Splendid isolation

The Regional Universities Network’s submission to the Senate committee inquiry on the government’s higher education funding bill calls for its passage. RUN says bits of the bill are too prescriptive, which should be reviewed in two years but overall the Senate should pass it, “to give certainty for the sector and funding for new places in 2021.

CMM suspects it will be one of few such submissions.

There’s more in the Mail

New in Features this morning

James Guthrie (Macquarie U), Jane Andrew and Max Baker (both Uni Sydney) explain the pea and thimble accounting trick in the government’s higher education plan

 Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on universities as towers of babel and why we need to keep building them

Reads of the week

Martin Betts  on the exciting future for education and learning.

 Jack Goodman (Studiosity) has read all of the Prohibiting Academic Cheating Services Act. What he likes about it is in Features this morning.

Jay Cohen (Charles Sturt U) wants teaching on-line to work in the way people learn in life, through self-direction. It’s this week’s piece in commissioning editor Sally Kift’s series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.

Union agrees to talk to Victoria U on savings

Management and the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union have agreed to negotiate for a joint approach to savings which will go to an all staff vote

Terms on the table include partial postponement to 2023 of enterprise agreement pay rises due in 2021 and 2022, five days purchased leave this year and the two following, cancelled leave loadings for three years and a deferral of payments accompanying promotions and progression to 2023.

In return, management would commit to a range of measures, including reducing executives’ salaries and benefits, protecting 90 FTE positions and no forced redundancies unless the target of 100 voluntary separations is not reached.

Management also commits to, “regular independent reviews of our financial situation by an external expert panel.”

Vice Chancellor Peter Dawkins says he hopes to have an agreement to put to all-staff ballot by end September.

This proposal is largely in-line with the Job Protection Framework drawn up four vice chancellors and the NTEU national leadership in the early days of the COVID-19 crisis.

However, it appears securing support of campus unionists for negotiations was a near-run thing. A meeting of some members voted against cooperating with management last month (CMM August 10) and yesterday’s formal vote is said to have been tight, with the barest majority for commencing talks with management. Union dissidents may well mount a grassroots no campaign in the all-staff ballot, as has occurred at campuses across the country.

ATN’s grand alliance

The tech unis make new friends in responding to the government’s HE plan

The Australian Technology Network’s submission to the Senate inquiry on Minister Tehan’s student place funding bill is said to be largely in-line with its budget sub (admirably focused is the ATN).

Word is the ATN goes harder now on the student completion rate requirement which they want out altogether but otherwise ATN supports passage with “several sensible amendments.” These include; * extending demand driven access to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, rather than, as at present, to those from remote and regional areas, * reviewing the contentious new funding rates for STEM undergraduate places and * legislating indexing Commonwealth Grant Scheme funding, (now in regulations.)

There is something else interesting about the submission, it’s jointly from the ATN (UTS, RMIT, Uni SA and Curtin U) plus two – Uni Newcastle and Deakin U.

Murdoch U drops ATAR English as an UG pre-req

Management says this does not reflect a change of standards and is in-line with the majority of unis in other states

Murdoch University will not require a pass in ATAR English (or equivalent) as a pre-requisite to entry for domestic school leaver students, the WA Tertiary Institutions Service Centre advises the state’s schools.

From first-semester next year, Murdoch U will accept two years of VET or two years of Australian senior school study for domestic students “as evidence of meeting English competency for courses with minimum English requirements.”  This does not apply to all courses, with the Bachelor of Nursing requiring length of study in English.

According to Murdoch U, this new approach brings the university into line, “with the majority of Australian universities in other states.”

“It is out of step with our market position as a recruiting university that we have more stringent English barriers than several Go8 universities.”

Murdoch adds, “this initiative does not in any way reflect a change in standards.  It instead acknowledges that to have attained the selection rank required for entry to university inherently indicates that the student has met the requisite English language competency.”

TISC adds Murdoch U, “is implementing additional diagnostic testing for students in their first semester to assist the better deployment of mathematics and English support to ensure students have the best likelihood of success.”

Not quiet on the western front: staff oppose cuts plans at Murdoch and Curtin  

Curtin U staff vote next week on a management proposal

Management is proposing they vote to amend the university’s enterprise agreement to forego next June’s pay rise, among other ways to save money, (CMM September 2 and 8).

To which the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union calls for an emphatic no. The comrades argue the university has substantial reserves and that, “there is absolutely no guarantee on how many jobs, if any, would be saved by staff voting to forgo their next pay rise.”

Murdoch U wants staff to vote for money-saving enterprise agreement variations. Don’t do it, say union members

Management wants $25m in salary savings from staff (CMM yesterday). To which, a meeting of National Tertiary Education Union members yesterday responded with an all but unanimous commitment to campaign against the required vote. “Murdoch U has offered staff nothing in return for their proposal, including no commitment to: job security, finding savings elsewhere; transparency of MU’s financial position; and executive pay cuts.”

Appointments, achievements

Of the day

 Kylie Lipscombe (Uni Wollongong) is elected NSW president and national board member of the Australian Council for Educational Leaders

 Of the week

 Marnie Blewitt (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute) wins the Ross Crozier Medal from the Genetics Society of AustralAsia.

James Dunk (Uni Sydney) wins the State Library of NSW Australian History Prize for Bedlam at Botany Bay (New South Books). He has already won the Australian History Prize in the NSW Premiers History awards for the book.

Katrina Falkner is confirmed as executive dean, Faculty of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences at the University of Adelaide.

Ross McLennan is to be ED for research services at Macquarie U. He moves from a similar role at Griffith U.

Christopher Sainsbury (ANU) receives the inaugural National Luminary Award at the Arts Music Awards. Dr Sainsbury is founder of the Ngarra-Burria: First Nations Composers programme.

Members of TAFE Directors Australia’s new National Enrolled Nursing Advisory Council are James Dunstan (Canberra Institute Tech), Kate McCluskey (NSW TAFE), Deb Blow (Qld TAFE), Sue Hopkins (TAFE SA), Jonette Scott (Tas TAFE), Gabrielle Koutoukidis (Holmesglen (Vic)), Julie Fereday (TAFE WA), Lyndal Manson (TDA).

Constance Wiebrands (Edith Cowan U) is re-elected to the board of the Council of Australian University Librarians.