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AUS Tertiary Update

Iraqi unionist to address AUS Conference
A leading Iraqi trade unionist, Abdullah Muhsin, will address the Association of University Staff Annual Conference in late November about the plight of educationalists in Iraq and the development of trade unions in that country. He will also speak to meetings at Victoria, Canterbury and Auckland Universities while he is in New Zealand.
A former student-union activist, Abdullah Muhsin fled Iraq in 1978 after Saddam Hussein waged a campaign of terror against that country’s civil-society organisations independent of Ba’athist control, including trade unions, student groups and women’s organisations. Mr Muhsin is currently the International Representative of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers, formerly known as the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, whose 200,000-strong membership is drawn from a wide range of ethnic and religious communities organised throughout Iraq’s core industries.
Mr Muhsin recently attended the Education International Congress in Berlin, where he spoke of the courage and dedication of Iraqi teachers in attempting to reconstruct that country’s education system in spite of violence, sectarian interference, international terrorism and the failure of internal Iraqi political forces to work together in reconstructing civil society. In what was described as an exceptionally moving speech, he criticised the failure of the Iraqi Government to effectively address education problems and social issues and told delegates of the personal hardship and suffering experienced by teachers, students and ordinary families in their struggle for survival and to establish reasonable living standards.
Mr Mushin says that Iraq’s economy has been pulverised by Saddam’s wars, bled by sanctions and further devastated by the invasion, looting and rampant corruption. He said that Iraq’s economy needs emergency investment and widespread reconstruction and added that free and independent unions must play an important role in making sure investment in Iraq provides quality jobs and decent public services. He says, however, that while unions are important to Iraq’s democratic future and national identity, the United States occupation forces have waged a campaign of harassment and intimidation against the unions.
Mr Mushin will address the AUS Conference at 1.30pm on Monday 26 November. Details of other campus and public meetings will be advertised as details are finalised.

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Polytechs face major funding cuts
2. Spotlight turns to TEC salaries
3. Grim time for REAP staff
4. Medical Training Board unfit to practice, say students
5. Higher-education and training-leaving age supported by ITPNZ
6. Immediate action needed, say students
7. UC ordered to repay students $33 million
8. Right to speak under threat
9. £1,000 gap between men’s and women’s pay after graduation
10. The times they are a–changin’

Polytechs face major funding cuts
Nearly half of New Zealand’s polytechnics and institutes of technology face cuts to student numbers and public funding as the Tertiary Education Commission moves to curtail out-of-region competition and stop budget blowouts, according to the latest edition of Education Review.
Of the thirteen institutions that responded to questions from Education Review, eight will face cuts worth, in total, around $11 million in government funding, or the equivalent of 2,512 equivalent-full-time students (EFTS). Worst hit will be the Southern Institute of Technology(SIT), which will lose as much as $8 million, or 26 percent, of its funding, equating to funding for around 1300 students. Others institutions hit hard include Tai Poutini Polytechnic on the South Island West Coast, Aoraki Polytechnic in Timaru and the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology.
The cuts appear to be almost entirely in the out-of-region provision, or courses that are offered in the geographical locations of other polytechnics, with the cuts faced by SIT a result of its head-to-head competition with the Christchurch Polytechnic and Institute of Technology (CPIT) over the provision of trades training in Canterbury. SIT Chief Executive, Penny Simmonds, is reported as saying that the TEC’s planned cuts would see between a half and two-thirds of its EFTS cut from its Christchurch campus and other cuts to its mixed-medium distance education programmes. Mr Simmonds said, however, that SIT is determined to maintain its zero-fee policy.
Those institutions expected to have their funding increased include Northland, Waikato and Waiariki Institutes of Technology, Tairawhiti Polytechnic and Ucol. It is understood that next year’s funding for CPIT, the Open Polytechnic and the Western Institute of Technology are still under negotiation.
Meanwhile, it is reported that details of the 2008 funding arrangements for universities remain under wraps, with the TEC refusing to clarify suggestions that those institutions may be under-funded to the tune of $13 million. That information is expected to become available in late November.
The full Education Review story can be read on its subscriber website at:

