AUS Tertiary Update
AUS and ASTE call for continuation of tertiary-education
Unions representing staff in the tertiary-education sector say that they will work with the new National-Act government to ensure that reforms resulting from the tertiary-education strategy of the outgoing government will continue to meet the economic and social goals and needs of the country. Both the Association of University Staff and Association of Staff in Tertiary Education have prepared a briefing paper for the incoming education ministers, and will seek to meet them as soon as they take charge of their portfolios.
Central to any discussions will be the future of the tripartite arrangement among the unions, government, and vice-chancellors which has seen more than $65 million of new funding invested in university staff over the past three years.
AUS national president, Associate Professor Maureen Montgomery, says that the incoming government needs to consolidate the reforms implemented over the last three years and ensure that New Zealand has a collaborative rather than competitive tertiary-education sector, one where public funding is used to support a planned provision through public tertiary-education institutions rather than through profit-based private providers.
ASTE national president, Tangi Tipene, says that, while some headway was made by the previous government towards addressing the systemic under-funding of the sector, the unions’ briefing to incoming ministers will centre on the fact that New Zealand still lags behind other OECD countries in terms of per-capita expenditure on tertiary education. The effect of underfunding on staff is evidenced by low comparative salaries, the intensification of workloads (particularly impacting on staff in the ITP sector) and increasing demands for research outputs.
Concerns will be raised also about the PBRF as a funding and evaluation model for research, noting misuses and abuses of individual evidence-portfolio scores and the inadequacy of the model in addressing the research-development needs of the ITP sector. However, the unions will be clear that they see the continuing support and development of research in this country as critical to our progress both nationally and internationally.
In summary, the AUS and ASTE position is that the momentum of the last three years in terms of the implementation of the tertiary-education strategy, additional funding, improvements to salaries, and a commitment towards more student support (including plans for a universal student allowance) will need to continue if the sector is to meet the desired economic and social goals and needs of the country.
A summary of the tertiary-education policies of National, Act, and United Future, the three parties forming the incoming government, can be found at:
in Tertiary Update this week
1. VCs focus on personnel
2. New Zealand “fairly middle-of-the-road”
3. ASTE welcomes Unitec back into the fold
4. Otago expects $26 million deficit
5. Final wānanga claim settled
6. Academic freedom under attack in South Africa
7. Australian student services to be restored
8. UCU rejects spying proposals
9. Steps towards South African amalgamation
10. Melbourne’s California dreaming
11. For a free market in university education
VCs focus on personnel
In their reaction to the outcome of the general election, university vice-chancellors are focusing on likely personnel changes in the relevant portfolios. With the election of a National government, says the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (NZVCC), all eyes in the tertiary-education sector are trained on the list of possibilities for the tertiary-education portfolio. “Of further interest to universities is who will be the minister for research, science and technology while the widely-tipped post of minister of infrastructure also has a bearing on institutions that constitute the foundation of New Zealand’s research capability,” says the NZVCC.
Noting that Dr Paul Hutchison is National’s tertiary-education and RS&T spokesperson but that Anne Tolley is education spokesperson and appears to have the inside running for a senior cabinet post in that portfolio, the NZVCC raises the possibility of a number of associate ministers of education for the tertiary, schools, and early-childhood sectors. At least one of those posts could in theory be offered to one of the minor parties as part of the negotiations around the support arrangements for the new government, even though National has now decided to form a minority government with support from ACT and United Future on confidence and supply issues. Any portfolios offered to potential support parties, including the Māori Party, will therefore be on an outside-of-cabinet basis, the NZVCC suggests.
Reflecting that outgoing tertiary-education minister Pete Hodgson also held the RS&T and economic-development portfolios, linking roles around the development of an innovative economy, the NZVCC expresses interest in seeing if National employs a similar approach.
New Zealand “fairly middle-of-the-road”
A global study of academic salaries just published by the Boston College Center for International Higher Education describes New Zealand, along with Japan, as hovering in the middle of the pack across many of the areas analysed. The pioneering International Comparison of Academic Salaries: An exploratory study reports, “In several ways, New Zealand represents a fairly middle-of-the road country in our comparative study. Its salary averages (particularly at the entry level) tend to hit the middle of the spectrum, as do its salary progression and salary-to-GDP ratios.”
The fifteen-country study focused on five major components: salary data, contextual information relevant to each country, purchasing-power parity, national-development considerations bearing in mind standard-of-living indicators, and key salary-income benchmarks for each country. Data was collected from government sources, reputable studies, and experts, but the study’s authors do warn, “Unfortunately, measuring academic salaries is far from science. Plagued by a lack of consistent data (or for many countries, any data at all), difficulties in comparing living costs, and other problems, this study must be seen as a first attempt rather than a definitive report.”
