts Christchurch sort-out
5. Visitor reins in Keele council
6. Contract cheating on the rise but dodgy
7. And the tables turn
8. Degrees the path to wealth and marriage
9. Prodigy is world’s youngest professor
Bargaining ruling goes with Auckland VC
The Employment Relations Authority has ruled that the vice-chancellor did not undermine bargaining or act in bad faith when offering staff at the University of Auckland salary increases prior to the initiation of bargaining in 2006 and 2007. In February 2006, Professor Stuart McCutcheon offered staff a 4.5 percent salary increase, despite knowing that bargaining to renew collective agreements could not legally commence until late March. Again, in early March 2007, he offered a 4 percent increase, knowing that bargaining could not commence until late April.
AUS challenged the vice-chancellor’s actions, saying that those actions sought to abridge, control, and limit effective collective bargaining, and that his approach had intended to marginalise the union. It also claimed that the vice-chancellor had denied large numbers of staff access to effective collective bargaining processes and that his actions conflicted with a “solemn” undertaking by the parties to work actively and cooperatively through the university tripartite forum. This cooperation was to include using their best endeavours to develop, agree on, and implement sustainable solutions to providing competitive and fair salaries for all university staff.
Then AUS general secretary, Helen Kelly, told the authority that the processes adopted by the vice-chancellor attempted to determine the wage movement at Auckland unilaterally and that his announcements to non-union members were made strategically at the time most damaging to the collective-bargaining process.
In her decision, authority member Dzintra King said that, while she fully understood the union’s concerns about the impact on bargaining of the salary offer being made prior to initiation, the issue was whether there was anything illegal about the vice-chancellor’s actions. She referred to case law saying that bargaining could be undermined only after it had been initiated.
AUS Auckland branch president, Dr Helen Charters, said that, despite the ruling, the vice-chancellor’s actions have had a number of seriously damaging consequences for the university sector as a whole. These include constraining the nature of financial benefits to staff to a straight percentage-salary increase when other options, like a lump-sum increase, more leave, free parking, or reduced workloads, could be advanced by the unions. Instead, the vice-chancellor’s actions risk committing the university to greater costs before increased government funding is assured, placing jobs at risk and creating a framework in which salary increases appear to stem somehow from the vice-chancellor’s largesse. “In fact, the vice-chancellor’s offer has decreased by 0.5 percent each year,” she said, “and his ability to pay clearly depends on increased funding delivered through the tri-partite process.”
“This kind of paternalistic salary-setting by the employer masks the crucial link between union activism and greater funding to the sector, which surely undermines the bargaining process and the union’s role in improving working conditions in the sector.”
higher-level-student numbers increase
Government policies intended to promote a better-qualified workforce appear to be paying off, according to Education Review. It reports that, although domestic enrolments fell overall from 2006 to 2007, there was a greater number of domestic equivalent-full-time students (EFTS) in 2007. Most of the overall decrease was in level 1-3 certificate enrolments, with a drop of of 7.8 percent in 2007 on top of an earlier 6.1 percent in 2006.
Enrolments in level 4 certicates, the Education Review article reports, rose by a very substantial 13 percent, contributing a 1.9 percent increase in overall EFTS. EFTS numbers also rose significantly for bachelor’s degrees, with honours and other postgraduate qualifications increasing by 24.3 percent. Master’s degree EFTS rose by 2.3 percent and those for doctorates by 9.3 percent.
International student numbers, however, continued to fall in 2007, with a 6.4 percent drop in enrolments and 11.4 percent in EFTS. This decrease came mostly in lower-level certificates, with a corresponding rise in the numbers of international students enrolling at level 4 and in honours and other postgraduate degrees. The article also reports growth in university and polytechnic enrolments but a sharp drop of 13.3 percent at wānanga.
Society and culture and management and commerce were the most popular areas in 2007 but the greatest growth in enrolments was in architecture and engineering, with figures of 7.3 and 6.8 percent respectively. On the other hand, mixed-field and information-technology EFTS fell 11.8 and 9.1 percent. Actual enrolments in the natural sciences were static, but their EFTS numbers grew slightly.
Pasifika tertiary-education student numbers increased by 7.5 percent in 2007 to 30,849 enrolments and 20,039 EFTS. There were drops, however, in the numbers of European, Māori, and Asian students and, while more European students enrolled in higher-level courses, thereby increasing EFTS, those for Māori and Asian students also dropped.
A total of almost 484,000 students were enrolled in tertiary education in 2007.
