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AUS Tertiary Update Vol. 4 No. 34, 4 October 20

In our lead story this week…..
The AUS National President, Neville Blampied, says latest statistics showing the average weekly incomes of New Zealanders have increased 15% since 1998 underline the dire position of university academics, whose pay has increased by only 4% over the same period. And while workers in general saw their weekly earnings go up by 9% in the year to June, university staff income increased by little more than 1% in the 2000 to 2001 financial year. Mr Blampied says that even if university staff achieve the 8% pay rise they are seeking this year, their relative pay will have risen only 12% since 1998. He attributes the deterioration in university pay to the "complete failure" of current bargaining mechanisms for salary setting. "The situation will go on getting worse until the Government, the Vice-Chancellors and AUS are able to sit down and plan a rational and fair wage setting mechanism for the sector," he says.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Industrial action likely in pay negotiations
2. AUS Executive Director retiring next year
3. Feasibility study released on Taupo university
4. Call to get the 'basics' right
5. New tertiary education system starting to take shape
6. Demo against Wanganui/UCOL merger
7. Campaign against 'casuals'
8. New watchdog for academic freedom and autonomy
9. Singapore Uni expansion

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The Association of University Staff says its negotiations for an 8% salary rise for each year over the next three years are being hampered by the Government's fee-freeze deal for next year, making industrial action in support of the claim a strong possibility. Staff at Canterbury University have been offered an increase of 1.5%, while staff at Lincoln have rejected a similar pay rise. Lincoln's general staff have accepted the 1.5% offer. AUS National President, Neville Blampied, says the Government's deal has taken away the universities' ability to set fees, and by doing so has effectively taken away staff's ability to bargain salaries. The Vice-Chancellor of Lincoln University, Frank Wood, has echoed the concerns. "Along with all other universities, we have supported the Government's commitments to students, but in doing so have reinforced a position which leaves no scope for a substantial increase in academic salaries, and other conditions," he told the university council. He said the academic staff's 8 per cent claim would cost Lincoln about $2.7 million over the three years.

AUS Executive Director, Rob Crozier, has announced he intends to retire in June next year, ending more than 22 years of service with AUS, and its predecessor, AUT. The position will be advertised in the new year under the title of General Secretary.

A feasibility study on the proposed high-tech university at Taupo suggests it could break even as early as 2006, and be returning profits two years later. The interim establishment board prepared the study last year, but it was not released at time because of concerns over confidentiality. The report stresses the "critical importance" of agreement between Victoria University and the Taupo community in ensuring the project was delivering courses by 2002. Since then, Victoria has pulled out of the project, which also involves the Lake Taupo Development Company and the University of Limerick. “Tertiary Update” wonders how this proposal sits with the Government’s Bill limiting the number of universities in New Zealand – due to be reported back to Parliament in March 2002.

Newspaper editorial writers have picked up on the call by electronics industry pioneer, Sir Angus Tait for more attention to be paid to the poor standards of literacy at university level because of the threat this has for the country's economic future. The Nelson Mail says teacher unions have "snapped back" that employers could help rather than "whinge". But the editorial says that in the end both want the same thing, namely a well-resourced education system that produces successful, literate New Zealanders. And the Manawatu Evening Standard says it is unfair to blame the shortcomings of today's students on their teachers. "Instead," the newspaper says, "it should be tracked back to the faceless bureaucrats of 20 or 30 years ago who presumably decided that English grammar was no longer something we needed to be concerned about."
In another editorial, the Standard suggests that the "hallowed tradition" of open access to university is under serious threat from the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission. Acknowledging the arguments on both sides, the paper concludes that it is an idea that deserves consideration because "not everyone who is at university should be there, and if they can be persuaded of this sooner rather than later, then so much the better."

The Minister in charge of Tertiary Education, Steve Maharey says all the components of the new-look tertiary education system will be in place by July of next year. Mr Maharey told the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education annual conference that his government had inherited a tertiary sector "in crisis" but had quickly build consensus on the way forward.

Hundreds of Wanganui Polytechnic staff and students paraded through Wanganui this week in protest at the proposed merger with Ucol in Palmerston North. They were protesting at the lack of public consultation on the merger, and its effect on Wanganui's flagship graphic design, fine arts and fashion courses. They say the merger is inappropriate given Ucol's emphasis on vocational training. Most of the anger was directed at the Government and the Minister in charge of Tertiary Education, Steve Maharey, who has proposed the merger.


The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) in Australia has voted to campaign against the increased use of casual employees in the sector. Official statistics show between 12% and 19% of academic staff are employed as casuals, although the NTEU says it believes the numbers are considerably higher. NTEU President, Carolyn Allport, told delegates that the main concerns were over career entry and job security for staff, as well as the effects of increased casual employment on the quality of education.

A new group – the Observatory of Fundamental University Values and Rights – has been set up to monitor violations of university autonomy and academic freedom in Europe. The group was set up by Italy's University of Bologna and the European University Association. It is headed by a professor at Bologna, Fabio Roversi-Monaco, who said there was concern about the potential "internal and external threats to the institutional autonomy of universities in several countries".

The National University of Singapore is to set up five campuses in the United States, China, and India by 2005 as part of a plan to have 20% of its undergraduates studying abroad at any one time. Currently, 7% of the university's students are undertaking study abroad. The campuses will be based at areas that are prominent in science and technology, with the first college, due to open in January 2002, located in Silicon Valley in California.

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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