Trust no one

The Australian Cyber Security Research Institute at Edith Cowan University has a homepage link to its board membership. Clicking it yesterday produced a “not secure” site warning.

Trickle-down effect

The ambitious restructure of the Swinburne University library and student support services ( CMM September 12) is off to a slow start.

The consultation period, and with dozens of jobs involved there is plenty to consult about, was supposed to conclude on Friday, but it has now blown out to October 13. The university still plans to have the new structure in place by December.

“We have had some wonderful ideas come through from all parts of Swinburne which has been amazing,” student administration and library services director Michelle Gillespie told staff Friday. Ms Gillespie also asked “people leaders”, to encourage feedback “so can you please cascade this to your teachers and academics,” she asked.

Women in maths meet

The Women in Mathematics Special Interest Group convenes  in Adelaide this morning its first-ever conference. The event includes dozens of presentations on subjects mathematicians will understand. Plenary speakers are Kerrie Mengersen (QUT), Christine O’Keefe (CSIRO), Malabika Pramanik ( U British Columbia) and Ami Radunskaya (Pomona College).

WIMSIG believes this conference will play a really important role in advancing gender equity in Australian mathematical sciences” organisers observe.

Macquarie U warns student IT system functions at “immediate risk”

Macquarie U management is proposing to update its student admin IT system. It pulls no punches explaining the need

With a 16 year old system, including “processes, positions and responsibilities” that “have remained static” since introduction, IT leaders argue the university lags behind student and academics expectations for “ ‘anytime, anywhere’ access to services and resources.

Management also argues having four “functionally diverse teams, … providing services to different stakeholders” is unsustainable.

And then there are the indispensable IT-ers, “with several key dependencies on individual staff.”

Significant progress has been made in documenting the operational processes and providing training in documenting the operational processes and in providing training to university staff in specialist areas. However… “ (and it is less a huge than Himalayan however), “the combination of the absence of documentation and key persons dependencies presents an immediate risk to critical high volume functions supporting students.”

So, everybody clear on that – the system is so old it is coded in Aramaic and if a few people get the flu it starts running via abacus.

So, what is to be done? Gosh, who would have thought – the university is proposing a spill and fill, with 14 jobs to go and 13 to be created. But even if everybody on the org chart now makes the cut it will cost some of them money, with five HEW eight staff positions going and only three created.

Macquarie observers say this is all reminiscent of the 2016 central IT restructure when 60 positions were spilled (CMM April 18 2016).

All their own work

A learned reader advises October 18 is the International action day against contract cheating. Just the due date for a test/assignment on why academic honesty must be mandatory.

More to law than practise: ANU’s Thornton calls for diversity in courses

Less than half law graduates work in private practice, so why do all of Australia’s 40 law schools teach the Priestley Eleven subjects admission authorities require, ANU’s Margaret Thornton asks.

“A liberal legal education that focuses on critical thinking, values, principles and ethics in the context of diverse curricula offerings undoubtedly provides a superior education for law students, as well as constituting better preparation for a range of positions in a context of dynamic and uncertain social change,” she argues in a new essay in a collection on law reform from the excellent ANU Press.*

And she suggests separating admission and academic requirements, with a national exam for graduates who want to practise.

This might not be the easiest sell to all legal academics. One of the criticisms Deakin law school staff made of their former dean’s broad approach to curricula was whether all the international academics he hired could teach the Priestley Eleven (CMM January 20).

*Ron Levy, Molly O’Brien, Simon Rice, Pauline Ridge and Margaret Thornton (eds) New Directions for Law in Australia: Essays in Contemporary Law Reform (ANU Press @ )

Edith Cowan U and partners win cyber security CRC

The federal government has announced a new Cooperative Research Centre in Cyber Security with $139m in public and private resources over seven years.

The statement by Assistant Industry Minister Craig Laundy did not provide details on the 25 industry, research and government partners however on Sunday Edith Cowan U declared it and the WA state government are lead partners in a project “that is expected to position Western Australia as the nation’s new centre for cyber research and capacity building.”

