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TEU Tertiary Update Vol 15 No 30

UC hires Aussie stock-exchange company to import students

The University of Canterbury council yesterday agreed to engage with global private education provider Navitas Limited to establish an affiliated college on campus that will recruit and prepare international students for degree study at UC.

Students will study first-year courses at the affiliated college and on successful completion will enter their second year of study at UC. UC Vice-Chancellor Dr Rod Carr says the University hopes international undergraduate students will account for approximately 15% of funded enrolment within 10 years. Currently 8% of undergraduates are international students.

"We are delighted to be partnering with the University of Canterbury to improve student body diversity and to help more international students enrich their lives through education," says Rod Jones, CEO of Navitas.

The university selected Navitas as the private sector provider following a tender process. Operating since 1994, Navitas currently operates nine pathway colleges in Australia, two in Canada, eight in the United Kingdom, five in the USA, one in Kenya and one in Sri Lanka as well as three managed campuses in Australia and one in Singapore.

TEU president Sandra Grey warns however that Navitas is an Australian stock exchange listed company whose first responsibility is to return a profit to those shareholders not to improve the education opportunities for people in Canterbury.

"A college set-up by Navitas will be under pressure to make profits and satisfy stock market expectations. University of Canterbury  can provide a better education to international students by employing its own people and keeping the provision in-house," says Sandra Grey.

In the United Kingdom, where Navitas has operated for several years, the local tertiary union UCU notes that Navitas' corporate strategy identifies the major conditions for its success as being the 'lack of tertiary infrastructure in source companies', where students are recruited from and the 'real reduction of government funding (increasing reliance of universities on full-fee paying international students)'.

UCU says a key part of this marketing strategy is the promise of some variant of 'guaranteed progression' to an undergraduate degree at the partner institution.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. League tables due out next week
  2. Teachers' Council role in teacher education debated
  3. Job Ops with Training challenged in parliament
  4. Universities and their councils serve their communities, not the Minister
  5. Chile: educators deplore the violent repression of student protest
  6. Performance pay for University of Texas heads
  7. Other news

League tables due out next week

It is 'league-table' time again for tertiary education institutions around the country because the Tertiary Education Commission is preparing to publish its 2011 educational performance information next Thursday. Tertiary institutions have already seen the educational performance data, and will get to see the final report three days prior to its public release.

TEU president Sandra Grey says while the data is useful as part of a series of indicators to show what institutions are doing, it is a mistake think it is, on its own, an indicator of education quality at various institutions, and an even greater mistake to use it to rank those institutions.

"League tables create perverse incentives - institutions get punished if they choose to work with hard-to-teach students that need opportunities to improve their lives. Meanwhile institutions have an incentive to put pressure on academics to pass students whose work is not good enough, get rewarded."

The commission notes that some organisations may find that their relative position has changed, even though their performance figures have not.

The commission says that it will remove private training establishments with fewer than five equivalent full-time students from the comparative performance section of its report.  

"We have added a note with the performance information to advise that the associated effects of the earthquakes may have had an impact on 2011 student performance for education providers delivering in Canterbury. Organisations that have their main campus in Canterbury or who have contacted us about the impact are listed in the note," says the commission.

Sandra Grey says that information about an institution tells you nothing about the individual courses and subjects that it teaches and nothing about the students it teaches and the work it does in its local community.

"Just because something is easy to measure does not mean it is the right thing to measure."

Teachers' Council role in teacher education debated

A government review of the Teachers' Council will consider the council's role in approving teacher education programmes and graduate outcomes, including the effectiveness of its relationship with the Universities and other providers of initial teacher education.

The review panel reports to education minister Hekia Parata in October, but before then it is seeking submissions.

Currently the council of eleven comprises four elected teachers, four ministerial appointees and one appointee each from the two biggest teacher unions PPTA and NZEI as well as an appointee from the school trustees' association. The council covers approximately 100,000 registered teachers.

The review will have significant implications for universities and other teacher education providers and is provoking significant debate among providers. For instance, Stuart Middleton at Manukau Institute of Technology argued this week:

"The question of entry standards into the profession is a key matter for such a body. Having determined a set of standards for entry, they should then apply them at the point of entry. It is an absurdity that the Teachers' Council gets involved in initial teacher education programmes. They should be approved by CUAP or by NZQA and the only question with regard to programmes should be whether the candidate for entry into the profession has undertaken such an approved course."

In contrast many of the participants at TEU's recent teacher education forum argued in favour of the council setting requirements for initial teacher education, saying teacher educators need to 'stick up for the council' and that the current review should result in increased independence for the council, not less.

The review is seeking submissions until the end of next week. TEU is making a submission on behalf of members, which is likely to focus on the council's role in approving teacher education courses as well as the link between tertiary education institutions and teacher professional development. You can give your input to that submission by emailing TEU's research officer Jo Scott.

Job Ops with Training challenged in parliament

Labour Party employment spokesperson Su'a William Sio has questioned the minister for social development Paula Bennett over how many young people working under a Job Ops or Jobs Ops with training placement, since 2009 have had their job terminated by the employer.

