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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITECouncil member to stand against Chancellor
Massey University Council member, Dr Liz Gordon, has confirmed that she will stand against current Chancellor Nigel Gould as the fallout continues from the Council’s decision not to increase student tuition fees for 2005. She says there is a clear need to inject a more democratic approach into the University’s governing structure and foster improved relationships within the University community.
Dr Gordon’s decision comes after Mr Gould’s stinging criticism, reported in last week’s Tertiary Update, in which he described the Council as having let both itself and the University down in the decision not to increase fees. In a two-page letter to Council members, Mr Gould asserted that the Council had materially failed in its responsibilities, and that it had either shown scant regard for the planning process or demonstrated a lack of understanding of the University’s financial structures and its dynamics. He then called on Council members to demonstrate a higher level of commitment and consistency than had been the case to date.
Dr Gordon, an Alumni representative on the Council, said that there was strong concern by Council members about the Chancellor’s lack of judgement in making public statements which clearly condemned the majority vote against increasing the fees by 5 per cent, the maximum allowed under the Government’s fee-maxima policy.
The vote on the Chancellorship was expected be held at the University’s next Council meeting on Friday 3 December, but it is not now known whether this will proceed. A spokesperson said the University had no comment to make as it was still sorting out issues and was not in a position to comment.
It is expected that three new Government appointments made to the Council will be announced early next week, before any vote is taken.

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Academic audit pass mark for Auckland
2. Literacy standards too tough?
3. Maori student debt hits $1 billion
4. The Sir Ed scholarships
5. Top Harvard bosses earn $US25m
6. Australian university agrees to long-term settlement
7. UK poll reveals pressure to dumb down

Academic audit pass mark for Auckland
Much is happening that is positive and innovative, and students are attracted to the University because of its high reputation, but it should not take this reputation for granted according to the latest Academic Audit Report of the University of Auckland. The recently-released report focuses on teaching quality, programme delivery and the achievement of learning outcomes.
Acting Vice-Chancellor, Raewyn Dalziel, said that the Audit results highlighted the value of the University’s quality improvement efforts and pointed to areas where the University could tighten its procedures. “The Audit process required that the University undertake a comprehensive self-review,” she said. “We identified twenty-three initiatives that would enhance the University’s processes and procedures, and to which we would give priority over the next three years.”
The Director of the Audit Panel, John Jennings, said that the University had also undertaken specific initiatives to enhance the teaching and learning experience of students that were independent of the specific requirements of the Audit. “It was clear to the Panel that the University has been proactive in undertaking its own investigation of aspects of its operations when and as issues arise,” he said.
Amongst the initiatives and services which had impressed the Audit were the establishment of a Curriculum Commission to consider the institution’s academic programmes and teaching and learning structures, a Student Life Commission which looked at improving the student environment and experience and the development of other student facilities at the City and Grafton campuses.
Other initiatives which gained the Panel’s approval included the appointment of high-calibre faculty deans, the positive impact of the School Partnership and Equal Opportunities offices, proactive efforts to improve staff orientation and induction, the induction and training of part-time and casual staff, the selection, training and professional development of tutors and demonstrators, the emerging distinctive profile of the Tamaki campus and the commitment to improving its mentoring programme.
The Panel also noted the commitment of the University to ensuring that there was a strong link between research and teaching, particularly in light of the Performance-Based Research Fund assessments earlier in the year which had ranked the University of Auckland as New Zealand’s leading research-led university.
A full copy of the Audit is available at:

Literacy standards too tough?
New National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) literary standards required by locally-based overseas students for entry into New Zealand universities are threatening the lucrative international student market, according to an English language teachers’ organisation. In order to gain entry, students must gain eight credits in the NCEA level 2 English, the same as domestic students but more than required of other international students applying from overseas or from a foundation studies programme.
Kathryn Parker, secondary sector coordinator of the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages Aotearoa New Zealand (Tesolanz), said that the new standard was putting New Zealand’s market for overseas students at risk because many may choose to go to universities in other countries as a result of the change.
Ms Parker said it was unfair to require international students in New Zealand secondary schools to reach a higher standard than others. Students coming to university through foundation studies programmes are admitted on achieving a score of six in the International English Language Testing System which is designed for international students and is not as exacting as the new NCEA standard.
Industry teachers spoken to by Education Review said that the new NCEA standards for literacy do not suit the abilities of international students who neither have the cultural background to answer questions on literature nor the language skills to meet strict accuracy standards. Ms Parker said she doubted that international students with less then seven years learning in New Zealand would be able to meet the new NCEA standards.