Spotlight turns to TEC salaries
While the salaries of vice-chancellors came under scrutiny last week, this week the spotlight has been turned on the Tertiary Education Commission with the release of information showing that the number of TEC staff being paid more than $100,000 more than doubled between 2003-04 and 2006-07. At its inception, twenty TEC staff were paid more than $100,000 and, while there were twenty-nine in 2005-06, the number had increased to fifty in 2006-07.
Responses to written parliamentary questions from the National Party spokesperson for Tertiary Education, Dr Paul Hutchison, show that not only has the number of people receiving $100,000 or more increased substantially, but the highest salary paid to a TEC staff member has increased from $181,000 between 2003 and 2005 to more than $404,000 last year. In providing the information, the former Minister for Tertiary Education, Dr Michael Cullen, has pointed out that, until the 2005-06 year, the Commission did not have a chief executive. He added that the appointment of a chief executive and deputy chief executive had significantly changed the salary profile.
In response to the information, Dr Hutchison has labelled the TEC as yet another government agency rewarding its staff with rocketing salaries. “Labour has presided over massive wastage in tertiary education that amounts to around $1 billion in the past eight years,” he said. “In only four years the number of staff receiving more than $100,000 has gone up 150 percent.”
Dr Hutchison said that he is greatly worried that a chief executive who was brought in to sort out the mess in tertiary education is paid more than $400,000 and is leaving next year whether the reforms work or not. “Labour is leaving a legacy of poor planning and wastage in tertiary education and must justify the money being spent on TEC salaries while the sector is in disarray,” he said.

Grim time for REAP staff
Union members at the Eastbay Rural Education Activities Programme based in Whakatane took unprecedented strike action this week in protest at the breakdown in negotiations for a new collective employment agreement. Following strike action last week and again on Monday this week, the workers were picketing Eastbay’s campuses at Opotiki and Kawerau yesterday.
The twelve members of the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE) have been in negotiations for the past eighteen months after their employer withdrew from a national multi-employer collective employment agreement covering REAPs, forcing them into single employer bargaining. Since then the parties have been unable to reach agreement.
ASTE Field Officer Jenny Chapman said that eight of the country’s thirteen REAP organisations were included in the national collective agreement, but that Eastbay had withdrawn in an attempt to force down staff pay and conditions. At stake is Eastbay’s desire to introduce a new salary structure, with rates of between $10,000 and $20,000 lower than the national collective agreement. It would mean that all new staff would be earning significantly less than their counterparts at other REAP organisations.
Ms Chapman said that Eastbay REAP had built up significant cash reserves of $1.6 million over the last few years, and it appears that maintaining cash reserves had become more important than maintaining competitive salary rates for staff
Ms Chapman said that, although union members had been on strike in an attempt to shift in their employer’s position, to date there has been no change. She added that, while it is not an easy decision for staff in small communities to take industrial action, they felt they had no choice. “They have, however, been buoyed by the support that their pickets have received from their communities,” she said. “Had they not taken action, we would see these workers’ pay and conditions fall further and further behind their colleagues working in the same sector. Enough is enough.”

