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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITEEx-gratia, golden or simply inappropriate?
Within days of denying that its former Vice-Chancellor received a “golden handshake” following his departure from the position last year, Lincoln University has admitted paying Dr Wood an ex-gratia sum of $56,000. A payment, equivalent to three months’ salary, was given in “recognition of the valued service provided [by Dr Woods] to the University” according to a written statement from the University’s Chancellor, Margaret Austin. A further three months salary was paid as a combination of sick leave and notice.
Mrs Austin said that, under the terms of the Vice-Chancellor’s contract, the Council was required to “act as a good employer” and, as “a good employer, will treat its employees fairly and properly in all aspects of their employment.” She said that at the time of Dr Wood’s resignation, legal advice was sought and the agreement reached was regarded as “consistent with his contract” and what was “fair to him”.
Dr Wood left Lincoln in October 2003 suffering from ill-health. He later admitted to a sexual relationship with a Chinese student and lobbying Government to get her permanent residency.
More details emerged this week after the Minister of State Services, Trevor Mallard, told Parliament that he thought the payment to Dr Wood was inappropriate and regretted it was made. In response to questions from National MP Bill English, Mr Mallard said the payment had been made “at the discretion of, and within the authority of, the Council of Lincoln University after it had received legal advice.”
Earlier, though, Lincoln’s Pro-Chancellor, Charlotte Williams, said that references to a golden handshake were wrong, and that the payment comprised salary paid for work undertaken and other contractual obligations. While not specifying what those obligations were, Ms Williams said that the final arrangements were “fully compliant”, and were reported to the State Services Commission.
Mr Mallard told Parliament, however, that the Commission was not informed of Dr Wood’s “inappropriate relationship” with the student when it was consulted over the proposed ex-gratia payment. A former Lincoln University Council member, Andrew Kirton, also told Tertiary Update that as far as he was aware the payment to Dr Wood was never discussed by the full Council.
The Association of University Staff National President, Dr Bill Rosenberg, said that given the circumstances surrounding Dr Wood’s departure, he should not have received anything at all. “The University can dress it up however it wants, but a $56,000 payment in recognition of “valued service” is a golden handshake in anyone’s language,” he said. “It will rankle with university staff, particularly given that many do not share the Chancellor’s assessment of Dr Wood’s contribution as Vice-Chancellor.”

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Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. TEC structure to change
2. Canterbury, AUT fees rise
3. Fee increases will force medical graduates overseas
4. Aviation industry asked to contribute to pilot training
5. New Chancellor for Auckland
6. UK universities headhunt academics
7. European support for UK boycott

TEC structure to change
The Tertiary Education Commission will face a major change in structure in the New Year, a reflection, according its Minister, Steve Maharey, of the good progress that has been made in the reform of tertiary education. From early next year, the full-time positions of chair and deputy-chair will be replaced with part-time equivalents, and the general manager’s position will be replaced with that of a chief executive.
Steve Maharey said that when the TEC was established, the interim governance arrangement of a full-time chair and deputy-chair was intended to last until the end of 2005. He said that the departure of the former TEC Chair, Dr Andy West, had allowed a move towards a more conventional governance structure earlier than expected. The chair’s position will be advertised this week, with a three-year appointment expected to be made early in the New Year.
“The TEC’s Deputy-Chair, Kaye Turner, who has been Acting Chair since Dr West’s departure in April, will remain in that role until about March,” he said. “She will then resume her role as Deputy-Chair, this time on a part-time basis, and Acting Deputy-Chair, Shona Butterfield, will return to her commissioner role.”
In turn, Kaye Turner and General Manager Ann Clark said that the role of general manager will be configured into that of a chief executive. “This is earlier than originally envisaged, and is an indication of just how well the TEC has progressed,” they said.
Ann Clark says that the TEC now has a committed leadership team, keen to build on the knowledge and skills developed over the past two years. “A recent stakeholder survey showed high levels of overall satisfaction with the TEC, and this was particularly pleasing given the dynamics of the environment in which the TEC operates, and the organisation’s age,” she said.
Ann Clark has decided not to apply for the chief executive position.

Canterbury, AUT fees rise
The University of Canterbury and the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) announced increases to student tuition fees for 2005, at their respective Council meetings this week. All fees at AUT will rise by 4.7 percent, while at Canterbury most will increase by 3.2 percent. Fees for Communication Disorders, Information Systems and Ecology and Conservation courses will increase by 5 percent.
AUT Vice-Chancellor, Derek McCormack said the increase of $171 per student was necessary to help ensure that the University continued to meet the needs of students. “Our fees are still among the lowest in the country,” he said. “While the Council would prefer not to have to increase tuition fees, it is in no-one’s interest for the University to cut-back on growth or reduce standards.”
Elliot Roberts, President of the AUT Student Movement, said that the Government must stop institutions from constantly raising student fees well beyond what student sand their families can afford.
University of Canterbury Vice-Chancellor, Professor Roy Sharp, said the increases are need to ensure the University meets the targets of a financial recovery plan which requires it to have an operating surplus of more than $6 million by 2006.

