On-message at Macquarie U

Management does not want to waste people’s time with what it thinks is irrelevant information

When staff log-on to the Macquarie U intranet they get a screen asking if they are either, “academic” or “professional” staff.  The university wants to know, “to help deliver you personalised content.”

And apparently, you can’t press both options, which, a learned reader suggests many staffers are, combining teaching with all sorts of professional staff jobs.  “What if you miss out on the necessary content because you’ve selected the ‘wrong’ staff type? Enquiring academic-professional minds want to know,” the LR remarks.

There’s more in the Mail

Kym Fraser (Swinburne U) on why university teachers need to be qualified to teach, is this week’s feature in CMM’s series on what education needs now.

Plus, David Myton’s regular wrap on what’s going on in the sector overseas

Curtin U announces a start for major campus property project

An astute observer (all-right, ’twas CMM) once suggested there’s an inner entrepreneur in Western Australia uni leaders

It certainly seems so at Curtin U, which announces this morning a 35-year $300m development deal with InfraRed Capital Partners which will design, finance, build and operate infrastructure on the Bentley campus. Construction starts in August.

The Exchange project includes 1000 student beds, a hotel, 38 apartments, plus commercial and retail space. Apparently, it will be, “a new urban heart in Perth’s south – a place to meet, learn, work and live, where people come first.”

According to VC Deborah Terry, Exchange is a unique higher-education development, because it, will bring different industries into a “community destination.

It’s a big idea, which appeals to other universities, Flinders U announced something similar last week, a student and health services development (

CMM, June 4). And guess where Flinders VC Colin Stirling used to work – he was provost at Curtin U.

Research lost in code breakers

Another peak body says research codes don’t currently cut it – as for the future, try AI.

The research classification review (CMM March 25) should drop the six-digit specialist-discipline category, the Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities recommend in a submission to administering ANZ agencies;

“classification at the six-digit fields can at times be arbitrary (e.g. where no six-digit field suitably describes the activity, researchers or administrators are forced to select from a range of equally unsuitable codes), or unnecessarily complex (e.g. where multiple six-digit fields are appropriate within the same four-digit group),” DASH states.

The allocation of six-digit codes also “submerges” research streams and is, “no way reflective of the current state or directions of literary or historical studies.”  DASH points to “postcolonial” and “transnational” research as areas that are lost. Pedantically precise codes also create nonsensical classifications, “such as 200501 (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature) and 200502 (Australian Literature excluding ATSI Literature)”.  To ensure ATSI and related research does not disappear in the coding confusion, DASH suggests, “an optional tick-box or supplementary code level to indicate that the research activity relates to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Māori, and/or Pacific Peoples.”

As to identifying inter-disciplinary research; “codes could be introduced as a two-digit division to capture inter/multidisciplinary research, however some members considered revising entirely the basis for the taxonomy and working with data scientists to design new classification methods to be a better option.”
In the future it may not people doing the designing. While such “may be overly ambitious now,” “the task of research classification could be more effectively achieved and efficiently undertaken were it to draw on techniques arising from advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science.”  DASH accordingly recommends regulators “refine and improve the classification system through the current exercise with a view to developing an automated classification system in future.”

CQU to partner in a med school

The Queensland government wants a med ed programme on the university’s patch

CQU is on track to get the medical school it wants, but it will have to share.

Yesterday’s Queensland state budget includes work continuing for a four-year post-graduate medical school programme. Partners are the regional Wide Bay (Bundaberg) and Central Queensland (Rockhampton) health and hospital services, University of Queensland and CQU, pretty much as expected, (CMM March 22).

But where will the 33 medical training places come from you ask? From the federal government keen to do well in Queensland, again, in the next election, CMM suggests.

Consequences to come when young academics have no path from the precariat

And yet professional staff Monash U researchers warn

Quality higher education in Australia depends on a pipeline of “fully rounded academics”, but management responses to the challenge of providing them are “reactive and haphazard,” Paul Richardson and Amanda Heffernan (both Monash U) write for the Australian Association for Research in Education.

They set out a bunch of problems, including;

* a coming shortage of academics

* management relying on sessional, fixed-term and contract staff

* “excessive workload demands, intrusive managerialism and bureaucratic reporting requirements

There is more of the same, but what is especially interesting is the distinction the authors identify between the condition of young scholars caught in the academic precariat and professional staff.