Treaty-relationship commitment extended
This week, at Takapuwahia marae in Wellington, the University of Otago and Ngāti Toa, the iwi group south of Kāwhia and in the Kapiti-Ōtaki area and parts of the norther South Island, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) strengthening their formal Treaty relationship
Ngāti Toa has had a long-standing relationship with the university’s Wellington-based campus, particularly the Eru Pōmare Centre in the school of medicine and health sciences, which has a strong Māori health-research focus.
University director of Māori development, Darryn Russell, said that this week’s signing looks to formalise the existing strategic relationship with Ngāti Toa. “It’s a further extension of our commitment to substantive Treaty relationships. We already have engagement in research and teaching through the Eru Pōmare Centre in Wellington and this will build on that,” he said.
AUS vice-president Māori, Dr Fiona Te Momo, commended the MoU signing between the university and Ngāti Toa. “The signing is an exemplar for other universities and tertiary-education providers to follow, particularly with regard to developing and maintaining positive Treaty partnerships with iwi Māori. Another example is Te Tapuae o Rehua, a joint venture involving five South Island tertiary-education institutions (including the University of Otago) and the South Island iwi, Kai Tahu, that are working together to support Māori development and aspirations.”
In 2007 the Otago University approved its Māori strategic framework and Mr Russell said that the Ngāti Toa signing, which is for six years, is another example of the framework in action.
The University of Otago has MoUs with several iwi and key Māori providers throughout New Zealand and continues to build on these relationships through research and teaching opportunities.
TEC starts Christchurch sort-out
An article in Education Review reports that the Tertiary Education Commission is taking steps to resolve ongoing disagreements over trade training in Christchurch between the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) and the Christchurch Polytechnic Insitute of Technology (CPIT). TEC’s review of the competition for students between the two institutes follows a report recommending collaboration between them as the best solution.
CPIT argues that it should be recognised as the key provider in the city. Both instititions, however, have offered low-cost or free trade training to Christchurch students for a number of years. Last September, they were given until this month to come to some agreement and, more recently, SIT has had its Christchurch-student funding cut as part of TEC’s crackdown on out-of-region provision.
The review, said to be designed to provide advice to support TEC in reaching future investment decisions on Christchurch trade-training provision, is being led by former Unitec chief executive John Webster. He will examine the quality and relevance of the training already being provided as well as its long-term sustainability and value for money.
CPIT chief executive Neil Barnes is quoted in the article as saying that, “At least [the review] should bring us to a decision position, whatever that decision happens to be. Both SIT and ourselves are operating in limbo: that’s not good for the city long-term.”
SIT chief executive Penny Simmonds, however, has said that her institute has been engaged in “very amicable” talks with TEC about its omgoing funding, including its provision in Christchurch.
Visitor reins in Keele council
As reported in an earlier edition of Tertiary Update, University and College Union (UCU) members at Keele University in the United Kingdom’s Midlands have been fighting proposals to make thirty-eight of 67 academic staff in the school of economic and management studies (SEMS) redundant. The proposals came from an unprecedented “redundancy committee”, established to bypass the normal consultation and decision-making processes at the university’s senate or faculty meetings.
In the latest development in the campaign, the university has been asked by its Visitor, the Right Honourable Baroness Ashton of Upholland, to take no further steps towards implementing redundancy proposals pending her inquiry into a complaint that it bypassed university rules to get the job cuts agreed to.
Chair of the SEMS action committee at Keele University, Mike Ironside, said, “Keele UCU has repeatedly called on university management to follow normal procedures. We welcome the news that the Visitor will be fully investigating what has happened here, and we hope that management will now take more notice of our members’ views.”
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said, “No institution should think it can ride roughshod over its own constitution. Trying to rush these job cuts through at a quiet time of the year and outside its own internal structures was cowardly and offensive. The university can rest assured that UCU will be fighting this decision all the way.”
Contract cheating on the rise but dodgy
An Education Guardian investigation has exposed how easy and cheap it is for the United Kingdom’s university students to get small businesses to do their coursework. The paper’s journalists posed as Josephine, a 23-year-old student who wanted two assignments done, one of which was her second-year undergraduate computer-science homework.
Education Guardian registered Josephine on an auction website, www.rentacoder.com, where business people across the globe, and a growing number of students, post work they need done and then wait for bidders to offer to do it by an agreed deadline. In under an hour, it had eleven bids for Josephine’s computing assignment. Within two days, there were thirty-eight bids from India, Argentina, the Ukraine, Vietnam, and the United States. Bidders wanted between $NZ12 and $NZ48 to do the work. In three weeks, 399 bidders had viewed the task.
Education Guardian made no secret of the fact that Josephine was a university student intent on cheating. Her post on the site read, “This is my java programming assignment that I need help with. I’d like the solution to be as simple to follow as possible, with explanations, as my lecturer is going to ask me questions about it.”
