A bitter dispute is finally over

Staff at the University of Sydney are being offered a pay deal they could probably have had weeks, if not months back. With another strike schedule the National Tertiary Education Union put a management proposal to a members’ meetings yesterday. The deal was approved and now goes to an all staff ballot.  In the meantime the university says the scheduled strike is off. The comrades at NTEU headquarters also endorsed the deal, although it took them to 8.30 last night to tweet, “congrats to USyd members who today voted overwhelmingly to accept an offer from management! A hard-fought campaign for a fair deal at work .”
The core of the offer is a 2.9 per cent per annum pay rise for five years. Vice Chancellor Michael Spence has said for months this was the maximum he would pay and it seems union strategists finally decided he meant it. Even so, according to the vice chancellor it will keep Sydney staff the best paid university workers in the country, despite Dr Spence explaining last month how Sydney is less skint than it was but still not awash with cash. Perhaps with the Abbott Government an unknown quantity when it comes to funding the union also decided it also makes sense to lock in a five year deal. With Sydney signed other Group of Eight institutions will likely follow. My guess is that everybody has had enough. Either that or managements and unions across the country want pay sorted before Chris Pyne, or worse, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann notice.

 Pyne’s people take their time 

The government does not seem all that interested in getting the ministry of truth pumping out double plus good news (CMM yesterday). While a ministerial website is finally up there isn’t much on it.  The bureaucrats are also taking their time in sorting out structures. One reader points out that the administrative orders remain as of September 18, with research still in the Industry portfolio, a week after Education Minister Chris Pyne made it known he had taken it over. Perhaps Australian Research Council chief Aidan Byrne will mention it to Mr Pyne, they are due to meet this week. Another observer notes the absence of announcement dates for 2013 ARC funding programs. Some are for industry programs the last government created and the new one might decide to close. But what about Future Fellowships?

 Yet more maths

Another day (yesterday it was U of Q) another announcement of university programs to improve the quality of maths and science education for trainee teachers. Today’s comes from Southern Cross University, which will lead a Regional Universities Network program which looks to include 300 pre-service teachers across RUN universities in three years. According to SCU’s Geoff Woolcott, the project “is designed to increase the confidence of people entering primary and secondary teaching by drawing attention to the maths and science they already engage with in everyday life, and building pre-service teaching around it.” Good-oh, but you have to wonder what RUN education faculties, and all the others with a new emphasis on maths and science teachers for that matter, have been doing until know.

New name, ordinary ad

The University of Ballarat relaunched yesterday as Federation University Australia with a TVC that is pretty much the same as every other university corporate campaign. I am a fan of the old UB’s retail recruitment advertising, which sold on how the university was there to serve students. Hopefully there are equivalents to come. While this advert explains the new name it does not strongly sell the old UB brand benefits. The best things about this  one is that it cannot have cost FUA much – according to Vice Chancellor David Battersby the overall rebranding budget is $2m over three years. Good-oh, but the university will still need to spend on recruitment and open day advertising – because this advertisement does not do that job.

 Same old from Austrade 

According to the OECD some 77 per cent of international students study in member countries and of that group half are in one of five nations, the United States (17 per cent) United Kingdom (11 per cent) and Australia, Germany and France (all with 6 per cent). But no nation’s position is assured; the US dropped 6 per cent between 2000 and 2011.
How fortunate then that Australian education exporters have Austrade to help. As reported yesterday, the agency is running a competition for seven prospective students to win a trip here, with the winner having their travel and accommodation costs plus fees paid for a year if they enrol in Australia. Entrants must create a digital postcard about the fab future they hope for and how an Australian education will help them achieve it. And if that sounds familiar it’s because it is, except in 2011 entrants to a similar competition had to make a video.
The contrast between this generic pitch and Melbourne City Council’s recognition of the importance of helping international students on the ground is stark.

Alive and online

I have a suspicion that Kim Carr’s decision to provide academic print publishers with a $12 million fund to keep scholarly books coming may not survive the change of government. Whatever happens, the monograph business is bitterly split between print and online producers. In September Louise Adler from Melbourne University Press wrote in The Australian, “some university libraries have established in-house e-publishing initiatives for academics who fail to garner the interest of commercial publishers in highly specialised research for a limited audience. To which half a dozen online academic publishers now reply; “in Australia library-based presses publish high-quality peer-reviewed scholarship, invariably in both print and electronic formats, relatively quickly, and open access where possible, appealing to authors precisely because this enables the maximum visibility of and reach for their research.”

Less fourth more finished estate 

On the day when Fairfax announced another round of redundancies the University of Melbourne was promoting, “a journalism degree for the future, designed by leading academics and practitioners in news media who share the skills you need to play your part in redefining the profession.” Good-oh, but it should include a unit in small business management  – given that the chances of working with established media grow fewer every month. And then there is the matter of fees, while there are Commonwealth supported places for the course a fee paying spot to complete in a year sets a student back $23,000. At freelance rates this will take graduates a while, quite a while, to pay back.