Macquarie U’s state of the arts precinct 

Macquarie U is pleased indeed with its flash new Faculty of Arts building, sorry precinct (via Twitter, yesterday). It might be even more spacious that intended, what courses being “rested” next year.

There’s more in the Mail

Angela Brew on undergraduates as researchers. This week’s selection by Contributing Editor Sally Kift for her series on what we need now in teaching and learning

Angel Calderon wraps a great ranking year for Australia.

Luke Hesson feared leaving medical research – he found a new life when he did.

David Kellermann (UNSW) on creating a serious solution for on-line lecturing. Curated content from Microsoft.

Uni Queensland asks what it has learnt about teaching

There’s a debrief on a teaching year that wasn’t expected

There are presentations on how staff handled on-line teaching and on the 16-course pilot of Inspira digital assessment software. And yes, there is a session for students to tell staff what they got out of it. Perhaps some of them will bring up the use of remote invigilation provider ProctorU, not wildly popular with the student union in first semester (CMM April 20).

Uni Queensland should have been about as well prepared as possible for teaching in plague time – what with it having launched a five-year digital strategy in 2016, (CMM July 20 2016). This included;

* “prioritise on-line delivery of courses within our largest programmes and develop quality on-line resources

* “build our electronic assessment capability …. to provide timely, personalised feedback and analysis on how students are tracking with their learning.

* “invest in teaching innovation staff who support academics with digital delivery tools and content design

Internationals asked again

Austrade is running a survey of international students for a second time

The first was in July (CMM July 13) and this new run repeats the questions. But there isn’t one asking students to rate themselves as gluttons for punishment in sticking it for three more months, with classes largely on-line and not much in the way of work.

Hundreds of Monash U staff want out

The university wants 277 FTE staff to go. It might come close to finding enough volunteers

Management advises that 286 people in areas targeted for cuts have lodged interest in a voluntary separation package. A further 156 people in other operating units eligible for VSPs have asked about exists. Departure offers for priority people are now being made.

Of course, management does not have to accept everybody who asks – although it is keen to see staff in targeted units leave. In September, the university took some work-areas off the agenda, presumably because structural change was required and that meant enterprise agreement consultation. But it then expanded eligible low-enrolment academic areas, where all staff could apply for VSPs (CMM October 13).

With over 400 people potentially prepared to exit, the university may avoid involuntary redundancies, which will follow if the number of VSPs does not reach the target for departures. This could involve letting individuals leave who the university would like to stay – but that may be an acceptable price to pay to avoid the morale-gutting sight of forcing people out.

Still standing, getting moving

Big ideas at ReMaking HE

Join Brian Schmidt (VC ANU) Ashley Farley (Gates Foundation) and Lucy Montgomery (Curtin U OA expert) as they talk about the future for research funding and where open access fits in. Another session at Remaking HE: ideas for the post (or perhaps continuing) pandemic university. Dates and details for the on-line conference, here.

All-time high for union membership

The National Tertiary Education Union annual report shows numbers up 12 per cent in the first half of the year

The union reached 31 000 members in June, its highest ever and a substantial increase on mid 2019’s 26 600.

The membership increase split 60 per cent on-going and contract staff and 40 per cent casuals. General Secretary Matthew McGowan attributes the growth in members who are casually employed to three-months free membership. Continuing staff who joined, “saw the union as the only effective body to protect their jobs.”

The union’s power bases are in NSW (9000 members) and Victoria (10 600).

The overall growth in membership increased income by $429 000. Income in the 2019-20 financial year was $23,3m with staff costs accounting for $17.2m

“The challenge for the union will come next financial year  when the impact of job losses from across the sector flow through,” Mr McGowan states in the union’s annual report.

What research in Adelaide does not develop

The South Australian Productivity Commission is following the national PC playbook, again

The SAPC is already suggesting ways the various power bases in the medical research establishment could make-nicer more efficiently (CMM September 7) and is now commissioned by the state government to examine SA’s research and development system.

It’s  assessment of universities role in the state research and development eco-system focuses on problems not unique to Adelaide . However, the commission reports a very SA take on them, with university’s suggesting, “the ability to attract funding, including through competitive grants, is limited by its population size and lack of critical mass, along with relatively few major industries that provide R&D funding.”

Overall the SAPC’s draft reports suggests a very PC conclusion; “the Commission has found little evidence that initiatives designed to use R&D as a lever for economic growth have had measurable impacts. This reflects both limited commitment to evaluation as a tool as well as the nature of the programmes. A review of past SA Government R&D and innovation strategies … suggest that the economic impacts of previous strategies have been modest at best.”

Victoria U staff counting on an announcement  

People are on edge about redundancies

Rumour hath it that management has not received the number of volunteers to go it needs, said to be up 190 FTE.  This is the number of positions that would have been protected if staff had agreed to accept temporary cuts to conditions plus specified voluntary separations.

Whatever the voluntary separation number management wants is, if it is not reached involuntary redundancies are expected to follow.

There is talk around the traps of management knowing if it has a final figure this week or next but it seems nothing is doing yet. The university tells CMM it expects to announce a voluntary separation total mid-November.

Appointments, achievements

The Australian Council of Deans of Education announces Michele Simons (Western Sydney U) is the new president. Donna Pendergast (Griffith U) is deputy and Elizabeth Labone (ACU) is secretary/treasurer. They are all elected to two year terms. Professor Simons replaces Tania Aspland (Australian Catholic U), in the post for six years.

Sarah Loughran joins the Australian Radiation and Nuclear Protection Agency’s electro-magnetic energy programme. She joins from Uni Wollongong.

The New York based Asia Society announces Kevin Rudd becomes president and CEO in January.