AUS Tertiary Update Vol.4 No.14

Published: Thu 10 May 2001 09:36 AM

In our lead story this week…..
AUS National President, Neville Blampied, and Executive Director, Rob Crozier have stressed the
parlous state of university funding in a meeting this week with members of Labour’s Caucus Education Committee. The AUS representatives expressed fears that the coming Budget will continue the decade-long decline in university funding for at least another year. To reverse the steeply declining morale in the sector, they suggested, the Government should make a statement of its long-term strategic targets for universities, including the percentage of GDP to go to university funding and the numbers of advanced graduates. The Committee was reminded that the explosion of Government funding to private training establishments from an initial $1.98m in 1992 to a projected $128.4m in 2001 provided a way out of the current fiscal constraints, by bringing funding back from the private to the public sector. As an initial step, Government could remove the capital component (originally $1030) incorporated into subsidy payments for each course category. Neville Blampied advised the Committee that cutbacks as a result of the 2001 fees freeze were having a serious impact on quality, and suggested that the Government should minimise harm to the sector by ensuring that funding increases at least kept pace with inflation.
Also in Tertiary Update this week:
Fees furore with reports of low Government funding offer
NZVCC takes issue with student research
E-learning expert group sought
Competition out, co-operation in
Part-time study up as jobs grow
BMJ Editor asks readers – "Should I resign?"
Oxford University to set up internet research institute
Polls show UK voters unhappy with tuition fees
The Government is remaining silent until Budget Day on how much extra funding it is offering universities in return for another freeze in tuition fees for 2002, but reports say it is around 2.5%. That's well short of the expected 3.8%, and even further behind the 6% to 7% tertiary institutes say they really need. While the Government remains mum, others have been more forthcoming. The AUS organiser at Canterbury University, Marty Braithwaite says staff would vigorously oppose the university accepting inadequate reimbursement for a free freeze. "We won't accept a deal that leaves universities worse off," he said. "If the university accepts a deal that effectively reduces their operational income next year, we will have no sympathy whatsoever for the restraints they've asked for."
Meanwhile, students are concerned at the alternative to more government funding – a rise in tuition fees. Andrew Campbell of the New Zealand University Students' Association says that as long as the Government's offer is higher than this year's 2.3% deal, universities can afford to accept it. And at Otago, about 60 students packed a meeting this week of the University Council meeting protesting at reports that fees for dentistry and medical students may rise more than 40%. The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) has supported the students, calling on medical schools to hold fees, saying a Government offer to increase funding in return is "an offer too good to refuse".
The New Zealand Vice-Chancellors' Committee has taken issue with a statement by the New Zealand University Students' Association that students are being used as "cash cows" to compensate institutions for the reduction in government funding. The Committee chairman, Dr James McWha says the research on tuition fees on which the Students' Association is basing its statement is "clearly flawed". He says that between 1992 and 1999, government funding per equivalent full-time student (EFTS) fell by $2023 while student fee revenue per EFTS increased by less than half than that, leaving a shortfall in student revenue of $318m. "Far from universities growing their budgets off the backs of students during the past decade," Dr McWha says, " the reality is that these institutions have suffered a progressive reduction in their government funding and have not sought to recover the full amount involved from their students."
The Government is to set up an expert group to advise it on how New Zealand's tertiary institutions can take advantage of new learning technologies. Announcing the move, the Minister in charge of Tertiary Education, Steve Maharey said the Government wanted to encourage collaboration among providers and support further developments in e-learning.
Aoraki Polytechnic and the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) have agreed to co-operate in the future over the courses each provides. The two polytechs have signed a letter of intent to review their programmes to end duplication, jointly offering some programmes and making it easier for students to move between the two institutions. "Tertiary Update" recalls that it was only a few months ago that competition between Aoraki and CPIT was at its peak, as each invaded the other's home territory, offering similar courses. Let's hope this signals the beginning of the end for wasteful competition.
Tertiary education institutions in the Canterbury region say there has been a rise in the number of enrolments for part-time, rather than full-time study this year, attributing the change to a more buoyant job market. But the president of the Aotearoa Tertiary Students' Association Keith Clark believes the change reflects greater awareness of the cost of education and the impact of student debt. That view is echoed by a Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association survey this year of Year 13 students. It found that 70% of those questioned were worried about graduating from tertiary study with a large debt. More than half said the high cost of fees was a major disincentive to study.
The editor of the British Medical Journal, Richard Smith is asking his readers to vote on whether or not he should resign as professor of medical journalism at Nottingham University in protest at its acceptance of $US 5.5m. from a tobacco company. The head of the university says he accepted the money from British American Tobacco to set up an international centre for the study of corporate social responsibility. But Dr Smith says the University has "debased itself" by accepting the gift. Readers can cast their vote on whether the money should be returned, and if not, whether Dr Smith should resign, on the Journal's website at http://www/
Oxford University has set up the Oxford Internet Institute to carry out research and make policy recommendations on the affects of the Internet on society. Among the research topics under consideration by the institute are global law enforcement, privacy and regulation, and the boundaries of the nation state.
British voters, and in particular the more well-to -do, have indicated dissatisfaction with the system of tuition fees and would prefer a return to the previous system of grants for tertiary students. In two polls commissioned by the "Times Higher Education Supplement", 63% of respondents thought tuition fees and repayable loans would deter people from going to university, and 73% wanted maintenance grants re-introduced. With some 70 per cent of those in one poll intending to vote for parties other than Labour, the results make uncomfortable reading for the British government in the run-up to a June election.
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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