AUS Tertiary Update
Staff excluded from teaching-centre governance
In a move which has raised the ire of university staff, representatives of tertiary sector unions have been inexplicably excluded from the governing board of Ako Aotearoa: The National Centre for Tertiary Teaching. The Centre is currently being established by a Massey University-led consortium of tertiary-education institutions with $4 million per year of government funding.
The Centre Establishment Group, which includes representatives of universities, polytechnics, wananga, industry training organisations and private training establishments, is proposing that power be vested in an “executive governance group” of about ten members.
The unions representing staff in the tertiary-education sector have been relegated, without consultation, to join an “Advisory Group”, along with students and other “major tertiary peak organisations”. This group, its designers claim, will “guide and monitor” the executive governance group in its work.
Association of University Staff (AUS) Academic Vice-President, Dr Tom Ryan, said that, in late 2005, the Teaching Matters Working Group’s final report to the Tertiary Education Commission on the proposed Centre recommended that AUS and the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education, as the two unions representing New Zealand tertiary-education teachers, should each nominate one of the board’s thirteen members. Under the current governance plan, however, it is clear that only the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee and its equivalents from the other sub-sectors of the tertiary scene will have voices on the governing board, along with Maori, an undefined “community at large” and Massey University as host institution”.
Dr Ryan said that, given that tertiary-education teaching staff will be both the main users and key employees of the new enterprise, it is bizarre that the Centre would end up being totally under the control of managers and corporate types. “It is another example of an institution being set up to deal with staff matters, but where staff have been entirely excluded from involvement at the top level,” he said. “AUS strongly encourages a governance model that is more suited to the public-tertiary-education sector in which Ako Aotearoa is located and with which it is primarily concerned.”
Dr Ryan said there was a danger that the proposed governance structure would allow the Centre and its funding to be hijacked by the non-university parts of the sector, including the private sector which had failed to invest its own money in the teaching development of staff.
Communication between the Interim Director of the Centre, Professor Tom Prebble, and the AUS has failed to make any progress towards resolving the issue at this stage.
Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. No redundancies while Canterbury reviews Arts College
2. National’s new education team
3. Wananga, union unite to bring tertiary education to low paid
4. King quick to laud PTEs
5. Oxford reforms face postal vote
6. Appeal Court orders University to recognise union
7. Turkish University suspends professor
8. Franco to lose honorary status
redundancies while Canterbury reviews Arts College
The University of Canterbury has told staff in its College of Arts that there will be no redundancies in 2007 during a year-long review aimed at establishing a means by which the College can sustain “vibrant academic development” within current budgetary constraints.
Earlier this year, the College cut eight academic positions to meet a 2006 budget shortfall of $1.4 million, and it had been feared that further redundancies would be on the cards, with the College facing a 2007 budget shortfall of $2 million.
In a letter to staff, College of Arts Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ken Strongman, said that there would be a radical re-design of the College, with the best of the traditional values being maintained and a vision that is shared and agreed by all of its members. Professor Strongman added that the review would include a high participation from staff, students and the community. “It will be a process that takes place from now through much of next year and will provide a long-term strategy,” he wrote. “The (unacceptable) alternative to this was a similar process to last year, with cuts throughout the College and the attendant lowering of morale, general scepticism and a possible damaged reputation.”
Included in the review are the establishment of an effective workload model, a review and restructuring of the Bachelor of Arts programme, a possible new structure for the College and a comprehensive and cohesive marketing plan.
Association of University Staff Canterbury Branch President, Dr David Small, said that it was encouraging to see the University wanting to engage in an open and participatory process to look at the future of the College. “It is clear from discussion at Council level, and with the Vice-Chancellor, that the University has recognised the importance of the Arts programme, and is prepared to put a long-term strategic plan ahead of short-term financial demands,” he said. “We look forward to the review re-engaging staff and AUS in constructive planning process for the College.”
Meanwhile, mediation is due to take place between the AUS and the University of Auckland on Monday, following the University’s decision to make a number of staff redundant in the University’s Business and Economics programme, while creating new positions into which AUS believes the “redundant” staff should have been redeployed.
National’s new education
The announcement of a new National Party “shadow-cabinet” line-up has seen the elevation of Katherine Rich to the Education portfolio, with former Education spokesperson Bill English taking the deputy leadership and Finance roles. A Dunedin-based list Member of Parliament, Ms Rich will be supported in her role by five Associate Education spokespeople, Dr Paul Hutchison (tertiary), Pansy Wong (international), Colin King (trade training), Paula Bennett (primary) and Alan Peachey (secondary).
