Swinburne U less than super

Swinburne U advised staff yesterday that the superannuation accounts of 937 of them were underpaid a total of $559 00 last financial year. The average underpayment was $597 and over half affected are under $140 short. Super contributions owed, plus interest, will be paid by the end of the month.

This is on top of the $3.66m super underpayment, plus interest, over six years the university announced in May (CMM May 8).

UniSydney invites staff to comment on terms for talking to Ramsay Civ Centre

The University of Sydney has invited staff to comment on the text of a draft MOU, “to guide the next stages of the university’s engagement with the Ramsay Centre (for Western Civilisation)”.

“I encourage any interested staff to consider responding to this survey in order for the university to gain an accurate reflection of the general consensus. I have been proud of the respectful tone of our debate regarding these issues so far, when so much of the external commentary has been rather shrill … it is also important to allow those who feel less comfortable with public discussion to have their point of view heard,” Vice Chancellor Michael Spence said yesterday.

Dr Spence says, “the results of the staff consultation process will be taken into consideration when arriving at a final draft MOU.” Once settled the MOU will go to the Ramsay Centre as the university’s non-negotiable base for any negotiation on the centre funding courses and scholarships at the university.

For any negotiation to proceed the university’s draft requires:

* university staff develop curriculum, subject to “normal course approval processs”

* students in the Ramsay programme free to take other studies on offer

* Ramsay scholarships governed by “normal university scholarship processes

* Ramsay to have one academic member on selection panels for centre staff

* staff appointed or seconded to the program will be free from any interference or oversight outside of normal university mechanisms

* Ramsay Centre to review programme after it is taught to “four cohorts” of students with a view to renewing or not.

UoQ expresses interest in a Ramsay Civ Centre

After preliminary discussions (CMM September 13) The University of Queensland has accepted a Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation invitation to submit an expression of interest in establishing Ramsay-funded courses. The university told staff yesterday, “the decision to participate in the EOI process will provide an opportunity for both parties to explore compatibility and areas of mutual interest – it does not signify a commitment beyond this.”

Labor promises $300m infrastructure spend

Labor in government will create a $300m university infrastructure fund for research and teaching buildings, plus “projects that will drive our economy and support jobs and communities.” The Opposition is said to be talking to universities about projects, as it is about its separately proposed $174m fund for new equity projects (CMM September 13).

While universities would likely prefer the return of the $3.8bn in the Education Investment Fund, which the government has re-allocated to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme, this announcement adds to Labor’s higher education credentials for the next election.

Researchers step up at UNSW and ANU

UNSW announces its first four futures institutes, to be funded from a $200m commitment to inter-disciplinary research. Ageing is led by Kaarin Anstey, cellular genomics by Chris Goodnow, digital grid (sustainable power) by Joe Dong and materials and manufacturing by Sean Li (“pending a definitive appointment”).

ANU has also announced a new research initiative in its second Grand Challenge Scheme. Ken Baldwin leads the Zero-Carbon Asia Pacific energy project which has $10m to develop renewable electricity exports and capabilities.

Unis switch providers for med admissions test

The 12 ANZ universities which now use the UMAT test as part of the admissions process to medical, dentistry and some clinical science courses have switched providers. The undergraduate and medical sciences admission test, from the Australian Council for Educational Research will be replaced next year by UCAT, from electronic testing company Pearson VUE.  The “computer-based” UCAT test will be offered at 30 test centres, with candidates accessing their results immediately, “without waiting for a lengthy marking period.”

Pearson VUE  administered a test for the Royal Australasian College of Physicians  which was abandoned while in progress in February due to a system failure. But Wayne Hodgson, deputy dean education in Monash University’s medicine faculty, speaking for the adopting universities says, “consortium member universities are very happy with our forthcoming move from a paper based test delivered on a single day to an online test delivered through an expanded geographical network of test centres using a much longer testing window. This provides much greater flexibility for candidates.

