The long and the short of HE reviews, or inquiries

“We need a broad-ranging review of our sector that asks simply what Australia wants from its universities – and how that vision can be funded through a sensible balance of public finances and other funding streams,” UNSW VC Ian Jacobs, message to alumni.

Alternatively, perhaps a Senate committee inquiry into Minister Tehan’s bills might suffice. “I am absolutely sure there will have to be a Senate inquiry that will have to examine the pros and cons of what has been proposed, cross-bench senator, Rex Patrick (Centre Alliance SA) told Sky News yesterday.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Michael Tomlinson asks, what are the jobs the government wants graduates to be ready for?

 Ian Marshman and Frank Larkins on the Tehan package; “Vocational education has triumphed. Undergraduate education is now more narrowly about training for a job, no longer laying the foundations for careers of the future. Their analysis is here.

Nina Fotinatos on five team functions for learning and teaching success. It’s Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s new selection in her series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.

Tim Winkler on the way the ATAR and tertiary admissions centres work, or don’t, for school leavers.

What the Academy of Science wants next

Money for research and more research is on the wish-list

The Australian Academy of Science “welcomes” much in Minister Tehan’s plan, including more UG places, the new industry Linkage programme and lower course costs for science and maths students.

However, “Our society needs scientists, but it would be poorer if not for people educated in the arts, social sciences, management, commerce, law and the humanities … a system that silos knowledge and values one sort of knowledge over another will fail Australians.”

And the academy isn’t pleased with reduced funding per Commonwealth Supported Place in science.

But what, in-line with other lobbies, it really wants, is more money for research. The academy calls for;

* government funding full costs of research

* “addressing” the decline in support for basic research

* reversinga decade of decline” in business investing in research and innovation

* Actions to prevent the retrenchment of up to 7,000 researchers as a result of COVID-19 revenue losses.  “Research careers of early and mid-career academics cannot be turned on and off like a tap – they require constant nourishment to maintain the pipeline of essential research capacity.”

CSIRO cools on fossil fuel research

The organisation is upping research on renewables, “to support Australia’s energy transition to net zero transmissions,” which means some people working on old-energy technologies will be out

The agency proposes “a reduction” of 39 roles, including people working on, upstream oil and gas activities, primary carbon fuel production and coal post-combustion CO2 capture.  But there could be 12 new positions in growth areas, hydrogen, emissions management, decommissioning and end-of-life technologies and techno-socioeconomics.

CMM wonders whether there will by any spilling and filling.


Saving history from becoming history

The Australian Historical Association is upset by the hike in humanities course costs

“It is unnecessarily punitive and displays a remarkably narrow view of the very purpose of a tertiary education,” the AHA argues.

The association could probably do with vice chancellors making statements of support on the same lines. Because if students do turn out to be price sensitive Australian history could be out of undergraduates.

Last year Paul Sendziuk (Uni Adelaide) and Martin Crotty (Uni Queensland) asked all ANZ history departments what they taught. They found the average Aus history upper level subject has 49 students, compared to war and society with 91 and American history with 79, (CMM June 17 2019).

And so, they asked if, “it should be a moral obligation, or an obligation of citizenship, for ANZ history departments/groupings to teach a sufficient number of courses in the histories of their own nations and Indigenous peoples.” Which they answered; “it is probably fair to say that most academic historians are sympathetic to the teaching of the history of one’s own nation and Indigenous peopleregardless of student demand.”

Lines historians may need again.

ANU staff vote for a pay-rise delay, just

The workforce has backed management’s COVID-19 savings plan

But it was tight. With 4 217 staff (61 per cent) turning out just 2126 (50.46 per cent) voted yes.

The proposed enterprise agreement variation now goes to Fair Work Australia for approval. This means the 2 per cent EA pay-rise scheduled for July is deferred for 12 months. The July ’21 rise will occur July ’22.

Yesterday Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt said the pay freeze will save $6.75 million this year and $13.5 million over 12 months, “and we will transparently demonstrate how every dollar will be used to protect jobs.”  However, just how many jobs will be protected is not stated.

Professor Schmidt, who campaigned for the proposal, was gracious in victory. “It was a very close outcome, but that speaks to the valid arguments on both sides. I committed to accepting the verdict of the staff who chose to vote and I will do that, as I would have done had the result gone the other way.”

Which it nearly did. The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union opposed the proposal and president Matthew King says the result is not the end of the issue. “This is a very narrow defeat, but it is also far from a decisive mandate for proceeding with this proposal. The next steps are not automatic. ANU will now have to make a conscious decision, after reflecting on the narrow margin of the vote, to proceed to the Fair Work Commission to implement these changes.”

And there’s the next bargaining round to look forward to; “we will also be preparing to ensure that the generosity of ANU staff during this crisis is reciprocated during enterprise bargaining,” adds Cathy Day, the union’s ACT secretary.

The jobs are out there

The future for the PhD-ed precariat is getting grimmer, as universities look at sessionals for savings. PostAC will help will help them

In February, an ANU-CSIRO team launched PostAc University, a search engine custom-built to help PhDs facing job hunting outside the academy, (CMM January 23). It provides, examples of jobs that have been posted in the past, “which can help people who are working on a CV.”

A dire need then is a desperate one now, as universities warn of cuts to sessional staff. So it is fortunate that the PostAc team is working on a new product. Where PostAcU was for institutional subscribers and retrospective, people who want to use the new PostAc Individual won’t need a university subscription to search for current jobs.

“When you search PostAc Individual, you only see jobs outside academia that use your skills as a researcher, making the job search quicker and easier. We’ll be inviting select recruitment firms into PostAc, so you can make connections with people who are interested in hiring people like you – with unique, high-end, research skill sets.”

There will be a beta later this year.

Appointments, achievements

Appointments, achievements

Peter Eastwood is in-coming director of Flinders U’s Health and Medical Research Institute. He joins from UWA’s Centre for Sleep Science.

John Hattie (Uni Melbourne) has a third term as chair of the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership.

Bal Kama (ANU) wins the Hank Nelson Prize for best dissertation at a university anywhere on Papua New Guinea history and society.

Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh (UNSW) is awarded the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Robert Boyle Prize for Analytical Science.