Maori student debt hits $1 billion
Maori student debt has reached the $1 billion mark, and is increasing by an estimated $140 million a year, according to latest estimates from the Ministry of Education. It is a rate at which the level of indebtedness will reach $2 billion within seven years.
Dr Helen Potter, Kaitûhono for Te Mana Akonga, the National Mâori Tertiary Students’ Association said that the Maori student debt crisis was set to get worse if the Government did not take urgent action to reduce the ballooning levels of student debt. “The Government should tackle student debt by immediately introducing a living allowance for all students and ensuring that student fees go down, not up,” she said.
Dr Potter said that student loans are a barrier to Maori participation in tertiary education, particularly for degree-level courses and above, which are high-cost but which result in better jobs. “Maori are effectively being fenced out of this group,” she said.
Te Mana Akonga is holding a Maori Student Debt Summit at Victoria University on Monday 6 December to discuss and debate solutions to the debt crisis.

The Sir Ed scholarships
Sir Edmund Hillary has agreed to lend his name to Waikato University’s new Parallel Development Programme (PDP) Scholarships for high-performing all-rounders. Dubbed Waikato’s equivalent to the prestigious Rhodes Scholarships, the new Sir Edmund Hillary Scholarships will be worth between $3,000 and $5,000, each and will be available each year to around fifty academic high achievers who also excel at either arts or sports.
Waikato Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bryan Gould, said that he was extremely pleased that the University would have someone of Sir Edmund’s stature associated with the scholarships. “The more we can do to assist these sorts of young people achieve their best, the better for everyone concerned,” he said.
Professor Gould said the University believes that helping academically-able artists and sportspeople to achieve all-round excellence will deliver considerable benefits to the students themselves, the University in Hamilton and Tauranga, the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions in particular and the country in general.
On 14 December, the University is due to sign a memorandum of understanding with a range of community organisations in the Waikato which will be supporting the PDP by providing training to students.
Benefits for those awarded the scholarships would include having their tuition fees paid in full, receiving personal support from a high-performance manager, access to leading coaches or tutors in their area of sports or arts excellence, participation in elite development squads and competitions, free membership of the recreation centre along with customised fitness programmes and life skills and personal development coaching.

Top Harvard bosses earn $US25m
The two top managers at the Harvard Management Company, a subsidiary company which supervises Harvard’s endowment programme, are earning $US25 million each in salary and bonuses, according to figures released this week by Harvard University. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports, however, that the salary figures are significantly less than last year, when each of them earned more than $US35 million.
The University’s endowment programme returned what was described as a healthy 21.1 percent return on its endowment, currently valued at $US22.6 billion, in 2004. The median return on endowment investment across the top twenty-five American universities was 17.1 percent.
In recent years, some alumni have criticised the large payouts to the Harvard managers, saying that remuneration of the level reported is “inappropriate, indefensible, and corrosive to the values of the University.”
Harvard Management officials said each manager’s performance had exceeded the goals the company had set. “No one receives a bonus at HMC whose performance has not contributed substantial value-added to Harvard’s endowment.”

Australian university agrees to long-term settlement
Wollongong University is set to become the first Australian university to sign up to the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) strategy of ensuring that all collective employment agreements in the current bargaining round are binding until at least 2008. The strategy is designed to minimise the impact of the Australian Government’s new industrial relations strategy, which is intended to reduce collective bargaining in the university sector, and to outlaw strike action which could affect students.
Staff at Wollongong voted unanimously last week to accept the new deal, which gives a 28 percent increase in salaries between now and March 2008, and enhances parental leave provisions.
NTEU General Secretary Grahame McCullouch said that the Union was keen to extend the expiry date of all agreements for as long as possible. “The objective is to ensure the strongest possible legal protection of members’ employment conditions in the face of what appears to be a renewed bout of government interference in workplace arrangements in the sector,” he said. “Similar negotiations are also underway at more than a dozen universities, and the NTEU is confident of reaching agreements with most universities in the sector by mid-2005.”

UK poll reveals pressure to dumb down
First-hand evidence of the widespread dumbing-down of academic standards in the UK has emerged in an exclusive Times Higher survey, with academics reporting that they have been teaching students who were not capable of benefiting from degree-level study, and that they have been forced to pass students whom they say did not deserve to pass.
The survey of almost 400 academic staff found that more than 80 percent agreed that the squeeze on resources in higher education is having a general adverse effect on academic standards. The survey also found that 71 percent agreed that their institution had admitted students who were not capable of benefiting from degree-level study, almost half reported that they had felt obliged to pass a student whose performance did not really merit a pass and 42 percent said that decisions to fail students had been overruled at higher levels in the institution. Almost one in five admitted turning a blind eye to student plagiarism.
A spokesperson for Universities UK said that the survey represented only a small sample of academics, but added that the UUK had, for years, pressed the Government to increase funding in order to prevent a quality crisis.

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: . Direct enquires should be made to Marty Braithwaite, AUS Communications Officer, email:

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