“From the flight deck, it’s your VC speaking”

Uni Southern Queensland VC Geraldine Mackenzie had a go on the university’s new A380 simulator yesterday (via Twitter). While it’s for BA (as in aviation) students there’s got to be a short-course opportunity for actual A380 pilots grounded for so long they have forgotten which way is up.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

What’s the future for Australia’s public universities? Garry Carnegie, James Guthrie and Lee Parker suggest it’s time to ask the people in their intellectual engine-rooms. “Exciting new opportunities may arise from engaging teachers and researchers, with broad aims revolving around creating a better society, environment, and an innovation-driven economy.”

Merlin Crossley explains why researchers should stick to their knitting. “The grand challenges facing our world today are so complex that they will only be solved if academics work with people across society to translate new knowledge and implement solutions!”

Vin Massaro critically considers the report underpinning the new UG funding rates. “That such major and far-reaching decisions should have been made on such a narrow information base raises serious concerns about their sustainability.”

Joanna Tai (Deakin U) on being better at feedback for students. It’s Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s new selection in here series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.


Maskell of Melbourne: students are not a market

“Universities are the last bastion of knowledge and understanding, across every field where there is authentic knowledge to be had,” says Uni Melbourne VC Duncan Maskell

His second annual state of the uni address on Wednesday night was inevitably shaped by the impact of COVID-19, on campus and community, and how Uni Melbourne’s research and teaching is shaping the defence against it.

But in a carefully apolitical address, Professor Maskell also confronted continuing challenges for higher education that pre-dated the pandemic.

In the month of the government’s new applied-undergraduate education plan Professor Maskell spoke up to defend the broad-curricula “Melbourne model,” (CMM June 26). He did so again in this address.

“Not unreasonably, we can expect the next few years to be a time when people, particularly young people, will want to go deeper, explore social and natural reality more fully. We should remember that, as well as economic challenges, there is a crisis of trust going on in the world: loss of trust in institutions, nations, political parties, perhaps loss of trust in facts themselves or an understanding of what truth is.

“We can lament this. But we should also remember that universities like ours need to be a big part of the solution to this problem. Universities are the last bastion of knowledge and understanding, across every field where there is authentic knowledge to be had.”

And he rejected education as a utility.

“The language of ‘markets’ which is commonly used in Australian higher education and media circles is deeply misconceived. When we start to describe students in terms of a market, then the marketisation of universities has reached its apotheosis. We must turn away from this view. Our students are dedicated, intelligent people: keen to learn, keen to make something of their lives.”

Overall the vice chancellor spoke for education, specifically at Uni Melbourne as a bright light in a pestilent passage, “Our community must be a beacon. The University of Melbourne has a major contribution to make; it has been making it all along, and will continue to make it in the months and years ahead.”

No new bad news on jobs (for once)

The hackery was busy yesterday reporting staff cuts

It culminated last night in an “exclusive report” that Monash U will cut 277 jobs.

Cue conniptions among staff who feared a fresh hell of redundancies to come. They can relax. A Monash U spokesperson confirmed that the 277 jobs the yarn referred to is the total VC Margaret Gardner announced a month ago, not new ones (CMM June 11).

Worked-out in Wollongong

Management and union leaders at the uni there have agreed on terms for a job-saving strategy

The proposal is: Staff will concede conditions in return for job protections. In particular workers will, * have pay rises due in November 2020 and ’21 deferred to 2022 * give up pay rises on promotion for now * undertake different work, “within their competence”

In return management commits to, * “no forced redundancies directly due to COVID-19” before April 30 2021, * retaining fixed-term staff post-contract if the work they do continues and there is funding for it, * prioritise casuals employed in the last 12 months for available work. * UoW also agrees, “to provide regular financial briefings to both the NTEU and the Community and Public Sector Union on the university’s financial challenges and responses, subject to confidentiality requirements. Regular updates will also be provided directly to staff.”

There was no public word yesterday on how many jobs these measures would save. Under the universities original offer the best figure was 200 (CMM June 5).

Where this came from: Management put temporary pay-cuts on a promise of limiting job-losses to a staff vote last month. The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union vocally opposed the proposal, which was decisively defeated, (CMM June 18). The university then sat down with the unions to discuss alternative savings.

What’s next: The proposal now goes to union members (NTEU today). If they approve all staff will be asked to endorse the required variations to the UoW enterprise agreement.  If they don’t the university warns it, “will immediately begin pursuing the necessary savings by strategically reshaping and resizing its workforce under the terms of existing employment agreements.”

Sound familiar?: This deal appears to be a local version of the national job protection framework negotiated by four VCs and the NTEU, designed for use by any agreeable university. Close to half rejected it, many because of the clause requiring an independent committee over-sighting institutions finances.

However versions of the accord are already in-place at five universities with others expected to follow.

La Trobe U announces (another) education restructure

First student support, now it’s the learning portfolio

LT U is restructuring the Student support and administration portfolio, with plans out for consultation and implementation due early August (CMM yesterday). The Education portfolio is also set for change, “part of a strategy to significantly improve our offer.” A proposed structure went to staff yesterday, with comments required by month end.

The university says both sets of changes are outside the COVID-19 job protection framework staff have agreed to, but it will, “avoid compulsory redundancies where we can.”

However CMM understand that management and the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union agree that staff changes will be dealt with according to the COVID-19 Temporary Measures agreement.

Appointments, achievements of the week

Richard Bradbury (Federation U) receives the 2020 Australian Society for Microbiology’s Lyn Gilbert Award.

Catherine Branson is appointed Uni Adelaide’s 17th chancellor. She joined council in 2013 and became deputy chancellor in 2017. Ms Branson has acted as chancellor since Kevin Scarce resigned on May 5.

Tony Hughes-d’Aeth is appointed chair of Australian Literature at UWA. It’s an internal appointment.

A learned reader advises the Institute of Analytics Professionals of Australia has named its top 25 analytics leaders including from HE, Lex Antic (ANU), Behrooz Hassani Mahmooei (Monash U), Gordon McDonald (Uni Sydney), Craig Napier (UTS) and William Yeoh (Deakin U).

George Lawson (ANU) receives the Hedley Bull Prize in International Relations from the European Consortium for Political Research. The award is for Anatomies of Revolution, “a novel account” of how they “begin, unfold and end,” (Cambridge UP).

Nicolette Lee (previously acting DVC E) at La Trobe U is confirmed in her post. As is Jessica Vanderlelie (previously acting DVC Students).

Johanna Macneil joins RMIT as dean of management. She moves from the University of Newcastle.

Robyn Murphy (life sciences, La Trobe U) is named president-elect of the Australian Physiological Society.

Jill Slay is to leave La Trobe U to join the University of South Australia and the Smart Satellite Cooperative Research Centre in September. Professor Slay will take up a chair in cybersecurity.