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AUS Tertiary Update

New tertiary-education union another step closer
The formation of a new union in the tertiary-education sector has moved a step closer with adoption of a set of draft rules by representatives of the Association of University Staff and Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE). The new union will be the largest operating in the tertiary-education sector and will represent the industrial and professional interests of more than 11,500 academic and general staff.
Proposed rules for the new union were adopted at a one-day conference held in Wellington last Friday, following an earlier planning meeting between the council and national executive of the two existing unions.
AUS and ASTE national presidents, Associate Professor Maureen Montgomery and Tangi Tipene said that the successful adoption of proposed rules for the union reflected how well AUS and ASTE had worked together to create a new, democratic union which would advance the industrial and professional interests of tertiary-education staff throughout the country. “This is an historic occasion and makes the new organisation among the largest unions in the country,” they said.
“This amalgamation will not only increase the influence of staff within the tertiary-education sector through building industrial strength and advancing professional and education issues, but it will also ensure the better use of resources.” Both national presidents expressed satisfaction that member participation was positive and that many felt they were already amalgamated.
The two meetings also saw the preliminary presentation and acceptance of the new union’s logo and ingoa Māori, Māori name, by ASTE tauheke, Te Huirangi Waikerepuru, on behalf of the two existing unions’ Māori executive committees. In presenting the name, Te Hautū Kahurangi o Aotearoa, Te Huirangi explained that hau refers to wind, breath, and vitality. Hautū means to guide or lead and when prefixed with the word kai, as in kaihautū, it refers to the person who keeps the timing for the paddlers on a waka.
Tū means to stand, set in place, or establish. In this way, hautū refers to the union, its members and staff standing strong and unified to protect one another in the face of the four winds and whatever they carry. Kahurangi is a term given to something precious or distinguished and also refers to the translucent, highly valued variety of pounamu.
Given the multiple meanings of these kupu, Te Hautū Kahurangi o Aotearoa can mean the distinguished leaders, TEU members and staff, positioned and cloaked in the TEU korowai, guiding and protecting against the elements.

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Media reports inflate universal student allowance
2. NZVCC concerned over new immigration licensing provisions
3. New health centre for South Auckland
4. Otago hackers send 1.55 million spam emails
5. Return of the riot rally
6. US again dominates world university rankings
7. US lacks recipe for true harmonisation
8. UAE universities warned against student “gold rush”
9. Voluntary student unionism hits universities
10. Where students grade their lecturers

Media reports inflate universal student allowance
Ministry of Education (MoE) documents sourced under the Official Information Act by the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) reveal that the cost of a universal student allowance is significantly lower than figures cited recently in some media reports. “Since the government’s interest in a universal student allowance became public,” said NZUSA co-president, Paul Falloon, “there has been much confusion regarding the cost of this policy. The public deserves to know that the costs are actually rather modest, while the benefits are immense.”
“Various media reports have put the total cost of providing full-time domestic students with a living allowance at $728 million per year,” he continued. “However, an MoE paper obtained by NZUSA estimates the actual net extra cost of the policy to be significantly less, at an average of just $182 million per year, or $728 million over four years,” Mr Falloon continued.
“The document also reveals that the policy would result in a $33 million reduction in operating expenditure over the same period as some existing costs of the current student-loan scheme are removed and total borrowing declines, providing significant social and financial benefit for both individuals and the economy,” Mr Falloon added.
“Lack of allowances is the key contributor to high student debt, as students are forced to borrow to meet basic living costs. New Zealand loses millions of dollars a year through the loss of skilled graduates pushed overseas by these unmanageable debts hampering their futures. $182 million a year to support the living costs of students is a bargain in return for the benefits this initiative would have for the country,” Mr Falloon concluded.

