AUS Tertiary Update

Published: Thu 3 Nov 2005 11:12 AM
NZ universities in world’s top 200
Three New Zealand universities have made it into the world’s top 200, but it is not all good news for our leading academic institutions. While the University of Auckland improved its ranking, from sixty-seventh in 2004 to fifty-second in 2005, in The Time Higher 2005 World University Rankings, the University of Otago slipped from 114 to 186 and Massey from 108 to 188. Auckland is placed at sixteenth and Otago fiftieth in the top fifty universities in the “rest of the world”, excluding Europe and America. No other New Zealand university made the rankings.
For the second year running, Harvard was rated the top international university, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in second place. Cambridge and Oxford Universities were ranked third and fourth, up from sixth and fifth respectively in 2004. United States institutions took seven of the top nine spots, with Ecole Polytechnique from France coming in at tenth. Melbourne University, at nineteenth, displaced the Australian National University, which was down from sixteenth last year to twenty-third, as the leading Australian institution
The United States has fifty-four universities in the top 200, the United Kingdom twenty-four and Australia seventeen universities.
The Times Higher rankings were coordinated by Martin Ince, who says that, with its improved accuracy and the inclusion of even more information, the second World University Rankings is the best guide to the world’s top universities. He says its aim is to offer a consistent and systematic look at top universities in the context of the globalisation of higher education. “We have gathered new data on employers’ opinions of universities around the world. This has allowed us to widen the pool of information we present, but we have gone further and deepened the pool as well. This year’s tables are virtually free of gaps and, because we have collected a wealth of data on institutions outside the top 200, we are confident that no institution that should be in these tables has been overlooked,” he said.
Association of University Staff National President, Professor Nigel Haworth, said that, while it was pleasing that New Zealand universities were consistently ranking amongst the world’s best, there must be concern that two of the three had slipped by more then seventy places. “This reinforces our view that funding and salary levels must be improved as a matter of priority if New Zealand universities are to remain internationally competitive,” he said. “It also illustrates the need for vice-chancellors to work with the unions in a collaborative way through the tripartite process to improve funding levels to ensure the improvements in quality.”
Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Legal action to stop dismissal of fixed-term lecturer
2. Government blamed for fees increase
3. Fee exemptions to be decided this month
4. Educational-media awards announced
5. Lecturers to vote on union merger
6. Proportion of Australian Federal funding falls
7. UK VCs’ pay OK
8. US enrolments increase
Legal action to stop dismissal of fixed-term lecturer
Legal proceedings were filed in the Employment Relations Authority on Tuesday this week by the AUS to stop the dismissal, at the end of November, of a lecturer employed for five years on consecutive fixed-term employment agreements at the University of Otago.
The Otago AUS Branch Organiser, Shaun Scott, says that the urgent legal intervention was sought after mediation failed to stop the University from trying to end the employment of the Sociology lecturer. He says that the University did not have genuine reasons, as required by law, for employing the person on a fixed-term basis as the position was clearly a permanent one. “In fact, this lecturer established coordinated and taught in a number of papers, was heavily involved in programme and course development and played an instrumental role in a full-Major proposal in her Department,” he said. “She was regarded by her peers and students as an outstanding teacher, and was actively engaged in research.”
Bringing the matter to a head, University management recently decided to make the position permanent, but did not shortlist the lecturer for consideration.
Mr Scott said that the University also failed to comply with an important requirement of the Employment Relations Act by failing to advise the lecturer, before she accepted employment, of the reasons that her employment would be brought to an end at the expiry of her fixed-term engagement.
The Employment Relations Authority is also being asked to recommend that the University, in conjunction with the AUS, review its practices and procedures over the use of fixed-term employment agreements. “We are asking for this additional intervention because, despite changes to the law to strictly limit the use of fixed-term employment, universities such as Otago continue to use them extensively,” said Mr Scott.
A hearing has been set down for 14 February 2006.