That said, the study finds that academics in Saudi Arabia are the best paid in the world while those in China are worst off. The figures by country, with average per-month salaries in $US, are: Argentina $3,054, Australia $4,795, Canada $6,548, China $1,182, Colombia $2,826, France $3,905, Germany $4,333, India $1,547, Japan $4,112, Malaysia $3,107, New Zealand $4,490, Saudi Arabia $6,611, South Africa $4,076, the United Kingdom $4,343 and United States $5,816. The average entry-level salary across the countries was $2,888 a month while top-level salaries average $5,318 a month.
The study is available at:
ASTE welcomes Unitec back into the fold
The Association of Staff in Tertiary Education has warmly welcomed the decision this week of Auckland institute of technology Unitec to rejoin the institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITP) sector umbrella body, ITPNZ. A Unitec council meeting on Monday responded to a presentation on ITPNZ’s new business plan by board chairperson, James Buwalda, and executive director, Dave Guerin, by resolving to rejoin for 2009 and, consequently, place programme approval with the ITP qualification body, ITPQ, rather than the university one, NZQA. Unitec’s membership is expected to be ratified promptly by the existing ITPNZ membership.
ASTE national secretary, Sharn Riggs, responded to the decision by congratulating Unitec on reuniting the ITP sector and thereby ensuring that the sector could again speak with a single voice. “This move marks the end of the previous management’s costly campaign to convert Unitec into a university and affirms the fact that ITPs cannot be seen as second-class citizens in the tertiary-education sector aspiring to become something else,” Ms Riggs said.
Unitec chief executive, Rick Ede, in making the announcement of the decision, said, “I know from the conversations that I’ve had around campus, many of you’ll agree that this will greatly improve Unitec’s engagement with the sector and our representation in critical, national tertiary-education issues.”
“For academic staff, the transition from NZQA to ITPQ should be almost seamless, while, for all of us, membership of ITPNZ should open up new opportunities to learn from, and collaborate with, colleagues from other ITPs,” he added. “ITPNZ has also acknowledged that it, too, will be greatly strengthened by having Unitec back in the organisation.”
Otago expects $26 million deficit
The University of Otago is expecting another budget deficit of up to $26 million next year as costs spiral and it hurries to upgrade and expand its facilities, according to a report in the Otago Daily Times. While the 2009 interim budget tabled at a university council meeting earlier this week showed an operating surplus of $19.6 million, that amount and more would be soaked up by proposed capital works, chief operating officer John Patrick said.
The university is about one-third of the way through a plan to address critical space shortages across most teaching divisions, Mr Patrick is quoted as saying. He added that the interim budget allows $37 million for capital works, but that figure is significantly under-estimated.
After the meeting, Mr Patrick said he expected at least $57 million to $60 million to be spent on capital works and two strategic land purchases next year, about the same amount being spent on capital works this year, and added that he would not be surprised if the deficit reached $26.5 million, which is the deficit expected for this year.
Otago vice-chancellor Professor David Skegg told the ODT that the university expects about $240 million next year from various public funding sources, but that departmental budget cuts and tuition fee increases next year had been necessary to avoid “painful” staff redundancies.
At the same meeting, council members fulfilled the prediction of Otago University Students’ Association president Simon Wilson that they would “follow the steps of a familiar dance” in voting to increase student tuition fees by the maximum allowable. Mr Wilson’s suggested alternative of a slow-down in the university’s capital-works programme was rejected by all but student representatives, as was a fee-freeze petition with 1162 signatures.
Final wānanga claim
University World News reports that the New Zealand government has settled the last of the claims made against it by Māori tertiary-education institutions for capital funding that will put them on an equal footing with other public institutions. The $50.6 million agreed with Te Wānanga o Raukawa last month adds to nearly $10 million already paid to the institution and brings the total value of settlements for the three public wānanga to $169 million. The settlements stem from a successful Tiriti o Waitangi legal claim made in 1999-2000.
The establishment of wānanga began 25 years ago and the initially private bodies later became public institutions, resulting in their claim that they should receive capital establishment grants similar to those provided for the creation of other public tertiary-education institutions such as universities and polytechnics.
They won their case in 2000 but had separate negotiations over how much each institution should receive from the Crown. Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, one of New Zealand’s largest tertiary-education institutions, received $71.8 million, while Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi agreed to $37.1 million, though $8.5 million of that is dependent on a successful business case being concluded.