NZVCC concerned over new immigration licensing provisions
The New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee has drawn attention to policy and regulatory concerns over immigration issues expressed at the recent New Zealand International Education Conference. In support of those concerns, the NZVCC cites the Education New Zealand (ENZ) report, Immigration Policy Benchmarking – Implications for Competitiveness of New Zealand’s Export Education Sector, as indicating “that New Zealand had fallen behind its major competitors in some of its immigration policy settings – particularly with respect to the work rights of international students”.
The NZVCC reports that delegates to the conference expressed serious reservations about the impact of the new immigration-advisers licensing regime on education providers, labelling the new Immigration Advisers Authority’s expectations for staff interaction with students “unworkable”. Representatives of the Authority assessed that a “significant” amount of the advice that education institutions provide on immigration is excluded from coverage. However, this suggests that not all advice is excluded and education institutions are not exempt from the act’s coverage in the same way that lawyers and staff in MPs’ offices are exempt.
Education institutions, according to the NZVCC, are left uncertain about how many, if any, of their staff need to register as immigration advisors by 4 May 2009, at an initial cost of $1995 per person and a recurring annual levy of $1105. Only individuals can register, and staff who register will be individually liable for the advice that they provide.
Since the conference, ENZ has asked public-law specialists Chen & Palmer to undertake an independent analysis of the application of the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act to the export-education industry.

New health centre for South Auckland
A new health-research and teaching centre in South Auckland has been hailed as a model for others to follow, reports Radio New Zealand. Counties Manukau District Health Board (DHB) this week announced plans for the establishment of a new Centre for Health Services Innovation involving the University of Auckland, AUT University, and the Manukau Institute of Technology.
Health groups say the project is exactly what is needed to address chronic shortages in the workforce and create long-term jobs in South Auckland. Medical Association chair, Peter Foley, is quoted as hoping that the centre will encourage other DHBs to do more to meet training needs.
The centre will be in new buildings at Middlemore Hospital housing the combined teaching and research resources of all three institutions. Under the $40 million plan, the University of Auckland will relocate its South Auckland clinical school, with trainee doctors and four new research chairs, to the new centre. The university’s dean of medical and health sciences, Professor Iain Martin, has said that preparatory work on the new centre has been carried out over the last twelve months and, if funding is approved by the Ministry of Health, it will open in 2011.
That funding is the one question still hanging over the centre. The government recently gave AUT University $25 million for a new campus in Manukau City. AUT dean of health and environmental sciences, Professor Max Abbott, has warned that the government has not yet agreed to provide the necessary funds to expand its health-training programmes. Counties Manukau DHB chief executive officer, Mr Geraint Martin, however, has insisted that the new project can be fully funded by redirecting the money it already receives from the government and drawing on the existing funding of the three tertiary-education institutions.

Otago hackers send 1.55 million spam emails
The Otago Daily Times reports that hackers who recently gained access to the University of Otago staff email server used it to send out an estimated 1.55 million spam emails in 60 hours after tricking four staff members into revealing their login details. The huge volume of spam mail resulted in legitimate emails being rejected or delayed by other systems, according to the university’s information services manager, Mike Harte. They were re-sent once the spam attack was over.
The four staff members, according to the report, responded to “spear phish” emails which claimed to be from the IT department and asked people to reconfirm their user names and passwords or their email access would be withdrawn. Armed with their login details, hackers could compromise an email address within a couple of hours and use it to connect to computers outside the university and send out further phish or spam emails.
The four staff members who revealed their passwords have not been disciplined, Mr Harte said. “The information-security office has a policy of having a good discussion with campus users whose accounts have been compromised. Rather than issue warnings, [we] discuss what actually happened, why it happened, what the implications are, and how users can prevent anything similar happening again,” Mr Harte is quoted as saying.
A warning given to staff last April not to fall for the hoax emails, after similar emails turned up at some New Zealand universities, has now been repeated. All staff have been told to assume any requests for their login details are “most likely fraudulent”, said Mr Harte. “To prevent falling victim to these kind of scams, the key message for any computer user is that they must treat all their logins and passwords with the same care as [with any other] PIN: never give it out to any other person.”

