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TEU Tertiary Update Vol 15 No 21

Regional polytechnics battered by government cuts

Annual reports from twelve of the country’s 18 polytechnics show that the government is drastically cutting funding to polytechnics, and especially regional community polytechnics. Across the 12 polytechnics that have released their 2011 annual reports government grants fell 4.4 percent or $17 million.

The polytechnics that have been the worst hit by 2011 funding cuts were regional polytechnics such as Aoraki in Timaru, where the government grant fell by 19 percent or $4 million, Te Tai Poutini in Westport where the grant fell by 14 percent or $3 million, and NorthTec in Whangarei where the government grant fell by 13 percent or $4 million.

Three city-based polytechnics recorded an increase in their government grant: MIT, Wintec and CPIT.

Aoraki Polytechnic's chief executive Kay Nelson blamed the institute's first deficit in five years on government funding cuts, saying, "This had serious consequences for our financial position."

TEU national president Sandra Grey said the government is denying people in regional communities the chance to train for jobs.

"People want the chance to learn, and they want that opportunity in their own local communities. Students in our regions should not see their polytechnics cut back and their learning opportunities diminished," said Sandra Grey.

Sandra Grey says this problem is likely to get worse this year because the government budget now allows private for profit companies to compete for funding that previously went to regional polytechnics.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Lincoln swaps commerce staff for casual students
  2. Pastoral care should be specialist role, not add on
  3. Minister opts for shared council appointments
  4. Aussies want 2000 new permanent academic jobs
  5. Other news

Lincoln swaps commerce staff for casual students

Lincoln University has restructured the senior tutors in its commerce faculty - replacing existing senior tutors with a mixture of new senior tutor positions and casual teaching students.

The university has made three senior tutors redundant and established new positions that will do work substantially different from the work that a tutor would do as stated in the academic collective agreement. It will also replace discipline-based senior tutors with ones that cover all the disciplines within the whole faculty.

New teaching assistant positions will do the teaching that senior tutors previously did. These teaching assistants will be casual PhD and Masters degree students.

TEU local organiser Cindy Doull says taking teaching duties off permanent, experienced staff and giving casual work to students is undermining the profession.  The university says however this is common practice in universities worldwide.

TEU members have challenged the restructuring changes since the university first proposed them and successfully advocated for a number of amendments to ameliorate the proposals. However, since the university decided to proceed TEU has argued that the university is breaching its collective agreement in the way it is implementing its plan.

The university refuses to pay redundancy pay to one tutor because it argues he was offered a comparable role.  However the collective agreement says the new job the university offers the tutor must be substantially similar and if it is not then the original position is redundant and the member is entitled to redundancy pay. Lincoln contests that the jobs are comparable because the hours are the same, the title is the same, and the pay rate is the same. The only thing that is different is the work.

Pastoral care should be specialist role, not add on

Unitec foundations studies lecturer Susan Wātene says foundation students’ programmes are coming under increasing pressure from reviews and restructuring.  Foundations studies students need more pastoral care and support but often that pastoral support is not specifically funded which means it is done by staff who already have other jobs.

"If positions for pastoral support are not funded in Institutes then it falls on the shoulders of academic staff because we know pastoral support works.  If staff don’t take it on board then students become at-risk."

"The demands on all teaching staff are enormous and the number of reviews of departments and programmes take their toll.  Add to that the increase in the number of Youth Guarantee students encouraged to enrol at polytechnics - many of whom bring more issues for already overloaded staff."

Susan Wātene says students that apply for foundation studies generally fit into several categories; those who have recently left school, but need more credits, those who were asked to leave school and whose parents tell them they must enrol - often Youth Guarantee students, return students who may have taken time out for a year or two and have re-enrolled, and a strong cohort are students who are returning to education after a long break of many years.

