There’s more in the Mail

David Myton talks to Business Higher Education Round Table leader Ken Boal, who says while universities now place a high value on their relationship with business and industry there is more to do.

James Cook U on course for a Christmas pay rise

There is a deal at James Cook University, with union and management reaching an in-principal understanding for a new enterprise agreement. This is a big change in a week. Last Friday the two sides could not agree, despite management adding an extra 2 per cent rise for 2021 to its offer. However CMM hears the campus leadership of the National Tertiary Education Union is now happy.

Last night the university reported that, “subject to the bargaining group and NTEU executive endorsement, which we expect, given the considerable movement on all sides, we will be providing the agreement to our staff for the purposes of voting.”

If a staff vote to approve a joint management-NTEU proposal there is talk of a pay-rise, backdated to September, before Christmas.

Big week for research ribbon cutting

Pessimists suggest the feds are getting all the good research funding announcements out ahead of cuts to come in December’s mid-year economic forecast. Optimists say Simon Birmingham is still signed-on to the prime minister’s innovation agenda.

Whatever the reason, the education minister and the Australian Research Council were out  with the ceremonial scissors at everything they could get a ribbon around.  And this morning big ARC grants are announced (below).

Yesterday Senator Birmingham was at Swinburne U to open the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery. On Wednesday, he was at Deakin U to open the ARC Training Centre in Alloy Innovation for Mining Efficiency. But because the ARC Centre for Tardis Construction is yet to deliver Senator Birmingham wasn’t at the same-day launch of the ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centre in Biopharmaceutical Innovation at the University of Queensland or the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems, also at the University of Queensland.

That’s a lot of science openings, question is whether the ceremonial scissors come before a funding axe

Seen the films, now read the book

The University of Canberra has picked its book of the year, to encourage “conversation, discussion and engagement.” (CMM November 7). All commencing staff and students will get a copy of Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.

Group of Eight wins 60 per cent of Discovery Projects

Education Minister Simon Birmingham will today announce Australian Research Council grants for the Discovery, Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards, Discovery Indigenous, Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities and Linkage Learned Academies Special Projects programmes.

In the large Discovery Projects category some 34 universities share $225m across 594 projects. The Group of Eight devours most of the grants, accounting for 365. UNSW won 64 from the University of Queensland with 57 followed by the University of Sydney with 55. Monash and the University of Melbourne were level on 54 each, ANU secured 38, the University of Western Australia won 25 and Adelaide trailed with 21.  All up the Go8 universities won just over 60 per cent of Discovery projects.

Leading ATN institutions were UTS (26), QUT (23), Curtin (18) and RMIT (14). The University of Tasmania had a good round, winning 20 grants.

Carr’s case for research: more money less “rortable” metrics

Labor research spokesman Kim Carr made a solid speech at the Science Meets Business event yesterday. In the text released by his office shortly after he spoke the senator addressed the importance of basic, as well as applied research and criticised the government’s new impact and engagement metrics, which will be “eminently rortable.” “The ARC has done its best with a bad policy. They have been asked to do the impossible … As the report of the pilot by the Australian Research Council reveals, the exercise is riddled with uncertainty about how it can measure impact, if at all. But we do know that the process is likely to saddle universities with another layer of metrics, with accompanying compliance costs.”

Senator Carr also raised long term research funding, as recommended by the Clark Infrastructure Review.  And his text suggested allowing new public good cooperative research centres and ending the ten year life of CRCs.

On funding the senator’s speech stated; “Labor will make announcements on these matters as the election approaches.”

Unless it does not. Late yesterday Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s office recalled the speech.

No surprises

The Senate programme for next week is out and Senator Birmingham’s higher education bill is not on it.

University of Melbourne leads life science rankings

Seven of the Group of Eight universities make the global top 100 in the new Times Higher life sciences ranking. As usual the University of Melbourne tops the team at 32, followed by the University of Queensland (=34), ANU (45), University of Sydney (47), UWA (69), UNSW (=93) and Monash U (=97). The University of Adelaide just misses the cut, being in the 101-125 band with James Cook U. All up 26 Australian universities and six from New Zealand, led by the University of Auckland (at 176-200) are in the world’s first 500.

Peking University (23) and the National University of Singapore (26) are ahead of them all as are three Canadian institutions, the universities of British Columbia (21) and Toronto (22) and McGill (31).

It’s rankings as usual at the top, with Harvard U first followed by Cambridge, Oxford, Stanford, MIT, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, CalTech, Yale and Imperial College London.

Murdoch University negotiations grind on

Last week Murdoch University management offered what it said were “significant adjustments” to its enterprise bargaining offer, including dropping its plan to deal with misconduct under university policy rather than the agreement and giving staff 30-day notice of teaching load (CMM November 2). According to Provost Andrew Taggart then, “this step takes us one step closer to concluding an agreement.”

And one step back, with the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union saying  this week that what management wants remains “too onerous”.

Union members called for tterms and conditions of employment that are broadly comparable to those experienced elsewhere in the university sector,” the NTEU reports. Union negotiators are holding out for “fair disciplinary procedures with sound independent appeal rights,” “meaningful consultation on change management,” and maintenance of academic and professional staff working conditions.

The bargaining teams meet tomorrow. Vice Chancellor Eeva Leinonen wants a deal by Christmas. This does not seem assured given the hard-lines both sides have taken in a long dispute, which has become a proxy dispute over employment conditions across the university system between the national union and the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association. But then again a week back a deal at James Cook U seemed equally unlikely.

HEADS UP: wins of the working week


Clare Collins won the Hunter Medical Research Institute research excellence award on Wednesday night. Professor Collins is a senior research fellow in nutrition and dietetics at the University of Newcastle.

Sally Wheeler is the next dean of law at ANU, moving from Queen’s University in Belfast, where she interim PVC Research and Enterprise.

Linda Kristjanson is appointed to a federal government taskforce on aged care workforce strategy. The Swinburne U VC  has “an extensive research career in palliative care.”

The University of South Australia has announced the appointment of some-time soldier Matt Opie as its director for defence industry collaborationMr Opie joins from Saab Australia where he led industry engagement.

John Shine is the new president of the Australian Academy of Science. The biochemist and molecular biologist takes over from Andrew Holmes.

Keith Hill from Curtin University will receive life membership from the Australian Association of Gerontology this week. Professor Hill is head of the school of physiotherapy and exercise science at Curtin.