De facto not de jure dead

An optimistic analyst denies demand driven funding is dead and will not abandon hope, “until the Act is rewritten to make a ministerial guess at needed places the driver not the failsafe.”

University of Queensland makes a pay offer

The University of Queensland has tabled its post MYEFO pay offer, and even with the cuts it is not much different to the deal Griffith U put to staff before Christmas. UoQ offers 1.5 per cent in signing followed by $1500 in year two, 1.6 per cent in year three and $2000 in year four.

This compares to Griffith management’s offer of $1350 or a 1.5 per cent increase to base pay, whichever is greater, on staff approving a new enterprise agreement. This would be followed by a 1.6 per cent rise in May 2019, a further $1350/1.5 per cent in June 2020 and 1.7 per cent in June 2021. They are on top of the 1.5 per cent administrative rise last May ( CMM December 15).

In December UoQ provost Aidan Byrne told staff the university was waiting on MYEFO to see what it would be able to pay. Yesterday he said, “the university has taken into account the adverse impact of the $2.2 billion funding cuts to universities announced in December 2017,” – which leaves CMM wondering what the cuts have cost UoQ workers.

Baker Institute in the money, but won’t say how much

The Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute has sold clinical research subsidiary Nucleus Network to Crescent Capital Partners. The institute holds an option on 20 per cent of the business but it will, “invest a large percentage of the sale proceeds to underpin the long-term financial stability of the Institute.” Good-o but how much that might be is not known. The Baker declines to disclose the sale price.

Murdoch U HR director alleges university staff bullied her

Murdoch University has been in the Fair Work Commission again, but this time its opponent is a senior staff member instead of the National Tertiary Education Union. Yesterday, Fair Work Commission Deputy President Binet dealt with a dispute between Murdoch U and its own director of people and culture, Michelle Narustrang. Ms Narustrang has alleged, “several very senior employees of Murdoch had engaged in bullying behaviour towards her.”

Deputy President Binet dismissed her application as “an independent investigation” had cleared two named persons and that the third individual “was no longer in direct contact with Ms Narustrang.” However, “if on her return to work behaviours occur which might form the basis of the granting of orders then she can make a new application at that time.”

While the three individuals are not named; “Murdoch have not provided sufficient evidence to satisfy me that a departure from the principle of open justice is justified to de-identify the university,” the deputy president said.

Last night a Murdoch U spokesperson said, “the matter has been dismissed by the Fair Work Commission and the university has no further comment.

Friends of TAFE make their case

The Senate education and employment references committee is inquiring into the shambles in South Australia’s TAFE system. The inquiry follows training regulator ASQA cancelling accreditation of a bunch of courses but only a cynic would suggest that the federal government is using the inquiry to embarrass the state government in the lead-up to the SA election and stop Labor arguing that public sector training is good and private providers bad.

To date, friends of TAFE are making the running.

University of Queensland economist John Quiggin, argues in his inquiry submission that the problems in SA TAFE are due to funding cuts and “ideologically driven projects of marketisation.” “Funding for TAFE should be increased and for-profit providers excluded from direct funding,” he states.

VET commentator Gavin Moodie argues the problem with training is not just in SA, and is caused by “several states” making “ill considered attempts to allocate public subsidies to private for-profit providers while concurrently removing caps on the number of places they subsidised, and subsequently sought to correct or reverse the excesses that these dysfunctional policies financed.”

He also points to funding cuts and state-national policy fragmentation adding that the Senate is not helping; “This review of Tafe SA perpetuates and exacerbates this fragmentation of vocational education and training policy, as if the South Australian Government’s policy and funding of vocational education and training were unrelated to its funding agreements with the Australian Government, vocational education student loans, standards, quality assurance and related issues.”

It’s early days, with the inquiry not reporting until the end of February and only three submissions filed, but CMM suspects that supporters of the public system will continue to make the running.

Bad base line

While Queensland Universities will face a half-cohort of uni starters in 2020 (changes to school start dates 12 years back) a learned reader points out that the same situation started in WA in 2015, so last year – the new federal base-line for funded enrolments – has a lower overall enrolment.

Teacher attrition numbers don’t add up

There are all sorts of opinions but not much evidence on attrition rates among early career teachers, as Paul Weldon discovered when he looked for a definitive figure.

