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TEU Tertiary Update Vol 15 No 15

University of Canterbury closure angers indebted student

A part time student at the University of Canterbury says the university's plan to close its theatre program will cost her $4000 of fees for a degree she can no longer complete. Sarah has told the student campaign You are UC:

"If I was a single teen or in my early 20s, I could move to Wellington, Auckland, or Otago to complete my Theatre degree. But this is not my situation. I am married, I have 3 children, I own a home in Christchurch, moving to suit the degree I want to achieve is not in the realm of possibility for me. The only reason I started a degree at Canterbury was so I could become a High School Drama teacher. If this closure goes ahead, I will have spent $4000 towards a degree which I will be unable… to complete at Canterbury University."

Meanwhile the Christchurch Press reports that corporate culture at the university may be choking creativity.

"However, the issue at the moment, the document goes on to say, is not that Arts courses are weak or unsustainable, but that the College of Arts offers more courses than it can support on current and projected income."

"In short: there is nothing wrong with the affected courses but someone or something has to go. It also becomes clear that this thinking actually pre-dates the earthquakes, as the proposal says [Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the College of Arts, Prof] Adelson has been engaged in his strategic process for 18 months."

The Press reports that that TEU has filed papers with the Employment Authority seeking a compliance order. Essentially, the filed papers charge the university with not following its own rules around academic process.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Will there be jobs for science graduates?
  2. Joyce wants less representation on university councils
  3. Massive student protests shake Quebec
  4. Massachusetts replaces teacher educators with video highlights

Will there be jobs for science graduates?

Scoop journalist Gordon Campbell has warned that the government's plans to encourage people to study for maths, science, technology, and engineering degrees may leave many highly skilled and educated graduates without jobs.

Mr Campbell says the problem is most science and technology jobs are based in either crown research institutes or in universities:

"...both of which are facing funding pressure from government and which therefore, are not hiring. On the face of it, Joyce is talking about shifting the focus of university course funding and fostering careers into areas where – with his other hand – he is limiting the funding required to sustain those careers."

Mr Campbell points to a Department of Labour study that shows the majority of jobs growth between 2010 and 2015 will be in the fields of retail, service industries, business services, construction and agriculture. Immigration NZ's immediate skills shortages list also shows shortages in agriculture and forestry, construction, hospitality and trades.

"What these documents indicate is that yes, there are some shortages and opportunities in science and engineering (not so much in maths and technology) but there are many more opportunities in the service industries – in retail, construction and agriculture, for instance. Many of those "science" jobs require trades certificates, not degrees."

Several TEU members have supported this argument suggesting that currently there is not strong evidence of employment opportunities for science graduates.

"The government knows all this," continues Mr Campbell. "Last year, 560 scientists signed an open letter to government decrying the dearth of career openings in New Zealand (and the minimal state support) for post-graduates in science. As things stand – if Joyce has his way – people will be being educated for jobs that do not exist while others will have their funding cut because they are studying subjects that the government has chosen to sacrifice..."

Joyce wants less representation on university councils

Minister of tertiary education, Steven Joyce told The Press he wants to reform university councils.

''They're potentially a bit large and unwieldy,'' Mr Joyce said.

''I want to see the universities take a more entrepreneurial approach."

The government pushed through similar changes for polytechnic councils in 2009.  Those changes reduced councils down to eight members, four of whom are directly appointed by the minister and the remaining four are chosen by the first four.  The minister appoints the chairperson and gives her or him the casting vote. Council members may also sit on multiple councils. Staff representatives, student representatives, union representatives and iwi representatives all lost their seats on the new councils.

At the time public law expert Mae Chen said the dominance of Ministerial appointees may also undermine institutional autonomy, contrary to the object of the Education Act and Parliament's clear intentions for academic freedom and independence.

TEU national president Sandra Grey has warned that Mr Joyce should take a look at what has happened under the new polytechnic council structure before he makes moves on university councils.

"The size of the polytechnic councils might have dropped but the costs of running them have not."

At Wintec for instance fourteen people sat on Wintec's council before the reforms and collected $93,000 in council fees. Since the reforms eight councillors, appointed by either the Minister of Tertiary Education or the council itself, have had pay rises of between 17 and 131 percent, and collected just under $109,000,despite being half the size and less representative of their local community. At Unitec the 15 councillors in 2009 received a total of $99,000 (an average of $6,600 each). The eight councillors in 2010, who were appointed by either the minister or the council itself, received $116,000 (an average of $14,500 each).

Dr Grey says the global financial collapse of 2008 showed that small unaccountable governing boards don't always get it right, and that a transparent democratic model, such as used in universities,  is much more reliable and financially sound.

Massive student protests shake Quebec

Tens of thousands of students in the Canadian province of Quebec have been 'on strike' for the last thirteen weeks, protesting daily over plans to increase university fees by C$325 per year over five years.

