Plus La Trobe’s big blue over Red Roz
NSW universities spending fast, earning slow
And who would have thought! Melbourne and Monash are matey
Schemes to deep six
Teams of PhD students competing in this week’s French-Australian entrepreneurship challenge in Canberra have until lunchtime to complete their proposal. CMM hopes none of them are working on a submarine. Challenge sponsor Direction des Constructions Navales Services might take a dim view.
La Trobe management shoots itself in foot
Perhaps La Trobe management missed the instruction that came with the corporate blunderbuss, which reads, “do not point at own foot and if you must do not pull trigger”. Because in suspending Roz Ward over alleged serious misconduct the university has ensured it will hobble into embarrassment, at best. For those who do not much care what the Melbourne left gets up to Ms Ward is a gender studies scholar who works at La Trobe’s research centre on sex, health and society. She was just sacked from a Victorian Government programme on gender and sexual diversity in schools for a Facebook post suggesting a red flag should replace the “racist” Australian flag above parliament house (on the subject of feet and shooting) and now La Trobe is running a misconduct inquiry.
This puzzles CMM, since when did inane iconoclasm count as misconduct? On the basis of what is on the record Ms Ward did not claim to speak for the university and expressed a personal opinion that La Trobe management may not like, but so what? As Ben Etherington from the National Alliance of Public Universities put it yesterday; “it is essential to the intellectual and civic function of universities that both their programmes and their staff be protected from political interference. Such protection is necessary if universities are to be places of independent enquiry: research can neither be conducted nor applied if academics fear that their employment is conditional on the political acceptability of their views. There is no surer way of inducing servility and conformity in academic research than threatening this fundamental principle. Ultimately, this renders it useless to the community.”
Or as La Trobe staffer Tseen Khoo tweeted yesterday; “if the flag statement is grounds for suspension, ‘serious misconduct’ must mean having an opinion that embarrasses the university.” Quite. The NTEU is organising a protest at the La Trobe VC’s office on Thursday and has retaained Maurice Blackburn lawyers Josh Bornstein and Kelly Thomas. As of last night a “reinstate Roz Ward” petition had 8000 signatures in well under 24 hours. If La Trobe executives have concerns with Ms Ward’s behaviour other than her dopey flag statement they need to address them and announce them fast. Alternatively management should get used to hobbling.
Dial D for dialysis
An NT health minister’s staffer once told CMM the Territory could spend its entire health budget on sending remote residents into town for kidney dialysis and not meet demand. So here’s hoping somebody in Darwin knows about UNSW graduate Marcus Lee’s portable dialysis machine which works independent of a water purification system or power source. Mr Lee has won two prizes at the inaugural Design Entrepreneur Awards.
In the money
Universities in NSW spent more than their income grew last year according to the state’s Auditor General with total operating expenditure increasing 1.3 per cent above total revenues in 2015.
And while the NSW Auditor General has pronounced the books of the state’s ten universities in sound shape, providing no qualified opinions on their accounts, the office points to continuing problems with the management of leave liabilities, risk awareness among controlled entities and maintenance backlogs. And, “there are emerging financial pressures including uncertainty over the impact of Australian government reforms that need to be closely monitored and addressed.”
Overall universities continue to depend on Canberra, with Commonwealth grants making up 37 per cent of earnings and domestic student fees, (source unstated but presumably mainly funded by HECS) 22 per cent.
The University of Sydney led the state with an operating surplus of $160m last year on revenues of $2.041bn. However this was down $2m despite a 7 per cent increase in earnings from $1.903bn in 2014.
Overall state-wide revenues increased by 4.3 per cent in 2104-15 with Uni Wollongong income growing by 8.8 per cent, UNSW was effectively stable with an 0.8 per cent rise and earning at Southern Cross U declined by 6.1 per cent. UTS had the largest increase in outlays, with overall expenses up 9.7 per cent, accounted for by a 6 per cent growth in staff costs and 13 per cent in other expenditures. All universities , bar SCU had positive operating margins, with Uni Sydney strongest at 7.8 per cent. Similarly all universities except SCU (o.9) UNSW (1.1) and UTS (1.3) met the Commonwealth’s 1.5-3.0 current ratio (total assets to all liabilities) benchmark.
