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AUS Tertiary Update

Lincoln progression case on appeal
The Association of University Staff has appealed a decision from the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) over the interpretation of the meaning and effect of the promotion and advancement criteria in the Lincoln University academic staff collective employment agreement. The Employment Court will be asked to decide whether sixteen senior lecturers were entitled to advance from the bottom of senior-lecturer salary scale to the bar in six years, as prescribed in the promotion and advancement criteria, or whether the university can arbitrarily hold them back.
The university’s criteria stipulate that senior lecturers who achieve consistently high standards over a sustained period in the key aspects of their jobs can normally expect to reach the bar in the senior-lecturers’ salary range within a six-year timeframe. The criteria then go on to list seven elements used to judge the rate at which employees will progress. The crux of the dispute is that, not only does the university use the seven elements to determine whether or not applicants progress at all (rather than to judge the rate of progress), but it has also refused advancement even where staff have satisfied the required elements and been recommended for progression.
The appeal follows a rather vague decision in October by the ERA, one which appears to agree with the university’s submission that the promotion and advancement criteria set out the normal expectations for advancement, but allow for deviation and do not place any obligation upon the university to ensure that a senior lecturer progresses to the bar within a six-year timeframe.
AUS deputy secretary Marty Braithwaite said that the decision concludes with a finding that, in order to be able to progress through the senior-lecturer steps within a six-year timeframe, senior lecturers must first meet the criteria and the obligations of achieving consistently high standards over a sustained period in the key tasks of the job. “The puzzle is that most have achieved consistently high standards, but have still not advanced at the expected ‘normal’ rate,” he said. “The decision seems to say Lincoln can do pretty much as it pleases, which, in our view, is plainly wrong.”

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Action against college job cuts
2. Help in finding the “right” journal
3. Export-education success in Saudi Arabia
4. AUT, Auckland, Waikato collaborate commercially
5. Melbourne staff strike for jobs and dignity
6. Resignation forced at KwaZulu-Natal
7. Schwarzenegger fails to terminate
8. “Clever crazies” quitting science
9. Battle of the Oxbridge podcasts

Action against college job cuts
Members of the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE), AUS, and the New Zealand Educational Institute at the Karori campus of Victoria University have begun legal and protest action against planned redundancies and in support of a fair and objective review of the work of the university’s college of education. Union members face an uncertain lead-up to Christmas, having learnt that eighteen more jobs are under threat on top of seventeen voluntary redundancies earlier in the year.
Staff learned of the proposal only through rumour and innuendo and by discovering that they had not been timetabled for any teaching for 2009. Despite the fact that all of the unions have very clear procedures in their collective agreements outlining the processes for consultation that must be used in the event of possible redundancies, management has failed to implement any of these, deciding instead to make fait-accompli decisions.
ASTE national secretary, Sharn Riggs, said that the union has had no choice but to put this matter into the hands of its lawyer to seek compliance with the provisions of the collective agreement. “We wrote to Dugald Scott, the pro vice-chancellor, on 18 November outlining the breaches and asking that the consultation process be put in place before any further discussions with staff were had,” Ms Riggs said. “To date there has been no reply.”
“All members at the college of education are outraged by this blatant disregard for due process. The college has already been the subject of massive redundancies earlier this year and members were assured then that there would be no more forced redundancies,” Ms Riggs added. “Aside from the impact on individuals of losing their jobs, many staff are becoming increasingly concerned about the college’s ability to continue to deliver quality programmes when the staffing is being cut to the bone.”

Help in finding the “right” journal
In the same way that businesses must pick the “right” keywords to get their products and services at the top of the lists generated by internet search engines like Google, university academics must publish their research in the “right” academic journals to win promotion and research funding. To assist with decision-making, University of Waikato’s management communication researcher Dr Nittaya Campbell has co-authored a paper identifying and critiquing the criteria used for judging the quality of academic journals.
Dr Campbell and her co-researchers found that perceptions of senior researchers were the most important factor in assessing journal quality, followed closely by “objective” rankings of journals by indicators such as inclusion in major indexes, acceptance rates, and impact factor based on the number of citations.
“This puts researchers in the field of business and management communication at a distinct disadvantage because we’re a relatively new field and most of our major journals are excluded from these rankings,” says Dr Campbell. “So while our research shows we all read our major journals, in today’s academic marketplace we feel pressured to publish in more mainstream research publications if we want to progress our careers,” she added.
Dr Campbell’s co-authors are Priscilla S Rogers of the University of Michigan, Leena Louhiala-Salminen of the Helsinki School of Economics, Kathy Rentz of the University of Cincinnati, and Jim Suchan of the Naval Postgraduate School. Their research was published in the ABC’s Journal of Business Communication.

