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AUS Tertiary Update

VC rails against staff member
The University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, has publicly claimed that a member of his academic staff has made statements which are damaging to the University and bear no relationship to the truth.
The Vice-Chancellor’s comments follow a media statement from Association of University Staff (AUS) Auckland Branch spokesperson, Associate Professor Peter Wills, in which he said that the possibility of eventual redundancies among academic staff could not be ruled out in the event of the failure of plans to make money from partnerships with pharmaceutical companies and agribusiness in a proposed multi-million-dollar Institute for Innovation in Biotechnology (IIB).
In a letter to Associate Professor Wills, and widely copied to University staff, the Vice-Chancellor denied that there could be redundancies, saying that, if the IIB project failed to meet funding targets, it would not proceed. He also denied that the plan to “graft” a large business enterprise on to the University’s School of Biological Sciences was not discussed by the School's External Advisory Board and that decisions were being made in secret on the grounds of commercial sensitivity.
According to Associate Professor Wills, however, the Dean of Science has ruled out the possibility of the University buffering the School of Biological Sciences against any cash-flow problems. The Dean is quoted as telling staff to look at what is happening in the University’s Business School and Faculty of Arts, a clear reference to the redundancies occurring there as a result of financial pressures.
Associate Professor Wills says that staff have been continually seeking information on the IIB proposal since it was first mooted in 2004, and have gone to considerable lengths to bring potential deficiencies to the attention of management. He said that the School’s External Advisory Board had not been consulted because of an alleged conflict of interest.
“I reiterate my criticism and utterly refute the accusations from the Vice-Chancellor that my statements bear no relationship to the truth, or are damaging to the University,” said Associate Professor Wills. “The relationship between the School of Biological Sciences and the proposed IIB is not sufficiently robust to protect fully the integrity of academic programmes and the security of faculty positions. It is entirely proper for the AUS to express opinions on such matters publicly.”

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Government must act boldly, says NZVCC
2. Polytechnics also call for more funding
3. More jobs tumble across sector
4. Boost for export education in Asia and Middle East
5. US election result a rebuke to Republicans, says AAUP
6. UK science gets £75m funding boost
7. Canadian enrolments surpass one million
8. South Korean stem cell scientist sues for old job

Government must act boldly, says NZVCC
A report released on Tuesday by the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee says that the current pattern of investment in the tertiary-education sector is not optimal because too high a proportion of funding goes to support students and there has been “massive and non-strategic” growth in funding of the non-university sector. The report calls on the Government to be bold by transferring its investment from areas of low return to those promising high returns; it says that this is needed if New Zealand is to avoid its university system and economy lagging even further behind the rest of the developed world.
The report, An Investment Approach to Public Support of New Zealand’s Universities, shows that, while New Zealand’s public investment in tertiary education as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product is above the OECD average, universities have a very low income per student compared with similar overseas universities. It says that the majority of New Zealand’s tertiary-provider funding is now going into the non-university sector, with universities further penalised by a funding model which does not recognise adequately the statutory obligations of universities to teach in a research-rich environment.
According to the report, the “unusually high” proportion of the tertiary-education investment devoted to the financial support of students means that it does not contribute to institutional funding and quality. The report also says that uncontrolled growth of tertiary-education-provider funding has seen investment in the non-university sector increase by a “remarkable” $456 million per annum between 2000 and 2004, while investment in universities grew by only $165 million per annum over the same time.
NZVCC says the report uses a research-based argument to demonstrate the need to increase the current level of investment in New Zealand universities. It identifies the fact that increasing the level of that investment will produce significant benefits and calls on the Government to act decisively to correct the current imbalance in its tertiary-education-investment profile. The chief means of doing so would be a reduction in investment in non-degree tertiary education and an increase in public expenditure on education and research, bringing the greatest returns to all New Zealanders.
The report constitutes one of the NZVCC’s responses to the current tertiary-education reforms intended to support the Government’s economic-transformation agenda. It can be found at:

