Self-help manuals

“But enough of me talking about me, what does your research reveal about me?”

 Uni Queensland researchers find narcissists are interested in leadership theory. “The more narcissistic people are, the more they find leadership theories appealing and the more interest they have in learning about the ideas behind particular theories,” N K Steffens and S A Haslam write in journal American Psychologist.

Good thing there are no narcissists in university leaderships – imagine the damage they could do with access to a good library.

Remaking Higher Education

Join a cast of thousands (ideas that is) on the changes HE faces in the post (or continuing) pandemic world

The skills workers need are changing fast, so why are HE and VET teaching the same-old, same-old? Innes Willox (Australian Industry Group) and Kerri-Lee Krause (DVC-Student Life, Uni Melbourne) discuss where we are and need to be, next week at the Remaking HE on-line conference. Details here

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Tom Smith and James Guthrie (Macquarie U) on how universities report staff numbers – the case of UNSW.

Mollie Dollinger (La Trobe U) makes the case for student partnerships, at a same distance. It’s Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s new selection for her series on what’s needed now in teaching and learning.

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) argues metrics in research teaching are unavoidable but they aren’t everything.

Charles Sturt U’s makes-nice with politicians on its patch

Three NSW state MPs speak up for CSU

Paul Toole (Nats-Bathurst and regional transport minister), Sam Farraway (Bathurst based member of the Legislative Council) and Wes Fang (from Wagga Wagga, also in the upper house) are briefed on the university’s financial position and plan.

CSU has issued supportive statements from the three on the university’s role in their regions.

It appears part of a university-effort to make-nice with MPs. On Friday CSU Wagga Wagga hosted state higher education minister Geoff Lee, Mr Fang and local MP Joe McGirr, who has recently reported community concerns with CSU (CMM October 21).

The briefings follow fierce criticism of the university by federal minister for regional education, Andrew Gee, who calls on CSU to release a confidential report on its finances (CMM October 26).

The university is in the process of restructuring courses and cutting jobs and the state of the books is of acute interest to staff.

Getting the word out at Macquarie U

It must have been a tense weekend for staff waiting for word on workplace change proposals and for some anxious to learn whether they are accepted for voluntary redundancies

Interim DVC A Mariella Herberstein told staff in her end of week message that the university executive “needs a little more time to engage with the proposals in greater detail.” Announcements are now expected the end of next week.

As to departures, HR has worked hard to get letters to staff but Professor Herberstein warned that some people might not hear until today. “They are dealing with a long list of staff … it’s about the pipeline getting everything out.”

Professor Herberstein also mentioned “wellbeing activities” for the month, including Chinese calligraphy. This, a campus observer suggests, explains the delay in the voluntary redundancy letters, HR are still learning how to write letters in Chinese script.

Uni Sydney plan to scrap learning centres

Management proposes new student support in maths and learning   

Uni Sydney proposes to “change the current operating model” of its Learning Centre and Mathematics Learning Centre.  Quite a dramatic change for the maths centre – the university wants to “disestablish” it. The plan for the Learning Centre is to combine it with the Centre for English Teaching.

The proposal is for math learning to be provided in “evidence-based ways” including workshops, digital resources and peer-assisted programmes. There would be “a centrally coordinated team and technology platform” with collaboration between the PVC Student Life and faculties.

With the combination of English Teaching and Learning centres there will be increased resources “to expand the use of technology and “implement new approaches,” “so we can provide greater support than is currently possible.”

None of which impresses petitioners who warn  “these cuts would be devastating for staff and will hit students hard, especially non-traditional pathway and international students who have a particular need for these services.”

Opponents of the plan call for continuing positions in the centres to remain, conversion of fixed term appointments to continuing status and “maintenance” of the existing academic research focus of the centres.

Critics complain the proposal occurs while, “the university is projecting increased teaching revenues’ but management states the proposal has nothing to do with the university’s finances, telling CMM it “follows external reviews” and is “unrelated to our COVID-19 savings measures.”

Adelaide uni merger proposed – again

South Australian Labor leader Peter Malinauskas says SA is the only mainland state without a university in the world “top 100” – but he has a plan!

Mr Malinauskas says that if Labor wins the 2022 state election he will establish “a university merger commission, “with the objective of creating an internationally recognised top 100 university and driving the state’s economic growth for decades to come.

“The harsh truth is that each of our universities are too small and too under-capitalised to make it into the list of top international universities. They simply don’t do enough large-scale research to be recognised as world leading and that is holding our state back.”

It’s an idea that Adelaide has heard before and before and before. In 2018 Unis Adelaide and SA talks failed, it is widely assumed due to the ambitions of (insert rumour of choice here). Another problem was that back-end savings that were supposed to drive the deal did not stack up.

There is a way to settle this, if not once and for all, then at least an election cycle. Premier Marshall could refer rationalising public HE providers to the SA Productivity Commission. It is already inquiring into the state of health and medical research (CMM September 7) and the SA R&D system (CMM October 27) so a bunch of work on Mr Malinauskas’s concern with research is underway.

Way of the day to improve ERA

The Australian Research Council is reviewing its two research metric schemes, Excellence for Research in Australia, and Engagement and Impact

A learned reader suggests there are three problems in ERA for Indigenous, Maori and Pacific studies. First, ERA uses international benchmarks, that don’t apply to research that is largely undertaken in ANZ. Second, journals which publish relevant research will not nominate the new fields of research codes, (CMM July 1), which means a “substantial bias” in what ERA reports.  Third, some research on Indigenous issues is published in high ranking journals that do not include the relevant FOR codes. A solution to this, the learned reader suggests, is for published research to be allocated to both Indigenous FORs as well as the other code that covers the work.

 Get the word out

The ARC plans to release submissions to the research metrics review after it is out, which seems a bit late for a debate. So, CMM will report and/or link to, as many submissions as it can – send them in people.

Appointments, achievements

Debi Ashenden leaves Deakin U for Uni Adelaide where she will take up a chair of cyber security, jointly supported by the university and Defence Science and Technology Group.


Australian Catholic U announces its excellence awards

Medal for Excellence: Student Urgent Relief Fund team, Rachelle Bramley, Tara Loty, Kathy Sweeney, Jing Tong and Adrienne Conway

Mission excellence: Staff ministry team

Service excellence: Digital Workspace Programme and Team, Examination Team Plus

Community engagement: Syed Muhammad Fazal-e-Hasan, Laura Miller

Student experience: Response to COVID-19 Team, Living and Learning Communities Team

Research/Research partnership: Kathy Mills, Playgroups for Learning Team

Spirit of Reconciliation award: Occupational Therapy Curriculum Team, Culturally Responsive Practice During Fieldwork Team

Highly commended: Rhys King, Joe Perry, Chrissy Monteleone


Craig Batty joins UniSA becomes inaugural dean of research in the Creative Arts unit. He joins from UTS.

Warren Bebbington (Uni Melbourne) and Elizabeth Deane (Western Sydney U) have two-year terms on the board of the Commonwealth Tuition Protection Service, which assists students if their provider fails to deliver.

Perth social worker Shelly Skinner receives Curtin U’s John Curtin Medal for 2020. The award goes to individuals/organisations who display attributes associated with PM Curtin, “vision leadership and a commitment to community service.”