Job Ops with Training is a $5,000 subsidy for employers to take on young people on benefits with low or no skills, or work experience and provide them with a six-month employment opportunity. The subsidy is to help the employer meet the wage and training costs for the young person.

Paula Bennett replied to Su'a William Sio that 507 young people have had their Job Ops or Job Ops with Training placement terminated by their employer. This includes 15 that had their placement terminated under the 90-day employment trial provisions.

Su'a William Sio is concerned that employers are supposed to pay back the up to $5000 in wage subsidies they get if they sack their Job Ops workers inside six months. It is not good enough that there are currently 477 employers who owe taxpayers a refund, with a total of $814,541 outstanding, he said.

"There are 84,000 young people who are currently not in education, training or employment. Every dollar counts and the Government should recover the money owed to it so it can be put to use giving young people a helping hand into employment."

"Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is quick to demand accountability from beneficiaries who are over-paid and she should hold employers to the same standards," Su'a William Sio said.

However, TEU national president Sandra Grey says that the union is more concerned that the students are getting high quality transferable education and skills than that employers are being held to account.

"We would like to see more guidelines around the type of training and education the scheme requires employers to provide employees.  The scheme has more potential, to help young people in need of skills and would be more cost effective, if employers commit to work with qualified skills trainers and educators."

Universities and their councils serve their communities, not the Minister

by Professor Kevin Broughan, Former member of the University of Waikato Council

Although government funding and grants represent less than half university income, the minister of tertiary education, Steven Joyce, has signalled his intention to take over completely the university councils.

Universities are places of great challenge for staff and students. They are dedicated to the pursuit of truth, excellence, new knowledge, and to the transfer of that pursuit and knowledge to new generations. They attract staff of the highest calibre from around the world. These talented and highly committed folk dedicate their lives to their disciplines in order that our store of available knowledge and skill might become ever deeper and more pervasive.

Modern university councils are the governing bodies of their institutions. Governance means they are charged with planning for the universities' future activities and needs, negotiating funding with the Tertiary Education Commission, setting student fees and providing for the physical and intellectual needs of staff and students. They appoint the vice-chancellor. These are weighty responsibilities in that a modern university has a wide range of fundamental and professional programmes of study that need to be fostered. They run the gamut from pure science, mathematics and philosophy to law, engineering and the training of teachers and social workers.  It is hard to imagine a modern society functioning well without graduates in computer science and medicine.

So a modern university is multifaceted and its council should, and currently does, reflect that diverse range of activities and connections. Following wide ranging discussions within New Zealand communities during 1987-1989, a largely democratic structure was laid down for the councils describing their roles and constitution. For example, there were to be up to three places for each of the academic staff, the support staff and the students. There were to be representatives from the Employers' Federation and the Council of Trade Unions. At Waikato it was common to have three Māori representatives, the mayor of the city, the director of the then Ruakura Research Station and the chief executive officer of the polytechnic. At different times there have been members of the legal profession, including justices of the high court. Four members appointed by the minister of tertiary education were to be appointed last, to ensure that the geographic, ethnic and gender balance of the council was reasonable. The wise legislators who enacted this legislation, wanted the universities to be in good contact with their communities and the professional bodies which accredit professional degrees.

At the heart of a university are academic programmes of teaching and research. These are the special responsibility of an academic board. It decides which programmes should go to a central committee with representatives of all of the universities, for final approval. This part of the system is not common in other countries. It is a throwback to the days when there was just one university, the University of New Zealand.

The 1989 legislation was carefully worded. Universities were to be autonomous and have protected status, called academic freedom. This status has been in the charters of universities throughout the world since medieval times. The meaning of autonomy and academic freedom was spelt out in some detail: university staff and students are free to put forward new ideas, test received wisdom, articulate unpopular opinions, engage in research, determine the content of courses and programmes of study and teach and examine students in the manner they consider best promotes learning. This freedom is conditioned by the need to act responsibility and ethically and allows for public scrutiny. There is certainly plenty of this – New Zealand academic staff must be one of the most looked at and measured in today's world. Universities work very hard indeed to spend every dollar of student fee income, government income and research income wisely and well.

Now Minister Joyce wants to change the structure of the university councils. He wants to make them, apparently, "leaner and more entrepreneurial". If the polytechnics are a guide to what he wants, he himself will appoint the Chancellor and deputy, appoint four of the members who will have a business orientation, and then they will appoint four more members. In other words, change a governing body that is broadly democratic and representative of major stakeholders, able to understand both the university and the needs of its communities for teaching and research, into one appointed, directly and indirectly, by himself with a very narrow focus. Since taxpayer government funding is typically less than half of a university's income (at Waikato in 2011 it was less than 44 percent), there is even no basis in equity in this take-over of control.

In any case, the universities are already very entrepreneurial. There are many links between companies and researchers and between crown research institutes and researchers. For example, the University of Waikato was one of the prime movers in the development of the successful Waikato Innovation Park. There are many New Zealand examples of spin-off companies formed from ideas hatched within the universities. University staff make important contributions to their communities in a huge variety of ways, not just entrepreneurial. But their main contribution to the development of society and its peoples includes undergraduate teaching, which on no account should be downgraded.

