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AUS Tertiary Update

Universities to play a strong role in economic transformation
Delegates to the Association of University Staff Annual Conference have been told that universities have a vital contribution to make towards achieving the Government’s goals of accelerating the transformation of New Zealand’s economy and achieving New Zealanders’ broader social and cultural aspirations.
Speaking to the Conference on Tuesday, Dr Cullen also said that the $26 million funding for salaries achieved through the tripartite process this year was an initial contribution to address some immediate funding issues to better enable universities to remain internationally competitive.
In an address outlining the Government’s tertiary-education reforms, Dr Cullen foreshadowed changes to legislation, saying that, at the moment, the sector is structured for competition among institutions, rather than for collaboration on national economic priorities. “The new approach will see the tertiary sector as a network of collaborating institutions, not as competitors,” he said.
Dr Cullen said that proposed legislative changes would give effect to the Government’s decision to implement the Tertiary Education Strategy, which contains the Government’s overall priorities for the sector and three-year plans agreed between individual tertiary-education organisations and the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC). These plans will set out what TEC will fund and how the organisation will meet the priorities identified in the Tertiary Education Strategy.
As part of the changes, funding will move to a three-year cycle, no longer shaped ad hoc by current-year enrolment patterns and inducements.
Conference delegates were told by Dr Cullen that he expected to see university staff playing a positive role in the development of plans. “AUS members are important stakeholders in the process of achieving these goals,” he said. “Your views are already influencing the Tertiary Education Commission, and I’m pleased to see the relationship between you developing well.”
As well as collaboration among institutions, Dr Cullen pointed to increased collaboration among colleagues across the sector and expressed a wish for more collaboration between staff and management within organisations. “The Tripartite Forum [among unions, the Government and vice-chancellors] is a good first step. All three parties have a commitment to help address the funding issues of universities, with a view to increasing the quality of teaching and research,” he said. “I look forward to continuing my discussions with you and the vice-chancellors over the next year.”
Dr Cullen’s speech can be found at:

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Single tertiary-education-sector union proposed
2. University of Technology Bill on the table
3. Unitec loses final battle over university bid
4. Summit says financial stress rife
5. Waikato University to introduce “built for purpose” degrees
6. Dons vote against managerialist reform
7. Protests over £15m arms shares
8. Supreme Court refuses to hear professor’s case
9. Mickey Mouse courses on the rise

Single tertiary-education-sector union proposed
The prospect of the formation of a single tertiary-education-sector union has moved forward with a decision of the AUS Annual Conference to support, in principle, an amalgamation between AUS and the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE). As a result, a working group will be set up early next year and discussions will be held with ASTE over the likely shape of a new organisation to represent staff in the country’s universities, polytechnics, institutes of technology and wananga.
AUS National President, Professor Nigel Haworth, said that a catalyst for renewed consideration of a tertiary-education sector union was the mergers between universities and colleges of education and the reclassification of AUT as a university. “Over one-quarter of ASTE's membership is now employed in universities and that proportion will increase with the integration of the last remaining colleges of education at Christchurch and Dunedin with the local universities,” he said. “Amalgamation will increase our industrial capacity, particularly with the potential inclusion of AUT in the national bargaining process, and it will certainly allow for a better use of the unions' resources”
Professor Haworth said that, from a policy and political point of view, an amalgamation would present some real advantages, with AUS and ASTE having much in common and both wanting a strong, well-funded public-tertiary-education sector. “A new union will create a clearer identity for the tertiary-education sector as a whole, while also allowing for the unique characteristics of each part of the sector to be retained and enhanced.”
It is expected that, by around May next year, a more detailed merger proposal would be prepared for discussion at branches, following which a final proposal would be prepared for discussion at the 2007 conferences of both organisations. Professor Haworth said he expected that the AUS Council would recommend a process of balloting AUS members before any final decision is made. If adopted, the merger would be effected by around November 2008.
Meanwhile, merger discussions are occurring between ASTE and TIASA, a union representing general staff in the polytechnic sector and at AUT. Similar mergers have been completed in both Australia and the United Kingdom.