"Each of these groups requires different additional help.  And to ensure we provide effective help we absolutely need staff whose main focus is pastoral.  Obviously the government sees the merit and need for pastoral care because it has included pastoral support funding for the new Youth Guarantee programmes.  For each of the above mentioned groups we need pastoral support staff who work closely with academic staff.  It will allow staff to holistically support students enabling them to become independent learners."

Minister opts for shared council appointments

Minister for tertiary education, skills and employment, Steven Joyce, has continued to appoint people to multiple polytechnic councils.

Malcolm Inglis, who is the current deputy chair of UCOL council will now also take on the role of deputy chair of the WITT council for a four year term. Malcolm Inglis is a management consultant providing strategic, financial and organisational development advice. Previously he was the Crown Observer at WITT appointed to monitor risk associated with the institution. John Mote has been reappointed as a member of the CPIT council for a four year term. He is also a ministerial appointment to the Tai Poutini Polytechnic council and a council appointee to NorthTec.

Mary Bourke (WITT), Ross Butler (NMIT), Alan Barker (Open Polytechnic) and Barry Jones (Tai Poutini Polytechnic) were also all reappointed to their ministerial positions on their respective councils.

TEU national president Sandra Grey says that the move to have one councillor sitting on multiple councils makes it harder for those councillors to be spokespeople for the polytechnics' local communities.

"While collaborating and cooperating is good, we are concerned the minister is centralising all the decision-making power in the hands of a few politically-appointed councillors. Local communities need a place where they can have their say rather than being a minority among political appointees."

Aussies want 2000 new permanent academic jobs

Australia's National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) will use the upcoming higher education enterprise bargaining round to advocate for 2000 new ongoing jobs for casual academics.

"Over half of academic teaching in universities is now undertaken by people paid by the hour," said NTEU president, Jeannie Rea.

"This growth in casualisation is the dirty secret of Australian higher education, which now threatens to undermine the quality of our university system. We intend to use the upcoming enterprise bargaining round to call time on this."

2000 jobs represents approximately 20 percent of the academic casuals working in universities, based on the government’s own figures.

NTEU is also claiming a 7 percent per year flat annual salary increase over four years to compensate for cost of living increases, productivity gains and to maintain domestic and international competitiveness.

"We understand the financial health of individual institutions differs across the higher education sector," said Jeannie Rea

"But we believe that not only can universities choose to meet these claims, it is in their interests to do so to ensure their most valuable resource, their staff, get the respect, recognition and reward they deserve."

Other news

The government is under fire over its efforts to boost the number of tradespeople to help rebuild Christchurch. The news that some industries are still desperate for trained workers comes after revelations that only a fraction of the millions specifically allocated for the training of tradespeople has been spent -TVNZ

No single student over 24 is better off on a student loan than a student allowance. All will get less – and pay most of it back. This means all post graduate students who have to get government assistance to live will be worse off due to the government’s decision to scrap their student allowances - Dave Crampton does the maths on student allowance changes.

It's good that job creation is at the top of the agenda at the G20 summit in Mexico. But young people need the right skills to do those jobs – and now they're demanding that world leaders finally give serious attention to developing skills - Hans Botnen Eide at Education for All

More course closures are likely at Canterbury University as it tries to balance its books. University vice-chancellor Rod Carr said he did not know which courses would be axed next or when decisions would be made. The five colleges within the university were reviewing their operations to determine how they were going to "live within their means", he said - The Press

Advocates of "open access" publishing in academia say a UK report that proposes spending £60 million a year to make all publicly-funded research free to access will protect the profits of publishers at the expense of scholarship. The British government has enlisted the services of Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales in a bid to support open access publishing for all scholarly work by UK researchers, regardless of whether it is also published in a subscription-only journal - The Conversation

A new US study has found that tuition at for-profit schools where students receive federal aid was 75 per cent higher than at comparable for-profit schools whose students do not receive any aid. The study's authors warned their findings do not apply to public colleges and private non-profit schools, which they say are different because they are not motivated by profits and because their prices are largely determined by state funding and donations - The Wall Street Journal

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