Baton passes at Uni Queensland

Peter Varghese does the passing

On Friday, the chancellor farewelled now former VC Peter Høj, pointing to the university’s achievements during his six years in research, teaching, industry partnerships, commercialisation and international links. On Sunday, Mr Varghese welcomed new VC Deborah Terry, in-place this morning. “Her deep knowledge of the higher education sector and her proven track-record as a leader gives me great confidence that she will continue to build on UQ’s many achievements.”

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Andrew Taggart (Murdoch U) makes cases for the ATAR. It’s about much more than university entry.

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on the  pleasure and pride of routine lab work done well

Lucy Montgomery (Curtin U) on open access– it’s now the new normal which means, “universities can radically alter the visibility and recognition of their research in the community.”

QUT staff back COVID-19 savings

It’s a big win for management and the campus unions     

The vote to vary the university’s enterprise agreement was carried by 90 per cent of professional staff voting (turnout 49 per cent) and 88 per cent of academics (turnout 37 per cent).

They voted for a proposal including * postponing the next 2 per cent pay rise, until December 2021 * no leave loading for 18 months * staff taking leave over Christmas this year and next.  In return for staff concessions, management committed to * no forced redundancies until June * management continuing superannuation contributions and * available staff retraining.

The university agreed to an independent committee, including union representatives, over-sighting its financial position which made it easier for the comrades to recommend a savings deal to members and the broader university community.

This is a good outcome for QUT. It makes managing the $100m COVID-19 shortfall it faces this year somewhat less daunting and allows Vice Chancellor Margaret Sheil to work on a restructure for the new times without the distraction of a savings brawl.

“The vote outcome reflects and reinforces the positive feedback I have received directly from many staff in support more generally on the course QUT is charting through these challenges. Staff feedback continues to be an integral part of this process, “ Professor Sheil tells staff.

Professor Sheil thanks the two campus unions and the university’s HR team, for negotiating the agreement.

It is also an achievement for the National Tertiary Education Union, demonstrating to other Queensland vice chancellors what a deal can deliver. “By working together, we have put QUT staff and their institution in the best possible position to weather the 2021 COVID-19 crunch,” state secretary Michael McNally says.

Attention now turns to Griffith U which is putting a savings proposal to a staff vote that is opposed by the union (CMM July 28, July 29)

Postdocs for Perth

WA philanthropy Forrest Research Foundation announces $3m to fund postdoc fellowships for ANZ researches at any of WA’s five universities. The foundation is funded by Andrew and Nicola Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation.


New lights in the science sky

Selection starts tomorrow for the next set of Superstars of STEM

Science and Technology Australia is looking for 60 women working in science, technology, engineering and maths, “to become highly visible public role models” and help “smash society’s gender assumptions about scientists.”

The programme will, “empower participants to share their story and their work with general audiences by equipping them with advanced communications skills and an understanding of traditional media, social media and story-telling.”

STA started the scheme in 2017.

Digital legal assistance

Flinders U law students must learn to code, at least enough to create an app

There’s one for South Australians facing eviction, pointing them to emergency accommodation suited to their circumstances. Another, soon to go live for Relationships Australia, sets out parenting and relationship courses.

Group-work creating an app is a mandatory part of a compulsory UG law subject.

In Sydney, the Redfern Legal Centre has an app for international students on the law applying to their top four issues, employmenthousingdisputes with their unit/college and sexual assault, (CMM April 15 2019).

Deakin U says it’s considering staff feedback

 On Thursday, the Fair Work Commission directed Deakin U to consult with staff and unions at a whole-of-university level on proposed job losses. The university has been talking to staff separately, in 15 operating units where it proposed to reduce positions

Where this came from: The National Tertiary Education Union argued that this should occur at an all of university level. The union has long held that management should discuss overall alternatives to its proposal to cut 300 jobs leave 100 empty positions unfilled.

The Fair Work Commission agreed about all-of-university consultations, ordering Deakin U, “to embark on consultation with the NTEU and affected staff at the university-wide level,” (CMM July 31).

And so, on Friday the university announced, “we will create an on-line resource where staff can view each of the major workplace change proposals. In addition to feedback already provided to the university, staff will have the opportunity to provide further feedback on the major workplace change proposals.”

Staff who have already commented on operating unit proposals need do no more. “All existing feedback will be considered along with anything further that we receive prior to the university making any decisions about how to proceed.”

So, that’s that:  Certainly, if, staff comments constitute consultation. In her Thursday judgement, Commissioner Bissett stated; “the right to be consulted is a substantive right, it is not to be treated perfunctorily or as a mere formality.  Inherent in the obligation to consult is the requirement to provide a genuine opportunity for the affected party to express a view about a proposed change in order to seek to persuade the decision maker to adopt a different course of action.”

And now the union says of the management’s new message, “on the face of it, what they have announced to staff does not seem to be consistent with the commission’s decision.” Official Linda Gale says the NTEU expects to meet management this week.

The back-story:  There is less divide than chasm separating university leadership from the union and aggrieved members of staff in the way they want COVID-19 savings to be found.

In May, Vice Chancellor Iain Martin told staff that council had approved a new strategic plan which includes COVID-19 savings and would be implemented under the university’s enterprise agreement. He explicitly ruled out the then proposed accord on savings, on offer to all universities, based on union and management hammering out an agreement. This included universities submitting proposed savings to an external committee, including a union representative as one condition on staff accepting cuts to conditions. (CMM May 26). “Our council is responsible for setting the overall strategic pathway for Deakin U, and the framework will constrain its ability to decide what is in the best short, medium, and longer-term interests of the university. That independent governance oversight has served Deakin very well in balancing the needs of now and the imperatives for the future,” Professor Martin said (CMM May 26).

Which upset some staff – there have been two open letter to Professor Martin calling for consultation on the university’s future, with one complaining about, “the ‘top-down’ nature of your decision-making (CMM June 3).

Queensland Gov announces loans to unis

There is $150m available to the state’s universities, “to support cash flow and protect jobs”

Any particular universities in mind? “Thousands of people right throughout regional Queensland rely on universities for a job. This package will help to keep all our universities open – safeguarding these jobs,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says. Loans are repayable over five years.

There is no mention of any conditions, unlike in NSW where the state government will guarantee $750m in new loans taken out by universities subject to their showing, “how they intend to restructure their operations to make them more sustainable,” (CMM June 9).


Michael Conry is to join University of Notre Dame Australia as DVC Finance. Mr Conroy moves from Murdoch U where he is chief financial officer.