It’s a wrap

CMM is off on holidays and will be back on January 16. Thanks for reading.

Desirable address

Neighbours upset by the University of Queensland’s development plans for its St Lucia campus have raised the usual objections, traffic, inconvenience, opening the gates of Hell, that sort of stuff. But it seems property purchasers are not bothered. Domain reports a 25 per cent hike in median house price this year.

The personal touch: good relations with lecturers reduces attrition

Benjamin Farr Wheaton (UTS) and colleagues surveyed students at “a regional Australian university” and found good relationships with lecturers make them less-inclined to leave.

Study mode, economic status and educational preparedness did not have a significant effect on student’s intention to leave university, when the impact of the student-lecturer learning relationship was accounted for,” they write in a paraphrase of their paper (which is behind an Elsevier journal paywall).

They conclude that “although many Australian universities are investing significant resources into student retention programmes centred around extracurricular activities what happens within lecture halls and in online learning engagement forums often remains on the periphery of attrition response initiatives.”

This may be because casual staff not paid enough to engage do a great deal of UG teaching.

Another gift

At first CMM did not think the University of Melbourne announcing a $5m donation was enough-news to impose on readers. Philanthropist Pamela Galli has donated the millions to create a chair in medical biology, shared between the university and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. It just shows the way the remarkable is now routine in reporting the principality of Parkville.

UoQ pay offers waits on the feds

Enterprise bargaining at the University of Queensland is productive and civil, if only because management is not talking about pay. “We have reached in-principle agreement on important matters such as academic and intellectual freedom, cultural leave, domestic violence leave, and improving the employment and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff. And we are close to agreement on many other important issues,” Provost Aidan Byrne told staff yesterday.

One of which is not money. “The university is yet to make a formal pay offer,” Professor Byrne said. This, he adds, is the fault of the feds. “We have been mindful of the current state of uncertainty with respect to university funding and the prospect of further cuts given the federal government’s failure to pass its higher education reform package this year.

And if MYEFO next week, includes less a funding cut than an evisceration (say a 10cent federal deposit on drink containers sold on campus) well what choice would UoQ have but to offer a lower pay-rise than it would like to?

But money isn’t the only outstanding issue at UoQ. CMM hears a job security clause in the next enterprise agreement is important for UoQ staff.

Natural selection

“The Special Research Initiatives scheme for funding commencing 2018 for PFAS (Per- And Poly-Fluoroalkyl Substances) Remediation Research Program is now open for proposals,” the Australian Research Council advises. Given the number of people who know what that means there won’t be too many competitors.

Take your pick

The new Queensland cabinet is brilliantly organised to encourage innovators with big ideas to stay clear of government. With three ministers on the patch the possibility of turf wars and time wasting seems less likely and more assured. Kate Jones has innovation in her portfolio, Mick de Brenni digital technology in his and Shannon Fentiman is responsible for training and skills development.

Griffith U makes an offer, but not one that impresses the union

Griffith University management is not monstered by MYEFO and has put a pay offer on the table just days ahead of expected government cuts.  The university is offering professional and academic staff $1350 or a 1.5 per cent increase to base pay, whichever is greater, on staff approving a new enterprise agreement. This would be followed by a 1.6 per cent rise in May 2019, a further $1350/1.5 per cent in June 2020 and 1.7 per cent in June 2021. They are on top of the 1.5 per cent administrative rise last May. The offer “is fair to staff, financially responsible and positions the university to face the challenges ahead,” DVC A Debra Henley and Peter Bryant VP, corporate, told staff yesterday.

However, the National Tertiary Education Union is not impressed, “Griffith is making significant productivity gains from the additional work being asked of staff by moving to a trimester system. They will also be generating significant additional revenue. This makes their offer doubly poor, but hopefully it is just an opening gambit,” Queensland state secretary Michael McNally says.

New head at AGSM

Nick Wailes is appointed the new head of the Australian Graduate School of Management, to take over in the new year. Professor Wailes moves from deputy dean, digital and innovation in the UNSW business school. In October highly regarded UNSW veteran and then head of the AGSM Julie Cogin resigned to move to the University of Queensland as business dean. AGSM academic director Clinton Free has acted since October.


Universities keen on casuals

Part-time and casual employees are the fastest growing segments of the higher education workforce, according to new federal figures for “actual casual staff 2016”. While full-time staff numbers were up one per cent in 2016 on 2015 (to 88 453) fractional full time numbers grew by 4.3 per cent (to 16 000) and casuals were up 3.9 per cent to 22 000.

The national average for casual staff as a per centage of total employment is 17. 5 per cent.

Universities where casual staff account for 20 per cent or more included:

Macquarie University (24 per cent) Southern Cross University (23.3 per cent), UTS (20.3 per cent), Western Sydney University (21.1 per cent), Swinburne U (32 .6 per cent), Victoria U (22.9 per cent), Bond U (27.8 per cent) and ACU (22.7 per cent).

UniCanberra appoints director of sport

Basketball Olympian Carrie Graf is the University of Canberra’s inaugural director of sport. Ms Graf will “oversee” UniCanberra’s Women’s National Basketball League team, the Capitals and its rugby sevens squad, plus working with on campus clubs and university-system games.

New research: young people rate universities, their parents, not so much

Young Australians rate university study but their older influencers are more sceptical of what a degree delivers, according to new research by higher education market analyst Tim Winkler.

Overall 90 per cent of Year 12 students surveyed said the quality of Australian universities was “good” or excellent” and 80 per cent believed an HE qualification would have the same impact in their getting a job. However, the gloss comes off once enrolled, with only 60 per cent of undergraduates rating a degree as a job generator and only half considering study good value.

Older people are ambivalent about the benefits of study. Overall 24 per cent of parents and teachers rate the value of a degree as “poor” or very poor, while acknowledging a qualification is important for young people in the job market.

The core message of Mr Winkler’s substantial study is education is linked inextricably to employment outcomes.

“Almost half of secondary school respondents said more work-place learning would increase the value of a university degree to them. This was clearly the standout area required to drive increased perceptions of value for all groups, regardless of gender, age or occupation.”

New engineer at UniSydney

The University of Sydney will have a new dean of engineering and IT in June when Willy Zwaenepoel takes over. He will move from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.

Curtin renews with Navitas

Curtin University has signed-on again with private provider Navitas which will run Curtin College until 2028 with a further five-year option. The college is now based on Curtin’s Perth campus at Bentley and teaches commerce, IT, engineering, built environment, creative industries, and health sciences. Students who complete college study qualify for entry to the second year of a bachelor degree. The partners plan to move the college to the new “Greater Curtin” precinct, expected to be ready in four years.

Navitas will also manage Curtin Singapore for another decade. The college offers undergraduate and PG degrees in health, nursing and business.