Beginning as they mean to go on

The National Health and Medical Research Council is promoting its flash (beta version) new website. The media link goes to a “nothing to see here” message.

There’s more in the Mail

David Myton’s regular wrap of international higher education news is  here.

Not so super at UniNewcastle

There are “potential anomalies” in University of Newcastle superannuation accounts. Vice Chancellor Caroline McMillen emailed staff yesterday with news the university has hired Deloitte to, “to undertake a comprehensive review to assess our obligations and identify any anomalies. ”Professor McMillen assured staff that UniNewcastle’s priority is “to meet our superannuation commitments” and if anybody’s super has been underpaid the shortfall will be made-up, with interest.

Good-o, but the VC’s statement does not reveal how much money is involved, how many staff have been under-paid or (over-paid?) and for how long. Also important, if people have had more deposited in their super savings than should have been, will the university want to recover it?

CMM hears the reason why there is no word on any of this is that no-one knows and the university is waiting for Deloitte to report before year end.

UniNewcastle is not unique among unis in stuffing up super. In May Swinburne U reported owing staff $3.66m in underpaid superannuation and interest on the amounts involved, (CMM May 8). And last year the University of Wollongong discovered it had got superannuation payments wrong for 30 per cent of staff over eight years (CMM April 6 2017). The problem involved both under and over payments with a make-good cost of $10m. UniWollongong copped it sweet, stating upfront it would not try to recover any overpayments.

No accounting for equity programmes and what to do about it

Matt Brett (La Trobe U) calls for comprehensive change in student equity in access programmes, in a major report for the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education.

Mr Brett warns that targeted equity groups have not changed since they were established in 1984 and that with the Commonwealth spending $300m on higher education equitable access programmes a balance is needed “between institutional autonomy and the need to demonstrate accountability for policy goals and public funds.”

“The Australian Government is moving towards some performance funding and these reforms will provide lessons and opportunities to further embed equity as a design feature of a fair, accessible high-quality system,” he suggests.

He points to four foci for reform.

Updating and refining equity goals: The rights and needs of individuals and groups vary by institution and region. Systems are needed to meet local and national priorities.

Improve info management: “To produce better quality research, policymakers need better quality data — and this means clarifying what data is collected, improving how it is managed, and making better use of the data that is already collected.”

Link equity outcomes to funding: “Equity may be embedded in system design and university strategies, but this is insufficient for improving equity outcomes if not combined with accountability. As the higher education sector stands on the cusp of major reforms, there are opportunities to embed student equity within new policy paradigms. ”

Analyse, report and communicate outcomes: “Because reporting is so fragmented, we are not sure what best practice actually looks like … we need better reporting of data, better analysis of broader datasets and better communication of the outcomes of data analysis to all stakeholders.”

It’s the thought that counts

Curtin University has announced the Julia Gillard Women in Leadership Scholarship, “to support academically gifted young women through university.” The award is worth $8000 per annum for the duration of an undergraduate degree plus a one-off $6000 travel grant. The university will award one a year.

More Ramsay funding: UniNewcastle has $16m for teacher professional development

The Paul Ramsay Foundation (“empowering people, enabling change”) will provide $16.4m to the University of Newcastle to deliver its Quality Teaching Rounds programme to 30 000 Australian teachers. The foundation is supported by the estate of the late Paul Ramsay, which also separately funds the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation.

UniNewcastle laureate professor Jenny Gore and colleagues will use the new money to expand their QTR professional development programme from 224 schools last year to 3504 in 2022.

The programme involves school teachers observing and commenting on each other’s teaching. “The beauty of Quality Teaching Rounds is that it puts all participants on the same level, where they can assess the quality of teaching and provide specific feedback to their peers.

“Better professional development is fundamental to better outcomes for students, both academic and non-academic. QTR offers great promise across all subject areas and year levels, Professor Gore says.