University of Technology Bill on the table
Despite clear indications from the Government that it does not intend to establish more universities in this country, New Zealand First Education spokesperson, Brian Donnelly, is pressing ahead with a private member’s bill aimed at creating a new category of tertiary institution, a university of technology.
Mr Donnelly said that the purpose of the Bill, which was introduced into Parliament last week, is to amend the Education Act to provide for the establishment of the new category of institution. He suggested that the addition of such a category would help to bridge a significant legal gap within the current structure of the tertiary-education sector, while enhancing flexibility and encouraging differentiation. “Universities of technology will raise workplace skills and knowledge to meet a broad range of industry, business and community needs, and place us on a level playing field with overseas education providers,” he said.
Mr Donnelly said that the Bill, if enacted, would enable those technical institutes with strong graduate and post-graduate programmes to have parity of esteem for their quality degrees without having to become a fully-fledged university.
Despite it being clear that the Bill is specifically intended to help institutes of technology gain the same status as tech-turned-university, AUT, Mr Donnelly says that his University of Technology Bill would not open the floodgates to allow every technical institute in the country to aspire to become one.
The Chief Executive of Auckland technical institute Unitec, Dr John Webster, has welcomed the Bill, saying it would help New Zealand keep pace with international trends and encourage differentiation among tertiary institutions. Dr Webster has, for some years, unsuccessfully attempted to have Unitec classified as a university. “There is a real need for a university, with its mission enshrined in law, that offers the vocational and professionally based education informed by applied research that traditional universities do not, and at a higher level than the polytechnic sector is able to,” he said.

Unitec loses final battle over university bid
The Court of Appeal has delivered what may be the final word in a six-year battle between the Government and Unitec over that institution’s failed bid to become reclassified as a university. The Court has allowed an appeal by the Attorney General, on behalf of the Minister and Associate Minister of Education, challenging an earlier High Court ruling that the Minister had unlawfully suspended Unitec’s application for university status between May 2000 and January 2003 and, in doing so, breached both the Education and Bill of Rights Acts.
In turn, Unitec cross-appealed, arguing that the real reason for the suspension of its application for university status was that there was a government policy that there be no more universities, and that the High Court’s finding, that the unlawful suspension was confined to the period between May 2000 and January 2003, was wrong.
Unitec did not appeal a final decision by the Government, that Unitec would not be reclassified as a university.
In a unanimous finding, the Court of Appeal has ruled that the Minister was under no time constraint on making a final decision whether to recommend university status. “Furthermore, we are satisfied that there was no legal error in the decision made by the Minister to suspend the process in that it was open to him to defer making an eventual decision pending the outcome of the Government’s policy review,” the ruling said.
The cross-appeals by Unitec were dismissed.

Summit says financial stress rife
A one-day summit organised by the Quality Public Education Coalition has concluded that financial stress is rife across the tertiary-education sector, with regional polytechnics continuing to struggle financially and universities often “technically” bankrupt.
The summit found that the gap between what it describes as the birthright and reality of access for all New Zealanders to free, high-quality public education, from early childhood to tertiary education, is “frighteningly large” and increasing in all sectors at an alarming rate. A report from the summit says that there is an increasing and wasteful cost of compliance as education moves to a “low trust” model rather than one based on the professionalism of the people working in education.
The rising cost of tertiary education was identified in a report from the summit as a key area of concern, with tuition fees continuing to increase alarmingly since the freeze on fees was lifted, despite the Government’s fee-maxima policy. The report said that, for every year since the fee freeze was lifted, the average fee increase has been much greater than the rate of inflation. “Typical fees are around $4000 per year, student debt stands at $8.7 billion and the average owed to IRD by students who have loans is $15,883,” it says. “New Zealand’s repayment threshold stands at $17,160 while in Australia it stands at $37,335 – this is particularly harsh on low-income earners.”
The report concludes that students from low-income communities increasingly see tertiary education as a burden and a source of debt rather than as a way forward to better opportunities. “Tertiary education,” it says “is increasingly for the rich, with New Zealanders from low-income communities sidelined.”

Waikato University to introduce “built for purpose” degrees
The University of Waikato says it has streamlined its academic programmes to give students greater interdisciplinary breadth and flexibility in their subject choices to better equip them to compete in the global marketplace.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Roy Crawford says the changes are far-reaching, aligning Waikato with major institutions such as Melbourne University, which will introduce a similar model in 2008, and best practice at many universities in the United Kingdom and United States.
More than seventy individually named certificates and diplomas have been replaced by six generic qualifications, increasing the options available to students while, at the same time, reducing the level of complexity in administering these qualifications.
A key change is the introduction of a standard 120-point requirement for all three-year bachelors degree majors, overcoming the difficulties sometimes associated in universities with the lack of a consistent structure for degree majors.
Professor Crawford says that the change means that the silo degree has been superseded by “built for purpose” degrees. “Streamlining the structure of our academic programmes heralds a new ethos at Waikato: a university-wide approach to individual students’ academic programmes and genuinely interdisciplinary study. This will enable students to tailor easily their subject choices to their employment aspirations or interests,” he said. “Incorporation of work placements in most degrees and opportunities for overseas exchanges also will allow students to combine their theoretical learning with practical experience.”

