English language staff may lose jobs as Navitas moves in

Posted By TEU on Sep 13, 2012 |

Tertiary Update Vol 15 No 32

The University of Canterbury plans to shut down its English language programme and make all seven staff redundant. It has given staff just ten days to give feedback on the proposal. This announcement follows its announcement two weeks ago that it would contract private company Navitas to recruit international students and teach them English.

The university’s English language programme is a bridging course for international students who do not meet English requirements for university. The university told The Press it would make sure those students could continue to study via a yet-to-be-decided English language provider.

Navitas specialises in contracting to universities to provide  pre-university and university programs, including English language.

TEU contacted both Navitas and Australian tertiary education union NTEU to find out more about Navitas’ business model. NTEU said Navitas has introduced a culture of casualisation and lower superannuation for staff.

Navitas operates in about one-third of Australia’s universities. NTEU estimates that 90 percent of Navitas teaching staff are in casual employment, and the majority of administrative staff it employs are also casual.

When asked whether its University of Canterbury staff would mostly be casual or permanent employees Navitas told TEU “Typically our colleges employ a number of permanent employees and casual positions.”

In Australia, most universities pay staff an industry standard superannuation fund of 17 percent of their salary, but Navitas pays its staff the legal minimum of 9 percent. It has also introduced performance-pay for staff and significantly increased contact-teaching hours.

Navitas told TEU its University of Canterbury staff would not be on the University of Canterbury collective agreement but that pay rates and conditions would be ‘comparable’ and ‘competitive’.

“In fact,” said Navitas Group Manager Public Relations, James Fuller, “at many of our colleges our teachers already work at the University and they use the extra Navitas work to supplement their incomes.”

In Australia, Navitas has not been interested in establishing a national industrial relationship with the NTEU to date, so NTEU has been bargaining agreements locally one-by-one at each university.

TEU national secretary Sharn Riggs said the university had a responsibility not to turn good jobs into casual precarious employment, via contracting out and that there is no reason the university cannot continue to be the employer and provide these courses as it does now.

“Even if this contracting out were to go ahead, the University of Canterbury should require Navitas to employ staff in permanent positions on the same terms and conditions as its own staff – otherwise it is obvious that Navitas’ business plan to make a profit off education is simply to cut pay and working conditions for staff.”

You can read all of Navitas’ responses to TEU questions online.


Navitas contacted TEU following the publication of this article to say:

“The agreement that is being worked out with the University of Canterbury will not include any English language training. As I understand it the University announcing plans to “shut down its English language program” are completely unrelated to Navitas.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Telford kitchen staff on road to equity
  2. Open Polytechnic to slash research time
  3. TEU elects Francey new president
  4. Restructuring at Auckland Faculty of Education
  5. Inequality growing issue for workers

Other news

The annual OECD Education at a Glance report shows that the public benefits of tertiary education in New Zealand (increased tax revenues and lower need for social transfers, among others) are about twice as great as the public costs (direct expenditure and foregone tax revenues). However the public benefit for women is significantly less than it is for men  – OECD, p 35

TEU is holding two suffrage day events in Auckland next Wednesday, which all are welcome to attend. In the morning (7.45) there is a breakfastat Epsom’s Kohia Education Centre with Carmel Sepuloni speaking on being a woman in politics. And in the evening (4.30) there is a Speak Up for Education forum at the Federation of University Women’s Room in Old Government House, Auckland University at which Margaret Wilson and Trudie McNaughton will both be speaking along with other panelists.

Canterbury University’s insurance premiums have shot up 600 percent to an estimated $7 million next year as the institution battles increasing debt. The premium hike comes as the university (UC) faces a repair bill of more than $600m to fix and strengthen its 345 buildings following the 2011 earthquakes – Stuff

Aoraki Polytechnic is forecasting enrolments could be down by 19 per cent at year-end and it is facing a loss of $1.3 million. Finance reports for the polytechnic for the six months ended June 30, showed a shortfall of 292 students on 1533 budgeted enrolments. Another 94 students studied as international and alternatively funded students – Stuff

The New Zealand university system has held steady in the QS World University Rankings table this year and remains clearly identifiable as one of the world’s leading small systems with four institutions in the top 250 and seven in the top 500. The biggest improvements for New Zealand this year have been in the two research indicators which include citations per academic and the academic reputation survey. New Zealand institutions have generally remained competitive in attracting international students – QS Quacquarelli Symonds

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