There’s more in the Mail

In features this morning

“It is a prime national interest – of all nations – that politicians, the masters of the here and now, avoid interfering with research,” Ofer Gal (Uni Sydney) on the dangers of the government’s National Interest Test.

Plus Margaret Lloyd (QUT) on how she became one of “those” mature-age students. This week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning

The eight unis competing for industry research funds

Eight universities are shortlisted for one of the Commonwealth’s four research commercialisation “trailblazer” grants

The trails each of the winners will blaze lead to commercialising research of one of the six “critical national manufacturing priorities,” which are;  resources tech and critical minerals processing, food and beverage, medical products, recycling and clean energy, defence and space.

This is one of two major initiatives in the government’s plan to focus on research with commercial applications, the other being directing the Australian Research Council to engage with industry in choosing projects.

The four winners will receive $50m over four years plus CSIRO support.

The eight selected from 21 starters are,

Curtin U (resource tech)

Deakin U (recycling and clean energy)

Charles Sturt U (food and beverage)

Uni Adelaide (defence)

Uni Melbourne (medical products)

UNSW (recycling and renewable)

University of Queensland (food and beverage)

Uni Southern Queensland (space (as in off-planet) tech

The programme guidelines reserve one spot for a regional and suggest there will only one programme per  priority.  Which might make things tough for Charles Sturt U – up against Uni Southern Queensland in the regional space and Uni Queensland in the food priority. Deakin U and UNSW are also competing in the recycling NMP.

La Trobe U not sorted on paying back casuals

Last June La Trobe U identified “some issues with our current systems and processes which may have led to underpayment of some casual staff” and promised to “quantify, then rectify any underpayments that may have occurred (CMM June 18).

It followed the Fair Work Ombudsman asking La Trobe about casual staff pay (CMM March 12 2021).

Management is still working on issues and the union is not happy.

According to the National Tertiary Education Union, for years LT U paid casual academic staff a piece rate for marking rather than enterprise agreement specified rates, which are based on time and complexity.

Management says it “is working within its collective agreement to resolve a dispute in relation to casual staff marking payment. A date has been set for the university to meet with the NTEU to discuss the matter.”

But the union has specifics it wants adopted, including management stopping work on a formula to set what people are owed, asking individuals to provide evidence of underpayment and for the “vice chancellor to, “publish a written apology to all casual staff.”

Which is what Uni Melbourne VC Duncan Maskell did over a casual underpayment issue last year, referring to ““a systemic failure of respect from this institution for those valued, indeed vital employees,” (CMM September 10).

Management imposes discipline structure on Uni Sydney arts

The long debated new structure for the faculty of arts and social sciences is announced

The big picture “Faculty will move from a “departmental to a disciplinary structure,” with a “reorientation” of schools. Which sounds epochal but isn’t for everybody. All six schools stay and most disciplines remain where they are. Two schools will change names, one of them, what is now Philosophical and Historical Inquiry becomes Humanities, picking up linguistics and religion. The departments of studies in religion and theatre and performance which were suggested as being for the chop continue. Gender and Cultural Studies is in Humanities (where people wanted it to be – not moved to social science and politics).

All existing courses stay and a dozen of 1800 units are “rested.”

And there are no new redundancies.

Discipline groups replace departments  there will be a chair for each discipline, or group of them. Department study coordinators will be replaced by coordinators for majors, streams and degrees.

A discipline model for FASS has been bitterly opposed, “breaking even more sharply the bond between the faculty’s organisational structure and its educational and intellectual purposes. Academics in the new structure will be grouped into ‘disciplines’ under the thumb of academic managers,” new Uni Sydney branch president of the National Tertiary Education Union, Nick Riemer wrote in statement of personal views.

However management says “academic life will continue to flourish at discipline level as well as at school levels.”

“Disciplines will in fact become more prominent in the new structure and by far the majority of you will have the same colleagues, be housed in the same buildings and participate in the same cadence of discipline and school meetings, FASS dean Lisa Adkins and deputy Garry Barrett assure staff.

But why?Students will be provided with a simplified degree pathway and stronger learning experience. Plus, “greater academic collaboration in teaching and research, consistent high-quality disciplinary training for FASS students.” The new structure will “reduce administrative double-up and contribute to securing the future of our smaller disciplines.”

Yes, but really why? “We are not currently among the top-ranked HASS faculties in Australia nor where we aim to be globally. Adkins and Barrett tell staff, citing performance on research income and ERA, QS, THE and ARU rankings and student ratings “of their overall experience.”

“Those outperforming us in Australia have had discipline-based faculty structures for some time,” they add.

But that’s not that  There is a new round of curriculum change to come, a new collaborative research scheme and a ten-year faculty plan.    

Uni Canberra union calls for pandemic consultation

The National Tertiary Education Union is unhappy with pandemic protections in the proposed return to campus

Officials Craig Appelgate and Lachlan Clohesy say consultation is required under the ACT’s health and safety act because Omicron “has dramatically changed the public health situation.”

The university will start teaching February 7, “with a mix of face to face and on-line offerings.”  Vaccination is mandatory for people in “higher-risk” campus settings and encouraged for everybody. Face mask are required in-doors on campus.

But the union has questions and wants answers by tomorrow on a range of issues, including management’s capacity to supply high quality face masks and “urgent clarification”  on the university’s supply of rapid antigen tests and “how the university proposes to use them.”

This follows the NTEU”s move last week at Monash U for a halt to return to campus preparation “until genuine consultation has been carried out” (CMM January 28).

The Flinders U branch of the union also wants consultation on risk assessment however management there is engaging with staff on its proposal to make vaccination on campus compulsory, by presenting it as a variation to the enterprise agreement, which the workforce must approve (CMM January 24).