Is this a record?

From the UK comes news that The Independent newspaper broke embargo on the Times Higher Education university ranking by 24 hours (report below-now the embargo has lifted).

How you read the rankings

VC Glyn Davis used the Times Higher Education ranking, in which his University of Melbourne rates really well, to explain why the Melbourne model, of general undergrad and specialist masters degrees, should stay. “The University of Melbourne has climbed up the THE and other rankings in recent years in part due to the move to the Melbourne Model. … This world-class model is being jeopardised by the reform plans to be discussed in federal parliament this week,” he said.

And Group of Eight chief executive Vicki Thomson points to THE commentary accompanying the rankings that, funding cuts could make things tough in the future, especially given the rise of Chinese universities. “It would be hard to find a clearer independent warning. Our universities cannot continue to deliver against the financial odds and we are now facing funding cuts, the most severe in 20 years,   that affect our students directly and through our budgets the education we can provide for them,” she said last night.

On the other hand Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the THE result showed why the changes he wants are essential. “It’s clear that Australian universities punch above their weight on the international stage. … (but) In a competitive world Australia and our universities cannot rest on their laurels. We need to adapt and respond to student needs and ensure our universities are set up for the future.”

You work with what you have.

Medical research institutes lag on SAGE gender equity

The Science in Australia Gender Equity initiative reports six independent medical research institutes are participating in its pilot evaluation and accreditation framework of improvement in gender equity policies and practises. The association of Australian medical research institutes has 47 members.

This may not surprise people who remembers the reported response of MRIs to a National Health and Medical Research Council survey on womens’ research careers back in 2014. There were what the NHMRC considered inadequate answers in institute responses, when they responded at all.

“This is quite simply, unacceptable. While we understand that some institutions may have misunderstood the significance of the request and may not have responded with all available information, we also received some unfortunate responses – one institution for example said that they were ‘too small’ to have a gender equity policy,” NHMRC Research Grants Director Saraid Billiards said (Campus Morning Mail July 15 2014). 

The MRIs participating in SAGE are, Baker IDI, Burnet Institute, George Institute, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, Telethon Kids Institute, Walter and Eliza Hall.

Curtin lawyer appointed

Eileen Webb from Curtin U’s law school is appointed a part time commissioner at the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia.

It comes down to who can count

James Cook U management is putting its wage offer to a staff vote, without the support of the campus National Tertiary Education Union and at the University of Sydney VC Michael Spence is asking staff to vote on whether they want to decide on his pay proposal, even though the union wants more negotiations.

Excluding the union from the process is a high-risk strategy rarely tried by cautious VCs. But it can work, as a learned reader reminds.

In September 2013 Charles Sturt U put an offer direct to staff, which was accepted, despite the opposition of the NTEU (the CPSU backed the deal). This gave the comrades conniptions and when  University of Canberra VC Stephen Parker threatened to bring on a vote negotiations successfully resumed.

In 2014 Swinburne U also won a staff vote, overturned by the Fair Work Commission on questions about the accuracy of the voting roll. But the point was made and union and management agreed on a joint proposal to staff.

And last year Western Sydney U said it would bring on a vote at WSU College, which was enough to bring the union back to the table.

The union hates to lose, another learned reader remarks. But if either university loses the votes now on the NTEU will win big, really big. Question is which side is most in touch with the mood of staff.

UniMelb and ANU make the world’s best 50 in THE ranking

Australia stands strong but China is coming

The University of Melbourne and ANU represent Australia in the world’s top 50 universities, according to the Times Higher Education ranking, released overnight. UniMelbourne claws one place up to 32 in the world while ANU drops one place to 48.

Other universities in the global top 100 are the University of Sydney, down one to 61, University of Queensland down five to 65, Monash U, up six to equal 80 and UNSW, down 75 to 85. The only other Australian institutions in the world’s best 200 are the University of Western Australia up 14 places to equal 111 and the University of Adelaide up eight to equal 134. Demonstrating the rankings’ sensitivity to changes in the variables, UWA’s improvement restores most of the loss last year when it dropped 16 spots from its 2015 position.

Movement among other universities is shown in bands of 50 to 400 and 100 for the second 800.

James Cook U and University of South Australia move from 251-300 to 201-250. This is another big win for UniSA, which last year rose from the 351-400 band.