Medical Training Board unfit to practice, say students
In an unusually strongly worded statement, the New Zealand Medical Students’ Association has condemned the composition of a new Medical Training Board, saying that the lack of sector involvement, including the failure to include student representatives, will obstruct its meaningful development.
The Medical Training Board, the establishment of which was announced late last week, is intended to provide oversight of the education and training of medical practitioners in New Zealand. The new Board comprises a number of medical professionals and managers and is chaired by the former New Zealand Government Statistician, Len Cook, but is lacking in student or external representation.
Nick Fancourt, President of the New Zealand Medical Students’ Association, says the exclusion of students from the Board goes against current government priorities which acknowledge learners as the prime stakeholders in tertiary education. He said that, while the Board was intended to be a cross-sector group linking the efforts of the Tertiary Education Commission and the Ministry of Health in the review of medical training, the make-up of the new Board fails to achieve that as it is devoid of involvement from key stakeholders. “That makes the make-up of this Board inadequate,” he said.
Mr Fancourt said that the absence of student representation runs counter to the Board’s role of ensuring appropriate future training pathways for New Zealand’s doctors. “Failure to acknowledge the place of learners prevents meaningful and effective decision-making processes,” he said.” The tertiary-education and health sectors both face major challenges in ever-changing environments. Learner representation is critical to ensuring the development of our training is appropriate and future-focused.”
Mr Fancourt said that students had proved their worth, having led the only review on the impact of student debt for doctors, providing well-received submissions on, among others, the Medical Workforce Taskforce and running the first-ever critical review of trainee interns.

Higher-education and training-leaving age supported by ITPNZ
The Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics of New Zealand, which represents the country’s nineteen public ITPs, say it supports the Prime Minister’s proposal to increase the education and training-leaving age.
At the weekend, Helen Clark told the Labour Party Conference that recent international research suggests that only around half of the country’s current workforce has the education and skills needed to function fully in a knowledge economy. “We have to break out of the mould of the low-value, low-wage, and low-productivity economy by using our brains and developing our talents,” she said.
Miss Clark went on to add that boosting the age at which young people should be required to be in formal education or training was under consideration as part of a new plan the Government is developing for the next stage of New Zealand’s economic transformation.
ITPNZ Executive Director Dave Guerin said that a higher-education and training-leaving age supports the community-wide message to young people that more investment in education will improve their long-term prospects. “We encourage serious consideration of a leaving age of eighteen, with students required to be enrolled with an education provider or in structured training while working.” he said. “The proposed education and training-leaving age of seventeen will complement the school-leaving age of sixteen. That will mean that sixteen-year-olds will have a much wider choice beyond their school, and many will choose to enrol in ITPs.”
Mr Guerin said, however, that lifting the school-leaving age to over sixteen years would require funding changes. “School students currently receive a free education, while most ITPs must charge compulsory fees to recover their costs. The Government will have to consider the cost differentials when promoting the proposal to parents and students,” he said.

Immediate action needed, say students
Students have been quick off the mark to tell the new Minister for Tertiary Education, Pete Hodgson, and his Associate Minister, Maryan Street, that they will be kept “very busy” addressing the needs of students and the tertiary-education sector during their tenure.
Joey Randall, Co-President of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations, says that, after a long wait, students expect the new Ministers to finally deliver on Labour’s promise of accessible and affordable education for all. “With more students taking on increasing levels of debt, and government spending on student support actually decreasing, it’s now time for action. Students will be looking to the Minister for strong leadership and urgent progress on improving access to student allowances,” he said.
Similarly, the Otago Polytechnic Students Association (OPSA) has “warned” Dunedinite Pete Hodgson that they expect more to be done on student issues. OPSA President Richard Mitchell said that the Government had made many promises about improving the state of the tertiary-education sector and improving the situation for students, and so students would look forward to those being delivered quickly. “With ever-increasing levels of student debt and decreasing financial support for students, we look to the Minister to address these issues and give students what they rightfully need”, said Mr Mitchell. “OPSA urges the new Minister to introduce a fee-free, public tertiary-education system with no financial barriers to participation and a universal student allowance so students do not have to borrow simply to eat,” he said.

