AUS Tertiary Update
New Zealand-Chile exchanges arranged
Up to 300 tertiary-education students a year from Chile may study in New Zealand under a new arrangement signed yesterday by the tertiary-education minister, Pete Hodgson, the education minister, Chris Carter, and the Chilean foreign minister, Alejandro Foxley. Under the arrangement, the Chilean government will also facilitate visas and permits for New Zealand students, researchers, teachers, and their dependants for entry into Chile and provide guidance to New Zealand students for their enrolment in tertiary-education institutions in Chile.
“The Chile-New Zealand Arrangement on Human Capital Development Scholarships is only the beginning of a programme that will bring Chilean and New Zealand students, researchers, and institutions much closer,” said Pete Hodgson.
The agreement is part of Chile’s $NZ7.8 billion Bicentennial Fund for Human Capital Development under which 300 scholarships a year will be offered by the Chilean government for students from Chile to study at a range of New Zealand universities, institutes of technology, polytechnics, and private training establishments. New Zealand is among the first five countries to be included in the arrangement, along with Australia, Canada, Great Britain, and the United States.
The Chilean government says that its purpose in pursuing the arrangement is to provide the framework to strengthen human-capital development and improve the scope and quality for education through access for scholarship students to vocational and technical training, postgraduate, doctoral, and post-doctoral education, language courses, and teacher-education studies.
“Chile is the strongest education relationship New Zealand has in Latin America,” said Chris Carter. “The links between our two countries go back to the nineteenth century and include trade and a shared Polynesian heritage with Māori and the people of Rapa Nui. The agreement signed today demonstrates the strength of our education and research ties and sets the platform to take our relationship into the twenty-first century.”
Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. New teaching and learning funds announced
2. Canterbury super-computer update
3. English-language students on the rise again
4. New report traces different student tracks
5. Arbitrary action sparks tea-room rebellion
6. Australian higher-education system at “tipping point”
7. New vetting system for research staff
8. European network of children’s universities
9. Mixed picture on casualisation in UK
10. Routledge recycles without credit or royalties
New teaching and learning funds announced
Ako Aotearoa, the National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence, has announced the introduction of two new funding initiatives: Good Practice Publication Grants and a National Project Fund.
There will be 35 publication grants of up to $5000 available for groups or individuals to develop material on their own proven good practice for publication on the Ako Aotearoa website. The scheme is open to both academic and general staff who support student learning. It is intended to provide a mechanism by means of which tertiary educators can be recognised for the positive impact they have on learners as well as offering an opportunity for exciting and innovative practice to be shared across the tertiary-education sector.
The project fund has been established to support “use-inspired research projects and sustainable implementation projects which are likely to have a significant strategic impact and benefit learners”. It has four funding streams: research and implementation projects, Māori initiative projects, doctoral scholarships, and collaboration projects. Ako Aotearoa also intends to commission research and implementation projects of strategic relevance and introduce funding for Pacific peoples’ initiative projects.
Welcoming the new funding, Association of University Staff academic vice-president, Dr Grant Duncan, said, “Universities have been rather obsessed lately with the PBRF and the drive to improve academics’ research track-records. Many people in universities, including students, have wondered if this may have come at the expense of teaching quality.”
“The projects and funding announced by Ako Aotearoa will stimulate us to reflect on and to enhance the best teaching practices, and to consider how they contribute to positive results for students,” he added.
Canterbury super-computer update
The University of Canterbury has advised that the reporter responsible for the article in The Press to which last week’s “Blue Fern” super-computer story was attributed has told it that “her story was substantially cut by the sub-editors, resulting in an unbalanced reflection of detailed material provided in an open meeting of the university council”.
Acting vice-chancellor, Professor Ian Town, has since said in a statement to university staff that the story in The Press failed to mention that, in addition to the $203,000 operating income, the university also received a $700,000 capital grant from the Tertiary Education Commission to provide access for researchers from the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology.