Katherine Rich is a former spokesperson for Welfare, Broadcasting and Arts, Culture and Heritage, while Dr Hutchison, currently the Member of Parliament for Port Waikato, has been the spokesperson for Crown Research Institutes, Associate Health and Associate Research, Science and Technology. As well as tertiary education, Dr Hutchison is also the National Party spokesperson for ACC, Disability Issues, Food Safety, Policy on Children and CRIs.
Colin King, the Member of Parliament for Kaikoura, is a former champion shearer and currently a Blenheim-based farmer. He has a level four Certificate in Adult Teaching through the Open Polytech and is currently completing a Diploma in Agricultural Business Management. He also holds a Certificate in Woolhandling Systems from Massey University and has conducted training in the wool industry.
Now an Auckland-based Member of Parliament, Pansy Wong is listed as spokesperson on ACC, Ethnic Affairs and associate spokesperson for Immigration as well as the Education role. She lists among her interests karaoke singing and an appreciation of sake.
Wananga, union unite to bring
tertiary education to low paid
In an innovative move, Te Wananga o Aotearoa and the Unite Union are reported to have done a deal that will bring wananga tutors and union organisers together in Auckland to teach literacy, computing and business skills to some of the country's lowest-paid workers: cleaners, call centre workers, fast-food attendants and waiting staff.
The Wananga is providing free tuition, with computers students can take home, during a thirty-six-week computing course, according to the New Zealand Herald. It reports Wananga Regional Manager George Ngatai as saying that, if the scheme works, the Wananga would look to similar arrangements with unions in the rest of the country. “With a lot of the students, this is the first time they have ever been involved in a tertiary institution because of the fear of getting involved with a mainstream tertiary institution,” he said.
The Herald reports Unite Organising Director Matt McCarten as saying that the Union surveyed its members and found skills training was in the top three things that members wanted. “I did a bit of an informal survey amongst cleaners and found that a third of them are illiterate even in their own language. They don't feel confident to apply for other jobs because of their illiteracy,” he said.
All worker-students are doing the courses in their own time so far, but Mr McCarten hopes to persuade employers to release them for classes in paid time.
King quick to laud
National Party associate spokesperson on Education, Colin King, has been quick to nail his colours to the mast of private tertiary education, lauding private providers as having set the benchmark for education provision. At the same time, he has accused the Labour Government of trying to squeeze private training establishments (PTEs) out of the education market.
Mr King said that private providers were being denied natural justice following a decision by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) to approve student subsidy funding for only eight of forty-three PTEs. “The PTEs were told of TEC’s decision on 29 November and given just four days to seek a procedural review. Some providers are still waiting to receive the reasons behind TEC’s decisions,” he said. “Basic natural justice requirements, such as giving reasons for a decision and a reasonable chance to respond, are being ignored. This just goes to show Labour’s policy has been an ideologically driven exercise aimed at getting rid of private providers.”
In a recent contribution to an Independent Tertiary Institutions’ newsletter, Mr King says that, in the main, PTEs have been the star performers taking education and training to new and higher standards. “Their quest for excellence is, and will continue to be, essential in driving the transformative needs of the economy,” he wrote.
According to Mr King, PTEs have flourished despite hoops and hurdles from TEC, confusing signals from the Government and funding squeezes. “I am sure that the tenacity and innovation that characterises PTEs will put them in good heart as they prepare to surmount further challenges from the Labour Government,” he wrote.
Association of University Staff National President, Professor Haworth said that it was disappointing that Mr King had failed to acknowledge the important contribution played by public-tertiary-education providers. “Universities and polytechnics across the country place tremendous stress on both the quality and relevance of their programmes,” he said. “We hope that this overblown concern for PTEs does not signal future priorities in National Party thinking about tertiary education”.
Oxford reforms face postal vote
Oxford University’s Vice-Chancellor, John Hood, has one final chance to try and push through his proposed reforms for the 900-year-old institution after dons agreed to put the plans to a postal ballot. At least fifty members of Congregation, the dons’ parliament at the English University, are required to sign a petition backing a ballot. It is understood that about two hundred supported a second round of voting.
