It’s not over at James Cook U, till the FWC signs

Last week JCU staff voting accepted (just – 51 per cent in favour) a management proposal to defer a pay rise due Wednesday as part of a job protection package, (CMM September 21)

But Jonathan Strauss from the National Tertiary Education Union warns the way management drafted the necessary enterprise agreement variation means “there is no enforceable requirement” for JCU to pay the delayed wage increase when now promised, in December ‘21. The union calls on JCU to withdraw its application to the Fair Work Commission for required approval.

The NTEU opposed management’s plan but Dr Strauss says this is not “sour grapes,” that the FWC cannot approve the EAV as now written.

To which HR Director Geoff Rogers responded yesterday in a message to staff; “JCU’s position remains that it is for the Fair Work Commission to decide on the EAV which it will do in due course.”

There’s more in the Mail

New in Features

Merlin Crossley on prizes and how they serve society

Reads of the week

Shelley Kinash (Uni Southern Queensland) on helping new graduates get jobs. COVID-19 is making the hunt harder. Universities need to do more. New in Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series, “Needed now in teaching and learning.”

Marnie Hughes-Warrington (Uni SA) on why we need just one ERA, but effectively have two.

Tehan’s Plan B (that’s b for big) for HE change

The Education Minister made a couple of quiet announcements yesterday. They did not involve much money and will not cause HE lobbies to consult their copies of “How to build a barricade”. But they point to a future for post-school education way beyond the forward estimates

The Senate committee report on the government’s bill to change funding for UG places is due today – the Labor and Greens assessments will be scathing. But if the bill fails it’s not the end of Dan Tehan’s ambitions for HE change.

Industry engaged: Yesterday, Mr Tehan announced a university-based “advanced apprenticeship-style Digital Technologies pilot” to, “teach students high-level specialist knowledge and skills to prepare them for industry jobs of the future.”

Participants are RMIT, Swinburne U, U Tas, UTS, Uni Queensland and UWA. Last year Siemens, Swinburne U and the Australian Industry Group trialled an “industry 4.0 apprenticeship” to lead to a diploma and associate degree.

The new initiative appears to extend the associate degree in applied technologies tech  corporate Siemens is also funded to develop with Uni Queensland, Uni SA, U Tas, UTS and UWA, (CMM July 14).

It’s the sort of applied-learning, industry-engaged education the minister likes.

People making their own case: Mr Tehan also announced yesterday a Nationals Credential Platform, “to help students transition from education to employment by showcasing their achievements.”

Launching next year, the platform will, “standardise access to education records, making it easier for students to compile and present their credentials.”

Short and to the employment point: “Future phases” of the platform will include “recognition of micro-credentials and general capabilities.”

Good for people creating their own skills-portfolios and for universities that are keen on building micro-credentials into their product-range.

Like Deakin U, which makes a big-case for micro-credentials, (CMM August 6). And like Griffith U, which has just announced an “extensive suite” of micro-credentials “preparing professionals for new employment opportunities in post-pandemic world.”

Mr Tehan also likes the employment-focus of micro-credentials.

In June, he announced $3.4m to build an information base on what’s on offer and what they are worth as pre-reqs. “Micro-credentials address the most common barriers cited by adult workers who are not intending to undertake further formal training or study: time and cost,” he said then, (CMM June 22).

But this will not go down-well with supporters of the way things are. Peak university lobbies were all ambivalent about micro-credentials in submissions to the Australian Qualifications Framework review (CMM July 29 2019).

As to “general capabilities” the minister may mean generic skills, acknowledged by providers, using badge-platforms, such as Credly. Griffith U went big with badges last year (CMM April 8 2019).

Who’s working on it on the platform: Universities Australia and its subsidiary Higher Education Services are both involved – HES makes especial sense. It created My eQuals, which allows graduates of ANZ universities to log-on and acquire a PDF of their academic record (CMM June 15 2018).

And the NSW Universities Admission Centre is also involved – it has worked with Deakin U to develop a credentialing system for workplace skills, (CMM February 4 2019).

Not a big deal now: But industry-engaged, corporate-created, employment-focused qualifications could be. So could recognition of micro-courses and generic skills.

As will giving people the ability to assemble their own recognised credential statement, independent of institutions.

Delays for Macquarie U quick course cuts

Macquarie U management wants to decide quick-smart what not to teach next semester. It just got harder

Last week Macquarie U VC S Bruce Dowton told staff courses and units are not viable in the current number” and so courses, majors and specialisations, “will be rested next year.”

But given the lateness of the hour to let students know what’s available for first semester, “time is not on our side,” (CMM September 15).

It’s even less so now. The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union has lodged a dispute over lack of what it claims is required consultation.

If the widely-expected October 1 deadline for what courses and units are on and off is to be met this will need sorting soon-ish. There’s a bunch of work, plus pleading for special cases, to get through.

Over and out on talks at Victoria U

Last week the university announced the end of negotiations with the campus union on a joint approach to savings

VU management and the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union were talking terms for a trade-off of savings on staff costs, in return for a guarantee to protect a specified number of jobs.

Last Friday, VC Peter Dawkins said talks were off. The union replied it had still options to put on outstanding issues, notably any possibility of involuntary redundancies, (CMM September 18).  But off meant over and out yesterday. Professor Dawkins told staff the university, would “commence the process to mitigate our financial challenges … following the unfortunate outcome of the discussions with the NTEU.”

There’s no detail other than whatever is to happen will be over two years and that there will be a “voluntary separation programme.”

The NTEU responds it is “disappointed” and remains open to discussing ways the University can save money “without having to resort to large staffing reductions.”

Appointments, achievements

Of the day

Angela Goddard (Griffith U) is chair of University Arts Museums Australia

At Victoria U DVC R Corinne Reid picks up the post of provost, on an interim basis.  She replaces Marcia Devlin who left at the beginning of the month.  New VC Adam Shoemaker arrives in mid-December.

Griffith U announces research awards; research leadership: Susan Dennison (Criminology). Sue Berners-Price (medical inorganic chemistry). early career research: Hoang-Phuong Phan (micro and nano technology). mid career research: Lauren Ball (diet in primary care). research supervision: Rod Connolly (wetlands and riverine research). research engagement: Ross Homel (criminology). research group/team: Chris Carty, Claudio Pizzolato, David Lloyd, David Saxby, Geoff Tansley, Laura Diamond, Matt Bourne, Michael Simmonds, Randy Bindra, Rod Barrett, Sam Canning from the Centre for Biomedical and Rehabilitation Engineering.

Of the week

 Iain Hay (Flinders U) becomes First (as in senior, not original) Vice President of the International Geographical Union, (dedicated to the development of geographical research and teaching).

Sharon Lewin (Peter Doherty Institute) receives the Global Virus Network’s Gallo Award for excellence in medical virology.

Timothy Ottaway (RMIT) wins the 2020 James Dyson design award for current/recent design engineering students. Mr Ottaway designed push-bike lighting which illuminates a rider’s moving legs so people on the road see a person, not a red light.

Geoff Page wins the Australian Catholic University poetry prize – again. He won first prize in 2017 and second last year.

Peter Radoll (PVC Indigenous, Uni Canberra) is appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW

Michelle Simmons (UNSW) joins the CSIRO board.