AUS Tertiary Update
Two key meetings advance amalgamation
The amalgamation of the Association of University Staff and the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE) towards the formation of the new Tertiary Education Union takes several steps forward this week with the holding of two key meetings in Wellington. Today the AUS council and ASTE national executive meet together for the first time to discuss the draft rules for the new union, its inaugural conference in November, and the transition process through to April next year.
On Friday, 35 members from each existing union will meet to examine the draft rules in detail and recommend a final version for adoption at the November conference. The Friday meeting is also expected to receive ingoa Māōri, Māori names, for the new union and its constituent parts as well as its new logo.
The Tertiary Education Union will initially comprise approximately 11,400 members in universities, institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs), wānanga, rural education activity programmes, other tertiary-education providers, and a number of associated organisations. More than 700 of those members identify as Māori and over 50 percent are women. The union will cover all categories of employees within the tertiary-education sector, including lecturers, teachers, researchers, library staff, academic support staff, technicians, cleaners, and administrators.
The planned structure of the new union is designed to ensure that the interests and concerns of all members in the sector, as well as its 42 branches and worksites, are represented. The supreme decision-making body will be the annual conference, with delegates from all branches and representative groups. Between annual conferences, a council with broad representation will be the governing body.
Māori members from all branches will come together annually in a hui-ā-tau and a fono of Pasifika members will be held biennially. Sector groups representing university, ITP, and general-staff members will have the power to determine issues exclusive to their sectors and speak on their behalf. Similarly, a national women’s committee will ensure that the union is representing the interests of women members in both policy and industrial spheres and a rūnanga the interests of Māori members as well as taking responsibility for the management of all matters Māori. There will also be a kāhui kaumātua to provide guidance and support and a Tiriti o Waitangi partnership group.
The new union will come into existence on 1 January 2009 with all office-holders and structures in place by 1 April.
Tertiary Update this week
1. ASTE welcomes ITPs’ skills strategy
2. WITT recovery supported
3. Research collaboration with the EU
4. $2.3 billion export-education industry
5. Lag claimed in medical research
6. Australian universities’ dangerous dependence
7. High anxiety for young academics
8. Liberalisation on ice
9. Research misconduct not the end
10. An extreme degree of education
ASTE welcomes ITPs’ skills strategy
The national secretary of the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education, Sharn Riggs, has said that union members welcome the initiatives contained in the Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPNZ) strategy paper Building Skilled Communities that was released on Tuesday. “The paper’s direction is one which the union has been advocating for some time,” Ms Riggs said.
The paper is ITPNZ’s response to a government call to create an internationally competitive ITP sector. It describes current practice in the sector and five areas of challenge facing it: skills development, foundation education, regional impact, funding, and accountability.
“Now is exactly the time for ITPs to be clear about their role in the development and delivery of first-class professional and vocational education and research,” Ms Riggs said. “This paper takes the initiatives contained in the New Zealand Skills Strategy Action Plan and maps out the role of the ITPs in being the first place of choice for education for a future workforce, whether the students are straight out of school or already in paid employment,” Ms Riggs continued.
She went on to say that a collective vision for the ITP sector is long overdue and applauded ITPNZ for putting ITPs in the forefront of the tertiary-education landscape. “We want ITPs to become the first choice when workers look at upskilling, and we want ITPs that can really make that distinctive contribution that the government is looking for. This paper is an excellent first step” Ms Riggs concluded.
WITT recovery supported
Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki chief executive, Richard Handley, has credited the good work of WITT staff for a government decision to reconstitute the institution’s council and write-down significant historic debt. Mr Handley’s praise followed the decision by tertiary-education minister, Pete Hodgson, to reconstitute the WITT council and convert up to $18 million in outstanding Crown debt to equity over a five-year period.
“The announcements are a major endorsement for the strong recovery that has continued at WITT in the last eighteen months,” Mr Handley said. “The return of a full council and the write-down of debilitating historic debt adds further momentum to our recovery, and will continue to bolster community confidence around WITT’s ability to continue to meet the educational needs of the region.”
Mr Handley said that WITT is now able to focus on providing solutions to meet the educational and training needs of the region. “We have a fresh new leadership team that will ensure that the gains at WITT and the current momentum will continue.”
