Discretion clips credibility’s coin

Big Glyn is watching

“Just saw NTEU’s Grahame McCullough enjoying a sausage on campus from student stand outside engineering,” Glyn Davis tweeted yesterday. Is there nothing on the University of Melbourne campus the VC does not see? He certainly is focused on his university. By calling for a cap on undergraduate places Professor Davis will renew the rift within Universities Australia between institutions which have used de-regulation of enrolments to go for growth and his Melbourne model where students do broad undergraduate degrees followed by professional masters. As reported by Andrew Trounson in The Australian this morning, Professor Davis’s plan is r-regulation under another name. It is all very well to say universities should have the power to set the makeup of student bodies within an overall cap, but how would the cap be set?

Swallow scholarly pride

There was a deal of self-serving self-congratulation yesterday with some lobbyists suggesting the government’s removal of the cap on self-education expenses demonstrated university influence. Stuff, as well as nonsense. If universities were politically powerful the Coalition would drop the Emerson cuts. And this – despite six months of campaigning by the National Tertiary Education Union  and Universities Australia has not and will not happen. I am perplexed at why such an enormous, essential industry is politically irrelevant, but it is. The lesson this time is universities need to pal up with the people the government does listen to – medicos and professional services people.

 The Lady honoured, again

Another city another hon doc. The Australian National University is getting in on the act, announcing Aung San Suu Kyi has accepted an honorary doctorate, to be conferred in when she is Canberra later this month. She will also accept hon docs from the University of Sydney and UTS.

Next he’ll want a compass

Chris Pyne was supposedly sighted at the launch of the National Library’s maps exhibition the other night. A CMM correspondent suggests he was looking for a chart marking the location of Australia’s universities. But it’s a fair bet he will know the way to the Magill campus of the University of South Australia, where he will announce Australian Research Council funding this morning. No cuts this time.

Baddie of the day

The NTEU reports national progress in enterprise bargaining negotiations around the country pointing to success at seven universities on wages and conditions. Which only leaves 30 odd to go. The pay rises are certainly well short of the union’s original 7 per cent ask and generally a per centage point or so short of the real number it wanted. But while not many teaching fellow positions are created under these deals getting any at all is important. As ever more young PhDs find themselves stuck in causal work any career path is an improvement on what exists now. So it could be worse, but it’s not sweetness and light everywhere. The last time I checked, the state of discussions was less bitter than poisonous at UWS, Monash, Swinburne and Murdoch, however it is Melbourne that General Secretary Grahame McCulloch singles out for a slap today.  “The parties are so far apart on NTEU key claims that members are not prepared to discuss the university’s wage offer.” Maybe the union has a rolling roster of who to criticise.

Headline of the day

CSU signs MOU with ATO.” And that is the most interesting aspect in yesterday’s pro forma announcement from Charles Sturt University. 

Too discrete

The University of Queensland is pleased that the Crime and Misconduct Commission has concluded it handled a research misconduct inquiry to the “requisite standard.” While the university http://www.uq.edu.au/news/ statement is light-on for detail it refers to an investigation of an article based on non-existent research by now former UofQ scientists. So that’s that, except for the tone of Vice Chancellor Professor Hoj’s statement on the CMC finding. It is discretely headlined “US research integrity investigation” and slotted in the second spot of the other stories space on the university homepage. This really isn’t good enough. U of Q took a hammering from the CMC for its handling of the circumstances surrounding the resignation of former vice Chancellor Paul Greenfield. While this new matter was handled by the book the university looks like it wants it to be less low key than subterranean and quickly forgotten. Understandable but incorrect. The best way for the university to rebuild its reputation for transparency after the Greenfield affair is to loudly acknowledge problems and solutions. There are times when discretion diminishes credibility.

The great unmentionable

An ABC story details how tough things are at James Cook University, given government cuts, quoting Vice Chancellor Sandra Harding on the difficulties in maintaining services she expects next year. National Tertiary Education Union official Peter Whalley-Thompson adds redundancies are stretching staff. Fair enough, but neither mentioned last month’s enterprise agreement for 3 per cent per annum pay rises for four years – that’s a fair swag of cash which could fund programs and jobs. Some 91 per cent of the 1031 staff who voted in a ballot on the agreement endorsed it.

More than money

In New Zealand the Tertiary Education Union makes the standard noises about more money for members but it also involves itself in the policy process – the latter adding to its credibility on the former. On Monday the TEU will release a national tertiary education strategy which it says is the work of several years of consultation and is designed to shape debate in the lead up to the next election (due before the end of January 2015). Lets see what is in it but a comprehensive policy will have much more impact than complaints that staff are stressed and need more money

Now what does this remind you of?

The Wall Street Journal proposes tying student loan repayments to post graduation incomes. Perhaps no policy is internationally credible until an American invents it.

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