There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Merlin Crossley (UNSW)  on the two golden rules for selection committees in research (and elsewhere).

Frank Larkin’s  on the new higher education research and development funding stats. They set a record, but even before the impact of COVID-19, funding for basic research is way too low.

Tim Winkler on the way the ATAR and tertiary admissions centres work, or don’t, for school leavers.

Kylie Austin on widening HE participation – we need a national collaboration and not an institutional focus. It’s Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s selection this week for her series on what we need now in teaching and learning.

Dawn Bennett and colleagues  wondered what bized students want so they asked 6000 of them.

Andy Vann absent from Charles Sturt U

Vice Chancellor Andrew Vann is on a six-month sabbatical and leave as of June 22

CSU Chancellor Michele Allan announced his absence to staff yesterday.

The body of her statement reads, “This sabbatical and leave was agreed prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. We all acknowledge the significant challenges and funding pressures facing the higher education sector in Australia, and the 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.”

That’s it.

Although his term runs to December ’21 it appears unlikely that Professor Vann will return. The VC job is already advertised, (CMM June 16) with applications closing at month-end.

A new course funding model

Education Minister Dan Tehan will reveal a new undergraduate funding system at the National Press Club today

It’s in-line with his long-expressed emphasis on HE education as a job-generating engine of economic growth.

“Universities must teach Australians the skills needed to succeed in the jobs of the future,” Mr Tehan is expected to say.

The Commonwealth will reduce student contributions for degrees in areas of “expected employment growth” while increasing what undergrads pay for qualifications that are not in national priority areas.

What’s in it for universities: “We will reform the system so that the student contribution and the Commonwealth contribution actually equals the cost of teaching that degree,” is Mr Tehan’s commitment. He will also announce “an additional 39 000 university places” by 2023 and 100 000 more by 2030.

What’s in it for (some) students: “We will also incentivise students to make more job-relevant choices, that lead to more job-ready graduates, by reducing the student contribution in areas of expected employment growth and demand.” The expectation is that 60 per cent of students starting next year will pay fees the same, or lower than apply now. Existing students are grandfathered.

What Canberra will contribute: Funding for Commonwealth supported places is allocated in four clusters, replacing the existing eight.

* Cluster one includes, law, business, arts and social sciences. The Commonwealth will pay $1100 per annum per student place, down from $2000 for law and biz ed this year, and $6000 for humanities

* Cluster two includes teaching, IT, architecture maths and allied health. The government contribution will be $13 500, up from $6000-$11 000

* Cluster three: includes nursing, engineering, science and languages. Canberra will provide $16 500, compared to a $14 000 –  $18 000 range now

* Cluster four:  is the expensive-to-teach professions, medicine, dentistry, agriculture and vet science. The state’s share will be $27 000 a place, up from $24 000 now.

Students will pay:

Contributions are allocated to four bands, which do not coincide to the teaching cost allocations. Existing students are grandfathered.

* Band one: including teaching, maths, nursing and agriculture is $3 700, compared to $6000 to $ 11 000 this year

* Band two: including, health, architecture, IT, creative arts and science is $7 700 under the new model – $9000 now

* Band three: medical, dental, vet science is unchanged at $11 000

* Band four: law, bized, humanities and related increase from a range of $6000 to $11 000 to $14 000.

Into the weeds: There is room for universities to manage their student income in the model, with costs allocated at unit not degree level. Thus, a student rich enough to major in literature could reduce their study debt by also taking teaching. Universities claiming units belong in high government support, low student fee categories will take up officials’ time in years to come.

The pitch: Mr Tehan is expected to present this as a positive for universities. “A return to indexing of all the Commonwealth Grant Scheme funding by CPI, maintaining the real value of CGS funding for domestic students.

And he will continue to make his case to school leavers, and particularly their parents.  “We are facing the biggest employment challenge since the Great Depression. And the biggest impact will be felt by young Australians. They are relying on us to give them the opportunity to succeed in the jobs of the future.  A cheaper degree in an area where there’s a job is a win-win for students (and) when graduates succeed our country succeeds.”

Plus, coalition backbenchers who doubt the value of the humanities will like it a lot.

At U Tas VC Rufus Black has a mandate for COVID-19 change  

90 per cent of staff who turned out have voted for a recovery package jointly proposed by management and the two campus unions

With 53 per cent of eligible staff voting, university management has an unambiguous mandate for specific changes.

