Learned friends

Agriculture and law in the same faculty? There’s a line in there about bullshit” a learned reader responds to the University of New England’s proposed academic restructure.

Murdoch management calls for renewed talks with union

The university says it hopes to resume negotiations with the union

Murdoch University management wants negotiations with the National Tertiary Education Union, ahead of a decision by the Fair Work Commission on the uni’s application to cancel the now expired, but still in force, enterprise agreement (CMM July 24). The two sides have not met to discuss a deal since April.

“We have attempted on many occasions to arrange subsequent meetings with the union. Unfortunately, to date both parties have been unable to meet and we hope to resume our ongoing bargaining shortly,” MU management told staff Friday.

However, the university also hopes the FWC will decide in its favour, which would, “help reset negotiations with the NTEU from a more workable starting point.” This outcome would mean negotiations would be based on the higher education industry award, which specifies pay and conditions less generous than those that now apply at Murdoch.  Provost Andrew Taggart says the university will maintain take home pay and “key benefits” under the old deal for six months after any FWC decision to cancel it.

“We need to find new ways of running our university so that it is viable in the long term, whilst maintaining academic excellence and delivering quality teaching.”

The university says there will “engagement sessions, to ensure our people are fully informed about enterprise bargaining,” in the coming weeks.

Good-oh, but talking is not signing and a deal is unlikely before the FWC judgement, which will leave the winning party in a very strong position and word is both sides expect to win.

ANU wants a provost

When Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt became vice chancellor of the Australian National University CMM wondered whether he would want a provost to deal with the detail (CMM June 25 2015). It took a while for him to decide but he does. The university is advertising the new role of provost to be the VCs senior deputy.

True believers

The Hobart Mercury’s approving take on UniTas VC Peter Rathjen’s vision  for post school education

“It must be about how it will create jobs and an economy that will keep our kids in Tasmania … It must not be about how we can cross our fingers and hope to catch up with other states, but surpass them and be a genuine smart state.”  Who says Australia has no have faith in education?

No kudos for comment: buseco researchers fear discrimination in new business rankings

The decision to use Web of Science citation data for ERA 18 in unsettling some

Last week the ARC announced it will use the Web of Science data base for next year’s Excellence in Research for Australia performance review, (CMM August 23). This is being met with increasing alarm, as research experts worry that WoS reflects the present status-structure in research publishing and pays to little heed to new research thinking in innovative outlets.

As one local journal editor tells CMM; “using Web of Science means that we become very US-centric in rating quality research. WoS is still behind in recognising the social sciences, and it eventually favours journals based on positive (quantitative) rather than interdisciplinary and critical (mainly qualitative) research.”

There is certainly no doubting that WoS reinforces the status of journals publishing on ideas that appeal to the biggest markets, at the expence of specialist subjects, which inevitably includes all addressing specifically Australian issues. As WoS owner Clarivate explains;

“the core literature for all scholarly disciplines may be concentrated in a relatively small number of journals.”

Economists and business researchers fear for publishing futures

Business and economic academics are alarmed by talk of a new journal ranking methodology for the Australian Business Deans Council. Word is that international experts will compile a quantitative list, with fears that Web of Science will be the base.  “If we follow some international rankings then journals that publish work on Australian economics, Australian economic policy and industrial relations in Australia will all be down-graded to “C” status, i.e. “not relevant to academic excellence,” one senior researcher warns colleagues in a call-to -arms circulating now.

According to ABDC vice president and Deakin U executive dean of business and law, Mike Ewing, “this year the Australian Business Deans’ Council journal list will be reviewed by an external expert panel. The composition of that independent panel is being finalised.”

Professor Ewing adds, “the 2017 review follows two earlier list reviews undertaken with wide national consultation, which inevitably saw some lobbying by vested interests.”

“ABDC members are in favour of the proposed review to provide external validation of the list and ensure the list remains relevant in light of the federal government’s stronger focus on impact. The list will remain a ranking of business journals to primarily serve the needs of the Australian and New Zealand business-related academic community,” he says.

