Plus union says UniSuper shouldn’t “do the bidding of Malcolm Turnbull and his banking mates”

And how blockchain can empower researchers and replace journals

Old money

A cyber pedlar is hawking a hoodie emblazoned with, “never underestimate an old man who graduated from the University of Sydney.” The huge success of UniSyd’s fundraising from generally senior alumni demonstrates it never does.


Equity lobby steps up

Finally supporters of the Higher Education Partnerships and Participation Programme are responding to the real risk that it will be cancelled in the budget (CMM April 7). Until now supporters of the Office of Learning and Teaching, which is being closed, have made the running demanding the government honour the commitment to create a successor institution. But now Equity Practitioners in Higher Education Australasia is petitioning Education Minister Simon Birmingham.

HEPPP has demonstrably contributed to widening university participation, enabling disadvantaged students to experience the transformational effects of higher education and contribute to their communities as well as national productivity. … there are challenges associated with funding a high quality Higher Education system. However, we believe that only with continued support of HEPPP and related equity programs will the government be able to fulfil its vision and mandate for innovation and equity in higher education.”

Universities with big exposures to the equity market are also picking up the pace. Federation U warns that HEPPP outreach programmes are the “only source of funding for supporting access to tertiary study, and especially to lower soci0-economic status communities.” And in a not especially subtle signal to government MPs and senators who hold or cover regional electorates, the university adds HEPPP “partnerships and collaborations operate in every electorate.”

CMM suspects that while there will be budget incentives for universities to reduce attrition, notably among disadvantaged students, the full $150m HEPPP is gone to Gowings.

All right on the night

Thanks to a reader for a pointer out one of many highlights of last week’s Quality in Postgraduate Research conference in Adelaide. They are McCulloch’s (as in Alistair McCulloch from the University of South Australia) three laws of conferences.

The third is the one to remember: “no matter how many catastrophes the organisers think have occurred during the course of a conference, as long as the venue does not explode or self-combust the delegates will all assume that everything happened as it was planned”.

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Hard facts for tough times

Some 13 per cent of environmental and medical laboratory scientists plus 22 per cent of voced teachers believe their job security is “very poor,” according to Roy Morgan research. Given what is going on at CSIRO, grant rates at NHMRC and with VET FEE HELP this is more realism than pessimism

NTEU slams UniSuper

Last week UniSuper CEO Kevin O’Sullivan came out against talk of a royal commission in the banks, suggest it would be a “distraction for management”. Funnily enough, the statement is missing on the fund’s web page, but the AFR reported it here. Mr O’Sullivan upset the National Tertiary Education Union which shattered the peace of ANZAC Day with a thundering denunciation by national president Jeannie Rea.

The statement, she says, was made without board approval and Ms Rea wonders whether it was born of problems in the fund or if it was just politically motivated. “UniSuper members pay UniSuper management millions of dollars each year to manage our money. They should not be blundering into federal politics at such a sensitive time. The decision to issue the media release is politically naïve. Fund members certainly don’t pay UniSuper executives millions of dollars to do the bidding of Malcolm Turnbull and his banking mates,” she said.

Um, what was that bit about “blundering into federal politics?”

But Ms Rea had another point to make that; “none of this would have happened if UniSuper members had a real voice in its operation.  But unfortunately, we do not.”

Apart that is, from the two union nominees on the fund’s board, NTEU national secretary Grahame McCulloch and CPSU official, Neville Kitchin.

Overall rank and file university staff who are UniSuper members also have other representatives.

The fund’s board consists of two directors nominated by vice chancellors of member universities, a director nominated by each of the two main university unions, three independent directors nominated by the board, one director representing management and one representing members who are both nominated by a consultative committee. This committee consists of four members from every participating university, two representing the employer plus one elected by academics and another by professional staff. This makes for an overall membership of 144 members.

If anybody wants to tell Mr O’Sullivan to pull his head in should it not be the consultative committee?


UoQ’s Acme translator

How do you say “Down with imperialist lackey Wile E Coyote! Study the “mmeeps” of Comrade Roadrunner!” in Chinese languages? CMM has no clue but the University of Queensland’s Confucius Institute will know. The CI is providing Chinese language and culture courses to employees at Village Roadshow theme parks on the Gold Coast, including one with a Roadrunner rollercoaster. Visitors from China now account for 20 per cent of the total, UoQ says

Blockchain to bust pubishers

Open access journals replacing for-profit publishers charging for content they do not pay for is yesterday’s solution to restrictions on research access if a paper by Jason Potts (RMIT) and colleagues from Curtin and Swinburne universities turns out to be correct.

The emphasis of their argument is that journals are best understood as a club, which in economic theory “refers to the formation of groups of people who share a common concern, who are willing to pool their common resources and specialisation-skills, and act in concert in pursuit of ‘shared externalities’.” However, in the past members of scholarly clubs have had not had much choice to outsourcing the production of their work, plus the infrastructure of content and prestige metrics to commercial publishers.

But, and this is the bit that surely matters most, clubs in the imminent future will not need for-profit publishers, they will not even need journals. Instead they could, or will, use blockchains to submit, peer-review, publish and assess articles, with every participant in the process, authors, editors, reviewers and authorisers, being rewarded by a token system.

“Such technologies could also be used to authenticate academic works that have been through the process of peer-review and editorial acceptance. If a scholarly work has been assigned the value of ‘accepted’ on the blockchain, then the need for physical or digital journal artefacts diminishes. It is foreseeable that an author could distribute a work through whatever means they feel is appropriate (for instance a university repository) and be assured that it possesses identifiers that prove the knowledge club (journal) has accepted the work. Those same identifiers could be used for searching, effectively bundling club knowledge outputs from across a distributed system.”

“The journal itself,” the authors argue “may not be necessary, reducing or eliminating production costs altogether.”

Not talking about that generation

The New Generation Network of universities is offering a total of ten three year postdocs via the Australia India Institute. But its not the NGN readers with long memories might recall. The New Generation of Network lobby group for Australian universities founded since 1970 folded a decade back. This new generation includes institutions that are ancient. Members are: Deakin U, QUT, UniMelbourne, LaTrobe U and UNSW.