Plus why some UNE Council members are less equal than others

Peace in our time

The University of Tasmania reports workplace conflict costs the Australian economy $14.81bn a year, the stat is not sourced but presumably extrapolated from its reported estimates that managers spend five hours per week managing staff conflict and 3.2 days per worker are lost from absenteeism and presenteeism. So how fortunate for us all that the university is offering a graduate certificate in workplace conflict management, commencing in February. Not that anybody in higher education will be enrolling, what with universities being palaces of perfect peace. CMM can find no mention of cost but suspects that it isn’t free – like the university’s excellent MOOC on dementia.



Degrees of access @ UNE

Last winter UNE academic and staff elected university council member Margaret Sims kicked up, complaining that she was being denied access to full meeting papers because she is president of the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union (CMM July 27 2015). She is still kicking at having sections of meetings papers redacted in her copy and being excluded from agenda items. Kicking to the extent that she has taken her case to Fair Work Australia where the university is required to respond this week.

“The issue for me is about what constitutes a conflict of interest. I accept that should the Council hold discussions on an issue that directly impacts on my personal employment that is a conflict and I would rightly declare it as such and leave the meeting for that discussion. However, this is extremely unlikely to happen as that level of discussion would occur in a management context, not the governance context which is Council responsibility. Council is responsible for making strategic decisions, management is responsible for implementing them. At the strategic level I think it most useful to have a voice that speaks on behalf of staff interests so that Council members (the majority of whom are NOT from the higher education sector) at least hear about the potential impact on staff and other stakeholders and can take that perspective into account when making strategic decisions,” Professor Sims suggests.

The University’s entry for Professor Sims on its guide to council page makes no mention of her exclusion from any agenda item.

ANU Dec 15 4

But wait there’s more

For a few years Western Sydney University has given commencing students a tablet on enrolling, to help them with their studies. This year unfair comparisons are being made with the way for-profit VET providers are using e-incentives to gull people enrolling in high priced courses they have little hope of completing.

But for a splashy enrollment incentive WSU has nothing on its even further west neighbour, Charles Sturt U which has announced a  competition with a $30 000 study grant prize as part of its Think Again campaign which encourages people to return to study. The prize will go to whoever posts the best pic, plus a 25 word explanation which encouraged them to “think again.” CMM is a big fan of the campaign (if not the TVC featuring a student with the back of her head to camera), which precisely targets the core market – people who have ruled out returning to study. However this sort of stunt, sorry strategy, will give people conniptions who do not think higher education is a consumer market. They will just have to get used to it because there will be a lot more competitions to come.

The market will decide

Last month in Berlin European research administrators agreed on a campaign to make gold open access (pay to publish) the new norm (CMM yesterday). This does not impress green open access stalwarts, including Duke University’s copyright expert Kevin Smith, who suggested any model of paying publishers to produce publicly funded content isn’t open access at all. Mark Seeley from publisher Reed Elsevier responded in an email to Smith stating; “I assumed the key question in Berlin had to do with how to transition from subscription-based models to a Gold OA model—something that many publishing houses, legacy or newbies, are actively working on (as we are). …

“There are controversies and different points of view about green vs gold, and the value of ‘legacy’ publishers—I tend to think the answer is actually in the market—good journals (including niche journals that serve their niches well) draw authors and readers—and they probably do so regardless of their exact business model or where they are in transitioning to different business models.”

He has a point, the oligopoly of commercial journal providers will survive for as long as researchers value their products over green open access products.