High stakes at Swinburne

The standoff at Swinburne turned out as suspected (CMM yesterday) with the National Tertiary Education Union and university management failing to do a deal on an enterprise agreement to put to staff. This gave the university no alternative to act on its ultimatum that it would put its proposal to a vote. The yes case was emailed to all staff at 5.20 last night, putting the position on conditions and warning the pay rise and $1000 sign-on bonus are not guaranteed if the deal is not adopted. But perhaps a bigger card is reminding staff that without an agreement, “we can expect continued industrial action.” The union’s campaign pitch is not available yet (at least not to me) but it has made its case continually for months.

Neither side is talking its chances up and there is no doubt that there is a great deal of bitterness at Swinburne over restructuring and the Lilydale campus closure. The question is how many staff share it. Calling for a no vote in the ballot is also a big risk for the union – staff at Charles Sturt University defied the union to back a management agreement last winter and the national NTEU will not want a second defeat like this.

What happened to that Clive of India bloke?

The British Council spruiking a marketing report, on Twitter last night, “the UK must go to India”. What like they did in the 18th century? And didn’t that work well.

Sold sort-of on Seoul

The Korean FTA is a biggish deal indeed – with the potential to increase education business although perhaps not by much without a lot of work. According to Australia Education International some 27,500 Korean students were in the Australian education system last year. However the market might be as big as it is going to get, with no growth between 2012 and 2013. Where the FTA can increase sales is in engineering, architecture, vet science, accounting, pharmacy and radiography coursses. Although the FTA does not require both parties to accept each other’s qualifications in these professions it certainly encourages “the relevant bodies in its territory to develop mutually acceptable standards and criteria for licensing and certification.” Of course this works both ways. South Korea started pursuing education exports a decade back.

Less fatal than no impact

Impact is the next big thing in research metrics – the source of endless arguments to come between universities that are big on industry links and the academic establishment, which prefers scholars talking, or better still, citing each other.  My money is on the latter group – because it sometime seems that science and the private sector have never even met. Sponsorship of this year’s Eureka Awards makes the point.  Of the sixteen prize categories a total of two are sponsored by private sector businesses. Manufacturer 3M supports the “emerging leader in science,” category while New Scientist funds the photography award. The two other journalism prizes are both sponsored by the federal department of industry. Universities, bureaucracies and public research agencies back all the others. Perhaps business was asked and declined – perhaps the Eureka team just sticks to comfortable sources. Whatever, either the Eureka organisers doe not care about business, or the other way around, or both.

Good oil on voc ed

The National Council for Vocational Education and Research does serious work. Not always well-written or surprising work mind, but overall it is a major national resource for anybody interested in the interface between education/training and employment.  The council has just made summaries of recent research available online and they are well worth the time for anybody who wants to dig a little deeper than the standard aphorisms about education and training driving the economy. (I would include a link but for some reason I cannot access the document via url). I reported on many of the reports last year and in retrospect some are still standouts. Gavin Moodie et al found that in occupational areas without licensing requirements there is no strong link between education and work in mid-level qualifications and fields.  (Former NCVER head) Tom Karmel, Sinan Gemici and Patrick Lim demonstrated that school quality really matters, especially for low SES students and research by Stephen Black, Keiko Yasukawa and Tony Brown revealed that manufacturing production workers, and their managers, think the level of literacy in the workplace is adequate to get the job done. However the research I really want to see is Dr Karmel’s conference paper from last winter on graduate employment – which was not overwhelmingly optimistic. I wonder why it was not included.

Five stars for reviewing

Knowledge Speak reports “the creation of a Trip Advisor for academic publishing.” Um not quite,  Journalysis will not provide a turn-down service. But what it will do is give researchers a chance to rate their experience with publishers. “Have you ever submitted an article to an academic journal and had to wait months just to be told your work doesn’t fit the journal’s scope? Have your publications taken years to go through peer-review and press? Or maybe you’ve been really impressed with the speed and quality of the editorial process?” Journalysis wants to know so that it can publish reports.” Perhaps not the impact factor the big publishers will want.

The political science of knicker knottery

There is much knicker knotting over Nicholas Kristof’s piece in the New York Times suggesting political scientists have turned their back on the practicalities of politics and policy in favour of talking to each other about theory. Well what I want to know is where have the knicker knotters been? Certainly not at their desks reading the American Political Science Association’s 2011 manifesto, which warned, “the world of the 21st century contains a growing set of societal problems that, because of a lack of focus on the impact of the scholarly work, political science seems ill-equipped to address in a sustained way. The result is that the concerns of many of the most marginal members of political communities around the world, and, even more important, the social, political, and economic processes that led to that marginalisation, remain substantially unexplored and, therefore, unexplained, within the discipline.” Good-oh, but this approach is not going to be a whole lot of help in understanding what will happen in China if there is a recession or whether the partisan divide in Congress makes the United States ungovernable. But right or wrong Kristof is arguing for psephology and international relations against advocates of the study of gender and racial oppression. To read the political scientists’ manifesto this argument was settled a generation ago in US pol sci departments– and Kristof’s side lost. Think not? Read Corey Robing to see the dimensions of the defeat.

In contrast the Australian Political Studies Association, if its 2013 conference program is any indication, is much more interested in well, politics.