Campus Morning Mail Thursday: at least the robots aren’t redundant

Robotic responses

ENg and IT@UniMelb tweets “we’re excited about #uomopenday this Sunday. Why not stop by Old Engineering and hang out with some friendly robots?” Only a cynic would suggest this is because the robots have more personality than some of the staff. But a realist could venture that at least the robots will not be joining some University of Melbourne human staff, who are using Open Day as an opportunity to protest as part of their pay push.

Assisted departures

Another day, another round of redundancies.  Some of this morning’s are 35 positions likely to go at the University of New South Wale’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. On July 23 the dean, James Donald warned FASS was not going to meet its revenue target. Students weren’t enrolling as expected which, “skewed the algorithms historically used to predict continuing load.” (Vice Chancellor Hilmer’s order not to enrol anybody with an ATAR under 80 has not helped, cutting EFTS by 10 per cent next year).
In fact, it’s quite a skew-the faculty is in a $4.5 million hole for this year. A hole Professor Donald intends to climb out of by dropping up to 35 staff, preferably through voluntary redundancies.
But if there are not enough volunteers the dean determined to go to a second involuntary round.  In July he established a long list of exempt categories, people teaching units that are flat out coping with student demand, very young staff and heads of schools, individuals with strong research records and so on. It was such a long list that it read as if it was designed with specific staff in mind, people who will have to submit their CVs to a review panel.
Tough stuff, potentially placing individuals in the appalling position of pleading for their jobs. Perhaps this is why the word now is that the faculty will get its 35 departures from volunteers. But CMM hears some staff are being leaned on to go – it seems “voluntary” can mean whatever a HR manager wants it to.

Pinups set in stone

The ancient Greeks did not buff up like, well Greek gods. They were also far too sensible to fall for all that idealised body image stuff they liked in their statues, according to Dr Alistair Blanshard, who will explain all in a lecture at the University of Sydney’s Nicholson Museum at 8pm tonight. CMM suspects this is a first, a lecture on body image that does not blame the media.

Relaxed redundancies at USQ

The University of Southern Queensland also announced voluntary redundancies yesterday, not to cut costs but to ensure the university has the right people in the right places.  Vice Chancellor Jan Thomas said there is no target for the head count cut, “as few or as many positions as deemed needed would be considered.”

 Wanted: one export plan

The international education lobby’s demand that the feds pay them some attention is well timed, what with new stats demonstrating how important the business is. According to DFAT, education sales to East Asia were $8.64bn last year. In comparison, manufacturing exports earned $18.5bn.  Granted the education number was down a touch under $2bn on the 2010 figure but it’s a substantial and hopefully sustainable chunk of change amounting to some 60 per cent of total education exports.  (India, which generated most migration disguised as education is not included in the East Asia category.)  The challenge is to get the $2bn back and then some. This makes the case for many in the industry who want a peak industry body to oversight a five-year strategy as proposed by the Chaney Review back in February. CMM understands why the industry wants to move this along so it is towards the top of the new minister’s to-do list. After all, what is the alternative – Austrade?

Adamant at ANU

Students rally at the Australian National University today, protesting the plan to replace tutorials with “forums” (no CMM does not know what it means either).  And it seems they have staff support. While I could not confirm the claims last night students were quoting a staff member as saying one specific school said it would not dispense with tutorials, “because it believes they’re integral to learning.”  I wonder what Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington who is reviewing the plan thinks about that?

Is education on anyone’s agenda?

There are surely mornings, many mornings in this campaign, when education lobbyists wonder why they bother. Like yesterday, when Ballarat’s journal of record, The Courier, reported on the local candidates debate, at the local university on Sunday. The questions were compiled by UB students and included red tape, same sex marriage and that perennial of university life, parking. But there was no mention of university funding. And this at a forum where students wrote the questions, held on a campus. Perhaps the National Tertiary Education Union needs to rejig its advertising schedule to include Ballarat TV, especially since the university confirmed yesterday more staff have to go as TAFE courses are cut.

Thursday’s electoral expert

As a former Victorian Labor state secretary and Gillard staffer Nicholas Reese, probably knows a bit more about the practise of politics than other academics. The University of Melbourne public policy fellow says the Liberals decision to put the Greens last will make it harder for Adam Bandt to hold Melbourne, but “it’s by no means a decisive step.”

Governing grinds on

CMM was worried that Universities Australia had completely shut up shop for the campaign, what with its need to appear bipartisan. But yesterday UA broke cover long enough to issue a statement supporting the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries science strategy.  There is a great deal of what CMM’s rhetoric detection lab suspects is blather in the document (more tests are required) but the gist of the document is that (a) science is a good thing, (b) DAFF should do more of it and (c) it will also offer to help other public sector agencies. Good-oh, but while this is entirely bipartisan could it not have waited a month until the next minister has a chance to read the plan?  And what do all the other organisations that keep an eye on science, CSIRO for a start, think?
On the subject of CSIRO “what are the future challenges facing our mining and resources industry?” the organisation asks. “Digging stuff up cheap and exporting it expensive,” CMM answers. Apparently no, as Jonathan Law earnestly explains “We need to start with an all-encompassing national conversation about the future of the sector. This must include a frank and balanced exchange about what is really driving development options. It needs to deliver a national vision for the development of resources that frames the principles to which we aspire, so that any policy uncertainties remain within a national strategy.” Everybody clear on that?

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