A laugh for the in-crowd

“I have a joke about academic publishing. (Log in to see if your institution has access to this content)” the Economics in Bricks Twitter account, yesterday.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Changes to the Fair Work Act can mean secure employment for casual academics. Jim Hackett explains how

Tracy Creagh on the big role for open access in expanding access to teaching and learning research and communities.

In universities policies for equity, diversity and inclusion can build communities. And strategic planning helpsMerlin Crossley makes the case.

Angel Calderon crunched the numbers on Australian universities performance in the Times Higher Impact Rankings. Here’s what he found.

Ordinary bargains expected in 2021 uni agreements

To listen to vice chancellors the biggest benefits staff can hope for this year is an extra cup of gruel, monthly, one per faculty

Enterprise Bargaining Round Eight begins this year and managements and unions are thinking about what they want.

Which in the case of the former is to give away not much – whatever institutions’ financial situation you can bet they will use COVID-19 as a cover, a learned reader wise in the wiles of management bargaining strategies suggests.

Just about the only employees with a hope of universities offering them any important improvements are casual academic teaching staff now often paid not much and for fewer hours than they spend on teaching and preparation.  Changes to the Fair Work Act (CMM April 21) give them a path to permanency (albeit fixed-term) and universities will look for ways to provide some jobs, albeit without spending much more money.

Union officials will make a case for pay rises, “cause that’s what they do” a bargaining veteran says.  But they will focus on casual conversions, targets for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment and university-specific issues, generally restrictions on the way restructures and redundancies are managed. “There are universities where anger at the way they have, and are, being done runs deep” the bargaining watcher says.

Tough here, hard at home: how students from China managed 2020

Yu Tao (UWA) considers the condition of Chinese students of Australian universities last year, the ones here, the ones at home 

Overall their experiences were not great. For students in China, “learning purely on-line was a novel experience … many felt the loss of community keenly and complained that the quality of teaching and learning was not the same.” It was certainly not considered value for money.

“Nor could on-line teaching provide students the kind of cultural competencies that come from ordinary experiences like visiting weekend markets or making friends with Australian students.”

And they did not know what would happen. “Without knowing when it would be possible to return to Australia, they found it challenging to make meaningful plans for their study or life more generally.”

Those in Australia were caught by the loss of causal work, the absence of government support and and the impact of racism in the community, compounded by not being able to get flights home if they wanted to bail. Some also felt forced to pick a side in disputes between the governments of the PRC and Australia.

So, what can be done? To attract and retain students from China post COVID-19 Australia needs to: integrate them into virtual communities, help with cross-border travel and “embrace” inclusivity and multiculturalism.

Dr Yu writes in Jane Golley, Linda Jaivin (with) Sharon Strange (eds) China Story Yearbook: Crisis (ANU Press, here).


The place for PhD students in industry – the answer’s already out there

The feds’ research commercialisation discussion paper asks what to do with HDR students – there’s already an answer

“Would an Industry PhD program help improve collaboration outcomes?” the paper asks submissions to address.

Which the McGagh review of research training did five years ago?

“Greater opportunities for industry-relevant research training can be provided through a range of approaches, including: • HDR candidates working on research with a potential industry application • HDR candidates working on an industry-defined research problem • HDR candidates undertaking part of their training within an industry setting,” it suggested

Mr McGagh and expert colleagues reviewed research training in a comprehensive paper for the Australian Council of Learned Academies (CMM April 14 2016).

Embedding HDR researchers in industry, they suggested, could help with Australia’s “poor” “translation of research into commercial and societal outcomes.” One way to do this, they suggested was embedding PhD researchers in Cooperative Research Centres.

Looking back, the McGagh review team could wonder why they bothered.

And CRCs (over-sighted by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources) might puzzle as to whether they are unknown to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, which produced the new commercialisation paper.


Thanks to a learned reader for pointing out the results of UWA’s 2021 convocation elections. Lesley Cala (Med School professor) is warden of convocation, Brett Davies (Law School adjunct professor) is elected to Senate and deputy warden). Convocation is graduates and sundry senior members of the university community.