Big cuts in UoQ Finance and HR announced last night

Sinodinos’s smart speech (shame about the science statement)

Portable qualification record system for all ANZAC unis – a reality next year!

App of the morning

In Adelaide the state government is funding an app so people travelling to Flinders U can order a shuttle, and track its progress, as it comes to collect them from the train. It will then take them to the university’s Bedford Park and Tonsley Park campuses. Presumably the shuttles, being in South Australia, will be wind-powered.

Jobs to go and pay to be cut in UofQ admin

The second-stage of the restructure of finance and HR functions at the University of Queensland is underway, according to the model outlined last year. The university’s industrial relations leaders are widely considered as competent and respectful of staff and they have always made clear the prospect of significant staff cuts, in numbers and pay-grades. Even so, a paper released to staff last night made it clear many people will take hits if they decide, or survive a spill, to stay at UoQ.

In Financial Services the number of HEW level seven FTE workers will rise from 13 to 15, but level six positions will drop from 30 to 11, all 69 level five positions will go, while level four numbers will rise from 32 to 87.

In HR the number of HEW level six workers will rise from 18 FTE to 29 and level four from four to 18. But level five jobs will drop from 47 to ten.

Staff who do not survive the spill and fill process will be retrenched. The university plans on reducing its HR and Finance admin costs by 25 per cent. “Reduction in UQ’s finance and human resources expenditure and maintenance of service quality are vital and will allow the university to re-invest in academic and teaching excellence and the student experience,” UoQ’s chief operating officer Greg Pringle said last night.

The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union was quick to respond last night, telling staff, “this document has been released to staff prior to its content being reviewed or considered by your representatives, despite management committing to consult with unions and professional staff consultative committees prior to taking any action. Until such consultation has occurred, and until the PSCC has provided appropriate advice to the Chief Operating Officer on the transition plan, we regard this document as a work in progress.” The union has convened a staff meeting for Friday.

Name not to honour

Back in December the University of Melbourne took Richard Berry’s name off a building on the grounds that he was a horrible man by the standards of any age. According to  Erica Cervini, writing in The Age back in 2003, UniMelb professor Berry was noxiously racist towards Indigenous Australians. Years before the Nazis started, he wrote of gassing people who had intellectual disabilities.  (That’s Richard Berry, not Redmond Barry who professorships are named for – he was a much better bloke.)

Now there is also talk at the University of Sydney of renaming the Wentworth Building which now commemorates William Charles Wentworth, the 19th explorer (crossing of the Blue Mountains), politician and one of the university’s founders. However he was also “brazen in disdain for Aboriginal people” writes Andy Mason in Honi Soit who asks, “what does it say about us as a learning community that we are happy to have places on our campus named after somebody who thought Aboriginal people were apes who should be able to be murdered without legal consequences?”

Back to North Terrace

Anton Middelberg will become the University of Adelaide’s new dean of engineering, computer and mathematical sciences in August. He moves from the University of Queensland where he is PVC Research and International. Professor Middelberg took his undergraduate degree (1989) and PhD (1993) from the University of Adelaide.

Excellent eQuals

Online student record service My eQuals will launch next month (CMM March 14). It’s being built for Universities Australia subsidiary Higher Education Services and piloted by Monash U and the universities of Auckland and Melbourne. According to UniAuckland, which goes live next year, by 2018 it will be in place at 45 ANZAC institutions.

This will be a big help for people who need it, graduates so lamentably disorganised they don’t carry their testamurs around with them. Such souls can have a devil of a time proving they have a Bachelors of Very Useful Knowledge. It’s even harder for them to demonstrate their degree includes HDs for subjects that employers admire. Which is where My eQuals arrives.

The system, in development since 2013, will connect universities to a node, to which they can, or not, release student records to their own stand-alone section of the overall resource. There is no central database and institutions never surrender control of their own student information.

If records are released to a requesting student/graduate, using their institutional ID number/code, or to a third-party they authorise, the central server will supply them as, “tamper-evident, authentic digital PDF documents.” Every step in the process will be audited, with separate copies for individual and institution. The product is being built by e-document system supplier Digitary, which already works with China’s Ministry of Education, the EU’s Erasmus Project and the US Edexchange. The ANZAC system can connect to these.

Yes, students will have to pay whatever their universities want to have their records produced (hopefully less than paper documents) and yes, the data is in the perhaps hackable cloud. But overall this this is a brilliant scheme, designed to serve students. My eQuals will be launched at the annual meeting the Groningen Declaration, in Melbourne next month. The Declaration commits signatory nations to creating global digital data portability for student records. My eQuals looks like delivering exactly that.


Nobel visitor

More UNSW soft-power projection (CMM yesterday). The university will host a lecture by Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus next month. Professor Yunus jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for fostering economic growth from the bottom up through micro-finance funding. He will speak at UNSW on April 4. In 2015 the university established a Yunus Social Business Centre focussed on health in the developing world.

Flash digs

Thanks to property writer Lucy Macken for  news that UTS has paid $11.2m for a refurbed warehouse in hip and happening Chippendale, across the main drag from the UTS concrete campus. The university will use a space which poets and artists once would have aspired to work in to house student start-ups and encourage entrepreneurs. Ye Gods, $11m! Even in Sydney that buys a mountain of smashed avo on toast.

Morgan in the sky with medal

Back in 2013 hypersonic research at the University of Queensland crashed but did not burn, what with the test scramjet landing in the ocean when a launch rocket carrying it failed (CMM September 23 2013). It looked like the end for the project but they never bail-out at UoQ and hypersonic-speed flight research now focuses on using the scramjet to launch small satellites into space.  And now the effort is acknowledged, with Centre for Hypersonics director Richard Morgan awarded the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Hypersonic Systems and Technologies Award for 2017.


Smart speech shame about the statement

Industry, Innovation and Science minister Arthur Sinodinos delivered a cracker of a speech yesterday, making the prime minister’s case that science is central to a prosperous Australian future.

“I want to help every Australian understand that no matter what industry you’re in, and no matter what our domestic policy settings are, the forces of innovative change will affect all of us. By planning ahead and investing in scientific research and product development, we are not only responding to change, but we are seeking to create change – change that is to our benefit.

“Our science and innovation policies are about keeping Australians in secure, long-term, well- paid jobs, ready to respond to global forces and shifts. We have world-class scientists, skilled and tenacious innovators, and a government leading by example.

The lobbies loved it, so much that people even made-nice about Senator Sinodinos’ less inspiring policy statement, which suffered from having nothing new to announce, not including something that could have been mentioned – the government’s response to the Finkel-Ferris-Fraser review of the research and development tax incentive. Perhaps it’s in the budget.