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AUS Tertiary Update

“Coincidental” similarities in university advertising
The similarities between two university advertising campaigns have been dismissed as coincidental, according to a story by Hamish McNeilly in the Otago Daily Times. The University of Otago launched its “Take Your Place in the World” advertising campaign in July, replacing the previous “Get Over It” campaign, which ran for eight years. Now, however, hot on the heels of the Otago television launch, the ODT reports, the University of Auckland has released its “Make Your Mark on the World” television campaign.
University of Otago marketing and communications director Virginia Nicholls is quoted as saying that her university was aware of the Auckland catchphrase but that the similarity was merely a coincidence. It was a matter of personal taste who had the better campaign “and, in the end, it is up to the viewers to decide”. She said that the television campaign is just one element of a communication programme, which includes publications, website, information nights, expos, and alumni.
University of Auckland senior communications adviser Bill Williams apparently declined to comment on the similarities with the University of Otago slogan. “We do not comment on the merits of other universities’ advertising campaigns,” he said. Both universities declined to comment on their respective advertising budgets.
Auckland’s “Make Your Mark on the World” television campaign featured interviews with former students, while Otago’s “Take Your Place in the World” campaign featured students at the campus and a pop song.
Zephyr WPD partner Robert Coulter, of Auckland, said the advertising agency is proud of its Otago campaign and the similarity with the Auckland campaign was “a coincidence”. “We worked on the campaign for over a year and I am sure they did as well,” he said. “Despite the similarities of the slogans, they have different meanings,” he said. “Auckland’s is about promoting success, and Otago’s is about achieving enrolment results.”

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Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Universities’ deferred-maintenance costs unknown
2. NZ universities succeed commercially, says NZVCC
3. Digital boost for te reo Māori
4. Top scholars off to Cambridge
5. University funding linked to “employability”
6. STEMing the tide
7. Urgent need for African tertiary education
8. Security or politics?
9. The Britneys of academia

Universities’ deferred-maintenance costs unknown
Education Review reports that, just one week after a vice-chancellor said that the backlog of deferred maintenance is evidence of university underfunding, only one of the eight universities has been able to put a figure on its extent. Referring to the problem of deferred maintenance, Victoria University vice-chancellor Pat Walsh recently said that universities could be at a tipping point in their struggle to maintain quality in the face of government underfunding.
Victoria, however, could not put a figure on its maintenance backlog, with facilities management director Jenny Bentley saying that the value of deferred maintenance commitments is often hard to quantify. Education Review quotes Ms Bentley as saying, “That is because that while there is a preferred timeline to replace or renew facilities, they can sometimes function satisfactorily for a longer period of time than expected.”
Similarly, according to the report, the University of Auckland could not quantify its deferred maintenance, saying only that it is a problem.
The University of Canterbury also advised that it could not put a dollar value on the problem as it phases in refurbishment and new works to match its revenue. And the University of Waikato is reported as saying that it is still in the throes of refining its asset-management planning and has yet to establish a firm figure.
Only Massey University, with its three campuses, was able to provide an estimate of the value of its deferred maintenance. Referring to it as a “ball-park” figure, the university said that it is looking at “in excess of $50 million”.

NZ universities succeed commercially, says NZVCC
The New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee claims that commercialisation of university research is currently generating a billion dollars for the New Zealand economy through the market capitalisation of spin-out companies. A publication outlining that success has been produced by the NZVCC in conjunction with University Commercialisation Offices of New Zealand, a consortium of individual university commercialisation units. University research commercialisation: Paying dividends for New Zealand contains six case studies in which the commercial potential of university research outputs have been realised.
NZVCC chair, Professor Roger Field, says that linkages among universities, other research providers, and private business are especially important in a small country like New Zealand. “Many of our firms are too small to engage in research and development themselves. Universities help by providing the expertise and knowledge to carry out this research. Strong linkages are required at each stage of the transfer process to ensure that the full benefits of such research are captured,” he said.
The publication says that the market capitalisation of university start-up companies has risen rapidly, from $76 million in 2003 to $1.1 billion in 2006. A research and development survey carried out by Statistics NZ reveals that research in New Zealand universities is worth almost $600 million a year to the universities, accounting for a third of all R&D carried out in this country. The NZVCC argues that the commercialisation of that research provides a far greater return to the economy.
Professor Field says the activity underlines universities’ key role in shifting the New Zealand economy from a reliance on commodities to knowledge-based products with a higher value. “The success story of the university commercialisation companies is not necessarily well understood and the NZVCC thought it time to share that success more widely,” he said.