The University of Newcastle drops a band to 251-300, back to where it was in 2015 and Deakin U moves from 251-300 to 301-350, its location in 2015. Flinders U returns to trend, improving two bands, to 301-350, one up on its 2015 place.

Across the world, the University of Oxford U is number one for the second year, with Cambridge U moving up from fourth to second.

China, including Hong Kong has four universities in the global top 50, Peking U at =27, up two places, Tsinghua U up five to 30, the University of Hong Kong up three to 40 and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, up five to 44. Times Higher states that this is the first time the PRC has cracked the top 30.

The National University of Singapore is =22 in the world, up two places on 2016 and the republic’s other university, Nanyang Technological U is 52 in the world.

Only 11 per cent of working engineers are women. This is why

All the efforts to encourage young women to study engineering at university miss a big part of the problem. It’s not that women dislike the discipline, its working with male engineers they are not too keen on.

Women engineers are paid less, are concentrated in jobs with less responsibility, and many are uncomfortable in the workplace.

The findings in a new survey for Professionals Australia are scathing;

Women earn 11 per cent less than men, because they work in less senior jobs

Some 47 per cent of women surveyed “reported that they had experienced discrimination on the basis of gender. They are also “far more likely” to report age discrimination.

And “workplace culture” is an issue for 60 per cent of women engineers.

“As well as efforts to encourage women and girls into engineering, an effective long-term solution will require addressing the complex range of factors that operate to disadvantage women in employment generally, as well as the factors particular to the engineering workforce that create disadvantage and lead to the attrition of women from the profession,” Chris Walton from Professionals Australia says.

Birmingham promotes his package without mentioning how much money unis have

 When Education Minister Simon Birmingham addressed the Council of Deans of Education the other day it sounded like he was practising his lines for crossbench conversations

On vouchers for coursework masters: “rather than postgrad education as being an historical mix of this university gets this many quotas for commonwealth supported places, this discipline and that university gets another amount …we go right back to first principles and say, ‘well, we have a certain pool of places to be supported; what disciplines should they be; where is the public benefit greatest in terms of the investment of those dollars for students in those disciplines; how do you ensure they’re effectively shared across the states?’ Then let them go to the most worthy, able students and let those students choose which of our wonderful universities they think best meet their needs.”

On performance-contingent funding for universities: “a little bit of financial incentive to think about optimal rates of enrolment, optimal approaches in terms of minimising attrition, the necessary support for students to succeed and ultimately the employment outcomes for students, are all I think quite important.”

And he did not talk about money, probably because keeping the conversation off cash is his best chance of getting his bill through the Senate.

A deal at Edith Cowan U

Management and union reach a muss-less, fuss-less agreement

Insiders told CMM last week that a new enterprise bargaining deal was all but done at Edith Cowan U. And so it is. DVC Arshad Omari and NTEU branch secretary Ute Mueller tell staff they have reached an “in-principle settlement” including “a fair and reasonable increases in pay and superannuation.” The last on the record pay offer from management was $1400 payments for all staff next January and in January 2021, plus two increases, of 1.5 per cent and 1.6 per cent. Fixed term staff are to have management superannuation payments increased by 8 per cent to meet that paid to permanent staff. Could the NTEU extract more? Perhaps, but this week, but after the big loss to Murdoch U in the Fair Work Commission the union needed a quick deal in the west.

UG applications slow while standards hold up

The case for funding cuts to cover the costs of the demand driven system is reduced by a moderating increase in undergraduate applications  

Some 340 000 people applied for a university place in 2017, up 1.4 per cent on 2016. The increase that year on 2015 was 1.9 per cent. Universities also reduced their offers, to 82.7 per cent, down 1.3 per cent on 2016.

In a rebuff to critics who complain of collapsing standards, just 2.7 per cent of university entrants were admitted on an ATAR of under 50. Offer rates for ATAR applicants in all bands under 70 were down. Close to 60 per cent of starting students did not rely on an ATAR for entry, including nearly 70 per cent of those admitted to education degrees.

Growth in applications was strongest in architecture and building (10 per cent), IT (8.5 per cent) and natural and physical sciences (4.9 per cent). It was weakest in agriculture, down 4.2 per cent and management, down 1.2 per cent.