AUS Tertiary Update
Student-allowance move good, but funding must increase
In light of Monday’s announcement by the prime minister that the Labour party proposes to phase out parental-income testing on student allowances, the Association of University Staff warns that the government must also act to increase funding to the university sector. AUS academic vice-president, Dr Grant Duncan, said that, while AUS applauds moves to keep the cost of tertiary education as low as possible for students, it is vital that additional government funding be provided to universities in order to maintain the high quality and good reputation of the New Zealand university system.
Dr Duncan said that the cost of running universities has increased at a rate at least 1.6 times higher than the general rate of inflation for the economy as a whole, but that university income fell in real terms by over $20 million per year over the last six years.
“Not only must university education be affordable for students, it must also be of a high quality if New Zealand’s goals for economic and social transformation are to be realised,” he said. “According to research by the University of Auckland, New Zealand university income was, in 2006, $2,146 per student or $223 million in total lower than it would have been if income had been indexed to increases in university costs since 1991, and this must be remedied.” Dr Duncan has called on all political parties to announce policies that would guarantee a greater investment in universities.
The Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE) has also welcomed the phasing out of parental-income testing while warning that such moves should not be made at the expense of the tertiary-education sector as a whole. “Our union has always had the view that the cost of tertiary education to students must be reduced and this is a good first step,” said ASTE president Tangi Tipene. “However, this sector has been woefully under-funded and, in the case of the ITP part of the sector, this has had the potential to affect quality. Our young people deserve, and the country needs, high-quality, affordable education,” Ms Tipene added.
The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) hailed the announcement as “brilliant news”. “A universal student allowance recognises the unfairness of expecting students to be dependent on their parents till they are 25, and just how unrealistic and unworkable the current policy has been,” said NZUSA co-president Liz Hawes.
Also in Tertiary Update
1. University employment agreements ratified
2. Canterbury appoints new vice-chancellor
3. Top universities slip slightly
4. Commonwealth Scholarships partially restored
5. Women’s under-representation in science, engineering under study
6. Ranking obsession goes global
7. Massive rise in student mobility
8. New indigenous leaders graduating
9. Doing it by the blog
10. We are the chancellors
New collective employment agreements have been ratified for academic and general staff at five New Zealand universities, with others expected to follow soon. Provisional figures show that almost 95 percent of those participating in ratification ballots voted in favour of settlements of academic and general staff agreements at Massey, Canterbury, Lincoln, and Otago universities, and the academic agreement at Waikato.
The ratification will see salary increases for academic staff of between 4.68 and 5.23 percent and between 3.63 and 4.61 percent for general staff over the course of the year. Final results of ballots at the University of Auckland, AUT, and Victoria University are expected to be known by the end of this month.
The settlements comprise one salary component funded by each university and another from a new government funding package of $15 million, allocated through the Universities Tripartite Forum this year to explore and create opportunities to increase the competitiveness of New Zealand universities through recruitment and retention strategies. It brings to a total of $65 million the new funding made available by the current government over the last three years to enhance university salaries.
Combined unions spokesperson, Marty Braithwaite, said that the unions representing university staff had successfully engaged with vice-chancellors and the government through the tripartite process and are making satisfactory gains towards addressing funding and salary problems in the university sector.
According to Mr Braithwaite, the settlements illustrate what can be achieved when unions, vice-chancellors, and the government work together. “We know that the tripartite process has been successful in providing results for university staff,” he said.
Mr Braithwaite added that, while the salary increases varied among universities and between academics and general staff, he believes that union members saw the settlements as a positive step towards resolving long-term salary problems. “Union members know that the government money, which funded a proportion of the increases, was a direct result of efforts made over the past three years,” he said. “The ballot result shows strong support for the national approach to bargaining and gives us confidence to continue with that process in the future.”
Canterbury appoints new
The University of Canterbury has appointed Dr Rod Carr as its next vice-chancellor. He will take up a five-year appointment in February 2009. Dr Carr is currently managing director of Christchurch-based Jade Software Corporation. Prior to joining Jade in 2003, he was deputy governor and director of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. He has also held senior positions within the Bank of New Zealand and the National Australia Bank.