Digital boost for te reo Māori
Taranaki iwi and hapū will be the first to participate in a new initiative developing digital technology for the learning and teaching of te reo Māori. The initiative, hosted by the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki (WITT), was launched yesterday at Puke Ariki Museum in New Plymouth.
The project is the first of those planned by Te Ipukarea, the Māori Language Institute, a collaborative initiative hosted by AUT University and partnered by Victoria University, Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, Christchurch Polytechnic, and Canterbury and Lincoln Universities.
Stage one of the project is He Rangi Mātāhauariki mō te Reo, a digital-technology initiative for the learning and teaching of te reo Māori. The project is also focused on enhancing the digital literacy of Māori language learners and educators.
Head of the faculty for humanities, health and Māori at WITT, Lisa Ferguson, said it is an honour to be the first region in the country to take part in the project. “This is a wonderful opportunity to not only capture the unique Taranaki lexicon, but also a wonderful initiative to ensure all Taranaki people have access to advancing their te reo skills using their unique dialect.”
Ms Ferguson said that the project will add further diversity to the mechanisms available to share and teach te reo Māori, an essential process to ensure learning of the language remains dynamic and accessible. AUT’s Professor Tania Ka’ai said Taranaki was chosen to launch the digital initiative in recognition of the huge contribution respected Māori academic and Association of Staff in Tertiary Education tauheke, Dr Huirangi Waikerepuru, has made to the survival of the Māori language. “Dr Waikerepuru has committed a lifetime and legacy that we have all benefited from,” Professor Ka’ai said.

Top scholars off to Cambridge
Distinguished performances in physics, civil engineering, and classical studies have paved the way for three of New Zealand’s top scholars to study at Cambridge University as recipients of the Woolf Fisher Scholarships for 2009. The scholarships, among the most valuable awarded in New Zealand, are each worth up to $100,000 annually for three years of study and cover full payment of university and college fees, return airfares, and an allowance of $35,000 a year.
Jennifer Haskell from the University of Canterbury will be working towards a PhD under Dr Gopal Madabhushi, a world-leading lecturer in geotechnical science. Her research will focus on seismic design of foundations and will use Cambridge’s geotechnical centrifuge, a sophisticated model that can simulate the impact of earthquakes on soil.
Andrew Haines from the University of Otago hopes to study with Professor Jeremy Baumberg in Cambridge’s nanophotonics group that studies the behaviour of light on the nanometre scale. He will be working towards a PhD investigating the assembly of metamaterials. This research has immediate relevance in fields such as telecommunications, but also may be applied to a wide variety of technologies.
James McNamara from Victoria University of Wellington will be working towards a PhD in classics, researching the writings of the Roman historian Tacitus. He is looking to expand on an earlier project on the exploitation of fear as a command tool in the Roman Empire. He has already completed an MA in classics with distinction at Victoria, having majored in Latin, Ancient Greek and German at undergraduate level.

World Watch
University funding linked to “employability”
British universities could be funded according to their ability to produce employable graduates as the government seeks to measure their success in “up-skilling the workforce”. The prospect of gearing funding to take graduate-employment data into account has been raised in a report by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).
While making it clear that there is no immediate plan to implement such a regime, HEFCE says that a graduate-employment indicator “has the long-term potential to be one of a basket of measures that could collectively be used as a basis for incentive funding mechanisms”.
Funding of this kind would be “extremely dangerous”, according to Roger Brown, professor of higher education at Liverpool Hope University. “All it would do is reinforce what we already see of students only wanting to study subjects that will get them an immediate job, often at the expense of subjects that might be better for their long-term development,” Professor Brown said. “Similarly, institutions will do whatever they need to do to get the money. It is a particularly daft idea.”
The HEFCE paper was produced for universities secretary John Denham as part of a series of reviews to map out the development of the sector to 2020. Mr Denham had asked the funding council to investigate new ways to measure the success of different universities. In his letter to David Eastwood, HEFCE’s chief executive, Mr Denham asked for an examination of measures in five areas: research, innovation, teaching, widening participation, and the “up-skilling of workforces”.
HEFCE warned, “By limiting our thinking to the five policy areas identified by the secretary of state, we potentially limit institutions’ contributions to their students and wider community.” Professor Brown added, “There’s no reference among those headings to the development of scholarship, no reference to what higher education is ultimately about.”
From John Gill in Times Higher Education

STEMing the tide
Countries around the world are trying to prevent a continuing decline in interest among students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics or STEM: the so-called key vulnerable subjects. Professor John Holman, director of STEM subjects at the UK National Science Learning Centre, said Britain is not alone among advanced economies that had experienced shortages of graduates in these areas.
Australia, along with the UK, is looking at ways of attracting more students into the STEM subjects. Representatives from the CSIRO, the Australian Academy of Science, and the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies last week appeared before a House of Representatives standing committee on education and training in Canberra.
In Britain, STEM subjects are in a healthier state than they were in 2004, as the Higher Education Funding Council for England announced last week. In an upbeat statement, Professor David Eastwood, the council’s chief executive, said HEFCE’s £350m ($NZ925m) six-year programme that started in 2005 is helping to “turn the corner”.
In 2004, there were pessimistic reports of closures of university chemistry departments and a declining interest in these subjects among students in schools and universities. Latest figures show a significant growth in the number of students taking STEM subjects.
The universities admissions service data showed that maths acceptances had risen by 8 percent from 2007 to 2008, chemistry is up by 4.4 percent, and physics by 3.3 percent. These increases build on those since 2005 to 2006, when maths rose by 12 percent, chemistry by 12 percent, and physics by 10 percent. Engineering fell by 0.8 percent but, since 2007, numbers had increased by 6.4 percent.
From Diane Spencer in University World News

