There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning, * Sarah O’Shea on student equity that’s more than an add-on and Mike Aitken considers fair and efficient markets in finance, health and energy

A big bunch of herbal remedies

Southern Cross U is recruiting a chair of naturopathic medicine to lead its new centre for naturopathic medicine, funded by a $10m gift from the Blackmore Foundation (CMM November 28 2018).

Trimester trouble at UNSW

Some students aren’t happy with a new academic year

UNSW rolled out its new trimester system this year, with three ten week terms and an optional five-week summer session.  Management says it is a splendid scheme, with many benefits including, students spreading their study load, taking fewer courses per term “enabling deeper learning.” However, the Student Representative Council and campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union did not like the plan when first on the agenda (CMM March 10 2017).

And now that it is in place students are still not thrilled, complaints including shorter subjects, less flexibility for paid work, started when the plan was introduced and continue still. There’s a cancel trimester rally scheduled for June 26.

ANU’s data breach disaster

Staff and student personal records were accessed last year, the university only discovered it occurred a fortnight ago

What happened:  Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt warned the university community yesterday of “unauthorised access“ to staff and student personal details over 19 years.

Data that was copied, “may include,” *names and addresses, * dates of birth, * phone numbers, * personal emails, * bank account details, * tax file numbers, and * passport details.

The university says files, including credit cards and other personal records are not affected, even so there is surely enough ID info out there for identify theft.

Professor Schmidt says the breach occurred in late 2018 and was discovered a fortnight ago. It was picked up by system upgrades installed after last July’s data breach (CMM July 9 2018).

The vice chancellor adds there is no, “evidence that research work has been effected.” Last year’s hack led to speculation that state actors were looking to penetrate ANU national security research partnerships with the Commonwealth.

And how: Who knows, ANU did not a couple of weeks back. But ANU-ites suggest that an IT restructure, combined with an early retirement scheme left the university lighter-on for deep-knowledge of university systems a couple of years back.

What happens next: The VC suggests, “we can all change our passwords regularly, be vigilant about where we keep our information and be alert to suspicious activity.”

Professor Schmidt also assures staff, “we have invested heavily in IT security in the past 12 months and that investment has been successful in the sense that it reduced the risk presented by many attackers and it helped us detect this sophisticated intrusion.”

Which does not answer obvious questions: What practical measures will the university take to protect staff past and present now at risk of identity theft? Are the hackers interested in specific members of the national security research community? Does the university really think soothing words for staff and suggestions about changing passwords will do?

And the inevitable one – who in ANU management is accountable for this disaster?

But while there are questions there are no answers, yesterday afternoon ANU said it was not doing interviews.

Rubbish results for R&D investment

Perhaps industry did not get the Universities Australia memo

The Productivity Commission reports industry investment in research and development is easing off (CMM yesterday), which alarms UA. “This slowdown is troubling for the nation’s economic growth — and that should concern all Australians … “We urge businesses to take a closer look at what our world-class university system can do to help your firm to innovate and grow.” UA chief executive Catriona Jackson says.

As did Margaret Gardner last year, “If you have a complex business challenge you haven’t been able to crack, come talk to an Australian university about how we can work together to solve it,” the  then UA chair urged industry last year (CMM February 22 2018).  The slow-down in R&D investment is part of a bigger problem of declining productivity improvements, its not  industry indifference to universities.  But the higher education community has to address it, if only to convince a not-especially friendly government that they are interested in what occurs off-campus.

Tougher on research misconduct

The Australian Research Council has updated its research integrity policy

The ARC has made adhering to last year’s responsible conduct of research code mandatory.

The code was a major achievement for the big three, the ARC, National Health and Medical Research Council and Universities Australia, setting out eight principles of “responsible research conduct. This was a big improvement on an ARC-NHMRC working party in 2017, which declined to define research misconduct, because there was no internationally agreed definition, (CMM  June 15 2018).

Apart from financial fraud of grant money the ARC does not investigate code breaches leaving it to institutions to report them, at least they have a better idea of what they are looking at.

Schools-in at Uni Canberra

The university will offer courses to senior school students

The ACT budget includes $767 000 for the University of Canberra to offer extension courses to year 11 and 12 students for three years from 2021. It’s an initiative in-line with former VC Stephen Parker’s vision of UniCanberra as a kindergarten to postgrad campus for the local community.

What casual academics should be paid – it’s not always what they get

Casual academics at the University of Melbourne are counting the hours they actually work and comparing them with the time management pays them for

This is a big issue at universities across the country, the National Tertiary Education Union suggests not paying people for hours worked is “wage theft.” Postgrads and other casual teachers regularly say that to do their jobs properly means working way more hours than management pays for.  But it seems aggrieved members of the precariat in the arts faculty at Uni Melbourne are now doing more than complaining, compiling hard numbers on hours it takes to teach and presumably provide students with support.  Word is that 300 casual academics are effected.

At UWA the union claims casuals are being underpaid  

The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union has launched an industrial dispute, claiming management has not acted on underpayment of casuals. The union’s Rachel Smith states there are reports of casual academics being underpaid for a range of reasons, including incorrect work classifications and that there are cases of tutors, “being paid only a fraction of the applicable tutorial rate for tutorial work.”

Union branch president Sanna Peden calls on the university to audit casual appointments from 2013, issue back pay and correct current classifications. “Conducting a full audit is necessary to rectify the processes and practices that have allowed the exploitation of casual academics to become entrenched in the operations of the university,” Dr Peden says.

Appointments, achievements

Two Uni Queensland historians are elected fellows of the Royal Historical Society, medieval historian Megan Cassidy-Welch (head of the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry), and  Chi-Kong Lai (Chinese history).

Daniel Bell is confirmed as general counsel at the University of Newcastle. He has acted in the role since mid ’18.

Matt Gijselman takes over at the NUW Alliance, a “smart solutions” lobby for the three big cities of NSW. It was formed in July 2017 by UNSW and the universities of Newcastle and Wollongong. Mr Gijselman comes from corporate and government public affairs, he replaces Bran Black, appointed in April ’18.