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December 8, 2008 | by  | in News Online Only | [ssba]

Eye on Council

On Monday 1 December, I attended the University Council Meeting in the Hunter Building, where important decisions are made with regards to the management of our learning. While the ongoing dispute over restructuring the College of Education went on in the background, important items on the meeting’s agenda included the receipt of the 2008 Equity Report and discussion of a Pay and Employment Equity Review, receipt of the Investment Plan Key Performance Indicator (KPI) report, discussion of the Internationalisation Strategy and a proposal for establishing a Faculty of Graduate Research to bring all postgraduate students together under one umbrella. Reports from the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor were also noted.

Faculty of Graduate Research
Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Research) Charles Daugherty spoke to Council about the way VUW’s system for managing postgraduates is devolved to each faculty, creating a recruitment disadvantage which hampers the University’s strategic goal to increase the proportion of postgraduates at Vic, which at 3.7% of full time students is lower than any other New Zealand university except AUT. As Chancellor Tim Beaglehole noted, the Academic Board has unanimously agreed that a single Faculty of Graduate Research to manage postgraduate thesis students is the way to go. Dr Jock Phillips expressed concern that individual departments were already shirking a responsibility to channel talented undergrads into postgraduate studies, but Assoc. Prof. Dolores Janiewski disputed this and noted that the three separate processes for international students’ to enrol in thesis study was confusing, as US universities all have a single process.

Investment Plan KPIs
Council’s discussion of the Investment Plan KPI report (information from which influenced the decision to create a Faculty of Graduate Research) largely focussed on the external relationships section, with VUW’s relationships with both other universities and local iwi brought into question. Rosemary Barrington said the report was frustrating as KPIs are process- rather than outcome-oriented. Vice-Chancellor Pat Walsh commented on the relationship between VUW’s and Massey’s engineering programmes, and the potential for greater collaboration. Shaan Stevens criticised the decline in interaction with local iwi, linking this to increasing numbers of Maori going overseas to study. Outgoing VUWSA President Joel Cosgrove questioned students’ experiences of hostels, with the Vice-Chancellor responding by noting additional placement numbers in 2009 due to Te Puni and St George.

VUW’s management accounts for the period ending 31 October were presented by Chief Financial Officer Wayne Morgan and Finance Committee chair James Ogden. Year to Date revenue is currently $0.4m below budget, but expenditure is $1.4m below budget. Ogden stated that a decline in EFTS numbers could herald “unpleasant surprises”, while the fact that restructuring costs would be brought into the accounts when audited would bring VUW’s surplus down to $3.2m.

Bad news: Faculty of Science revenue is down $791,000 due to a decrease in external research income; Faculty of Commerce revenue is $514,000 below budget due to a decrease in enrolments; Faculty of Humanities revenue is down $550,000 mainly due to a decrease in Malay Teaching Contract revenue; Faculty of Education people costs are $940,000 over budget due to restructuring; and Library expenditure is $242,000 over budget due to database, copyright and depreciation costs.

Good news: International student revenue is $443,000 above budget, while Finance and VC revenue is above budget and Deputy Vice Chancellor expenditure is below what was budgeted for. The accounts also lay out expenditure on projects such as Te Puni Village, the Teaching & Research Building, and Campus Hub Redevelopment.

The Equity Advisory Group’s 2008 report, tabled by Pro Vice-Chancellor (Equity) Deborah Willis, analyses the “recruitment, achievement and retention of Maori, Pasifika and disabled students.” Chancellor Beaglehole noted that the report’s substantial length was justified, before a number of Council members raised their concerns. Student rep Jordan King noted that the problem of high fail rates among Pasifika students, particularly in Law (with only 51% or Pasifika students passing, as opposed to over 70% for both Maori and overall students), had not been addressed. Jock Phillips noted that in addition, the report contains little in the way of comparison between student numbers and the wider community, and does not provide strategies to change problems identified. Shaan Stevens asked how the drop in Maori and Pasifika enrolments at Vic in 2007, and Pro Chancellor Ian McKinnon asked whether more of these students were now going to other institutions. Joel Cosgrove noted the worrying 34% decrease in first year Pasifika enrolments despite an increase in programmes seeking to reverse this. Willis responded that the drop at Vic was largely in sub-degree programmes, and suggested some changes were being made to address the problem. Pat Walsh noted that much of the decline in Maori and Pasifika numbers was due to a decrease in mature student numbers.

Helen Sutch asked whether equity reporting should be extended beyond issues of gender and race, and whether equity strategies were being incorporated into everyday decision making; Willis replied to the latter question that heads of schools were showing positive signs of taking ownership of equity issues. Fleur Fitzsimons praised the report, but stressed that it must be put into practice and compared with other universities.

In regards to staff equity, Cosgrove noted that while men outnumber women at the top of the staffing hierarchy, woman outnumber men at the bottom; Dolores Janiewski pointed out that the large number of women at the bottom of this hierarchy were often in general rather than academic staffing roles, and that the gender equity issues examined by the report focused almost solely upon academic staff.
Besides the Equity Report, Council also discussed a Pay and Employment Equity Review, which will not be undertaken in 2009. Some members questioned the decision not to undertake a review in the coming year. Jock Phillips discussed how a similar review had been conducted in the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, noting that oral submissions had been valuable in giving personal evidence of discrimination, but that the review had been time-consuming and restricted to issues of gender equity. Fleur Fitzsimons put forward a motion that high priority be given to undertaking such a review in 2010, seconded by Jordan King; the motion passed.


About the Author ()

Tristan Egarr edited in 2008. He threw a chair once.

Comments (1)

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  1. Jenna Powell says:

    I am just writing to protest the fact I did not have a sarcastic and whimsical description of myself under my online byline this year. That is all. Oh but also: nice reporting Tristan :).

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