This is serious money compared to ECU’s last cyber security cheque from the feds. Back in June ECU and the University of Melbourne were awarded a shared $1.9m over four years for “academic centres of cyber security excellence.”

ECU’s Australian Cyber Security Research Institute led the bid with other participating universities believed to include, Adelaide, Charles Sturt, Deakin, QUT and UNSW.

Another leadership move at UNSW

A learned reader points to another senior staff change at UNSW. Daniel Beecham has joined the university as chief digital officer. Mr Beecham was previously CIO at Woolworths in Australia and UK supermarket chain W M Morrison. He replaced Conrad MacKenzie, who served for a year in the role. Last week CMM reported the departure of Peter Noble, chief of staff to the vice chancellor.

Union working with what it’s got

There is a national hook-up tomorrow for university staff to hear from the National Tertiary Education Union how terrible is the Fair Work Commission decision to cancel the application of Murdoch University’s expired agreement. This, union leaders will explain could encourage universities across the country to use the safety net conditions of the HE industry award as a basis for new agreements.

But while the union thinks this is crook it has not done anything to overturn it – failing to appeal the Murdoch decision in the allowed time, arguing instead that the FWC “rules are broken. Union watchers suggest this is because Commissioner Williams closely argued decision would survive any appeal to the full bench.

Instead the NTEU leadership is working to make it too much trouble for university managements to go the Murdoch way. Last week state and federal officials got involved in negotiations at the University of Sydney, which headed-off a rank and file revolt over accepting a management enterprise proposal.

This sent a strong signal to VCs across the country, play ball with the union and its leaders will work with you. Excluding outliers, such as James Cook U where relations between management and union are toxic, the union hopes for more pay deals around the 2 per cent per annum mark settled on at Sydney but without the slimmed down employment conditions the management IR lobby is pushing for.

This will not stop the NTEU making the case to the vast majority of university staff who are not union members that the Murdoch decision makes the case for their joining.

“The Murdoch decision affects all university staff, so meetings are open to all university staff, regardless of union membership. The reality is though that our best protection against management aggression is to stick together in a strong union. Only the NTEU can bring university staff together in this way,” union assistant national secretary Matthew McGowan said yesterday.

Applaud Murdoch U says VC’s group

The Australian Higher Education Industrial Association says Murdoch U should be congratulated not castigated for its win in the Fair Work Commission

Murdoch University should be applauded, not castigated, for seeking the changes it has through the processes available under the Fair Work Act. And let us be clear about a few important matters. Murdoch University has made it very clear that it is not seeking to drop people’s pay. Indeed, it offered pay increases in its bargaining negotiations. Similarly, Murdoch University has not sought to extinguish other key employment entitlements. Its focus has been on the removal of process prescriptions such as those that impact on the ability of the university to effectively manage change, workload allocation, staff disciplinary matters, and disputes about the operation of the agreement,” AHEIA is advising member universities.

This is core business for the association which hopes universities will push for simplified working conditions in the present round of enterprise negotiations.

“We need modern enterprise agreements – not enterprise agreements that retain federal award prescriptions that date back 25-30 years and which have overlays of bureaucracy built upon through six or seven rounds of bargaining,” AHEIA Executive Director Stuart Andrews says.


To the barricades

Richard Hil (adjunct professor, Griffith University) is back, with a guide to achieving the post-neo liberal academy. Connoisseurs of campus crisis will remember Dr Hil for his analysis of university unhappiness Whackademia (2012) and now, with UoQ sociologist Kristen Lyons, he suggests ways of subverting the “corporate takeover of universities.”

“Many of the acts of resistance we have identified aim to enable academics to remain in the system—not simply to ‘survive’ but to change that system,” they write in a new paper, circulated by the NTEU.

They propose, among many others:

*          “chipping away at neoliberal practices through committees and other sites of governance

*          avoidance tactics such as simply not attending meetings

*          set lower performance targets in workload negotiations, argue for alternative decision-making processes, defend those on contracts, insist on tea breaks and staff meetings, and turn off their computers and go home.