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AUS Tertiary Update Vol. 4 No. 37

In our lead story this week…..
Staff at Victoria University in Wellington are poised to strike after last week rejecting the university's offer of a 1.8% pay rise. The national president of the Association of University Staff, Neville Blampied, has called the offer "simply pathetic" in view of inflation running at 2.4% last quarter and annual average across-the-board salary increases of 4.5% outside universities. "Our best talent is rapidly disappearing overseas," he says. The Vice-Chancellor, Stuart McCutcheon, acknowledges the problems of retaining quality staff, but says the pay offer reflects the realities of funding. Other universities are offering pay rises ranging between 0% and 1.8%, while AUS is seeking an 8% rise.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Final TEAC report on track
2. Overseas students supplement Otago coffers
3. More international students interested in Massey
4. Podiatry students go to court
5. Groundbreaking agreement on maternity leave
6. Spies on Canadian campuses
7. The greying of academic staff

The fourth and final report of the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission (TEAC) is due to be released, as scheduled, early next month. The report – entitled "Shaping the Funding Framework" – will be released in Wellington on Wednesday 7 November. It sets out a new funding framework for tertiary education. Meanwhile, the first of a series of meetings on the development of a tertiary education strategy has been held in Christchurch. Further meetings are scheduled for Auckland on Thursday next week (1 November) and for Wellington on Thursday 8 November.

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The number of overseas students at Otago University this year is up by 10%, bringing in an extra $16.7m in tuition fees. The University's international liaison manager, Wayne Angus, says 1235 overseas students chose to study at Otago this year compared with 1116 last year. The number of "new" students among them was up 30% – a positive sign, he says, for future growth. The students come from 70 countries, including 260 American students spending one semester at Otago under the United States study abroad scheme. The year also saw a big increase in the number of students from mainland China and Hong Kong from 55 last year to 140 currently. However, Malaysian student numbers are declining, in part due to the curtailment by the Malaysian government of its sponsored medical and dental training schemes.

Massey University also reports a "significant increase" in applications from foreign students to study at the university. The international students' director, Bruce Graham, says the rise is in part due to Massey's "concerted marketing efforts", but suggests students may also be considering studying in New Zealand on safety grounds in view of the terrorist strikes in the US and war in Afghanistan. More than 900 foreign students are currently enrolled at Massey's Palmerston North campus. Massey recruits students from Asian countries, as well as the US.

A group of Upper Hutt podiatry students has turned to the courts to seek up to $350,000 to cover the costs they face when their course moves to Auckland next year. Twenty-five students are taking the action against Wellington Institute of Technology, which this year took over responsibility for the course when the Central Institute of Technology (CIT) was wound up. Initially, the podiatry course was to have gone to Otago University's Wellington School of Medicine, but it was later announced that it would be offered by the Auckland University of Technology. The Institute is offering a total of $75,000 to help the students relocate, with each receiving between $2,500 and $7,500 depending on their circumstances. In a statement of claim, one of the affected students, Lauren Farnden, says she was told when she enrolled that the three-year course was based in Upper Hutt where she lived and worked part-time. To complete the course she now had to move to Auckland and faced the extra costs of living there and the prospect of finding work.
Meanwhile, Tertiary Education Minister Steve Maharey says there have been 14 expressions of interest in taking over the former CIT campus in Upper Hutt. Details of the proposals remain confidential while negotiations continue. Mr Maharey says he wants to have a decision on its future use before the site is vacated at the end of this year.


In Australia, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has ended 18 months of negotiations with an agreement providing for 12 months' paid maternity leave for general staff at the Australian Catholic University. The agreement also includes other 'family-friendly' provisions such as child-rearing leave, paternity leave and job-sharing arrangements. The national president of the NTEU, Carolyn Allport says agreement is a "win" for university staff. "It should lead the way for other employers to follow suit," she says. However, she says the university will need to address the problem of back-filling vacated positions to keep workloads reasonable. NTEU is still negotiating to put in place a similar agreement for academic staff at the Australian Catholic University. Those negotiations have been going on since 1999.

An angry Canadian Association of University Teachers is demanding a meeting with Canada's intelligence agency after a newspaper report that a retired university secretary had acted as an undercover agent at the University of Toronto. The woman told "The Globe and Mail" newspaper she had spied on two eminent professors of geology while she was working for them between 1986 and 1990. The report said the secretary had provided private letters, telexes and other material to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, in apparent contravention of a long-standing agreement on espionage activities at universities. The agreement stipulates that intelligence agencies need the approval of Canada's Solicitor-General before they can operate on campuses. According to the newspaper story, the secretary wrongly thought her bosses, who were frequent travellers to Eastern Bloc nations, were talking to the KGB. She contacted the intelligence service and volunteered to provide information. The professors were in fact engaged in legitimate geological research.

Britain's Association of University Teachers (AUT) says the proportion of university teachers over the age of 50 has risen sharply from 22% to 28% during the past five years. AUT says the age profile is expected to go on rising until at least 2010, reflecting the fact that it was harder than ever to attract graduates to a career in academia. The study also noticed a trend for lecturers to retire early, with the average age of retirement as low as 56 in some areas. Spokesperson, Andrew Pakes of AUT says the figures cast a shadow over government plans to increase participation in higher education. "Without sufficient teaching staff, it will not be possible for universities to deliver the kind of student increases envisaged by the government," he says.

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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