Professor Town added that the detailed report presented to the council included information about the “many research successes and collaborations made possible through access to this world-class computer resource”.
English-language students on the rise
International students studying at English-language schools spent $242 million in New Zealand in the year ended March 2008, according to figures released yesterday by the government statistician. This expenditure is $7 million higher than that for the year ended March 2007.
According to the English Language Providers (ELP) survey, there were 39,668 international students enrolled in English-language schools in New Zealand in the year to March 2008, an increase of 1,940 (5.1 percent) from the previous year. Expenditure on tuition and related fees was $121 million in the March 2008 year, up $3.7 million from the previous year.
The March 2008 year is the second consecutive year in which expenditure on tuition and related fees has increased. These increases, however, followed a 56.7 percent decline between the March 2003 and March 2006 years.
The biggest single increase in expenditure on tuition and related fees this year was by students from Saudi Arabia. Their expenditure increased $3.9 million (68.8 percent), reflecting an increase in student numbers. Expenditure on tuition and related fees by Saudi Arabian students has increased $8.6 million since the March 2004 year.
The Republic of Korea surpassed China as the largest contributor to expenditure on tuition and related fees for both the March 2007 and March 2008 years. Expenditure by South Korean students increased $8.6 million (47.5 percent) from March 2006, while expenditure by Chinese students decreased $10.8 million (31.3 percent).
The estimated total value of expenditure by all international students studying in New Zealand was $1,514 million for the year ended March 2008, down $36 million from the previous year. Total expenditure by all international students includes the expenditure by students measured by the ELP, as well as the expenditure of students enrolled at primary and secondary schools and tertiary-education institutions.
report traces different student tracks
A new report prepared by the Ministry of Education shows that students changing tertiary-education institutions becomes more common as they progress through their academic careers. Different Tracks – a look at the diffferent ways New Zealanders get tertiary qualifications looks at the extent to which tertiary-education students change qualifications or providers during the course of their study and the impact this has on overall tertiary-system performance.
The report finds that changing qualifications has become common. In particular, 22 percent of students changed qualifications before completion, with 5 percent of students completing a higher-level qualification than that with which they had started, and between 5 and 10 percent completing a lower-level one.
Changing providers is also common. The report estimates that 19 percent of students transferred to a different provider before they completed a qualification and 52 percent who progressed to higher-level study after completing a qualification also changed providers.
Students who transfer before finishing a qualification are significantly less likely to complete a qualification at the same level as or higher than their original qualification and are more likely to complete a lower-level qualification or still be studying. For example, the degree-completion rate after ten years for students who transferred was 35 percent, compared with 67 percent for those who didn’t transfer.
However, when transferring students who completed lower-level qualifications or were still studying are considered, both groups had the same level of non-completion after ten years, 30 percent.
Individual-provider completion rates, which exclude students who transfer and complete at a different provider, were between 6 and 8 percentage points lower than system-completion rates, which include transferring students. Specifically, 8 percent of university-degree students who start at one provider, and 6 percent of institute of technology and polytechnic diploma students who start at one provider, complete at a different one.
The complete report can be found at:
Arbitrary action sparks tea-room rebellion
A recent email and assault on the registry tea room at the University of Canterbury has sparked a rapid rebellion and back-down by university management. The email, sent by the university’s facilities manager to registry staff said, “The work commencing tomorrow involves the reduction in size, by one office bay and an access corridor, of the staff tea room. The opportunity will be taken to refresh the décor and to enhance lighting levels within the tea room.”
Upon arrival the following day, however, the 178 staff who use the tea room, including the registrar and human resources managers, discovered that it had been halved to make room for a “management office”. As a result, the staff found themselves in cramped, shoulder-to-shoulder conditions and unable to find room in which to take their meals, as well as running the risk of getting a hot cup of tea or coffe poured over them.
