There must be an election

the NSW Gov commissions two big uni projects in Sydney

Australian Catholic U has $45m for a STEM Centre of Education Excellence, at its Strathfield (in Sydney) campus.

And Western Sydney U has $78m to “help establish” an Indigenous Centre of Excellence at the Parramatta South (also in Sydney) campus.

NSW votes on March 25.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Nicholas Fisk and Thomas Chow (both UNSW)  set out the numbers for Aus unis’ impressive R&D achievement. Problem is, it is based on past funding glories.

plus Full-time IT CEO and part-time academic Michael Baron likes teaching but he laments universities don’t make more senior professionals welcome, HERE

and tomorrow Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on the power of teaching, it trumps technologies

Macquarie U stuffed-up casual academics’ pay

The university announces under and over payments

In a message to staff yesterday, Chief People Officer David Ward stated that although a review “confirmed a high level of accuracy in our payments, some issues were identified.”

It appears MU has only discovered the “issues” recently – there is no provision for disputed unpaid wages in the university’s last annual report.

The university now advises 1105 present and past staff are affected and are owed a total $880 000, for work between January 2016 and November ’22.

Macquarie U joins a bunch of universities which have advised the Fair Work Ombudsman they made but are fixing pay errors – which is wise. The FWO takes a dim view of institutions underpaying people. Regulator TESA has also signalled it has had it with HE providers getting pay wrong (CMM May 16 ‘22).

There are generally two types of pay fails, although MU is silent as to what was the cause of its underpayments.

One is administrative error, common in cases of professional staff, where oft complex pay rates are incorrectly applied (variable rates for hours worked, meal allowances and the like). The other, which more often applies to academic casuals, occurs where a university’s enterprise agreement includes a scale of rates for teaching, commonly for marking, and people who should be paid at the top aren’t.

MU staff involved were advised yesterday and former employees “will be informed progressively.”

 Calls for research system redesign

The Australian Academy of Science wants a “plausible redesign of the research system.” There are 200 reasons why

That’s the number of federal government science programmes, spread across 13 portfolios. “With multiple ministers and departments having key responsibilities,” it is, the academy argues, “an overly bureaucratised and inefficient system.

The academy acknowledges present reviews of universities and the ARC but states establishing a “national priority” to lift research and development is “urgently required.”

“There is a particular Australian disease that infects the performance of our science system. It is the tendency to respond to big questions with tiny thinking. In the science system, that is demonstrated by the proliferation of programmes throughout the Australian Government. Moving the dial on our R&D investment will not be achieved by another small grants program or research initiative,” the academy asserts in its budget submission.

And it points to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Medical Research Future Fund as examples of what is needed. The CEFC, in particular, “has helped turbocharge the commercialisation of science and leveraged additional investments from the private sector” and will serve as a model for the National Reconstruction Fund. (As for the Economic Accelerator programme, it lacks scale).

The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering broadly agrees

An “independent review of Australia’s research sector”  is the “critical recommendation” of its budget bid. Its purpose would be to “determine the most effective ways” increase research and development spending to an “internationally competitive 3 per cent or so of GDP.

Austrade on the international ed case

Trade Minister Don Farrell was asked a friendly question about the state of international education in the Senate yesterday. He used the opportunity to be nice about Austrade, Austrade!

The minister answered that international education is recovering from the damage done by the previous government, notably PM Morrison telling international students to go home at the start of the pandemic. “Its recovery is testament to the quality education our institutions offer and the hard work of industry and government agencies,” Senator Farrell said.

Including AusTrade, the dedicated staff of which, in 36 locations, are “working hard to support the sector’s recovery.” Unique page views of the Study Australia website are up 28 per cent on ’22.

So that’s that sorted.

Curiously, the question did not include the present accommodation shortage for international students.

Appointment, achievements

At Monash U, Matthew Hall becomes the business school’s Associate Dean, Graduate Research.

The UK Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering for ’23 goes to Andrew Blakers (ANU), Martin Green (UNSW),  Aihua Wang (China Sunenergy) and Jianhua Zhao (Tera Solar Energies). The award is for their invention and development of Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell (PERC) solar photovoltaic technology.