UC ordered to repay students $33 million
The University of California has been ordered to pay over $US33 million ($NZ43 million) to students who accused it of breach of contract when it raised tuition fees despite an apparent pledge not to do so. In a decision released last Friday, the California Court of Appeal in San Francisco upheld a lower court’s decision that enforceable contracts had been formed between the University and the students.
The class-action lawsuit began as a complaint filed in 2003 by Mohammad Kashmiri and seven other students. They contended that the University had said it would not raise certain fees for students seeking professional degrees over the course of their studies, but had then increased them anyway because of a state budget crisis. In addition to the professional-school students, the suit covered groups of students enrolled in the spring and summer of 2003 who were charged additional fees after they had already been billed for the term.
The Court held that it was reasonable for students to believe that the general statement, that fees could be changed, did not apply to the pledge that professional-degree fees would not increase for those already enrolled, only for new students.
From the Chronicle of Higher Education

Right to speak under threat
Academics in the United Kingdom have come under attack for failing to defend their right to freedom of speech and academic freedom at a recent “Battle of Ideas” festival. Panelists and delegates at the Institute of Ideas’ annual event described a “castrated” academe that has meekly relinquished professional rights and is now too scared even to challenge accepted ideas.
Steve Fuller, Professor of Sociology at Warwick University, argued that one of academia’s roles is to teach students that knowing how to debate can lead to enlightenment, and that what matters is the ability to frame an argument rather than necessarily having specialist knowledge in the subject area. He said that academic freedom is a guild right, adding that the ability to argue a case, whatever its content, represents the tools of the academic trade. He added that this required institutional protection that academics did not have and suggested that the abolition of tenure had constrained staff's willingness to speak out.
Describing the “threat from within”, John Fitzpatrick, a senior lecturer at Kent Law School, recalled how he had recently questioned the benefit of an environmental initiative at his university. “A colleague approached me afterwards and said that he agreed, and that he would have said something, but ‘it would have been like standing up in Harrods and saying he was glad Diana had died’,” he said.
From The Times Higher Education Supplement

£1,000 gap between men’s and women's pay after graduation
Women graduates are paid less than men from the very beginning of their careers, with men earning £1,000 ($NZ2,700) more than their classmates within three years of leaving university, according to a major study published in the United Kingdom on Tuesday this week. Men are significantly more likely to go straight into high paid jobs, with 40 percent of men earning more than £25,000 a year compared with 26 percent of women three years after graduation.
The findings are contained in the largest-ever survey of graduates’ experiences by the Higher Education Statistics Agency which, for the first time, tracked 25,000 students three years after they graduated.
The research suggests that women are more likely to take entry-level jobs to work their way up in a career whereas the men with whom they graduate play a high-risk game holding out for a more lucrative position, even if it means being temporarily unemployed.
While previous research has shown a national pay gap fuelled by the tendency of women to slip into part-time roles after having children and work in jobs that are paid less, these findings suggest that women are paid badly even in full-time graduate jobs and even before they start to have children, take time out and fall behind in their careers.
The research also finds that ethnicity is a strong predictor of people’s career paths, with black graduates twice as likely as their white or Asian counterparts to be unemployed.
From Education Guardian

The times they are a–changin’
The President of the elite Peking University has defended the tearing down of campus bulletin boards, saying that it was done to maintain order. Once hailed as a rare sanctuary for free speech in China, the bulletin boards have gone from being used as a vehicle for expressing political opinions to a repository of information for exam cheats and companies selling “shoddy products”.
The removal of the boards has prompted complaints from students and on the internet that administrators were ignoring public opinion by removing one of the few campus forums for highly circumscribed free speech. In the 1980s, they were used to post poems, essays and other personal expressions at a time when campus life was slowly recovering from the intellectual repression and social restrictions of the Cultural Revolution. They were later used to display posters and petitions of support during the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement centered on Tiananmen Square.
In recent years, the boards have been used mainly to advertise jobs and campus events, although they have been used recently as a gathering point for students protesting against the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.
A University spokesman is quoted as saying the boards were removed as part of a clean-up campaign ahead of the Ubniversity’s 110th anniversary celebrations next year.
From Associated Press

More international news
More international news can be found on University World News

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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