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TEU Tertiary Update Vol 15 No 7

Column – Association of University Staff

PBRF becomes corporate welfare programme The government’s approach to performance based research funding is a quarter of a billion dollar corporate welfare scheme according to Scoop journalist Gordon Campbell. Mr Campbell published an article earlier …

PBRF becomes corporate welfare programme

The government’s approach to performance based research funding is a quarter of a billion dollar corporate welfare scheme according to Scoop journalist Gordon Campbell.

Mr Campbell published an article earlier this week, Marketing the Mind: How the tertiary sector in New Zealand is being hi-jacked into the service of commerce, where he explores the financial pressures on the tertiary education system. In it, he notes that the Tertiary Education Strategy 2010-2015 says, “We will ensure that the Performance-Based Research Fund recognises research of direct relevance to the needs of firms and its dissemination to them…”

“University research apparently, is to be funded in part at least on its demonstrated ability to disseminate its research findings to business,” says Campbell. “Given the exceptionally low level of investment in research and development made by the private sector in New Zealand….the aim would appear to be to turn tertiary institutions into the research arms of commerce, as taxpayer funded forms of Corporate Welfare.”

TEU te tumu arataki Cheri Waititi agrees.

“It is not just performance funding for research where the emphasis has shifted too far towards providing what private individual businesses want. The minister is currently trying to pick winners among students, courses, research projects and institutions based on which ones he thinks will best meet the needs of private business.”

“Education is not something where you can pick winners before you start. You have to give all ideas and all students an equal chance to thrive. Otherwise, it is not true education – it is just, as this article notes, corporate welfare,” said Ms Waititi.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Economics super-ministry may swallow TEC
  2. Joyce wants to publish graduate income data
  3. Big budget changes for student loan scheme
  4. Iranian lecturer faces execution for receiving email
  5. Phoenix rises from Christchurch Rubble
  6. Other news

Economics super-ministry may swallow TEC

Prime Minister John Key is likely to announce today a new ‘super’ ministry made up of a merger of the Ministry of Economic Development, the Department of Labour, Immigration NZ, the Ministry of Science and Innovation and potentially the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC).

TV3 says the merger will mean further job cuts.

Mr Joyce is currently in charge of all the ministries except the Department of Labour. He told TV3 “There is an advantage as a minister looking across portfolios and seeing the different elements and the different parts working together.”

“It’s the drive in a particular direction that is important,” he said.

TEU national vice-president Ken Laraman said that the sector needed to be aware of the implications of such a merger.

“The commission’s main job is funding tertiary education. That funding policy needs to have regard for labour requirements, science, economic development and innovation. However, it also needs to have regard for a whole lot of other education values that could be crowded out if the minister allows his focus to become too narrow.”

“I’m convinced that further job losses at the commission would be damaging for the wider sector. The commission, either on its own, or as a wing of a broader super-ministry, needs the capacity to engage with issues across the entire tertiary education sector and resist the pressure to make short-term narrow funding decisions. It can’t do that without enough people to examine the evidence,” said Mr Laraman.

Joyce wants to publish graduate income data

The Dominion Post reported this week that the Government is ready to publish the average income of graduates from specific courses ‘as part of a push to get more out of the tertiary sector’.

A pilot scheme involving two polytechnics and data matching between the Inland Revenue Department and the Ministry of Education is already underway, with results going to Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce soon.

TEU national president Sandra Grey criticised the plan saying Mr Joyce’s desire to measure and count meaningless data is flooding tertiary education with unnecessary bureaucracy.

“This is not helpful data for graduates, and it is a ridiculous criterion against which to measure courses and tertiary institutions.”

The justification Mr Joyce expressed to the Post for publishing the data related to concerns he held about the subject choices students were making at school rather than tertiary institutions. He was concerned that a wide curriculum was allowing some students to study subjects that restrict them “going forward” when they are “really capable of doing higher level things.”

“It is hard to see how publishing yet more data that says for instance, airline pilots earn more, on average, than bus drivers is going to change the subject choices of secondary school students. New Zealand needs people choosing to be both bus drivers and pilots, for reasons other than pay sometimes.” said Dr Grey.

Big budget changes for student loan scheme

Prime Minister John Key told a business breakfast this week that his government would retain interest free student loans that will remain interest free but would rein in the student loan scheme “in a big way”.

The Labour Party’s tertiary education spokesperson Grant Robertson told the New Zealand Herald Mr Key’s comments showed changes on the horizon.

