Earth sciences erode at Macquarie U

Applications close today for heads of the new schools of Life Science and Fundamental Science at Macquarie U – which marks the end of another job-shedding restructure

The schools were created by department mergers. Biological Sciences, Earth and Environmental Sciences and Molecular Sciences become Life Science. Maths and Stats, Physics and Astronomy are now in Fundamental Sciences.

In terms of the 15 FTE jobs gone there is bad news all over – but observers suggest it is another blow for earth and environmental sciences. Its disciplines took a hit in 2019, when earth and planetary sciences merged with environmental science, people left and there were cuts to what was taught. The research and teaching merits of this were debated back then but observers also suggested it was a way to reduce headcount after a science faculty early retirement scheme had not reached savings target (CMM July 9 2019).

Last year earth and environment teaching took a hit when MU management established a 50- student minimum for undergraduate majors and specialisations across the university (CMM September 15 2020). And with four FTE lost in the new round observers of what was left of earth and environmental science suggest pre-pandemic cuts and COVID-19 have, “basically finished them off.”

This is a research-loss for Macquarie U. Earth science research was rated in the 76-100 band in the 2018, ’19, ’20 and ’21 editions of the Academic Ranking of World Universities (CMM June 27 2019, June 30 2020 and May 2021).

But it is a loss management accepts. As Vice Chancellor S Bruce Dowton said about the original merger involving earth and planetary sciences.

“It is true that EPS has been ranked highly at an individual discipline level as have a number of other disciplines across the university and those achievements are to be applauded. It is also true that we need to consider the rankings of fields where the university either has large student numbers (several of the business school fields) or is growing student enrolments (computer science, engineering etc.).  Rankings are clearly taken into account when considering any change proposal but they are by no means the only factor … there are several pathways and relevance points for institutional and discipline renown.  With careful consideration, each are valid and none are mutually exclusive,” (CMM August 7 2019).