AUS Tertiary Update
Steady progress in university pay talks
Salary increases totalling between 3.26 and 5.03 percent have been offered to university staff by vice-chancellors as national bargaining in the sector makes slow but steady progress. While union and employer representatives have advanced a number of issues, salary offers remain low and employers from all eight universities have steadfastly refused to agree to national multi-employer employment agreements, instead wanting to continue to negotiate collective agreements separately at each university.
Although saying that the salary issue is still negotiable, the University of Canterbury has made the lowest offer, at 4.28 percent for academic staff and 3.26 percent for general staff, comprising a base increase of 2.75 percent from the university itself supplemented by 1.53 and 0.51 percent respectively for academic and general staff through the government’s tripartite funding. The next lowest, Lincoln, has offered 4.33 percent for academic and 3.31 percent for general staff, while Waikato, Massey, and Victoria have each offered 4.53 percent for academic and 3.51 percent for general staff. AUT has offered a 4.75 percent increase, while Auckland has already paid a 3.5 percent increase to staff, to which will be added the tripartite funding. Otago is yet to make an offer.
The lead advocate for the combined university unions, Marty Braithwaite, said that, while most universities argued that they could not afford higher salary increases than those offered, New Zealand would face increasingly stiff competition for good staff unless something significant is done to improve salary levels. “It has been accepted by vice-chancellors that the low level of academic salaries threatens the sustainability of the New Zealand university system, but they need to accept that this also applies to general staff,” he said. “The Department of Labour has listed occupational shortages, in some cases severe, for technicians, associate professionals, skilled administrative clerical and administrative staff, and all trades groupings; all of which are required in large numbers by universities.”
Mr Braithwaite said that cost of living increases faced by university staff are well above the recently reported rise in the consumer price index of 4 percent, with such things as groceries increasing by more than 6 percent and fuel by 35 percent in the last year. Local-body rates have risen in Massey University’s main centre, Palmerston North, by 11.3 percent.
Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. General staff to be celebrated in September
2. Partial support for fee-maxima proposal
3. Mixed reaction to Unitec restructuring process
4. Canterbury’s super-computer loses $660,000
5. Report supports universal student allowance
6. Commercialisation growing steadily
7. Commercialisation in the US
8. Australians better educated, but not in the bush
9. Indefinite strike over pay in Zimbabwe
10. Israeli army interfering in enrolments
11. Professor sacked for fantasy sex allegation
General staff to be celebrated in
Following on from the positive work done on the General Staff Manifesto and the productivity workshops held at some universities, the Association of University Staff campaign to highlight the contribution of general staff to the life of universities gets under way in September this year. “As well as being a great opportunity to highlight the valuable work that general staff undertake in universities, we hope that the campaign will give impetus to the development of branch general staff networks in the universities, particularly timely given the new structures for general staff that will come with the new Tertiary Education Union next year,” said AUS general staff vice-president, Cate Bardwell.
The main event will be the General Staff Day on Wednesday 10 September, when each AUS branch will be organising a short programme of activities to be held over the lunch-break at its university. Branches will be encouraging members to bring a friend to the lunchtime activities, which will be a positive event for all staff.
As well, in the week leading up to this event, there will be a poster campaign profiling general staff members at each university and celebrating the essential role that they play within the institution. “So far we have collected about 30 fascinating profiles from general staff members in a range of positions, and are currently in the process of photographing our campaign “stars” for the posters,” Ms Bardwell said.
To ensure that as many general staff as possible are able to participate in the branches’ lunchtime activities, approval has been sought from vice-chancellors for an additional hour to be added to the lunch-break for general staff on the day. “This will allow staff to engage fully with each other, interact, and network with staff they may not often have the opportunity to see, as well as encouraging maximum participation in the event,” Ms Bardwell added. “So far Massey, Victoria, Canterbury, and Lincoln have agreed to support the extended lunch-break for general staff, with Auckland agreeing that university managers adopt a flexible approach to allowing staff to attend the activities.”
Partial support for
The Association of University Staff and Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE) have expressed support for the government’s new fee-maxima proposal as a means of limiting the impact of unregulated fee and course costs on students. They have warned, however, in their joint submission to the select committee considering the proposal, that recent research undertaken by the New Zealand Union of Students’ Association indicates the average loan debt held by students has increased 54 percent since 2004 and now averages $28,838, even with caps placed on fee and course costs. The unions argue that this clearly indicates that the broader issue of student-support mechanisms needs further re-consideration, particularly access to a student living allowance.
