Farewell to flying Finkel

We are all on the bounce-mat but some of us are reaching for the stars

“What’s so great about trampolines?” outgoing Chief Scientist Alan Finkel asks in a promo for the “STEM everywhere” series from his office. Apparently, “they are fun, great exercise and explain heaps of physics concepts.”

Perhaps, “must put serendipity into science” is not on the job description but Dr Finkel does it anyway – he once explained scientific method by describing flaws in 17th century Swedish naval design, (CMM March 3 2016).

The science entrepreneur, inspirer and organiser (this year for his COVID-19 work) will be missed.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Social-media uni reviews are here to stay. Mahsood Shah (Swinburne U) argues universities must learn to live with, and from, them. It’s Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s final selection for the year in her series on what we need now in teaching and learning.

Michael Tomlinson on why the new higher education provider category standards will make it possible for a range of roses to bloom sweetly

Fewer physics profs at ANU

Science is set to take the hardest hit in the COVID-19 restructure plan

The version announced in October has ANU’s College of Science losing a net 103 positions – 130 gone or going with 27 hires, (CMM October 14).

Which presents the “Resist Cuts at ANU” campaign with an irresistible rhetorical question, “where will Australia’s next Nobel Prize come from?” Perhaps the answer expected is not from the Research School of Physics where, five professor positions are proposed to be disestablished.

Assuming management’s mind is not changed, the implementation plan for the college’s new organisation is due today week, to commence January 11.

Charles Sturt U VC goes with no permanent successor named

Andrew Vann has officially left Charles Sturt U – a year before his second term as VC expired

Not that he has been around much in management this year. Back in June CSU chancellor, Michele Allan told staff Professor Vann was taking six-months of leave and sabbatical (CMM June 19) – his job had already been advertised, with applications closing at the end of June (CMM June 16).

“I want to thank Andy for leading the university through a period of incredible growth, and through some very tough times too. His commitment to regional NSW and regional education is to be commended,” Dr Allan told staff Friday.

Which was more expansive than her June 19 statement, in which she assured the university that Council, “is focused on ensuring that the university’s staff and students have the leadership in place to ensure that Charles Sturt can continue to deliver world class higher education across all of our campuses and to our online students.”

Six months later there is still no word on a permanent replacement. Last month the university told CMM “the recruitment process is continuing” (CMM November 20). It still is, with Dr Allan telling CSU staff Friday that Acting VC John Germov will, “continue to work closely with the leadership team and the university council.”

Uni Newcastle staff get holidays back

The Fair Work Commission told management to give credit staff for leave days it told them to take. It will but also appeal the judgement

The university is appealing a FWC decision in which Deputy President Booth concluded that clauses in the university’s enterprise agreement are contrary to the act and “have no effect,” (CMM November 26).

The case came from a union challenge to university management directing staff to use five days of their leave straight after Easter, as part of its response to COVID-19. The university later decided that the leave requirement could not apply to academic staff but was not for moving on professional staff and (mainly ESL) teachers.

It still, on the principal, isn’t, with Vice Chancellor Alex Zelinsky telling the university community it will appeal Deputy President Booth’s ruling.

However staff will still get their leave back. Professor Zelinsky says, “regardless of the outcome of this appeal, I have endorsed measures to re-credit all staff annual leave balances for the five days’ leave that was deducted due to the Easter closedown.”

So why appeal? Perhaps because if the ruling stands it will probably muck-up the university’s leave budgeting. “The university will not be directing professional and teaching staff to take annual leave between December 21 2020 and January 8 2021. However, we strongly encourage professional and teaching staff to take the break you feel you need over this period,” the vice chancellor told staff Friday.

It could also get expensive if people challenged other cases of compulsory leave under the existing agreement and presumably any previous ones that did not meet Deputy President Booth’s standards.

Why a duck?

The Groucho of the Year goes to ANU VC Brian Schmidt

Among a bunch of serious stuff , Professor Schmidt tells staff that 700 graduating students now have an Etta, the small rubber duck mascot of ceremonies.

“But why,” you ask, “a duck?”. Etta is named for Chenonetta Jubata, the Australian Wood Duck, specimens of which which hang around ANU.

Swinburne U proposes cuts that start at the top

Back in October new Swinburne U VC Pascale Quester told staff the university needed 150 positions to go. Nothing has changed 

Except that delayed proposals on how to reduce numbers are now out for consultation. And the VC proposes cutting from the top.

In a Friday message to staff Professor Quester proposed abolishing the three PVCs of faculties

“The unintended consequence of the current faculty structure is that it has added, rather than assisted, administrative burden. To support our academic schools, we are proposing to remove this layer of administration to reduce decision-making layers, improve communication and reduce administrative costs,” the VC wrote.

The proposal means the deans of the eight schools would report direct to the DVC A.

Reviews of operating units are now out for consideration

In September, a voluntary redundancy round concluded but reviews of “operations and services” were still underway, “to ensure that we are operating with the optimal model and footprint for a post COVID-19 world,” (CMM September 15).

A month later VC Pascale Quester told staff that the university was still $45m short for 2020, after savings and VRs, and the reviews had found ways to eliminate 150 positions (CMM October 21).

Cue campus outrage with an open staff meeting, convened by the  National Tertiary Education Union expressing  no confidence in the VC (CMM November 13) and challenging aspects of the review consultation process – which are now sorted out.

On Friday Professor Quester told staff consultations are back on for student admin, the library and for the faculties of business-law and science-engineering-technology. They will run until December 18

Consultations in the health-arts-design faculty, academic innovation and International also started Friday and run to December 18. The global and community engagement consultation starts Wednesday and runs to December 23.

“No decisions in relation to the change proposals have been made at this time and this will not occur until the consultation process is complete,” the VC stated.

Appointments, achievements

Tito Ambyo and Janak Rogers (RMIT) win the innovation in on-line teaching award from the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia.

Kerry Brown (Edith Cowan U) is the new president of the ANZ Academy of Management, replacing Melanie Bryant (U Tas).

 Claire Collins (nutrition and dietetics) and Ravi Naidu (environmental remediation) are named Laureate Professors by the University of Newcastle. Roger Smith (endocrinology) becomes a Distinguished Laureate of the university, (presumably to distinguish him from professors whose eminence is less eminent).

 Mark Febbraio (Monash U) wins drug company GSK’s award for research excellence. This provides him with $80 000 to continue his research on a treatment for obesity, type two diabetes and muscle mass loss.

At Uni Melbourne come February Jane Gunn will start a 12-month appointment as interim dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences.

 Matthew Tonts (UWA) is the new chair of the WA Environmental Protection Authority.

The Winnovation Awards are announced, (“elevating South Australia’s innovative women”. Winnovaters include, Alice Jones (Uni Adelaide – rural and remote category) and Manuela Klingler-Hoffman (Uni SA – science).