Off to marvellous Melbourne

The Australian Technology Network secretariat is moving there, leaving the digs it shares with Universities Australia in Canberra. The ATN’s new desirable residence is at member-uni RMIT, where it’s neighbour will be the International Education Association of Australia.

So that’s why Premier Andrews decided to open the border.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Amani Bell on  why students like work integrated learning on-line. This week’s addition to Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

Garry Carnegie (RMIT) questions the way universities rate rankings They “do not have any correlation with accomplishment in effectively realising the express social purposes of a public university, particularly concerned with acting in the public interest and for the benefit of society. However, the notion of elitism and the spirit of competition, both between and within universities, appear to be dominant in our universities,” he suggests

Monash U VC promises, “new, rich education experiences” for students

There’s more to arrive than international students (CMM Friday)

VC Margaret Gardner says their return “will also coincide with some major new, rich education experiences that will launch for all students next year, including global immersion, industry-based experiences and entrepreneurial immersion.”

It followed her optimistic or ominous, depending where you are on the Pangloss Scale, remark the other week, “Plans for how we educate and develop our students will need to change with a clear eye on what we wish to do over the longer term.”

So what’s coming on those best of all possible campuses?

Perhaps more under the Global Immersion Guarantee that funds two weeks offshore for UGs. And perhaps more,like the intern programme for Biomedical and Health Science masters launched Thursday with Johnson and Johnson companies.



ARC on application controversy: “we were not consulting universities on every mortal thing”

In Senate Estimates last week Kim Carr (Labor, Victoria) and Mehreen Faruqui (Greens, NSW) had questions about the Australian Research Council’s brief ban on citing pre-press research in grant applications

Which agency CEO Sue Thomas addressed .

For anybody just back from research office meetings on Mars, the agency’s ban was in updated rules but word did not reach 17 Future Fellow and 15 Discovery Early Career Researcher applicants who were excluded for referring to pre-prints – long used in physics and related disciplines.

Senator Faruqi asked a bunch of questions about the fairness and consistency of the assessment process, what with only one assessor pointing out breaches. Professor Thomas responded that appeals continue and “we need to let the process run its course.” So the senator asked about how the exclusion was adopted  in the first place. And Professor Thomas replied that the ARC introduced the ban to make rules consistent and thought it “was a small issue.”

“We did not consult on it, we were not consulting universities on every mortal thing in 2020, which was probably the most extraordinary year of our lives,” she said.

Which, strange to relate, did not deter Senator Faruqi from responding that the ban excluded 32 researchers and asking more questions.

Senator Carr addressed the same issues, and questioned at length how ARC processes could handle the council’s own error. And he suggested what the ARC might have to do – ask Education Minister Alan Tudge to fix its problem.

There are 28 appeals and as part of the process they are assessed to identify if they are in “fundable range.”

If any are, as Professor Thomas told Senator Fehruqi, “it would be a question of making a recommendation to the minister, who is still the decision maker on whether grants are funded.”

Sunset for CQU in the west

The university is exiting WA

As part of the 2022 5 per cent savings plan, CQU proposes to teach-out courses in its Perth study centre over two years. It’s the end of an expansion strategy that dates from the days of uncapped domestic demand and “an expectation” of international student growth, CQU states.

There are 25 staff (people, not FTE) in Perth who will move to working from home, redeployment and redundancy over the teach-out. A further “fewer than 15 people in study hubs outside Perth will also be redundant.

How to protect academic speech (it depends on who you ask)

Despite Peter Ridd losing in the High Court his case included a win for protecting academic freedom under enterprise agreements 

Dr Ridd lost his job at James Cook U because the court found he had breached its Code of Conduct in statements subsequent to his initial criticism of science at the university on the state of the Great Barrier Reef. (CMM October 14).

But the judges were quite clear that Dr Ridd’s initial comments were protected by the intellectual freedom clause (14) of the university’s enterprise agreement.

The High Court’s timing could not have been better for union representatives and management at any university which wants to follow up the ruling – Round Eight Enterprise Bargaining, is underway, imminent or anticipated across the country.

The Ridd decision will encourage National Tertiary Education Union branches to ensure the sort of protections the High Court found in the JCU academic freedom clause are entrenched or extended in local agreements

“One of the key claims in this round will be removing any ambiguity that might encourage university managements to discipline a staff member who is exercising academic freedom,” a bargaining expert suggests.

But will universities accept JCU’s defeat on that point in Dr Ridd’s claim applies to their staff?

“It will be interesting to see how university managements react to the High Court decision,” the bargaining watcher suggests.

“Will they be happy to clarify to the extent of any ambiguity that academic freedom is a core and defining feature of universities and that using the Code of Conduct to limit it undermines the raison d’etre of universities? Or will they seek to change what’s in the agreements to allow them to discipline staff who, in their eyes, damage the reputation of the university?”

Surely, it would take a Sir Humphrey kind of courage, for management bargaining teams to ask union negotiators to accept academic freedom protections in university polices, which are subject to codes of conduct,  in new agreements. But who knows.

Back in 2017 Uni Melbourne opposed the NTEU’s call for free speech protection in the enterprise agreement, telling CMM,

“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,” the university stated.

So why not also add protections to the enterprise agreement? CMM asked. ““The university firmly believes that academic freedom is too important to be governed through an industrial agreement,” management replied, (CMM August 27 and August 30 2017).

Given Ridd, this will be a hard case to make to union bargaining teams.


Appointments, achievements

The Australian Labour and Employment Relations Association announces two new joint editors of its Journal of Industrial Relations, Amanda Pyman (Deakin U) and Lucy Taksa (Macquarie U). They replace Marian Baird and Bradon Ellem (University of Sydney).

 John Bertram (Monash U) receives the Presidents Medal from the ANZ Society for Cell and Development Biology.

Ceridwen Dovey wins the UNSW Press Bragg Prize for Science Writing. Ms Dovey’s award is for a forthcoming essay on “the little-known threat of orbital overcrowding.” She has now won the Bragg Prize twice.

Neeraja Krishnan is appointed director of IDP’s digital campus in Chennai. She will lead all IDP tech operations in India.