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TEC must make universities come clean on PBRF rort

Media Release
Tertiary Education Union
26 March 2012

TEC must make universities come clean on PBRF rort

Allegations that Victoria University of Wellington is putting people out of work to increase its own research funding are the symptom of a widespread malaise in NZ universities' approaches to research funding, says TEU national president Dr Sandra Grey. Universities are gaming the performance-based approach to research funding (PBRF), which funds tertiary education institutions based on individual staff research performance, research degree completions and the level of external income received.

Victoria University's Dr Martin Lally has claimed that the university has varied or sought to vary the employment agreements of a number of staff who are not active researchers, to ensure their temporary absence from the university at the June 2012 PBRF census date, thereby improving the university’s PBRF result.

These allegations fit with similar stories TEU has heard from staff working at universities in New Zealand, according to Dr Sandra Grey. We have raised these concerns with the commission over the past few years:

"We know of:

• staff being persuaded to resign on the understanding they will be rehired after the PBRF round is completed;

• staff put on fixed term agreements to avoid them counting for PBRF measurements;

• staff being offered shorter fixed term agreements to avoid counting in PBRF measurements; and

• potential staff not being employed to avoid them counting towards PBRF scores."

"These cases represent an outrageous breach of people's employment rights, but also make a farce of the PBRF as a funding mechanism," said Dr Grey.

"We believe that the Tertiary Education Commission should establish a wider independent investigation to ensure no universities are rorting public funding in this way."


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