Responding to the minister’s decision, Association of Staff in Tertiary Education Eastern Central field officer, Russell Taylor, said, “The potential wiping of the significant accumulated debt, even though it is conditional, will assist management and staff to refocus on tertiary education in the region. It is clear that the new CEO has grasped the nettle and is proceeding to consolidate as well as looking for opportunities for growth.”
Remarking that staff have already been somewhat reassured by the new regime, Mr Taylor added, “We need to see increased community engagement with the polytechnic to participate, to progress, and to pay for delivery. That will be the test.”
with the EU
Thanks to a newly signed co-operation agreement, New Zealand researchers will gain access to more European Union science and technology programmes, according to a report by John Gerritsen in University World News. Signed in July, the New Zealand-EU Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement is expected to take effect from the end of this year once it has been ratified by the EU.
New Zealand minister of research, science and technology, Pete Hodgson, has said that the agreement would broaden New Zealand’s collaboration with the EU’s science community. “One of the most significant aspects of the agreement is that it will allow New Zealand researchers to be eligible for European Union programmes that wouldn’t otherwise be accessible, said Mr Hodgson. “Links to European research are very important for New Zealand as the European Union is investing heavily in research areas critical to our future economic and social development.”
The minister made the point that Europe would also benefit from the agreement, noting that New Zealand has a recognised reputation in a number of research fields that are of interest to the EU. These include the natural-resource-based sciences such as agriculture, plant and animal science, and environmental science, medicine, and information and communications technology research.
New Zealand researchers already have strong links to Europe, with a 2003 survey by the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology revealing that over half the country’s researchers were actively involved in collaborative research activities with European partners. In addition, more than 20 teams from New Zealand participated in projects under the Sixth Framework Programme, mostly in the fields of food, agriculture, and biotechnology.
The report indicates that the agreement has, however, already had an impact as its negotiation allowed New Zealand to participate in the EU’s International Research Staff Exchange Scheme, which supports collaboration between institutions based in Europe and countries such as New Zealand.
$2.3 billion export-education
Education New Zealand and the Ministry of Education have co-sponsored a major independent analysis into the economic impact of international education. The study, undertaken by research company Infometrics, was commissioned to examine in some detail the current impact on the New Zealand economy of international students and the export of education services.
Among the interim results of the study are that $2.3 billion of foreign exchange was generated in the 2007-08 year; that $70 million of that was generated by offshore provision; and that China is currently the main source of offshore provision earnings and the largest source of foreign students, although the number is about half that of the 2003-04 peak.
The study also found that English-language schools have the largest number of students over the course of a year, but that universities generate the highest per-student earnings, accounting for approximately 32 percent, with institutes of technology and polytechnics at 9.6 percent, schools at 18.6 percent, private tertiary-education providers at 10.8 percent, and English-language providers at 23 percent.
Announcing the preliminary results of the survey, Education New Zealand (ENZ) chief executive, Robert Stevens, said, “It is vital for industry, government, and other stakeholders such as local authorities to know exactly what this business is worth. Institutions, ENZ and the Ministry of Education need robust, accurate, and assessable information based on sound data collection and analysis.”
“Twenty years ago, [international education] was a very modest industry,” Mr Stevens continued. “In the last decade, foreign earnings have gone up over 400 percent. Markets have ebbed and flowed, but the industry has emerged from an unhealthy dependence on China and developed into a robust and diverse supplier of top-quality education services both at home and abroad, with major scope for further expansion into a willing and receptive global market,” he concluded.
Lag claimed in medical research
Health-research funding in New Zealand is twelve times less than that in some OECD countries, and may soon affect the health of the population, claims a report by researchers at the University of Auckland and the University of Otago. Health Research: A critical investment for New Zealand shows that funding provided by the New Zealand government for health research is currently equivalent to $10.20 per capita. In comparison, funding in Australia is around $34.60 per capita, with $54.30 per capita in the United Kingdom and $126 per capita in the United States.
In New Zealand, medical research is primarily funded through the Health Research Council (HRC), which invested $63 million in this year’s recent round. This funding, according to the report, has remained at a static level for the past four years, despite research costs rising by almost 9 percent per year. About 85 percent of submitted projects do not receive funding.