AUS and ASTE argue that the flip-side to capping of fees under the current university-funding model is that institutions are forced to try to make up any shortfall. Until the chronic and historic under-funding of the tertiary-education sector is addressed, fee-maxima and other policies will at best only provide a superficial response to its funding concerns. They add that, since the introduction of the fee-maxima scheme, the tendency of a number of institutions has been to regard them as a “fee minimum”, that is, fees are set at the maximum allowable level, and then an additional amount is added at the level of the consumer price index (CPI).
The union submission points out that the true costs of running a tertiary-education institution are not taken into account by the funding model used in the current provision of public funds. In the university sector, recent research undertaken by the University of Auckland suggests that the funding model is fundamentally flawed, as it inappropriately relies on CPI as the measure for funding allocation. Until this is addressed, the tertiary-education sector will continue to experience a funding shortfall that must inevitably be detrimental to teaching, learning, and research.
reaction to Unitec restructuring process
Auckland-based institute of technology Unitec has announced that 67 of its more than 850 full-time jobs, half of them academic, may go in a restructuring exercise intended to improve its financial position by between $11 and $18 million over the next three years. The proposed restructuring, which envisages cutting 112 positions and creating 45 new ones, would close down courses in interior decor, horticulture, language-teacher education, travel and tourism, floristry, and degree-level Japanese and English as well as master of architecture, master of education, and postgraduate diploma in education programmes.
The document, which refers to “overly complex and top-heavy” management and below-average staff-to-student ratios, suggests that, as the largest institute of technology in the country, economies of scale unavailable to smaller institutions should be possible. Launching the proposal, recently appointed chief executive, Dr Rick Ede, expressed the belief that it is likely to change as a result of consultation. “I fully expect that the proposal will be modified as a consequence of the feedback received from staff and other stakeholders,” he said.
Reacting to the announcement, Association of Staff in Tertiary Education northern region field officer, Chan Dixon, said, “Alongside general sector underfunding, we believe that Unitec has suffered from having several overlays of management and we welcome the fact that the proposed restructuring seeks to correct some of that. Of course we are concerned about some aspects of the proposal, such as the idea of closing courses prior to a new structure being embedded and an apparent lack of centrality of academic and teaching and learning concerns,” she added.
“We are optimistic, however, that consultative processes conducted by the new chief executive will be robust. We look forward to our members participating fully in those processes and their views being reflected in any final recommendations,” Ms Dixon concluded.
Canterbury’s super-computer loses
The University of Canterbury’s year-old super-computer ran at a $660,000 loss in its first year, according to a report in The Press this morning. According to acting vice-chancellor Professor Ian Town, however, it still remained a sound investment.
University council members voted to buy an IBM Blue Gene super-computer in July last year at a cost of more than $5 million over a five-year lease-to-own deal. Their decision was apparently based on a business case from consulting firm Deloitte, which predicted the computer, christened “Blue Fern”, would bring in $852,000 in external revenue in the first financial year.
The Press reports that figures presented to council members yesterday showed that external revenue was, in fact, $203,200. Blue Fern was expected to have a net profit of about $250,000 by last month but had a net loss of about $660,000. Professor Town said the business case had been “optimistic”.
Reflecting that it had taken longer than expected to secure commercial clients, he is quoted as saying, “Our job is now to make sure some of those income streams are able to be achieved.” Future prospects include developing a relationship with two Australian universities that would bring in revenue by the end of this year and a proposal for a government investment to provide services to other New Zealand institutions and researchers.
supports universal student allowance
Students are welcoming the release of a government report highlighting the positive educational outcomes associated with student allowances. “The findings of this report come as no surprise,” said Paul Falloon, co-president of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations. “NZUSA has long advocated that adequate support in the form of student allowances is integral to academic success, and this government report now confirms this.”
The Ministry of Education report, Educational achievements of student support recipients, found that those who receive student allowances do better academically and are twice as likely to achieve successful completion of their studies. “This evidence provides an excellent academic justification for the introduction of a universal student allowance,” said Mr Falloon.
Currently only around one-third of students receive an allowance, with two-thirds excluded due to parental-income means-testing until the age of 25. As a result, many must borrow simply to cover basic living costs, resulting in the amount of student debt that individual students bear and the collective student debt of $10 billion now held in the community.
