Big win for casuals at Swinburne

In the stars

“Sadly many marketing academics are more astrologer than astronomer.” Byron Sharp from the Ehrenberg Bass Institute at the University of South Australia, via Twitter yesterday. Perhaps the heat is making him irritable.

Delphic drivel

Our Delphic Utterances correspondent approvingly notes the way the University of Wollongong dealt with an unspecified issue yesterday via (again)  Twitter; “We’d like to clarify our position on a recent article concerning one of our PhD students,” UoW announced, appending an unsigned statement on letterhead which states that the university encourages students to attend and present at conferences and that “in this case” proper procedures were followed. This was followed by boilerplate about principles of academic freedom – but the obvious question, which case?, is unanswered. Just about everybody at UoW and many outsiders know what this is about but trying to bury an issue under obscurity never works.

Update: What a surprise, by 7.45 this morning a UoW dean was on ABC radio explaining why funding an anti-vaccination graduate student to speak at a conference was legitimate – which the university should have done in the first place.

Step forward at Swinburne

The National Tertiary Education Union is trumpeting an agreement with Swinburne University for 50 fixed term and ongoing positions for sessional staff. This is indeed a good thing – casuals are an academic underclass whose workloads often make it impossible to build the research base an ongoing academic career requires. NTEU head office officials have long pushed for career paths for casuals in enterprise agreements and these jobs, though negotiated under the 2009 enterprise agreement, will continue when the next deal is done.  But what the union is not acknowledging is that this may be a way off.  The bitter, and it is bitter, dispute over a new enterprise agreement at Swinburne shows no sign of settling.

Superior service

James Cook University is closed today, what with Cyclone Dylan being due. However the student centre will be open to deal with “urgent inquiries”. For devotion to duty this is hard to beat.

Spending students money

Flinders University Students Association has announced its 19 paid positions for the year. The student council president is paid $26 200 pa for a 30 hour week with the general secretary receiving $10 000 for ten hours weekly. The rest of the jobs are paid $2000 to $3000. The salaries budget is funded from the share of the Student Services and Amenities Fee the university hands over. According to the new National Union of Students survey of SSAF distribution, Flinders is ok-ish for involving students. Their representatives manage academic rights and advocacy services, welfare and student employment and they share support for internationals with management, which puts Flinders on par with the neighbouring University of Adelaide. Last year FUSA received $1.3m, some 37 per cent of what management received from the SSAF levy. There isn’t much ammunition for enemies of compulsory student levies in the Flinders situation with the rules forbidding funding for politics pretty much observed – except maybe the environment officer who, “acts as an advocate for environmental sustainability within the university and broader community.”

Great idea! another review

The NTEU is upset at the way researchers are switching universities, suggesting the moves are due to the next Excellence in Research for Australia performance review. “The wholesale poaching of research centres can contribute nothing to the development of research excellence in Australia” union president Jeannie Rea says. Maybe so – but what can be done to stop academics as individuals or groups switching jobs? Perhaps the Australian Research Council could create a cut-off date of several years before an ERA round for an institution to include new researchers work. But all that will do is lead to people being poached earlier. Not to worry, “an independent review of the ERA’s impact on university behaviour” will work it out and the minister should set create one quick-smart. Especially if it includes ERA’s “impact upon the allocation of government resources, compliance costs, research careers and intellectual freedom.” I wonder how Andrew Norton and David Kemp are placed when they finish reviewing demand driven funding.

Which reminds me is not the DDFR due to the minister at the end of January? That’s, gosh, today.

Who knew?

“Australia’s first female prime minister fell victim to a series of ‘distractions’, which prevented her government from gaining traction,” says Chris Aulich, professor of public administration at the University of Canberra’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis. He was speaking at the Public Policy Network annual conference, which continues at UC today.

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