UWA concedes sacking plan “premature”

Plus wizard move for Merlin and innovation agenda set in cement

UWA pulls back

The University of Western Australia has advised staff that an announced restructure and staff cuts was “premature.”

CMM reported last Thursday that the Fair Work Commission had asked the University of Western Australia to advise staff that Vice Chancellor Paul Johnson’s December statement should not have been made, given required consultations were not complete.

Which senior DVC Dawn Freshwater did on Friday; “this statement was made premature as the Enterprise Agreements require staff consultation prior to decisions being made about major workplace change,” she wrote.

“I would like to clarify that the reference to 300 roles being made redundant is not a fixed or definite number, but this figure is indicative of the scale of the budgetary constraints which the university is facing, as previously outlined to you. Any alternatives to redundancies can be put to the university and will be genuinely considered prior to any decisions being made,” she added. The staff feedback period is also extended to March 7.

So that’s that humiliation endured and process back on track. Not quite – at least according to the campus branch of the union.


But kicks up

From Perth the National Tertiary Education Union reports that the University of Western Australia is threatening to sue the union and its officers if it, or they, publish or disclose information provided to the union under Fair Work Act right of entry provisions.

The union states university management “also warn that if the information is posted on Facebook, published on the website or disclosed at meetings, NTEU officers could be exposed to a civil penalty.”

The university’s warnings arise out of a dispute with the union which stated Vice Chancellor Paul Johnson ”had breached his requirement to consult” on the proposal to axe 300 jobs (above). NTEU State Secretary Gabe Gooding says, “the threat to sue remains and is consistent with management’s attempts to stop scrutiny of the vice-chancellor’s decisions and suppress debate within the university.”

However a spokesman for the university rejected the union’s claims;

“the University of Western Australia is meeting regularly with its staff to provide an opportunity for questions and feedback.  It is also engaging with staffs’ union representatives during the ongoing consultation process before making important decisions about the future of the university. We have always, and will continue to, endeavour to work with the NTEU in good faith.

“In the letter from the university to the NTEU dated 10 February 2016 there is no evidence to support the union’s claim.

“Instead the letter highlights the importance of respecting the confidentiality of documents provided by UWA to the NTEU under rights of entry, as they are of a confidential nature and cannot be disclosed to a third party under section 504 of the Fair Work Act.”

“Disinterested warnings of a parting friend”

Stephen Parker finishes as VC of the University of Canberra in July. Word is that the replacement process is complete and his successor will be announced “in a couple of weeks.” It is hard to see how Professor Parker could top his strong speech last week on how the existing university system duds the working class, (CMM February 17th) but CMM suspects a Washingtonian farewell address is in the works.

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Set in cement

The Australian Academy of Science launch of its 10-year chemistry plan (CMM Friday) did not generate much main media attention but insiders certainly noted Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s address. Understandably so, Dr Finkel does not match his predecessor Ian Chubb for policy gravitas in speeches but his addresses are engaging and awash with intriguing ideas. As at this launch where he suggested what Australian chemical research could mean for the way the world produces four billion metric tonnes of cement annually. Apparently geopolymer cement could be made from industrial wastes and with up to 90 per cent less carbon dioxide emissions. This is no small thing given the present method pumps out 5 per cent of the world’s emissions.

It was a broad hint that scientists must help government so the state can help them. “(Ministers) look to the science community in particular to show them how to make the case for science: to cabinet, to the Australian people and to other countries,” Dr Finkel said.

Aidan “smiler” Byrne also spoke, quite rightly, given his Australian Research Council provided funding for the chemistry plan. Professor Byrne pointed to the ARC’s support for chemistry, pointing to funding programmes where chemistry outperformed overall success rates, (something leaders of other disciplines will note). And he expressed his support for the report’s commitment to industry engagement, in line with the National Innovation and Science Agenda, which is “specifically designed to drive innovation, generate jobs and boost our economic prosperity.” We are all innovators now.

Less, please

In 2014 ANU sold shares in fossil fuel companies. This pleased environmental activists on and off campus, but upset the Australian Financial Review and Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm. Then VC, Ian “the gent” Young’s performance in Senate estimates was a model of staying calm and conceding nothing under aggressive questioning (CMM October 23 2014) .

But none of this is enough for green ANUites and allies. A petition is circulating calling on the university to buy no more old energy shares and sell those it still holds.


Wizard appointment for Merlin

UNSW VC Ian Jacobs continues the reshuffle caused by DVC Academic Iain Martin’s move to become VC of the University of East Anglia (CMM November 27). Just before Christmas, Professor Jacobs moved DVC Research Les Field to be Senior DVC and his “formal deputy”. With a portfolio of staffing, “integrity matters” and three social-justice projects from the new strategic plan this left the two key portfolios to fill. One was on Friday, with Dean of Science Merlin Crossley moved up to be DVC Education.

Psychologist Peter Lovibond is acting dean of science and Brian Boyle, who ran Australia’s Square Kilometre Array bid is acting DVC R. This should not be much of an ask, Professor Boyle joined UNSW as PVC R last July.

Backlash begins

“High fees, massive debts and no job guarantees – is university really worth it?” Susan Johnson  asks in a Courier Mail feature. It’s a debate long on the US agenda but one that will seriously start here soon as graduates from the demand driven system start testing their assumptions against the realities of the job market. The days of university marketers getting away with claims that employers love their graduates and doing nothing to ensure it are over.

And doesn’t La Trobe U know it, providing a guide to self-promotion on LinkedIn,   “which is a wise move for postgraduate students” so they “take control of your personal brand ”. So much for degrees speaking for themselves.

Tocsin tolls

That distant ringing sound this morning comes from Western Australia, where universities are sounding alarms. Bargaining for the next round of Enterprise Agreements will begin at Curtin, Edith Cowan and Murdoch in April.

Campus Morning Mail

Language of Shakespeare and Milton

Dawn Freshwater has a distinctive communication style demonstrated by her memo, (above) to all staff at UWA, which included; “the present round of consultation concerns potential future decisions. Following this consultation, and after the university makes definite decisions, there will be further consultation with staff about the implementation of the decisions.” But a UWA admirer of her work suggests that while good, it does not match some statements made in her old job at the University of Leeds. In 2012 the Times Higher reported her on organisational effectiveness. “We can reframe the way we define it, so that it’s not viewed as simply foregrounding cost savings, but instead a much more complex interplay of influences and drivers that facilitate opportunities for enhancing the ways in which we manage movement.” Prose to immortalise in marble.

Armour required

The University of Queensland is in the market for a DVC for external engagement. This is a big portfolio, including marketing, student recruitment, plus fund raising and alumni relations as well industry and government links. While the job requirements include all the usual palaver about being “capable of working collaboratively across all of UQ’s portfolio’s” what it will need is acres of ambition, plus a hide measured in metres. The brief is a licence to trample all over existing empires.

Know something the world needs to know? Anonymity guaranteed but lots of questions asked, stephen4@hotkey.net.au