Risk of more cuts if Birmingham bill is blocked

The day after: what the government could do next to save money

Full and frank exchange: at James Cook U union and management make things plain

What HR has in mind: management conference to reveal all

plus: JCU and UNSW join unis preparing for Tuesday’s report on sexual assault on campus



Off the mark

Sydney Morning Herald lead on a story about the last QILT survey of university students, yesterday: “Universities hands (sic) out marks to students. How does it look when the tables are turned?” No, universities award marks that students earn through the quality of their academic work. Harrumph

The day after

Policy expert Peter Noonan speculates on what could happen if the government loses in the Senate

In a speech yesterday the Professor Noonan set out the policy options for post school education if the Senate listens to university lobbies, student associations and the staff union and busts all or most of the Birmingham bill.

The first scenario is based on an amended bill getting up. This could leave most of the existing system as is, with “some” reduction in funding rates, and students the main losers through increased course contributions and a reduced threshold for HELP repayments. Student demand would not be effected by the higher cost of course debt but university funding growth would depend on institutions increasing enrolments at a rate sufficient to compensate for lower payments per Commonwealth Supported Place.

“This scenario would also most likely result in rationalisation of courses and campuses in some universities, particularly those with an uneconomic footprint,” Professor Noonan suggests.

If all of the bill goes bang he suggests the government could abandon the demand driven system, capping places to secure savings. And it could contain the cost of growth in priority disciplines by putting degree and sub degree places to tender.

And none of this deals with the state’s cost-shifting, and Commonwealth blurring the distinction between VET and HE as Canberra allows universities to expand into the sub-degree market.

“Even if the government’s higher education reform package passes the Senate in a revised form, and agreement with the states is reached in relation to VET funding, the absence of an overall and coherent framework for funding tertiary education in Australia means that any piecemeal agreements are neither sustainable nor sufficient in the longer term,” he writes.

The Birmingham package may be “an incoherent mess” as the Group of Eight argues, but it could be less a mess than alternatives.



Applause for ANU 

The Economic Society of Australia honours ANU economists

The Society singled out the ANU researchers at its annual conference. Emeritus professor Alison Booth is named a fellow of the society. Warwick McKibbin becomes a distinguished public policy fellow. Both are members of the Crawford School of Public Policy. Paul Burke from the Arndt-Corden Department of Economics, in the Crawford School, is honoured for the best paper in the ESA journal. If Jenny Corbett, now reviewing the ACDE “to help the school meet the emerging needs of a rapidly changing region,” hasn’t heard yet she surely soon will.

What HR is up to

Wonder what human resources has in mind? A conference in Queenstown will reveal plenty

University people managers will meet in Queenstown NZ in September to consider “beyond benchmarking.” Delegates to the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association conference will hear about solving problems; like those set by Simon Moss from Charles Darwin U, who will explain “how to convert academic vultures into supportive cultures.”

There will undoubtedly be a packed house for Diana Chegwidden (Australian Catholic U) will give all attending the oil on; “the cultural change needed to holistically integrate mindset shift and the criticality of the narrative and communication, communication, communication.”

There is also a mass of how-to sessions, including improving casual employment processes, how to have “performance conversations” and using data analytics in workforce strategies.

But the one that will appeal to senior managers who worry what HR is up to will be by John Steele, an honorary professorial fellow at the University of Wollongong. “As practitioners enhancing our influence is central to optimising our impact. This session will look at the contribution of HR from an executive dean’s perspective and put forward some ideas and generate discussion on how we can strengthen HRs contribution as an indispensable strategic partner in achieving core institutional goals.”



If you can’t beat em

No faulting this publisher for pragmatism

Journal publisher Elsevier has grown very rich (revenues of £2,320m, operating margin of 36.8 per cent) publishing research that only readers at subscribing universities can read. This does not make it universally popular with the open access movement. But the push for OA rolls on and now the publisher produces many journals that are free to read as long as universities pay for research articles to appear. So now Elsevier is making a virtue of what the market demanded spruiking; it’s ‘article processing charges’ are lower than the industry average and “we publish the best open access articles.”