The idea that beginning teachers are not up to the job is convenient for critics of teacher education faculties and opponents of the demand driven system (remember that?) who claim universities bolster budgets by enrolling too many people who will not make good teachers. High attrition rates among new teachers appear to make their case.

But in a new article for the Australian Journal of Education, Dr Weldon demonstrates there are no definitive data to support oft-repeated claims that 30 per cent to 50 per cent of teachers leave the profession in their first five years. He searched but did not find evidence for such claims, concluding, “ all mention of a 25% attrition rate in over a decade appears to be based on a submission of anecdotal evidence by one state department” to a government review in 2003. There are no national figures for 17 years, he writes.

Nor are all teacher resignations a reflection of failure or evidence of a permanent departure from the profession.

“Movement between schools, systems, and sectors can be positive. No one expects teachers to stay in the same position for a lifetime. A promotion, a fresh environment, different colleagues, different challenges, different ways of doing things can be important for the health and career progression of employees in most industries. Leaving teaching for career or family reasons is also not necessarily negative for the individual. It may also be the case that some who leave teaching early in their career have found themselves unsuited to it.”

Without reliable baseline data and ongoing measurement, this field will continue to rely on international figures and continue to attract an emotive and negative commentary that, in itself, is unlikely to create change,” he warns.

Something to look forward to

Funster of the day is Alexander Theloudis (Luxembourg Institute for Socio-Economic Research) who tweeted yesterday; “I will devote my first tweets of #2018 to a summary of my paper ‘Consumption Inequality across Heterogeneous Families’ that I recently completed.”

MOOC of the morning

The University of Colorado plans to offer a masters in electrical engineering by MOOC. Not taster subjects or a micro-masters, a complete degree. “It maintains the existing on-campus degree’s curricular content but adds a new level of flexibility,” UoC says. The degree will be available at “a lower cost” than on the on-campus product but the university is not saying how much.

Medical Research Future Fund grants announced

Health Minister Greg Hunt announced 22 Medical Research Future Fund grants yesterday. The bucks are not big, at least by NHMRC standards, ranging from $274 000 to $577 000, but the MRFF is but young and the capital base is not yet generating a strong income stream. The University of Melbourne, with four grants and Monash U with six, lead the list. Recipients are:

Elizabeth Elliott (Uni Sydney) $577: health outcomes for disadvantaged children

Christopher Levi (Uni Newcastle) $577: acute stroke therapies

Y C Gary Lee (UWA) $481: translation research on pleural effusion and infection

Jacqueline Centre (Garvan Institute) $343: outcomes in osteoporosis and bone health

Helena Teede (Monash U) $494: prevention, diagnosis, management of obesity in women

Peter Cameron (Monash U) $412: emergency and trauma care systems

Andrew Wei (Monash U) $412: translational research on acute myeloid leukaemia

Paul McCrory (Florey Institute) $577: mild traumatic brain injury

Alexander Thompson (Uni Melbourne) $481: elimination of Hepatitis C Virus

Bala Venkatesh (George Institute) $274: sepsis outcomes

Lianne Schmaal (Uni Melbourne) $431: neuroimaging in mental health

Antonio Verdejo-Garcia (Monash U) $476: treating methamphetamine addiction

David Godler (Murdoch Children’s Institute) $476: diagnosis and intervention for children with intellectual disability and autism

Christopher Davey (Uni Melbourne) $333: biomarkers for youth with severe depression

Donna Urquhart (Monash U) $429: lower back pain

Louise Corben (Murdoch Children’s Institute) $431: upper limb function for people with Hereditary Cerebellar Ataxia

Steven Tong (Uni Melbourne) $333: Managing bloodstream and skin infections leading to kidney and heart disease

Jill Newby (UNSW) $431: Internet delivered therapies for anxiety and depression

Saurabh Kumar (Western Sydney Local Health District) $431: identifying risk of arrhythmias and consequent sudden cardiac arrest

Dawn Aitken (UniTas) $431: new therapy options for osteoarthritis and chronic low back pain

Dominic Linz (Uni Adelaide) $431: sleep apnea

Meg Jardine (UNSW) $476: care of chronic cardiovascular disease