Community Scoop

Staff say they will defend UC for Cantabrians

Press Release – Tertiary Education Union

Hundreds of TEU members denounced the possibility of forced jobs cuts at Canterbury University this week and committed themselves to campaign to protect and promote education for local Canterbury people. A large crowd of TEU members gathered at a …Staff say they will defend UC for Cantabrians

Hundreds of TEU members denounced the possibility of forced jobs cuts at Canterbury University this week and committed themselves to campaign to protect and promote education for local Canterbury people.

A large crowd of TEU members gathered at a stop-work meeting this week and passed a resolution that they “are here to educate and support the people of Canterbury and we commit to campaign and do all we can to protect our university and all its staff and students.” TEU members at the university are also currently voting on a further series of resolutions that say that any changes to the university should enhance the quality and range of courses offered to students, and that decisions about any changes be made in a truly democratic way that involves staff who are fully informed with sufficient information.

The university’s vice-chancellor, Dr Rod Carr, who told Radio New Zealand on Friday “there is no proposal [for job cuts] at the moment” sent an email to all staff calling for voluntary redundancies on Monday, just before staff attended their stop-work meeting.

On Friday Dr Carr said:

“What we don’t know, and we won’t know, is where there are rationalisations of courses within programmes – where we may be able to, instead of having twelve flavours, have eight flavours. We may require staff to teach four courses instead of three courses. But the impact on the actual programmes we offer will be quite modest.”

“These are staff who are very committed to their university and their city,” said TEU national president Sandra Grey. “They have stayed through a very difficult time and worked in extraordinary ways for their students and the city. The university and the government cannot cast them aside now. The university, its academic reputation and the city will all suffer if that is the path the university and the government take. There must be no forced job cuts as a result of the earthquake.”

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

1. Massey proposes end to undergraduate teacher education
3. TEU opposes Aoraki closures across South Island
5. Government spinning wrong story from crises not sure this makes sense
7. Academics disagree on Freedom Day
9. Other news

Massey proposes end to undergraduate teacher education

Trainee and beginning teachers are angry over proposed changes to teacher training programmes at Massey University.

In a paper entitled “College of Education Academic Reform”, the university is proposing radical change to initial teacher education. It proposes to discontinue all undergraduate teacher education by cutting its three-year Bachelor of Education Early Years degree and the four-year Bachelor of Education Primary. That would mean students could only study teacher education through a one year, graduate diploma.

It is also proposing to merge the Massey University College of Education into an Institute of Education beneath the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, with an increased focus on attracting post-graduate research. This move may threaten the jobs of teaching staff involved in initial teacher education, who aren’t classed as “research-active”.

Young and new members of the teachers’ union NZEI Te Riu Roa believe the proposals could be incredibly damaging to teacher education in New Zealand. Jennifer Langridge, currently studying a graduate diploma through Massey says “although post graduate study can produce quality teachers, post-graduate students often agree that the pressure-cooker situation of being pushed through training and out into the ‘real world’ often leads them to be burnt out and feel under-prepared in some areas of the classroom.”

NZEI says is wants to see the university challenge the growing assumption that post-graduate research is superior to undergraduate teaching.

However Massey University spokesman James Gardiner said the proposed changes create “an exciting opportunity to position Massey University’s teacher education as an international leader.”

“It also proposes new pathways into postgraduate education that will lead to more highly qualified teachers who are effective professionals and professional leaders throughout their lives.”

Mr Gardiner said international evidence suggested the best outcomes would be achieved by providing teacher education to those who already had undergraduate degrees.

“What is proposed is by no means a radical change – we have numerous excellent teachers in the profession now who have completed one-year graduate diplomas … having first completed undergraduate degrees,” Mr Gardiner said.

TEU opposes Aoraki closures across South Island

TEU members from the Dunedin, Timaru, Ashburton, Christchurch and Oamaru campuses of Aoraki Polytechnic have vowed to fight planned programme closures they say are detrimental to students, the communities they work in, and their institution.

Aoraki Polytechnic told staff a fortnight ago of proposals that would close a range of programmes across all five communities. Twenty jobs are under threat, and several hundred potential students could lose a place of study if the changes go ahead.

TEU national president Sandra Grey was at a stop-work meeting in Timaru where Aoraki staff discussed current collective agreement negotiations and the proposed changes. She said staff see no justification for the proposed closures.