Ballot papers will be sent to more than 3,000 members of Congregation later this week. Voting will close at 4pm on December 18, with the results to be released the next day.
Last week, Dr Hood’s plans to restructure the University’s Council suffered a serious blow when they were defeated 730 votes to 456 by Congregation. The setback fuelled speculation that Dr Hood could be forced to resign.
Dr Hood has faced strong opposition over his plans to change the University’s constitution and install a ruling council with a majority of outside members. Until now, a Council of academics has run Oxford, like Cambridge, with final authority resting with Congregation.
Dr Hood, a former businessman and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Auckland, believes changes are needed to modernise the University, which has a turnover of more than £800 million a year and assets of £3 billion. He has argued that bringing in business expertise would also help Oxford appeal to alumni and other donors, as well as satisfying government critics.
Lord Patten, former Governor of Hong Kong and Conservative cabinet member who is the Chancellor of the University, has thrown his weight behind the reform proposals.
Appeal Court orders University to recognise
A Federal Appeals Court in the United States has upheld a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board that George Washington University engaged in an unfair labour practice by refusing to recognise the Union for its part-time professors.
In October 2004, a slim majority of adjunct professors at George Washington voted to unionise in an election certified by the National Labor Relations Board. However, the University refused to recognise the vote and challenged the election results, arguing that about thirty part-time instructors who should have been allowed to participate were denied the opportunity. The University said that the instructors who had been excluded had not had a “full and fair opportunity to vote”, and their ballots might have affected the outcome.
Around 700 of George Washington's 1,200 adjunct professors participated in the ballot, which was decided by a ten-vote margin.
In a two-page, unanimous decision, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the University had ample opportunity to make its case against the election's validity in earlier Labor-Board proceedings and had not done so.
The President of the union representing the adjunct professors said that the Union now hoped that the University would “focus on education, not litigation, and come to the bargaining table in good faith”.
A George Washington spokesperson, however, said the University was “disappointed” in the Court's decision, and that it would be “premature” to comment on the University’s next steps.
From the Chronicle of Higher Education
Turkish University suspends
Ankara’s Gazi University has suspended one of its professors after he criticised Turkey’s revered founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, at a recent conference. The suspension of Professor Atilla Yayla, a political scientist, has brought into sharp focus the country’s ambivalence toward freedom of speech even as it intensifies its campaign to join the European Union.
News reports said the professor was suspended after he referred to the late soldier-statesman as “that man”, criticised statues and pictures of Ataturk adorning government offices and said that an era of one-party rule under Ataturk had led to “regression rather than progress.”
Ataturk founded secular and Westward-looking Turkey from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire in 1923, after saving the country from invading Western powers. Regulations now require that his portraits hang in government offices and schools, and many Turks also hang his picture in their homes, shops and offices.
The University’s Chancellor has defended his decision, to suspend Yayla temporarily, until an investigation is completed. A professor “does not have to like Ataturk but I cannot allow a person who is opposed to the Republic’s main principles to educate students,” he said in a newspaper interview published on Monday.
Yayla’s comments are reported to have divided Turkey. A group of protesters sent the Chancellor a parcel containing sticky tape over the weekend, so that he may “gag professors”. Others petitioned the University, saying Yayla should not be allowed to teach.
Franco to lose honorary status
Spain’s Santiago de Compostela University is to remove General Franco from its list of honorary doctorates after the University’s ruling council voted unanimously for the move, saying the former dictator “lacked any scientific, artistic or cultural merit”.
General Franco was awarded the title in the Faculty of Science in 1965 by then rector Ángel Jorge Echeverri but about eighteen months ago, the University began looking for a legal avenue for removing the distinction. Staff librarian Francisco Redondo set up a website to collect signatures in favour of the move.
The University’s statutes do not provide for retroactive withdrawal of an award, but Franco’s name will be crossed off the official list of honour. “The University cannot rewrite history... but it can do things that will help correct dark episodes in the University's past and restore the dignity of this institution,” an official statement says.
Lourenzo Fernández Prieto, the University’s Vice-Rector of Institutional Relations, links the decision to wider moves to take a fresh look at Spain’s recent past. Over the past five years, descendants of people killed during the Spanish Civil War and under Franco have called for the identification and reburial of their relatives. Central Government is considering a law to compensate the victims.
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: www.aus.ac.nz. Direct enquires should be made to Marty Braithwaite, AUS Communications Officer, email: firstname.lastname@example.org