Lionised lawyers

The lawyers of the year shortlists are out

Trade journal Lawyers Weekly has announced shortlists for the many categories in its annual awards. Nominees for academic of the year are: Matthew Bell (construction law) University of Melbourne, Jacques Duvenhage (employment law) Notre Dame Australia – Fremantle and Michael Legg (civil litigation and class actions) UNSW.

The longish list for law student lawyer of the year is: Adrian Agius (UNSW), Amy Bradley (Separovic Injury Lawyers and Notre Dame of Australia U – Fremantle), Claudia Carr (Curtin U), Meg Connell (RMB Lawyers), Milan Gandhi (McCullough Robertson Lawyers/The Legal Forecast), Michael Jefferies (University of the Sunshine Coast), Hannah McDonald (Monash U), Don Nguyen (MinterEllison/UNSW), Sophie Tversky (Monash U) and Khushaal Vyas (UNSW)



More arguing than bargaining

Management and union at James Cook U say what they mean

Last night the NTEU at James Cook University protested that the university planned to lock-out workers taking authorised industrial action over slow enterprise bargaining.

NTEU members have proposed bans on completing work not contained in their position descriptions. However, in an extraordinary move, JCU management has threatened to lock out participating staff, despite their willingness to undertake the vast majority of their normal duties.”

To which management replies; it will not accept partial bans adding that 368 NTEU members voted in the ballot on protected industrial action, “out of approximately 4000 JCU staff”.

“Of the members voting, the majority voted in favour of NTEU members being able to take eight of the nine types of industrial action that were covered by the ballot.   NTEU members have not voted in favour of taking protected industrial action in the form of bans or partial bans on teaching delivery and/or teaching related duties,” the university added in a statement.

Management adds that it plans to make an enterprise agreement offer at the meeting scheduled for August 9.



The HRC report on campus sexual assault isn’t out yet – but universities are already responding 

The Australian Human Rights Commission will release its much-anticipated report on sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities, 10am Tuesday.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, Universities Australia President (and Monash VC) Margaret Gardner and National Union of Students President Sophie Johnston will speak.

Universities have also committed to releasing the HRC’s separate reports on each of them. For a couple of weeks vice chancellors have anticipated reports by acknowledging universities need to address problems and then detailing what they are doing. Two more did yesterday.

Will these strategies work? Depends what the HRC has to say about the university system and specific campuses next week.

JCU self-starter gets going

“What dark plot is afoot at James Cook University?” CMM’s dark plot correspondent asks. The university has announced an increase in equity contact officers from ten to 47, to “provide support and advice” to staff and students “who may have, or who are currently experiencing, discrimination, bullying or harassment.”

“They will also assist in raising awareness in the university community about processes and systems that are in place to combat behaviours that impact on workplace and social inclusion at JCU,” the university advises of the voluntary positions.

A response based on the need to build credibility after the scandal of a staff member continuing to work after a sexual assault conviction? Perhaps. Having something positive to point to when the Human Rights Commission report on sexual assault and harassment appears on Tuesday? For sure.

But dark plot wise this is not a starter. There is a new manager of equity services who is getting on with the job of rejuvenating the university’ support for staff and students who need help.

The University of New South Wales has people, policy and portal in place

Six days before the release of the HRC report on sexual assaults at universities UNSW VC Ian Jacobs says all universities “need to do more to ensure that students, staff and visitors are safe.” But he wants his university community, and undoubtedly anybody who asks after the HRC release next week, to know what UNSW is already doing, detailed in a message to staff yesterday.

Actions include a report on good practice for universities responding to sexual assault and harassment cases – this will be released two days after the HRC releases its findings. At the end of August UNSW will also release an external review of its sexual assault policies and procedures by Jackie Burke, a former director of Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia. The university has also trained 100 staff to deal with any increase in notifications. A new university portal for reports of sexual violence and harassment went live this week.



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