Good luck with that

RMIT economist Steven Kates worries “far too many tertiary students, are ignorant of the economic realities about free market, prosperity and political freedom.” So, he has written a pamphlet for the Centre for Independent Studies, on the importance of markets in increasing prosperity and protecting freedom, which “aims to cover the knowledge gap he commonly sees in university students.” Good luck with that, to paraphrase the King James Bible, Mark, Six: Four, a prophet can be ignored in their own classroom.

VC Lloyd launches work on a programme-based UniSA structure

The University of South Australia will not restructure and then stop; “structure is a means to a managerial end, it’s not the definition of us. It has to be workable and it should enable our stated ambition,” VC David Lloyd tells staff. And what he wants to do is much bigger than changing reporting lines and budget holders.

what this is about: The plan (CMM January 21), Vice Chancellor David Lloyd tells staff, in a briefing on reconfiguring the university, is “to pivot our structure and organisation around our core products. And to organise ourselves in this fashion.”

Following the senior staff conference last week, Professor Lloyd has set out the foundations of a new model for the university, based on its academic programmes;

“we want fewer operational silos and we want them to be built around programmes. We want to strengthen programme leadership. We want academics spending their time on teaching and research. Whatever academic structure we describe therefore has to be appropriately supported by corporate and academic professional services. We have to get the academic structure right first, aligned to our ambition – programme focus, fewer silos – and then we make sure the services structure is right.”

Professor Lloyd floats a key new role, programme deans, senior staff, “who have ownership and leadership of our most valuable assets – our curriculum.”

And he suggests an end to existing academic operating units; “we don’t have schools. We have new groupings of academics, built around programmes, with programme deans providing academic leadership and focused on programs.”

Where things are now: The senior staff conference came up with multiple models of programme-based (generally seven) operating units working together and, “the experiment demonstrated that we can cluster programmes to describe (a) new structure. The principles provide boundary conditions for future roles and responsibilities within that structure,” Lloyd says.

What happens next: There will be a second pass at a new model in April, undertaken by “a very large number of staff – and students.”

Then – and only then – we will be in a position to effect a change. When we have worked it all through and thought about it. When we have taken the input of the wider university community on populating a new structure and when we all understand it and how we are going to get to it. So – no secrets. No determination. Just one team – building a new enterprise. Watch this space,” Professor Lloyd says.

Funding of the day

MRFF money in the west: Yesterday Health Minister Greg Hunt announced $10m for the National Phenome Centre, located Murdoch University and involving all the WA universities. It is, “set to revolutionise the diagnosis, prevention and precision treatment of numerous medical conditions.”

The money comes from the Medical Research Future Fund which is no nowhere near its $20bn capital target but is already a success-what with the announcements it makes possible for ministers.

SA Govt invests in entrepreneurs: The South Australian government announces a $28m fund “to help new and existing entrepreneurs start and scale their innovative early-stage business.” Universities, independent research institutes and state government research bodies all qualify.

Uni Queensland staff respond to Ramsay Civ Centre proposal (they aren’t enthusiastic)

The proposal for Ramsay Civ Centre funded degrees at the University of Queensland are not going down a treat with all staff. Yesterday a meeting of National Tertiary Education Union members on campus rejected Ramsay representatives sitting on selection panels for university staff.  The meeting also “overwhelmingly,” agreed on, “the need for UQ to uphold its commitments to equity, diversity, and inclusion, including commitments to action over reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander First Nations people, gender equity, and equal respect for persons of non-English-speaking backgrounds, and rejects the proposition that the stated objectives of advocates of the Ramsay Centre can be reconciled with these commitments.”

The meeting called on management to withdraw the expression of interest it has lodged with the Ramsay Centre.

This is pretty much in-line with staff discussions elsewhere at the university. Similar issues were addressed at an Academic Board meeting Monday and 250 staff have discussed the Ramsay deal at meetings in the humanities and social sciences faculty. In a note to HASS staff, executive dean Heather Zwicker reports the meetings discussed the same issues, notably, “why does the Ramsay Centre need a seat on hiring, if they respect institutional autonomy?”

Professor Zwicker adds whether, or on what terms the Ramsay Centre could have a role at the university, is “the most challenging issue of my career so far.”

“There is no question that the humanities need reinvestment. And we need to look outward: we need to engage our publics and excite our students by being more global, more Indigenous, more digital, more collaborative and more contemporary. We need humanities for the future. If we can get there with this gift, it will be transformational. The most difficult question of them all might be how.”

Last night a UoQ spokesperson responded to the union meeting; “The university has shared extensive information with staff and student representatives about the proposed Ramsay Centre partnership. This engagement process is providing valuable feedback. … So far, UQ has chosen not to make public comment during the engagement period to allow staff to freely express their views.”

Uni union budget bid: “eventually” eliminate student fees and restore public funding now

The National Tertiary Education Union’s budget bid urges the government to reverse course on HE funding. “Rather than treating public expenditure on higher education and research as a fool-proof investment opportunity, recent Australian governments of both political persuasions have used higher education as something from which to extract major budgetary savings.”

The union adds the, “high degree of uncertainty” in tertiary education funding and regulation also means Australia needs an independent agency to prevent inconsistent policy and “opportunistic funding cuts.”

And it says student fees for Commonwealth Supported student Places should “eventually” be eliminated. In the meantime, the repayment threshold for study debt should rise to average weekly earnings.

Among many other measures, the union also calls for;

* a restoration of public funding for each student enrolled

* indexation based on the now discontinued HE grants index

* an increase in R&D funds, to 2.5 per cent of GDP and more autonomy for researchers

* “financial incentives” for universities to “reduce their reliance on casual and limited term staff

* returning real public funding for VET student places to the 2012 per hour figure

* “severely restrict access” funding for non-TAFE training providers, except for “identified courses skills shortage”

Appointments, achievements

David Bottomley is awarded a Curtin PHD for his thesis on the introduction of science into the 19th century English school curriculum. Curtin states that at 94, Dr Bottomley is Australia’s oldest-PhD graduate.

Ken Harvey is the new president of Friends of Science in Medicine, which campaigns against, “unscientific health practices and fraudulent health claims.” He replaces UNSW emeritus professor of medicine, John Dwyer. Dr Harvey is an associate professor in Monash U’s department of epidemiology and preventive medicine.

Ryan Ko joins the University of Queensland as professor of cyber security. He moved from the University of Waikato.