“This model has been successfully employed by our colleagues in the UK using the same Pearson platform for many years,” Professor Hodgson adds


Job services employers approve

The shortlists for the Australian Association of Graduate Employers awards are out. The most popular careers service, based on an employer vote, will be one of; Australian National University, Deakin University, Griffith University, University of Queensland and University of Technology Sydney.


Appointments, achievements

John Pluske from Murdoch U is the new CEO of the Australasian Pork Research Institute Ltd.

Brent Moyle is University of the Sunshine Coast’s associate dean research. He joins from Griffith U where he was a researcher in the Institute for Tourism.

University of Southern Queensland’s Rajib Rana is named a Young Tall Poppy in the 2018 Queensland YTP science awards.

Victoria U staff reject management offer on pay and conditions

Staff at Victoria University have decisively rejected management’s proposed enterprise agreement.

What happened: With 54 per cent of all staff voting, just 23 per cent supported the university offer, which was vigorously opposed by the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union. VU took the relatively unusual step of putting an offer to staff which did not have union support, after protracted talks were stalled and looked likely to remain so.

In a staff message yesterday PVC Lorraine Ling said “while the result was not what we had hoped, we see this as an important first step towards achieving an outcome that will secure our future.”

Why: The campus branch of the NTEU has no doubt why management went down. “Staff rejected completely management’s attempts to remove the union entirely from the enterprise bargaining agreement and take important staff rights away, such as the right to independent review by a tripartite committee before dismissal, branch president Paul Adams says.

Management’s message to staff in the ballot was that the proposed enterprise agreement “provides many entitlements that are above sector standards and in some cases, are among the best in the sector.” While the union argued the proposed pay rise, four annual pay increases, from 1.4 per cent this year to 2 per cent in 2021 was inadequate, the big issues appear to have been staff disquiet at management’s research reorganisation, changes to conditions for some teaching staff and a reduction in processes covering discipline and disputes and position reclassification. (CMM September 10)

What it means: This is a big loss for VU management, which is attempting to transform its teaching structure and financial base. It is a loss which could lead management considering the Murdoch U strategy.  Last year the WA university won Fair Work Commission approval to place staff on wages and conditions in the higher education industrial award, if a new agreement was not reached once the old expired. This was unpopular with Murdoch staff, what with the award conditions being worse than those in the expired enterprise agreement but it is an option Victoria U could consider. Problem is that VC Peter Dawkins effectively ruled it out last year, telling staff, “as is standard practice, the existing agreement will continue to operate after its expiry date, until it is replaced by a new agreement,” (CMM October 31 2017).

What happens next: While the university now says, it will survey staff for “feedback” on the offer, the NTEU’s Paul Adams calls on management, to “listen to the collective voice of staff and sit down with the Union and negotiate a decent agreement.”

However, Andrew Dempster from Proofpoint Advisory says VU needs to change;

“The university wasn’t successful in this ballot, so they now have three main options.

The first would be to make major concessions to the NTEU, which has been advocating to retain many of the terms and conditions from the 2013 agreement. This seems unlikely given the scale of change that the university needs to sustain its new teaching model.

The second would be to apply to the Fair Work Commission for termination of the old agreement on the basis that it’s no longer suitable to support VU’s new model.

The third would be to settle into a longer bargaining campaign and to continue to make the case for change. If agreement can’t be reached with the NTEU, the university could hold another ballot in a few months’ time and test staff sentiment again.

Of all the Australian universities, VU has been among the most courageous in creating a new approach to undergraduate education centred around block teaching and smaller class sizes. It’s not surprising that they need major changes to their 2013 enterprise agreement to make this work.”

Victoria U of Wellington set for a name change

The Council of Victoria University of Wellington has voted for new names, the University of Wellington, and Te Herenga Waka as its new Maori name. The change defies community protests demanding the university’s name remain as is. The final decision will be made by Education Minister Chris Hipkins.