Government blamed for fees increase
A lack of government investment is being blamed by the Victoria University of Wellington for student tuition fee increases after its Council voted, earlier this week, to increase fees for 2006. Most undergraduate charges will rise by 5 percent, but the University will lodge an application with the Tertiary Education Commission to increase fees in humanities or education courses by a further 5% in July 2006. Postgraduate fees will increase by $500
The Chancellor, Emeritus Professor Tim Beaglehole, said that the University Council took the decision to increase fees with great reluctance. “It was necessary to look to the longer-term future of Victoria University against an ever-increasing demand for quality and a decline in the number of students enrolling. Clearly we are unable to maintain or improve our standing as a leading research-led university without increasing investment in library resources and staffing,” he said.
Emeritus Professor Tim Beaglehole said that student fees were one of the few sources of revenue the University is able to control. “This decision was unavoidable because government has failed to maintain its level of investment per student, and is not keeping pace with inflation. The University Council had to ensure it has the resources to maintain the quality of Victoria’s programmes,” he said.
Students, however, have condemned the fees increase, saying that increases of between 5 and 10 percent are irresponsible and unacceptable. Nick Kelly, Vice-President of the Victoria University Students’ Association, said that the University had posted surpluses for the last three years and had under-predicted student enrolments for the coming year. “Victoria is not in a bad financial situation,” he said.
Mr Kelly said that, despite the Council fee-setting meeting being held at the more remote Karori campus, about fifty students turned up to voice their concern in what was a noisy protest.
Meanwhile, the Auckland University of Technology will increase tuition fees by 13 per cent for post-graduate programmes, and by 5 percent for undergraduate courses for 2006. Vice-Chancellor Derek McCormack is reported as saying that the $500 fee hike for postgraduate courses, which takes 2006 tuition fees for students to $4293, was necessary for the survival of postgraduate courses.
The University of Otago is expected to set fees next week, and the University of Auckland next month.
Fee exemptions to be decided this month
The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) will decide which tertiary education institutions are permitted to raise their tuition fees above the 5 percent fee maxima for the start of next year when its commissioners meet later this month
Massey University, Dunedin College of Education and Christchurch College of Education were the only institutions to have applied to the TEC for an exemption to raise their fees between 5 and 10 percent at the commencement of 2006 when applications closed last week.
TEC Chief Executive, Janice Shiner, says that the intention of the Annual Fee Movement Limit (fee-maxima) policy is to ensure that fees are affordable for students, while allowing tertiary education providers sufficient flexibility to meet their financial circumstances.
Three principles will be considered by TEC when assessing applications for an exemption and determining whether a special case for an exemption has been demonstrated. They are that the cost of providing the course(s) is not being met by the income from the course(s); that the organisation is unable to cross subsidise the course(s) from its total financial surplus while remaining financially viable; and that not increasing fees would compromise progress towards the achievement of the Tertiary Education Strategy (TES) and the Statement of Tertiary Education Priorities (STEP), or other critical elements of the tertiary reforms. In this context, TEC must have particular regard to situations where not increasing the fees would severely restrict access to a particular programme of study or for a segment of the student population e.g. regional access.
According to Janice Shiner, each application will be looked at on an “on-balance” basis. This means that an institution will not necessarily have to meet all three principles, but they will have to demonstrate exceptional circumstances.
Applications from other institutions, such as Victoria, for fee increases to take effect from the 2006 second trimester are expected be considered in late May.
Educational media awards announced
Radio New Zealand’s Gael Woods has won the 2005 New Zealand Council for Educational Research/Teacher Education Forum of Aotearoa New Zealand Excellence in Educational Journalism Award. A second-time winner, having received the inaugural award in 2002, Gael Wood’s winning entry was an Insight documentary aired in May 2005 concerning the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA). The judges said Woods provided a clear background to the issue, including the emotive and perceptual differences, separated ideological issues from process and implementation issues and used a broad range of interviewees, including academics, teachers and students, to ensure the topic was canvassed from different angles. They said she displayed a thorough knowledge of subject and demonstrated good balance in the programme.
Erin Conroy of Television New Zealand won the newly-created Emerging Journalist award for her reporting on the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. The judges noted that she had produced a well-rounded and balanced piece of work, and considered it a tribute to sound investigative endeavour.
The judges also highly commended three other journalists for pieces of work during the year. They were Hannah Sperber (North & South), Simon Farrell-Green (Metro) and 2003 award winner John Gerritsen (Education Review).
The two main criteria for the awards were a significant contribution to community understanding of and debate on issues in education, and journalistic excellence. Entries were open to all journalists from the radio, television, print and electronic media.
