Uni SA rockets up the rankings

The southern star moves up 25 places on the Times Higher world young uni list while Victoria U storms in at 56th


Super stuff-up at Uni Wollongong


Academics work long hours, but some work longer than others (just ask them at UniAdelaide)


and Les Field to step down from UNSW executive

New guernsey for chancellor

University of South Australia chancellor Jim McDowell joins the board of the Adelaide Crows. Mr McDowell also chairs ANSTO.

 Super stuff-up 

The University of Wollongong has discovered “longstanding anomalies in its payroll system” which led to its mucking up its contributions to employee superannuation. It seems some staff had their super accounts credited with less than was correct, others got more with a third group variously receiving more in some pays and less in others.
A university spokesman says there is no firm figure on who got what, or not, but it seems there were more under than over payments and that the make-good cost will be $10m. The university analysed 767,757 payslips of 21,406 employees who earned $1.95 billion over eight years to find 30 per cent of staff were either over or underpaid. UoW attributes the mess, “to the interplay of multiple factors including complex employment agreements and the way superannuation rulings apply to them, system configuration issues, and technical complexities.”  Management is contacting existing staff and “inviting” previous employees to get in touch. But people overpaid shouldn’t worry, UoW will not be asking for the money back.

Job security big issue at UoQ

Enterprise bargaining is beginning at the University of Queensland, with the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union logging a standard set of claims on money and superannuation. But a demand for improved job security is really relevant given management’s proposed restructure in finance and HR, where positions will be abolished with people in them having to apply for new positions, generally at lower pay grades.  In Financial Services the number of HEW level seven FTE workers will rise from 13 to 15, but level six positions will drop from 30 to 11, all 69 level five positions will go, while level four numbers will rise from 32 to 87. In HR the number of HEW level six workers will rise from 18 FTE to 29 and level four from four to 18. But level five jobs will drop from 47 to ten. ( CMM March 23).

CMM hears that university HR management is talking with the union about the impact of the restructure, with the NTEU especially concerned by the loss of level five positions which may mean much more general admin work falling on staff who survive.

Given all this, it isn’t surprising that the union wants clauses in the new agreement making retrenching staff possible only when “existing work is no longer required to be done by anyone, and there is no suitable alternative work for the employee to do.”

Harvey joins Monash

Professor Kieran Harvey is joining Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute as a joint appointment with the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, where he will continue a substantive appointment.

Young achievers

UTS is first of the 23 Australian universities included on the Times Higher ranking of the top 200 universities aged under 50. The Sydney school ranks 15th in the world, up six places on 2016. UTS leads the also improving QUT up four places to 24th and the University of Wollongong, which lifts from 37 to 30.

The big winners are the University of South Australia which moves from 57th to 32nd and Victoria U, which was not rated in 2016 and enters the 2017 list at 56, equal with LaTrobe.  ACU, Bond  were also unrated in ’16 but make the new list in the 101-150 group.  The University of Southern Queensland is also newly rated, in the 151-200 bracket. CQU at 90 and U Canberra at 91 move from the 101-150 group.

This will be an exceptionally welcome result for Victoria U VC Peter Dawkins and colleagues, whose proposals for staff cuts and a new common first year are bitterly opposed by the campus union and its allies. (CMM Tuesday).

Times Higher says the new table relies on the same data as its flagship ranking, “recalibrated to reflect the missions of younger, more dynamic institutions.”

The global top ten is much the same as in 2016, with the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne holding onto first place. Pointing to the shape of competition to come, five of the top ten universities are in Asia, Hong Kong U of Science and Technology, 2nd in 2016 and 3rd in 2017, Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (3rd and 2nd), South Korea’s Pohang University of Science and Technology (4th and 5th) the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology ( 5th and 6th) and City University of Hong Kong (7th and 20th).

Field for fresh research 

Les Field will step down in December from his UNSW post as senior DVC, “to return to research.”  Vice Chancellor Ian Jacobs announced the move yesterday, telling staff  “I am grateful for the dedication, expertise and guidance Les has shown to students, staff and his fellow executive team members. I am delighted that he will remain a part of the university community in his research capacity.” Professor Field moved from DVC Research to senior DVC in December 2015 (CMM December 18 2015. In his present portfolio the VC says Professor Field has made “important contributions in the complex areas of our promotion criteria, research integrity, disciplinary processes, equality and diversity and our new Global Development Institute.” Professor Jacobs did not mention recruiting a replacement.

Dig ever deeper

In yesterday’s CMM research analyst Dr Tim Pitman suggested that the Australian Research Council did a pretty good job in reporting where the money went but that research funding strategist could always do with more data. To which the ARC replies, that it delivers all the data there is, reporting, the names of all chief investigators, grant administering and collaborating / partnering organisations and all fields of research codes per proposal. What’s more there are also searchable spreadsheets providing field of research data at the precise six-digit discipline level.

Good-oh, but assembling a dataset from the details in each individual grant would surely exhaust the wonkiest of strategists.

Long hours at Adelaide, not so much at Macquarie

It’s enterprise bargaining time and to provide a context for discussions of workloads Andrew Dempster from Proofpoint Advisory has looked at academic working hours at all-of university level. He calculates median hours worked system-wide is 1702.5, translating to 45.4 weeks (the rest being accounted for by leave and public holidays). However there is a significant spread of 150 hours, or four weeks, between the university with the longest hours, Adelaide University and the shortest Macquarie U.

Overall some 33 universities cap hours in their enterprise agreements with 14, including six of the Group of Eight, specifying 46 37.5hr working weeks. Monash U is the most relaxed of the Eight requiring just under 1650 hours while the range for ATN institutions is 1725 hours at Curtin to 1610 at UTS.

“The total number of hours for which academic work may be allocated is only one of many dimensions of each university’s legally-enforceable framework for determining academic workloads. There are a range of other important factors spelled out in each agreement that guide how work can be allocated and to whom, including specific limits on the amount of teaching,” Mr Dempster says. He also acknowledges that local arrangements may change things for operating units within universities.


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