PBRF review must start with open mind

Posted By TEU on Aug 29, 2013 |

Tertiary Update Vol 16 No 29

The government released a consultation document this week, reviewing the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF), complete with recommendations that it says will save time and reduce compliance costs for researchers and institutions.

The tertiary education minister Steven Joyce launched the review saying that his proposals will simplify the research assessment process, save time and reduce costs, encourage tertiary education organisations to employ and develop new researchers, reward tertiary education organisations that attract research income from non-government sources, and strengthen public reporting on research performance.

“The Government wants to build on the success of the current PBRF to support world-leading research-led teaching and learning for students at degree-level and above. The changes aim to lift and maintain the international competitiveness of New Zealand tertiary education organisations,” Steven Joyce said.

In May Jonathan Boston, one of the designer of the PRBF system, warned that it had become a “mixed blessing’’ and that some institutions have manipulated it in ways that has caused “enormous human pain’’. He called for a fundamental review.

TEU’s policy analyst Jo Scott said after three rounds a review of PBRF is timely, but it is important that the government does not enter this review with a preconceived set of outcomes before it hears what the whole sector has to say.

“PBRF is one of the issues that most vexes academics. It has created workload pressures and employment disparities. Many people do not view it as a fair system, and we hear on-going complaints that institutions have altered people’s employment status, and thus conditions, to rort the system.”

“Rather than just ‘tinkering’ with the model to make it more economically efficient, we also need to be willing to start with a clean sheet of paper,” said Jo Scott.

TEU will provide detailed feedback of members’ experiences of PBRF to the review – good and bad – and will be encouraging individual members and branches to make sure they have a say. Ministry officials have told TEU they want to hear from a wide range of TEU members, not just the official representatives from the universities.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. 30 Whitireia staff get permanent jobs
  2. Caregiver wins ground-breaking equal pay case
  3. Govt plan to wrest control of university councils days away
  4. Big increase to caretakers’ pay scale
  5. Bitter-sweet change at UC College of Arts

Other news

The Council of Trade Unions Secretary, Peter Conway says that there are many issues to consider in the proposal for flexible superannuation. “While it offers more choice, the huge concern is that for low income workers the pressure to get some additional income will mean they opt for the lower rate even if it is not the best option for them in the long run”- CTU

Tertiary Education Union vice-president Sandra Grey says becoming too reliant on overseas students as a source of income places our institutions in jeopardy. “It’s great having international students here; it provides a great diversity on our campuses. But they should be seen as being really important for that factor, not to prop up the system economically.” – Newstalk ZB

The University of Liberia. Number of applicants this year: nearly 25,000. Number gaining admission: zero. The “epic fail” of every single candidate in the admission exam provoked bafflement, consternation and heated debate on Tuesday, with some convinced that flaws in Liberia’s education system had been brutally exposed – The Guardian

President Obama appears to be making good on his vow to propose a “shake-up” for higher education – Inside Higher Ed


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