Here they go again

Enterprise bargaining at Victoria U starts tomorrow, again. A first round ended when management put an offer to a staff vote which the National Tertiary Education Union opposed. Management lost decisively, with 23 per cent of staff who voted approving the offer (CMM September 25 2018).

The university tried again last month, with 33 per cent of the poll backing a second management offer, which the union again opposed (CMM February 20).

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning – David Myton’s regular wrap on what’s happening in higher ed overseas.

Stopping sexual harassment in STEM

Half of women working in STEM, and one in ten men say they have been sexually harassed, according to a survey by peak lobby Science and Technology Australia.

And 70 per cent of people say they did not report it, for reasons including fear of reprisal and because they thought nothing would change.

The STEM sector is not yet meeting the expectations of its workforce … the prevalence of sexual harassment is high.,’ STA warns.

The survey “informs” STA’s submission to the Human Rights Commission inquiry into sexual harasssment in the workplace.

STA recommendations to address harassment include;

* anonymity for harassment accusations. “STA understands the importance of natural justice, we are also very aware that the reporting of sexual harassment within the workplace, especially in cases of a power imbalance, can come with reprisals to the complainant”

* harassers convicted in the courts losing federal research funding and being stripped of professional honours

* legislation preventing non-disclosure agreements silencing survivors of harassment

* protections for research students, including all STEM organisations adopting the Principles for Respectful Supervisory Relationships (2017)

Postgrads call for protection: The Council of Australian Postgraduate Association backs STA’s call for formal adoption of the supervisor relationship principles. According to CAPA president Natasha Abrahams, “uptake of the principles by universities has been disappointing.”

Research students are vulnerable to inappropriate behaviour from their supervisor due to the power differential, as students rely on supervisors for the success of their research and their future career,” she says.

What QILT can uncover and why it’s not in the open

Datamaster Stuart Palmer (recently ex Deakin U) recognises what the QILT can cover. The Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching includes 600 records of large-scale student perceptions of graduate employment outcomes. The data is readily available and statistically worth the analytic effort. “It would be an interesting model of the factors contributing to graduate outcomes nationally,” he adds (via Twitter, March 1).

So why not? Probably because universities are not collectively keen on QILT, what with the way its results do not support some marketing messages.

Ratings agency QS makes a similar point in a new survey of the international student market for Australia and New Zealand; “the success of QILT as a widely-used objective rating of teaching quality depends on university marketers, who are best-placed to promulgate it to prospective international students. It is potentially a powerful resource for international students, but there is a collective responsibility to raise awareness.”

For-profit publisher Elsevier out at Uni California

The exclusion of Elsevier expands, with the University of California not renewing its agreement with the for-profit publisher.

The ten campus UCal network was negotiating a new journal deal and asked for universal and immediate open access  to research articles by its academics. According to UCal, Elsevier responded with larger publishing fees, on top of journal subscription costs, “resulting in much greater cost to the university and much higher profits for Elsevier,” UCal states.

Elsevier’s Tom Reller responded (via Twitter), “the University of California is mistaken in its characterisation of Elsevier’s stance. … It provides a clear path allowing every researcher to choose to publish for free or open access and provides a scaled path to reduce the costs for each campus library.”

What happens next is now the issue that will engage the UCal community. The university is silent on access to Elsevier journals in the future or what academics who have done well under the existing arrangements will think. Elsevier now publishes 18 per cent of research articles by UCal staff.

Even so, this is a big win for open access, following the adoption in Europe of Plan S, which specifies research papers be available in OA journals or on OA platforms by 2020. And Swedish, Dutch and German university groups have also not renewed Elsevier agreements.

As to Australia, (CMM February 13) the ARC and NHMRC make open access of papers based on research they fund via a university/agency repository a grant condition, just one that can be avoided.

Good but not enough: universities report on Indigenous Australians on campus

Universities Australia has released its first annual report on “gains in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation, retention and success in universities.”

UA sets out plenty of positives, for example, Indigenous enrolmentson track to hit one of the key UA targets—enrolments at 50 per cent above the growth rate for non-Indigenous enrolments, or preferably at twice the rate.” But UA also acknowledges its members are not steaming towards all objectivescompletion rates after nine years, for example,  are 47 per cent for Indigenous students compared to 74 per cent for others.

This does not impress Braedyn Edwards from the Union of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students.

“Statistics like these can often times paint a poor picture of Indigenous students, but I believe it instead reflects poorly on institutions. People get caught up in the importance of getting our mob enrolled in university, but what are universities doing to help keep them there? …  What remains unclear from reading this report are the complex reasons why Indigenous students are not completing their studies. Financial stress, family and community commitments and unsafe environments are all reasons why Indigenous students are completing their studies at lower rates than non-Indigenous students.”

Other UA conclusions include:

* “universities increasingly reflect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation, culture and research   as key areas of focus in their strategic documents and business plans – in varying levels of measurability and detail.”

* Indigenous cultural training for senior executives is not mandatory, but “almost all universities” provide on-line or in-person cultural training for staff.

* the Indigenous professional staff workforce is increasing. Bu while the level of senior academics who are Indigenous has doubled since 2005, it is “proportionately below non-Indigenous senior academics.”

Times Higher has new owner

Private equity investor Inflexion has ended months of speculation with the announcement that it has purchased trade press publisher, league table compiler and conference convenor, Times Higher Education (CMM January 21). Providence Equity Partners bought the the other divisions in the Times Education Services company last November. A purchase price of £80m 9$A150m) for THE is speculated.

Appointment, achievements

John C Warner becomes a distinguished professor in chemistry at Monash U. Professor Warner is co-founded of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry.

Martin Westwell (Flinders U) joins the board of the Australian Council of Education Leaders. He researches learning at the university and is also CEO of the South Australian Certificate of Education.

Ten Australian PhD candidates and post doc researchers in physics are invited to this year’s Lindau meeting of Nobel Prize winning physicists, two more than last year. The Australian Academy of Science nominates candidates, who are selected by the Lindau organisers to rub photons with the great. This year’s delegation is:Katie Sizeland, ANSTO. Fiona Panther, ANU. Eliezer Estrecho and Matthew Reeves, both from the ARC centre for future low-energy electronics. Nora Tischler, Griffith University. Melanie Hampel, Monash U. Sarah Walden, QUT. Hareem Khan, RMIT. Claire Edmunds, Uni Sydney. Samuel Hinton, Uni Queensland.

Andre Luiten, John Harnett and Martin O’Connor from the University of Adelaide have won two innovation awards at the Avalon Airshow, via their Cryoclock company. Their sapphire clocks are ultra-accurate in measuring time, vital for the Jindalee over-the-horizon radar. The team also won the defence science category at last year’s Eureka Prizes.  Mathew Tettlow’s Inovar Technologies won space innovation award for its nano-satellite platform. Innovar is based at the University of Adelaide’s ThincLab. Also at Avalon, Jimmy Toton (RMIT) and Graham Bell (Monash U) both won young innovator awards for using three-D printing in precision manufacturing.