Urgent need for African tertiary education
Tertiary-education enrolments in Sub-Saharan Africa more than tripled between 1991 and 2005, expanding at an annual rate of 8.7 percent, one of the highest regional growth rates in the world, says a new report by the World Bank. But public funding did not keep up, and spending per student plummeted over 25 years from an average of $NZ11,236 a year to just $NZ1621 in 2005 for 33 countries. “Educational quality and relevance both suffered as a result,” according to Accelerating Catch-up: Tertiary education for growth in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The report describes Sub-Saharan Africa’s “remarkable economic turnaround” after two decades of stagnation. Gross domestic product growth in the region accelerated to over 6 percent on average from 2002 to 2007 as a result of increasing macro-economic stability, market reforms, and growing global demand for Africa’s natural resource-based commodities, the World Bank study claims. “If this surge is to evolve into a virtuous spiral that stimulates even higher, and sustained, growth rates in a substantial number of African countries, significant investment in physical and human capital is needed over an extended period,” says the report.
Africa’s stock of secondary and tertiary-level skills is small and its quality highly variable and undermined by mortality from infectious diseases and by emigration, says the report. “African nations will need to produce a larger pool of good-quality tertiary-education graduates and postgraduates, and to produce them particularly in the disciplinary (and interdisciplinary) fields relevant to a country’s chosen strategy for economic development.”
From Alphonce Shiundup in Daily Nation

Security or politics?
In March this year, when a faculty panel at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln selected William Ayers to be the keynote speaker at a November conference at the college of education, nobody really noticed. Since then, Professor Ayers, now a distinguished professor at the University of Illinois and former leader of the ultra-radical Weather Underground, has come to prominence through attacks on Barack Obama’s acquaintanceship with him. On 17 October the university called off the Ayers appearance, citing security concerns.
But the timing of the announcement, shortly after Nebraska’s governor and other politicians and donors demanded that Professor Ayers be kept away, left many dubious. Some faculty leaders say that the incident represents a serious violation of the principles of academic freedom.
Given that “there are people at the University of Nebraska with a deep knowledge of academic freedom and an equally deep commitment to it,” it is “particularly painful to see this institution intimidated by politicians and donors into cancelling,” said Cary Nelson, national president of the American Association of University Professors.
With Professor Ayers in the news, the university issued a statement noting that no state funds were being used for his visit and that he would be speaking on his scholarly research, not politics. But Governor Dave Heineman, a Republican, called for the invitation to Professor Ayers to be rescinded.
The state’s attorney general, Jon Bruning, followed with his own call for the invitation to be withdrawn. Alumni and donors started to send e-mails and call the university, with some threatening to halt donations.
From Inside Higher Ed and University World News

The Britneys of academia
Online publishing has sparked an explosion in the number of places where academics can showcase their work. Today, no field of study is too obscure to have its own dedicated title. But have platforms such as the Journal of Happiness Studies or Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy News made academic publishing more democratic?
Far from it, says Alex Bentley, an anthropologist at Durham University. “We’re just producing so much wordage that nobody has time to read anything. It makes academic publishing, and even science itself, a bit like trying to get hits on blogs or trying to make yourself the Britney of science.”
Although the internet puts information at our fingertips, we have no time to trawl it. As a result, we trust sites like Digg.com to guide us through the information jungle. This phenomenon is called “herding” by economists, who use it to explain, say, fashion trends and stockmarket bubbles.
For researchers, it means that exposure is everything. “As a result of this lack of time, people are just hyper-focused on Science, Nature, and PNAS [a journal of the US National Academies of Science],” says Professor Bentley. “There are many high-quality printed journals that a lot of people aren’t interested in any more because their article will be treated critically and then it won’t have any impact. What they want is an article that can be treated uncritically and have a big impact.”
Adding to the problem is the fact that methods to measure research impact are becoming more numerical. For example, the number of times an article is cited by others has become a proxy for quality.
There is even a formula that will reduce a researchers’ whole career to one digit, called the H-index, which has been used for recruiting researchers for tenure in the US. “A lot of people feel that their H-index is the most important thing on their CV,” says Professor Bentley.
Information on the H-index is available at http://bit.ly/H-index
From Linda Nordling in the Guardian

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

AUS Tertiary Update is published 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 inquiries should be made to the editor, email: editor@aus.ac.nz

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