“In 2007, NZUSA conducted the national Student Income & Expenditure Survey and found that 90 percent of full-time students undertake paid work during the academic year, and 59 percent cite a stressful financial situation as a major concern,” said Mr Falloon. “The impact of this, and the often-significant time away from study at paid work, has concerned academics and student representatives alike for years.”
“With both political and public support for a universal student allowance, and government research identifying allowances as a significant factor in positive educational outcomes, the time is now right for its implementation into policy,” Mr Falloon concluded.
The value of research commercialisation is growing steadily at New Zealand universities, but the exercise is more for the public good than the benefit of institutions’ balance sheets, according to a recent report by John Gerritsen for University World News. The latest figures from Uconz, this country’s national sector group for university commercialisation offices, show the country’s eight universities earned more than NZ$60 million in cash and shares from the licensing of their academics’ research in the four years up to and including 2006.
Within that figure, the report says, cash payments from licences rose from $4 million in 2003 to $10 million in 2006. The figures also show that New Zealand universities raised more than $155 million for start-up companies between 2003 and 2006, forming 29 new start-ups and providing a total of 44 start-ups by 2006. The worth of those companies rose from $76 million in 2003 to $1.1 billion by the end of 2006.
Based on United States figures, New Zealand’s smallest universities could reasonably expect just one big success every 30 years and, in fact, says the report, the country as a whole is doing better than US averages in that respect. New Zealand universities, however, are yet to spawn a spectacular success such as Google or Intel in California.
The Uconz figures show that university commercialisation offices received 736 “new invention disclosures”, applied for 303 new patents, and received 97 patents and 156 licences between 2003 and 2006.
Commercialisation in the US
While a recent report suggests that the pace of research commercialisation in the United States may be declining, that decline comes from a high level of exploitation of the work of academics. Research in American universities resulted in nearly 700 new products coming on to the market in 2006 alone and more than 4,350 between 1998 and 2006. That amounts to 1.32 new products based on academic inventions every single day over those nine years.
More than 550 new start-up companies were launched in 2006 based on technologies developed in US universities. A report by the Association of University of Technology Managers (AUTM) says this represents 2.2 new companies for every working day of the year.
In 2006, American universities received more than $NZ58 billion for research and development, managed almost 19,000 new invention disclosures, filed 16,000 US patent applications, saw 3,255 US patents issued, signed 5,000 new licences, and managed 12,672 licences and options that are yielding active income, the AUTM report states.
Although some research commercialisation was happening before 1980, it was the Bayh-Dole Act of December that year that opened the floodgates. The act gave US universities, small businesses, and non-profit organisations intellectual-property control of their inventions and other intellectual property that resulted from federal government funding.
The universities took advantage of the changes. Since 1980, university technologies have created 5,724 new spinouts, more than one company every two days during 9,498 days of innovation.
California, Massachusetts, and New York are the states most active in academic patenting, followed by Texas and Florida. Long before the Bayh-Dole Act, California’s Silicon Valley and Massachusetts’s Boston and Route 128 clusters started flourishing, largely thanks to innovative technologies originating at the Massachsetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University.
From Subbiah Arunachalam in University World News
better educated, but not in the bush
Australians are significantly better educated now than when a Labor government was last in power. However, in a result that will add impetus to the Rudd government’s commitment to expanding educational access to under-represented groups, the improvements are concentrated in the cities, with people in regional and remote areas, and indigenous Australians, falling behind.
New figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show the number of working-age Australians with a non-school qualification increased from 46 to 59 percent between 1990 and 2006. The increase in higher education was marked, with the number of people holding an undergraduate university degree more than doubling, to 24 percent.
However, the gains predominantly occurred in urban areas, where the percentage of the population with a non-school qualification in major cities went from 44 to 57 percent in the decade to 2006. The category increased just 6 percent, to little more than a third, of residents of very remote areas, “the proportion of people with a non-school qualification declined with increasing levels of remoteness”, the ABS reports.
Despite improvements in educational attainment by indigenous Australians, they continue to lag. The proportion of indigenous people with a certificate or advanced diploma nearly doubled, increasing from 12 to 23 percent in the decade to 2006, with the fastest growth in urban areas. However, while the proportion of the indigenous population with a bachelor’s degree or better doubled in the period, the final figure was just 6 percent.
While not unexpected, the new data will add impetus to proposals to the recent Bradley review of post-school education for a heightened national effort to increase the number of remote and disadvantaged Australians in education and training.
