Rules of fun

ANU announces a lecture on Wednesday by the University of Zagreb‘s Aleksandar Marsavelski, who will explain, “Party Regulation in the EU.” No wonder the knees-up loving Brits left.

Entrepreneur with added extra

Steve Baxter will become Queensland’s Chief Entrepreneur next month. According to Innovation, Science and Digital Economy minister Leeanne Enoch, he will bring “that extra something” to the role. Mr Baxter is an ISP and appears on TV’s eat-aspiring-entrepreneurs alive Shark Tank. He succeeds Mark Sowerby.

UoQ’s new MOOCs: will they eat St Lucia’s lunch?

Business leadership courses could be the basis of a cut-price but quality study record

The University of Queensland is expanding its suite of MOOCs, with a four unit micromasters in business leadership, via partner edX. The four subjects can all be taken for free, but for $1500 people who complete them, plus a “capstone assessment” receive a verified certificate.

This is a big move in the development of micromasters, established by MIT and offered in Australia by ANU, University of Adelaide, Curtin and UoQ.

In 2015 MIT announced a self-contained component of its masters in supply-change management as a MOOC. Students who did the course, passed the proctored exam and qualified for MIT entry could use the MOOC for a semester’s credit in the year-long $60 000 on-campus course. (CMM October 9 2015).

The University of Adelaide is moving the MOOC in the same direction. In March it announced an on-line course on big data which can count for credit for 25 per cent of the university’s master of data science (CMM March 7).  And now UoQ’s new leadership MOOCs can count as credit for a quarter of the on-campus masters of business.

This will be a revenue stream in its own right and a great promotion for the full masters – but CMM wonders if UofQ isn’t at risk of eating its own lunch. Add these subjects to finance and management courses from across the MOOC-sphere and people can assemble what will look like a customised business masters with certificates of attainment to demonstrate completion. No, it’s not a conventional MBA, but it’s a bunch of knowledge at a fraction of the price.

Monash hiring for Malaysia

Monash U is inviting “expressions of interest” from Monash staff interested in becoming president of the university’s Malaysian operation. It’s a five-year appointment. Helen Bartlett held the position from January 2013 until she left last December, to become VC of Federation University. Since March Andrew Walker (ex ANU) has served as interim Monash Malaysia head.

It could be a one-off but it might a precedent for wage cuts across the country

Staff at Murdoch U have six months before management can start cutting pay. Experts at universities across the country are watching to see what happens now

What happened: The Fair Work Commission has decided Murdoch U and the NTEU should start from scratch in negotiating a new enterprise agreement but if they don’t reach agreement in six months management can reduce what people are paid under the old deal.

What it means: Some higher education observers say the Commission’s decision was less about Murdoch U’s poor finances than the need for negotiations to start afresh and that university managements now have a big opportunity to strip costs out of new agreements.

“The way is open for many universities to try to negotiate improved arrangements in their EAs and if this proves impossible to negotiate with the union, they can look to press the reset button. Not too quickly, but in a reasonably short time. A reset and a chance to genuinely reform arrangements is beckoning,” says a long serving management adviser.

Not that many universities necessarily will, others argue. Yes, Victoria U has already successfully claimed in the Commission that financial exigency justifies a new teaching structure but at the University of Sydney it is pretty much business as usual in enterprise bargaining. Management is offering four annual 2.1 per cent increases plus a $500 signing bonus to some of the highest paid university staff in the country. While the union says this is not enough, a deal seems assured and one without significant rollbacks of conditions – management’s big productivity push is to create 220 teaching only academic positions.

What happens next: There is general agreement that ff university managements do not seize the opportunity, the feds will. “If the sector fails to turn a major tactical victory into a series of important strategic gains then the feds will feel justified in cutting funds and possibly in meddling more closely with the way universities are run. We can’t pretend it is just about Murdoch,” an observer present at the creation of the enterprise bargaining system suggests.

The next move: will be by the National Tertiary Education Union. Late Friday the union’s national leadership emailed members that, “the union is not aware of any other university currently seeking to follow this same path.  However Federal President Jeannie Rea, General Secretary Grahame McCulloch and Assistant GS Matthew McGowan added, “ (the) NTEU is assessing the decision and will consider options over the coming weeks. Independent analysts say it is hard to see the union not asking the FWC full bench to overturn the Murdoch ruling. Observers are split on the chances of an appeal succeeding. Some say the existing ruling is carefully constructed and close “to bomb proof”, but one veteran of industrial tribunal travails replies that the NTEU wrote the manual on convincing the Fair Work Commission.

