Nothing to relax about: court case on casual staff voting right

Enough with the upright

We know that too much sitting down can kill but so it seems can too much standing up. According to Maria Gabriela Garcia from ETH Zurich long term standing at work can create musculoskeletal disorders among workers of all ages. It’s all too much for CMM who needs a good lie down.

UoQ

Unanimous agreement

The debate over the HILDA survey report on which universities deliver on graduate salaries rolls on. Some experts dispute the original interpretation others argue about alternative analyses, Conor King from the Innovative Research Universities group (which did well in HILDA) suggests, “the interest is really the data on the extent of graduates at different ages, the hint that school results let alone intelligence and income are not long term highly correlated against education per se.” But other less policy-focused citizens were enjoying the Group of Eight being discomfited by data and disputing methodology when the stats normally stack up in its interest.

But by yesterday the debate was starting to look like entertainment only for industry insiders. Associate Professor Roger Wikins, the Melbourne Institute author of the report, participated in an Reddit discussion yesterday and among 40 questions on the state of society via HILDA there was only one on higher education. And that was from somebody who wanted to know what the survey meant for fee deregulation! Not much AsPro Wilkinson replied, “the report shows that university graduates earn a lot more than less-educated people, so fees would have to get very, very high before it became no longer worthwhile going to university.” At least everybody in higher education can agree on that.

363 days to go

Yesterday the estimable NCVER reported the importance of World Youth Skills Day, 24 hours after it occurred. The universally admired agency is immensely well organised and was probably providing advanced warning for the 2016 celebrations.

Final chapter in Swinburne Saga

The Federal Court will rule this morning on the National Tertiary Education Union challenge to the Swinburne University staff vote in favour of management’s enterprise agreement offer last year. The union claims the vote was invalid as the electoral roll included ineligible casuals, that only people with a contact for future work should have been allowed to vote. According to scholars of the dispute, which now seems to have dragged on longer than the 30 Years War, there are three possible outcomes. The court says the vote was valid. The court finds fault with the Fair Work Australia ruling that upheld it and the matter goes back to FWA for another hearing. Or the vote is thrown out altogether, in which case the 2009 agreement remains in place.

The last outcome would not be good for Swinburnes casual academic staff, or the voting rights of casual staff everywhere else. There is an army of academics who do not know from one semester to the next when they will teach next but still see themselves, and are seen by other academics, as members of a university community.

mindhive 2

And it would be very bad indeed for Swinburne management. The 2009 agreement requires the university to negotiate workload changes with the campus NTEU –which will make it harder to secure adoption of the academic workload and research productivity measures being discussed with staff now, (CMM yesterday).

Open to opinions

Ratings agency QS is less picky about who gets to express an opinion than the NTEU. QS is reminding people to complete the survey that informs its World University Rankings, including individuals with edu.au emails who aren’t academics. The company also promises participants $400 worth of QS intel reports on country markets. Complete the form QS urges to, “ensure that our global and regional rankings are as accurate as possible.” Quite.

Comparison no compliment

Dean of arts at the University of Adelaide, Jennie Shaw has already reorganised a fair swag of the faculty but it seems more change could come with a new structure proposed for the School of Social Sciences, which would break up the Department of Politics and International Studies. The new arrangement would put politics in a department with sociology, gender studies and anthropology. International Studies could stand alone or join Asian languages. This does not impress everybody, “the politics department has a long history within the university and played a pivotal part in Australian social science,” a reader says. What’s worse; “this would make the Faculty of Arts at Adelaide very different to any other research Group of Eight university and indeed more like the University of South Australia.” CMM suspects this isn’t a compliment.

Last night the university responded that the plan “is simply a realignment of the discipline, taking into account new majors in criminology and sociology. It is about the logical placement of academic areas to better complement each other and support stronger outcomes in education and research. There are no changes to either academic focus or personnel.”

The proposal goes out for consultation in a fortnight.

CEF June 15 2

Building a boom

When it comes to education export opportunities in China, we aint seen nothing yet. As Training Minister Scott Birmingham points out, to meet the country’s skills needs the Chinese Government wants 32 million people in VOCED in a few years. Senator Birmingham says Australia already has 70 per cent of the market for international providers suppling in-country training, which sounds impressive but isn’t – there are just 30 000 or so students. The senator took ASQA officers with him to China this week to organise audits of Australian providers there. A good and necessary thing to service the market there but it isn’t going to generate a bunch of business. And surely there are sales to make in providing training packages as well as instruction for VOCED instructors. If the feds can organise the government-to-government permissions it is down to TAFE and private providers to get on with it.

This week in Shanghai Senator Birmingham urged Australian businesses in China to explain how they got things done and what trainers need to do. Given how much time, money and effort it will take to build market share in the training sector CMM wonders how many will listen. We ain’t seen nothing yet and whether we see anything in the future is certainly not certain.

Of course it can be done, in fact Macquarie University is doing it, or something similar, albeit on a small scale; by hosting 60 Chinese law and economics academics for 12 weeks of English language course and “advanced academic development seminars” paid for by the China Scholarship Council. More educate the educator than train the trainer but moving in the same direction.

They’re the voice

Murdoch University is rolling out a VOICE survey next week, a service used by universities across the country. The results will be interesting, its been nine months or so since former VC Richard Higgott left and for all the talk of demoralisation and dismay to follow back then acting VC Andrew “the stroller” Taggart seems to have kept things calm.

Recycled skills

The transcript of Simon Birmingham talking to Chinese reporters in Beijing should shame we reptiles of the press with Australian education rounds. The hacks knew their stuff, including one who asked a very pertinent question. “If a Chinese student is vocationally trained in China how would his qualifications be recognised in Australia? How would his qualification be used to match to the system in Australia, and what difficulties are there in this effort?” Good question, especially if the student was trained in an Australian voced package. Senator Birmingham replied the two governments would work on mutual recognition but CMM wonders how unions will respond to Chinese workers arriving with Australian qualifications.

ANU June 4

@ www.tedious.gov.au

The Department of Education is spruiking “career development resources to help you make informed decisions about your education, training & career choices.” This is well intentioned but useless – because the sites they refer people to include MyUniversity and MySkills, which are comprehensive but clunky. Yes they are written for prospective students, as long as they are senior government officials who speak fluent bureaucrat – which does not include many school leavers. Yes these sites are hard to write, what with the need for neutrality and equal information on all providers, yes there is a mass of official information to include. But they are supposed to help not confuse, or bore, people. CMM hope the coming Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching site delivers on its much-anticipated promise and successfully replaces MyUniversity but it seems we are stuck with the just released MySkills.

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