In response to the consequent uproar, Association of University Staff Canterbury branch organiser, Gaby Moore, wrote to the facilities manager requesting that the arbitrary action be immediately reversed. He, however, replied that, “The work we are involved in with respect to the tea room in Registry is routine and not related to employment conditions so much of your e-mail regarding consultation in an employment contract sense is not relevant.”
It appears, however, that wiser heads eventually prevailed and the AUS has now secured agreement from the university that no further work will take place without consultation. The branch will be seeking alternative space for the office and a guarantee from the university that it will not interfere with members’ right to take their legitimate breaks in comfort and that, before future decisions of this sort are made, management will actually speak to the staff and the AUS.
Australian higher-education system at “tipping point”
Australian universities have warned the federal government not to squander its chance to overhaul the higher-education sector, saying the system is at a “tipping point” with a dangerous reliance on international students. Universities Australia (UA), which represents the country’s 38 universities, said their future is uncertain because market conditions could reduce philanthropic and investment returns, the academic workforce is ageing, they rely on international students, and they expect a fall in the level of the school-leaving population.
“Urgent remedial action is therefore needed or we will fall far behind the countries in our region,” UA said in a recent submission. The submission recommended devoting 2 percent of gross domestic product to higher education by 2015, removing the income assessment from scholarships, and lowering the age of independence from 25 to 18 so younger students could receive income support.
The University of New South Wales (UNSW) vice-chancellor, Professor Fred Hilmer, said the system is geared towards growth at all costs and universities have more incentive to increase students in lucrative disciplines such as business or law, where the Higher Education Contribution Scheme is highest, than in areas with genuine skills shortages, such as engineering. He added that a “perverse” incentives system means funds are available for new buildings but not to fix old ones, and grants for research are not accompanied by the laboratories needed to conduct it.
“There are ticking time bombs that, if we don’t deal with them, are going to make it … a seriously impaired system,” Professor Hilmer said in a video on the UNSW website. “The stability of our funding base has changed dramatically and we are now very like the mining industry where, if the exchange rate changes, the ability of our universities to attract the foreign students that are absolutely vital is going to be severely affected. So what we’re trying to do is fund long-term, enduring institutions on the basis of a short-term, volatile market,” he concluded.
From Harriet Alexander in the Sydney Morning Herald
New vetting system for research
A new research-integrity body, which would have powers to investigate allegations of misconduct and create a database of cases to allow universities to vet would-be academic staff, could soon be in operation in the United Kingdom. The idea is set out in a consultation document on how to improve the conduct of research released by Research Councils UK, the umbrella organisation for Britain’s seven research councils.
The paper suggests that, “in the absence of any clear national advisory or governance framework”, a new body could be set up to cover all academic disciplines. It might also offer independence to counter concerns that individual institutions, currently left alone to investigate allegations, “may have, or be perceived as having, their own interests in such matters”.
As well as an advisory function, the new national body could also “oversee investigations of the most serious complaints” and “provide a central record, for consultation by employers, of all proven cases of misdemeanour or misconduct, and of resulting penalties and sanctions”. At the moment, there is no national repository of known cases, and individuals may move from one research organisation to another without cases against them being disclosed, the document notes.
Harvey Marcovitch, chair of the Committee of Publication Ethics, said he supported the formation of a national body to undertake investigations, but said universities are “unlikely to accept an over-riding of their autonomy”. Andy Stainthorpe, director of the UK Research Integrity Office, welcomed discussion on the issues. “There are situations where a case might be such that it would benefit from being investigated outside the organisation. I think there could be situations where the organisation would agree with that itself - but to impose it might not be the right step at this time,” he said.
From Zoë Corbyn in Times Higher Education
European network of children’s
The European Commission is backing the formation of the European Children’s University Network, or EUCUNET, with a grant of $NZ112,000 over the next two years. The money has been allocated through the commission’s science-in-society theme, part of its Seventh Framework Programme.
The network’s objective is to create a database of activities that are currently or have already been undertaken in Europe in the area of children’s universities, a commission release said. From this, an interactive web portal will open and international symposia be held to stimulate “the transfer of know-how and the exchange of existing expertise”.
