Close, but not quite at Uni Sunshine Coast

A new staff agreement looked sorted – until yesterday

Bargaining for a new enterprise agreement at USC dragged on and on. But there was a breakthrough last week and all looked good. Until yesterday, when union members voted against a university proposal to change how research active is defined. And so, it’s back to the table, with a meeting scheduled for today week.

Uni Queensland and Ramsay Western Civ Centre have a deal

Uni Queensland has $50m plus over eight years for courses and scholarships

As widely anticipated, the University of Queensland has signed an MOU with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation to fund a degree programme, a minimum 150 scholarships and hiring ten “world-class educators.”  Teaching starts next year.

What’s the deal: The MOU between university and centre addresses the university’s academic independence, a key staff concern, stating the programme “will be consistent with Uni Queensland values, be developed by the staff of Uni Queensland, be approved by Uni Queensland in its sole and absolute discretion, go through Uni Queensland’s academic approval mechanisms and conform to the normal degree and combined degree structures of Uni Queensland.”

The university adds that a Ramsay Centre representative will be on staff hiring committee(s). However, a senior university manager will chair selectors and have “ultimate authority over the outcome of the selection process.”

This is a very big win for the Ramsay Centre. With Uni Wollongong, it now has two universities teaching degrees it will fund. Uni Queensland is also what Ramsay supporters were looking for, a university with a strong national reputation in humanities scholarship. It matters much less now if there is now no deal at the University of Sydney.

It is also a win for Vice Chancellor Peter Hoj. He made it quite clear that he wanted a Ramsay programme. “Uni Queensland is very hopeful that exceptional graduates, able to progress our society through respectful and informed debate, would be the key legacy of the programme,” he said last night.

 But some HASS staff will not be happy: In May, the HASS faculty advisory board of studies rejected a third draft curriculum, which still went up the line for approval. Dean Heather Zwicker told staff then, “I am torn between what I hear from you, my trusted colleagues, and what I believe are the broader strategic purposes for HASS,” (CMM May 28).

In April, a very learned reader compared the Uni Wollongong degree and the then draft from Uni Queensland. Read it  here.

For university funding: suddenly it’s like the ’70s

The Wellings Panel includes a return to old funding ways – officials, not student demand deciding growth funding

Education Minister Dan Tehan adopted a retail-politics approach, announcing the new performance-based funding allocation yesterday. It will “incentivise universities to focus on their core-business: producing job-ready graduates with the skills to succeed in the modern economy,” he said. No mean feat given funding for next year is just $80m, with increases tied to the rate of national population growth.

What’s in it for unis: Universities who achieve annually will be able to receive cumulative funding-increases, up to a capped 7.5 per cent of their maximum basic grant amount.

How it will happen: Performance funding will be allocated on four factors, * domestic undergraduate satisfaction with teaching, * graduate employment rates, * attrition rates, * equity group participation. There is a great deal of detail on how these will be measured but, “universities should have an option to provide a brief qualitative submission, noting that the submission should focus on those measures where incremental improvement could drive the overall performance of the university,” the panel states.

A guiding role for officials: Universities that do not make their targets, could ask for money “through the mission-based compact process.”

“The panel believes that this would promote dialogue between the department and individual universities relating to developing effective strategies for performance improvement and better practice. A university should receive unallocated performance-based funding, contingent on the conditions negotiated with the department and specified in its mission-based compact.”

MOOCs of the morning

There are two new great contributions to community service

Curtin U (via edX) offers a “disciplined approach to social entrepreneurship” The discipline bit is probably the unit on how to keep an organisation functioning financially.

The MOOC started yesterday as did another from Curtin U, “Living with Diabetes,” also just commenced

Both are great examples of the MOOC as community-service. CMM never ceases to wonder why governments do not get what a vast service MOOCs can be for information and behaviour change campaigns. The feds could fund the creation of a health MOOC, like Curtin’s diabetes one, for the cost of freighting a lion an advertising agency won at Cannes for making a 30 second TVC about the disease.

