Not much to Christmas cheer about

At least in the 20 universities without new enterprise agreements

Desirable address

“Now UOW’s Sydney Business School is not only planning to increase its course offerings but also offer students a new panoramic view of Sydney Harbour.” The University of Wollongong  announces the new Sydney CBD location venue of its business school. Apparently “”location, location location” applies to universities.

Stephen Parker has balls

Stephen “Renaissance Prince” Parker’s patronage knows no bounds, with news that his University of Canberra is to sponsor the Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League this summer (readers still struggling with the idea of 50 overs a side don’t ask). On my count UC now sponsors a rugby cluba cricket team plus a poetry prize and has funded a font (of the typographical kind).And yesterday the Canberra Times reported the university was interested in taking over the local basketball franchise, the Capitals. Apparently it is part of a plan to create a sporting hub on his campus. Given Professor Parker also plays in a pop-up band The Hip Replacements the challenge is obvious – he needs to sponsor a rock cantata which pulls his loves together, and explains why all this largesse does not mean the university has no need of increased federal funding.

A new Pyne plan

The Australian Financial Review reports this morning that Canberra is set to relieve NSW of statutory responsibility for its universities. If so it is an entirely sensible move which the state’s universities should welcome – especially if it includes the Commonwealth taking over responsibility for their unfunded defined benefit superannuation liabilities.

 Christmas Truce

Ah summer, the sounds of the surf, of bat on ball and bbq sizzle, and university and staff negotiators sniping at each other. And there is plenty to snipe about as a mass of universities head into Christmas with enterprise negotiations incomplete. On one expert count just 16 of 37 public institutions either have new agreements in place or are waiting for staff votes on proposals jointly sponsored by management and unions. Of the others, in 20 management has not put an offer on the table and while Federation University Australia has offered an annualised 2.9 per cent by four years negotiations are suspended, a polite way of saying there is a state of no-speaks in Ballarat.
As to how much money everybody will get in the end, it will probably be around 2.5 per cent to 3 per cent. The average of offers is 3 per cent per annum with Monash the outlier at 2 per cent per annum by four, which looks like an ambit claim to me. However, it is not all about money, there are half a dozen universities where discussions are bogged down in disputes over wages and conditions. Still, I suspect the various bargaining teams will come back in the new year determined to settle soon – not out of any desire to start afresh but out of fear of a shared clear and imminent danger – a refusal by the feds to increase indexation, which is not agreed for 2015. And then there is the matter of the Commission of Audit and the budget to follow.

 Generous advice

Good for Scott Bowman who reminded Queensland kids sweating on university entry scores on Friday that, “if you don’t get what you hoped for it’s not the end of the world, plenty of options available to get you where you want to go.” And no, he did not suggest anybody call his CQUniversity recruitment team.

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen

University of Melbourne e-researcher students have analysed 250,000 Australian tweets to discover a bunch of regional differences and cultural patterns. It’s a great way of working out what we plebs are on about, which I suspect will really appeal to people in other occupations as well as academics, say secret police chiefs.

Christmas is coming at Swinburne, just not this year

Last month Swinburne University management wrote to staff setting out the university’s circumstances as a way of explaining its pay offer. Since then not much has happened with the campus National Tertiary Education Union digging in, arguing that the university is upping the ask on working conditions for the next enterprise agreement. So to break the circuit of strife, again, late Friday Vice Chancellor Linda Kristjanson emailed all staff a glossy document selling management’s proposed agreement and inviting staff to respond.
“The University is showing a commitment to finalising negotiations and reaching an agreement that supports our people as soon as possible,” Professor Kristjanson wrote.
“As a similar demonstration of good faith, and as a gesture of good will to our students, we invite the NTEU to suspend their industrial action and relieve the uncertainty and worry felt by so many of our students. Naturally, this will entirely be a decision for the union, its leadership and its members.”
Smart move – if the union replies with an ossa of new points to pile on its pelion of existing complaints it will appear obstructionist. And if it does, what is to stop management announcing that, more in sorrow than in anger, it is abandoning talks and putting its version of an agreement direct to a staff vote? Not much as far as I can tell. The way things are going at Swinburne as things stand a new enterprise agreement is coming, but so is Christmas, just not this year’s.

Hold the front page

Edith Cowan University media release headline, Friday. “Building 34 rises towards completion.”

’48 or ‘68

For the last six months louder and larger student protests have grown across English campuses and it is starting to look less like agit-prop as entertainment and more a broad based movement. It is easy to understand why – underneath all the usual denunciations against the corporate university and market economy there is the grim reality of five years of no-growth with recent graduate unemployment 9 per cent (another 5 per cent are out of the workforce). Even worse, half of recent graduates are working in a non-graduate role and a third are in low-skilled jobs.  “This,” according to the Office of National Statistics, “may reflect lower demand for graduate skills as well as an increased supply of graduates.” Which makes the protests more a re-run of 1848, demands for change driven by disquiet at the future under a regime with no apparent answers, rather than a 1968-style idealist romp. Could it happen here? Not unless the economy gets a whole lot worse and masses of students lose the jobs that stop them congregating on campus.

UNSW’s answer to an ordinary ATAR


Vice Chancellor Fred Hilmer, announcing a minimum ATAR of 80 for entry into UNSW from 2014. ABC Radio’s AM program, July 19: “It’s important to students who they’re in class with. So much work today is group work and you need to know when you come to a university, you know, what your cohort will look like. So that’s part of what I think this move will signal for our future students.”
UNSW celebrates its mature-age University Preparation Program, Friday. “Since it began in 1989, the UPP has helped students with no HSC or other formal qualifications begin university studies. … Speaking at the event, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Students) Professor Wai-Fong Chua said that UNSW was keen to attract students to develop their potential “irrespective of where they might have come from or what opportunities they may have had”.

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