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TEU Tertiary Update Vol 15 No 28

Lincoln says no money and no negotiations

While employment negotiations at other universities are underway, they have not begun at Lincoln University. The collective agreements for academic and general staff expired in June, but the university says that it will not be in a position to negotiate a new agreement with staff until the middle of 2013. It has instead offered to roll over its existing collective agreements, with no changes, including no pay rise.

Lincoln's recent Annual Report recorded a small $500,000 surplus. It says that the university’s financial situation and the on-going recovery from the Canterbury earthquakes means it is not in a position to negotiate meaningfully with its staff at present. The senior management team is still working through a process to find out how much money it will receive from the government to rebuild its damaged buildings.

Union members will meet next Tuesday to discuss the university's proposal to not bargain this year. However, TEU's deputy secretary Nanette Cormack says that Lincoln University staff already have some of the lowest pay rates of university staff in New Zealand and should not have to go without a pay rise this year after all that they have contributed to the university in the last two years.

"We appreciate the funding challenges that all Canterbury's tertiary education institutions face, but staff at those institutions are also facing increased costs. Many have lost property, face increased insurance premiums, higher rates, or rent and other new costs. Just like Lincoln they need to rebuild their own homes and communities."

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Shorter masters courses
  2. Jobless women in Canterbury drive unemployment
  3. Christchurch needs career skills not quick labour
  4. Telford kitchen staff denied eight-hour days
  5. Other news

Shorter masters courses

In an effort to generate more export income from international students NZQA may soon allow universities to teach shorter masters courses.

Currently, the New Zealand master's degree comprises at least 240 credits in total, except where it builds on four years of prior degree level study, in which cases it can be fewer than 240, but no fewer than 120, credits.

NZQA is seeking feedback on two options to allow for shorter masters degrees.

The first option, which is the vice chancellors’ preferred option, would add an extra exception allowing for 180 credit masters courses where they build on a three-year bachelor degree or equivalent. 

The second option is that all masters degrees would be at least 180 credits following completion of a 360-credit bachelors degree, except where it builds on four years of prior study at bachelor degree level or above, in which case it can be fewer than 180, but no fewer than 120, credits.

NZQA says the justification for either of these changes is greater income from international students.

"A shorter masters degree is likely to assist in attracting increased numbers of international students to New Zealand, which is currently disadvantaged in the postgraduate market by its more restrictive master's degree definition," says NZQA's consultation paper. "New Zealand's export education industry would then be better placed to respond to the Government's International Education Leadership Statement Goal to grow the value of export education over the next 15 years."

The changes would apply to both domestic and international students. They would also lead to a shift from research-based degrees to course work based degrees. NZQA says these changes would be compatible with the Bologna process.

NZQA is inviting feedback on its proposals, and TEU will be submitting. If you want to share your views as TEU member you can comment below or contact TEU's research officer, Jo Scott.

Jobless women in Canterbury drive unemployment

Council of Trade Unions President Helen Kelly says growing unemployment shows the government's continuing ambivalence to creating jobs is unsustainable.

"We are not surprised that the statistics show our unemployment rate has increased to 6.8 percent – this is the highest rate since June 2010," said Helen Kelly. "A recent Reuters survey showed economists were expecting the rate to drop to 6.5 percent, but our experience shows there aren't many jobs out there, and it's increasingly hard for those out of work to find decent work."

"We need to boost training for Kiwi workers in Christchurch, build trains in New Zealand, retain good Government jobs, increase infrastructure projects, increase skill development programmes, reinstate tertiary spending cuts and stop hoping  the market will fix this.  Each percentage increase represents real people facing a miserable future unless, together, we take action."

One of the largest falls in employment was among women in the Canterbury region, down 15,800 (or 10.3 percent). Statistics New Zealand noted that the fall in employment over the year was significant in the education and training industries.

"The falls in these industries were reflected in the decrease of total female employment – the majority of people employed in these industries are women."

TEU national president Sandra Grey noted that the government's continued funding cuts to public services like tertiary education was causing increasing unemployment - particularly for women.