The paper chose a bidder in the US for the computing task. He was rated 8.83 out of 10, “superb”, by those who had previously used him on the site. It then sent the assignment to be marked by the same computer-science lecturer who had given it the task and asked for Josephine to be marked as a normal student. The lecturer had to go back to Josephine six times to ask where unfinished parts of the task were. She, in turn, had to go back to her American “helper” to find out. The computer science coursework barely scraped a pass at 40 percent.
And the tables turn
Anti-plagiarism software similar to that used to catch cheating students is to be turned on academics by journal publishers. Universities across the United Kingdom monitor students’ work using Turnitin, a program that assesses the originality of assignments. Now a new program based on the same technology is being developed to apply similar high-tech scrutiny to research papers.
CrossCheck was designed by iParadigms, the creator of Turnitin, in collaboration with the publishing association CrossRef. It has already been tested in a pilot project that involved eight journal publishers, including three based in the UK. The software, which is due to be released in June, compares manuscripts against databases of millions of articles and produces a report listing any material that overlaps.
Phil Caisley, head of information services at the BMJ Group, said the software could have two applications: checking manuscripts before they are published to see if a submitted article uses other work without attribution and checking after publication “to see who is ripping our content off”. “During the pilot, we found much more activity in post-publication use of content than we did in pre-publication plagiarism,” he said.
Trish Groves, deputy editor of BMJ, said it was impossible to know how widespread plagiarism is. “We do hear when it happens, but in a very ad hoc way. We publish something and then we get emails saying, ‘Hang on a minute, that’s my article,’” she said. “It’s a pretty rare event, once a year perhaps, but ... it’s only when we start checking every article prior to publication that we’ll know how much of it is out there.”
From John Gill in Times Higher Education
Degrees the path to
wealth and marriage
Marriage in Australia is increasingly becoming the province of university graduates, a new study has found. In the space of a decade, an education divide has opened between graduates, who are more likely to be married and well-off, and those with no post-school qualifications who are likely to be single and poor.
The study, by a Monash University researcher, Dr Genevieve Heard, has revealed a remarkable change in rates of marriage over the past ten years: the more educated people are, the more likely they are to be married, which is the reverse of the situation in the 1990s. Among women aged 30 to 34, more than 60 percent of those with degrees are married compared with only 53 percent of women who discontinued their studies after school.
Similarly, men with degrees are most likely to be married or living with a partner, while those who did not go on to further study are least likely. Among men aged 40 to 44, one in three with no post-school qualification lives alone, double the proportion of those with a degree.
Dr Heard, a member of Monash’s centre for population and urban research, used bureau of statistics data to compare marriage rates and income levels among Australian men and women with and without degrees over the past decade. She says there are fewer low-income than high-income men who are married and fewer low-income men than high-income men with partners.
“We are witnessing the redistribution of marriage; increasingly, married Australians are concentrated among those with higher earning potential,” Dr Heard says in a report of the research published in the centre’s journal, People and Place.
From Geoff Maslen in University World News
Prodigy is world’s youngest professor
Youthful prodigy, clarinet maestro, black-belt martial artist, and budding scientist, Alia Sabur has astonished her parents and teachers for years with her exploits inside and outside the classroom. Now, still almost two years shy of being able to buy her first legal drink in her home state in the United States, the New Yorker has been named the world’s youngest college professor ever, breaking a record set three centuries ago by a Scottish mathematician.
Korea’s Konkuk University has announced that Ms Sabur, 19, will begin teaching physics next month at the department of advanced technology fusion. The appointment, which was made a few days short of her nineteenth birthday, earns the doctoral student a place in the Guinness Book of World Records ahead of Colin Maclaurin, a physicist who became professor of mathematics at the University of Aberdeen in 1717.
Few who know her were surprised at the announcement. University graduate at 10, bachelor’s degree holder at 14, master’s at 17, Ms Sabur has been “setting records and making history, starting with reading at eight months old”, says her website, www.aliasabur.com. Along the way, she found time to become a concert clarinettist with the Rockland Symphony Orchestra when she was 11. She plays Mozart, but loves U2. “I went to their Vertigo concert. It was awesome,” she said
Ms Sabur, a PhD candidate in materials science and engineering, is developing spectroscopy techniques “including nano-tube-based cellular probes” that could be used to zap tumours: a cure for cancer, in other words. At university in the US, she worked with her professor on a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
Her secret? Childlike curiosity, she says. “I just wanted to know how things worked. What is science really? It’s how stuff works.”
From David McNeill in the Independent
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