The past isn’t another country

Nothings says university heritage like a sign and a chimney

“1990 was the start of a new decade that saw us say goodbye to neon leg warmers and crimped hair! It was also the year … UC staff members installed a new University of Canberra sign!” And lest anyone doubt this, Uni Canberra tweets a photo of three blokes putting it up (none wearing leg warmers and with hair crimp-less).

Western Sydney U is also keen to remind Facebook followers, that in 1995 what is now its Rydalmere campus was the site of a former psychiatric hospital. Less doubters doubt, there is a photo of a very tall brick chimney on site, then and now.

Heritage-wise universities short on sandstone carvings work with what they’ve got.




There’s more in the Mail

In Feature this morning

Joanna Tai (Deakin U) and colleagues on being better at  feedback. 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.

Angel  Calderon (RMIT) analyses Australian universities performance in the new Leiden ranking.

As jobs disappear the precariat protests

Uni Sydney upped casual teaching numbers over a decade– good for the university, not great now for the teachers

As the learned Frank Larkins reports, there were 398 casual academic staff at the university in 2018, an 11.5 per cent increase on 2009. This was the biggest increase among the research-strong Big Five (unis Melbourne NSW, Sydney, Queensland and Monash U).

Sessional teaching staff make sense for universities – a flexible workforce that management can increase to meet need, or decrease as, for example, international student demand disappears.

But what is good for management is terrible for sessionals – as the Uni Sydney Casuals Network sets out in a new report on the circumstances of people in the precariat in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. “Many casualised workers will be forced out of employment so as to reduce labour costs for universities. Workloads will be intensified for the remaining staff who pick up the slack,” the report states.

Austrade asks internationals

The agency launches a quarterly survey to track what on-shore international students are thinking

“The  tracker will provide practical insights to assist agencies in improving their international student services,” Austrade advises.

The first survey running now, asks internationals here what they think about Australia and what’s bothering them – the question about “employment issues” might strike some students as understating how dire their circumstances are. Nor will the raffle prize for participants – four $50 grocery gift cards strike some as sufficient acknowledgement.

There is also a question about what they want to do, bail and go home or stick it out which should be useful in a general sense for planners wondering what numbers will look like next semester.

And there is another about how they want the Australian Government to keep them up to date – CMM suspects internationals who remember the prime minister telling those who need help to go home might tick the “I don’t want to be kept up to date from the Australian Government” box.

Another VC loses a vote on COVID-19 savings

Southern Cross U staff have rejected a management savings plan opposed by one of two campus unions

Vice Chancellor Adam Shoemaker acknowledged the loss in a message to staff late Friday.

But it was close, the proposal went down 52 per cent to 48 per cent, on a two-thirds or so turn-out.

This is a win for the National Tertiary Education Union, which opposed the plan, telling staff that a no vote now could lead to the university offering stronger job protection. But it’s a defeat for the Community and Public Sector Union which backed the university proposal, and for Professor Shoemaker, who wanted the deal to save $5.6m by cancelling one pay rise and deferring another.

The NTEU was consistent in victory, “staff have today sent a clear message that they want negotiations with the NTEU to continue.”

Which is what they are not going to get. Professor Shoemaker, told staff that savings will now be found under the terms of the existing enterprise agreement.

This will delay securing savings if the NTEU decides management’s plans breach the EA and goes to the Fair Work Commission.

SCU joins Uni Wollongong and Uni Melbourne in losing staff votes on proposals the NTEU opposed.


Good practice providers get a tick from TEQSA

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency point to institutions with policies it likes

TEQSA has a new “good practice guide” for HE providers – a series that shows how hard things are down well by universities who have problems covered.

This one is on preventing and responding to sexual assault/harassment on campus and sets out model policies and procedures on nine principles using 19 examples. Providers with featured work include Monash U, U Tas, Griffith U, Uni Sydney, Uni SA, Uni Southern Queensland, Deakin U, Uni Melbourne and ANU. One NUHEP is also included, Academies Australasia Polytechnic, for its statement of principles which establish peoples’ wellbeing as the context for its policy.

Dolt of the day


Reporting  (CMM July 9) Pascale Quester’s plans for Swinburne U (“I am going to pare down everything that doesn’t speak to technology or science”) CMM stated the university does not teach Italian. Two staff do – although you have to look harder than CMM did to find the four units they offer.

Academics unhappy with HE management

Margaret Sims has a new book on HE in Australia, Bullshit Towers: neoliberalism and managerialism in universities, (Peter Lang)

University staff are de-professionalised, disrespected and disregarded and managers increasingly define themselves as ‘the university’,” she argues.

In 2016 Professor Sims, then at UNE, was a member of council but the university argued she could not receive complete meetings papers because as president of the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union she had “a material interest” in some matters. A dispute over this ended up in the Federal Court, but was withdrawn by UNE, with management, union and Professor Sims agreeing that council members should declare any material interest but there was no inherent conflict in a council member being an NTEU officer, (CMM June 24 October 4 2016.

Alessandro Pelizzon, Renaud Joannes-Boyau and Martin Young (Southern Cross U) are also unhappy with the way universities are managed

They have  written  an open letter state and federal ministers, now circulating on-line, about the failures of university councils, and the executives they appoint.

“Most university councils have ceased to be transparently accountable to either the universities on whose behalf they are legally intended to act or to the larger political community. Furthermore, the current executive cadre appointed by these increasingly autocratic councils, far from displaying the degree of excellence of the past, is instead often comprised of astonishingly well-paid, often institution-hopping, administrators without any long-term institutional knowledge and memory,” they and signatories from 24 other universities, state.

They propose councils “are made accountable to both the university on whose behalf they operate and the larger body politics” and “all senior and middle-executive roles are selected through internal processes rather than through a commercial corporate recruitment strategy.”


Appointments, achievements

Tony Hughes-d’Aeth is appointed chair of Australian Literature at UWA. It’s an internal appointment.

A learned reader advises the Institute of Analytics Professionals of Australia has named its top 25 analytics leaders including from HE, Lex Antic (ANU), Behrooz Hassani Mahmooei (Monash U), Gordon McDonald (Uni Sydney), Craig Napier (UTS) and William Yeoh (Deakin U).

George Lawson (ANU) receives the Hedley Bull Prize in International Relations from the European Consortium for Political Research. The award is for Anatomies of Revolution, “a novel account” of how they “begin, unfold and end,” (Cambridge UP).

Robyn Murphy (life sciences, La Trobe U) is named president-elect of the Australian Physiological Society.