As for staff at Murdoch, who worry what happens when management’s six month guarantee of existing wages and conditions expires, the NTEU says it “is committed to negotiating a replacement agreement at Murdoch University that, with union members support, can recover much of the damage that has just been done.” “It depends how they define ‘much’ a system watcher replies.

# super science

Researchers at the University of Sydney and Microsoft joint venture, Research Station Q have found #-shaped semiconducting nano wires can help with topological quantum computing (sorry, no idea). Apparently, wires in such a shape can induce the quasiparticle Majorana Fermion. And there CMM was thinking this was the name of the next Despicable Me supervillain.

Healthy agreement

Improving medical research and science rate four times in Australians’ ten most important priorities according to Research Australia

The peak medical research lobby’s annual opinion survey also found 84 per cent of responders thought the commonwealth should stump up for research and 86 per cent support the Medical Research Future Fund (once it was explained to them). The community also thinks pretty-highly of medical researchers, who are trusted by 96 per cent – just behind treating doctors, and nurses.

RMIT moves way beyond the bitcoin

The university has created a new research and teaching blockchain hub

Economist Jason Potts and RMIT colleagues have launched an on-line resource for the study of blockchains; how they can work, what they can do and how they will change the way the exchange systems function, plus “democratic and political applications of blockchain technologies, and understanding the social and philosophical implications of blockchain applications.”

“Blockchain has the potential to automate, and disintermediate, the institutions and services that underpin our lives. It could change how we interact online, who controls our information, and shift the incentives that guide businesses and cooperative systems,” the hub’s creators state.

The team also promises; “a wide range of undergraduate, postgraduate, and microcredential courses in the economics of the blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and blockchain applications,” with announcements later this year.

This is a super-smart move. Giving RMIT, as far as CMM knows, first- mover Australian advantage in teaching and research for a new discipline with the power to transform the way the world does business, exchanges value and keeps records, way beyond Bitcoin and following crypto-currencies.

Shags on rock

“The old adage that opposites attract doesn’t seem to translate to the avian dating scene, or at least not with Kerguelen shags, a subantarctic, diving seabird,” Deakin U researchers report.

NSW history prizes announced

The NSW Premier’s History Awards are announced

Australian history: Mark McKenna (University of Sydney). From the edge: Australia’s lost histories (MUP),

general history: Sandra Wilson (Murdoch U), Robert Cribb (ANU), Beatrice Trefalt, (Monash U) and Dean Aszkielowicz  (Murdoch U) Japanese war criminals (Columbia UP),

Community and regional history, Peter Hobbins, (University of Sydney), Ursula K Frederick (ANU) and Anne Clarke, (University of Sydney) Stories from the sandstone: quarantine inscriptions from Australia’s immigrant past (Arbon Publishing),

Young people’s history, Christobel Mattingley, (independent author) Maralinga’s long shadow (Allen and Unwin),

Multimedia history, Adam Clulow, (Monash U) The Amboyna conspiracy trial (Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media)

No accounting for moles

A journal of discovery in university budgeting reveals you don’t always get what account for

ANU DVC Marnie Hughes Warrington records her journey across what only look like the well-ordered plains of higher education finance  here. She regularly reports on the steps and stumbles towards the never-quite-in-sight city of budget perfection, as in her new essay on why activity based costing encourages a “whac a mole” approach to planning.

While she thinks well of the university’s model and considers highly competent the people who use it, annual data means a zero-sum game of whacking one mole only to see another inevitably appear.

“Some people, quite logically, see a teaching cost that they think is too high, and adjust it down. That adjustment down leads to adjustment up in other categories such as research. Dial teaching down, research goes up. Dial research down, teaching goes up,” she records.

As for using long term costs for budget building “It can be hard to get to long-run costs, however, if the majority of a university’s budget flows from yearly or sub-yearly government budget frameworks, or if year on year displays only go back one year.”

One way or another, it seems, accounting moles are always with us.

Close comparison

CQU VC Scott Bowman says the university’s 10 per cent pay rise for staff over five years is “a fair deal for hardworking staff.” This may not go down well with management at neighbouring James Cook U, where the union and university are at no-speaks, with salary negotiations stalled. To make the point that JCU management is mean the local branch of the National Tertiary Education Union has produced a pay and leave comparison between the two.

Piccoli to UNSW

Former NSW state education minister and Nationals MP Adrian Piccoli is moving to UNSW. Last night both Sydney newspapers were reporting he was leaving politics to lead a centre at the university which will research the disparity in education for city and country school students.