“The concept of children’s universities represents the most radical opening towards the general public that universities can undertake,” says a statement by the network. “The basic intention is to counteract a falling interest in science and research among the young, and help overcome stereotype notions as well as widen participation across diverse sectors of Europe’s populations.”
The first children’s university was founded in 2002 at the University of Tübingen in Germany. As a result of its efforts, the children’s university was awarded the Descartes Prize for Science Communication. Since then, other children’s universities have been set up in Basel, Bratislava, Strasbourg, and Vienna.
The University of Vienna established the Vienna Children’s University in 2003 and, each summer, the gates of four of the city’s universities open to 3,500 children between the ages of seven and twelve for two weeks. Children are able to participate in some of the 350 lectures and workshops as well as having personal contact with researchers.
The children’s office at the University of Vienna says that the youngsters who take part “experience the university with all that comes with it: the record of studies, student ID, lunch at the cafeteria, and finally the degree ceremony”.
From Geoff Maslen in University World News
Mixed picture on casualisation in UK
Increasing numbers of staff at English universities are being given permanent contracts, according to the latest official figures. A report of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) on staff in higher education shows that the proportion of academic staff on permanent contracts rose from 63 to 70 percent in the three years from 2003-04 to 2006-07, while professional and support staff with permanent contracts increased from 84 to 87 percent.
Earlier this year, Andrew Ball, a University of Aberdeen researcher who was employed for nine years on a series of temporary employment contracts, won the right to be made permanent in a landmark case. The tribunal said the short-term nature of the funding for his post was not a sufficient justification for keeping him on temporary contracts.
The University and College Union (UCU) said the increase in permanently employed staff is encouraging. “However, we are under no illusion as to the extent of the problem with the continuing casualisation culture at some institutions,” said Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary. “Casualisation in our universities remains the unacceptable underbelly of higher education and it is a pity that so much of the HEFCE report focuses only on permanent staff.”
Ms Hunt welcomed the increase in staff numbers, but said, “Going on a headcount basis, it must be noted that students in higher education in England increased by 10.3 percent during the same period.”
The UCU has asked members to step up a campaign against contracts with unfavourable variable hours. In a circular to members, it says that it is union policy that “variable-hours contracts should only be used to improve the position of our members, in other words, limited to those who would otherwise be employed on part-time, hourly, fixed-term contracts”.
From Melanie Newman in Times Higher Education
Routledge recycles without credit
When William E Deal casually flipped through Theory for Performance Studies: A Student’s Guide, published this year by Routledge, he noticed a few familiar sentences. After taking a closer look, Dr Deal, a professor of religious studies at Case Western Reserve University, discovered whole paragraphs and even entire pages that had been lifted directly from a book he co-wrote, Theory for Religious Studies, published by Routledge in 2004. “My jaw dropped,” he recalls. “My stomach turned flip-flops.”
Professor Deal and his co-author, Timothy K Beal, a professor of religion at Case Western, estimated that roughly 80 percent of their book had been copied, word for word, without credit of any kind. Their names did not appear in the new book.
However, this isn’t the average plagiarism case. Back in 2005, Professors Deal and Beal signed an agreement with Routledge, allowing the company to use the material in their book however it saw fit, provided they were given credit and royalties. Routledge planned a series of introductory books, entitled Theory 4. Theory for Religious Studies would be the first volume.
The authors had never thought the agreement, which they now regret signing, meant that their work could be lifted more or less wholesale and put under someone else’s name. And the authors received neither the promised credit nor, initially, the promised royalties, they said.
Even more disconcerting, according to Professor Beal, was Routledge’s response to their complaint, which he regarded as dismissive. “They insist in our conversations that they’ve done nothing wrong,” he says. “I think presses are used to authors simply rolling over when they’ve been misused.”
From Thomas Barlett in the Chronicle of Higher Education
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