Voters want more money spent on education but if not, no problem

Plus why teaching and learning is all about innovation

And No more nice VCs: WA uni chiefs unite to bargain hard

Mixed signals 

Over 80 per cent of people polled for the Australian National University’s new Tax and Equity report say they want either “much more” or “somewhat more” public spending on education. This is the survey’s highest score, just ahead of health, and yet just 2.2 per cent nominated education as “the most important problem facing Australia today.” Expect to hear the first stat quoted loudly and often by the Opposition and its allies in budget week while the second stat will not get a mention, except in government election strategy meetings.

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Nothing to do with us

CMM’s “oh please!” correspondent reports Josh Dhal from Thomson Reuters is alarmed by dishonesty in research publications. Part of the problem is editors demanding authors up citations to articles appearing in their journal to increase impact scores “as recorded in Thomson Reuters’ Journal Citation Reports. Not that this has anything to do with the way impact modelling works. In fact, “TR stipulates and supports the highest standards of peer review and editorial supervision.” As the correspondent says, “oh please!”

Mr Dahl also suggests OA does not help. “The move towards Open Access publication, as opposed to the traditional model of peer-reviewing journals is another development that can be exploited by those inclined to misconduct.” So open access journals are not properly peer reviewed? Oh please! with bells on.

More exits from ACPET

The Australian Council of Private Education and Training is establishing an associate member category for applicant members while their performance is assessed. It will also continue to expel those who do not make the quality and ethical cut. According to ACPET chair Mel Koumides, “we have spent considerable time in the last year undertaking show cause reviews with members about ethics. A number of these organisations have now exited, with more to come.” CMM wonders if any of those for the push are ASQA accredited.

Last of the great equity research investments

If, as is widely expected, equity research funding is for decapitation, or even only amputation in the budget, we may not be seeing many future projects like these, just announced by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education.

Rob Strathdee (RMIT) on the impact of distance on decisions to attend university. Ian Li (UWA) on the influence of disadvantaged students’ experience of university on their academic outcomes. Jack Frawley (Charles Darwin U) on positive experiences of indigenous students. James Smith (Charles Darwin U) on improving VET to HE transitions for indigenous students. Buly Cardak (La Trobe U) on factors influencing participation and migration of regional HE students. Susan Beltman (Curtin U) on mentoring programs and equity groups. Penny Jane Burke (University of Newcastle) on “equitable understandings” of the impact of time for HE students. Deanna Grant-Smith (QUT) on impacts of unpaid practicum on student wellbeing. Wojtek Tomaszewski (U of Queensland) on school engagement practices facilitating university participation by equity students. Karen Nelson on completion patterns of equity students in regional universities.

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Teaching for an innovation nation

Calls continue for the government, as it promised, to name a successor body, to the Office of Learning and Teaching. This morning’s is from Council of Australian Directors of Academic Development Kevin Ashford-Rowe (ACU). He suggests the feds fund a new body from out of the innovation honeypot. “Investment in teaching and learning is as critical to achieve the government’s vision of an innovation nation as is investment in research.” Can’t fault him for having a go.

Starting as they mean to go on

The four public universities in Western Australia have issued an manifesto on enterprise bargaining as negotiations begin for industrial agreements at each of them. While vice chancellors Steve Chapman (Edith Cowan U) Paul Johnson (UWA) Eeva Leinonen (Murdoch U) and Deborah Terry (Curtin U) stress that all negotiations will be campus-specific they set out terms, which will apply to all. They want:

simple agreements: easily understood and applied with only content “that is needed”.

contemporary agreements: which “will protect core academic values while providing flexibility to create a workforce that enables the expansion of our sector to embrace the opportunities that the future presents.”

fair agreements: “consistent with the standards of the communities we serve and in line with the broader economy and the expectations of the taxpayers, students and our other stakeholders.”

While this appears innocuous it is a signal to the National Tertiary Education Union that management is going to give nothing away in this round, unlike last time when Western Australian universities folded early on generous wage claims. Curtin U led the way in 2012, with a four per cent pay rise annually for four years starting in 2013. This set a precedent the NTEU tried to apply, with considerable success, across the country.

What managements mean by “simple” is a focus on wages and conditions without other union objectives, including a better deal for casual staff.

By “flexibility” the universities are signalling a productivity push, especially moving staff with low research outputs into either teaching-only jobs or retrenchment.

And “fair” means terms and conditions “that are consistent with the standards of the communities we serve and in line with the broader economy and the expectations of the taxpayers, students and our other stakeholders.” This is a polite way of stating there is no chance of a pay deal with a four to the left of a decimal point.

This all might be something of a surprise to the NTEU, which is used to be being far more focused than its opponents but if so it did not stop a strong response late last night from state secretary Gabe Gooding.

“There is a certain irony in the employers who have consistently and unsuccessfully argued that the union is engaged in pattern bargaining, now announcing that they are jointly committed to common outcomes, common timetables and a common branding for bargaining.

 “The simplification that the universities are seeking is not about plain language but is actually about stripping away key protections for workers such as fair processes for disciplinary procedures. That may result in simpler agreements but it certainly won’t result in fair ones. Any proposals to eliminate the elements of collective agreements that provide a guarantee of fairness will not be consistent with the employers rhetoric on fair agreements and will be strenuously opposed by the union.”

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