Pyne sets the agenda while Obama is Picasso whipped

Don’t all rush

CSIRO is “on the hunt” for a new editor-in-chief for Functional Plant Biology. The good news is that the journal “has seen a steady growth in submissions” and an increase in impact factor for 2012. The bad news is that while expenses are covered the one-day a week job is unpaid.

Pyne’s masterful plan

You have to hand it to Christopher Pyne. With the terms of reference for his review of teacher education the education minister has hijacked the debate, turning what was a discussion of the academic ability of trainee teachers into another front in the culture war he started last month with his review of the national curriculum. Plus, by ignoring the entry scores of entrants to teacher education courses he has put the focus on education academics rather than the students they teach. The minister’s instruction to his team, to “identify gaps in current teacher education, the main areas to improve and recommended implementation timeframes” makes the point.

Within an hour or so of the announcement Mr Pyne’s less astute targets were already queuing up to fall into his trap. Angelo Gavrilatos, from the Australian Education Union, cross that his members are not represented on the review, said the AEU wanted to see higher entry requirements for teaching degrees and “more rigorous assessment for training teachers,” thus implicitly questioning the qualifications of some of his members and making the case for a review of education faculties. The deans of education, who are in mortal strife, wondered whether this new review is needed at all.

They may not need it but they are stuck with a review, which will focus on them rather than their VCs, some of whom approve of enrolling teacher education students with low university entry scores. That review chair Greg Craven runs Australian Catholic University, which is not celebrated for an obsession with high ATARS has not gone unnoticed.

Quiet times at TEQSA

If anybody at the Tertiary Education Quality and Skills Authority thinks sitting quietly is the way to survive they should think again. In yesterday’s announcement Mr Pyne also cancelled the agency’s own review of teacher education.

The not so wild, wild west

National Tertiary Education Union members at the University of Western Australia are escalating the enterprise bargaining dispute there, in a mild and moderate way. Last night the union announced industrial action, but only specified “non-industrial action related activities such as public rallies, starting with protest action during the Perth Writers Festival”, which is on this week. Certainly work related stoppages could follow if the university bargaining team, led by Deputy VC Alec Cameron do not bend a bit on wages and workloads but this a much more civilised dispute than the slugfest at Swinburne (below).

Artful Obama

A couple of weeks ago Barack Obama suggested art history was not the most economically rewarding of degrees compared to trades training, which led to predictable outrage from, well art historians. So the president apologised, in a hand-written note no less. I doubt it could happen here – it certainly didn’t just before the election when now Liberal assistant minister Jamie Briggs, said government should not fund ridiculous research in the humanities. The presidential precedent is worth remembering for the next time a politician decides to have a substance free sneer at scholars. But as for the bloke who ordered the killing of Osama bin Laden backing down like this, who would have thought President Obama was so easily Picasso whipped.

Strife in our time at Swinburne

Management and union are digging in at Swinburne, with a contested ballot on the university’s proposed enterprise agreement looking likely. This fight is all about conditions, the proposed pay rise is not in contention. What the National Tertiary Education Union wants is an agreement including more staff consultation on workplace change and more specifics on workloads. Perhaps there is room to talk on these issues but management will not budge on the union’s demand for a cap on casual staff numbers. Which seems to suit the NTEU, which is spoiling for a fight, demonstrated by this;  “we understand selected managers are scheduling meetings of staff to sell the deal which cuts workplace rights. We call on staff to carefully record what is said and how the effect of the proposal is explained. We hope overzealous managers obtain accurate legal advice before making any claims about the proposal.” Am I reading too much into that or is it a sad attempt at intimidation?

A cap on careers

Want to know why the union is worried by the possibility of no cap on casuals at Swinburne? Here’s why: “across the Australian labour force, approximately 24 per cent of workers are employed on a casual basis, a figure that has been steady for the last decade. By comparison 49 per cent of all academic staff (on a headcount basis) … are employed on a casual basis.” (May, Peetz and Strachan, Labour and Industry 3, 23 (2013) 262). The days of permanent academic employment for all but elite researchers are fading.

Metric Mysteries

Adepts of the research dark arts are gathering for Australian Research Council instruction on data management under the 2014 funding rules and citations for ERA 2015. Word is a briefing yesterday addressed the research data management statements, to be required with grant applications. And experts are addressing the implications of ARC advice on how conference papers will be assessed in ERA 15. There is also talk of institutions being able to see what reviewers thought of their selections for peer review. Is this obscure? You bet. Does it matter? Only to everybody whose careers depend on a strong ERA outcome.

Copy that

The learned Rebecca Harris from Universities Australia tells me that I misunderstood UA the other day on how much more Australian higher education spends on copyright payments than countries with “fair use” rules. The correct sum is $30m, compared to $260m for subscriptions to published works that students can access.

 

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