Croucher is university teacher of the year

While the Office of Learning and Teaching has appeared to do its best to keep this year’s university teaching awards under wraps the winners were honoured last night. The $50,000 Prime Minister’s award for university teacher of the year went to Macquarie University statistician John Croucher. He was honoured along with 13 individual teachers and nine programs – but the citations supposedly available on the OLT awards website were not last night.

Education up, income isn’t

The good news: “In 2011 27.5% of working age women had a bachelor degree or above. This is a 19% increase since 2006 (when 23.1% of women had a bachelor degree or above).” The bad news “Women’s graduate starting salaries are significantly lower than for men overall and in six out of 23 fields.” COAG Reform Council, Tracking equity: comparing outcomes for women and girls across Australia, here.

Had enough or digging in

After a year of negotiations at campuses across the country bargaining teams on both sides of the fence have had enough and the recent rush to establish new enterprise agreements is not over. In the process it seems neither management nor unions has got much of what they wanted. The National Tertiary Education Union asked originally for 7 per cent pa pay rises across four years. It is settling for a headline rate of around 3 per cent. The union also announced at the beginning of the year that it would push for career paths for young academics caught in the casual cycle and so it did, without generating more than a couple of dozen jobs anywhere. On the other side managements were banging on about the need for academics who do not research much to teach more but with a few exceptions nothing significant seems to have come to that. Still, a deal is a deal is a deal and union officials and IR executives with an agreement reached must be looking forward to the summer holidays more than those who are still talking – or not. And there are quite a few universities where an agreement is away off. Insiders suggest deals are nowhere near at Macquarie, Newcastle, Wollongong, QUT, Flinders, UTS and UWS. Others argue that people at institutions where the arguing is truly awful might just get sick of it and all of a sudden agree – say RMIT and Swinburne. A very experienced observer suggests that the University of Melbourne may be the one to watch – with management determined to secure significant change.

Out at UoQ

Don’t put the University of Queensland in the imminent agreement list. Staff were out yesterday afternoon to protest lack of enterprise bargaining negotiations and signal opposition to what union officials claim is management’s plan to increase workloads.

 Professional prescription

I was impressed with Charlie Benrimoj back in 2011 when the founding head of the UTS graduate school of pharmacy explained how his students would find work in a discipline, which other deans argued was over-supplied. (Some even wanted the feds to stop new pharmacy schools opening). But Professor Benrimoj wasn’t having any of it, “the market sorts it out for everything but medicine,” he said. I’m still impressed with Benrimoj who produces an excellent industry intel publication, Pharmacy Barometer. Issue three is just out, providing an overview of the retail pharmacy industry and what owners think. This is a serious bit of work, based on substantial research, full of detailed analysis, way different to the usual industry approach which suggests that without ever more public subsidies for retail chemists Australians will be dead of plague within days. Not that the conclusion is optimistic. “although pharmacists are seeing opportunity in professional services, they do not see these as financially rewarding, or comparable to the losses they are experiencing with increased costs, competitive retailing pressures and government cuts.” Benrimoj is also light years ahead of the usual “industry adores our graduates who are garlanded with precious gems by their aspiring employers on graduation,” faculty material. Professional, very professional.

Assistance unused

It seems all the urging for more assistance for low income rural and regional students to train and go to university drowns out the detail on available resources for country kids. According to the Country Education Foundation, some scholarships go unused for want of any applications. The CEF has accordingly assembled a directory of what is available – and a great many there are indeed.

Plaudit of their peers

The Australian Academy of the Humanities has elected 20 scholars as new fellows and honoured a further eight distinguished public figures, “who advocate for the humanities, (are) practitioners of the arts, or overseas scholars in the humanities who have a close association with Australia.” Among the new fellows Peter Cochrane stands out for being an independent scholar, a fine historian who works without the support of a university salary. Of the 19 academics 14 are from Group of Eight universities. The new honorary fellows include retired Sydney Morning Herald journalist David Marr.

Hit em hard

University of Sydney researcher Cameron Webb announces the availability for download of his co-authored paper, “Do wrist bands impregnated with botanical extracts assist in repelling mosquitoes?” The answer is not where there are many, many mozzies. Still, you can always whack them with the printed research.

 Deadweight documents

“An average of 15 per cent of office papers are recycled in France. OECD Paris recycles over 90%,” the agency tweeted yesterday. No doubt there is an1000 page study to prove it.