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AUS Tertiary Update Vol 4 No 26, 2 August 2001

AUS WEB SITEAUS Tertiary Update Vol. 4 No. 26, 2 August 2001
In our lead story this week…..
The National President of the Association of University Staff, Neville Blampied has welcomed the Tertiary Advisory Commission's (TEAC) third report as "a welcome affirmation that a strategic direction is vital for the sector". Speaking in Christchurch, Mr Blampied pointed out that this was a significant change after more than a decade in which there had been no national vision for tertiary education, no clear appreciation of what the sector should be contributing to national development and systematic and gross underfunding. He welcomed the report's emphasis on the link between resources and quality and its recommendation that government should commit itself to “significant and predictable growth in public investment” in tertiary education. Mr Blampied also supported the report's emphasis on increasing participation in tertiary education of those who are currently excluded, as well as ensuring New Zealand produced world-class research and scholarship. He said, however, that this emphasis on the 'two ends' should not be at the expense of the heart of the system, namely first degree and diploma programmes. Mr Blampied also identified gaps in the report, saying that it contained no recognition of the need to address the loss of highly-qualified staff, unrealistic workloads and other staffing issues that affected quality. He was also critical of a report recommendations to 'unbundle' component parts of the education service. To do that, he said, would threaten the professional integrity of academic work. Looking ahead to TEAC's final report, Mr Blampied urged the Commission and the Minister to ensure it dealt with staffing as well as capacity in the system. Without the staff capability, he said, "the system is nothing".

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Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Average pay packets grow 4.5% - academics’ pay 1.5%
2. English language test for Canterbury’s foreign students
3. Waikato out of the red
4. Award to Otago researchers
5. UK university union secretary goes to Labour Party
6. Call for emphasis on research quality
7. East Timor university rising from ashes
8. Casual staff on up-and-up

A survey of New Zealand business has shown salaries are growing at a faster rate than in previous years. Recruitment agency TMP Worldwide surveyed 550 employers and found that on average, salaries had increased by 4.5% this year, compared with increases of between one and three percent in the previous two years. The increases, those surveyed said, were to ensure salaries remained competitive as the costs of finding good staff rose. In contrast, pay increases in that period for university academic staff averaged 1.5%.

The University of Canterbury is to impose an English language test on foreign students who enrol from New Zealand secondary schools. Currently, foreign students can enter university from an NZ secondary school with little or no English competency. The university’s new entry requirement will not apply to permanent residents.

Waikato University has unexpectedly found itself in the black financially after forecasting a deficit of $3.1m. Instead, unbudgeted income of $3.3m. saw the budget move in to surplus to the tune of $760,000. Much of the surplus was from income from external research carried out by the university. Waikato now expects to end the year with a surplus of $1m. The university's financial services director, Ken Housley, said international student enrolments would be analysed after revenue failed to reach budget forecasts, despite the fact that recruitment targets had been met.

Eminent University of Otago researchers, Emiritus Professor Jim Flynn and Professor Charles Higham, have been honoured with awards. The two are each receiving a medal and $10,000 in recognition of their contribution. The awards are presented for outstanding achievement in the discovery and dissemination of knowledge, developing innovative technology, or development of concepts which enhance university activities. Professor Flynn, whose discipline is political studies, is known for his work with intelligence testing. Professor Higham, an anthropologist, is a leading world authority on the pre-history of Southeast Asian countries.


The General Secretary of the Association of University Teachers (AUT) in the United Kingdom, David Triesman, has been appointed General Secretary of the Labour Party. The AUT President, Alan Carr, paid tribute to Mr Triesman's contribution to higher education, saying he had been a "superb ambassador" who had raised the profile of universities, protected and promoted the interests of staff and contributed to trade union unity.

The Dean of Arts at Melbourne University has called for more weighting to be given to quality when it comes to research funding. Stuart Macintyre was speaking at a conference in Canberra on "The Idea of a University". Professor Macintyre said core disciplines in science, social sciences and humanities were especially disadvantaged by the emphasis on research activity as a criterion for funding. These areas, he said, found it harder to attract industry funding, which went to the biological and technological sciences. He suggested Australia should follow the British system, where discipline panels evaluated research performance on a qualitative basis. This approach, he said, was far more conducive to breadth and excellence.

Work is going on at East Timor's university as the new institution consolidates from the decades of Indonesian rule, and the violence that accompanied the state's battle for independence. Workmen are currently working on a new library for the university using funds from the United States Agency for International Development. The university was officially opened on November 17, 2000, and in its first year of operation has had 4,000 full-time students. Another 1500 students who failed to score high enough in entrance examinations have been accepted into a year-long programme to prepare them for university studies in the future. A research centre has also been set up and among its projects is one charting price variations for basic food commodities. The price of basic foodstuffs has fluctuated violently, hurting family budgets. The research is aimed at developing proposals for stabilising prices.

The number of casual staff employed at Australian universities has doubled over the past 10 years, with 18% of academic staff now on casual contracts. The Chief Executive of the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee, John Mullarvey said the dramatic rise was due to the government's cuts to university operating grants. Salary levels were also a deterrent to people entering academe. The Minister of Education, David Kemp rejected that funding was the issue, saying that the rise in casual staff was part of the changing pattern of employment resulting from the universities' own decisions. Meanwhile, Ted Murphy of the National Tertiary Education Union said the big growth in casual teaching staff was changing the nature of university teaching. "On a teaching level, casuals are much more limited in the range of tasks that they can do. And insofar as teaching is informed by research, when you do have such a growth in teaching-only casual employment, then you are changing the nature of teaching," he said. [Monitoring trends in the employment of casual staff in New Zealand universities is inhibited by inadequate data – but reports indicate similar trends here]

AUS Tertiary Update is produced weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the union and others. Back issues are archived on the AUS website: .

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