Export-education success in Saudi Arabia
A new export-education initiative will see the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand’s distance-learning programmes offered to students in Saudi Arabia. The project initially involves six certificate programmes in management, employment skills, and business administration and computing, but the aim is to extend the offerings more widely across the polytechnic’s portfolio as the arrangement develops over time.
The Open Polytechnic’s chief executive, Paul Grimwood, said there is increasing growth potential in exporting New Zealand education to complement the already large local industry. “Distance learning, in particular, is able to travel anywhere in the world with high quality education products,” he said. “The key for us here is having partners who understand the local environment and the education and training needs of Saudi Arabia and its people.”
The collaborative agreement involves the Open Polytechnic, Saudi-based private education provider Management Training Centre (MTC), and a New Zealand-registered company, Almualim Ltd. The Open Polytechnic will deliver its learning materials to enrolled students in Saudi Arabia with the help of MTC, which will provide marketing and administrative support.
Saudi students will have access to all of the polytechnic’s normal distance-learning services, including learning support, library, online campus, and email contact. On completing their Open Polytechnic qualifications, students will receive guidance on higher-study options in New Zealand.
Dr Grimwood paid tribute to the tremendous commitment to education by King Abdulla bin Abdul-Aziz, King of Saudi Arabia, and his Royal Highness Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz. “I acknowledge also his Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz the Prince of Riyadh City, who is very supportive and enthusiastic for establishing wide ranging educational programmes in Riyadh.”

AUT, Auckland, Waikato collaborate commercially
In another move that sees New Zealand universities collaborating to integrate their research into business and industry, a story in the NZ Herald reports that three universities are now linked to a Singapore-based technology network to help commercialise local business-start-up ventures in Asian markets. The business-development and commercial arms of AUT, the University of Auckland, and University of Waikato were named as new members of the Technology Transfer Network (TTN), a group formed to boost the effectiveness of technology transfer to industry.
TTN was initiated earlier this year and has 22 members across Asia, America, Canada, Europe, and New Zealand, including angel investors, venture capitalists, and research institutes. It offers members intellectual-property cluster mapping, training and certification, joint-marketing, and technology-advisory services.
Mark Stuart, the chief executive of Waikato University’s business development unit, WaikatoLink, told the NZ Herald that it is vital for burgeoning New Zealand businesses to gain access to good networks in overseas markets. He believed that WaikatoLink’s nine subsidiary companies have the potential soon to earn more than $100 million.
AUT Innovation and Enterprise believes the partnership is providing new opportunities for business. Peter Lee, chief executive of the University of Auckland’s UniServices said the TTN network and its growing global presence is “a symbol of the increasingly flat and friction-less world in which we do business”.

World Watch
Melbourne staff strike for jobs and dignity
Staff at Victoria University in Melbourne will be taking industrial action next Monday following overwhelming support in a secret ballot. Australia’s National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has announced plans for a strike and work bans unless the university negotiates on proposed redundancies and demonstrates a new attitude to staff demands.
“Strike action at Victoria University could be averted if vice-chancellor Elizabeth Harman suspends the planned mass-sackings over Christmas and comes to the bargaining table in good faith,” said Matthew McGowan, secretary of the NTEU Victorian Division.
NTEU members voted overwhelmingly to authorise industrial action, with the Australian Electoral Commission announcing the result this week. And a mass meeting of NTEU members on Monday will consider recommendations for subsequent rounds of industrial action, including further strike action in December.
“As we head into the holiday season, there are over 270 staff at Victoria University who won’t be celebrating. We have been trying to get the university to bargain for a new collective agreement since May this year, but their response has been to engage in delaying tactics,” said Richard Gough, president of Victoria University NTEU branch.
“University senior management can end this dispute today by treating staff with the dignity and respect they deserve. We are calling on Professor Harman to end the forced redundancies and come to the bargaining table ready to negotiate a new collective agreement that would ensure that there would be no forced redundancies for the life of any new agreement,” Mr Gough said.
In a recent NTEU survey of higher-education staff which asked whether staff had confidence in the administration, vice-chancellor Harman and the senior management at Victoria University rated worst in the state. Some 94 percent of staff did not have confidence, compared to a 72 percent state average.

Resignation forced at KwaZulu-Natal
The national office of South Africa’s National Tertiary Education Staff Union (NTESU) has learned that Professor Nithaya Chetty of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), resigned last week in the face of demands to sign an “admission of guilt” statement by the vice-chancellor, Malegapuru Makgoba. Professor Chetty’s letter dates the resignation as effective at 31 December 2008, but Professor Makgoba has stated that the resignation is of immediate effect.
The other lecturer charged at the same time as Professor Chetty, Professor John van den Berg, is reported as having signed the admission of guilt statement under duress.
As previously reported in Tertiary Update, the two professors were commissioned by their faculty to develop a document on academic freedom for presentation to senate. When they publically queried why the document had not been tabled at senate, Professor Makgoba responded by issuing disciplinary charges for making statements to the press, violating the confidentiality of senate, and dishonesty or gross negligence in questioning their vice-chancellor’s refusal to table the document.
In an email to the minister of education, the national president of NTESU, Sylvia Nkanyuza, said, “There is great concern about the bullying tactics, intimidation, and victimisation faced by not only Chetty, but by any other person who criticises, challenges, and/or advocates for truth in a higher education institution.”
The NTESU national office has called for an academic boycott of the institution by unionists and institutions abroad and locally until such time as the UKZN and its vice-chancellor commit to upholding freedom of expression, academic freedom, and other constitutional rights.
More information on the case and a petition are available at :