"The University of Canterbury is planning to cut 7.5 percent of its already decimated workforce. Many of those who lose their jobs will likely be women. The government is creating unemployment not solving it."

Helen Kelly agrees:

"Employment growth has slowed and there are 2,000 fewer people in work than last year – the government is continuing to bank on the Christchurch rebuild to provide much needed stimulus and jobs – it needs to do more than just wait. There are now 162,000 New Zealanders unemployed, this number has risen by 1.1 percent – these figures continue to be alarmingly high."

Christchurch needs career skills not quick labour

As the Christchurch rebuild gets underway unions are warning that giving people the trades skills they need to do the job cannot be done quick and fast.

The government is investigating bringing in skilled labour from Samoa to help with the rebuild. The CTU's Peter Conway cautions that the rebuild could be 'done on the cheap' if pre-employment programmes are not well timed and comprehensive.

"It's been very, very hard to get the timing right because of a whole lot of insurance and other issues. This is a massive logistical project. We have been saying for some time 'use the time gap to fill the skills gap'. Given the sums involved, why not say to the major construction firms 'let's get some pre-employment training going?' What is going to be difficult about what the Prime Minister has suggested is that in the trades area that is really long-term employment with a lot of skill development involved. There are three or four years training involved in that. That is very different from a seasonal employment scheme in horticulture."

TEU's national president Sandra Grey concurs, saying it is important that we continue to educate and train people for on-going trades careers, not just as short-term labour for the rebuild.

"Imported labour will be part of the solution in the short term but in the medium term we will need a polytechnic sector that can deliver all of New Zealand's labour demands – including Christchurch's recovery. It is important not to take short cuts on time or quality to get people out into the rebuild faster.''

"Polytechnics are ideally placed to cover all of the skills needed for the rebuild, and our training focus should be on them. We need to be getting that training going now, so that the graduates are ready when they are needed."

Telford kitchen staff denied eight-hour days

Lincoln University intends to deny some of the lowest paid staff in the tertiary education sector the same employment conditions as other staff it employs.

The kitchen and residential staff at Lincoln's Telford campus have recently applied to join the TEU collective employment agreement. However, Lincoln says that if they do join the Services Staff Collective Agreement it still will not grant them the overtime or penal rates that it offers to all its other general staff. It will also not extend them the benefit of an eight-hour day or 40-hour week to which other services staff are entitled.

Lincoln's management team argues that it cannot afford to allow these staff the same employment protections as other staff while it waits to see how much government funding it will get to compensate for its earthquake damage.

TEU's deputy secretary Nanette Cormack says that this is a small group of workers, who happen to be amongst the lowest paid at Lincoln, and the amount of money required to give these workers equity is not significant in the overall Lincoln budget.

"Telford's kitchen and residential staff are a crucial part of Lincoln's accommodation for its many rural students who could not otherwise study. There is no reason to treat these staff worse than all other general staff at Lincoln."

Other news

The University of Otago has scrapped three non-degree programmes from its School of Physical Education as part of a wider push to phase out sub-degree diplomas and certificates. School of Physical Education dean Prof Doug Booth said phasing out sub-degree programmes was prompted by a change in government policy - Otago Daily Times

Canterbury University is asking staff to take voluntary redundancy as it looks to minimise the impact of ''inevitable'' compulsory job losses. It is the second time in 10 months the university has made such a call - Stuff

Enrolments took a hit at all but one of New Zealand's universities. A comparison of the annual reports of New Zealand's eight universities shows, on average, equivalent full-time student (EFTs) numbers fell 2.4 percent in 2011. Only Lincoln University had an increase in enrolments - Otago Daily Times

Inland Revenue is threatening to bankrupt former students living in Australia who are refusing to repay loans. Tax staff have cracked down on hundreds of student-loan borrowers in New Zealand and are moving their enforcement across the Tasman - New Zealand Herald

The U.S. secretary of education, Arne Duncan, took states to task on Thursday for cutting spending on higher education, saying state lawmakers were being "penny-wise and pound-foolish", and were undermining their own economic growth - The Chronicle of Higher Education

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