Return of the riot rally
Police are bracing for hundreds of University of Canterbury students to defy authorities and converge on Dunedin in a rogue Undie 500 car rally this weekend. Last year, 69 people were arrested and charged over rioting in Dunedin streets the day after the rally arrived in the city and an entire Dunedin courtroom was cleared to deal with the charges. The year before, 25 of the 56 students arrested for disorderly behaviour over the Undie 500 weekend were from Christchurch.
The Undie 500 was previously organised by the Canterbury University Engineering Students’ Society (ENSOC). Since 1989, students have bought cars valued under $500, decorated them to a theme, and driven to Dunedin, stopping at designated pubs along the way. ENSOC and the University of Canterbury Students’ Association tried to organise another event this year, but gave up when Dunedin mayor Peter Chin refused to support their proposals. In July, when ENSOC president Graeme Walker formally withdrew support for the event, he warned that an alternative event would go ahead regardless.
This year’s event will proceed despite the urging of student and civic leaders, the university, and police. “All the Undie 500 does is cause us a considerable amount of grief,” said Dunedin and Clutha police area commander Inspector Dave Campbell. “It’s bad for the city, bad for our reputation, and we don’t need it.”
A spokesperson for the University of Canterbury said that the university does not support the unofficial event. “We deplore any anti-social and illegal behaviour, and would like to remind students of the consequences this can have in their personal and professional lives,” the spokesperson said. Director of student services at the University of Otago, David Richardson, said the university would respond to any situation as appropriate at the time. “Whatever the situation, the safety and well-being of students and staff are paramount,” he said.

World Watch
US again dominates world university rankings
Universities in the United States have again dominated the world’s top 500 in the latest rankings by Shanghai Jiao Tong University. It is the sixth year since the Chinese university began listing the world’s top higher-education institutions and, once more, US universities have taken seventeen of the first 20 places and 55 of the top 100. This compares with the US’s main competitor, Britain, which managed to squeeze only two of its universities into the top 20 and a mere ten in the first 100.
Harvard University was ranked number one in the world with a total score of 100 on Jiao Tong’s calculations, followed by Stanford and the University of California at Berkley. Britain’s Cambridge University came in at fourth place while its main UK competitor, Oxford, just made it into the top ten behind MIT, CalTech, Columbia, Princeton, and Chicago.
Germany had six of its universities in the first 100, Japan, Canada, and Sweden four apiece, and Australia, France, and the Swiss three each. Other countries to make it to the top 100 were Denmark and the Netherlands, with two apiece, and Finland, Israel, Norway, and Russia with one each. New Zealand’s highest-rating institutions, the Universities of Auckland and Otago, were ranked at 201st-equal along with 100 others.
While China did not have one university in the top 100, Simon Marginson, a professor of higher education at the University of Melbourne and a well-known international commentator, noted that the number of Chinese universities in the top 500 has jumped from 25 to 30 in only one year. “In future years, we can expect to see Chinese universities bulking larger in the top 200 and then the top 100 as the hyper-investments in R&D of the last ten years begin to bear fruit in stellar research performance,” Professor Marginson said.
The Shanghai Jiao Tong top 500 is available at
From Geoff Maslen in University World News

US lacks recipe for true harmonisation
It may have the most successful higher-education system in the world, but the US is being urged to look to Europe to safeguard its position at the head of the global pack. A report from the US Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) says the harmonisation of higher education in Europe through the Bologna process “has sufficient momentum to become the dominant global model of higher education within two decades”.
In a European system that, with 4,000 institutions and sixteen million students, is of a similar size to that of the US, the report says Bologna is “standing 800-year-old traditions on their heads” and is already being replicated in Latin America, Africa, and Australia. Making a direct plea to the US university sector, Clifford Adelman, the report’s author, urges it to “learn something from beyond our own borders” from an initiative that is “extraordinarily relevant to the accountability challenges that face US higher education”.
The Bologna process aims to create a “European space of higher education” in which undergraduate education is easily comparable across the Continent. Mr Adelman says it is succeeding in articulating what qualifications represent and what students must do to earn them, an area in which initiatives in the US have failed. The US’s HEPI policy briefing, he says, “contends that none of the major pronouncements on accountability in US higher education that we have heard in the recent past ... even begin to understand what accountability means.”
While acknowledging that efforts have been made to address these issues in the past, the report says they have tended to offer a watered-down version of accountability, adding, “None of it says what credentials represent or what students must do to earn them.”
From John Gill in Times Higher Education