Announcing the latest settlement, minister of Māori affairs Parekura Horomia said the settlement recognised that Raukawa had capital needs and characteristics comparable in the context of the settlement to those of a university-led institution. Mr Horomia said the settlement is sufficient to cover Raukawa for the cost of bringing its buildings, plant, and equipment up to a standard comparable to other tertiary-education institutions.
Academic freedom under attack in South Africa
Malegapuru Makgoba, vice-chancellor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, one of South Africa’s pre-eminent universities, has laid formal charges against two professors despite imminent resolution of their dispute through an internal peer-reviewed facilitation process using a panel appointed by himself.
When Professors Nithaya Chetty and John van den Berg refused to sign documents admitting their guilt, Professor Makgoba proceeded with the charges because “he believed it is in the best interests of the university to proceed to a disciplinary hearing”. The university then appointed top advocates to prosecute and preside in the disciplinary process at a cost estimated at between R250,000 and R500,000 ($NZ 40,000 and $NZ80,000).
The academics, who had collated a submission to a forthcoming senate-sponsored discussion document on academic freedom on behalf their faculty, now face dismissal on charges of failing to take due care in communicating with the media; breaching the confidentiality of senate; and dishonesty and/or gross negligence in alleging that the vice-chancellor had no right to omit a document on academic freedom prepared by the faculty of science and agriculture from the senate agenda. Union representatives are baffled as to what part of the university’s disciplinary code is being applied.
National Tertiary Education Staff Union (NTESU) activists at the university, objecting to the use of lawyers in internal disciplinary proceedings, have described this as “a dispute which touches on the rights of academic staff to freedom of expression”. In South Africa the right to academic freedom is constitutional.
NTESU has raised the matter nationally with the Department of Education (Higher Education Division) indicating the use of taxpayer subsidies for these purposes is misdirection of funds in trust, and has asked the department to consider interceding.
NTESU is asking unions internationally to write to the university expressing their opposition to such an abuse of academic freedom, the use of “might against minions”, and throwing into the process money which could be better spent on more pressing needs.
services to be restored
Australian federal minister for youth, Kate Ellis, announced this week that the government will give universities the capacity to address the declining level and quality of student services which have been under enormous pressure since the introduction of the Howard government’s voluntary student union (VSU) legislation in 2006. From 1 July 2009, universities will have the option of charging domestic students a fee for the provision of much-needed services including child care, counselling, and sporting activities.
“Today’s announcement by minister Ellis means that the government is meetings its election promise to restore university student services and representation which have been devastated since the introduction of VSU,” said Dr Carolyn Allport, national president of the National Tertiary Education Union, in response to the announcement.
“The introduction of VSU made it illegal for universities to levy a compulsory services fee on students and resulted in the loss of $170m per year in university revenue. Since the introduction of VSU there have been in excess of 1,000 jobs lost in the provision of student services at our universities, which has resulted in the loss of or severe cut backs in many basic student services such as counselling and independent advocacy,” Dr Allport added. “Given that attending university is a financial struggle for many students, we also strongly support the decisions to cap the fee at $A250, and to allow students to repay the fee through an income-contingent loan.
“From July next year, all universities will be required to meet a new set of national benchmarks and protocols for the provision of student services and representation. Of critical importance is that the new protocols and standards will cover not only basic services but also require student representation and advocacy,” Dr Allport concluded.
UCU rejects spying
Britain’s University and College Union declared this week that new proposals for staff to monitor foreign students risked jeopardising the crucial relationship between students and staff. The union’s general secretary, Sally Hunt, is one of 200 signatories to a letter that argues that “police-like surveillance is not the function of universities” and calls on MPs to oppose the new rules and put pressure on the government to withdraw them.
“We have grave concerns that new rules on monitoring foreign students have been pulled together without any consultation with the people who would be tasked with their implementation,” Ms Hunt said. “We do not believe it is appropriate or effective to task colleges and universities with the policing of immigration.”
“Despite writing to the departments involved, at no point have we been consulted by either the Home Office or the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. At a time when we need to appear more, not less, attractive to students and academics from overseas, these proposals will fundamentally taint the UK university brand,” Ms Hunt added.
“We have been down the road of asking staff to monitor their students before and UCU robustly opposed such measures. As we said then, if people wanted to go into the monitoring or spying game they would have become spooks. We believe that, if implemented, the proposals could only harm the important relationship between staff and students, as well as having a knock-on effect in terms of work load for our members and therefore has contractual implications,” Ms Hunt concluded.