Last year’s ranking assessed 2785 journals, some 90 published in Australia. It is hard to see how the 2017 list will be worse for them. In 2016 a bare 20 rated A, 26 scored B and 41 C.  The only A*, CMM could find last year was the Federal Law Review out of ANU, ( CMM September 8 2016).

TEQSA takes notes

Admissions people have until the end of the week to deliver  information to TEQSA, as part of the process under the fed’s new plan to end the opacity of the ATAR. Ignoring this may not be wise, given the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency has “commenced a formative evaluation of sector compliance” which it will report in October to Kerri Lee Krause and colleagues on the Admissions Transparency Implementation Group.

Uni Melb to staff: right to comment not at risk

The University of Melbourne says the right of academics to comment is not in danger

At the University of Melbourne, the campus branch of the NTEU and academics says the absence of a free speech clause in management’s draft enterprise agreement is a risk.

But management is having none of it saying the, “claims are part of the National Tertiary Education Union’s enterprise bargaining strategy.

“The suggestion that the draft agreement removes academic freedom protections is simply not true. Academic freedom of expression is a core value of the University of Melbourne. All university scholars are free to engage in critical enquiry and public discourse under the binding university council Academic Freedom of Expression Policy. There is no intent to change this policy nor to compromise the university’s unwavering commitment to its terms, reaffirmed by council as recently as March this year.

“Contrary to the union’s assertion, the university would not and could not lawfully dismiss employees on the basis of them making controversial public comments.”

So why not codify protections in the next enterprise agreement, as the union asks? “The university firmly believes that academic freedom is too important to be governed through an industrial agreement,” management tells CMM.

Historians of science supported

Linden Ashcroft and Kelly McKinley are joint winners of the 2018 Moran Award for History of Science Research. Dr Ashcroft will study the motivation and findings of Australian weather observers before the creation of the Bureau of Meteorology in 1908. Ms McKinley, a PhD student at the University of Adelaide will study Australian attitudes to genetic modification starting in the ‘70s.

The $2 500 Moran award comes from the Australian Academy of Science.

150 jobs to go at Western Sydney U in one of many admin restructures

People out of a job could start to depart before Christmas

The long-awaited school support plan at WSU is out, in the form of a discussion paper, along the lines of November’s brief to staff (CMM November 25).

The proposal involves centralising services, with school based administration to be focused on specific management, teaching and research support functions.

These changes are part of a broad Shared Services programme which reallocates activity across 14 support functions following a long review by consultants Deloitte. They are necessary, HR director Susan Hudson told staff Friday to ensure, “improved long-term financial stability and facilitation of a culture of ongoing continuous improvement.”

The plan leaves all nine school managers in place and either makes no change or directly places occupants of 20 present positions. It also creates 59 new permanent jobs. However, 152 jobs are discontinued. Many staff whose jobs are gone will also find positions they can apply for set at a lower pay grade.

Staff whose jobs are abolished and do not secure a new role will be kept on in existing roles until the end of November. What happens then, is not spelt out, perhaps because the plan is presented “for consultation” and management may not want the campus union to begin the process towards industrial action just yet. Certainly, there is no mention of redundancies, which may mean people displaced from schools scrambling for a job in other restructured areas well into next year. Then again, they may find themselves redundant.

“It’s a case of musical chairs, but with very fewer chairs” a WSU observer says.

Despite the size of the cuts the estimated saving is cited at $1.8m, although there is no indication if this is a on-off or recurrent.

What Chinese censors really hate

Last week Chinese censors told Cambridge University Press to take journal articles from the China Quarterly off the web for the China market. CUP first agreed but then found its evidently misplaced spine and refused. It turns out the comrades also wanted cuts to another CUP published journal, the Association for Asia Studies’ Journal of Asian Studies. The ASA says the 100 articles and reviews the censors wanted down are still up but it declines to list authors and titles. However, the ASA has released a list of the key-words from the works that upset officials.

Tibet/Dalai Lama lead the list, appearing in 39 per cent of titles, followed by Cultural Revolution (29 per cent) and Mao and Tiananmen (9 per cent each).