University of Canterbury chancellor, Dr Robin Mann, says he is delighted at the appointment. “Dr Carr comes to the university with proven leadership skills and an impressive academic record.”
Dr Carr has LLB (Hons) and BCom (Hons) degrees from the University of Otago, an MBA from Columbia University Graduate School of Business, and MA and PhD degrees from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr Mann described Dr Carr is a longtime supporter of the university. He currently chairs the advisory board of NZi3, the national ICT Innovation Institute based at Canterbury. He is also a director of the Geospatial Research Centre and a member of the college of business and economics advisory board.
Dr Mann says Dr Carr has impressed the university council with his understanding of the broad issues facing Canterbury and the wider tertiary sector. “We believe his experience dealing with central government will serve us and the sector well.”
Dr Carr replaces Professor Roy Sharp, who left the university after being appointed chief executive of the Tertiary Education Commission.
Top universities slip
While three New Zealand universities remain in the top 200 of this year’s Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings, this country no longer has a place in the top 50. The University of Auckland’s rating has fallen from 50 to 65 and the University of Otago has dropped from 114= to 124=. The only universities to increase their placings were Canterbury and Victoria, the former moving from 188= to 186= and the latter from 234 to 227=.
Massey University fell from 242 to 283 and Waikato University from 319= to 378=. AUT and Lincoln University did not appear in the top 400.
Harvard and Yale headed off Cambridge and Oxford universities in the top four and the Australian National University at sixteen and the University of Tokyo at nineteen were the only non-US, non-UK universities to appear in the top 20.
Martin Ince, contributing editor of Times Higher Education and co-editor of the Top Universities Guide, said, “These rankings use an unprecedented and accurate amount of data to deliver the best overall look at the strength of the world’s top universities. They are important for governments wanting to gauge the progress of their education systems, and are used in planning by universities across the world.”
Sceptics, however, may be inclined to place more weight on the words of Nunzio Quacquarelli, managing director of QS and co-editor of the Top Universities Guide. He warned, “Rankings are contentious and QS has always argued that they should be used with caution, understanding that they cannot reflect all aspects of university excellence.”
The THE-QS World University Rankings are based on data from the areas of peer academic review, recruiter review, international-faculty ratio, international-student ratio, student-faculty ratio, and citations per faculty member. Further comment on world rankings appears in World Watch below.
Scholarships partially restored
Commonwealth Scholarships enabling students from developed Commonwealth countries such as New Zealand to study at top universities in the United Kingdom have been partially restored for 2009 following a recent decision by the UK Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. Earlier this year, the existing Commonwealth Scholarships Scheme for developed countries, which covered both masterate and doctoral study, was dropped following a decision by the UK foreign minister to cut £10 million of scholarships expenditure.
Both the Association of University Staff and the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee have welcomed the move by the British government. Earlier this year, AUS national president, Associate Professor Maureen Montgomery, described the decision to drop the scholarships as “short-sighted and insular”. Calling for their restoration, she said, “Hundreds of New Zealanders have benefited from these scholarships in the past and many have gone on to make a great contribution to this country and the intellectual capital of Britain itself.”
Strong representations were made by a group of prominent former Commonwealth Scholars and associated international interests to restore Commonwealth Scholarships for developed countries and this has now occurred, on a partial basis. At a protest meeting in London at the time of the decision, Professor Germaine Greer told those gathered, “This so-called financial saving amounts to little more than the price of a property in Bayswater, yet the withdrawal will waste untold talent.”
The awards for developed countries will now be for doctoral study only, and will be co-funded by UK universities. To date Cambridge, Edinburgh, Nottingham, and Oxford universities have confirmed their participation. As well as New Zealand, countries affected by the decision are Australia, the Bahamas, Brunei, Canada, Cyprus, Malta, and Singapore.
