Deakin U powers-up

Former chief scientist Alan Finkel will join VC Iain Martin to flick the switch on Deakin U’s microgrid this morning, “the largest solar farm ever built on an Australian university campus.”

No, it’s not going to produce liquid hydrogen Dr Finkel’s fave now he is the government’s advisor on low emissions energy technology. But it’s still taking Deakin U off the grid for 7 megawatts worth of power, with 2 megs battery storage.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

In the rush to on-line teaching it was easy to over-look research postgrads, many being even more isolated than usual.  Trina Myers, Wasana Bandara, Sharon Altena (all QUT)  and Rebecca Evans (JCU) suggest ways to help them. This week’s contribution to Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s long-running series, Needed Now in Teaching and Learning.

Amanda-Jane George (CQU) and Julie-Ann Tarr (QUT) on the big issues  in uni-industry collaboration. There’s way more to it than demand- and supply-push incentives or commercial returns

Marnie Hughes-Warrington (Uni SA) and Andrew Klenke (Swanbury Penglase Associates) on what about 19th century Adelaide shows us about innovation,

Now on the agenda: a better deal for the academic precariat

The question is who should be paid what

The National Tertiary Education Union has withdrawn from negotiations with ANU for a pilot scheme to improve conditions for long-term casual academic staff.

What’s going on: A management-union working group is said to have been working on a model that converted hours worked by casuals into a fractional full-time/on-going job. ANU observers say the union thinks any scheme needs to pay people more and management wants it to be cost-neutral.

Any such argument involves evidence whether or not the hours casuals are paid for are those that they work – which is an issue at campuses across the country.

Casuals claim they are treated as “teaching mules” with real workloads – preparing, teaching, marking and counselling students – that take way more time than they are paid for.

More teaching-only positions also affronts an article of NTEU faith, that academics time should be split, 40 per cent teaching, 40 per cent research and 20 per cent service.

Unless talks restart it is likely that the NTEU will make wages and conditions for causals part of enterprise bargaining talks at ANU, due this year.

The university responded yesterday that, “casual staff make a significant contribution to ANU and we recognise this. We welcome further discussions with the union as well as the entire ANU community on this matter.”

Meanwhile at Monash U: There is a sort-of similar discussion at Monash U, where VC Margaret Gardner proposes reducing the insecurity of PhD students who also have casual teaching or research-support jobs. She suggests fixed-term appointments so they can get what casuals can’t – incremental pay rises and sick leave. Professor Gardner wants an agreement with the NTEU and, “more generally” staff, before enterprise bargaining gets going (CMM April 1).

What could be next: Conditions of casual teaching staff is an issue the union might run hard on in negotiations for new agreements. The union’s national leadership is criticised by ginger-groups of mainly casual academic staff which argue they have born the Covid-19 cost of university savings measures. Monash U casuals are unhappy about being left-out of discussions with the university on the fixed-term appointment proposal.

Across the board substantial pay-rises for university staff are not likely in the new round of bargaining.  But the union could go hard on more money for casual staff, either by increases in hourly rates, or more hours per task.

Innovative ATN

The Australian Technology Network’s “Innovation driven future” on-line conference  is on this week, with three-themes covered over three days, collaboration, innovation ecosystems and globalising them.

There are bunch of ATN speakers, plus high-profile policy people.  Want to know how the Europeans do it? There a 6pm AEST session tonight with Arno Meerman, from the University-Industry Innovation Network.

Jobs to go, dignity at risk at Macquarie U

The redundancy programme at Macquarie U rolls on with “in-scope” people in the Business School being told how many of them will be told to go

Following a few recent voluntary redundancies, between 12-16 FTE are set to go from 118 full-time equivalent positions.  People who want to survive will have to make submissions setting out their achievements, according to a provided formula, to a committee. There is a “relevant to opportunity” clause to account for those “with identifiable interruptions in service.”

People have two-weeks to prepare their cases.

Saving most staff some humiliation, interviews are not part of the standard process. But they could occur, for example, “where the committee is unable to differentiate between individuals.” Turning up to make the case for livelihoods will not be mandatory (and CMM suspects good for people’s dignity).

“What do they want? More classes!”

Uni Sydney plans shorter semesters – perhaps management hoped critics would not notice. They have

The university announced one week less of classes from second semester – meaning 12 weeks of teaching preceded by a “light introductory and course guidance week.”

A university representative told CMM that a trial last year, “showed that we were able to provide effective learning experiences and good academic outcomes with 12 contact weeks.” (CMM March 9).

Which isn’t what Student Representative Council president Swapnik Sanagavarapu thinks, calling it one of the university’s “degradations of the student experience.”  The SRC surveyed 374 students, with 350 opposed to one less week of classes.

A grand alliance of university staff unions and student organisations has convened a protest on Thursday.

A credit to Uni Sunshine Coast

A growth decision years back delivers

Rating agency Moody’s assesses Uni Sunshine Coast as Aa3 – an investment grade, for its debt. This is largely due to the new Moreton Bay campus, which the agency likes and lower debt than it expected.

Moodys reports university income was up last year, with new Commonwealth supported places at Moreton Bay. This allows USC to reduce its need for international students, who will make up just 5 per cent of starts over the next two year, moving to 7-10 per cent in the long term.

“The successful opening of USC’s Moreton Bay campus supports the university’s broader operating model realignment to focus on attracting a higher proportion of domestic students, to mitigate the compounding revenue impact of the pandemic,” Moody’s concludes.

Former VC Greg Hill saw the opportunity for a new campus at Petrie, to meet outer-outer Brisbane population growth, and lined up the local council’s support back in 2015 (CMM November 19 2015).  And he successfully kept at the Commonwealth to fund places (CMM February 23 2018).

How right he was.

Appointment and achievements

ANZ achievers in the International Studies Association Awards include, Hilary Charlesworth (ANU) Distinguished Scholar Award, Bina D’Costa (ANU) co-winner of the J Ann Tickner award, Laura Shepherd (Uni Sydney) receives the Ladd Hollist Service Award, Susan Harris Rimmer (Griffith U) has the Bertha Lutz Award, Eda Gunaydin (Uni Sydney) wins the Graduate Student Paper category and Emma Ngakuraevaru Powell (Victoria U of Wellington) receives the Teresia Teaiwa Award. Andrew Walter (Uni Melbourne) is co-winner of the best book award, (as previously reported). Denis Altman (La Trobe U) is the Eminent Scholar.

Simon Ville (Uni Wollongong, economic and business history) is the 2022-23 Whitlam-Fraser Visiting Professor in Australian Studies at Harvard U