The university says this is the largest research gift in the university’s history. Last year entrepreneur Jack Ma established the Ma and Morley Scholarship programme, valued at A$26.4m

Bad timing: UniSA chancellor is leaving

Jim McDowell will stand down as chancellor of the University of South Australia, prior to becoming head of the SA department of premier and cabinet, in September. He is expected to leave the university at its August 16 Council meeting.

Mr McDowell has been chancellor at UniSA since the start of 2016. Until a replacement is in place one of the two pro chancellors is expected to act, either former state minister John Hill or minex executive Pauline Carr.

The  announcement is not opportune for merger talks between UniSA and the University of Adelaide, announced last month. While Mr McDowell and his UniAdelaide equivalent, Kevin Scarce jointly announced the  talks, Rear Admiral Scarce is thought to be especially keen on a combination. With a joint-report on a possible merger due at year end Mr McDowell’s absence will be missed as work on the proposal picks up pace.

The whole world is watching

It’s not just quality courses and some work rights that makes Australia popular with international students – they feel welcome here. As the Department of Education and Training puts it.

UK commentators have ascribed the UK’s decline in non-EU student numbers in recent years to migration reforms, including student visa restrictions and changes in post-study work opportunities. It may be that Australia’s introduction of post-study work visas for international higher education graduates in 2013 has positioned Australia to be perceived as not only a quality study destination, with opportunities for working both during and after study, but also as a more welcoming destination for international student.”
We would do well not to give them reason to change their minds.

Change at UniCanb

Union members are not especially impressed with the University of Canberra’s new academic hiring plan, or the way some professional staff think they are paying the price of it.

Back in February UniCanb management invited just about all staff to apply for voluntary separation. The idea was to free up funds to invest in new academic positions. (CMM February 21). This did not got down well with professional staff, who feared increased workloads for continuing workers and confusion in roles and processes – which is what some say  has happened. The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union is collating concerns.

As for the increase in academics the staff changes are intended to pay for, the NTEU warns the advertised jobs are seven year appointments, with two performance reviews before staff are eligible for continuing employment and or promotion.

The week’s big appointments and achievements

Cheryl Saunders is elected a corresponding fellow of the British Academy. Laureate Professor Saunders is a constitutional lawyer at the University of Melbourne.

Oxford U academic Antone Martinho-Truswell is appointed inaugural dean of Graduate House, at St Paul’s College, which is “within” the University of Sydney.  The new facility will house 140 men and women academics and postgraduates. It opens at the start of next year.

The University of Sydney has three new associate deans in the Faculty of Medicine and Health. All three are internal appointments. Victoria Cogger becomes associate dean for research education, Inam Haq is associate dean (education) and Mark McEntee is now AD Student Life.

Cristy Seccombe from Murdoch U’s Animal Hospital is the new president of Equine Veterinarians Australia.

James Quach will work at the University of Adelaide for four years, thanks to funding from the Ramsay Fellowship which funds scientific research (and is definitely not the western civ centre outfit). Dr Quach will work on using the entanglement principle of quantum mechanics to create batteries which share physical properties and can might be able to be simultaneously charged. He moves from the University of Melbourne.

Braden Hill is appointed PVC Equity and Indigenous at Edith Cowan UMr Hill moves from Murdoch U where he was director of Aboriginal education, equity and inclusion.

Janet Currie from UTS is the Australian Teacher Education Association teacher educator of the year. Dr Currie is honoured for a programme targeting primary teachers interested in teaching physical education.

UniSA’s Anthony Elliott will lead the new EU-funded Jean Monet Centre of Excellenceand JM Network, based at the university.  The two ventures will foster Euro-Australian research on Industry 4.0 (AI, internet of things and etc), creative industries and migration and culture.

Mulyadi Robin joins Alphacrucis College as programme director for the master of leadership programme. He moves from Monash U’s business school.

Carina Kemp is AARNET’s new director of e-research. Dr Kemp was previously CIO at GeoSciences Australia.