AUS Tertiary Update Vol.3 No.29

Published: Thu 14 Sep 2000 08:54 AM

Competition among tertiary institutions still rages despite the fact that the sector is aware the change of government means the emphasis is now on collaboration and co-operation. Massey University is continuing with plans to expand its nursing programme in Palmerston North in direct competition with UCOL (the very body seeking a ‘gung-ho’ marketing and sales person -- Tertiary Update Vol.3 No.27, 31.8.00), and the Press has reported on the amount of money going in to advertising. At the risk of sounding like a faulty CD, Tertiary Update calls yet again on the Associate Minister of Education to stand up and remind tertiary institutions that co-operation is now the watchword, and that they should cease this unproductive competitive behaviour.
Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Hot competition for students
2. Government policy reversal
3. Retirement age situation clarified
4. Wairarapa polytechnic decision soon
AC Neilson figures on advertising to July this year show some institutions have increased their advertising spending by more than 20% as they compete for students. The figures show the University of Otago spent as much in the first six months of this year as it did on advertising in the whole of 1999. Included in the figure is about $203,000 spent on television advertising. Another institution that chose to advertise on the box was the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology. It spent about $208,000 on TV spots in six months to July, and overall spent $440,000 on advertising. That compares with advertising spending for 1999 of $359,000. Smallest spender over the six-month period was Victoria. It spent $84,000.
Aotearoa Tertiary Students’ Association president, David Penney sees marketing expenditure increasing still further in response to the government's deal to hold student fees next year, at a time when student numbers are leveling off.
Last year, immediately following the election, the Associate Minister of Tertiary Education told Education Review that equal funding for private providers would be a one-year phenomenon. We took this to mean that the arrangement whereby students in the private sector were funded at the same rate as those in the public sector would be reversed in this year’s Budget. Were we naïve? It seems so! This funding arrangement now looks rather more permanent. This week, the Hon Steve Maharey advised the conference of the NZ Association of Private Education Providers:
"Upon taking office, this Government proceeded with moves to equate PTE funding rates with those in the public sector. This has resulted in an estimated 323% increase in funding for EFTS-funded private training establishments in 2000." He went on to say …"There will be no change to the EFTS system for private providers in 2001."
The Minister said the reason for the reversal was the role that the PTEs could play in the Government’s ‘Closing the Gaps’ policy. The trouble is, the money comes out of the existing budget for tertiary education, meaning less for the public institutions. The question arises, if the PTE funding had not been increased, would Massey and Victoria Universities now be faced with major restructuring, and the loss of scores, if not hundreds of jobs?
AUS Executive Director, Rob Crozier is hailing the Chief Justice, Dame Sian Elias' declamatory judgement on retirement age as a victory for commonsense. The case -- between Otago University and its principal campus unions, the AUS and the PSA -- hinged on the implications of the Human Rights Act for staff employed before 1 April 1992 whose employment contract continued to contain a retirement age provision. Mr. Crozier says: “The judge has declared that section 149(2) of the Human Rights Act 1991 does not permit variation or confirmation of a retirement age specified in an employment contract unless the employment contract was in force on 1 April 1992 and remains in force." He says, however, that it is possible that a small number of employees not covered by the unions’ collective employment contract could still face compulsory retirement.
Steve Maharey has told the Wairarapa community that the government will announce a decision on the future of the Wairarapa Community Polytechnic inside the month. The financially-troubled polytechnic wants to join up with the UCOL in Palmerston North, and public consultation has now ended. The Associate Minister of Education told a packed meeting of Polytechnic staff, students, and council members that he wanted to be sure the merger was acceptable to the local community, and promised an early decision.
Britain's Conservative Party has proposed universities be paid by endowments. In a policy document, the party suggests the scheme would end "financial and regulatory constraints that prevent universities offering the courses and hiring the staff they need to excel in the top league of world academic institutions." Briefing reporters, the Conservative Party leader, William Hague, said that, if elected, a Conservative government would hand the universities a capital sum of up to $4bn, which would provide income in years to come. The money could be raised from the sale of radio frequencies or by selling off government assets, Mr. Hague said. He hinted that only top institutions would receive the endowments, implying that others would continue to rely on government budgets.
Two top officials of the University of Hong Kong have resigned over allegations that they pressured a prominent academic pollster to stop conducting sensitive public-opinion surveys. The surveys were showing falling support for the territory's chief executive, who is appointed by officials in Beijing. Cheng Yiu-chung, the vice chancellor, and Wong Siu-lun, the pro-vice chancellor, stepped down just before the university's council was scheduled to consider a 74-page report by a three-member independent panel. The report backed up charges by Robert Chung, director of the university's Public Opinion Program, that the pro-vice chancellor had passed along a message to him from the vice chancellor, telling him to stop the offending surveys or face a loss of university funds. The two officials have denied the charges.
Academic staff at the University of the South Pacific, among them a former leading professor, have appealed to the university authorities to safeguard academic freedom. The appeal, reported in the USP newspaper, Wansolwara, follows the circulation of a memo to staff and students which was widely interpreted as a "gag" on public comment during the political crisis that accompanied this year's coup in Fiji. Staff and students were also concerned at the closure, for a month, of the Pacific Journalism Online Training website. The site had carried up-to-date coverage of the armed take-over of Parliament.
AUS Tertiary Update is produced weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the union and others. Back issues are archived on the AUS website:

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