Dons vote against managerialist reform
Academics at Oxford University in England have voted by a significant majority against proposed reforms which could have handed financial control of the institution to outsiders. Vice-Chancellor John Hood wanted to change the 900-year-old tradition of the University’s self-governing Council and bring in external members to oversee finances, but his plans took a hammering when members of the ruling body voted 730 to 456 against them.
At present, the University’s principal decision-making body is the Council, a twenty-six-member board, including four lay members, charged with overseeing everything from academic policy to strategic and financial planning. Council members are appointed by the Congregation, made up of 3,700 members of the academic staff, each of whom is attached to one of the University’s thirty-nine colleges. The Vice-Chancellor proposed transferring control to a new Council of fifteen trustees, a majority of whose members would be “outsiders”, that is, individuals with business and management experience but no direct connection to the University.
Members have six days to call for the matter to go to a postal ballot which could potentially reverse the result.
Meanwhile, academics at Cambridge University claim that senior managers are quietly trying to implement governance reforms similar to those at Oxford. Vice-Chancellor Alison Richard has set up an advisory group which is understood to have recommended that two more external members be added to Cambridge’s governing Council. This could also mean that the number of elected academics is decreased.
At the moment, Cambridge has twenty-five members of Council, sixteen of whom are elected by academics. There are seven members who are not elected by staff, including two “outsiders”, the chancellor, vice-chancellor and three student representatives.
From the BBC and Education Guardian

Protests over £15m arms shares
Universities in the United Kingdom are facing mounting pressure from academics and students to call a halt to their multi-million-pound investments in arms companies. A report by an organisation, Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), published earlier this month, reveals that UK universities invest more than £15 million in the arms trade.
CAAT used the Freedom of Information Act to force universities to divulge how many shares they held in arms firms.
The highest-reported arms-trade investor is the University College London (UCL), which holds shares worth £1.59 million, followed by Cambridge University's Trinity Hall, which has arms shares worth £1.25 million, and Liverpool University, which has shares worth £1.21 million. Other universities with large investments are Hull, York and Manchester Universities, King's College London and Oxford’s New College, Nuffield College and St Hilda’s.
Some forty-five universities and university colleges admitted that they owned shares in at least one top arms firm, while thirty-three universities refused to divulge the information.
Although staff at UCL are lobbying senior management to drop arms investments altogether, the Vice-Chancellor, Malcolm Grant, has written a defence of arms investments in a staff newsletter published this week. In it, he wrote that UCL invested in companies that had involvement with the supply of strategic parts of weapons systems, but that did not “manufacture entire weapons systems themselves.”
From the Education Guardian

Supreme Court refuses to hear professor’s case
The Supreme Court in the United States has refused to hear a case filed by a Law professor at DePaul University who wants the Federal Bureau of Investigation to get rid of its file on him. The professor was arguing that the FBI should expunge its records on him, in part because they describe actions that are protected by the First Amendment and the Federal Privacy Act of 1974.
The professor argued that records relating to activities in the 1970s, which he received in 2001 after filing a Freedom of Information Act request, were outdated and inaccurate.
Although the professor is not currently the subject of any investigation, the Court ruled that it is not improper for the FBI to hold on to the records.
The professor had previously sued the Central Intelligence Agency, asking that it expunge its records on him. In 2005 the Supreme Court refused to hear that case.
From the Chronicle of Higher Education

Mickey Mouse courses on the rise
Despite being described as “Mickey Mouse” degrees with little academic merit, qualifications such as surf science and technology are riding the crest of the economic wave, according to the United Kingdom vice-chancellors’ committee, Universities UK. Degrees in computer games technology, golf management, brewing and distilling and cosmetic science, developed in consultation with Elizabeth Arden, are among those flourishing, says the group in a report aimed at proving how closely higher education is working with employers to provide vocational skills.
Drummond Bone, President of Universities UK, said courses once described as ”Mickey Mouse” were now the “mouse that roared”.
Elsewhere, in Israel, the University of Haifa is offering a bachelors degree in medical clowning’ which it says enables the opening up of avenues of communication with patients that medical staff don’t succeed with or don’t know how to connect with.
Italian universities are also reported to have caught the “wacky degree” bug, with a bewildering range of unregulated masters that has grown fourfold since 2001 and by 24 per cent in just the past year. They include courses in international rugby management, language and values in television films, perfumes, scents and natural aromas, food design and management of large wild mammals in the Alps.
From United Press International, Education Guardian, Times Higher Education Supplement

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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