UNDA never in

The in-the-know word at the start of the week was that the feds had changed the JobKeeper rules (again) so that the four Table B (private) universities would qualify for the wage subsidy, while public institutions do not

Make that three. University of Notre Dame Australia VC, Francis Campbell tells staff; “As Notre Dame receives government funding, we will not be availing of the scheme, and we do not qualify in financial terms as we have not seen a 30 per cent fall in income.”

Nowhere near it – UNDA expects 2020 revenue to be down by 14 per cent. It’s a decline many VCs would wish for but it is not great for UNDA – in deficit in 2018 and ’19.

In Features this morning

In Features this morning

Frank Larkins details the pandemic’s impact on research. “The research community waits in anticipation for the policy response of the Australian Government, he writes.

IDP’s Andrew Barkla on three steps to save Australia’s international education industry.

Sonal Singh argues there are digital literacy skills low SES students need now. It’s this week’s pick from Contributing Editor Sally Kift.

La Trobe U stays with plan A

A national vote on the proposed job protection accord is off it’s still on at LT U

VC John Dewar was one of four VCs who negotiated a framework with the National Tertiary Education Union to trade temporary cuts in wages and conditions for job protection. The union cancelled a national member vote on Tuesday in the face of 20 or so VCs saying no to the framework, and vocal internal criticism.

However, Professor Dewar tells staff the LT U branch of the union will vote on the national proposal next week. He adds that an all-staff vote, “will take place soon thereafter.” CMM understands this will occur, regardless of the outcome of the union member vote.

The vice chancellor has made a strong case for the deal, telling staff, “we can guarantee there will be fewer jobs lost with it,” (CMM May 20).

“When the time comes, I hope you will join me in supporting this framework to ensure we can protect as many La Trobe jobs as possible,” he now says.”

Professor Dewar’s negotiating partner, Monash U VC Margaret Gardner also makes a strong case for her staff to support the framework (CMM May 27).

Not so bad at Macquarie U

The university is in ok-enough shape not to ask staff for COVID-19 concessions  

Vice Chancellor S Bruce Dowton tells the community that the university will be short $40m-$60m on teaching revenue this year and down up to $80m in total next, but he adds, “we are in a better immediate position than many other universities at this stage.”

And so, the university rejected the cuts to pay and conditions to protect jobs in the now not-proceeding national framework.

Macquarie University does not intend to use these tools in managing the current COVID-19 circumstances, and so we do not feel it is appropriate to adopt the variation to enable them.

“I can also advise that we will not be proposing any alternative variations to our enterprise agreements in response to COVID-19. In making this decision, I recognise that our staff have worked extremely hard and have demonstrated immense resilience supporting the university to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The university is having a good semester, domestic enrolments are “slightly” up and international enrolments are at 90 per cent of target. But next semester, not so much, management expects to reach 50 per cent of international students, at best.

Data delights deferred

There is gnashing of teeth and quite possibly rending of garments as policy persons lament the fun missed feds by the postponing due dates for stats and docs

The Commonwealth’s department of education announces bon information collections, “in order to reduce the administrative burden on higher education providers while they respond to the COVID-19 situation.”

Projects delayed include; April HELP data (now due October), 2019 HE data reconciliation (no due date). Consultation on changes to research block grant data collections is now on last quarter. This month’s start on the 2021 research data roadmap is delayed until August – but there are limits to the department’s generosity – the August ’21 deadline is unchanged.  Thanks to a learned reader who noticed the news, and understands what it means.

Where jobs might go at Deakin U

Losses are listed for 12 portfolios

Vice Chancellor Iain Martin told staff that 300 positions (not FTEs) need to go to help address the revenue fall (CMM May 26).

Last night it appeared he was getting close, with new staffing structures put to meetings.

All up 15 per cent of positions would go, with losses ranging from 45 redundancies (15 per cent) in Global Engagement and the same (13 per cent) in eSolutions. The VC’s portfolio would lose 16 positions, (21 per cent of staff). The infrastructure and properties team is hard hit, with 32 per cent of establishment (34 positions) to go.

Safe way back for international students

Independent Higher Education Australia proposes a “COVIDSafe Corridor,” with pilots late this year and “full resumption” next

The proposal is big on caution, emphasising quarantines, testing and safety on campus. IHEAA also argues non-university providers are well-placed to pilot access, with small classes and flexible timetables, including late year admission dates.

And there’s a big condition on the corridor, which could make it politically palatable; “safe campus operations and face-to-face teaching arrangements having commenced for domestic students and onshore international students.”

Union says no to Uni Melbourne

This will make the vote hard for management to win

The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union has voted to oppose management’s proposal to vary the university’s enterprise agreement.

Vice Chancellor Duncan Maskell suggests staff give back a May pay rise to save jobs. He also signals jobs will have to go. Overall proposals will be put to staff on June 9, in a vote to vary the university’s enterprise agreement.

To which union members respond, nothing-doing, voting yesterday to oppose the changes. This could make it tough for Professor Maskell. Industrial relations observers point to precedents at universities across the country where non-union members followed the NTEU’s advise and opposed management proposed changes.

CQU to sack 99 staff

Vice Chancellor Nick Klomp says the university “considered all possible options to minimise job losses before proceeding”

“This is a step we must take to ensure CQU’s ongoing success and sustainability in the post-COVID-19 environment, which will include more domestic and international competition for students, and more providers offering new products online,” he said.

Last Friday Professor Klomp rejected the then proposed national accord for cuts to wages and conditions, in return for job protection (CMM May 25). The deal is off nationally but can still proceed at individual universities.

But not at CQU, which “must take decisive action now on our structure and costs, and rapidly move forward, without eroding important employee conditions,” he said then.

Their day in court

The Federal Court has reserved judgement in James Cook U’s appeal against the trial judge’s ruling that it was wrong to dismiss academic Peter Ridd for his criticism of research at the university

Last year Judge Vasta found Dr Ridd’s remarks were protected by the academic comment provisions of the applicable JCU enterprise agreement.

This is an important case for universities in general and the National Tertiary Education Union, as well as Dr Ridd and JCU. The comrades think academic comment protections should be set-out in enterprise agreements, rather than included in university codes of conduct. Some universities like them in the latter.

The NTEU successfully sought leave to intervene in JCU’s appeal (CMM October 17 2019). Their views were heard on Wednesday.