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AUS Tertiary Update

AUS WEB SITEGreen light for national salary bargaining in universities
University staff have voted overwhelmingly to support the negotiation of national collective employment agreements in the next bargaining round. The ballot, conducted on a university-by-university basis, endorsed a recommendation by the Association of University Staff (AUS) to move from enterprise-based bargaining at each university campus to the negotiation of one national collective agreement for academic staff and another for general staff employed in the seven traditional universities.
1509 (94.3%) of the 1600 academic staff who participated in the ballot voted in support of the proposal, and 1442 (92.5%) of the 1558 general staff also voted to support national bargaining.
The result means that bargaining with the universities will be initiated early in the New Year, and it is expected that formal negotiations will commence in February.
AUS General Secretary, Helen Kelly, said she was delighted with the result. “The high number of those voting, along with the high level of support for the proposal, has given the AUS a very clear mandate to enter national bargaining with university employers, and we look forward to engaging in constructive dialogue with them in the New Year.”
“It also shows that university staff appreciate the very clear link between funding and salaries, and support the view that the Government has a responsibility to increase sector funding significantly in order to resolve long-standing problems with salary levels.”
Ms Kelly said that the Government had given a clear signal that national employment agreements could be used as a mechanism to ensure that any additional public funding delivered to universities would be used to address salary disparities. “The Minister has said that he is interested in a targeted approach to salaries because, although tertiary education funding has increased by 46.4 percent in real terms since 1999, it has not adequately found its way into salaries.”
Ms Kelly said she expected university employers to support the decision of union members and recognise that the salary crisis in the sector was an issue that would only be resolved on a national basis, and with the co-operation of university employers, unions and the Government. “We have provided them with the mechanism to make this happen,” she said

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Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Highest-ever participation in tertiary education
2. Meanwhile, the battle of the press statements continues
3. NZVCC survey reveals few graduates located overseas
4. Fee-maxima exemptions raise students’ ire
5. Nottingham boycott lifted
6. Bahrain to segregate the sexes

Highest-ever participation in tertiary education
More than 13 percent of the population aged fifteen and over was enrolled in formal tertiary education in 2003, the highest-ever participation rate in New Zealand’s history, according to a Ministry of Education report, New Zealand’s Tertiary Education Sector: Profile & Trends, which was released this week. It showed that there were some 430,000 domestic and 47,000 international tertiary education students enrolled in study for formal qualifications in 2003. In addition, there were nearly 127,000 workers engaged in industry-based training, including 6,250 Modern Apprentices.
The 295 page report, which is the sixth annual comprehensive survey compiled by the Ministry, provides an overview of the performance and characteristics of the sector, and is accompanied by a 150 page statistical appendix.
The report revealed that polytechnics were the largest tertiary education providers, in terms of the raw number of domestic enrolments, with 42 percent of all students in 2003. Because many polytechnic students are enrolled in short-term or part-time courses, universities still constitute the largest type of tertiary education provider with 39 percent of equivalent full-time students. Wananga students made up 15 percent of domestic student enrolments and, for the first time, outnumbered students at private training establishments (PTEs).
With around 58,500 students in 2003, PTE numbers were 11 percent lower than in 2002, and college of education student numbers remained reasonably stable at around 13,500. Universities grew by only 1 percent, or about 1,000 students, while polytechnics grew by around 29 percent to reach 178,000 students. Much of the polytechnic growth was reported to be in shorter community education-type courses.
Nearly 104,000 domestic students completed more than 112,000 qualifications in 2003, a 15 percent increase over the previous year. However, while an estimated 40 percent of domestic students who had started a qualification in 1999 had completed it by the end of 2003, 50 percent of those who started at the same time had left without completing by 2003, and a further 10 percent were still studying.
The report and appendix can be found at:

Meanwhile, the battle of the press statements continues
In what has become one of the most persistent media battles between the Government and parliamentary opposition, the National Party spokesperson on Education, Bill English, has used the Profiles & Trends report to issue a flurry of press statements criticising the Government’s performance in the sector. Mr English says the report confirms that Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary), Steve Maharey, has thrown away $3.2 billion on tertiary education, with “self-esteem courses, dodgy computer training and low-level cultural courses” accounting for most of the increase in student numbers and spending.
Mr English, who last week described Mr Maharey as a chihuahua, says it is scandalous that 70 percent of students enrolled in sub-degree tertiary courses will never finish them. “When Steve Maharey launched the Tertiary Education Commission, he said it would bring clear strategic direction to the system as a whole and would ensure that student enrolments are concentrated in areas of high performance and high strategic relevance,” he wrote. “Unless his strategy was a 70 percent failure rate, this report makes an absolute mockery of that statement and the Minister.”
Fresh from describing him as a wet lettuce leaf, Mr Maharey retorted that Mr English had again got his facts wrong. “Mr English quotes a 70 percent non-completion rate for students who started diploma and certificate courses in 1999, but fails to point out that more than two-thirds of those students had dropped out by the end of 1999. As I recall, that was when his Party was last in Government,” he said. “Once again Mr English is making ludicrous claims without bothering to check the facts. Clearly the only thing he can be relied upon to do is to get it wrong.”