Fee increases will force medical graduates overseas
A move by the University of Auckland to dramatically increase tuition fees for medical students will lead to workforce shortages and force more graduates to head overseas, according to the New Zealand Medical Students’ Association (NZMSA). Last week, the University announced that it would be seeking an exemption from the Government’s fee-maxima policy in an attempt to increase fees by 10 percent for medicine and health sciences. The fee-maxima policy restricts increases in tuition fees to no more than 5 percent unless an exemption is granted.
NZMSA President Jess Allen said a 10 percent increase would result in fees for medical students rising by $1,000 per year, or at least $5,000 over the course of a medical degree. “We are reaching new heights in medical student debt, and the full consequences of this will take years to unfold,” she said. “Evidence collected in a 2001 survey of medical students, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, showed a correlation between increasing student debt and students’ intention to practice medicine overseas and choose specialities other than general practice,” she said. “Increasing the burden of medical students’ debt is likely to exacerbate these alarming trends and create more medical workforce shortages.”
Ms Allen said that as medical schools operate within a system where government controls the intake of students, and then sets funding levels, it should meet any financial shortfalls rather than transferring them on to future doctors.
The average debt for medical students is currently three times that of other university graduates, with over half of medical students now having a loan debt of more than $70,000 by the time they graduate.

Aviation industry asked to contribute to pilot training
The Government is asking the aviation industry to contribute more to the cost of pilot training, and to ensure that training is better linked to commercial aviation pilot jobs available in New Zealand. The Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary), Steve Maharey, said fees for aviation, currently between $30,000 and $70,000 per year, are far higher than for any other courses, including dentistry and medicine.
“Students are ending up with huge debts, and in past years graduates have had difficulty finding jobs in New Zealand,” said Mr Maharey. “It is a very volatile labour market and trainee numbers have not always been well-aligned to demand. In the period up to 2003 there was an over-supply of commercial pilots, while at present there seems to be a shortage.”
Mr Maharey said that the Government will reduce the current aviation funding cap by 10 percent in 2005 to 700 students, and is consulting with the industry about a co-funding arrangement. “The Government wishes to look at how industry contributions can be used to reduce students’ fees, which in turn would lead to lower levels of indebtedness,” he said.

New Chancellor for Auckland
The University of Auckland has elected Hugh Fletcher as its new Chancellor. The former Chief Executive of Fletcher Challenge was made a Distinguished Alumnus of the University in 1966 and appointed to the Council in 1999.
Former Chancellor John Graham, who has held the position for the last five years, will remain on the Council until the end of 2005. Acting Vice-Chancellor Raewyn Dalziel said that Mr Graham’s dedication to his role and his passion for quality teaching and research at the University had been invaluable to the institution.
The Council has also elected a new Pro-Chancellor, Jenny Gibbs, who served on the Council from 1975 until 1995, and again from 1999. It will be the third time Mrs Gibbs has served in the role.

UK universities headhunt academics
Universities in the United Kingdom are calling in professional agencies to help recruit senior academic staff as the competition to secure top-calibre staff heats up in an increasingly competitive market, according to the Times Higher. Universities are reported to be chasing “high-impact” professors to strengthen their research profiles, and deans with leadership skills to drive through change in their departments and to develop funding models to secure cash from external sources.
Recruitment agencies say that the Research Assessment Exercise, scheduled for 2008, is forcing universities to think about the structure of their institutions and the quality of their academic staff. A specialist in higher-education recruitment said the trend for placing chairs and deans through recruitment firms could lead to whole research teams being poached by headhunters.

European support for UK boycott
In an unprecedented show of solidarity, teaching unions from across Europe have backed the Association of University Teacher (AUT) boycott of Nottingham University. Twenty-one unions, representing hundreds of thousands of higher-education staff in France, Spain, Germany, Finland and Sweden, issued a joint statement this week expressing dismay over Nottingham’s action in refusing to re-open negotiations with the AUT over a new pay and grading structure.
The boycott began just over a month ago after Nottingham management backed out of a national agreement on the introduction of a new salary framework across higher education in the UK.
In a statement to Nottingham management, the European unions say they are dismayed at the actions of the University in refusing to talk to the AUT. “We will be advising our members across universities in Europe to respect and participate in the boycott of your institution,” the statement reads. “We will also advise the rectors of European universities that we are supporting this boycott until such time as you agree to enter into talks without pre-conditions with AUT.”
More information on the Nottingham boycott can be found at http://www.aut.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=879

AUS Tertiary Update is compiled weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the Association of University Staff and others. Back issues are available on the AUS website: www.aus.ac.nz . Direct enquires should be made to Marty Braithwaite, AUS Communications Officer, email: marty.braithwaite@aus.ac.nz

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