Plus Fred Hilmer and Caroline McMillen lead the week’s winners

Negative energy

The University of Wollongong has just hosted a school science fair sponsored by the Illawarra Coal Company. It would never happen at ANU.

Teaching only trauma

There is uproar at the Australian Catholic University with staff receiving their research workload allocations under the new enterprise agreement. The process of allocating individuals’ hours started in June, with faculty panels assessing individuals research work in the past and specifying hours for the future, with the results run through a quality assurance process. A week back management was saying that peace prevailed and that staff were queuing to end the pretence that they were active researchers and happy to go to teaching-only roles. This seems so in many cases, yesterday critics of the time allocation process agreed there a bunch of ACUers who never had done any research and did not want to start now.

But others, especially those who saw their research time allocation cut, in one case from  a suggested 1000 hours to 120 for 2015, are ropeable. “There is a big saving for management here with many previous teaching-research staff switched to teaching only, which means no career path,” one staffer who confessed to feeling “totally screwed over,” said. “(DVC R) Wayne McKenna has to pay for his elite research institute strategy somehow,” another added. “Staff outside the institutes who had research grants and above average levels of publications are generally allocated a research workload of less than 15% which will not allow them to be classified even as a teaching/research academic in this contrived workload model. Many staff are devastated, university management has effectively ending their careers as research staff,” said a third.

I asked ACU management how many staff will move to teaching-only roles but all a representative would say was, “the allocation of research workload for 2015 is currently underway and academic staff are in discussions with their supervisors.” Which isn’t a whole lot of help. In contrast academics outside the research institutes say up to 90 per cent will be classified as teaching only.


The way we were

Old AUQAs never die, they simply fade Auckland’s way. The New Zealand Academic Quality Agency audit of the University of Auckland, released yesterday, is good news for the institution. The AQA is generally pleased with its performance and the way it has dealt with recommendations in the last review.

The methodology will, be familiar to everybody who once prepared for visits from the gnomic reviewers of the late, lamented Australian Universities Quality Agency. AUQA used to send teams to visit universities and have friendly chats with managers, who could later find their careers skewered by unfailingly polite but nonetheless scathing reports. (AUQA was replaced by TEQSA, which as far as I can tell does nothing to upset anybody). AQA even uses AUQA’s code, of “commendations,” (“oh dear, we never meant to scare you that much”), affirmations (“well at least you are doing your best”) and recommendations (“so will you fix it before you resign?”).

Cash for cunning

Reports that there is a no per cent pay rise in the new Australian Research Council enterprise agreement are flat wrong for now – enterprise bargaining is not complete. But the word is that the final offer will indeed be somewhere between zero and nil. There is a bit of this around Commonwealth agencies, with more to come, which should cheer National Tertiary Education Union members up no end. In the bargaining round just concluded the union extracted around 3 per cent per annum for three years across just about all universities– making this a hefty increase in the higher education wage bill, a swag of which comes from Canberra. Yes, I know universities have a flood plain of funding streams (foreign students, related entity income, masters fees, investments and etc) and each institution needs different per centages of government money to make the payroll. But what they get from the public purse still shapes what they can pay. The NTEU’s first serious cash claim in the last enterprise bargaining round was 4 per cent but came down quick smart when Labor announced cuts to pay for the the anticipated Gonski school funing increases in April 2013. But while the NTEU’s national strategists are realists they are also skilled in the darkest negotiating arts. So while the government is effectively cutting the pay of the armed forces, with public service agencies to come, university staff have three years of hikes in the can.

Rhonda retires

People at UWS never thought it would happen but after 30 years Rhonda Hawkins is leaving at the end of the year. She was instrumental in Vice Chancellor Jan Reid’s transformation of UWS from three collegial fiefdoms to a unified institution a decade back and, rare for a non-academic, acted as VC in Professor Reid’s absence.


While the doughty Dutch are standing fast against the commercial publishers the French have surrendered. The Dutch research universities have refused to sign an agreement with Reed Elsevier on journal access, arguing the publisher is denying the imminent reality of open access. That the national government says it wants all Dutch research to be published OA within a decade will have stiffened spines. But in la belle France forget it – the Couperin consortium, representing universities and medical researchers has just signed with Elsevier, paying 172m Euros for five years of journal access. But not to worry, rumour hath it the company graciously conceded E15m in negotiations. Perhaps the university negotiators gave in when Elsevier threatened to keep the meeting going through lunch.

Keep the red flag flying

Labor higher education spokesman Kim Carr has expanded his intellectual armoury with two policy and polemical veterans joining his office. Rachel Stephen-Smith returns as chief of staff. She previously worked with Senator Carr in government as COS and principal adviser. Former leader writer at The Age, Ray Cassin also signs on as speechwriter. Canberra watchers wonder whether Mr Cassin will find it difficult to write for somebody so much more conservative than leader conference at the paper.

Perfect pitch

A Charles Sturt University student team has won the International Advertising Association’s annual Australia-wide university competition for the sixth straight year. The team of five advertising students, plus a designer and a PR person presented a full creative and strategy pitch for client, Legacy. The brief was to reach 18-30 year olds, who know nothing about the charity and switch off at any mention of the military. So what won it for them? Lecturer Anne Llewellyn wouldn’t tell me – the client plans to run the campaign. CSU has always taught journalism as a craft rather than a theory and the approach obviously extends to advertising.

Safe from stack

Union busters who warn the comrades run industry super funds like the AGM of the Federation of Pork Producers and Barrel Makers (see the Fin just about any morning) need not worry about UniSuper. Certainly National Tertiary Education Union representatives are on tbe fund’s board, but of course they always act in the best interest of members. In any case, the way directors are appointed would even please the AFR. Two directors are nominated by vice chancellors of shareholder universities. Consultative committee members, who represent employers, nominate two directors. Consultative committee members who represent academic staff nominate one director. Consultative committee members who represent general staff nominate one director and two directors are nominated by the national unions “who represent a significant number of UniSuper members.” The eight (shareholder-appointed) directors appoint a further three independents to the board “on the basis of knowledge and experience.” Looks close to unstackable, not that anyone would ever try.


Winners of the week

Retiring University of New South Wales VC Fred Hilmer had a great week, with UNSW picking up 84 Australian Research Council Discovery Grants, worth $31m. His university rarely out-rates all the other Group of Eight institutions in the research rankings but nothing speaks louder than cash. Caroline McMillen, who leads the University of Newcastle, also did well in Discovery, with her campus collecting $9m, which puts it 9th nationally, just after the Group of Eight.

UWS did not do so well in Discovery, winning six grants this year, compared to 12 last, still VC Barney Glover should be pleased at week’s end. Staff have feared completion of the Nous Group’s efficiency audit would lead to a Christmas redundancy round, which Professor Glover has ruled out, suggesting to the university community that change would come slowly across all of 2015.

Rod Camm, the new head of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training also played it positively – making it plain to NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli that he should not hold crook operators on the edge of the training market against all private providers, which is what the TAFE lobby is saying government must.

And finally, applause for Anne Llewellyn, who teaches advertising at Charles Sturt (above). She mentored (or should that it be Olsoned-as in Peggy?) the two CSU student teams that made it the 2014 International Advertising Association‘s “Big Idea” marketing communications competition for undergraduates – and one of them won. This is the 9th CSU win in 12 years! Outstanding.