“The lack of health-research funding in New Zealand needs to be addressed,” said Professor Peter Joyce, deputy dean of the faculty of medicine at the University of Otago. “Over the next two years, this lack will translate to more of the health workforce moving overseas, attracted by higher levels of funding and the facilities these can provide. This will not only have a huge impact on the level of care available, but will also affect the ability of the academic sector to train new doctors,” Professor Joyce added.
“New Zealand has a unique position in the medical-research field, with a highly trained local workforce, and a different disease profile to other OECD countries,” said Professor Ian Reid, deputy dean of the University of Auckland’s faculty of medical and health sciences. “To keep up this record, and retain our workforce, we need an immediate 20 percent increase in HRC funding, followed by consistent annual increments of 30 percent.
Australian universities’ dangerous dependence
Australia has been stunningly successful in its ability to recruit foreign students, with an estimated 250,000 of them studying at Australia’s 39 universities and their offshore programmes. That is estimated to be 6 percent of the world market. As Australia has gained admiration overseas for its recruiting successes, however, university administrators and professors here have become increasingly worried that their higher-education system has developed a dangerous dependence on foreign students.
About 25 percent of the public system’s budget comes from foreign-student tuition. That revenue proved to be a blessing for much of the 1990s and the early 2000s as federal support declined. But enrolment numbers have dropped from their double-digit increases. Growth during the 2006-07 academic year was 6.6 percent and, as a result, several universities have found themselves in a financial crunch.
One of the first warning signs appeared in 2004, when the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology had to take out a loan to meet a shortfall of $NZ35 million. Among other troubles, it had overestimated the number of foreign students who would enrol. Last year, a $NZ6.9 million hole appeared in the University of Melbourne’s arts-department budget, partly for the same reason. At Central Queensland University, where nearly half of the 25,000 students are from overseas, falling international enrolments forced administrators to dismiss 200 staff members last June.
Professor John Hay, who retired this year after twelve years as vice-chancellor of the University of Queensland, says many of the less competitive universities have reduced their entrance standards in order to raise overseas enrolments, appointed part-time staff to teach those students, and made do with inadequate infrastructure. “In short,” he says, “they are being taught in an often inappropriate context for higher education, in numbers that are too large. It sends a bad message.”
From Luke Slattery in the Chronicle of Higher Education
High anxiety for young academics
The pressure to publish and chase research grants, and with fears over job security and concerns about “fitting in”, the trials and tribulations of being a young academic are exposed in a new research paper published by Louise Archer, reader in education policy studies at King’s College London. Dr Archer found that young academics did not define success in “careerist or instrumental terms” but saw it as achieving self-fulfilment through their work. However, they were “regularly compelled to engage in behaviours and practices that were unrelated to, or which could even counter, their own notions of authenticity and success”.
Dr Archer found high levels of anxiety over their ability to “perform” in terms of publishing papers and bringing in research grants. Interviewees recounted instances of “non-research-active” members of staff in their department having their contracts revoked, while those who had not yet begun to publish experienced “considerable stress and pressure ... and found their academic ‘worth’ questioned and considerably diminished”, Dr Archer writes in the paper, “Younger academics’ constructions of ‘authenticity’, ‘success’ and professional identity”, in Studies in Higher Education.
One academic, who presented herself as a “passionate, innovative and committed” lecturer, found that the pressures in the run-up to the research assessment exercise were so intense that she began to look for work elsewhere. “I felt I may as well jump before I was pushed,” she told Dr Archer. Another, who worked in a top-rated department at an elite university, “felt compromised by a greedy and insatiable system, which renders success fragile and tenuous”.
The process of bidding for research grants was often seen as “unfulfilling and soul-destroying” by young academics, according to Dr Archer. “They were highly critical of the pervasive pressure on academics to ‘bring in the money’ for its own sake, suggesting that this represents an ‘anti-academic’ ethos which is symptomatic of the attempt to make universities more corporate and ‘business-like’,” she writes.
