Education deans be afraid: Pyne has a plan for you

Pay grades

The National Tertiary Education Union’s annual report for the financial year to June 30 is out, including among many interesting figures, officers’ salaries. General secretary Grahame McCulloch received a package of $260,000, union president Jeannie Rea’s remuneration was $218,000 and national assistant secretary Matthew McGowan’s total was $194,000. Six state based officials earned between $102,000 and $194,000.

Pyne makes it plain

It’s been a tough year for deans of education with suggestions that they admit and graduate too many people who do not have what teaching takes. And next year will be tougher. While defending his decision to come up with a new funding formula for schools yesterday Christopher Pyne made it plain he wants reform to teacher education. In an agree-a-thon with Alan Jones on Sydney radio the education minister said; “we keep saying there’s not enough science and maths teachers, but of course the people that we are enrolling in teaching at university, many of them did not do science and maths … We have a lot of work to do on things like the science, maths, technology, engineering stream, on languages, and one of the things that I want to do is make it much easier for a student who went to university and did say languages in arts or did science or did economics to do that undergraduate degree and then do a teaching course for twelve, eighteen months, maybe two years and then go out to teach.
And this before the education minister’s review of teacher education is underway. There was more; “We don’t have to only take teachers who have done a teaching degree and then a masters degree for example. We must have more flexible pathways and that someone who does for example, Mandarin at university can then go and do a teaching course and then become a teacher.”
Then Mr Pyne explained to Leon Byrne on Adelaide’s 5AA that while he would work on teacher training, classroom standards were a state matter – and in South Australia nobody should get their hopes up. “What (premier) Jay (Weatherill) can do is move on teachers in schools in South Australia that aren’t measuring up if that’s the case.  But he will never do that because he is far too close to the teachers’ union in South Australia.”
Mr Pyne is beginning as he means to go on.

Too much modesty

The Australian Catholic University heads a tweet pointing to information on its creation, “trivia time”.

Smart strategy 

Universities Australia released its submission to the Commission of Audit yesterday  and it is bigger on why the government should spend rather than save on higher education. Understandably so, the skinny on slashing spending would not have gone down well with the members. But being wise in the ways of inquiries UA knew that that a wish list will not secure the university cause a whole lot of attention so it wisely leads with a raft of reductions in government activity. Some are not new – does TEQSA as currently configured have any admirers? Others are obvious, such as simplifying state and federal reporting. But some surprise – apparently out of 40,000 inquiries under the Tuition Protection Service there was just one case of a university failing to provide a course and not refunding fees – and it turned out the institution was not at fault. Others are simple sense – like aligning audit requirements for ESOS and TEQSA. Perhaps the most significant policy change is the call to reduce the frequency of compact negotiations, say to every seven years – although that may depend on what happens to TEQSA. One idea calculated to particularly appeal is a single data collection centre, based in the Department of Education and responsible for reporting and justifying data collection. While this would carry start up costs “it would represent a saving to universities over the long-term”. Presumably savings they would be happy to pass on to the feds.

Competing compliments

For a couple of weeks the University of Sydney promoted its ceremony awarding an honorary doctorate to Aung San Suu Kyi without giving equal billing to neighbouring UTS which shared the event. To his credit Sydney VC Michael Spence mentioned the other university in his address, however the oneup personship continued yesterday with UoS announcing an institute of child and maternal health in Myanmar. UTS responded within hours, establishing a PhD scholarships program in Burmese maternal and child health. Imagine if The Lady stayed for a week – she’d probably be chancellor of both universities.

College town Canberra 

If there is one thing vice chancellors of regional universities love it is explaining their institution’s importance to the local economy and community. Which must make a new report on rejuvenating the Wollongong CBD a bit of a worry for local VC Paul Wellings. Because this new list of ten ideas to kickstart the city does not mention the University of Wollongong, or present education as a catalyst. This is despite UoW’s main campus and innovation precinct both being on the city fringe. In contrast, the potential for making education a key brand benefit for a city is clear in the new brand Canberra campaign. Sure the video is feature-film length (well it seems that long) but the branding, which sells the city as smart and innovative, will work for education. The city’s two vice chancellors, Ian Young and Stephen Parker recently went to China with ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher to sell the city as an education destination. They should continue the cooperation with an education edition of this product. Branding Canberra as a university city is a solid sell.  Given Canberrans not overwhelming endorsement of the campaign yesterday enlisting the universities is an  idea to embrace.

Undead desserts

And to make my cosmopolitan point comes news of ANU’s first baking competition judged last night by VC Ian Young. I hope the zombie cake won.

 Standstill at Swinburne

It looked like the Swinburne branch of the National Tertiary Education Union was gearing up to accept management’s wage offer, at least until yesterday when NTEU negotiator Josh Cullinan announced new student results bans from Tuesday. After “strong progress” in the last month Mr Cullinan says management is now making new demands on work loads and conditions. The union is also applying for a new Fair Work ballot on a range of industrial action. The interesting thing however is that there is no mention of rejecting the 3.1 per cent per annum for four years management put on the table last week. Even so, the hard-line surprised some at Swinburne. “It’s so utterly out of proportion with the progress that has been made,” one observer of the negotiations said. Late yesterday people were wondering whether management might follow the lead of other universities, notably Charles Sturt and go round the NTEU by asking staff direct whether they endorse the union position.

FWA aint explaining 
A couple of weeks back Fair Work Australia’s Commissioner Wilson overturned a union ban at RMIT on processing overseas student results because excluding Australian citizens from the ban was discriminatory. The union appealed and was knocked back by Vice President Catanzariti but appealed again and was successful last week. Why? Who knows – apparently it took a full bench less than half an hour to decide the ban was legitimate but a week on the judgement is still not published.

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