Polytechnics also call for more funding
At the same time universities apply pressure for more funding, the Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics of New Zealand (ITPNZ) says that the Government may need to increase its spending by more than $130 million during the next ten years just to meet the skill needs of four vocational areas. They are engineering and related technologies, social services, early-childhood education and health.
Vocational Education for Economic Transformation, a report commissioned for ITPNZ, suggests there will be a number of challenges for government agencies as the country moves towards a strategic approach that aligns the billions of dollars a year spent on vocational tertiary education with the needs of economic transformation.
Broadly speaking, vocational education refers to tertiary education that relates to job-specific competencies and it consumes more than $1 billion, or 73 percent, of available public funding each year. By sector, it comprises 87 percent of polytechnic funding, 71 percent for universities and 41 percent for wananga.
The report describes itself as providing a responsive feedback to the sort of things that institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs) would hope to see as progress is made towards a more strategic allocation of tertiary-education resources. It concludes that, if ITPs are to deliver strategic outcomes for government and society within a capped allocation of funds, then they will need either clear advice on what areas of vocational provision are critical for economic transformation or to be told that government will simply accept priorities developed by individual tertiary-education organisations in consultation with industry and other stakeholders.
Economic transformation is defined in the report as progressing New Zealand to a high-income, knowledge-based market economy which is both innovative and creative and provides a unique quality of life for all New Zealanders.
The report can be found at:

More jobs tumble across sector
More job losses from the tertiary-education sector have been reported this week, the most significant being up to forty predicted to go at the Christchurch Polytechnic and Institute of Technology (CPIT) and as many as twenty-five from the School of Languages at the Auckland institute of technology, UNITEC.
The Press reports that the CPIT Council has approved a budget for next year that allows for a $3.8 million loss, $2 million more than originally projected. As a result, management is looking at where it can save that $2 million before next year. CPIT Chief Executive, Dr Neil Barns, said that the reduction equated to the loss of about forty full-time-equivalent academic, general and management positions, although not all of those savings would come through redundancies. He expected only about ten compulsory redundancies.
Yesterday, in a move which has angered UNITEC staff, management advised that a quarter of the staff in the School of Languages is to go. Lloyd Woods, National President of the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education, said the proposed cuts were astonishing, particularly at a time the Government was prioritising literacy and language skills as critical to future prosperity and from a department which turned an operational surplus of $1.7 million last year.
Meanwhile, more staff at the University of Canterbury face the prospect of redundancy as a result of reviews of Student Services and Human Resources. As many as seven staff in Student Services have had their positions disestablished after earlier being led to believe from review documents that their jobs were safe. Four more positions are proposed to be disestablished from the University’s Human Resources section, including those of two senior human resources advisors. One staff member, who asked not to be named, said that the irony would not be lost on union members that, after several years of constantly reviewing other areas of the University, the Human Resources section appeared now to be turning on itself.

Boost for export education in Asia and Middle East
Education projects focused on opportunities in Asia and the Middle East have received a boost from the latest funding round of the Export Education Innovation Programme (EEIP), announced yesterday by the Minister for Tertiary Education, Dr Michael Cullen.
Dr Cullen said that supporting international education is an investment in New Zealand’s future. “The sector generates about $2 billion annually for New Zealand. It also strengthens our international links, and increases the skills, knowledge and productivity of our education providers,” he said. “If we are to transform New Zealand into a higher wage, knowledge-based economy it is important we seize these opportunities.”
The EEIP aims to help develop New Zealand’s international education sector as a world-class and innovative provider. The programme recognises that international educators looking at diversifying their services offshore need limited, but practical, support.
The contestable fund helps education providers that have a viable and innovative plan for offshore education.
The EEIP-funded projects are $85,332 to Massey University’s School of Aviation for aviation management training in South East Asia, $73,998 to AIS St Helens for New Zealand education online in Vietnam, $105,000 to the University of Otago Wellington School of Medicine for a collaborative project with the Harvard Medical School Dubai Centre in occupational medicine, continuing medical education and continuing professional development in the Middle East and $125,000 to the Universal College of Learning for flexible educational delivery into India.
Dr Cullen said that the projects will help showcase the abilities of New Zealand’s tertiary institutions to the world and add to our growing reputation as a quality provider of tertiary training.

