When exit is the only option

“Is it time to change career?” Monash U asks alumni. Certainly, is for staff members facing redundancy who are also Monash U graduates. The alumni engagement team is spruiking seminars on “managing a career in crisis.” They should hold one on campus, it would be a sell-out.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Despite all the extra work, Michael Sankey (Griffith U) and Amanda Bellaby (QUT) discover  it’s been a good year for many educational designers.

Dawn Bennett (Curtin U) on why STEM isn’t the solution to everything in HE funding – new this week in Contributing Editor Sally Kift‘s series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.

The COVID-19 crisis will cost tens of thousands of jobs and present six workforce challenges. Elizabeth BaréJanet Beard and Ian Marshman from the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education writing with Teresa Tjia  report.

Jacqui Lambie names her terms

The independent senator for Tasmania rejects the government’s funding reform bill, denouncing, “weird and obscure culture wars where universities are the enemy and the working class are collateral damage”

Last night Senator Lambie cut the political heart out of the government’s bill; hiking the cost to students of humanities courses. And she rejected reported concessions to Senator Pauline Hanson and colleague Malcolm Roberts, to restore discounts on student fees paid up front. “The wealthier you are the cheaper university becomes. It’s just a good break for those who’ve enjoyed more than a few good breaks. Meanwhile, poor kids get a raw deal from this bill.” Senator Lambie stated.

She also flat out opposed provisions in the bill penalising students who fail half their first-year subjects as, “completely at odds with the idea of helping people get a leg up.”

However, Senator Lambie left a life-line for a bill of sorts, adding; “there’s scope to reduce the Commonwealth’s contribution for some courses if we are trying to save money. And I am open to a debate about how much to reduce it by. I do not accept the status-quo ‘do-nothing’ scenario is as good as it gets. I think we can save the taxpayer some money and still make university accessible and affordable.”

With parliament resuming and his legislation ready to go, Education Minister Dan Tehan has two apparent options. If Senator Hanson and Senator Roberts stay solid, he needs one senate vote, either from Senator Lambie or South Australian Stirling Griff. Perhaps the minister might be amenable to amending the bill to provide more UG places for SA, which has a lower participation rate than other states. Or perhaps the minister will look to salvage what he can in negotiations with Senator Lambie.

Whatever occurs the bill as it now stands is either dead or about to be very different.  

Policy before the bill was blown up

Yesterday Dan Tehan announced $326m for additional student places, “next year and beyond” plus undertakings on secure funding. He could still deliver

The education minister said the money would fund 12 000 new university places next year, on top of the 20 000 already in the funding bill about to be before the Senate. So, the minister’s commitment to 100 000 new UG places by 2030 now appears to be 112 000.

Mr Tehan also announced funding-protections in the bill which universities had called for, including specified minimums for basic grants to universities which will have specific parliamentary protection.

But there is no mention of a recommendation from the government-controlled Senate committee that the bill be reviewed in two years.

Reaction: Universities Australia was quick to back the announcement, “the decision recognises a surge in applications to study as the pandemic hits the job market and drives up unemployment.” As was the Regional Universities Network, which welcomed the new places and protection for funding.

However, Alison Barnes from the National Tertiary Education Union was not impressed; “this is a short-term measure with a single objective of getting this unsustainable, unfair and incoherent bill through the Senate.”

What’s next: If Mr Tehan’s legislation fails in the Senate, demand for UG places will not disappear and the government is all but locked into providing more places, whether or not there are savings from increasing some student fees, to pay for them. Won’t the Treasurer be pleased!

James Cook U staff get their pay rise (but maybe not for long)

The increase due yesterday has happened, which is not at all what management wanted

Staff had voted to defer this month’s wage increase as a savings measure. But this hasn’t happened, because the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union pointed out the way the agreement was worded could mean management would not have to cough-up when the agree deferment ended.

This is undoubtedly a management mistake but the Fair Work Commission is thinking about what the words staff accepted state and JCU tells the campus community a decision is expected on October 8.

Which means for now, the pay rise is in place.

“These increased rates will continue to apply until the variation is approved.  When the variation is approved pay rates will revert back to their previous level,” acting HR Director Belinda Pope optimistically announced to the JCU community yesterday.

If the FWC backs the university’s position the pay rise will not go ahead, except for the week it will have been paid. But Ms Pope assures staff JCU will not ask for the money back.


Tehan backs a major role for micro-credentials

Last week the education minister went big on the future for short-courses and informal learning. He did it again yesterday 

In his text for a Sydney speech the education minister, said, “the development of micro-credentials will drive innovation and provide an additional income stream for universities, while making them more efficient, relevant to industry and responsive to the requirements of domestic students.”

Mr Tehan added, “the Treasurer will have more to say on short courses in next week’s budget.”

This follows his announcement last week of a “nationals credential platform which he wants to include, “recognition of micro-credentials and general capabilities,” (CMM September 25).

While critics focus on the government’s proposed changes to undergraduate funding, it’s Mr Tehan’s interest in micro-credentials which may be more of a threat over time to existing university teaching-income.

As the minister said in May; “micro-credentials address the most common barriers cited by adult workers who are not intending to undertake further formal training or study: time and cost,” (CMM June 22).

Bad day for Murdoch U management

VC Eeva Leinonen tells staff that most of them did not vote for management’s proposed enterprise agreement variation. Of the 1819 who turned out, 73 per cent were against it

Murdoch U management originally asked staff to agree to cancellation of the October pay rise and temporary reductions in conditions (CMM September 10) but reduced the ask after a staff survey (CMM September 18).

It wasn’t enough to win enough workers over, although adamant opposition from the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union can’t have helped management’s case.

Professor Leinonen now says the university still has to find $25m in salary savings for 2021, “maintained through the next few years.”

This is the second September defeat for WA uni managements on savings proposals the union opposed. Curtin U lost a vote for an EAV which would have had staff losing a pay rise in return for 90 fewer job cuts (CMM September 21).

In contrast, UWA under Jane den Hollander negotiated an enterprise agreement variation with the union, which was backed by 77 per cent of staff voting.

Appointments, achievements

Melissa Banks leaves James Cook U to head international education at Austrade.

Matthew Dodd (ancient geology) Jason Eshraghian (AI in med tech) and Mark Wong (insect decline) have Forrest Research Foundation Fellowships for next year at UWA.

Ryan Lister (UWA) and Steven Tingay (Curtin U) are the Western Australia Scientists of the Year.

Christine McLoughlin became the University of Wollongong’s fourth chancellor (her appointment was announced in April). She replaced Gillian Broadbent who served for 11 years.