Who would have thought!

“Oddly enough, a group of university folk nominated “funding” as the biggest risk for universities at the moment,” University of Southern Queensland VC Geraldine Mackenzie at the Universities Australia conference yesterday, via Twitter.

Union digs in on Uni Canberra job cuts (which are definitely not redundancies)

The University of Canberra’s plan to save on professional staff costs to spend up on academics has hit a snag, with the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union notifying a dispute over what it claims is management’s failure to consult.

The university’s wants to pay out just about everybody who puts up their hand but is adamant that this is not a redundancy scheme. “No positions have been identified as excess to requirements and no positions will be made redundant through the voluntary separation package, management tells (CMM  February 26).

But if no roles are redundant surely the people who stay will have to pick up the work of the people who go. “By any reasonable measure, the effect of the voluntary separation program will require significant substantial organisational change given the turnover of staff, redeployments, a net reduction in staff and consequently significant workload implications for supervisors and staff who do not accept a separation package,” the union’s Rachel Bahl argues.

She adds staff and union reps “have been presented with a process regarding voluntary separations but no information or opportunity to either provide input or to influence the process for the resulting staffing and workload implications, despite the university determining that workload priorities will be completed, transitioned or prioritised differently during the notice period of employees who accept the VSP.” This she says, is in breach of the university’s enterprise agreement.

Road rules

“We are currently experiencing issues with pay & display parking ticket machines. Fines will not be issued in these car parks today. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.” University of Wollongong yesterday. CMM suspects nobody complained.

UTS  warns the campus community of fines for crossing streets against the lights, via Facebook yesterday. Funnily enough it did not mention another reason that anybody familiar with the main drag outside campus knows all about – death by traffic.

Senator Smith honoured

The father of the same-sex marriage legislation, Dean Smith is one of two inaugural winners of the University of MelbourneMckinnon Foundation prize. Senator Smith (Lib-WA) is named Mckinnon Political Leader of the Year for, “his bipartisan leadership on same sex marriage and his demonstration of courageous backbench leadership in the face of internal opposition and diversity of public opinion within Australian society.”

Mayor of Torres Shire (as in Strait), Vonda Malone, is the Mckinnon emerging political leader, winning $20 000 for professional development.

The Mckinnon Foundation was established last year by Sophie Oh and Grant Rule. The award panel was chaired by UniMelbourne VC Glyn Davis (CMM November 28 2017)

AHEIA ambivalent

Management lobby the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association is both pleased and not so much with the Fair Work Commission. AHEIA is happy that the Fair Work Commission knocked the union back on its proposal to pay academics whose work takes more than standard hours and for award rules on professional staff overtime, (CMM February 22) But AHEIA is concerned that commissioners are reading proposed enterprise agreements line by line, which is delaying approvals of some agreements.  Heaven forfend that the umpire should question what university managements and union have agreed on.

UniSA’s Lloyd spells out the Stark realities of change

“Winter is coming” University of  South Australia VC David Lloyd told delegates yesterday in an impromptu introduction to a session at the Universities Australia conference.

“What we have seen over the last two days is that disruption can and should be anticipated, disruption to funding streams, disruption from policy changes, disruption from technology shifts, disruption from shifting stakeholder expectations.

“We know that culture eats strategy for breakfast which means that clever organisations must place culture at the heart of strategies to deal with disruption.”

But why the Game of Thrones allusion? “It does somewhat mirror university politics and management. If you cross it with The Office.”

Murray Darling plus more: where new med school places might be

There is talk around the traps of a budget announcement to address the shortage of doctors in the bush, with suggestions that finally, the Charles Sturt and La Trobe universities proposal for a Murray Darling Medical School might get up.

The problem for Treasury, not to mention existing medical schools, which the hate idea of a new one, is that CSU and LT U are not the only regional unis which aspire to host medical students. Learned readers advise that CQU would love to add medicine to its health courses. CMM asked the uni yesterday and a representative replied; “CQUniversity is committed to working with our health partners and other universities to ensure that the educational pipeline to serve this workforce need is appropriate to the regions. This includes consideration of whether a full medical program could or should be delivered in Queensland locations where it is not currently offered.”  A med school might be a stretch but a teaching hospital with medicine places administered by another uni and providing a destination for CQU health graduates isn’t. The model works down the coast at University of the Sunshine Coast.


SA TAFE shambles: Senators ignore the obvious

Two weeks before the South Australian election a Labor led Senate committee inquiry into the South Australian TAFE shambles has reported a single recommendation; “that the government establish a comprehensive review of Australia’s entire VET sector with a view to achieving adequate and sustainable ongoing funding levels, appropriate controls on private providers and a coherent and supportive policy framework.” What like the inquiry Labor’s Tanya Plibersek says she will establish in government?

Government committee member Lucy Gichuhi and Sarah Hanson-Young for the Greens (both senators for SA) had a different view.

“The South Australian government received a windfall from the federal government to build its workforce under National Partnership Agreements for skills reform. The outcomes are that the number of government funded training places has halved since 2013.  The rapid decline in the allocation of funding from 2012–2017 due to the inefficient management of places has undermined the capacity of the VET sector to respond to the State’s workforce needs. The South Australian government has failed to adequately monitor compliance with national standards required to access funding.

Big news, little coverage

In the news parade of palaver modest banners for big stories are oft ignored –no matter how significant what they report. Like news  last week that a biotech company that started in the University of Newcastle is bought by big (one of the biggest) pharma Merck for $502m. Viralytics is trialling a compound from a common cold virus that kills cancer cells. ABC News Radio gave the science story a run and the IP trade press was interested in the money but this huge achievement merited a media march of its own, which it did not get – if there is a story that makes the case for investing in Australian medical research this is it.

And then there is news from the Doherty Institute of a difference between people who live and die from A/H7N9 avian flu. Katherine Kedzierska, Zhongfang Wang and colleagues found that people hospitalised with flu who have a specific immune cell temporarily activated appear more likely to live than patients where the same cell persists. The next step is to work out why but the Doherty suggests; “this work points to the possibility of limiting severe disease from pandemic flu.”

Perhaps it is because CMM had the stuffing scared out by Stephen Soderbergh’s public health documentary masquerading as a movie, Contagion (2011), that he thinks this is another big story. It is certainly another great example of research at work but again, no parade. Go figure.

CQU goes for a local

CQU DVC Andy Bridges will leave the university in June. His replacement in the strategic development portfolio will be recruited internally.

Heads Up: wins of the working week

Five-time Walkley winner Monica Attard is moving to UTS as head of journalism. Ms Attard now leads the journalism programme at private provider Macleay College. She replaces Peter Fray who leads the UTS Centre for Media Transition.

Janine O’Flynn joins the Australian and New Zealand School of Government as professor of public management. The public sector management researcher is now at the University of Melbourne.

Lorelle Frazer moves from Griffith U to become head of the business school at University of the Sunshine CoastKen Greenwood also joins USC, to lead social sciences. He moves from James Cook U.

UNSW dean of law George Williams will join the board of the university’s press. Literary agent Fiona Inglis is also appointed to the board.

Nick Bisley from the La Trobe U Asia Institute moves up to lead the university’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences.