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AUS Tertiary Update

Three NZ universities in top 200
Three New Zealand universities, Auckland, Otago and Canterbury, have been listed among the world’s top 200 universities in the latest series of international university rankings, but it is not all good news. Although the University of Auckland has maintained its place as New Zealand’s top university in the Times Higher Education Supplement-Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd (THES-QS) Rankings, it has fallen to fiftieth spot, down from forty-sixth last year. Similarly, Otago is now ranked at number 114, down from seventy-ninth position last year. Canterbury, by contrast, has increased its position, up from 333 last year to 188 this year.
Three other New Zealand universities are in the World’s top 400, but their identities are yet to be published.
The THES-QS World University Rankings are based on a series of measures including peer review, recruiter review, international-faculty ratio, international-students ratio, student-faculty ratio and citations per faculty.
The world’s top ten universities are from the United Kingdom or the United States, with Harvard maintaining its ranking as the top university overall for the fourth year in succession. Cambridge, Oxford and Yale universities all tied for second place, with Imperial College London, Princeton University, the California Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago, University College London and the Massachusetts Institute of technology rounding out the top ten. The leading Australian institution was the Australian National University in sixteenth place.
Responding to the release of the rankings, University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, said that, assessed against the world’s best, he is very pleased to have maintained the position in the top fifty. “This ranking is a tribute to the quality and commitment of all our staff,” he said. “The University of Auckland was also first among New Zealand universities in the Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings released earlier this year.”
The University of Canterbury Vice-Chancellor, Professor Roy Sharp, is reported as saying that, while he did not personally agree with the idea of rankings, he was pleased Canterbury had made it into the top 200. “Other people take them seriously which is important when recruiting staff and students,” he said.
The THES-QS rankings can be found at:

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Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. New university-type proposed
2. Fine Arts students turn backs on vice-chancellor
3. Debt no barrier to more study, says report
4. Labour punishes high performers, says National
5. Otago fees up by an average 4 percent
6. Survey reveals concerns about direction of universities
7. Labor expected to kill off RQF
8. More university bosses make millionaires’ club
9. Fooling no-one

New university type proposed
Legislation aimed at establishing a new type of tertiary-education institution, a university of technology, has been referred to Parliament’s Education and Science Select Committee for further consideration. The Education (Establishment of Universities of Technology) Amendment Bill, which was passed into its second stage of the legislative process last week, arose out of New Zealand First Party’s confidence and supply agreement with the Government following the last General Election. The Bill’s promoters say that the addition of a new category of institution will bridge a significant legal gap within the current structure of the tertiary-education system while enhancing flexibility and encouraging differentiation.
New Zealand First Education spokesperson Brian Donnelly said that the Bill recognises the importance of building and fostering relationships among business, industry and scientific research at a tertiary level. “The establishment of a non-university class of institution for technology will provide scope to develop workplace skills and knowledge to a level comparable to overseas education providers,” he said. “In addition, the Bill allows for students to move across various levels of tertiary education, with delivery of appropriate sub-degree programmes and pathways which allow them to progress to higher levels of education and training while pursuing their career goals.”
The move to establish universities of technology intensified after a recent but unsuccessful bid by the Auckland tertiary-education provider, Unitec, to be re-classified as a university. Unitec Chief Executive, Dr John Webster, says that the current system is unfair, particularly for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds and those who are unable to realise their potential at secondary-school level. “This limits our capacity to build the advanced skills and know-how we need to transform New Zealand’s economy,” he said.
Association of University Staff National President, Professor Nigel Haworth, said, however, that there is no evidence to support the contention that the establishment of a new type of institution would enhance the current tertiary-education reforms or provide a better-quality tertiary education. “Moreover, the institution described by Mr. Donnelly is what most people recognise to be a traditional polytechnic, and a vital component in the New Zealand tertiary system,” he said.
It is expected that public submissions on the Bill will be considered later next year.

Fine Arts students turn backs on vice-chancellor
Fine Arts students dressed in black and turned their backs on the University of Canterbury Vice-Chancellor last Thursday evening as he spoke at the opening of the Ilam School of Fine Arts 125th anniversary exhibition at the Christchurch Art Gallery. In what was labelled a silent vigil to mourn the slow death of one of New Zealand’s prestige art schools, more than one hundred students protested the axing of staff positions at the School and a cut of around one half of its operational budget.
One full-time permanent position each in the disciplines of painting and sculpture have been “eliminated” as the University’s College of Arts prepares to face what has been described as a manufactured budget crisis. Both disciplines have had a traditional establishment of two staff, complemented by visiting artists, but, as positions have become vacant, they have been cut to part-time or filled by staff on fixed-term arrangements. The School also faces a cut of $85,000 from its general operating budget for 2008 unless it accepts a significant increase in the number of students.
Student representative Hannah Wilson said that students feared that the University’s moves threatened the quality of the education being offered at Ilam. “As the longest-established school of Fine Arts in New Zealand and one of the oldest in the English-speaking world, Ilam has a huge and well-deserved reputation that should be built upon, not threatened by short-sighted budget cuts,” she said. “We believe the increase in students as suggested by the University would seriously impact on the ability of staff to provide a quality education. It would also put pressure on the limited space and practical and human resources, which are extensively used by Fine Arts students.”
Ms Wilson added that Christchurch is well known for the quality and diversity of its arts and she believes that the city needs a vibrant and high-quality School of Fine Arts in order to maintain this reputation.

Debt no barrier to more study, says report
Student loan debt does not discourage students from future studies, according to a new report published this week by the Ministry of Education. The unimaginatively titled Does the student loan scheme discourage students from returning to study? suggests that the burden of a loan does not have a negative effect on students, possibly due to their confidence in being able to repay the loan on completion of their studies.
Based on the results of a series of analyses, a profile of students returning to study has been created. The profile says that students who have the highest likelihood of returning to study are those who have an outstanding student loan, did not complete the qualifications studied previously, undertook degree-level study at universities and studied towards qualifications in health, education, society and culture rather than management and commerce fields.
This study also suggests that policy decisions are likely to trigger short-term increases in returning behaviour and that the most affected populations are likely to be those that left tertiary education in the year when the policy decisions were announced. Furthermore, when both borrowing and educational factors are controlled, the effects of demographic factors such as ethnicity, age and gender on the returning pathways of students are found to be negligible.
The report was initiated in order to gain an insight into educational pathways and the aspirations of former tertiary students who return to study and it aims to identify the factors affecting student return. The populations of returning students over the period from 1997 to 2005 are compared with the populations of non-returning former tertiary students who had the same opportunity to return. Such comparisons are conducted for students who have returned after having a break of one to seven years (seven comparison groups).
The study suggests follow-up studies to monitor the returning behaviour in the tertiary-education sector in New Zealand and the effect of educational policies on individuals’ behaviour.
The report can be found at:

Labour punishes high performers, says National
The National Party says that the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) should be rewarding high-performing polytechnics like the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) rather than cutting its funding. The comments come in the wake of news last week that nearly half of New Zealand’s polytechnics and institutes of technology face cuts to student numbers and public funding as the TEC moves to curtail out-of-region competition and stop budget blowouts.
SIT is expected to be the hardest hit of the polytechnics, standing to lose as much as $8 million, or 26 percent, of its funding, equating to around 1300 students. Much of the expected cuts relates to SIT’s provision of trades training in Christchurch where it is competing head-to-head with the Christchurch Polytechnic and Institute of Technology (CPIT).
National spokesperson for Tertiary Education, Dr Paul Hutchison, said that SIT had demonstrated innovation, quality and value for money and should be rewarded, not punished. He added that SIT was invited into Christchurch by the building-construction and motor-industry training organisations because of quality and price issues.
Dr Hutchison said that the TEC was requiring that polytechnics ask other polytechnics delivering courses in their region to stop those courses and surrender the associated EFTS in a process known as repatriation. He said that there had been talk of “threats” that TEC would cut funding if a polytechnic did not “repatriate” EFTS when requested by another polytechnic.
The new Minister for Tertiary Education, Pete Hodgson, said that the tertiary-education reforms will deliver a tertiary-education system that better meets the needs of a wider range of stakeholders, including students, business, iwi and communities. “Institutes of technology and polytechnics have a strong contribution to make to this system by focusing on and meeting the needs of their regions. This is a key shift for the polytechnic sector that is widely understood, and I am pleased to see polytechnics adapting their focus to deliver to regional needs,” he said. “Any proposed funding changes for the Southern Institute of Technology are designed so the Institute can meet the needs of Southlanders, and this is something both the Tertiary Education Commission and I support.”

Otago fees up by an average 4 percent
Otago has become the latest university to set student-tuition fees for 2008, in this case by an average increase of 4 percent. The Otago Daily Times (ODT) reports that the University’s Council meeting on Tuesday approved the fee rise after a sometimes sharp-edged debate in which student representatives warned about “dangerous” divisions, including those over Physiotherapy fees.
Undergraduate tuition fees in Arts, Languages, Teaching, Business and Theology will each increase by 5 percent, while Law course fees, including honours, will rise 4.3 percent. Health Science courses, including Medicine and Dentistry, will increase by 2.4 percent. Fees for many taught postgraduate courses have also been increased by 5 percent, including Arts, Languages, Theology and Business.
The ODT reports that the Council also approved a recommendation that, in addition to an interim Physiotherapy fee increase, the University should also seek approval from the Tertiary Education Commission to increase the fee by a further 5 percent, to $5213 per year.
Otago Vice-Chancellor, Professor David Skegg, is reported as saying that Otago and the country’s other universities have long had to deal with the “inadequate” indexing of actual university costs through Government education funding and, even with the latest fee rises, the University would not fully catch up with rising costs. “Government increases in student-related funding for universities were often linked to the consumer price index, but recent studies had shown the actual cost rises experienced by universities, including staff salary rises, were almost double the CPI figures” he said.
The proposed undergraduate-student fee rises for next year were widely supported by the Council, but strongly opposed by the two student representatives, Otago University Students Association President Renee Heal and Finance and Services Officer, Honor Lanham.
The Council unanimously passed a resolution suggesting that the Students’ Association and the University jointly make an approach to the Government over “serious underfunding” of the university sector.

