They’re ok if you’re ok

La Trobe U’s wellbeing programme sends staff emails of a supportive kind. There’s one asking staff “why they are irritated?,” which annoyed people who thought they were the only recipient. And one last week asked, “is now the time to make life-changing decisions.” Perhaps, a learned reader suggests, not the best question to ask the 239 staff whose voluntary redundancy applications are approved.

What teaching really costs (working it out isn’t easy)

The government’s new funding model for undergraduate places is based on an analysis of what some universities spend on teaching, rather than what efficient teaching costs

In Features this morning Vin Massaro (Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education)  critically considers the information underpinning the new funding rates.

“Without closer scrutiny, the current real savings in university funding that accrue to the government risk leading to a reduction in the quality of graduate outcomes and a reduction in the number of graduates.  That such major and far-reaching decisions should have been made on such a narrow information base raises serious concerns about their sustainability,” he writes.


There’s more in the Mail

Also in Features

Joanna Tai (Deakin U) on being better at feedback for students. It’s Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s new selection in here series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.

Merlin Crossley on risk-taking researchers,gambling on a scientific hypothesis is nearly always a two-way bet and the odds are actually stacked in the scientist’s and society’s favour. 

493 jobs to go at UNSW

The cut is required to save $75m next year. A voluntary redundancy round starts immediately with compulsory separations expected to follow

Vice Chancellor Ian Jacobs briefed university staff yesterday on savings to make up expected revenue short-falls in 2021 and 2022.

The situation is largely as he outlined at the beginning of the month (CMM July 3) but now there is a number on the jobs to go.

Just not the whole one. Reductions in casual staff, many of which have already occurred, are a big cut to teaching-strength. Future casual cuts are mentioned in yesterday’s briefing paper under faculty and divisions savings.

What’s happening: After all other savings, the university needs to reduce spending on FTE staff by $75m next year to reach the expected $370m decline. Sources of savings cited are:

* three faculties will be amalgamated– arts and design, arts and social sciences and built environment will become arts, architecture and design. The other existing five faculties and the Canberra campus’s academic organisation continue

two admin divisions go. External relations and philanthropy combine as external engagement. HR combines with finances and operations. The other four, academic and students, research and enterprise, equity, planning, continue.

* as per the above, two dean and two VP positions are abolished, reducing the university’s senior leadership to 12

What’s next: Voluntary Redundancies are expected to be offered mid-August with staff and union consultation in September. New staffing structures will be implemented in September.

“In the likely event” that the university cannot make target jobs cuts via VRs the university states it will go to “proposed redundancies” as per the Enterprise Agreement process.

Why this way: UNSW has gone straight to the hard option, not asking staff to temporarily give-up conditions and pay-rises in return for job protections. Perhaps this is because they would not have come close to making the savings the university needs, although Monash U, like UNSW heavily dependent on international enrolments, has successfully struck a deal with staff.


CRC for Singing Budgies

“The Cooperative Research Centre Programme is one of those ‘Kylie” thingsmore appreciated outside Australia than in,” outgoing CRC Association CEO Tony Peacock, yesterday.

CMM very much doubts any-one will mistake Dr Peacock for a Minogue.

La Trobe U’s new approaches in student support

The university offers a course-credit for the times

La Trobe U is offering 15-credit points to students who can demonstrate what they accomplished and learned as workers/volunteers in “medical professions, government agencies, or community-based welfare organisations” during the present COVID-19 crisis.

To qualify students must have completed 100 hours. It’s available to everybody enrolled in a UG/PG course. They will need to demonstrate how working developed literacy/comms/problem solving skills.

In late 2019, La Trobe U created the DVC Students portfolio, combing student support and administration (Jessica Vanderlelie is in the chair, below)

Planning for the new team started early this year and a draft structure is now out for consultation, until July 31. Implementation is expected to start on August 10. The university states the process is separate to the COVID-19 savings agreement staff have agreed to, but it will, “avoid compulsory redundancies where we can.”

How long grads will stick with STEM

The government is keen on undergraduates studying STEM, the whole STEM and nothing (much) but the STEM, but what do undergraduates think about?

Who knows? As Dawn Bennett and Elizabeth Knight (both Curtin U) with Kenton Bell (Uni Wollongong) point out, “the student perspective is often missing from discussions of employability.”

So they asked 2000 commencing STEM UGs, how long they expected to work in the preferred discipline after graduation.

“Some students shared specific, personally utilitarian career goals. Several students, for example, wrote of personal circumstances such as starting a family. Other students planned to pursue their initial career only until they achieved a specific career or financial goal; after this, they planned to reassess their options,” they report.

But some 40 per cent saw STEM as a working-life’s work, expecting to stay in their discipline of first-choice for 20 years or more.

Overall, the authors found; * some students “were negative about career prospects,” perhaps because they had learned from “dominant discourses” that career are unstable, and * students discipline choice “aligned with a desire to create social change through their work”

But overall, “given the often-negative public discourses, it is compelling that almost half the cohort intended to work within their discipline for their lifetime,” they conclude.


Catherine Branson is appointed Uni Adelaide’s 17th chancellor. She joined council in 2013 and became deputy chancellor in 2017. Ms Branson has acted as chancellor since Kevin Scarce resigned on May 5.

Nicolette Lee (previously acting DVC E) at La Trobe U is confirmed in her post. As is Jessica Vanderlelie (previously acting DVC Students).