Women’s under-representation in science,
engineering under study
A research group at the University of Canterbury has received a funding award from a charitable trust for a project investigating the role stereotypes may play in the under-representation of women in the fields of engineering and science. Associate Professor Lucy Johnston of the university’s psychology department said the number of women participating in engineering and science, at both educational and professional levels, remains low despite attempts by training institutes and professional bodies to encourage more women’s participation.
Dr Johnston said the research group plans to look at the problem by investigating whether sex-based stereotypes, both explicit and implicit, are preventing women from entering the engineering and science fields. “What we want to do is look at the beliefs people have about science and engineering that associate these areas with men more than women. We want to find out how prevalent these beliefs are and the extent to which they might be impacting on women,” said Dr Johnston.
She added that the message women may be getting is that they are not capable of a career in engineering or science, or that it is not an appropriate field for them to enter into. “They might be getting these messages explicitly from people telling them directly or they might be being conveyed more subtly through behaviours,” Dr Johnston said.
“It’s all done very much without anyone being aware of it and it’s not intentional but these messages could be having a huge impact. What we want to do is understand how these messages are being conveyed and picked up. If we can understand that process, then we can try to come up with ways of minimising their impact,” Dr Johnston added.
Ranking obsession goes global
A Chinese list of the world’s top universities would seem an unlikely concern for French politicians. This year, however, France’s legislature took aim at the annual rankings produced by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, which claims to list the 500 best universities in the world. The highest-ranked French entry, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, came in at 42.
Outraged by France’s overall weak showing in the rankings, which are dominated by US and UK institutions, the French Senate issued a report arguing that the researchers were clearly biased in favor of English-speaking institutions. Gallic pride aside, the legislators’ concern underscores a fundamental change in higher education. Simply put, it has become an international enterprise. The flow of students, researchers, and money now takes place on a global scale.
“Rankings are now part of the landscape, whether we like it or not,” says Pierre de Maret, a former rector of the Université Libre de Bruxelles and a board member of the European University Association. He is no fan of the methodology used by the Shanghai rankings but concedes that the list “has had a direct impact at the government level and has really shaken things up”.
International-rankings tables, which did not even exist a decade ago, are increasingly used by the world’s roughly three million international students to decide where to study. “Rankings have gone global at exactly the same time that universities are fighting over global students as a resource,” says Robert J. Coelen, vice-president for international affairs at Leiden University.
Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Times Higher Education put out the two most-watched international listings. More than 30 countries also produce some sort of national rankings system, says Thomas D Parker, a senior associate at Washington’s Institute for Higher Education Policy.
From Aisha Labi in the Chronicle of Higher Education
Massive rise in student mobility
More than 2.5 million university students are now estimated to be studying outside their own countries, a 70 percent increase in the past decade, and the number looks set to continue rising. A new report confirms that students from China dominate those studying abroad, far exceeding young people from India, South Korea, Germany, and Japan.
With nearly 400,000 of its students now enrolled in foreign universities, China outranks India by more than 250,000. Because of the huge rise in Chinese student mobility, Asian students comprise 45 percent of the total studying offshore, followed by those from Europe with 28 percent, Africa with 12 percent, and the Americas with 10 percent.
A just-released French-English bilingual paper, Les Etudiants Internationaux: chiffres clés/International Student Mobility: Key Figures, published by CampusFrance, the national agency for promoting French higher education abroad, provides comparative data based on the most recent statistics from the Unesco Institute of Statistics and the French Ministry of Education.
The US remains the most attractive destination for foreign students, with almost 600,000 enrolled in its universities in 2006. Despite its small population compared with the giants of America and Europe, Australia had 260,000 foreign higher-education students enrolled in 2006, some 14 percent of the total. It was followed by Japan with 130,000 while other European nations, including Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, and Spain, joined the top ten.
Because of its geographical location, though, Australia was second to the US, and ahead of the UK, among the top ten host countries in terms of Asian student enrolments. Japan came in at fourth place in front of Germany, France, Russia, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Kirghizistan, which joined the top ten with 27,000 Asians enrolled.