The letter opposing the proposals is available at:
towards South African amalgamation
Two of the major South African tertiary-education unions, the National Tertiary Education Staff Union (NTESU) and the National Union of Tertiary Employees of South Africa (NUTESA), recently moved closer to creating a single union when their national presidents agreed to take a memorandum of agreement to investigate amalgamating the unions to their respective congresses.
NTESU and NUTESA have taken these steps in response to common interests and synergy-seeking in the restructured higher-education landscape. Re-engineering of the sector has highlighted the need for a single voice for the representation of workers in the sector. It is estimated there is a potential membership of 25,000 in academic and general staff categories within the sector and the two unions would bring together approximately 8000 current members.
After striking the memorandum of understanding, the two presidents combined with advisors to draft a proposal on a working framework agreement for the negotiation of a detailed statement on a future synchronised union structure and the possibility of creating an inter-union task team.
The two unions have similar histories. NTESU is the successor to UDUSA, an organisation which many international unions will remember from the Apartheid era of South Africa. NUTESA grew within the old technology sector, which has now been incorporated into a single higher-education system of universities and universities of technology.
Some discussion was undertaken during 1999 to 2003 when this issue was first mooted, but it did not reach conclusion. NTESU gained a mandate from its congress in January and NUTESA will debate the proposal in its forthcoming congress.
While the fragmentation of union representation in the country has been commented upon at ministerial level, and by other education sector stakeholders that have already responded to the restructured higher-education landscape, the unions have so far found achieving an appropriate response more difficult.
Melbourne’s California dreaming
University of Melbourne vice-chancellor, Professor Glyn Davis, has called for the creation of a community-college network modelled on the California university system in a radical move that would restore the binary divide between teaching and research institutions. Professor Davis said community colleges would combine associate and full degrees with vocational training opportunities, and could be created from the amalgamation of universities and vocational-education providers, particularly in rural and regional areas.
They would not, however, offer research degrees, nor would they compete for competitive research grants. “I see the Californian community-colleges model as an important way to address the important and legitimate needs for higher-education provision outside metropolitan Australia,” Professor Davis said. “They would also address the need for equity.”
“A single entity, jointly owned by a TAFE (a further-education institution) and university, would create the critical mass of opportunities for study in smaller communities, which otherwise struggle to sustain with a small student base.”
California’s 110 community college campuses serve 2.7 million students and enrolments are reported to be spiking as the economy slides into recession. The popularity of community colleges is attributed to open enrolment policies, low tuition fees, and courses with an employment focus. They also offer pathways into other institutions. A two-year associate degree in a local community college can become the foundation for completing a full degree in the same, or another, university.
Meanwhile, in Britain, a vocational university is being proposed as a way to meet the government’s expansion targets “at a lower cost than presently envisaged”. Further-education colleges are proposing to deliver new “bachelor of vocational studies” degrees, awarded through a “National Skills University” on the basis of two years’ study at the equivalent of A level followed by a further two years in higher education.
From Luke Slattery in the Australian and Melanie Newman in Times Higher Education
For a free
market in university education
Larry Johnson is a self-described “entrepreneur from hell”, so it’s of little surprise that the University of Cincinnati academic likes the plan for a new budgeting system on campus. Professor Johnson, dean of the the university’s college of education, criminal justice and human services, is helping to craft a “performance-based” budgeting model at Cincinnati.
The plan, which is being accelerated to address expected budget shortfalls, rewards colleges for enrolling more students to generate revenue. On the other hand, colleges that fail to meet agreed-upon revenue goals may have to take budget cuts. “In a sense, we’re creating a higher ed free market,” Professor Johnson said. “We’re really embracing each program and unleashing its creativity.”
Creating incentives for revenue growth is not new to higher education, and Cincinnati is drawing upon models used at Ohio State University and Indiana University. But Cincinnati’s decision to implement a new budgeting process for the entire university by 2009 reflects an important philosophical shift that speaks to the times, according to Nancy Zimpher, the university’s president. Faced with the likelihood of declining state support in a faltering economy, the new plan encourages growth, she said.
“We have to be able to make those cuts, and at the same time we have to be able to grow,” Dr Zimpher said. “So how are we going to do that? I think the way universities have responded to [budget shortfalls] is they’ve just cut. They haven’t thought about the growth side.”
From Jack Stripling in Inside Higher Ed
More international news can be found on University World News:
Update is published weekly on Thursdays and distributed
freely to members of the Association of University Staff and
others. Back issues are available on the AUS website:
www.aus.ac.nz. Direct inquiries should be made to the