While Deborah Terry moves to green fields new

Is that a martini I see before me?

In the forthcoming University of Southern Queensland production of A Winter’s Tale, “Shakespeare will meet television’s Mad Men.”

 Quids in at QUT

Another university is attempting to isolate the National Tertiary Education Union by ignoring enterprise bargaining. With a long weekend imminent QUT Vice Chancellor Peter Coaldrake emailed staff with news of a 3 per cent pay rise from December. This upset the campus NTEU because management was acting outside the existing negotiations for a new enterprise agreement. “We agree that QUT staff deserve a salary increase in December, but we also say that you deserve more than the 3% which has been decided unilaterally by your employer. The salary increases for QUT staff should be negotiated and agreed in the context of all the bargaining proposals,” the union responded. The NTEU is also upset that management wants to vary the span of working hours for professional staff and to change academic workloads “to suit their own purposes.”
The 3 per cent is in the range of recent settlements at universities around the country, which it seems the union’s national leadership is reconciled to. It is the way Professor Coaldrake could be preparing a package to put to staff independent of the bargaining progress, which will alarm all union levels of leadership. Last month Charles Sturt ignored the union by offering an agreement to staff, which got up despite the NTEU’s adamant opposition. The union’s national leaders will not want other universities to do the same.  QUT staff are well paid by Queensland university standards, with senior academic staff there joining UofQ at the top of the scale. Nor are staff especially industrially engaged with less than 10 per cent of QUT staff being NTEU members, well below the state-wide figure of 13. 6 per cent. Perhaps QUT intends to ignore the union altogether or maybe he is suggesting the NTEU play nice in bargaining sessions.

Terry moves to greener fields

Deborah Terry is Curtin University’s new vice chancellor. Professor Terry returns to Western Australia from the University of Queensland, which she led between the resignation of Paul Greenfield as vice chancellor and the arrival of Peter Hoj. Professor Terry was untouched by the nepotism scandal that led to Mr Greenfield’s resignation and the resulting Crime and Misconduct Commission inquiry. She was charged with rebuilding and selling the university’s internal accountability measures, launching a comprehensive review in May 2012.

First off the blocks congratulating Professor Terry was Jan Thomas, VC at  the University of Southern Queensland followed almost immediately by the always professional Vicki Thomson, who manages the Australian Technology Network and welcomed the new VC to the ATN. Funnily enough, by close of business last night there were no bravos from bloke VCs. This was rectified by (soon to be) Federation University’s David Battersby first thing Tuesday morning.

As Curtin appoints it also honours

Curtin U also honoured the recipients of its annual John Curtin humanitarian awards yesterday, announced on the anniversary of his being sworn into office in 1941 . The 2013 John Curtin Humanitarian medallists are Helena Murphy and Graham Forward. Mrs Murphy campaigned for the rights of indigenous West Australians in the 1940s and ’50s and Dr Forward is the founder of Australian Doctors for Africa.

Kearney comfortable while Carmel Shutes through

ACTU President Ged Kearney addressed the NTEU council on Friday and the comrades say she delivered a great speech. It was decent of her to turn up at all given the way the union funded Greens member for Melbourne Adam Bandt and helped him knock off sometime ACTU officer (indeed NTEU official) Cath Bowtell who ran for Labor in the recent election. Then again Ms Bowtell was Ms Kearney’s rival for the ACTU presidency so maybe not.
The Council meeting also marked the discrete departure of union’s commissar for enlightenment Carmel Shute who announced on Friday that after 15 months she was leaving to return to private PR practise and “spend more time at the gym”.  Discrete? An email announcing a departure at 4.45 on the Friday afternoon before a long weekend in much of the country is about as discrete as it gets.

The minister that matters

Science and Technology Australia is uncomfortable with science being split between the education and industry portfolios. “Scientists worry science/research split could compromise knowledge future and call on ministers to commit to high-level collaboration,” STA announced on Friday. It’s a fair point; both Chris Pyne and Ian Macfarlane have plenty on their plates without all the bother of cross-portfolio arrangements. But there are policy areas which they can’t manage without each other – research impact is the obvious example. Given well-positioned opposition to a new metric within the research establishment this will not get up without a champion. Expect to see industry and applied science advocates making the case to both ministers, at least until they work out whom their friends in government are, if they have any.

Selling STEM

RiA has a series of promo videos, “Bringing STEM careers for life” featuring young men and women talking about their working lives which are well done indeed. Smart people with smart things to say. It’s one of a bunch of exceptional activities from RiA that it should, and given its resources, can, promote harder. The science lobby is forever banging on how antediluvians in the media ensure science is variously ignored or under-valued and yet there is such a phalanx of flack on the public payroll they have their own society. Less complaining and more proclaiming excellent resources like these is in order.

Standing up to the education industrial complex

In addition to the Sydney Morning Herald’s Kate McClymont  another prominent journalist has emerged as a candidate for a graduate spot on the University of Sydney Senate.  Andrew West is a one time Labor staffer and reporter (including a brief stint at The Australian) with two books to his credit. He now presents Radio National’s Religion Report. He is running on a ticket with Labor comrade (and former NSW education minister) Verity Firth which announces, “corporate interests dominate the Senate of the University of Sydney. We need alumni senators who will refocus the mission of the university to ensure quality education and research. ” Nice appeal to the green left.

But which bits of the future will work?

Thanks to the reader who recommended the Open University’s Innovative Pedagogy 2013 report. If you think you MOOCs are the transformation of our time forget it. What this guide to big ideas imminent or underway indicates is we have not seen anything yet; the challenge is working out which ones will fly. Some have huge potential but are hard to see how they can serve any purpose in formal learning – like badges that accredit online courses. (Image what TEQSA would require).  Others can shape course design, like big data analysis of content and student behaviour undertaken while an online course is current. Some seem naive, like crowd learning whereby people respond to questions posted to a dedicated site – but then again Wikipedia works. And others are optimistic, notably using games to teach skills and concepts. The overall take-out is that the innovations described in this report, “are not technologies looking for an application in formal education. They are new ways of teaching, learning and assessment. If they are to succeed, they need to complement formal education, rather than trying to replace it.” For undergraduate courses this sounds pretty right but in the fluid world of graduates looking for competencies with, or without formal qualifications, I wonder.

He who hath a secret
Must keep secret that he hath a secret, Frances Bacon (as quoted by Humphrey Appleby) said. But speaking at the modestly marketed Times Higher “World Academic Summit” in Singapore on Friday Ed Byrne just happened to mention that a US addition to the Monash-Warwick partnership is imminent. So why didn’t the Monash vice chancellor just announce it?  Or shut up until he has something to announce.