From Rebecca Attwood in Times Higher Education
Proposals to remove some restrictions preventing private universities and higher-education service providers from teaching, researching, and examining in foreign countries have been put on ice at the World Trade Organization. This follows the collapse of negotiations on liberalising the trade in all goods and services at the July ministerial meeting of the WTO in Geneva. The talks foundered over the protection of developing country food producers.
However, the WTO’s Doha Development Round has not been abandoned and talks will resume, probably at a technical level, in the autumn. This is important because, ahead of the argument that ended the talks, WTO Director General Pascal Lamy staged a “signalling conference” of some key member countries where they made informal commitments to liberalise their services under a revised WTO General Agreement on the Trade in Services.
Participants included the USA, the European Union, Brazil, Canada, Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Switzerland, and 20 other members. According to a report on the meeting drafted by Lamy, “a few participants indicated readiness to undertake new commitments in private education services and to remove a number of existing limitations, which discriminate against foreign education providers”.
He said new commitments were envisaged for private primary, secondary, and tertiary education, as well as for language, corporate, and technical and vocational training. Lamy also noted that one un-named member was prepared to remove “all limitations on cross-border supply and commercial presence for (non-public) higher education services”, allowing a free-for-all for its private tertiary-education market.
From Keith Nuthall in University World News
Research misconduct not the end
Just because scientists fabricate, falsify, plagiarise, or misrepresent their work doesn’t mean their careers are over. Many stage comebacks. An article in the new issue of Science shows that nearly half of the faculty members and staff scientists who committed such acts during an eight-year period continued to publish at least one paper per year, a sign of an active research career, after they were found guilty of misconduct.
Between the start of 1994 and the end of 2001, 43 faculty members and research scientists in both university and non-academic positions received verdicts of misconduct, according to the federal Office of Research Integrity. For the Science paper, Jon F Merz, an associate professor of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, and Barbara K Redman, dean of Wayne State University’s college of nursing, searched for articles those researchers had written before and after their cases were decided, and tried to find out where they ended up working.
As punishment, most of the researchers were excluded from receiving grants for several years, many received institutional oversight, and fourteen had to retract or correct publications.
Of the 37 researchers who had published in biomedical journals prior to their misconduct judgments, 25 published at least one paper afterwards, and nineteen continued publishing at an average rate of one or more articles per year. Dr Merz and Dr Redman located 28 scientists and found that ten of them had academic jobs and another eight were working in industry.
Just seven of the researchers agreed to speak to Dr Merz and Dr Redman. “They suffered pretty greatly, financially, emotionally, and professionally,” Dr Merz said. “But there is a chance for redemption. People can come back.”
From Lila Guterman in the Chronicle of Higher Education
An extreme degree of education
When Benjamin B Bolger declared himself the most credentialed person in modern history in a recent edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education, he was wrong. Mr. Bolger holds eleven advanced degrees. Michael W Nicholson, however, has 24.
Dr Nicholson, whose father was a third-grade dropout, finished a doctorate in education at Western Michigan University in 1977. He angled for a job in student affairs, but nothing eventuated and he was disheartened. So he went back to graduate school. “That seemed to be more comfortable,” he says.
He took a job as a security guard and earned an MBA from Western Michigan and a master’s in library science from Wayne State University in Detroit. Then, for eleven years, he wrote parking tickets at Western Michigan, once 420 in a single day, and took advantage of the tuition discount there, earning nine more master’s degrees, mostly in education.
After that, he worked as a substitute teacher and collected more master’s degrees, in education and public administration, at Indiana University at South Bend, Oakland University, and Grand Valley State University. He regularly sent transcripts to Guinness World Records, despite its decision to discontinue the serial-student category out of concern over diploma mills.
Dr Nicholson, 67, is pursuing two more degrees between leading music services at rural churches and doing research on presidential assassinations and 9/11, which, incidentally, he thinks was an inside job. He prepares his assignments on a Smith Corona manual typewriter and doesn’t go beyond what’s asked of him.
“I’m more interested in getting through the class as quickly and efficiently as possible,” he says. His mission is to earn more degrees than anyone he’s heard of, like the Indian man who had 25, according to Guinness officials.
From Sara Lipka in the Chronicle of Higher Education
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