SA uni-fication talks as David Lloyd listens

UniSA VC David Lloyd will take staff questions this week, on a possible merger with the University of Adelaide. Professor Lloyd has already briefed the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union. Nick Warner, union president at Adelaide says the NTEU branch there, says  the union will be “an active participant in the exploration: to make sure that our voices are heard at the beginning, the end, and at all stages in between.”

The process is starting as Lloyd and his UniAdelaide colleague Peter Rathjen promised it would, with a cornucopia of consultation. The word along North Terrace is that Professor Rathjen has the harder task, with staff scepticism strong. Although the bigger challenge might be explaining this to chancellor Kevin Scarce who is said to think merging the two is a no-brainer.

James Cook U says jobs and courses must go to be “financially stable”  

James Cook University has announced job losses and course cuts designed  “to ensure the university is more responsive to changing student demand and is financially sustainable.”

“We know that the context in which JCU is operating is changing, impacted by increased competition, reduced student numbers, loss of external income sources including reduced Commonwealth funding, and a highly volatile and uncertain public policy environment. JCU needs to respond to these challenges,” Provost Chris Cocklin said Friday.

The university’s annual report states student debt has peaked, resulting in “pressures associated with maintaining student numbers.” JCU reported a $36m drop in revenue last year to $513m with debt up $32m to $101m.

The plan follows savings measures broadly outlined in an April proposal, notably effecting the division of tropical environments and societies. The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union has already contested that proposal in the Fair Work Commission but JCU is adamant that it could not consult on this new plan. “Given the nature of the changes proposed and the range of areas affected it was not practical or consistent with the University’s Enterprise Agreement to consult with staff prior to releasing the change proposal,” it stated yesterday.

JCU management now plans to:

*  from 2019 teach –out in-person UG courses at the Cairns campus in psychology, sports-exercise science, exercise physiology and joint degree

*  end the master of economics “due to low student demand” after existing students complete

* replace the bachelor degree in creative arts with a major in the BA

* create 11 new positions and make 16 Townsville positions and 13 in Cairns redundant

The university also intends to “increase delivery” of online courses and move IT education to the College of Science and Engineering.

The new change plan summarises staff concerns and responds to dozens of specific questions and suggestions. However while the university has heard, it explains in detail why it will not act on many of them.

And there is more to come. In response to an “enough already” comment on change fatigue, management states:

“The decisions made in the past have been based on different circumstances. We implemented a new structure in 2016 and now have the chance to refine it further. We will approach this implementation with a continuous improvement philosophy, meaning that as things are implemented and embedded they will be reviewed to ensure effectiveness.”

As for staff who are fearful for their jobs;

“The higher education sector is being impacted by sectoral and regional factors and changing student preferences. We are focused on creating an organisation that is more sustainable in this ever-changing operating context.”

Off-shore study opportunities

The federal government has announced the 2019 New Colombo Plan Mobility Grants. Some 11 800 students from 40 universities will participate in 790 projects across 36 Indo-Pacific locations.

Appointments, achievements

Kerry Sanderson will be the next chancellor of Edith Cowan U. She replaces Hendy Cowan who is to stand-down after 14 years as chancellor. Mrs Sanderson was governor of Western Australia for nearly four years, finishing in May.

Umberto Ansaldo is to join the arts and social sciences faculty at the University of Sydney. Professor Ansaldo is a scholar of linguistic diversity, language contact and multilingualism in Asia. He is now head of humanities at the University of Hong Kong.

The Australia Historical Association awards are announced.

W K Hancock Prize (first book): Miranda Johnson (University of Sydney)

Serle Award (best PG thesis): Anne Rees (La Trobe U)

Kay Daniels Award (convict history): Joan Kavanagh (Ireland) and Dianne Snowden (University of Tasmania)

Magarey Medal (best biographical writing by a woman): Alexis Wright (novelist and commentator)

Jill Roe Prize (unpublished writing by a p/g):  Alexandra Roginski (ANU)

Allan Martin Award (research fellowship for e/c historians): Peter Hobbins (University of Sydney)

ANU hacked but no one saying how hard

Late Friday ANU announced it’s IT system had been hacked, and that it “has been working to contain a threat” to IT within the university.

“The university has been working in partnership with Australian Government agencies for several months to minimise the impact of this threat. we continue to seek and take advice from Australian government agencies. Current assessments indicate no staff, student or research information has been taken and counter-measures are being undertaken.”

In the absence of information of the who/what/where/when/why kind social, print and broadcast media filled the vacuum with speculation, generally and without any apparent evidence focusing on the Chinese Government or agents of it and assuming that Australian state secrets are at risk.

This could be a very big deal, a serious cyber-warfare campaign by a foreign power, or no deal at all, the result of free-lancing by aspiring spooks having a looksee.  The federal government’s Australian Cyber Security Centre makes no mention of anything wrong at ANU, which could be indicative of either alternative. (The most recent university relevant ACSC statement was on June 18, about the PageUp site hack, CMM June 18). Although, ACSS head Alastair McGibbon was on Sky News yesterday acknowledging the hack but carefully adding not much.

The last universities hacked story was in March when US authorities warned Australian institutions were among those attacked by Iranian cyber-crooks. The University of Queensland said it had been, but told CMM there was not much to worry about, that they had seen off the intruders who were trying to access research journals, (CMM March 29  CMM March 29).