The core business cost (ex research) of educating an equivalent full time student ranged from $31 000 at UNSW and UniSydney down to $18 500 at UniWollongong. However the figure for both Group of Eight institutions is trending down since 2011.
During the last election the National Tertiary Education Union spent up in support of (but did not donate to) selected candidates. The comrades ran a billboard campaign for Adam Bandt in his now safe seat of Melbourne. In Tasmania the union supported independent Andrew Wilkie in Denison and ran TV spots for Greens senate candidate Peter Whish-Wilson. However this year CMM hears the union is participating in ACTU canvassing. With Dr Bandt safe and the Greens seen as good chances in one, even two other Melbourne seats maybe the NTEU does not think they need help, or maybe the union has decided that the electorate isn’t interested in education this time around.
The South Australian Law Reform Institute is calling for a relationship register as a way of reducing discrimination against couples that are not heterosexuals, without addressing the marriage laws. A register would bring SA into line with NSW, Vic, Qld, Tas and the ACT. The recommendation is part of a broad programme on discrimination in the law commissioned by the state government.
The Institute is led by John Williams, PVC R at the University of Adelaide, where it is based. It is also working on problems with the wording of oaths and affirmations, which date from a time before the values of indigenous Australians and people from cultures other than Christian were considered. SA has a long tradition of law reform research, outlined here.
While Kim Carr is out talking to TAFEs and universities about tory plans for deregulation his leader is remarkably silent on the subject. As is Simon Birmingham who just loves visiting primary schools where he talks to (very) young Australians who do not ask hard questions about fees. Whoever wins CMM suggests HECS will be hiked.
Matey big Ms
In 1995 The Australian newspaper made David Pennington (VC UniMelbourne) and Mal Logan (VC Monash) its “Australians of the year.” Their minders got them in a room for a photo but everybody rugged up to deal with the pair’s glacial courtesy. It reflected the then head to head competition between their universities but what a difference two decades make. Now the big Ms are much more matey, yesterday announcing a joint venture to bring biomedical discoveries to market. So matey that Melbourne obviously did not mind that Monash VC Margaret Gardner got three pars in the joint media release while Glyn Davis had but two.
With the government running hard on research Labor strategists will be pleased with a new OECD http://www.tellmaps.com/uis/rd/ stats showing Australia is 14th in the world for number of researchers, 4 300 per million people. Or they will be until they notice that the number dates from 2008.
Who’s shifting and starting at work this week
Enticed across the terrace
Flinders VC Colin Stirling says, “he is delighted to announce that Professor John Beynon has been appointed as the university’s new executive dean of science & engineering.” Not least, CMM suspects because the learned Benyon is being snatched from the University of Adelaide. The competition between the two must cost a bomb in salaries to entice people.
After five years as comms director at the Academy of Science Kylie Walker is moving to Science and Technology Australia, where she will replace Catriona Jackson (who is going to Universities Australia). Ms Walker starts at STA at the end of June.
Peter Thomas is also moving from the Academy, to be strategy and operations director at the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes. His many admirers point to policy and project work on the Science in Australia Gender project.
Triggs signs on at RMIT
Gillian Triggs is to chair RMIT’s juris doctor advisory board. Professor Triggs was dean of law at the University of Sydney until she became chair of the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2012.
First against family violence
Kelsey Hegarty is Australia’s first professor of family violence prevention. The University of Melbourne academic’s new chair is a joint appointment with Victoria’s Royal Women’s Hospital.
UoQ has filled the DVC external engagement job (CMM February 22). Iain Watson, now business dean, starts in August. He takes charge of indigenous engagement, advancement, marketing comms and student recruitment. But not the recruitment of all students, Monique Skidmore continues as DVC International.
Smith of science
UTS has appointed Judith Smith as new dean of science. Professor Smith is now dean of environment and life sciences at Salford U in Manchester, UK. She starts in August, replacing Bruce Milthorpe who will retire.
A loss for WSU
WSU nursing dean Rhonda Griffith’s is retiring, “to tick items off my bucket list.” An admirer tells CMM she will be a loss for WSU and is “a wonderful, rare, authentic academic.”