Why universities hate rankings

Yesterday Nine newspapers reported the Times Higher Education ranking results for WA showed Murdoch U “has plunged 100 places” in the “highly regarded global ranking”. Unless, that it is, it dropped two. In 2019, THE rated Murdoch U in its 401-500 band, this year it’s in the 501-600 group. Perhaps Nine crunched all the inputs to work out the institution’s precise places.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on epigenetics, what it means and where research is – nobody knows what’s next.

Angel Calderon from RMIT examines the new Times Higher university rankings and puts Australian alpha outcomes in the context of the year’s other results

Student data is essential for learning analytics but it must be kept say Ruth Marshall (Practera) and colleagues. It’s this week’s piece in contributing editor Sally Kift’s series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.

Tracy Woodroffe (Charles Darwin U) argues a cultural shift is required to improve educational outcomes for Indigenous students. It’s a new contribution to a series by Indigenous academics and policy people from commissioning editor Claire Field.

Garry Carnegie and James Guthrie argue we need more up to date financial information than universities have supplied on the pandemic’s impact.

Uni Melbourne VC: sexual assault and harassment will not be tolerated

Duncan Maskell commits to improving procedures “wherever necessary”

The VC confirmed to staff yesterday that the university had cooperated with a South Australian Independent Commission Against Corruption investigation into an individual he only described as a “former senior leader from this university.”

Last week ICAC released a statement setting out its investigation of former Uni Adelaide vice chancellor Peter Rathjen and the reasons for its serious misconduct finding, under the ICAC Act, against him.

ICAC reports that during its inquiry into his behaviour towards two women at Uni Adelaide, it was advised that Mr Rathjen was also being investigated over “historical claims of sexual harassment or abuse of a female post graduate student,” while he was an academic at Uni Melbourne, between 2006 and 2011.

Professor Maskell stated he would not comment further, “in line with the wishes of the victim, and to ensure her protection and confidentiality.”

He added Uni Melbourne has “strong practices and policies” dealing with sexual assault and harassment. However, he committed the university to examining ICAC recommendations to Uni Adelaide, “to ensure that we make improvements to our procedures wherever necessary.”

Short (but probably not sweet) Senate inquiry

Yesterday the Senate referred Minister Tehan’s universities bill to the Education and Employment Legislation Committee. It could have been worse for the government

Yes, the committee hearings (submissions due September 10) will give critics of the legislation another platform but the government did not have much choice.

On Tuesday cross-bench senators Stirling Griff, Jacqui Lambie, and Rex Patrick voted with Labor and the Greens to send the bill to committee. The vote was tied, so the motion failed. But the three demonstrated they wanted an inquiry – and the government will need at least one of them for the bill to pass.

So, there will be an inquiry – just not as long as the Greens and Labor wanted yesterday. The parties did not have the numbers for their proposed committee reporting date of November 30 (they asked for Hansard to report their votes).

The Senate agreed to the government’s proposed reporting date of September 25.

Explaining the incomprehensible

Science communication can be an oxymoron but not from the keyboard of whoever wrote an ANU announcement about “super” (no less) black holes colliding. It’s clear, concise and while the concepts are way too big for CMM’s small brain he read it right through and gets that it is important. Respect.

A straight bat at Uni Wollongong

With allegations that universities underpay casuals common, the National Tertiary Education at UoW asked management a bunch of questions about processes

Fair enough too it is not unknown for UoW to inadvertently get remuneration wrong, stuffing up super for 30 per cent of staff over eight years (CMM April 6 2017).

But with a Senate committee expected to consider casuals pay in other universities management’s response was worded as if they expected to be read by senators. The university referred to an external audit of casual pay, “additional guidance” for faculties on casual academic payrates, and a new pay process. There is also a “detailed review of current and former casual academic staff payroll records to ensure the payments received were correct.” And if any weren’t, “the University will investigate and, if required, remediate potential inaccurate payments.”

No case against Uni Queensland chiefs

Uni Queensland advises the state’s Crime and Corruption Commission has assessed allegations against Chancellor Peter Varghese and former vice chancellor Peter Høj and found no evidence.

The university is silent on what this was about however the Courier Mail newspaper reported in July lawyers representing student activist Drew Pavlou went to the CCC alleging Varghese and Høj acted corruptly to maintain university revenue from international students from China.

“The university thanks the CCC for their efficient assessment of the allegations and their confirmation that the chancellor and former vice-chancellor have no case to answer,” Uni Queensland states.

Uni Sydney union leaders rehearse their lines

Vice Chancellor Michael Spence did not mention the number of FTE positions the university wants to save when he announced a voluntary redundancy round on Wednesday

But neither did he refer to compulsory departures to follow.

It could have been worse but it was not good enough for the ever-exercised campus branch committee of the National Tertiary Education Union which flat-out opposes staff cuts, including VRs, the “inevitable result” of which is “more work for those who remain.”

The committee suggests the university has reserves to draw down and there are still non-staff savings to be made.

The committee is setting out its position for a members’ meeting later this month. If adopted then university management will need to brace for solid opposition.

Appointments, achievements

Of the day

Nicole Asquith joins Uni Tasmania as director of the Institute of Law Enforcement Studies. She moves from Western Sydney U.

Of the week

Scott Burnell (Griffith U) becomes president of the Australasian University Safety Association.

Patricia Davidson starts as Uni Wollongong VC in May. She moves from Johns Hopkins where she is dean of nursing. Professor Davidson has a bachelors and masters from UoW.

Justin Gooding receives the Jaroslav Heyrovsky Prize for molecular electrochemistry from the International Society of ME

Gregor Kennedy moves up at the University of Melbourne, becoming DVC A and deputy provost. He is now PVC Teaching and Learning. Professor Kennedy succeeds long-serving Richard James, who will move to an as yet announced Uni Melbourne role.

Kerry London, (dean Built Environment, Western Sydney U) moves to PVC Research at Torrens U.

Melissa O’Donnell joins Uni SA’s Australian Centre for Child Protection after 15 years at UWA

Author Bruce Pascoe is appointed Enterprise Professor in Indigenous Agriculture at the University of Melbourne.