Plans announced for the university’s big build in Launceston 

plus, marvellous MOOC: the University of Sydney delivers on teaching, learning and community service

From wild to mild in the west: while Murdoch U slugs it out with the union Curtin says it wants to keep talking

Found in space

UNSW has a space GPS

Last month it was innovation and now space is the big sell, with universities across the country working on rockets or satellites. On Monday, the University of Melbourne announced it is working on a planet-hunting telescope for a cube satellite. Now there is word that UNSW, the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research and the Defence Science and Technology Group have developed a GPS system which is now orbiting on a US cubesat.

UTas builds big

The plan is in place for Peter Rathjen’s University of Tasmania triumph

The University of Tasmania and partners have revealed the plans for the biggest infrastructure project in the city of Launceston. The university will create a three-centre teaching and research complex at Inveresk, intended to make Launceston a university-city. With $300m in state, university and federal funding this is a very big bet by outgoing vice chancellor Peter Rathjen, who has sold the Tasmanian elite on the idea that education can transform the state, in particular by empowering its under-educated north.  “The University of Tasmania believes that lifting educational attainment is the key to building more skilled, productive and prosperous communities,” UTas states. The Australian Maritime College will continue at the university’s existing Newnham campus in Launceston. A development is also planned for Burnie.

With Professor Rathjen moving to the University of Adelaide this is his lasting achievement. As he put in February; “we are pursuing the economic and social benefits which flow to university cities, including the creation of new knowledge-based industry clusters, and delivery of globally relevant, regionally-specific applied research programs, in such a way as to drive a new, better future for Tasmania.”

From wild to mild west

Industrial relations at WA universities go from amity (there is a new deal at UWA) to enmity (lawyers at 12 paces at Murdoch U) with Curtin U in the middle

Evidence in the Fair Work Commission case between Murdoch U and the National Tertiary Education Union concluded yesterday. Murdoch management is applying to have its expired enterprise agreement cancelled, which would allow it reduce staff wages and conditions to those set by the industrial award. Written and oral submissions by the parties is expected to take the rest of the week.

This is a big deal indeed. If Murdoch wins on terms with industry-wide application universities across the country inclined to hang tough on negotiations for new enterprise agreements will have a new opportunity in their armoury.

At Curtin U talks on a new enterprise agreement are stalled. The union says management has made a non-negotiable final offer which it should put to a staff vote. Last night the university acknowledged this, telling CMM “while some good progress has been made in simplifying the agreement, unfortunately negotiations currently appear to be at an impasse on several key matters.

According to Chief Operating Officer Ian Callahan, “The NTEU has suggested to the university it put its April offer to staff ballot. While Curtin acknowledges that this is one of the options available to the university in the process, Curtin’s preference is to achieve an agreed outcome with unions and other bargaining representatives.”

“A significant barrier to achieving a financially sustainable outcome has been the NTEU national superannuation and wage claim. With the softening of this claim in the recently announced UWA settlement there may be improved prospects of reaching a negotiated settlement with unions for staff to consider. We look forward to engaging further with the NTEU, other unions and bargaining representatives.”

New media mavens

UNSW appoints a digitally dynamic duo

The University of New South Wales has appointed Darren Goodsir to a senior position in social/digital media. The former editor—in-chief of the Sydney Morning Herald is joined by M&C Saatchi director Amir Mireskandari. According to VP External Relations Fiona Docherty, the pair will bring invaluable insights into how social, mobile and other digital platforms can help UNSW bring to life the impact its education and research mission is having, in Australia and overseas.”

Great idea

But what were they thinking of before

The Australian Skills Quality Authority is promoting its new audit process, which appears eminently sensible, what with the way it is now “focusing on what is important  the student, so everyone can be more confident in the quality of our vocational training system.” Good-oh, but what was the authority focusing on in the past as the VET FEE HELP catastrophe rolled by?

MOOC of the morning

The University of Sydney steps up to serve

Sonia Kumar from the University of Sydney is launching a MOOC via Coursera on Positive Psychiatry and Mental Health. It is an outstanding example of university community service and the immense potential of the MOOC to extend the benefits of research, teaching and learning across society.

The course, “will explore different aspects of good mental health as well as provide an overview of the major kinds of mental disorders, their causes, treatments and how to seek help and support.”

Dr Kumar deals with theory and practise on mental illnesses and how to recover from them. The course “may be particularly helpful if you have struggled with illness, cared for a family member or friend, or work in a related field and would like to know more about how to assist people,” she writes.

This is an enormous undertaking, rich in readings and with 46 videos but there is no obvious return on investment. While most MOOCs are discipline brand builders or samplers for fee-paying courses this is community service, cap C, cap S.

New face at Fair Work

The government has appointed Amber Milhouse as a deputy president of the Fair Work Commission

Ms Milhouse will move from workplace relations lawyer at Seyfarth Shaw in Melbourne. The US firm has advised Murdoch U on enterprise bargaining, (MU is now with Minter Ellison).

The price of part-time

The good news for women in higher education is that a period of part time work does not send their careers into reverse. But not everybody is prepared to risk it

The finding is in a new study on women on the professional staff of Australian universities working part time, by Janis Bailey, Carolyn Troup and Glenda Strachan, for the L H Martin Institute.  However, the unsurprising evidence is that ambitious women “actively self-select out of part-time work.”

While universities have “well thought-out part-time work policies” compared to other industries, “the key seems to be combining full- and part-time work as part of career-planning and work-life balance strategies,” they suggest. This includes making “all suitable job openings available to part-time employees.”

Where education does not impress

In news not fake, Republicans don’t think much of universities

The Pew Research Centre  reports that in the US some 58 per cent of Republicans say universities and colleges have a negative impact on “the way things are going”, up from 45 per cent last year. The decline is particularly precipitous among the old but even among GOP people aged 18-49 the per centage who think well of higher education institutions is down from 65 per cent in 2015 to 44 per cent this year. And it isn’t only an issue with the uneducated. Support among Republicans who are graduates is down 11 per cent to 33 per cent. In contrast Democrats of all ages and educations believe in education.

Pew does not comment on a cause but CMM suspects presidential populism might have something to do with it.

Manufacturing solutions

UoQ researchers explain why making things matters

Jobs in Queensland manufacturing have dropped 23 per cent over the last 40 years and will be down a further 5 per cent in two years, according to a major new study by the University of Queensland’s Institute for Social Sciences Research, available at the university’s eSpace archive.

The report sets out the present and future for a range of industrial jobs and makes a case for government, business and research institutions in Queensland strategically investing in advanced manufacturing.

“In becoming more globalised, knowledge-intensive and inter-dependent with service design, robotics and digitilisation, manufacturing matters more than ever for advanced economies. This is because it drives innovation and technological change. Without a policy for advanced manufacturing, there is a real prospect of losing even more of the science and engineering expertise in research and production that may have taken generations to nurture. These skills are not only critical to new growth industries but are part of the core infrastructure on which every modern economy depends.”

This is a major research exercise, replete with facts and figures, although one thing CMM could not find in the text is any reference to the report being commissioned by the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union. However, that information is in the university’s media release.