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TEU Tertiary Update Vol 14 No 28

Staff and students rally to stop closure at Vic

Staff and students at Victoria University are rallying today to protest plans to close down the university’s Crime and Justice Research Centre, and to disestablish two lecturer positions in the Political Science and International Relations programme. The university also plans to cut jobs in the Faculty of Education, creating unacceptable gaps in teaching and research.

"There is no financial case for closing down the crime centre. Worse, the university seems quite unaware of the immense contribution this centre has made, and should continue to make, to government legislation and policy in New Zealand. This is just academic vandalism," TEU organiser Michael Gilchrist said.

"The changes in the political science programme will sack two very promising younger academics and limit academic choices for students."

Management has not let the university's Academic Board debate the current plans for academic re-structuring. TEU believes, according to law and the university's own rules, this must happen before such significant academic changes can proceed.

So far, over 750 people have signed a petition to the vice-chancellor asking him to withdraw the change proposals and ensure that proper academic decision-making processes are followed, including taking advice from Faculty and Academic Boards on all academic matters.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Auckland academics reject university's 'best offer'
  2. CPIT strike suggests a confused employer
  3. Voluntary student membership may be just weeks away
  4. Teaching awards honour for Auckland senior tutor
  5. Minister launches review of industry training
  6. Other news

Auckland academics reject university's 'best offer'

At a standing room only meeting last week, TEU members voted by 192 votes to 15 not to take the employer’s 'Best Offer' to a formal ratification meeting. An email ballot was then  open for a further two days after the meeting and the final vote tally was 367 members voting with 311 voting no and 56 voting yes to the offer.

At the large meeting TEU members repeatedly said they did not want to put the university's offer of increased pay and leave in return for the removal of key terms and conditions from their employment agreement to a formal ratification vote, and that they now supported escalating their industrial action.

TEU academics have tried a range of a low-level actions over the last five months but throughout that time the university has changed its position very little.

Over the next month, TEU members are planning to cease to cooperate with internal administrative requirements, continue not to comply with PBRF reporting, and go on strike for at least one day.

They are planning their  first full day of strike action for Wednesday 24 August.  

After the ballot to escalate industrial action, TEU's lawyer filed for urgency on its Facilitation of Bargaining application before the Employment Relations Authority. The union hopes it can confirm a facilitation hearing before the first full strike day next month.

CPIT strike suggests a confused employer

Almost 30 classes at the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) were cancelled on Monday when TEU members walked off the job.

Staff were protesting against threats by the polytechnic to make staff teach more hours on more days and give up weeks of leave.

With the strike now over the polytechnic and TEU members will return to negotiations. TEU hopes this will be an opportunity to resolve the many misconceptions about the employer’s offer as stated publicly which is not consistent with the offers on the table.

TEU organiser Phil Dodds said about 96 per cent of the 60 members at a paid stopwork meeting on Monday morning voted to take industrial action, and 75 per cent voted to strike immediately.

TEU organiser Phil Dodds said staff at CPIT believe they have made a massive contribution to getting the polytechnic back up and running for students after the earthquakes, and were stunned that their employer was now choosing to attack their working conditions; whilst other employers in the region were rewarding staff for the efforts their staff had made.

"CPIT staff come to work for CPIT because they want to teach. But the leave they get is also an appealing draw card. Many current staff took a pay cut from their previous job to come to CPIT because the leave better matched their family life and circumstances. Now the polytechnic wants to take that away," said Mr Dodds.

With bargaining about to resume an action committee of TEU members is also planning further actions in case negotiations do not progress ideas about further actions.

Voluntary student membership may be just weeks away

The controversial voluntary student union membership legislation has unexpectedly made it back before Parliament last night. The Labour party had been filibustering the Members' Bill of ACT MP Heather Roy by drawing out debate on an earlier piece of legislation. However ACT used a standing order procedure yesterday afternoon to have the earlier piece of legislation set aside until the next sitting day of parliament.  ACT caught Labour unaware and debate began on the voluntary student membership bill and carried on through the evening.  The bill had nearly passed through the committee stage by the end of the evening.  

It is now possible the bill will pass in a few of weeks' time when it comes up for its third and final reading. Under Labour's original plan to delay debate the bill would not have made it before Parliament before the election.

NZUSA co-president David Do immediately accused the National Party of breaking a promise:

"National MPs have told us as recently as two weeks ago that this Bill would not pass before the election," said Mr Do. "We have been working hard to try and achieve a fair alternative to the Bill which addresses their concerns around the current system while ensuring students’ associations can survive," added Mr Do.