Uni responses to Wellings funding plan: realistic resigned, relaxed   

Policy wonks were quick into the weeds, with expert analysis of methodologies and funding outcomes for university groups. Peak bodies appear reconciled to working what they are going to get

 Innovative Research Universities chair Eeva Leinonen (Murdoch U VC) says, “The IRU will work constructively with the government to get to a fair outcome. The IRU welcomes the government’s commitment to adjusting the measures over time. In that sense, the proposed funding mechanism is a beginning, not a final blueprint.”

The Group of Eight “has consistently supported the development of the Performance Based Funding framework on the basis that it was underpinned by clarity, simplicity and transparency,” UWA VC (and Wellings’ panel member) Dawn Freshwater stated.

“While the measures are not strictly objective or direct measures of university performance, they do provide focused incentives for universities to improve their already strong performance in delivering student outcomes.”

The Australian Technology Network: “welcomes the focus on equity in this framework as ATN strongly believes that Australia should have a higher education system that remains affordable and accessible to all who are eligible, regardless of their background or circumstance. ATN looks forward to working with the government on delivering job-ready graduates.”

The Regional Universities Network, “recognises relevant measures for university performance have been chosen” but warns that performance funding will not be enough “to address the significant attainment gap” between regions and cities.

 However, Universities Australia counselled caution: “Universities will carefully consider these proposals and provide feedback as the government finalises its performance-based funding framework,” CEO Catriona Jackson said.

“Universities and the government understand the complex nature of any performance based scheme and the importance of getting the details right.  We are confident that neither … would want to see institutions that educate some of the nation’s most disadvantaged students lose out financially.
“We note today’s assurance from Education Minister Dan Tehan that the model would be able to be adjusted over time for unforeseen consequences. Under the proposals, up to 7.5 per cent of funding for student places would eventually go into a funding pool and each university would have to meet metrics on four measures to receive their share of funds. We need to ensure that the proposed system can adequately meet student demand, plan for future workforce needs, and serve diverse local communities.”

It was left to the Opposition and union to question the plan.

Tanya Plibersek signalled Labor is back in the policy game. “We want our unis to perform well and in principle we are not against linking some funding to performance. But it does nothing to change the fact that the Liberals have restricted access to university, locking out thousands of Australians, especially in the suburbs and regions.”

The National Tertiary Education Union argues the performance targets will have,foreseeable, albeit presumably unintended, perverse consequences.” Graduate employment is “beyond the control of universities” and measures including student satisfaction, “will see university staff come under greater pressure to improve pass rates and consequently reduce quality and threaten the reputation of the Australian university sector.”

Another ranking win for Curtin U

The university is very pleased with its improvement in the new CWUR ranking, but other unis don’t appear to have noticed how they did

The Centre for World University Rankings reports Curtin U is now ninth in Australia, improving 30 spots. The lift is another improvement for Curtin. In May, it made it into the top 200 of the research ranking that really rates, from Leiden University up from 316 last year and 355 in 2017.

Ranking researchers suggest this is largely due to Curtin’s long-term strategy of hiring highly-cited researchers, developing the university’s own talent and encouraging all to publish in targeted journals that suit the university strategy.

Overall the order of Aus institutions in the new CWUR is routine, although Uni Melb at first in country starts further down the global list than is common, at 64 (seven places down on last year). The rest of the top ten is Uni Sydney (100), Monash U (102, up from 124), ANU (108, down from 82), UNSW (113), Uni Queensland (115, down from 74) UWA (126, up from 145), Uni Adelaide (217),) Curtin U (360 up from 400) and Macquarie U (371).

The CWUR does not get much of a run for its rankings in Australia – Curtin U appears the only institution to want its position known.  Perhaps this is due to its using metrics that may not capture much that really matters, alumni awards and employment achievement are two major categories. Then again, it does not include surveys of academics.

Appointments, achievements

Sharon Goldfeld is the new director of the Centre for Community Child Health, stepping up from deputy director. The centre is a collaboration between the Royal Children’s Hospital, in Melbourne and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. She is also a Uni Melbourne professor.

Griffith U’s Wendy Moyle is inducted into the International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame for research on depression, dementia and delirium. Amanda Ullman, also Griffith U, receives the Emerging Nursing Research Award. Both are honoured at the Sigma (“celebrating nursing excellence in scholarship, leadership, and service”) nursing research congress.