Managements moving to cut costs and change courses

Music man

No wonder ANU VC Brian Schmidt is so keen on an permanent solution for his struggling music school (below). It turns out his first visit to Canberra was not to star gaze at Mount Stromlo, or bottle a vintage but to perform with the Alaskan Youth Orchestra.

Campus Morning Mail 

You say plan, they say proposal

Paul Johnson addressed an overflow crowd at the University of Western Australia yesterday, warning that they must embrace change or the university “would go backwards.” It already is. Professor Johnson told staff the 2015 accounts show the university made an underlying loss, despite spending millions less on IT and physical infrastructure than benchmarked institutions. UWA has, “no money to invest in all the things a great university does year after year,” he said. He added that UWA needed to reduce costs by $40m per annum and increase revenues by $60m a year to be internationally competitive.

Senior DVC Dawn Freshwater then outlined where the cost savings could come from in what she repeatedly reminded the audience was a proposal for consultation. But what the university wants is quite clear – a four college academic structure with their own service delivery centres, to save professional staff. Some 200 as previously reported.

The 100 academic jobs to additionally go (with 50 new hires) will be selected on the basis of faculty methodologies, involving research, teaching, service and leadership outputs, ultimately overseen by a panel chaired by Professor Freshwater.

Following yesterday’s briefing the pace of proposal consideration will pick up with meetings of the “extended university executive” and academic board with another staff forum on February 22 followed by an extraordinary meeting of academic board and a university senate seminar on March 14. However the process will roll on to December. Unless of course the Fair Work Commission agrees with the National Tertiary Education Union that management has already breached the UWA enterprise agreement requirement on consultation by going this far.

Different time zone

Austrade reports a new French export education strategy; an app that promotes language immersion stays including tourism, sport, culture and vocational training. CMM suspects the app does not work between noon and two or on Tuesday.


Everybody on-song

Ian Young had a terrible time as VC at ANU when he tried to slim down programmes in the university’s music school which he warned in 2012 was losing $2.1m a year.

The school is still a problem for his successor Brian Schmidt, but he obviously intends to do nothing until campus and community are on-song with a solution. “Let’s talk music. I’m kicking off a comprehensive consultation. Time to work together & do this right,” he tweeted yesterday. Professor Schmidt announced former public service commissioner and now ANU public policy professor Andrew Podger would conduct the process, which has three core principles, only one of which is fundamental; “any changes must be affordable.”

To keep the city’s music community on side, the university has also appointed composer Larry Sitsky, former school head John Painter and filmmaker and ANU pro-chancellor Robin Hughes to advise him.

As Lyndon Baines Johnson nearly said, better to have everybody in the orchestra pit playing out than outside performing in.

Professor Schmidt will also hold an all staff welcome, live and online tomorrow morning. There is no mention of musical accompaniment, from Alaska or elsewhere.

No cuts in sight

At Western Sydney University VC Barney Glover has launched Service Unlimited, which is design to redesign backend process in IT, customer service, performance measurement and workplace culture. So this is what management consultants Ernst and Young and the Nous Group worked on at what was then UWS back in 2014 (CMM July 17 2014). Back then people feared jobs would go but there is no talk now of the projects driving cost savings and staff are being invited to put their hands up to work on them.



Same course at James Cook 

There are more cuts to come at James Cook University with academic staff being called into meetings this week about proposed changes. CMM hears that people in all four schools of the Division of Tropical Environments and Societies and from Cairns and Townsville campuses are being invited to meet with the dean and HR reps. A plan will also be presented at staff meetings. The university is said to want $8.5m in savings, although staff suggest this might also include the Division of Tropical Science and Medicine.

Last night a university spokesman rejected the suggestion that the university is cutting staff, saying there are change proposals. “We need to make targeted, strategic decisions that put the university on a more financially sustainable footing to position it for the future and that allow us to invest in priority areas,” he said.

“Senior managers are currently contacting staff who may potentially be directly impacted by these changes. As such, it would be inappropriate and disrespectful to provide further details until staff have been notified, and their views and those of the staff at large are sought on the possible changes.”

A new round of cuts, sorry change proposals, will unsettle the university community, which has already endured ample instability. Last winter a staff survey found less than a quarter of staff thought the university’s administration was improving after a restructure. And that came on top of a 2011 survey that found that change management “was considered to be very poor and centred around concerns to do with appropriate levels of communication and staff involvement,” (CMM July 10 2015).

Here to help

Journal publisher Elsevier is committing $1m to funding programs that increase health information access in the developing world, including one to address the absence of research, or “science poverty”. How kind of Elsevier to help with a problem created in part by the cost of the company’s journals, which require payment for reports of publicly funded research.

Shock of the new

Deep in the University of Melbourne strategic plan is a proposed Flexible Academic Programme, which sets out “innovative, student-centred blended learning,” through a range of initiatives. They include the Melbourne Digital Curriculum, which will provide on-campus teaching and assessment, MOOCs, and “wholly online” graduate courses. There are also ideas that some staff may not like, such as “improved” use of timetable, academic year and infrastructure to suit students increasing the scale if teaching “to deliver enhanced learning opportunities across a diverse student cohort.”

Tell them their dreaming you say? Tell it to the students who have already commented on terms of reference for the programme, CMM suggests. The university says students should not worry, that they will get to comment on the plans. But what staff will think to major changes in teaching times and styles is another issue.

ANU Dec 15 3

Other ATAR impacts

Among all the rhetorical surface noise in the annual low ATARs equate inability to learn argument significant signals about what actually occurs are easy too miss. Buly Cardak (LaTrobe), Mark Bowden (Swinburne) and John Bahtsevanoglou (also Swinburne) certainly have drilled down into Victorian university admission system data to find a pattern where class as well as ATAR drives opportunity.

Their  report, for Curtin U’s National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, found students from low SES circumstances with ATARs under 80 were 5 per cent less likely to receive an offer than students from more affluent circumstances with the same scores. This may not sound a big deal but it’s the reason why it occurs that is interesting.

High SES students have a strong advantage in terms of their understanding of the application process. They make more changes to their application portfolios in the window between receiving their ATAR and finalising their portfolio, and those students that make more changes to their application portfolio reap larger benefits from the opportunity.”

Nor do people with low ATARs simply settle for what they are offered. Rejections increase as ATARs decline.   “One reason why students may reject offers is because of a perception that, as a result of their low ATAR they are being offered a low-level course.”

“These students may have high aspirations and with the relatively low ATAR realisation may be discouraged from their university study plans and therefore reject the offer made. Alternatively, these students may have felt pressure from their families, school or peers to apply for a university place even though they may not have wanted to study at university.”

The authors also pose a question, which CMM suspects universities will not help researchers resolve.

“The broad category of institutions whose offers are rejected might generate a better understanding of student demand for programs and what is perceived to be an attractive program to potential candidates. “ 

Why rankings don’t amount to much
Thanks to the reader who pointed CMM at Mark Tadajewski on the downgrading of his Journal of Marketing Management in the Chartered Association of Business Schools ranking; “if journal ranking lists help constitute a research monoculture; if they encourage mainstream research; if they partly structure the reading habits of marketing scholars; if they negatively affect teaching and the publication of material likely to interest practitioners and do all this for a protracted period, then neither we, or our students nor the communities beyond the ivory towers are being exposed to the intellectual vitality of our field and our practices will be the worse for it.” CMM wonders just how many readers outside the ivory tower read academic marketing mags.