Selling a big slice of its online education joint venture to SEEK gives Swinburne U $118m to spend on, well whatever it likes


Peaceful progress towards a new wage deal at Deakin U


 And QS chief says Australian universities might worry too much about rankings


Great value

Bruce McColl has started work as an industry professor at the University of South Australia, delivering his first lecture last week. His previous job was chief marketing officer at Mars (as in bars and a bunch of other brands), a long-time client of UniSA’s Ehrenberg-Bass Institute which considers marketing a science with laws that apply to all brands. His talk was a very good deal indeed for the marketing students who heard him. On the business circuit Professor McColl would probably earn the equivalent of a a year’s HECs for a lecture.

Payrise just the start

Skirmishing over a new enterprise agreement has started at Griffith University with both sides sticking to the strategy adopted by their peak groups. Management wants simplified employment terms and conditions, with the union demanding detailed rules governing workplace change and job protection. Last month the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union proposed revisions to the existing change management process, which management knocked back as “too complex and lengthy.” The union also asked management for a 3 per cent administrative pay rise, a normal measure to compensate staff between the end of old agreements and the start of new ones. Management proposed 1.5 per cent, effective at the end of April. This has not gone down well with some staff represented by the Australian Services Union who fear that it will pass as a final raise under the agreement. Not so, says the union, “the pay increase does not limit the union’s right to seeking additional increases as we have not (ASU’s emphasis) settled bargaining in this round and wage increases continue to be an outstanding matter on our log of claims.” The next bargaining meeting for professional staff is on tomorrow.

Cop at QUT

QUT has appointed a police officer in residence, with Queensland Police Inspector Christopher Emzin starting 12 months at the university’s School of Justice. A QUT graduate, Inspector Emzin will lecture and work with researchers. An Indigenous Australian, he will also support students  through the university’s Oodgeroo Unit.

 A peaceful precedent

Deakin University could be the first university to reach an enterprise agreement in the new round. The university is offering a 2 per cent pay rise per annum for the 2017-2020 life of the next deal plus a $1000 signing bonus. Certainly, the campus union is circulating a petition calling for “fair and reasonable” academic workloads, better conditions for casual teaching staff with the chance of converting to secure employment and “work/life balance” but this is far from the arsenal of opposition the NTEU deploys when it is not inclined to treat. A university spokeswoman says management is “very pleased with the progress of our negotiations for a new EA.”  Close observers of bargaining across the system say senior NTEU leaders are keen for a deal to demonstrate that the union is being reasonable in the hope that other universities do not follow the lead of the four public institutions in WA, where managements are not compromising on their push for shorter and simpler rules on wages and conditions.

Big smiles

Labor leader Bill Shorten used TAFE as a synonym for all VET providers in his big speech on Friday but you can’t fault him for courtesy. He smiled for the cameras with Martin Riordan (TAFE (Directors Australia) and a couple of other people who are not public providers, Helen Zimmerman, chief corporate affairs officer at Navitas and Rod Camm, who runs the Australian Council for Private Education and Training.

Relax about rankings

Do university rankings matter in Australia, QS World University Rankings chief Ben Sowter  asks himself last night. He’s glad he asked himself that, replying.

I suppose it depends on where you’re coming from.

Australian universities are extremely engaged with international rankings such as ours. They provide a meaningful, if incomplete, diagnostic tool for international competitiveness, but the real reason, is that students in key origin markets care about the decision they are about to make and look to rankings to help them with validation.

“As one of the world’s hottest international student destinations, and as a proportion of total students, one of the largest, the financial sustainability of some universities in Australia has become reliant on maintaining and growing international student flows.

“Whether or not they matter in the graduate employment market has been answered elsewhere, but they clearly matter to the universities themselves – perhaps more than they should.

CMM doubts QS is at risk of any decline in university interest, as he says the “financial sustainability” of some universities depends on international students. As a Group of Eight VC has told CMM, he could not “open the doors” without internationals – and they read the rankings.

Another departure at Deakin Law School

Respected young researcher (international commercial law) Dr Ben Hayward has joined the exodus from the Deakin University law school. According to insiders there have been 17 resignations and redundancies from the school since dean Sandeep Gopalan took over in 2015, around 25 per cent of listed academic staff. The resignations include high profile researchers Mirko Bagaric who switched to Swinburne, Christoph Antons who nicked up to the University of Newcastle and Louis de Koker and Dan Meagher who both relocated to La Trobe.

However, the university says the number of departures is 12 out of 54 staff, “most of whom have retired or gone onto other opportunities.”

Turn-over occurs in all organisations and our law school is currently in a growth phase with a refreshed focus,” a spokeswoman says.

The university has already hired international academics, who the university says will provide “world-leading research and teaching”  and recently advertised for staff at professor, associate professor, senior lecturer, and lecturer levels. A spokeswoman says, “all positions have been filled, with another six expected to join the university in the near future.”

Professor Gopalan strategy for the law school is to “enhance the quality of research and teaching to match international standards; specifically increasing the experiential learning component of the law course.”