Exciting instalments

For people at the University of Valles Marineris, the O’Kane Accord took submissions and the Department of Education is publishing those that are public.

Just not all in one go – as of yesterday 120 or so of the 300 in total received were on the DoE site

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Individual assessment tasks don’t necessarily support the development of higher level graduate attributes or employment outcomes,” argue Nicholas Charlton (Griffith U) and Richard Newsham-West. What’s needed is a focus on programme, rather than course, learning outcomes.  New this week in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

plus Merlin Crosley (UNSW) on the big Accord issues – access and research funding. “We don’t know where the next Einstein will come from, but we don’t want to miss her.”

Call for $6bn uni rainy day fund

The NTEU calls for a Higher Education Secure Future Fund, “to create secure and permanent jobs that provide quality teaching and research”

This is the peak proposal chosen by members in a National Tertiary Education Union survey of what should be in the O’Kane Accord.

The fund would be governed according to the Commonwealth’s Future Fund Board of Guardians with annual allocations made by representatives of universities, staff and student organisations, It would be a “rainy day” resource “to support the sector during periods of sustained and deep sector-wide crisis.”

The NTEU proposes the Commonwealth should kick-in $500m to start the fund, with universities paying 10 per cent of operating surpluses, or 5 per cent with matching government contributions. Alternatively the government could levy institutions international student income.

“It is reasonable that the public expect a small share of surpluses be applied to national priorities and  sector security now, rather than be fully retained as discretionary investment funds for unspecified future purposes,” the union asserts.

The NTEU presents an investment example, where the fund accumulates $6bn in capital between now and 2035.

Other recommendations to the Accord include

* cutting casual and fixed term contracts by half over five years, to create continuing employment of 77 per cent

* a national student ombudsman

* “make TEQSA act as a regulator, not as a facilitator”

* guidelines for executive pay in-line with “community standards”

* update indexation so funding matches inflation

Monash U announces 450 fixed-term roles for current PhD students

VC Margaret Gardner told staff yesterday she hoped to have people in place for second semester, “with these more secure forms of employment offering better conditions”

The statement follows Nine Newspapers weekend report of a dispute between the university and the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union, over payment of casual staff.

The union and university are also engaged in bargaining for a new agreement, with the NTEU rejecting management’s latest offer, with protected industrial to come (CMM April 5,6).

There were no public details yesterday on the new jobs, with the VC stating “HR will work with deans and faculties to ensure resourcing needs are met,” however the university has previously acknowledged the need for better conditions for casual academic staff. In March the VC reminded staff that last year over 500 540 casual/sessional staff were appointed to fixed-term and on-going jobs.

This may not be enough to placate the union, one of its enterprise bargaining demands is 80 per cent “secure on-going employment,” but it might incline other staff to look more favourably on management in the context of bargaining.

VET must match higher ed focus on equity groups


a nuanced, forward-looking approach is needed – not simply introducing reforms to improve participation

With the higher education Accord Panel receiving more than 300 submissions to the Discussion Paper, it is pleasing to see so many of those published focus on greater equity in higher education, particularly for First Nations students.

While the Panel considers how best to improve higher education participation, attainment and crucially outcomes for students from under-represented groups, sadly the same discussion is absent in VET– despite the latest annual NCVER data showing:

* First Nations students are over-represented in VET but more likely to enrol in lower AQF qualifications and less likely to pass subjects and complete qualifications than other students.

* for people with disability the key issue is very low levels of participation in VET – just 4 per cent of VET students report a disability compared to 9 per cent of people in the workforce and 18 per cent of the total population.

* unemployed learners have high rates of participation in VET and achieve similar levels of academic success but are much less likely to report improved employment status after training; and

* the VET system seems to work reasonably well for students from low SES backgrounds with high participation, similar levels of academic success and employment outcomes similar to other students.