Lecturers to vote on union merger
Members of the two major unions representing lecturers in the United Kingdom are currently being balloted on whether to amalgamate to form a new super-union which would cover a larger and wider grouping of university staff. Members of the Association of University Teachers (AUT) , which represents academics in the older universities, and NATFHE, which represents staff in post-1992 institutions and colleges, are being asked by their leaders to approve the formation of a single new union next year.
The proposed University and College Union will cover lecturers, managers, researchers, librarians, administrators and computing professionals in colleges and universities across the UK.
In a joint statement, the General Secretaries of the AUT and NATFHE, Sally Hunt and Paul Mackney, said that they firmly believed that a stronger union, capable of defending and advancing the professional interests of union members, was needed.
If the merger is approved, Ms Hunt and Mr Mackney will jointly lead the new union in its first transitional year until elections are held for a new General Secretary and other key positions in early 2007.
The ballot closes on 1 December, with the result being announced the next day.
Proportion of Australian Federal funding falls
The proportion of government funding for higher education in Australia fell from 41.26 percent of income in 2003 to 40.75 percent in 2004, according to figures just released by the Department of Education, Science and Training. In 2003, the Federal Government ploughed $4.898 billion into universities and, although the total spent on tertiary education rose last year to $5.307 billion, its proportion of sector-wide revenue fell. State and local-government assistance rose from $201 million (1.69per cent of revenue) to $314million or 2.42 per cent of revenue.
Total higher-education revenue rose by 9.68 per cent, from $11.874 billion in 2003 to $13.023 billion last year.
The proportion of revenue earned from student tuition fees fell from 16.15 per cent to 15.23 per cent, although universities raked in more last year ($1.983 billion) than in 2003, when they earned $1.917 billion from students. Other fees and charges, including those from full-fee-paying foreign students, remained about 22 per cent of revenue. Investment earnings rose by $134 million or from 2.66 per cent to 3.45 per cent of revenue, as institutions looked for alternative sources of income as Federal Government assistance decreased. University investment income rose from $315 million to $449 million.
Seven universities ended the 2003-04 year in the red, mostly due to a change in the way the Federal Government timed its payments. The 2003 financial figures showed ten universities recorded negative operating margins.
From The Australian
UK VCs’ pay OK
Vice-chancellors in the United Kingdom have shown less restraint when it comes to their own salaries than for those of their staff, according to research conducted by the Association of University Teachers (AUT). Between 1996 and 2004, the average pay of a vice-chancellor rose by 62 percent, from £96,726 to £156,585. It was, on average, almost twice the increases awarded to staff over the same period, with academic-related staff receiving an additional 32 percent over the same period and academics 38 percent.
AUT Assistant General Secretary Matt Waddup has criticised the findings, saying that, had staff received the same salary increases as vice-chancellors over this period, the average academic would have been earning £41,888 in 2004 rather than £35,773, and a typical academic-related staff member £44,030 rather than £35,883.
US enrolments increase
Enrolment in graduate programmes at American universities increased by 2 percent in 2004, buoyed by more female and minority students, but the number of international students continued to decline, according to a report released on Monday this week by the Council of Graduate Schools.
Women, who make up 57 percent of the students attending graduate schools, were largely responsible for the growth, with a 3 percent increase in enrolment in 2004. Men, meanwhile, increased their numbers by 1 percent.
Minority enrolment was up across the board, and was especially strong in several fields where minority students have been historically under-represented. African-American students, for example, raised their enrolment by 16 percent in the biological sciences, while Hispanic enrolments grew by 19 percent in the physical sciences.
Enrolment by international students, however, dropped by 3 percent last year. The decline was felt most strongly in engineering and the physical sciences, where international students make up 50 percent and 41 percent of the enrolments respectively.
Many factors have been blamed for the fall in international enrolment, including the difficulty that students have faced in obtaining visas since the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks and increased competition for students from other English-speaking countries.
The full report, Graduate Enrollment and Degrees: 1986 to 2004 is available at:
From The Chronicle of Higher Education
AUS Tertiary Update is compiled weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the Association of University Staff and others. Back issues are available on the AUS website: . Direct enquires should be made to Marty Braithwaite, AUS Communications Officer, email:

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