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AUS Tertiary Update Vol.4 No.28, 16 August 2001

AUS Tertiary Update Vol. 4 No. 28, 16 August 2001
In our lead story this week…..
The General Secretary of Education International (EI), Fred van Leeuwen has written to Prime Minister, Helen Clark protesting at the inability of unions in the NZ tertiary education sector to engage in good faith bargaining. Mr van Leeuwen says EI views "with great concern any government action which discriminates against education unions to their disadvantage in the operation of labour law”, and urges the government to ensure that AUS and other higher education unions in New Zealand can effectively enjoy "all the provisions of the Employment Relations Act…..including the right to genuine good faith bargaining". EI represents 24.5 million teachers and education employees world-wide. “Tertiary Update” notes that the PPTA has recently been in mediation with Ministry of Education officials over good faith bargaining. We should also like to point out to AUS members that Cabinet has decreed that all settlements must be fiscally neutral. Furthermore, the $34.7m. Tertiary Strategic Change Fund announced last week (see "Tertiary Update" Vol. 4. No. 27 – 'Sweetener' Funding Too Little Too Late) cannot be used for salary increases. This leaves tertiary education staff as the only real losers in the Government’s successive fees freeze deals.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Waikato accepts fee-freeze deal
2. Lake Taupo University College still on track
3. International students not cash cows
4. No health charge rise at Otago
5. NTEU victory in unfair dismissal case
6. Development aid via Internet
7. All go for Universitas 21?
8. A new tertiary union in the UK?
9. Irish students in minority at home

University of Waikato Council has voted to accept the Government's free-freeze deal for next year. The Council agreed to the offer -- announced in the May budget -- in the light of last week's announcement of extra funding for the sector through the Tertiary Education Strategic Change fund. In a statement, the university says it sees the new funding package as a positive move forward from the original Budget offer. Waikato's Council originally rejected the fee-freeze deal.

The head of the Lake Taupo Development Company, Peter Henry says plans for a technology university in Taupo are alive and well despite the loss of Victoria University as a partner in the project. “In some ways breaking the link with Victoria University has taken the reins off," he says. "…It’s given us a new lease of life." Mr Henry says negotiations are under way with several universities, and he is confident a partner will be found that is "compatible with the needs of the community". He says he is aware of plans to develop a science innovation park near Waikato University, but does not believe that it will affect the Taupo project.

Victoria University's students' association (VUWSA) is warning that student support services are under pressure as the university places more emphasis on recruiting international students. VUWSA says the dramatic increase in the numbers of international students at Victoria have been good for the university's finances, but has strained resources as the students make greater use of support services. VUWSA President, Chris Hipkins wants increased resources to meet the greater demand, warning that the overseas students should not be seen as "cash cows to compensate for declining government funding".

Otago University Students’ Association is welcoming news that the university's $5 student health charge will not rise because such fees have been made exempt under the Government's fee-freeze deal. Students had feared the fee could double to offset a financial shortfall at the health service. OUSA president, Ayesha Verrall said she was delighted a recent change in the tuition fee freeze deal meant the rise would be avoided.

An Australian academic dismissed for blowing the whistle on 'soft' marking of overseas students' work has had his job restored by the Federal Court. Dr Ted Steele, an Associate Professor at the University of Wollongong, was dismissed last January. The university failed to give him a hearing so he could respond to the charges and the judge ruled that by denying him that opportunity, the university had contravened its agreement with the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU). The decision is being hailed as an important victory for Australian academic staff and for academic freedom. Without protection from arbitrary dismissal, NTEU points out, staff would be fearful of expressing unpopular or controversial views, undermining the idea of universities as the "critic and conscience" of society. NTEU Branch President, Ron Perrin, called on Wollongong Vice-Chancellor, Gerard Sutton, to consider his position carefully, following the decision. "The Vice-Chancellor has, by his arbitrary actions in breach of our agreement, brought the university into disrepute," he said.

Australia is to spend more than A$100m. over the next five years on a programme to deliver education and skills training to developing countries over the Internet. The programme is being dubbed the "virtual Colombo plan" after the aid programme in which thousands of young Asians came to study at universities in Australia and New Zealand. Tens of thousands of teachers, students, and officials in the South Pacific, Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia are expected to take up the offer, which will see Australia pay some of the cost of setting up Internet connections in teachers' colleges and rural centres. Australia's Department of Education is currently undertaking an inventory of online courses offered by Australian universities that could be adapted for use by the new group of virtual students. The World Bank will also contribute money to the programme -- said to be the first of its kind in the world.

Reports say that the global electronic university, Universitas 21, may be about to become reality. While there has been no formal announcement from the member universities, a news item in an Australian magazine suggests that agreement has finally been reached with the international publishing giant, Thomson. “Tertiary Update” understands that U21 will be formally launched at a ceremony in New York next month. The University of Auckland is a member of the group, which is being led by the University of Melbourne.

In Britain, the University and College Lecturers’ Union [NATFHE] says the change of leadership at the other academic union, the Association of University Teachers (AUT) re-opens the possibility of a merger between the two. The AUT General Secretary, David Triesman, is to take up a new position as
General Secretary of the Labour Party. Reports say speculation is rife that NATFHE's Tom Wilson might put himself forward for the job with a merger campaign. Mr Wilson – a former assistant general secretary of the AUT -– is mum on his plans, but said NATFHE is in favour of a merger of the two unions.

More than half the places at medical schools in the Republic of Ireland are being filled by foreign students. Irish students pay no fees, while those from outside the EU pay up to $NZ50,000 a year –money that has in the past gone towards topping up departmental budgets. EU students in the Republic pay around a quarter of that sum in fees.

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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