Macquarie management school to fold into faculty

Government adopts national research training plan

Western Sydney U staff fear fewer people means more work


Stirling on-song

Backed by a live band Colin Stirling sang Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” at a weekend Flinders alumni do in Jogjakarta. No, the vice chancellor did not miss his true vocation but you can’t fault him for being game.



What Twitter tells

University of Queensland IT expert Xue Li has predicted the US election outcome using an algorithm based on social media. The University of Queensland IT expert says short of something extraordinary occurring Hilary Clinton will win a close contest. His analysis includes running data from Twitter through multiple analyses. Good-o but aren’t conservatives so sparse in the Peoples Republic of the Twittersphere as to skew any sample?

Flushed with success

The QUT team has won the Global Business Challenge, an international competition for postgrad teams to develop practical solutions to real-life solutions, this year healthcare for remote communities. The QUT team beat competitors from Germany, Canada, England-Thailand and India, as well as the University of Melbourne (CMM November 3). Where most entries struck CMM as over-engineered and dependent on existing agencies QUT’s was smartly simple – a urine analysis app which sends specimens to distant labs for analysis. The QUT team wins $100 000 – perhaps they could spend some of it on a copywriter to come up with a new name for their product now known as “the smart toilet.” Investors may not like the idea of peeing money away.



Fed U growing at home and away

Federation University is expanding in Malaysia, as part of a bold growth strategy. According to DVC Engagement Todd Walker, the university and a local partner are opening a new campus in downtown Kuala Lumpur. The Malaysian Government has approved both college and courses. The new venue will offer Federation U degrees in business, IT and hospitality management, taught by staff accredited by the university. Fed U is hoping to build from a base of 170 students to 1000 in three years. With Malaysians focused on a free place at a public university the market for the new venture is students from South East Asia and India who want an Australian degree but cannot afford to come here to study.

The new venture is not the university’s sole growth focus. Professor Walker says Federation U will announce a new Australian based venture for the international market before the end of the year. He also expects major growth at Berwick, on the fast-growing southeast fringe of Melbourne, which the university took over from Monash U this year. He says as the city grows Berwick has the potential to be the biggest of the university’s seven campuses in five years.

Macquarie management school folds into faculty

Following a “convergence project” led by Vice Chancellor S Bruce Dowton, Macquarie University’s Management Graduate School will lose its independence in January. The MGSM will become a school of the Faculty of Business and Economics.

This was on the cards in June, when Professor Dowton said staff consultations had found; “deep and thoughtful integration with business and industry partners was identified as fundamental to the future of both the faculty and the school, along with a greater convergence of people, resources, activities and facilities,”  CMM June 9).

And now management has told staff; “consultation and subsequent analysis indicated that, like similar entities across Australia, the faculty and the school face pressures to respond to changes in the global business education market over the past decade. It also indicated that there are many areas of overlap where greater synergy and increased performance could be realised.”

From January the MGSM dean (Norma Harrison is now acting) will report to incoming faculty executive dean Stephen Brammer. A staff transition process is being developed and David Wilkinson (DVC Engagement) leads a team “exploring how best to work with corporate and external partners.”

The university states, “the name and brand of MGSM will be protected, preserved and enhanced within the overall context of the university.”

GSMs were once the bized moneymaker of choice among Australian universities but with the end of Macquarie’s the species is now close to extinct.

John Hay dead

Former University of Queensland VC John Hay is dead. Before taking over at St Lucia he was VC of Deakin U and DVC to Mal Logan at Monash. In his 1996-2007 term Professor Hay laid the foundations for UoQ’s growth, beginning with a major restructure when he arrived. It was immensely unpopular at the time, hugely successful later.


Better times for the survivors

While veteran bizoids at the Macquarie Graduate School of Management regret the end of its independence (above) some professional staff there are hoping that life will be better without it. The campus branch of the NTEU points out that administrators in the school have workplace conditions that are way worse than those set out in the university’s enterprise agreement (think pay and super, leave and dispute resolution.) MGSM staff have “no collective agreement. All conditions are in company policies which can be changed unilaterally by management and are not legally enforceable,” a union brief states. But once the MGSM becomes a line school of the business faculty surely the university’s enterprise agreement will apply, one observer of life in Lighthouse Land suggests. At least for staff who aren’t retrenched in the amalgamation.

Something to look forward to

Depressed by the prospect of a policy-free summer? Not to worry, it will soon pass – Universities Australia has already opened registrations for its Gen Next conference in March.

Tick for research training plan

The government has endorsed all six recommendations of the Australian Council of Learned Academies review of research training. This is not a complete surprise given Education Minister Simon Birmingham commissioned, and then launched the project back in April. The recommendations certainly suit the government’s applied research emphasis and Senator Birmingham’s emphases on student access to information about courses and assistance with employment. The six recommendations are: (i) a working party to implement the report, (ii) flexible entry to, duration of and funding for higher degrees, (iii) additional public funding for university-business collaboration to connect higher degree students to industry led research problems, (iv) a national industry placements programme for research doctoral candidates, (v) a data base of higher degree candidate completion, satisfaction and employment and (vi) funding to encourage indigenous Australians to undertake higher degrees.

Senator Birmingham says the working party to oversight implementation of the recommendations is already being established.

There was a deal of disquiet on Friday with research administrators worried about the absence of new money and fearing the recommendations will be rushed. But given people have had six months to get used to the plan, it seems ACOLA’s ideas will be acted on without much fuss.

Low-key cuts

With an early voluntary retirement scheme now closed staff at Western Sydney University worry who will do the extra work when the dearly departing leave. Staff fear that jobs will go unfilled and that a staff freeze and funding cuts imposed earlier this year will apply to positions emptied by the EVR.

WSU management has long been anxious to improve efficiency. In 2013 consultants Ernst and Young reviewed university administration and in 2014 Vice Chancellor Barney Glover retained the Nous Group to advise on implementing the E&Y plan. Then this February Professor Glover announced “services unlimited,” which was a redesign of IT, customer service, performance measurement and workplace culture. And now there are unhappy expectations of what the tightly held Project Essex will mean for administrators. Management promises advice to staff soon, which is expected to mean this month.

All of the exercises up to now scared staff who feared wholesale cuts would follow – but to date none ever has and by not replacing the 200 or so staff said to be set to leave WSU may hope to reduce head count without a big blue.

Whether the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union will see it that way is unlikely, if 200 jobs are lost or if people who took early retirement are replaced by casuals the union could claim a breach of the WSU enterprise agreement requirement for consultation on organisational change.


Set in stone

“The perfect gift” is how the University of Queensland describes the new “comprehensive guide to the sandstone centrepiece of the St Lucia campus.” The book is yours for $19.95 now but it will probably be less if it makes Target’s Christmas catalogue.

Super computing cooperation

The push for a new approach to the country’s number crunching capacity has added oomph. The Group of Eight’s submission to the research infrastructure roadmap called for “ “more streamlined governance arrangements,” for the National Computational Infrastructure and the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre (CMM September 23). ANU’s submission to the roadmap also calls for “a national advanced computing service, “to provide infrastructure of a scale and performance” and suggests the NCI and Pawsey “provide building blocks.”

However Murdoch University’s roadmap submission argued while “a stronger alliance,” between Pawsey and NCI is needed; “it is important that both facilities have autonomy that reflects the operational contribution that are made by partners at each site (including universities and state governments and their agencies).” Of course, it all could be academic. A learned reader suggests Pawsey’s board is concerned that it could be out of business without a $100m “capital refresh” by 2018.