From Geoff Maslen and Jane Marshall in University World News
New indigenous leaders
Indigenous students are graduating from universities at a record rate in Australia, prompting hope that a new generation of Aboriginal leaders will bring fresh ideas and broader experience to efforts to close the economic and life-expectancy gaps between black and white Australia. Figures from a Bureau of Statistics and the federal Education Department research paper show a record 9370 indigenous students were enrolled in universities last year, with 1495 students graduating.
Indigenous enrolments at degree-level studies and above rose from 61.5 percent of all enrolments to 80.3 percent between 1997 and last year, indicating an improvement in the quality of tertiary study undertaken as well as more students. “There is every reason to expect graduate numbers to continue to rise rapidly in the lead-up to 2020,” the research paper said.
“By 2020, perhaps a third of all indigenous people will have a graduate in the immediate family. These are not just role models: they tend to be far more economically secure, with high rates of home ownership, and, one suspects anecdotally, far better health, less addictions, and almost non-existent rates of incarceration, domestic violence, or suicide,” the paper reported.
The study found that enrolments in Aboriginal-focused courses had plummeted since 2000, with the bulk of indigenous students overwhelmingly moving towards mainstream classes. A predominance of indigenous women students has been exacerbated by the consequent winding down of Aboriginal-focused courses, in which more indigenous men tended to participate. Indigenous women were enrolling in university at a rate 14 percent above that of non-indigenous men, relative to their proportion of the population.
From Pia Akerman in the Australian
Doing it by the
Using his department’s blog, Metaphysical Values, a lecturer at the University of Leeds posts an early draft of a paper he is preparing. Another academic, at the University of Newcastle, polls readers about the United States election on The Brooks Blog, while Digital Urban, run by a researcher at University College London (UCL), has a recent post advertising merchandise, mugs, and messenger bags bearing the blog’s logo.
Although they are still lagging behind their colleagues in the US, British academics are slowly but surely moving into the blogosphere. The appeal of academic feedback, as well as the opportunity for public engagement and the potential for enhancing reputations, has those who blog hooked.
Mary Beard, professor of classics at the University of Cambridge, has been blogging since late last year, despite some initial scepticism. Her blog, A Don’s Life, is one of UK academia’s most widely read. “When I started blogging, it was very experimental and I thought it was all rather ‘cheap’, but I have changed my mind completely,” she said. “One of the things that attracts me is the possibility of letting a wider community know what it is like being a university academic.”
“I do it to pin my ideas down,” explained Ruth Page, a reader at Birmingham City University, whose blog, Digital Narratives, charts her current academic projects and attempts at using e-learning in her teaching. “It is also a useful way of getting feedback from people working in my field.”
Jennifer Rohn, a scientist at UCL, whose blog, Mind the Gap, paints a picture of what it is like to work in a laboratory, explained, “I was angry that my profession was so completely invisible to normal people.”
From Zoë Corbyn in Times Higher Education
We are the
The recent installation of Brian May, lead guitarist of the rock band Queen, as chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University has sparked interest in the roles of celebrity chancellors. Such dignatories as Dame Diana Rigg at the University of Stirling, Bill Bryson at Durham, Channel 4 newscaster Jon Snow at Oxford Brookes, and Sir Michael Parkinson, who joins Nottingham Trent next month, go about their duties with commendable earnestness according to a new booklet, Beyond Ceremony: On being a chancellor, published this week by Universities UK.
The booklet profiles many well-known chancellors, all of whom offer their own special insights into what Bryson describes as an unexpectedly “amazing” position. The role has defied description up until now and, while it has allowed post-holders the scope to apply their own experience, often gained from a lifetime in business, politics, and the public eye, new chancellors are often unsure of what to expect.
The role is steeped in history. No one knows who was the first chancellor of a British university because the title is so ancient, but it may have been Robert Grosseteste at Oxford in the thirteenth century. Monarchs would appoint their favourites to chancellorships. Thus Thomas Cromwell, who advised King Henry VIII on England’s break with Rome, was chancellor of the University of Cambridge from 1535 to 1539.
From Lucy Hodges in the Independent and Anthea Lipsett in the Guardian
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