Why a duck?

CMM correspondent Chico Marx reports the University of Wollongong distributing a photo of a badelynge on the floor of a campus Subway sandwich outlet. No, he does not know why.

Government gets a tick

If Simon Birmingham had endorsed motherhood last year some university leaders would have complained about under-funding of obstetrics education. But Universities Australia believes in giving credit where it is due. On Friday UA announced, “universities are pleased the government has reached a landmark agreement to recognise university qualifications between Australia and key Asia-Pacific nations.” Australia ratified the Tokyo Convention that does this in 2012. Last week Japan and South Korea joined Australia, China and New Zealand.

CRC programme reviewed, again

Cooperative Research Centre round 19 interviews are on this week but alarmed observers wonder whether it will be the last, what with the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science commissioning ARTD Consultants to review the programme.

Again. CMM counts eight CRC reviews, most recently a very positive one in 2015 by David Miles. This new effort appears to be born of his suggestion to investigate links with the Industry Growth Centres Programme, but ARTD’s questions go much further, asking people interviewed if they have “concerns in relation to the efficiency of the CRC programme.” So is the CRC programme singled out? Innovation agenda observers say they  know of no review underway of the growth centres or other applied research programmes.

But not everyone’s a critic. Last week’s Innovation and Science Australia 2030 roadmap recommended, encouraging investment in research programs “that directly support activity in areas of competitive strength and strategic priority,” including CRCs and CRC Projects.

MOOC of the morning

A four-unit course on learning Excel starts today, from Macquarie U, via Coursera. It’s led by Yvonne Breyer, director of teaching and learning in BusEco and Coursera claims, “at a time when digital skills jobs are growing much faster than non-digital jobs, completing this specialisation will position you way ahead of others.”

Good-o, but isn’t this what was once VET territory, teaching how to plug numbers into a spreadsheet, as distinct from educating students in where the numbers should come from and what they demonstrate? At Macquarie they appear to keen to demonstrate they can do both.

Engineering dean for UniMelb

In July Mark Cassidy will become dean of the Melbourne School of Engineering, moving from professor and director of the Centre for Offshore Foundation Systems at the University of Western Australia.

For the ages

The latest classicist honoured in Lego is Cambridge University’s Mary Beard. The  collection is the work of Sydney historical archivist Liam Jensen-Kohl, who creates mini-figures of people “who work in the discipline of ancient world study.”

Nearly but not quite: still no enterprise agreement at UoQ

After a year of bargaining, University of Queensland management and the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union are close to a deal, but not close enough. Observers say both sides worked hard at a meeting late last month and settled a bunch of outstanding matters. But as Provost Aidan Byrne told staff in a Friday email; “while the parties have reached an understanding on the majority of issues, regrettably there are a number of critical matters that remain unresolved.” CMM hears there are three – one is money and that will not be sorted until there is a deal on two others.

Management wants the span of campus working hours to be seven to seven, to provide student support, which the union is reluctant to accept.

The university is also keen on simplifying misconduct and performance matters by reducing grounds for appeal of decisions to matters of process and new information, instead of a committee reviewing afresh all aspects of a decision. However, the union is said to be adamantly opposed to this.

As to money, management is sticking with its proposal for combined cash and per centage pay rises, as a way of ensuring lower paid staff do best and has improved its January offer (CMM January 19) to the equivalent of 1.7 per cent per annum for four years. The question is whether management will up its offer if the union agrees to simplifying the discipline process.

The NTEU bargaining team is expected to brief members on Wednesday.

UniAdelaide NTEU on business dean’s departure

Last November Christmas Mark Gabbott resigned as the University of Adelaide dean of business, and left days later. Faculty of Professions head Christopher Findlay  “thanked Mark for his important contribution” and “on behalf of the faculty wish him all the best for his future,” but nothing further was said (CMM November 30).

However, the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union now tells members that Professor Gabbott departed “just days” after it wrote to Professor Findlay. The union wanted Gabbott’s proposed workload model cancelled, claiming it breached Enterprise Agreement consultation requirements.

But there was also a bunch of other things the NTEU did not like, including structural and personnel changes and what it says was Professor Gabbott’s commercial focus. “The changes were only tacitly endorsed by staff who failed to embrace the rationale behind them which was largely speculative and commercially driven.”

The union adds; “managers who fail to listen and respond to staff will never be successful and NTEU members who stick together and act collectively can and do solve problems.” University management had no comment on the union statement.

Speak up Cortana!

Microsoft and RMIT are partnering on “next-generation capabilities” for digital assistant Cortana. Mark Sanderson leads the university team. Perhaps they should have a look at upping the volume – Cortana is rarely heard over the din from Siri and Alexa.

Early start

Last September University of Canterbury VC Rod Carr announced he would go at the end of his second term, next February. The university is making the most of his long goodbye, with the job advertisement already out there.

Beijing fellowship

University of Tasmania plant scientist Steven Smith is awarded an international fellowship by the Chinese Academy of Science. He will use it to work in Beijing next year on genetics of grain production.

Supporters of TAFE turning the tables

The Senate committee inquiry into the South Australian TAFE shambles held its sole hearing on Friday afternoon in Sydney. People appearing were Mark Paterson from ASQA, John Quiggin from the University of Queensland, a prominent critic of markets in training, TAFE Directors Association head Craig Robertson, Jenny Briggs from Business SA and John Buchanan from the University of Sydney.
The training community now waits the committee’s report, although CMM suspects Professor Buchanan’s submission will appeal to the committee’s Labor-Green majority;
“Currently in vocational education there is no anchor. TAFE used to be the anchor – but no longer. The challenge is not to get back to some mythical golden age. Rather, the challenge is to revitalise a strong public vocational education system built around a renewed TAFE to provide an anchor appropriate for today’s world. This will not be achieved by TAFE SA getting more resources for so-called ‘community service obligations’ or tightening up its ability to confirm with the requirements of training packages. It requires a new bi-partisan commitment to revitalisation of vocational education as a quality option for the very large proportion of people who don’t go to university and the growing numbers of university graduate who take vocational education courses.”