Survey reveals concerns about direction of universities
A survey of nearly 5,000 university staff in the state of Victoria reveals significant concerns about the direction and quality of universities under the current Australian Government. The survey, conducted by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), also concluded that government funding for universities is considered by many to be too low, government interference too high and that Universities seem more focused on gaining income than on student outcomes
NTEU Victorian Division Secretary, Matthew McGowan, said that the Government’s micromanagement of and interference in the operations of universities has increased dramatically over the period of the Howard Government. “Universities are now forced to spend inordinate amounts of time and money meeting onerous reporting requirements, and implementing new requirements in areas such as industrial relations, just to be able to maintain existing inadequate levels of funding,” he said.
Mr McGowan said that the results of the survey did not come as a surprise. “While staff feel that their universities provide high-quality research and teaching, they are concerned that a number of developments are putting this at risk,” he said. “In particular, staff are concerned that reduced funding, growing political interference and increased levels of corporatism and managerialism are occurring at the expense of focusing on the needs of students, an agenda that has been driven by the Federal Government.”
A summary of the survey results can be found at

Labor expected to kill off RQF
Still in Australia, that country’s peak university body, Universities Australia (UA), the equivalent of the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee, says that the higher-education sector will be relieved if the Howard Government loses this month’s General Election because the contentious and flawed Research Quality Framework will be cancelled by a Labor government.
In what has been described as one of the strongest attacks yet on the funding reallocation measure, UA RQF spokesman and Australian Catholic University Vice-Chancellor Peter Sheehan said that, if the Government goes out, the sector will feel relieved that the RQF won’t go ahead in its present form. He added that, if the Coalition is returned, it must delay the RQF assessment phase by one year to early 2009 for submissions and 2010 for funding changes. “To introduce the RQF next year would be far too premature for the sector, which would be very nervous of that, and in the final run the proper assessment of quality could be jeopardised,” he said. “The enormous workload, the costs, the lack of principles guiding the funding allocation all seem to me to say it’s eminently sensible to delay this exercise.”
Education Minister Julie Bishop has so far brushed off university concerns about the timetable, insisting that the RQF will go ahead as scheduled.
From The Australian

More university bosses make millionaires’ club
The remuneration of university presidents in the United States is reported to be soaring, with the number of million-dollar pay packages at private institutions nearly doubling from last year and compensation at many public universities not far behind.
Presidents at twelve private universities received more than $US1 million ($NZ1.32 million) in the 2005-6 year, the most recent period for which data on private institutions is available. The number is up from seven a year earlier, according to an annual survey of presidential pay carried out by theChronicle of Higher Education.
The number of private-college presidents earning more than $US500,000 reached eighty-one, up from seventy a year earlier and just three a decade ago.
The survey also found that the number of public-university presidents making $US700,000 or more rose to eight in 2006-07, up from just two the previous year. The survey did not include the new President of Ohio State University, whose $US1 million pay package, before bonuses, is probably the highest of any public institution.
Officials at high-paying institutions defend the salaries, saying they result from intense competition to hold on to talented executives necessary to help build institutional wealth and prestige. They say that running a large university is increasingly similar to running a corporation.
Meanwhile, the Chronicle has found that, in a survey of 165 public universities, one-third of public-university chiefs do not have formal, written employment agreements. Several rely solely on letters of appointment, while others want to keep compensation details away from public scrutiny. Another common reason cited for the lack of written agreements is that governing boards may prefer that presidents be “at will” employees who serve at the pleasure of boards and can be easily fired.

Fooling no-one
Academic phonies or, at least, people who think they are, are reported to have started identifying themselves as a sort of precaution against being exposed as cheats. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that a recent workshop at Columbia University in the United States for young academics who feel like frauds was attended by highly successful scholars who live in what was described as a creeping fear of being found out.
The impostor syndrome, first identified in 1978, is apparently a cognitive distortion experienced by many academics preventing them from internalising any sense of accomplishment.
It is reported that the idea quickly struck a chord with scholars from the working class who bristled at the old guard’s sense of entitlement but found themselves crippled by a stubborn inability to feel the same. Meanwhile, scholars who came from academic legacies, described as children of the old guard, had feelings of unearned privilege to contend with.
It appears that a person with impostor syndrome typically experiences a cycle of distress when faced with a new task. Initial self-doubt is followed by perfectionism, procrastination, overwork and anxiety. Then comes success. But with success comes the discounting of success and the on-set of self-doubt.
Success, the story says, only serves to reinforce the whole cycle.

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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