Monash VC proposes more secure employment for PhD students

Monash U was in thumping surplus last year ($259m) but while VC Margaret Gardner counsels caution there’s good news for staff – including some sessionals

Professor Gardner warns staff of the “anticipated further declines in student revenue we will face this year and in 2022 and 2023.” And now that campuses are open, unlike last year, non-salary expenditure will unavoidably increase. “We will never face such a low level of non-salary expenditure again,” she says.

And so, “we will need to manage with limited recruitment of new staff and with tight control of other expenditure.”

But things aren’t all bad. As of May 8, key savings measures under the university’s enterprise agreement variation are over. The freeze on increment increases ends and the deferred 2 per cent salary increase will be paid.

And Professor Gardner proposes reducing the insecurity of insecure employment, at least for PhD students who are sessional teachers or do research-support jobs. She suggests fixed-term appointments, which would give them incremental salary rises and sick leave. She also raises the possibility of contingent continuing employment for “many of our research-only contract staff.”

The VC says details could be sorted with the National Tertiary Education Union and “more generally” with staff, within weeks and before enterprise bargaining gets going.