Spy catcher

A learned reader reports, “revised CRC guidelines are out and they have reverted to ‘program’ over ‘programme’. This is the clearest indication yet that Malcolm Turnbull is a Labor plant – the spelling change has always followed the flavour of government in the past. No, the LR is not the member for Warringah

No issue Monday

CMM is off Monday. See you Tuesday.

“Incoherent government policy” helps creates criticism of unis says Glyn Davis

According to the University of Melbourne VC, critics who say universities are “hidebound and self-obsessed” are wrong. In fact, great universities connect with communities, great universities, like, well Melbourne. “Great engagement stories are everyday events in every faculty and school at Melbourne,” he told staff yesterday.

Professor Davis points to last week’s campus conference where leaders from the universities of Chicago and Manchester (among many others) explained how they make a mission of engagement.

“Engagement alone will not end concerns about the modern university. These have deep roots in social divisions, student debt and incoherent government policy, which expands places on campus, but then complains about the cost of education,Professor Davis acknowledges. However, it “remains a worthwhile connection for universities in its own right, and the most disarming response to those who find only fault and no community value in higher education.”

Sounds like it would make an excellent metric for the performance funding formula Education Minister Simon Birmingham wants to introduce.

New chair at UniSydney

The University of Sydney has created the Ainsworth Chair of Technology and Innovation, to be held by the university’s Alistair McEwan. Professor McEwan will work on advanced technology in childhood disabilities and illnesses. The chair is named for philanthropist Len Ainsworth, founder Ainsworth Game Technology and has a $1.25m endowment.

Degrees of engagement

Back in 2016 the Australian Council of Learned Academies’ review of the research training system  recommended closer links between higher degree researchers and industry, which officialdom has translated into more reporting.

The feds will require a report on the “end-user engagement” of higher degree research, including funding by an end-user, formal training on industry engagement, and “other commercialisation and engagement activities.” Officials are in no rush to receive the data with a staged introduction, but it does seem the government wants something to show critics, and remind universities, that education is industry-friendly.

One of few

“It was certainly never intended that way but the School of Economics, Finance and Marketing at RMIT has become one of the great free market universities of the world,” writes Steve Kates, from, um RMIT. Not that there is much competition.

A done deal at Edith Cowan U

As widely expected, union and management have reached agreement at Edith Cowan U. The university will pay staff a 1.5 per cent increase in January 2018 and 1.6 per cent in 2021, with $1600 cash payments next January and in 2020. According to the National Tertiary Education Union, the cash components translate into higher per centage increases for junior employees, with the package worth 8 per cent for staff at the lowest academic grade, compared to 4.9 per cent for a professor at the highest. For HEW One administrators the rise amounts to 10.1 per cent, compared to 5.6 per cent for a HEW Ten staffer.

This is good news for both union and management. With every deal done the union demonstrates how reasonable it is and there is no need for managements to dig in for big bargaining blues. And ECU saves itself a bargaining process that can take many months and is exhausting as it is unpleasant. One the detail is sorted the two sides will recommend the agreement to staff in a vote.

The union has conceded (as it has at other universities) simpler processes for managing misconduct and “streamlined” change management, but these are relatively minor concessions compared to ideas of agreements, with a mass of procedural detail deleted, which higher education industrial relations strategists were hoping for at the start of the year.

Whistleblowing expert appointed

Griffith University whistleblowing expert A J Brown is appointed to the federal government’s expert advisory committee on whistle-blower protection. He is joined by David Chalkin from the University of Sydney Business School, plus private sector tax and governance experts. The committee is charged with establishing protections for people who blow the whistle on tax avoidance and breaches of ASIC and APRA rules.

Professor Brown is a leading scholar of public integrity and preventing corruption. In July, he reported on whistleblowing in a range of industries, including higher education – which did not do well, (https://campusmorningmail.com.au/grand-alliance-ends-atar-smoke-and-mirrors/ CMM July 5).

Let battle begin

Macquarie University has begun the bargaining process, advising staff that it’s on and that they can appoint a representative. It’s the Fair Work Commission required equivalent of sending a herald with a drawn sword

Group of Eight calls on Senate to save uni investment fund

Ransacking the Education Investment Fund to support the NDIS makes no sense, Vicki Thomson from the Group of Eight will tell a Senate committee this morning.

The Senate Standing Committees on Economics are inquiring into legislation to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme, including by closing the $3.8n EIF, which Ms Thomson characterises as; “short-sighted and damaging.”

The Eight explicitly supports the NDIS, she says, “but the effects will be anything but short term. The EIF monies will not solve the funding of NDIS – it is equivalent to less than a fifth of a year’s funding at full cost for the NDIS – but will critically undermine the next decade of Australian research.”

She will detail a range of research that the EIF has made possible, including work on autism spectrum disorder and chips with potential to repair brain injury. And she adds that research supported by the Medical Research Future Fund will require university research infrastructure.

“Robbing Peter to pay Paul, as closing EIF to plug an NDIS funding-hole most definitely is, can never end well. We ask you to not let that happen.”

Murdoch VC wants peace by Christmas

VC Eeva Leinonen has told staff Murdoch University management wants “to return a regular rhythm of bargaining” with the union and reach a new agreement on wages and conditions this year.

Her announcement follows the Fair Work Commission decisions that allows the university to cut wages to the award safety net.

However, Professor Leinonen adds, “we have no intention of reducing take-home pay. To the contrary, we are striving to reach an agreement that sees your take-home pay continue to increase, as we continue to strengthen our position through challenging times.”

The university has now lifted its pay offer from 3 per cent over three years to a mix of cash payments and per centage rises. Murdoch is now offering, $1000 in cash from January 2018, a 1.0%, increase a year later, followed by $1500 in January 2020 and 2.0% the next year.

In line, with other universities, including ECU (above) this means a bigger per centage rise for more junior staff, which Murdoch is keen to explain, via an online benefits calculator.

However, Murdoch is still demanding simplified working conditions, “which provide the university with the flexibility it needs to meet the challenges we face, and that support our long-term financial viability.”

Earlier this week the NTEU signalled it was willing to return to the table – the question is will some, albeit not a lot more money be enough to give the two sides much to talk about.