“These are professionals committed to quality tertiary education provision in their communities. They are committed to protecting their communities’ rights to access teaching and learning at all levels,” said Dr Grey.

TEU members will be making submissions to Aoraki senior management on the proposed changes and will be working with students and members of the public to do the same.

Meanwhile Film and Television students in Dunedin are also organising to oppose the closures. One former student, ‘Jonty’ told the Facebook group Save Aoraki Polytechnic Courses if it wasn’t for doing Web Design & Advertising Design last year he would not be where he is today.

“The staff were great, they made me feel like I was part of a team, this course gave me life. I truly felt like I belonged there. I think about other people that may be just like I was two years ago, knew what they wanted to do with their life. But because of their past, not having any school qualifications, they can’t get into any other course. I’m doing a degree at Otago Polytechnic now, and it’s going great. But if I hadn’t gone to Aoraki first I would be like a lost dog in the jungle. Closing down Aoraki simply isn’t an option.”

Government spinning wrong story from crises

CTU economist and policy director Bill Rosenberg says the government has used a series of crises – such as the worst global financial crisis and recession for decades, crashing local finance companies, leaky homes, devastating earthquakes in Canterbury, the Pike River tragedy, and now another international financial crisis – to spin a story of ‘there is no alternative’ to cuts. The government has held, then cut, spending when a more generous programme was affordable and could have held down unemployment and prevented stagnation.

Dr Rosenberg says delays in rebuilding Christchurch and further turmoil overseas are now looking likely.

“The government will try to spin the same story: these are beyond its control; the best it can do is keep the government’s books in order, and trust that “the market” will pull us through. But as always, it does have choices as to how it responds.”

Dr Rosenberg argues the government’s programme to a progressive earthquake levy, targeted to be higher for those with higher incomes, could have funded the rebuild of Christchurch. He also says it is not doing enough to support education and training needs following the crises:

“[The government] has announced a welcome $42 million education and training programme but is failing to build the excitement that would attract people to this unique opportunity to get new skills when jobs will be plentiful – in a great project. Too much of the work will go to skilled workers from overseas rather than developing our own skills.”

Academics disagree on Freedom Day

Yesterday the world celebrated International Academic Freedom Day. Or maybe it wasn’t. Fittingly, it seems academics cannot agree when to celebrate academic freedom.

The advocacy organisation Scholars at Risk celebrates International Academic Freedom Day in solidarity with, and on the occasion of, World Teachers’ Day, 5 October. Since 1994 when it was created by UNESCO, World Teachers’ Day celebrates and aims to mobilise support for educators at all levels and to ensure quality education for future generations. At the higher education level, Scholars at Risk and partners worldwide use this day to call increased attention to the importance of core university values—including academic freedom, institutional autonomy, access, accountability, social responsibility and respect for human rights—not only for the education sector, but for all members of society. A day celebrating these values encourages greater public understanding and public responsibility for defending the educational space at all levels.

However, the group Academics For Academic Freedom (AFAF) launched International Academic Freedom Day on 1 February in 2009 and have had three years of holding successful events. Their International Academic Freedom Day is linked to the publication (as close as records give us) of John Stuart Mill’s ‘On Liberty’, which was 1 February 1859.

Meanwhile a third International Academic Freedom Day is held on what used to be ‘Darwin Day‘, Charles Darwin’s birthday (February 12), with advocates of that day encouraging students everywhere to speak out against censorship and stand up for free speech by defending the right to debate the evidence for and against evolution.

Other news

In the latest Auckland University staff magazine, UniNews, Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon said academics must back up any controversial statements with research to avoid damaging the university’s reputation – Sunday Star Times

Campaign to Keep MMP spokesperson Sandra Grey said that if a majority of voters opt to keep MMP at this year’s referendum, it would lock in an independent review by the Electoral Commission to hear from the public about improvements that can be made to our current system. “We know that aspects of MMP irk some people, who otherwise broadly support a voting system where everyone’s votes count equally, no matter where they live. It is important that not only supporters of MMP, but supporters of MMP with some tweaks, vote to keep MMP this November” – Campaign for MMP

A proposed operations budget for the Otago University Students’ Association has been slashed in the wake of a recent legislation change which introduced voluntary student membership (VSM) for 2012 – Otago Daily Times


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