US election result a rebuke to Republicans, says AAUP
The American Association of University Professors has been quick to say that the election result in the United States is a rebuke to the Republican Party which, it says, has governed on the basis of extremism and exclusion.
In a series of media statements released overnight, AAUP says that voters rejected candidates who enacted or supported policies that had hurt ordinary Americans and had done incalculable damage to the country. The statements said that the Republican Party had ran up record deficits, while at the same time hampering investment in national priorities like education and leaving a long-term legacy of economic recklessness. “The Party served not as a model for the world, but as an example of what unchecked power can yield,” said Edward J. McElroy, AAUP National President.
Mr McElroy said that voters in Maine, Nebraska and Oregon had soundly rejected so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) initiatives, handing another decisive defeat to the well financed but unpopular effort to restrict state funding for public services.
TABOR is a state constitutional amendment that requires government spending to adhere to a rigid formula which, according to Mr McElroy, resulted in overcrowded schools, soaring college tuitions, crumbling roads and shortages in emergency-response and healthcare services. “Let’s hope that TABOR backers finally have gotten the message: Americans don’t want to see public services weakened. They want what most citizens are already getting—high-quality public services at a fair and reasonable cost,” he said.

UK science gets £75m funding boost
The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has announced an extra £75 million to help prop up ailing university science departments in the United Kingdom. The announcement comes after a spate of science courses came under threat at leading universities, including Reading, Exeter and Newcastle, as fewer students choose degrees in Physics and Chemistry.
HEFCE says the extra money, which will be available from the 2007-08 academic year, will boost university teaching in these vulnerable subjects, which are of key strategic importance for Britain. The three-year funding package will provide a further £1,000 per student on courses in Chemistry, Physics, Chemical Engineering and Mineral, Metallurgy and Materials Engineering.
Responding to the announcement, the University and College Union (UCU) said that the additional funding should be made available immediately, warning that some courses, students and staff could not afford to wait. UCU joint General Secretary Sally Hunt said that, in less than two-weeks’ time, the Physics Department at Reading University will face closure because of a short-term financial crisis across the institution. “Physics at Reading has buoyant student numbers, an international reputation for research and is renowned as one of the best teaching departments in the country. If it is closed, it will join the seventy other university science departments that have been axed since 1999,” she said. “New money to save strategically important departments is always to be welcomed, however, the new funding does not arrive until 2007, which will be too late to save Reading’s Physics Department - exactly the type of department it should be protecting.”
From the Education Guardian and UCU

Canadian enrolments surpass one million
Enrolment in Canadian universities surpassed the one-million mark for the first time during the 2004-05 academic year, according to data released last week by Statistics Canada. The rising numbers of foreign students and a growing number of young people have pushed student numbers to the one-million mark after seven consecutive years of record enrolments.
Women continue to outnumber men at universities (585,200, or 58 percent, compared to 429,000), even though their enrolments are reported to have increased at a slightly slower pace.
Enrolment in doctoral programmes experienced the biggest one-year jump, by 7.9 percent to 34,500 students. This is the only area where men still outnumber women, but their dominance is waning. In 2004-05, men made up 54 percent of students pursuing a PhD, compared to 61 percent a decade earlier.
Enrolment of students aged between eighteen and twenty-four increased by 2.9 per cent from the previous year to over 654,000. They accounted for 64 percent in 2004-05, up from 59 percent ten years earlier.
Foreign students represented about one-quarter of the growth in total enrolment from the previous year and made up 7.4 percent of all students, nearly double the proportion in 1994-95. Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec attracted about three-quarters of all foreign students.
From CanWest News Service 2006

South Korean stem cell scientist sues for old job
Disgraced South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk, whose team faked embryonic stem-cell research in an international scandal, has filed a lawsuit against Seoul National University (SNU) to get his old job back. SNU fired Hwang in March and he is currently on trial, having been charged by the Government with embezzling research funds.
Hwang's attorney, Lee Geon-haeng, said the lawsuit claims SNU unfairly dismissed Hwang due to “distorted evidence”. The lawsuit says that Hwang’s case was not subject to an impartial and legal procedure and that SNU chose to use extreme measures of dismissing a scientist while failing to evaluate the objective truth and his public accomplishments.
Hwang resigned his teaching position at SNU’s School of Veterinary Medicine in December after preliminary reports surfaced showing the fraudulent nature of the studies. His team had supposedly advanced embryonic-stem-cell research by cloning a human embryo and creating patient-specific embryonic stem cells that could overcome immune-system-rejection issues. Neither claim turned out to be true and the medical journal Science revoked both papers the team submitted that contained the false studies.
Though he is on trial and could face years in prison if convicted on the embezzlement charges, Hwang has resumed his animal-cloning work at a privately funded research lab in Seoul.

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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