AUS Tertiary Update Vol. 4, No. 44

Published: Thu 13 Dec 2001 09:44 AM

In our lead story this week…..
The government will release its draft Tertiary Education Strategy later today. The Minister in charge of tertiary education, Steve Maharey says the strategy "signals the key challenges for the New Zealand tertiary education system over the next five years and articulates the priorities for action by government, the new Tertiary Education Commission, tertiary providers and other stakeholders". The document is open for public consultation until 28 February 2002. Regional workshops and stakeholder meetings are to be held around the country as part of the process. Meanwhile, the Tertiary Education Reform Bill, which sets up the Tertiary Education Commission, is expected to receive its first reading in Parliament next week before being referred to the Education and Science Committee. More in next week's “Tertiary Update”.
Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. The industrial campaign around the campuses
2. Student loan scheme report to parliament
3. Victoria turns around finances
4. MPs likely to get 5%
5. The fishhooks of student loan schemes
6. Housing incentive to attract staff to California
AUS academic members at Lincoln have voted overwhelmingly to take strike action in the new year in support of their claims for a new collective employment agreement. AUS Lincoln branch president, Dr Jim McAloon says a stopwork meeting voted for a 24-hour strike on 4 March, with rolling strikes to follow unless a satisfactory offer has been ratified before then.
About 900 staff from Waikato University's combined unions staged a protest at this week's Council meeting over their stalled collective contract negotiations and possible job losses in the arts and social sciences faculty. AUS Waikato Branch President, Stan Jones said "negotiations have got us nowhere" and the protest was to highlight the members' plight. The university has said it cannot offer a pay rise to all staff, because it is budgeting 1.5% of salaries for promotions.
Staff at Massey's Albany and Palmerston North campuses have voted overwhelmingly to reject the management's latest pay offer of a 1.8% pay rise next year, a 1% lump sum increase in April and a 2% increase in 2003. They also voted to continue withholding exam results and to take industrial action next semester in support of their claim for better pay and conditions. Negotiator, Peter Blakey said that unless management made "some sort of improvement" in workload, salary or workforce casualisation, strikes would hit Massey from the beginning of March.
Canterbury and Lincoln members greeted graduates at the Canterbury graduation ceremony with placards yesterday. Canterbury Branch President, Maureen Montgomery said “The quality of education cannot be compromised and staff cannot go on subsidising universities by accepting sub-inflation pay increases.”
The first annual report on the student loan scheme has been tabled in parliament. The report was produced on the recommendation of the Controller and Auditor-General, who advised in June 2000 that more information needed to be made public about the scheme. The report shows total outstanding student debt at the end of June this year of $4.1bn and says that the forecasts for the average repayment time for borrowers has been revised down from 13.6 years to 9.6 years. Student leaders are predicting student debt will be a "massive issue" heading into election year. Commenting on the report, the co-president of the New Zealand University Students' Association (NZUSA), Sam Huggard said fees needed to come down and access to allowances needed to rise before a significant dent could be made in student debt. "The Tertiary Education Advisory Commission and opposition parties will need to rethink their stance on the 'no interest while studying' policy," he said. (See also “World Watch” below.)
Forecasts show Victoria University in Wellington could be in surplus this year for the first time in three years. Projections suggest a surplus of $4.5m, including a $1m bonus for staff. The surplus is said to be the result of higher than expected student enrolments and careful spending. The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon said he intended the better performance to herald the start of a new season of success for the university. He acknowledged that the years before he came on board could have been better at Victoria, but said the university was now "sharper in the game". Victoria's AUS spokesman, Reece Walters welcomed the news of the $1m bonus for staff, but said the surplus showed the university could afford at least half the 8% pay increase being sought nationally. "It is clear that the vice-chancellor is trying to appease staff in the face of a threat of industrial action through a Christmas gift," Mr Walters said.
On “Morning Report” this morning, there was an indication that MPs will be given a back-dated 5% increase later today. Our recent lobbying pamphlet indicates that during the 1990s, MPs’ salaries increased by 37%, whereas a lecturer increased by 15.6% and a senior lecturer by 13.2%. As indicated above, industrial action is occurring in at least one university (Waikato), in order to get an offer above 0%. As recently as 1988, there was parity between senior lecturers and backbench MPs. Remember – you can communicate your views on this situation to your local MP or an appropriate Minister by writing to them at Parliament and no stamp is required.
Student loans are becoming increasingly popular internationally as governments ponder how to finance higher education at a time of escalating tuition costs, but at the same time the problems with student loan schemes are becoming more and more evident. Some sixty countries world-wide operate schemes, which are now even being introduced in continental Europe, where education has traditionally been free, or very cheap. Some of the common problems being reported include: inefficient schemes where administrative costs eat up as much as a quarter of the money available for loans; high numbers of graduates who do not repay their loans; interest rates that are so low that the loans end up being grants; and, loan schemes that fail to reach the young people who are most in need of them. The World Bank is currently helping around a dozen countries establish or refine loan schemes and its deputy director for educational policy, Jamil Salmi says the secret to success lies in getting the right balance: "The trick is to find a balance between providing subsidies to needy students, and making loan programmes financially sustainable." But as countries grapple with the problems posed by the schemes, international attention has turned to Australia's system for spreading out the debt students have to pay back through its national loan system, the Higher Education Contribution Scheme. Repayment is pegged to a graduate's income, starting when they are earning at least $12,000 a year, and is set at 3% to 6% of their income above that. Administrative costs are kept down by handling repayments through the income-tax system, meaning they are mostly deducted by employers.
The University of California has introduced easier terms for staff to purchase houses as part of its faculty-housing-assistance programme. The programme already offers competitive first mortgages to professors and senior administrators who do not own a home close to their campus in recognition of the high cost of housing in many parts of California. Now it has decided to increase the amount of money faculty members and some high-ranking administrators can borrow with a lower down payment. The terms of the loans will also be lengthened, and the interest rates they will be required to pay will be lower than normal. Charles McFadden, a spokesman for the system, says the measure is crucial since the university will have to hire an additional 7,000 faculty members over the next decade -- 3,000 in new positions and 4,000 to replace retiring professors -- to cope with a projected increase in enrolment of 60,000 students.
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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