UAE universities warned against student “gold rush”
The United Arab Emirates risk having too many money-making branches of foreign universities, increasing the likelihood of closures that would leave students in the lurch, the new registrar of the British University in Dubai (BuiD) has warned. A string of foreign universities have launched campuses in the UAE and numerous others are due to open over the next decade.
Martin Prince of the BUiD, based in Dubai Knowledge Village, said the sector might have to undergo “rationalisation” if too many institutions began operations. In his native UK, he said, there are more than 150 higher-education institutions, which is “an awful lot”. He added, “For the UAE to follow a similar path would be a mistake. We could go through a painful few years of successes and failures. Those failures would be at a considerable cost to students, the credibility of the higher-education system, the [education authorities], and the nation,” Mr Prince said. “I think there’s an element of the gold rush mentality. It’s not just in the UAE.”
Within a decade, Dubai International Academic City aims to have 40 universities with 40,000 students, and Ras al Khaimah plans an education park on a similar scale. Abu Dhabi has attracted the Paris-Sorbonne and New York University, both of which are moving into purpose-built campuses funded by the capital.
Mr Prince’s concern centres not on such government-funded campuses, but on branches that are funded by the parent institution and so expected to turn a profit. One, the University of Southern Queensland in Dubai, closed in 2005. Closures “dent the credibility of higher education” and are “a great shame” for students who had invested time and money, he said. “It makes sense to have a more rational approach to maximise the credibility and potency of the sector.”
From Daniel Bardsley in The National

Voluntary student unionism hits universities
The introduction of voluntary student unionism (VSU) has cost Australian universities $NZ190 million a year since it came into effect in 2006. A federal-government report has highlighted its devastating impact on campuses, where basic services have been cut due to lack of funding. Higher-education institutions in New South Wales, for example, have lost $NZ66.7 million in student-union fees per year, although this has been offset by university contributions of $NZ28.8 million and approximately $NZ1.8 million in student contributions.
The findings are revealed in the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations’s summary report on the impact of the voluntary scheme. The report, which was compiled in March and April from 162 submissions from higher-education stakeholders, paints a grim picture of campus life.
“Most submissions concluded that the abolition of up-front, compulsory, student-union fees had impacted negatively on the provision of amenities and services to university students, with the greatest impact at the smaller and regional universities and campuses,” the report said. While universities and students had contributed funds to prop up services, the shortfall was still significant. “Many noted that the current arrangements were not sustainable in the medium to long term,” the report said. “In many instances, assistance was provided by the university, but these funds were redirected from other uses such as teaching, learning, or research.”
The University of Western Sydney (UWS) was particularly badly hit, with its submission reading, “The loss of the services fees (approximately $NZ10.6 million a year) with the imposition of VSU was disastrous for UWS and its students, coming as it did in a context of a government grant that was not increasing in real terms.” Some of the services which have been lost include subsidised childcare, transport, emergency loan facilities, and disability services.
From Rachel Browne in the Sydney Morning Herald

Where students grade their lecturers
As feedback goes it’s a bit on the harsh side: “She is very kind and can be helpful but, boy, is she insane. The insanity leads to volatility sometimes which leads to her being not very kind.” Welcome to - the website which lets students grade their tutors. It has been the scourge of university professors in the United States and now it has reached Britain and is being embraced by undergraduates.
Nearly 1300 British academics have been ranked on the website, where they are marked on “easiness”, “helpfulness”, “clarity” - and whether they are “hot”. Some of the comments are controversial. One tutor is described as “arrogant, rude, unhelpful, and supremely egotistical. His specialist field is himself.” Another is damned with, “Ignores her students mostly, a very false personality and especially when handing out praise. Incredibly patronising and not very bright.”
The website has received approximately six million postings about 750,000 academics since 1999. Since it was extended to cover England, Scotland, and Wales, the number of British lecturers on the site has reached 1284.
The ratings, however, have been controversial, with academics protesting about bullying and derogatory comments from anonymous students. One of the main criticisms has been that there is no way to tell if a comment comes from a vindictive student, a student happy about getting an A on an otherwise disappointing course, or the academics themselves.
New research published this month in the journal Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education suggests that the ratings may not be biased and could even be used by universities in hiring and promotion. However, Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said, “If students have concerns about lecturers, they should go through proper channels.”
From Sarah Cassidy in the Independent

More international news
More international news can be found on University World News:

AUS Tertiary Update is compiled weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the Association of University Staff and others. Back issues are available on the AUS website: Direct inquiries should be made to the editor, email:

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