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AUS Tertiary Update Vol. 4 No. 38, 1 November

In our lead story this week…..
Staff at Otago have begun a campaign of industrial action after the university failed to come up with a substantially better pay offer. Combined Union spokesperson, Jeff Rowe says the management's failure to recognise the value of staff's work with an improved pay offer left members with no choice but to take action. "Not only are the salary rates of members at stake, but also the quality of teaching and research at this institution,” he says. The campaign will begin with the distribution of posters and stickers, and staff attendance at next week's University Council meeting. Plans to escalate the action include withholding exam results and public demonstrations focused on the December graduation ceremonies. Meetings will be held in mid-November to discuss further action.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Labour-Alliance Govt best for students – Maharey
2. Students call for national wage bargaining
3. Redundancies at Canterbury
4. Education delegation over GATS
5. Dentistry case against the Crown
6. Debt headaches for medical graduates
7. Wanganui/UCOL decision delayed
8. Southern battle hots up

The Minister in charge of Tertiary Education, Steve Maharey, says further action to ease the financial burden on tertiary students depends on the Labour-Alliance government being re-elected. He said New Zealanders would have a very clear choice at next year's election. "They can stick with Labour and the Alliance who have demonstrated we are keeping our promise to make tertiary education more affordable, or they can elect National and Act and see potential students shut out as fees continue to rise and debt starts mounting up again,” he said. His remarks coincided with the release by Parliament's Education and Science select committee of its inquiry into student support. That report contained only one recommendation – that further research is needed into the effects of student debt. Mr Maharey called it “a significant contribution to raising public awareness and understanding of just how out-of-control tertiary education got over the 1990s". But students are angry that the report contains no plan of action. "Students expect and demand more than another review, they want solutions," says New Zealand University Students' Association co-president Andrew Campbell. The President of Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association (VUWSA), Chris Hipkins said students had once again been "let down" by parliamentarians. “We put a lot of effort into encouraging students to make submissions to the inquiry, and it all seems to have been in vain,” he says.
"Tertiary Update" notes with pleasure that AUS played a part in influencing the sole recommendation. Rob Crozier and Margaret Ledgerton – who presented submissions to the inquiry – were invited back by the select committee to provide further evidence as apparently the AUS data was better than that provided by officials!

Students at Victoria University want the government to introduce national wage bargaining for tertiary staff in view of pending industrial action after the breakdown of pay negotiations. VUWSA suggests that since the government holds the purse strings, ands is restricting the money available for staff salaries, it should also shoulder the responsibility for wage bargaining.

Staff at Canterbury have been told they have until November 19 to apply for voluntary redundancy as the university prepares to shed jobs in an attempt to prune about $4.5m. or 4% from its staffing budget. It has also warned of possible compulsory redundancies next year if the voluntary scheme does not meet targets. The voluntary redundancy package offers 2.5 months of pay for staff with one complete year of service, up to 12 months of pay for general staff with 20 years or more of service, and 19 months for academic staff with 34 years or more. The number of jobs that will be lost depends on the salary levels of those who apply for voluntary redundancy, but indications are that more than 70 jobs may have to go. The AUS Canterbury branch president, Maureen Montgomery, says poor university management had compounded ongoing problems of government's underfunding and that the staffing cuts will inevitably reduce the quality of teaching. "There will be staff re-allocated to courses where they don't have expertise to pick up the courses of people who go," she says.

A delegation of education unions, led by the CTU president Ross Wilson, has called on the Minister of Education to press for the withdrawal of education from the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). New Zealand has tabled proposals to extend existing commitments on education services in the GATS negotiations that took place in Geneva last month. The delegation stressed strong opposition to including education in GATS, as to do so threatens the principle of quality public education that is free and universally available. The Minister has, at his request, been supplied with a list of questions that will be put to officials. We await the answers with interest.

Dental graduates and the University of Otago have gone to the High Court seeking a judicial review of the then National government's cuts to Dental School funding in 1994. The 436 graduates are seeking $15m and costs from the Crown in compensation. The complainants say the decision to cut funding per student to the level of medical students was invalid because it failed to take into account the fact that medical students also received a clinical training subsidy through the hospital system. The Labour--Alliance government has since boosted funding for dental tuition.

Doctors are calling for urgent action to retain medical graduates after two surveys highlighting the level of student debt as a key factor in doctors leaving the country. The surveys of students at Christchurch and Auckland medical schools showed that 82% of respondents planned to leave New Zealand within two years of graduation. Those surveyed expected that, on average, their total debt would be between $60,000 and $70,000. Nine percent thought their debt would reach $100,000. Pacific and Maori students generally expected to graduate with a higher level of debt than other students.
The Green Tertiary Education spokesperson, Nandor Tanczos says the survey results highlight the problems with the student loan scheme, and says it should be scrapped in favour of a universal student allowance in line with the unemployment benefit.

Associate Education Minister, Steve Maharey has announced that a decision on the proposal for a partnership between Wanganui Polytechnic and UCOL in Palmerston North has been delayed several weeks, and will now be announced in mid-November. UCOL chief executive, Paul McElroy, says there is nothing untoward in the delay. He says it is the result of the government setting an "overly optimistic time line." Mr Maharey has been encouraging intending students to enrol at Wanganui even though a decision had not yet been made on its future. "It's vitally important that the community continues to support their own polytechnic. The best way to do this is for people to enrol as they would normally," he said. In another development, Victoria University and the Wellington College of Education have confirmed their intention to explore a possible merger.

Christchurch Polytechnic (CPIT) and the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) are at loggerheads over SIT's zero fees policy at its Christchurch campus. The move has forced CPIT to offer free enrolments at its new trades' institute but chief executive John Scott has warned the no fees approach is unsustainable and has challenged SIT to open its books for public scrutiny to demonstrate its policy is going to work.
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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