NZVCC survey reveals few graduates located overseas
A relatively low proportion of New Zealand university graduates are residing overseas, according to an annual survey carried our by the country’s eight universities. Only 586, or around 6 percent, of the 10,136 graduates who responded to the 2004 Vice-Chancellors’ Committee University Graduate Destinations Survey reported being overseas six months after being eligible to graduate. It is in stark contrast to an Australasian survey of 7,000 final-year students, reported last week, which concluded that one-third of graduates would leave New Zealand to work overseas.
Of the respondents to the NZVCC survey, 59 percent reported full-time employment in New Zealand, with a further 23 percent continuing in full-time study here. Of the 586 graduates located overseas, 365 were employed full-time, 81 were studying full-time and 88 reported being neither employed not studying.
The survey, which has been running since 1973, asks university graduates to identify their circumstances in regard to location, employment status, study status and whether they are seeking employment on a full-time or part-time basis.
The 2004 survey questionnaire was sent to 28,973 students, including 3,473 international students, who were eligible to graduate from a New Zealand university in 2003. The survey response rate for New Zealand graduates was 40 percent and for international students, 21 percent.

Fee-maxima exemptions raise students’ ire
Students have responded angrily to a decision by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) to allow the University of Otago to increase its 2005 student tuition fees for medicine, dentistry and physiotherapy by 10 percent, twice the level allowed under the Government’s fee-maxima policy.
Medical students say they are distraught at the decision, which will see their annual tuition fees rise to $11,000 next year. “This is an appalling decision, not just for medical students and their families, but for New Zealand’s health system,” said Jesse Gale, President-elect of the New Zealand Medical Students’ Association. “We are very disappointed about the TEC decision. Otago University has failed to meet the TEC’s criteria for exemptions, and we believe this decision is both unreasoned and unjust.”
The TEC has also approved applications by the Christchurch and Dunedin Colleges of Education to increase their fees by 10 percent. The TEC is still in discussion with the University of Auckland over its application to increase fees by 10 percent for medicine and health sciences, and is yet to make a decision.
TEC General Manager Ann Clark said that, in order for exemptions to be granted, an institution had to show that the cost of providing a course is not being met by income for the course. It also has to show that either the organisation is unable to cross-subsidise the course from surpluses or, alternatively, that not increasing the fees would compromise progress towards the Tertiary Education Strategy and the Statement of Tertiary Education Priorities, or other critical elements of the tertiary reforms.
New Zealand University Students’ Association Co-President Fleur Fitzsimons said the decision was undemocratic and showed contempt for students. “This Government-imposed, back-room fee increase is the worst possible news for debt-laden students, and should be the final nail in the coffin for Labour’s failed fee-maxima policy,” she said.

Nottingham boycott lifted
The Association of University Teachers (AUT) has lifted its academic boycott of Nottingham University in the United Kingdom following extensive discussions between the Union and University management in an attempt to re-establish effective negotiations. It is understood that proposals have been put to the University Council which would allow new negotiations to take place in what has been described as a climate of constructive engagement. This includes setting out a framework for detailed negotiations on job-grading and pay progression.
The decision may bring to an end a long-running and bitter dispute which saw the boycott, or “greylisting”, imposed after the University refused to negotiate new salary rates and grading arrangements in line with a national agreement reached earlier in the year. Instead, it sought to introduce performance-based pay which would have resulted in reductions in earnings of nearly £9,000 over six years for some, and remove the entitlement to belong to the national university pension scheme for others.
The AUT has sent a message of thanks to all of those, including AUS members, who supported the dispute over the past few months.

Bahrain to segregate the sexes
Bahrain, the most liberal of the Gulf States, is to segregate the sexes on its university campuses, according to the Times Higher Education Supplement. Despite opposition from the Education Minister and students, the new law, which requires male and female students to be taught separately, has been passed by the Bahranian Chamber of Deputies. Libraries and cafeterias will also be segregated.
Supporters of the new legislation have argued that it is designed to protect women, saying that, despite 67 percent of students being women, many are deterred from applying to study for fear that they may come into contact with men. “I am a women’s rights activist, this is my gift to them,” said one of the (male) legislators.
Critics of the segregation say that it is another move towards the “Islamisation” of Bahrain, and it will only be a matter of time before the segregation extends from the university campuses to society.

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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