Interestingly, as Curtin University’s Sarah O’Shea argued at this year’s Universities Australia conference – with 50 per cent of equity students in higher education experiencing multiple disadvantage there is a need for a more nuanced approach. The National Centre for Vocational Education Research has started to report on the overlap between equity groups, for example of the First Nations students in VET in 2021:

* 33 per cent were also low SES

* 32 per cent were unemployed

* 12 per cent lived in a remote area

* 9 per cent reported a disability

* 4 per cent reported speaking a language other than English at home.

As Commonwealth, state and territory ministers finalise negotiations for the next National Skills Agreement  it is to be hoped that they will place equity at the heart of the new funding arrangements for the sector. And that in doing so they will adopt a nuanced, forward-looking approach – not simply introducing reforms to improve participation but instead focussing the system on supporting learners from different backgrounds (often experiencing multiple forms of disadvantage) to study meaningful qualifications which prepare them for jobs in the new economy.

Claire Field spoke to the Brotherhood of St Laurence’s Kira Clarke about these issues, and the proven equity programs that work, on the latest episode of the What now? What next? podcast.

End of long bargaining beginning at Uni Sydney

There’s movement in the long-running dispute over a new employment agreement

A National Tertiary Education Union meeting of 700 members voted yesterday to accept management’s latest offer as a framework to finalise negotiations. This appears to mean that scheduled industrial action is now off.

Observers suggest the foreshadowed motion to get down to the last details was carried by around a two-thirds majority. This contrasts with a March vote when a union meeting tied 300 for and against industrial action (CMM March 27).

Late yesterday union branch president Nick Riemer, tweeted, “the result today wasn’t what I wanted but 700 members voted clearly and we will do everything we can to use it to shift management. Whatever happens, it’s obvious we only got this far because we were ready to run the hardest campaign the university sector here has seen. It’s not over yet.”

So is it the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end?

Given bargaining commenced in August 21 it’s been a long beginning, The end will begin, when and if, union members sign-off on a proposed agreement. Only then will a proposal go to an all-staff vote.

It’s worth remembering that members of the other campus union, the CPSU also get to be asked.

Bad news and good news at Charles Sturt U

Charles Sturt U will report a $15m loss on operations for ’22 and the VC warns “financial challenges will persist”

Renée Leon advises staff, ahead of the university’s annual report being tabled in NSW parliament.

“For the first time in some years, the university, like many others in the sector, will post a financial deficit, she warns.

Professor Leon attributes “a large part” of the overall financial deficit to the reduced value of investments, compared to a $122m “fortuitous upswing” in ’22. She also mentions “pressure due to the application of the sector-wide funding model.”

However the VC adds, “we are still working to reverse a decline in overall student load that has increased the pressure on our budget over the past five years.”

“ Returning to surplus will require focussed effort from all of us to grow student load, increase the efficiency of our operations, and attract research and partnership revenue.”

While pay was not mentioned it must be on the agenda for enterprise bargaining now underway.

But finances are not stopping CSU creating 60-70 new FT academic positions

Professor Leon told staff yesterday, “the decision is a result of extensive consultations with staff, sector benchmarking and review of student experience.”

The new positions will be allocated on the basis of casualisation rates and disciplinary/teaching needs of each school.“The budgetary implications of this scheme are significant, but tackling teaching workload and casualisation is a key priority for the success of our students and the wellbeing of our staff.”

As to the impact on enterprise bargaining, the VC adds the university remains committed to an agreement “that provides benefits for staff.” Question now is what that translates into pay rise percentages.


Appointment, achievements

The (US based) Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business announces two locals on its 2023 Innovations that inspire. UNSW rates for the B Comm “integrated first year … disciplinary knowledge, professional skills, and student career development.” Uni SA is there for the Bachelor of Digital Business, a partnership with consultants Accenture.

Harlene Hayne (Curtin U VC) is the new chair of the Australian Technology Network, replacing Deakin U’s Iain Martin.