“They’ve already made restrictions around age, around completion of courses around the length of time that you can do your courses. The next step would seem to be, well okay there are some courses we are not going to fund. That’s a very dangerous road to go down.”

Mr Robertson said he would be concerned if there was a restriction on the amount students could borrow, based on the courses they took and the employment prospects they had.

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce replied saying the Government was “not necessarily” looking at linking loan accessibility to particular courses.

“But we want to as much as possible give an indication to people when they make their decision on their tertiary education that they understand what they’re likely to earn coming out the other end, based on what people who get that degree or diploma are actually doing.”

Iranian lecturer faces execution for receiving email

Education International is campaigning for the release of Abdolreza Ghanbari, a 44-year-old lecturer of Payam e Nour University. Prof.  Ghanbari was arrested at his home in Pakdasht on 4 January 2010. He was charged with Moharebeh (enmity towards God) for receiving unsolicited emails from an armed opposition group, to which he does not belong.

While in detention at Evin Prison, Prof. Ghanbari was interrogated for 25 days in a row and forced to confess under duress to unproven charges. Nasrin Sotoudeh was his lawyer until she was herself condemned to a six-year sentence in Evin prison for “propaganda against the regime” and “acting against national security”.

In 2007, Prof. Ghanbari had already been detained for 120 days and sentenced to a six-month suspension from teaching and exiled from Sari to Pakdasht. Prof. Ghanbari has no known political connections. He was previously involved in teacher union activities until his union ITTA was dissolved in 2007.

Education International is calling on the Iranian authorities to stay the execution of Prof. Ghanbari and revoke the death sentence; to drop all charges against all detained trade unionists and release them immediately; to comply with the international labour standards and respect the rights of Iranian workers to freedom of association, assembly and expression. You can support the campaign here.

Phoenix rises from Christchurch Rubble

The newly founded Phoenix University of Canterbury opened for business this week, signifying the start of a new era of tertiary education for Christchurch.

The new universitech, which was the result of a ministerially-driven merger of Canterbury-based tertiary institutions, had until this week been provisionally trading under the name LinctaburyPIT. It has now completed its rebranding and market positioning exercise. The result is it will partner with, and adopt the branding of the United States’ largest education provider, Phoenix University. Phoenix University of Canterbury also announced this week that its streamlined post-merger flexible human resourcing structure would deliver significantly improved returns for bond investors.

“We believe that by removing duplication of library services, back office functions and administration we can save money. We will be able to offer our customers, students, a twenty-four hour a day service to complement their learning experience,” said newly appointed chiefancellor Sir Giles Carrfield.

“Looking forward, these savings have allowed us to invest in Phoenix University’s strategic direction, by appointing a new layer of management.”

Other news

Alan Ginsberg wrote that he had seen the best minds of his generation destroyed by madness. We are seeing the best minds in our universities destroyed by increasingly complex form filling – The Conversation

In 1869, Irish physicist John Tyndall posed a basic scientific question: why is the sky blue? In searching for an explanation, Tyndall discovered that light is scattered in the atmosphere by dust and large air molecules in a way that causes the eye to see the colour blue. His discovery of these properties of light eventually led to the later development of a number of important but wholly unanticipated innovations, including lasers and fibre optics – The Ottawa Citizen

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce said he expected the number of ITOs to fall from 33 down to anywhere between six and 10 within two years – Dominion Post

In the universities of Athens, the city where Plato taught and Cicero studied, campuses are covered in anarchist graffiti, stray dogs run through buildings and students take lessons in Swedish with the aim of emigrating – The Financial Post

A group of international students say they are thousands of dollars out of pocket, and afraid for their safety, after a dispute with a Waikato education facility. Two former Waikato Institute of Education (WIE) students say they have only found the courage to speak out now because another institute is controlling their visas – Waikato Times

Unions are increasingly concerned that the round of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), which completed after nine days today in Melbourne, Australia, are heading in dangerous directions. A trade union lobby team at the nine-day negotiation session just concluded in Melbourne has also warned of negative impacts on jobs, incomes and working conditions. The unions have drafted a Labour Chapter to be included in the Agreement – International Trade Union Confederation

One in three workers questioned in a survey say they are required to be available to their employer 24 hours a day. The recruitment company that did the survey of about 400 employees throughout the country says it shows a growing trend for work to spread into private life – Radio New Zealand

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