Mr. Joyce may wish to tie funding to some measured institutional entrepreneurial-ship: that is the modern way. The performance-based research funding system is being used to stimulate a concentration on a particular type of research. We have an analogous system for teaching with pass rates, retention and completions being measured as part of the funding structure. Not only are these funding structures flawed, but they are outlawed by the Education Amendment Act of 1989. In providing for autonomy and academic freedom in teaching, assessment and research, the Act requires councils, commissions and ministers to respect this autonomy.

Chile: educators deplore the violent repression of student protest

Academic union the Colegio de Profesores (CPC) has condemned the violent actions of the Chilean Police Special Force, that reacted with "violence and unjust repression" against a student protest.

Thousands of students rallied in the capital Santiago on 8 August to demand their right to a free education.

Chilean student leaders asked their Government to take control of the mostly privatised public universities to provide an equal access to quality education. They also demand that the government alters the taxation system. Unfortunately, protests have turned violent, leaving both students and police officers badly injured; student protestors reportedly set aflame three school buses. The Chilean Government responded to the protest with force, revoking the students' right to protest after their last demonstration on 28 June turned violent. The government's "Hinzpeter Law," following the 28 June protest, restricts students' rights to freedom of assembly. Both students and teachers condemned it as unlawful.

"The Chilean Government is contributing an anti-democratic attitude with an utter lack of understanding about this social movement," said the union's National Director Barbara Figueroa

"We, educators, came here because our students' demands are also ours," she highlighted. "Since they introduce the administrative decentralisation at a community level, we have been rejecting this form of administration, since it only widens social differences."

These protests are a part of a larger storm that has been hanging over Chile since May 2011. In April 2012, Chilean education minister Harald Beyer proposed a new university funding plan, which would remove private sector banks from the process of granting student loans and reduce interest rates on loans from six to two per cent.

The President of the University of Chile Student Federation, Gabriel Boric, rejected the plan, stating, "We don't want to trade debt for debt, which is what the government is offering us."

Read the full article at Education International

Performance pay for University of Texas heads

The University of Texas has approved a proposal to adopt an incentive-pay system for the heads of the system's nine universities and six health centres, as well as 11 system administrators.

Under the plan, the system's chancellor will meet with each individual administrator eligible for the incentive plan. With each, he will develop three or four areas on which to evaluate that official's performance.

An example plan included in the proposal measured performance on four areas: cost savings from shared-services initiatives, growth in sponsored research programs from the prior year, philanthropic funding as a percentage of institutional expenditures, and four-year graduation rates (all issues that have generated headlines at the University of Texas at Austin in the past year).

Incentive pay, also called performance pay and variable pay, is nothing new, but it is the exception rather than the rule at higher education institutions, particularly at public colleges and universities.

The fact that the University of Texas System - one of the largest and most prominent public university systems in the USA - is moving toward performance pay is notable and could potentially drive others to adopt similar approaches.

But in a state that has seen numerous complaints in recent years about governing boards -- and the politicians who appoint them -- micromanaging university policies, many see the incentive-pay plan as another step for boards to dictate university policy rather than working collaboratively with campus leaders, which could lead to further confrontations between campuses and the system.

The UT system worked with Towers Watson, a human resources consulting firm that traditionally works with private-sector organizations, to develop the proposal. Compensation experts said the Texas proposal resembles the types of plans used in the corporate sector.

Compensation experts expressed concern that the system's compensation plan is an opportunity for board members to get more involved in day-to-day policymaking. "The role of the board ought to be to set the general direction of the university and leave it to the president to implement decisions on a day-to-day basis," said Raymond D. Cotton, a Washington lawyer who specializes in presidential contracts.

Compensation experts say more higher education institutions seem likely to adopt performance pay structures.

Read more at Inside Higher Ed

Other news

The first week of voting for TEU's presidential election is nearly over, and both candidates, Richard Draper and Lesley Francey, have been answering questions from members. All TEU members have until Monday 10 September to cast their vote. If you have not received an email or a paper ballot please contact Susannah Muirhead.

CTU is alarmed at a report from the Ministry of Social Development that shows inequality in New Zealand is at its highest level ever. The report also shows that the average income has fallen for the first time since its low point in the early 1990s. CTU President, Helen Kelly says "Average incomes have dropped for the first time since the early 1990s, yet this government is moving ahead with law changes that they themselves acknowledge will cut wages further." - CTU

A second year of declining student numbers at the University of Otago shows Dunedin can no longer rely on the tertiary sector for economic growth, Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie says. Mr Christie made the comments after figures released last week showed enrolments at the university as of July 31 were down 1.8% on last year - Otago Daily Times

The University of Otago is being challenged to put caveats on claims made in its Genetics lectures, that international consumer concern over Genetically Modified food can be ignored. The lectures based on research over ten years, claim our overseas customers won't care about GE in our food exports, and that there is no risk to Brand New Zealand from Genetically Engineered foods - GE Free NZ

How the American university was killed, in five easy steps. "In 1920 H.G. Wells wrote, 'History is becoming more and more a race between education and catastrophe.' I think he got it right" - 'Junct Rebellion blog

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