AUS Tertiary Update, Vol 5 No 16

Published: Thu 16 May 2002 09:21 AM

In our lead story this week…..
The Association of University Staff (AUS) has welcomed the government’s Tertiary Education Strategy launched this week but is waiting for the Budget to gauge the government’s commitment to it. The Strategy provides a five-year plan for tertiary education and the AUS national president, Dr Grant Duncan says a long-term vision is what is needed for the sector. He also welcomes the Strategy's emphasis on building institutional capacity, and increased quality and excellence in university teaching and research. But Dr Duncan says that when the minister in charge of tertiary education, Steve Maharey was asked at the launch about how much money the government envisaged for the sector, his response was that it "would like to lift our investment as the years go by", and that it was "trying to invest a little more in the system". Dr Duncan says that will not be enough to achieve the ambitious goals set out in the Strategy. "Without significant increases in public investment, the Strategy will be no more than colourful rhetoric on glossy paper," he says. "The essential key to the success of this strategy will inevitably lie within the qualities of public tertiary-education institutions and their staff. These institutions continue to be under-funded."
Also in Tertiary Update this week:
1. Massey collective agreement settled
2. Fees refund refusal 'not on'
3. Allowances top priority for students
4. 2001 Census data free
5. Massey begins search for new Vice-Chancellor
6. Otago awaits Government decision on appeal
7. Warning that levy will mean fees rise
8. Calls for us research expenditure to increase
9. Israeli Academics support ‘refuseniks’
10. UCLA medical school scores big gift
Massey union members have voted overwhelmingly to ratify their latest employer offer. The settlement is for a 3.5% salary increase backdated to the first pay period in January. The agreement also includes improvements to the position of Massey staff who work on a temporary or casual basis and to staff sick leave and study provisions. The Combined Union spokesperson, Peter Blakey says the most significant aspect of the settlement is the employer's recognition of the importance of collective bargaining by its decision that the union-negotiated agreement will not be automatically passed on to non-union staff. "This has already put a message into the Massey community that bargaining collectively will achieve improvements and that if you choose not to be part of that you take your chances," he says. Mr Blakey points out that despite acceptance of the offer, union members are still dissatisfied with the salary rise. "At 3.5% it remains inadequate to address the ongoing problems Massey faces when recruiting and trying to retain well-qualified and highly valuable staff." The agreement expires next October and negotiations will recommence in September.
Victoria University Students' Association – VUWSA – is considering further legal action over the university's refusal to refund fees for lectures lost when academic staff went on strike in March. Thousands of students were affected when staff struck over a two-day period to push for action over their stalled pay negotiations and VUWSA says hundreds of students filled out forms to get their fees back. The vice-chancellor of Victoria, Stuart McCutcheon said refunds were not required if the university had done its best to avoid disadvantage to students. He also said it was impossible to calculate the portion of fees that funded the missed classes. VUWSA president, Fleur Fitzsimons says it is "unfortunate" the university is not willing to recognise that students miss out when staff go on strike and says the association is taking advice about any further action.
The New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA) has launched a campaign to persuade the government to introduce a universal student allowance with a warning that if it ignores the issue students will give it a bumpy ride to the polls. NZUSA says the current allowances scheme is "inherently flawed" and points out that since it came into force in 1992, the number of students receiving an allowance had gone down from 45% to 33%. The student campaign has the support of the Greens.
The government has announced that access to statistical information collected in the 2001 Census will be made available free of charge on the internet. Announcing the decision, the Minister of Statistics, Laila Harré said it was in line with the e-government strategy to provide open and equitable access to government information. The information will be available on the Statistics New Zealand website at from later this month. “Tertiary Update” welcomes the news. AUS campaigned unsuccessfully for free access to census data for university researchers when the original decision to charge for information was made.
Advertisements appeared in the national and international news media yesterday for the position of vice-chancellor of Massey University. The appointment is to replace Professor James McWha, who has gone to Adelaide University in Australia. The advertisement will also be posted at the Massey website (a staff-only site) from tomorrow.
The vice-chancellor of Otago University says that if the government goes ahead with its plans to introduce a 0.5% levy on fees paid by overseas students, the university could have to increase those fees. The government wants to introduce the levy to fund the promotion and development of the education export industry. But Dr Graeme Fogelberg criticised the lack of consultation over what he called an "ill-conceived" and "inadequately thought through" proposal. He said Otago was already successfully marketing education overseas and providing student scholarships.
The United States House of Representatives is to consider a call for funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) to be raised 15% a year until 2005. Republican and Democrat sponsors of the measure hope to double the NSF funding over a 5 year period, copying a similar campaign that saw a big increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health. However, opinion is that this will be a difficult feat to repeat.
More than 200 Israeli academics have signed a petition supporting students who are refusing to fight in the Palestinian territories.. The signatories say they will help students who encounter academic, administrative and financial problems as a result of their refusal.
The University of California's School of Medicine at its Los Angeles campus has received the largest single gift ever to a US medical school. David Geffen, a famed record producer and co-founder of film studio DreamWorks, has given $200m to the school, which will now bear his name.
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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