Schwarzenegger fails to terminate
The University of California’s president, Mark Yudof, has stepped in and provided $US4 million ($NZ7.126 million) of funding for labour and employment research programmes at the University of California at Berkeley and Los Angeles that had previously been cut from the state budget by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Political conservatives and Republicans like Schwarzenegger have been seen as treating the labour centres as political footballs when they object to portions of their work, such as a training program for union leaders. “Just as the business schools are training programs for business executives, it is important to have a balanced mix,” said Ken Jacobs, chair of the University of California’s Center for Labor Research and Education. “If you look at the programs we do, they are programs that support labor-management partnerships.”
The programme, which costs $US5.4 million ($NZ9.6 million) per annum, was the only item over which Schwarzenegger used his gubernatorial line-item veto powers in the University of California’s $US3 billion ($NZ5.34 billion) budget. The cut quickly became an issue of academic freedom. Hundreds of staff subsequently wrote to the governor protesting. “Given the tiny amount of savings, it is hard to understand this action as other than politically motivated,” they said.
Their joint letter continued, “We see this as unwarranted political interference in the academic activities of the University of California. It violates the basic principle of the freedom to speak out and conduct research even on controversial topics. This freedom is a cornerstone of the vital, world-class university California needs.”
President Yudof’s funding package provides work for approximately 40 researchers and staff members.
From George Raine in the San Francisco Chronicle

“Clever crazies” quitting science
Modern scientists are “dull and getting duller” because the career path required to join the profession weeds out anyone interesting, creative, or exceptionally intelligent, according to Bruce Charlton, a newly appointed professor of theoretical medicine at the University of Buckingham, whose polemic against the problems of modern science is published in the current issue of the Oxford Magazine.
“Scientists are, as a group, dull and getting duller: duller both in term of less intelligent and more boring. And the science they produce is increasingly dull,” writes Professor Charlton. When it comes to interesting research, he argues that scientists are “not even trying” to produce it, funders are “not prepared” to fund it, and journals are “not keen” to publish it because there is a higher risk of error than in more traditional projects.
He pins the blame on the process of becoming a modern scientist, including what he says is a ten-to-fifteen-year slog before they are allowed to pursue their own research, and a proliferation of “mindless and damaging” bureaucracy. The career path, he argues, puts off all but the mildest-mannered, agreeable, and conscientious, leaving little room for the “wildly creative” personality type possessed by the great scientists of the past. He continued that, as intelligence and conscientiousness do not necessarily correlate, those with the highest IQs get filtered out.
“We can only conclude that science is dull mainly because its requirements for long-term plodding perseverance and social inoffensiveness have the effect of ruthlessly weeding out too many smart and interesting people,” Professor Charlton writes.
He concludes that the situation, which is “neither optimal for the individuals nor for society at large”, needs to change. But he says ideas for wooing the “clever crazies” back to science are not going to come from within the discipline.
From Zoë Corbyn in Times Higher Education

Battle of the Oxbridge podcasts
For 800 years, Oxford and Cambridge universities have competed in everything from Nobel prizes to boat races. The academic rivalry runs deep: Oxford has tutored 25 British prime ministers, while Cambridge claims Darwin and Newton as its own. But recently the venerable institutions launch into battle on iTunes, taking their ancient competition into the twenty-first century.
The universities simultaneously published about 450 hours of free audio and video podcasts of lectures, films, and admissions guides for people to download to a computer or MP3 player. They are available from iTunes U, the download provider’s university portal, where US institutions have been broadcasting their academic wares for some years.
Both universities are providing podcasts advising students on applications, how to choose a college, and how to prepare for an interview. They deny that the simultaneous launch was designed to start an iTunes race, instead claiming it is a sign they are opening up to a wider audience. Both were happy to provide a roll call of the great and the good who will be available for all under their respective university brands. It will inevitably invite accusations of a new battleground for the famous foes.
Oxford’s podcast includes Michael Palin of Monty Python fame in a documentary filmed to promote the university’s £1.25 billion ($NZ3.31 billion) fundraising drive. Lectures come from Professor Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist of the World Bank, Craig Venter, who led the private effort to sequence the human genome, Sir Nicholas Stern, the climate-change academic, and the philosopher Julian Savulescu.
From Polly Curtis 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: Direct inquiries should be made to the editor, email:

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