Hold the phone at Uni Melbourne

A leaned reader called the university’s main number yesterday and was answered by a recorded message, that the university “was experiencing long wait times.” Perhaps cuts for this year include the call-waiting system, the LR laments.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

 Pru Mitchell (ACER) on the great Australian open access resource for leaning and teaching and how to make it greater. New this week in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s CMM series, “Needed now in teaching and learning.”

John Howard (UTS) argues Commonwealth governments have failed to provide leadership and Australia needs an independent agency to do it. “

Plus  Merlin CrossleyClaire Field (CMM February 24) and Robin Shreeve on micro-credentials: on or off campuses (and if on, which ones)

And the future for campuses is digital firstCurated content from CISCO and OPTUS.

The PhD, it’s a 100-year start-up

In Features this morning Marnie Hughes-Warrington and colleagues on why it’s a start-up about to rev-up

“Some startups flounder and fall over quickly, and others morph and hit their stride after a slow start. The doctorate is just starting to hit its stride, and it is important to continue to nudge it in the direction of success. That success flows—like any good start up—from knowing who it is for, and adaptation. They make the case, here .

Less please: Uni Melbourne needs to reduce spending by $250m this year

VC Duncan Maskell told staff yesterday that the university has reduced spending by $360m, which was a “fantastic achievement,” now he wants another one

“The university remains severely challenged financially and continues to operate under conditions of extreme uncertainty,” he stated in a message to staff, reporting a “break-even” surplus of $8m.

And so, the university executive requires $252m more in savings in ‘21, due to the continuing impact of the loss of international students, this year and next. Cuts are already incorporated into operating unit budgets.

“I am personally unhappy at the fact that we have to make changes of this nature, that can disrupt our morale and our sense of what seems right, but I also have a responsibility to protect the sustainability of the institution which should properly outlive us all to serve future generations,” the vice chancellor said.

He is also made happy by the prospect of “more of our students and more staff returning to our campuses” for the start of first semester.

But not quite as many staff as there were at the beginning of the last one. However the VC states that the overall number of jobs lost and to be lost will be under 450, which is less than last year’s best estimate and “many as half of these being voluntary.”


But enough of us talking about us, pray, what do you think of us?

What academics think of academics is different to what other people think

Academics have a more favourable perception of themselves than other people, according to Melih Sever, Seyhan Ozdemir (Suleyman Demirel U (in Turkey) and Kate Jobson (School of Oriental and African Studies (UK). They surveyed people from the two countries to explore “cross-cultural perspectives of academics via metaphors,” new in the journal Higher Education Research and Development.

One they liked is “an academic is like a bad dinner guest … ”

While they found cultural differences, there were common perceptions. Academics used “themes of guidance, versatility and inquiry,” “emergent ideas” from people without university backgrounds focused on academics as “egotistical, unreliable and removed from reality.”

As for students, “the recurrent themes were that of academics as information sources, navigators and inaccessible to them in both contexts.”

CMM would like to report more but the article is paywalled and we have already spent current budget on journal access.

Which raises a different question, “for-profit publishers are like …”


A shuffle at La Trobe U

There’s management musical-chairs

Last October Natalie MacDonald was in, with La Trobe U’s VP Strategy and Development picking up responsibility for digital transformation (CMM October 21). Now Ms MacDonald is out, having left the university.  And her portfolio is no more, with functions re-allocated in line with the COVID-19 recovery plan.

Big winners appear to be Mark Smith (now chief financial and ops officer) who will pick up units from Strategy and the as yet to be appointed, ED Transformation. This will “support efficiency and coordination of resources and effort,” VC John Dewar tell staff.

Jess Vanderlelie, DVC (Students) also has more to do, taking on student accommodation, which will, “align it with other student-facing functions.”

This is all subject to adoption of a workplace change proposal, which probably will not be opposed, what with only one staffer losing their job and they will be offered “alternative options.”

A new imprint for Uni Queensland – it’s not from UQP

The university’s Open Textbook team says the Pressbooks platform allows staff to create “a compelling alternative to commercial texts”

“Compelling?” It will be for academics who want to create the texts they want to use, from scratch, or by adapting open access content.

And it will be for students who will like content custom created for their campus and courses, plus not getting slugged for-profit publisher prices.

And it will be for education publishers, although the compulsion might be of the rigid in fear variety.

But other than a commitment to teaching and a delight in students succeeding, what is in it for academics?

Quite a bit, a digital delivery expert tells CMM. “If you are good with social media you can get yourself pretty well known and get your publication used by quite a few people. So, it’s about reputational impact. The sandstones still have a preference for “publisher” based content, but outside that group, it is generally worthwhile.”

More academics to exit Macquarie U

The university proposes staff cuts in the business school – people in leadership have nothing to worry about  

The cuts continue at Macquarie U, with a management proposal on how the business school reach its savings target by shedding academic staff.

But selectively, “staff in teaching and leadership positions are excluded … as these positions disproportionately contribute to teaching delivery and leadership of teaching and are therefore not redundant in the current context,” the workplace change proposal states.

And lest anybody miss the point, the proposal separately states, executive dean positions (in this case the one held by Eric Knight, who joined in September), “are part of the University Executive Group and are therefore also proposed to be out of scope.”

Others exempt include new hires and externally funded positions.

Which means the rest of the 190 or so FTE will have to be the source of 17 to 27 FTE positions to go. There is no word of what this could mean for casuals. And there is not much anybody given a black spot can do about it, with allocations of savings, “informed by an assessment to the teaching and research needs and not any assessment of individual performance.

There’s more of the same in two other faculties

The same process is also underway in the medicine-health-human sciences and science and engineering faculties. Arts is exempt because it made its savings targets through voluntary redundancies.

Management wants overall academic staff costs down a further $19.2m to reach the original overall target for them of $25.2m. Professional staff have been through the same savings-process (CMM February 16).

“Our emphasis throughout is that change is managed in an equitable, transparent and organised way underpinned by our commitment towards ongoing engagement as we consult on these proposals,” Vice Chancellor S Bruce Dowton told staff yesterday.

Appointments, achievements

Of the day

Johannes Fritzsch (Queensland Conservatorium of Music at Griffith U) is named principal conductor of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. 


Of the week

The Australian Awards for University Teaching (CMM yesterday) are here.

Alexander Filkov wins the early career award from the International Association of Wildland Fire.

Jane Gunn becomes interim dean of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at Uni Melbourne. She steps up from the deputy role in the faculty.

Peter Leggat (James Cook U) receives a Gold Commendation from St John Ambulance for his work as a member of its clinical governance committee

Geraldine Mackenzie has a second four-year term as VC of the University of Southern Queensland. She joined in 2017 from Southern Cross U, where she was DVC R.

“International leader, academic and change-maker” Tim Marshall joins RMIT as DVC, Design and Social Context. He moves from The New School, in New York.

Clare Pollock leaves Flinders U where she is Senior DVC and DVC Students for Western Sydney U where she will become Senior DVC and Provost. She replaces Scott Bowman (ex VC CQU), who was hired last August to act in the job until March (CMM August 25). He becomes VC of Charles Darwin U in May.