"With only eight weeks to go before students go into exams, students’ associations will not be able to adequately consult with their students and make preparation for a possible 100 percent loss of income in 2012. Tertiary institutions will likewise have no time to prepare for the massive transition needed to ensure important services and facilities will be able to continue beyond this year."

TEU national president, Sandra Grey said staff at tertiary institutions would also be concerned by this dramatic turn of events.

"If students associations become financially or politically unviable because of this legislation many of the services they offer will either disappear, or be picked up by institutions and paid for through their own already stretched budgets," said Dr Grey. "That means more stress, pressure and workloads for tertiary education staff. It also means classes with students with less pastoral support and advocacy, which is bad for learning."

Teaching awards honour for Auckland senior tutor

University of Auckland senior tutor Rena Heap was one of twelve outstanding tertiary teachers recognised last night by Ako Aotearoa – The National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence.

The tertiary teaching excellence awards held at Parliament last night recognise and celebrate excellence in tertiary teaching; providing an opportunity for teachers to share with others the good practice that has proven to benefit their learners.

Mrs Heap, a Senior Tutor in the school of sciences, mathematics and technology was recognised for her methods and innovative exercises that stimulate learning. The judges noted her classes epitomise theory in action by making science fascinating, relevant and fun.

"Her willingness to take risks is rewarded by opening students' eyes to new ways of capturing young minds in future classrooms," said the judges.

TEU national president Sandra Grey, who attended the awards, said it was enriching to have a diverse range of tertiary teachers from different institutions recognised including senior tutors like Mrs Heap.

"As some of the recipients noted last night, it is important we recognise great teaching, not just great research in our tertiary institutions," said Dr Grey.

Other winners last night included Peter Bilous and Professor Leoni Schmidt from Otago Polytechnic, Professor Kevin Gould of Victoria University of Wellington, Sandra Lee Morrison and Dr Mary Fitzpatrick from the University of Waikato, Associate Professor Jon Harding from the University of Canterbury, Professor Robin Kearns and Dr Ross McDonald of the University of Auckland, Dr Ksenija Napan from Unitec, and  Tony Zaharic from the University of Otago. Professor Michael Walker from the University of Auckland won this year’s Prime Minister’s Supreme Award for tertiary teaching excellence.

Minister launches review of industry training

Tertiary education minster Steven Joyce used last week's Industry Training Federation Annual General Meeting to announce the terms of reference for a Review of Industry Training. The review follows public dissatisfaction by the minister with the industry training sector and substantial cuts in funding.   

The review will examine how industry training has developed in New Zealand, international approaches to vocational education and training, the purpose of industry training, and the respective roles of government, employers and employees in achieving the purpose. It will also look at the strengths and weaknesses of different elements of industry training, and the role of industry training within the wider vocational education and training system, including the Youth Guarantee provision.

Mr Joyce also used last week's industry training meeting to claim credit for Industry Training Organisations increasing the number of credits they award  by 14 percent  between 2008 and 2010.

"The government’s push for more accountability in industry training is starting to pay off," he said.

Mr Joyce says the increased success has come following government moves to focus more on results than raw numbers enrolled in industry training.

Other news

Student Job Search has confirmed it will close its six university campus-based centres as part of a move to restructure its job recruitment operations online. A review of SJS operations had concluded the existing service did not meet the needs of students, as more and more of them went online to find jobs, he said - Otago Daily Times

Wellington City Council wants student concessions introduced on public transport and for bus and train commuters to pay a smaller share of fares. Victoria University of Wellington Student Association president Seamus Brady said Auckland offered student concession, while students in Palmerston North and Whanganui paid nothing. The high costs in Wellington made getting to class tough for cash-strapped students living in cheaper areas on the city fringes. - Dominion Post

Casual staff with PhDs could become the refuse of the Australian higher education system unless there is a commitment to building and maintaining a full-time workforce, a researcher in the field says - The Australian

Fewer than one in three Australian university staff has confidence in the ability of senior management at their institution, with 44 per cent saying the bottom line was of more importance than student outcomes - The Australian


TEU Tertiary Update is published weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the Tertiary Education Union and others. You can subscribe to Tertiary Update by email or feed reader. Back issues are available on the TEU website. Direct inquiries should be made to Stephen Day.

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