“New types of professional staff appointments have grown exponentially and found secure positions within universities as student advisers, HR managers, teaching and learning advisers, technical staff to manage digital technologies, academic advisers or facilitators to administer teaching programs in ‘flexible’ modes, including technology mediated on-line teacher-less classrooms, and most recently, the emergence of practice professionals who teach but are not expected to contribute to the research endeavour.

“There are irrevocable tensions that will continue to build in the university higher education workforce, between academic and professional staff who are appointed to ongoing positions with a career path and prospects, versus the short-term, contracted, sessional academic appointments, who are not offered a career path, creating a sense of existential precariousness with few future prospects,” they argue.

Queensland budget delivers not much

Good thing the state does not describe itself as “the smart state” anymore

The Queensland budget reveals TAFE continues struggle, with funding down but staff and financial costs up.

Overall TAFE is expected to run a $38m deficit next year on $638m revenues – and that is with fees and charges budget to increase by $200m. Most of the hike is due to accounting changes but the government, is budgeting for revenue from a “targeted increase in training activity,” that, and a, “CPI price increase to cover some of TAFE Queensland’s annual wage indexation costs.”

Buried in the budget are:
* $5.5 million for a micro-credential pilot “to support industry-led skills development”

* a “higher level apprenticeship pilot for “layer” specialised skills and knowledge in apprenticeship mode, which sounds interesting but without allocated funding will only be that

The $70m innovation budget includes funds to,

* start work on an industry robotics cluster covering, mining, defence and environment

* appoint an entrepreneur in residence

* create the Advance Queensland Economic Council, “to oversee action and champion innovation”

* promote start-ups and SMEs to international investors


Monash U unionists, briefly to the barricades

Union members at Monash U were out for an hour or so yesterday and they are going out again today

The two 73-minute stop-works are to highlight the National Tertiary Education Union’s claim that 73 per of academic and professional staff at the university are in “insecure work”. Improving opportunities for the precariat is one of the union’s issues in bargaining for a new Monash U enterprise agreement, which (seems likes) commenced in 1848.

Few happy birthday returns for VET

The Queen’s Birthday hons list has many, many medicos (as usual) but few voced experts

There were but a handful of people from the VET community in the Queen’s Birthday honours list – compared to the legions of medical researchers and practitioners.  It speaks volumes, a learned reader suggests, about the self-image and community standing of the two communities. The medicos are undoubtedly high in community standing, and their friends are also organised in making the case for recognition. Neither it seems, applies to VET. Time for the training community to get itself organised.

Appointments, achievements

 Sabina Shugg is appointed director of Curtin U’s WA School of Mines. Ms Shugg moves from director of the Kalgoorlie-Boulder Mining Innovation Hub. She takes over following a review of the school and the university retaining mining education expert David Brereton, (ex Uni Queensland) to develop a new curriculum, (CMM April 18).

UNSW dean of built environment Helen Lochead receives the presidential medal from the American Institute of Architects. Professor Lochead is the new national president of the Australian Institute of Architects.

Jennifer Stow (Uni Queensland) is elected associate member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation. Associate membership is the category for researchers ex-Europe. UQ says she is the seventh Australia to ever join.

Former South Australia Chief Scientist Leanna Reed joins the board of Uni Seed. Dr Reed is chair and CEO of the Cooperative Research Centre for Cell Therapy Manufacturing.  Uni Seed is a JV of the universities of Sydney, Melbourne, Queensland, plus UNSW and CSIRO.

Jacqui True (Monash U) receives the Feminist Theory & Gender Studies section of the International Studies Association’s 2020 eminent scholar award.

Peter Harrison (Uni Queensland) is elected a member of the International Academy of the History of Science. Professor Harrison is director of the university’s Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities.

The Independent Higher Education Association of Australia has new board leaders and members, (it’s the lobby formally known as the Council of Private Higher Education). Alan Finch (Bond U) is the new chair. Gabriela Rodriguez, (Academies Australasia Group) is deputy. Jo Anthonysz, (Navitas) James Adonopolous (Kaplan Business School) also join the board.