What staff give-up: the scheduled Enterprise Agreement 2 per cent pay rise is off and pay rises accompanying promotions are deferred

What the university promises: The deal includes * no pay cuts, * “protections” for fixed-term staff and casuals, * “continued consultation on changes that affect staffing levels

Why staff agreed:  The university already faces major challenges, detailed by Professor Black in a ten-year plan (CMM August 5 2019). In March, he announced the university would cut degrees from 514 to 120 (CMM March 11). Staff may have decided that the COVID-19 change package provided better protection, at least in the short-term, for a restructure that is inevitable.

But staff also voted yes because the two campus unions, the CPSU and NTEU endorsed the deal. Union leaderships worked on the proposal and NTEU members had already endorsed it by a thumping majority in a campus ballot (CMM June 9).

A note-worthy result:  In working with the two union’s Professor Black demonstrates Lyndon Baine Johnson’s law of tents (better to have people inside peeing out than outside peeing in). While union members are generally a minority at universities other staff listen to the comrades on pay and conditions issues.

The Uni Tas deal is also pretty much what was set-out in the cuts-for jobs accord, drawn up by four VCs and the federal leadership of the National Tertiary Education Union. The proposal was withdrawn after 20 or so universities rejected it as not suiting their circumstances. Many also objected to the proposal for a committee including a union rep to oversight change, which U Tas accepts.

In contrast, savings proposals at the universities of Melbourne and Wollongong which local branches of the NTEU opposed have been decisively rejected by staff. NTEU branches are not all solid in support of the accord-idea but getting them talking in the tent is wise.

Now for the hard part at CSU

The university has been telling staff it is in deficit and needs to change – and now the job shedding process starts

Acting VC John Germov briefed staff Tuesday that courses would be cut and there would be changes “to staffing structures.” He didn’t leave people hanging – announcing Wednesday there will be a two-stage organisation review, with services on first, followed by faculties later this year.

First-up 100-110 FTE positions, “are identified for potential redundancy.” How many actual people will go and whether voluntarily or not does not appear settled. Some FTEs are split among part-timers and management is said to be flexible on staff people reducing hours, early retirements and so-on, as set out in the university’s enterprise agreement. Professor Germov says the university will, “offer voluntary redundancies in limited circumstances.”

Multiple models of a new structure are expected to be out for consultation next week.

UWA’s publisher departs

 “Terri-ann White has decided to leave UWA after 25-years of service,” VC Jane den Hollander tells staff

The VC praises Professor White’s “flair and innovation” as director of UWA Publishing, adding, “I hope she will watch its future progress with pride, knowing her contribution was central to its on-going future.”

And what future is that, pray?

Late last year UWA’s Global Partnerships portfolio reviewed UWAP and decided to change what is published and how. The review pointed out, “only a small proportion of the authors and content published by UWA Publishing relate directly to the university and its work.”

Money saved by closing the press as-is would be reinvested in, open and digitised access to information and knowledge in its support of the university’s academic writing and research,” (CMM November 11).

But learned readers wonder if it wasn’t broken, why fix it

UWA Publishing developed a significant reputation locally, nationally and internationally and published Western Australian history and other works of local interest and importance. UWA Publishing’s important role in the community, particularly in sharing local Western Australian stories, history and Indigenous voices was recently evidenced by the strong demonstration of support late last year when the future of UWA Publishing was being considered,” Professor den Hollander says in her farewell to Professor White.

Savings deal done at Western Sydney U

The union-management COVID-19 proposal  is less endorsed than acclaimed

Management and campus unions, NTEU and CPSU, hammered out an agreement on how to manage savings to deal with COVID-19 caused losses. The deal includes; * staff buying up to eight-days leave * three additional university shut-downs totalling seven days across the year.

In return the university will not run COVID-19 related redundancies. It will also stick to the casual staff budget as of March and continue fixed term staff whose work remains.

This struck the university community as not bad, demonstrated by votes this week to vary the university’s enterprise agreement.  With 60 per cent or so of eligible professional staff voting, the proposal was approved by 95 per cent. The turn-out for academic staff was 40 per cent and the majority was 91 per cent.

With non-staff savings already in-place WSU observers suggest the $15m saved should cover the university’s deficit this year.

This is a big and relatively pain-free win for Vice Chancellor Barney Glover and the campus leadership of the two unions.