From Stephen Matchett in The Australian
Indefinite strike over pay in
Lecturers at Zimbabwean public universities, who have been on a go-slow for the past three weeks demanding salaries of $US1,200 ($NZ1540) a month for the lowest-paid academic staff, have threatened to down tools this week if their grievances are not met. The Zimbabwe State Universities Union of Academics (ZISUA), which represents lecturers from the seven government-run universities, met at the National University of Science and Technology last Friday, where they made the demands. The academics join a long list of professionals who are now rejecting remuneration in local currency, whose value is depreciating on a daily basis against major currencies.
“We will inform the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education of our intention to go on strike indefinitely if our grievances are not met,” said a ZISUA official on condition he was not named. “The lecturers want their salaries pegged at the prevailing interbank rate or US$1,200 ($NZ1540) for the lowest-paid and this is a big climb down from the $US2,000 ($NZ2570) that we had previously asked from the ministry.” The lowest-paid lecturer is said to have earned $Z80 billion last month, an amount not even enough for a two-way commuter bus fare.
The academics are also demanding vehicle loans and housing stands before they can resume their duties. Similar benefits were recently extended to health professionals who were given cars by government through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
“The government demonstrated that it had the ability to meet these demands and we are not going back to work until they are met,” said the official. “If it can embark on such an extensive farm-mechanisation programme and offer such incentives to health workers, what is stopping it from extending those benefits to people who are helping train vital manpower for the nation?”
From Nqolwanu Nyathi in The Standard
Israeli army interfering
In a harsh letter to defence minister Ehud Barak, Israel’s Council of University Presidents (CUP) has demanded that the security establishment stop intervening in the enrolment process at higher-education institutions. “This constitutes blatant and harmful intervention on the part of military elements in considerations that are strictly academic,” the university heads said in the letter, which was drafted in protest of the disqualification of students, particularity Palestinians, from taking certain courses or from enrolling in Israeli academic institutions altogether.
“Since its inception the State of Israel has adamantly upheld the tradition of academic freedom, we expect the security establishment to preserve this tradition and deal solely with security-related matters,” the letter said. “Israeli universities open their gates to all those who meet the academic demands, irrespective of race, sex, religion, or nationality,” the CUP told Minister Barak.
In the meantime, five professors have turned to the High Court of Justice and asked that their names be added to a petition filed by Gisha, the Legal Center for Free Movement, against the restrictions on the entrance of Palestinians looking to enrol in Israeli universities, saying such restrictions “assist those who support the academic boycott of Israel”.
In October 2006, Gisha filed a petition on behalf of Sawsan Salameh, a West Bank resident who was accepted in a doctoral programme at Hebrew University of Jerusalem but was denied entry into Israel by the Israeli Defence Force. In accordance with the court’s ruling, the defence ministry lifted its restriction on the entrance of Palestinian students into Israel, but set strict criteria for their entry permits.
The security establishment determined that Palestinians will be prohibited from enrolling in studies that “may be used against the State of Israel” and limited the number of Palestinian students to 70. In addition, universities were obligated to state why they wanted to accept each Palestinian student.
From Moran Zelikovitch in Ynet News
Professor sacked for fantasy sex allegation
The Canadian Acadia University that fired a tenured professor for off-campus conduct it labelled as “aberrant behaviour” had no role in the personal sex life, cyberspace, or private affairs of its academics, says a report by the Canadian Association of University Teachers. The report finds that the Nova Scotia university over-reacted when it fired Dr Colin Wightman after he told them about an allegation of sexual assault.
Dr Wightman had engaged in a fantasy sex encounter, which included acts of bondage, with a woman not connected to the university. An unknown third party later made a complaint to police, who initiated an investigation. Two months later, the police cleared him of any wrongdoing after, among other actions, having analysed his home computer where a communication had taken place between him and the person who had alleged the sexual assault.
Despite the legal exoneration, days after receiving a copy of the letter from the police, university officials handed Dr Wightman a letter of dismissal. It said that his actions were “utterly incompatible with the purposes, principles and operating imperatives of Acadia University” and alleged that he was using his university computer for “highly inappropriate communications”.
The investigation into the termination concluded that, by bringing Dr Wightman in for a “termination meeting”, the university jumped the protocols of due process. The report also alludes to a nefarious precedent: “That an individual’s private activity could be labelled a violation of a university policy opens the door to any manner of terminations based on behaviours of which the university might disapprove.” It adds that this kind of action represents an extraordinary breach of employer-employee relations and recommends Acadia re-hire Dr Wightman and offer him compensation.
From Philip Fine in University World News
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