The provincial government had hoped it could end the protests with a deal that does not revoke plans to increase tuition fees, but does freeze fees until the end of 2012 and spreads the rises over seven years instead of five. Students have been voting throughout the week, with each student association voting independently whether to accept the deal or continue the strike.

However the Globe and Mail reports that for the second consecutive day, student associations voted almost unanimously against a tentative agreement with the government and supported further strike action as the wave of protest against last Saturday's deal on tuition-fee hikes appeared unstoppable.

For months, there have been class boycotts, demonstrations and occasional angry confrontations with police resulting in some violence, vandalism and arrests. .

"We know that 99 per cent of the people who show up to protest want to do so peacefully," said Constable Yannick Ouimet of the Montreal Police.

Martine Desjardins, president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec said that while it may seem like the movement is hitting a dead end, she remains optimistic.

"We are seeing small openings and we're seeing our support base broadening. It's not just students out there, it's parents, teachers, trade unions and different social groups. We don't want to have gone through all of this and to go back to school empty handed."

Quebec's protests coincide with massive student rallies in Chile in recent months opposing the privatisation of higher education there.

Massachusetts replaces teacher educators with video highlights

The New York Times reports that students studying to be teachers at the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts are protesting a new national licensure procedure that Stanford University and the education company Pearson have developed.

The UMass students say that their professors and the classroom teachers who observe them for six months in real school settings can do a better job judging their skills than a corporation that has never seen them.

They have refused to send Pearson two 10-minute videos of themselves teaching, as well as a 40-page take-home test, requirements of an assessment that will soon be necessary to be teachers in several states.

Lily Waites, 25, who is getting a master's degree to teach biology, found that the process of reducing 270 minutes of recorded classroom teaching to 20 minutes of video was demeaning and frustrating, made worse because she had never edited video before. "I don't think it showed in any way who I am as a teacher," she said. "It felt so stilted."

At this point the Teacher Performance Assessment that Pearson and Stanford are developing is still in the pilot stage, being tested by 200 universities in more than two dozen states. Student teachers who do not pass would not be licensed.

Stanford officials say that, to the best of their knowledge, the UMass program is the only case of resistance.

The Chair of TEU's teacher education committee, Brian Marsh, say the pilot is dystopian:

"Surely this is exclusively about economic rationalism – no more visiting lecturers, no travel costs, all done remotely at $75 a pop. If we are to embrace the notion of professional development and life-long, or career-long, learning, what kind of signal does it send that a summative (and possibly summary) judgment can be made about a teacher's practice at a distance, based on a video clip?

Other news

Instead of rethinking whether performance measures work in the tertiary sector, the government has set up a performance exercise looking at student retention and completion. For tertiary institutions the quickest route to achieving in this exercise is making sure students pass their courses. The simplest way to ensure students pass is to put pressure on academics to elevate grades (and in a few isolated cases this is already beginning to happen in a range of institutions across New Zealand) - Dr Sandra Grey on Kiwiblog


What we're saying, though, is that once you've used your 200 weeks [of student allowance], that's the end of it. Currently, you can get exemptions for long programmes, as they call them, or for master's or PhDs. But when somebody's getting to the point when they're doing a master's or a PhD or a long programmes where they've perhaps done one degree and they're going to do another degree, they are going to have a good income when they leave, and therefore they should be able to pay off a student loan - Steven Joyce on TVNZ Q&A


Universities NZ welcomes the Minister of Tertiary Education, Skills & Employment's indication over the weekend that there will be a modest increase to the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) in this year's Budget as it is an effective system for supporting the wide-ranging contributions made by university research - Universities NZ


39 percent of fraud in both tertiary and local government sectors went un-investigated by police. Some 38 percent of respondents in councils and 37 percent in polytechnics and universities said they were aware of a case of fraud in their institution within the past two years - compared to a public sector average of less than a quarter - Radio NZ


Saudi Arabian students have been banned from studying in Christchurch because of earthquake fears. Students sponsored by the Saudi Ministry of Higher Education cannot get government-funded scholarships in Christchurch this year - Stuff


Confronted with the biggest crisis since the 30s, the trade body for British sociologists proudly displayed its engagement by enumerating articles in the Journal of Niche Studies. All this is a long way from that letter of 1981, let alone Keynes. Perhaps it shows how far academics have been forced to conform to their research assessment exercises and turn out measurable output - The Guardian


TV3's new Sunday morning offering, Three60, is sponsored by Massey University in a deal some sources say could be worth around $50,000. Professor Malcolm Wright, Massey University's head of journalism, appeared on Three60 to discuss the Rupert Murdoch saga. The sponsor became the commentator. In doing so, the tertiary institution got more buck for their endorsement dollar than if they had flashed a logo on screen at the commencement of the show - which they did. Is this part of the deal? - The New Zealand Herald

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