There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning  

James Guthrie on the need for a national university summit: who should attend, what they should discuss

plus Michael Healy, Jason Brown and Candy Ho on career employability support for students – it’s a professional service that universities should properly resource. This week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

and Pasifika education does not get much of a run in the international journals. Unaisi Walu Nabobo Baba (Fiji National U) and colleagues have done something about that, HERE.

New leadership ticket for NTEU

General Secretary Matthew McGowan announces he will not run for re-election

News that the veteran National Tertiary Education Union official is leaving came as the union’s president Alison Barnes declared for a second term, as did national assistant secretary Gabe Gooding.  They team up with NSW state secretary, Damien Cahill who is running to replace Mr McGowan.

Mr McGowan, says that after 30 years with the union it is “time to make way for a new generation to lead.”

“It has been a real privilege and honour to represent staff, and to feel like I have made a difference along the way.”

Dr Cahill nominates, “insecure employment, rampant over work, endless workplace restructuring and fiscal austerity” as issues to address.

While Dr Barnes was elected unopposed for her first term she is being challenged by rank and file activist Anastasia Kanjere (La Trobe U).

Dr Kanjere has support among casual academic union members who opposed the existing national leadership’s attempt to secure a system-wide agreement with university managements to make temporary trade-offs in return for job protections during the first Covid-19 wave, in 2020.

Three more uni trailblazers

Deakin U leads an industry-university partnership to create the Recycling and Renewable Energy Commercialisation Hub

It’s the fourth applied research trailblazer announcement, completing the government’s original trailblazer component of its as yet unlegislated Research Accelerator plan. Funding for a further two was announced in the budget.

The Commonwealth is committing $50m to the DU project. Education partners are Federation U, RMIT, Swinburne U, Uni Southern Queensland, plus Gordon Institute, Bendigo Kangan Institute, South West TAFE, Holmesglen TAFE, Wodonga TAFE and Swinburne TAFE.

And Uni Queensland makes five

Uni Queensland will also blaze a trail, leading the Food and Beverage Accelerator. with $50m from the Commonwealth over four years (plus $110m in partner contributions). Uni Q, with QUT, Uni Southern Queensland, the state ag department and industry partners aim to create technologies to double food and beverage manufacturing by 2030.

Uni Queensland is also a partner in the Curtin U led resources tech trailblazer.

as Uni Southern Queensland rockets ahead

The university is funded to lead a space trailblazer, the (deep breath) Innovative Launch, Automation, Novel Materials, Communications and Hypersonics Hub, or iLAuNCH (as it will be undoubtedly addressed).

There are 23 partners, including ANU and UNI SA.

TEQSA warns unis on wages

The ever-understated regulator has had it with institutions not paying casual staff correctly

In a new message the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency states it has “engaged closely” with 15 universities over issues with staff pay and reports “some … have been proactive in addressing the issue.” However;

“a number of universities either do not appear to recognise the seriousness of the issue or are not responding in the way TEQSA would expect of a well governed and well managed quality higher education provider. For example, some providers have undertaken only limited, internal reviews of identified problem areas.”

The agency announces that not complying on pay is covered by four of the Higher Education standards and it specifies the five things it expects providers to address including, reviewing payroll, time and record-keeping practises, monitoring legal compliance and,  “have rectified any instances of underpayments and demonstrated how underlying issues will be addressed.”

But, given TEQSA told everybody this  last year (CMM October 11 2021) why make such a point of telling them again?

In a couple of Senate inquiries Labor and Green senators have been unimpressed by university performances and in March Victorian higher education minister Gayle Tierney  – told the state’s universities to report to her what they were doing to stop casual underpayment (CMM March 21).

If Labor is elected on Saturday the apparent continuing underpayment problem will likely come up in Canberra – which makes it wise of TEQSA to warn universities now. That the agency will be able to show a new minister it was on the case won’t hurt it either.

CQU new Cairns campus confirmed

The astute-lobbying university has enjoyed a boomer of a campaign – it helps being in a state with seats in play

The coalition has committed $50m for a new CQU campus in Cairns city, matching Labor’s November commitment of the same sum (CMM November 11). A new site will double CQU student capacity in the city to 4000.

The announcement is a win for Warren Entsch, sitting LNP member for the city’s seat and  it is a triumph for CQU VC Nick Klomp. His predecessor Scott Bowman commenced campaigning for a new Cairns campus in 2016, and Professor Klomp has kept it up (CMM November 11 2016, August 3 2017, July 20 2020 and March 9 2021).

CQU has had a good campaign.

In addition to Cairns, the Opposition promises $15m for marine science at CQU Gladstone and $9m for an EV training centre at the Mackay campus (CMM April 19).  The LNP matched the Mackay announcement Friday.

For FNQ neighbour James Cook U the good campaign news is being a member of the Curtin U led Resources Technology and Critical Minerals  trailblazer project. The university is also a member of the Labor backed ($32m promised), Townsville based, proposed simulation for the defence forces.

There was also funding for 80 more medical student places in the budget.

The government needs to hold and Labor wants to win three seats where CQU campuses are located or adjacent.

NTEU rejects hacker demand

The National Tertiary Education Union refuses to pay a ransom for cyber-theft of staff and member files

The union was recently hacked  (CMM May 5), with the thieves demanding payment for not selling staff and member records . However NTEU General Secretary Matthew McGowan tells staff that the union has not paid.

“The best advice we have is that we will not achieve any positive outcome by paying.  They would be rewarded and encouraged by our payment, and then sell our files on the dark web anyway.”

Mr McGowan repeats previous advice to staff and members, “assume your sensitive personal information has been compromised and act accordingly.”

Member banking details are encrypted, “which would require considerable effort and computing power to decrypt.”

Another way towards regular jobs for uni casuals

The Fair Work Commission says Flinders U does not have to offer a continuing job to a long term casual who met the hours of employment test

Toby Priest has worked at Flinders U as a casual academic since 2006, for 11 straight semesters in a “predictable and on-going fashion” which is one thing the Fair Work Act requires for conversion to a continuing job.

When the university knocked him back, the National Tertiary Education Union took Mr Priest’s case to the FWC, presumably on behalf of casuals universities have refused to offer continuing employment. Managements have rejected people, on the grounds that they did not meet the regular hours worked requirement (umpteen CMM stories but see February 7).

Commissioner Platt found that Mr Priest met the employment and regular pattern of hours requirements in the Act. However, he did not qualify for conversion because of the terms of the Flinders U enterprise agreement.  “There does not appear to be a provision … which expressly provides for a part-time engagement performing the work that Mr Priest is presently engaged to perform,” the commissioner concluded.

Further, the specifics of Mr Priest’s work would mean a “significant adjustment” in the terms of employment if converted, which the Act does not allow.

To which the NTEU’s Andrew Miller replies, “the good news that casual academic staff meet the eligibility test for conversion is negated by the bad news that the only mechanism by which the conversion can be enacted is through management benevolence … Despite having worked for 11 years, teaching the same subjects over that period, (Mr Priest) was denied conversion based on management’s extraordinary claim that a shift to continuing employment would require a ‘significant adjustment’ and could not be reasonably accommodated.”

But that is not that. As Dr Miller notes, Mr Priest met the time-worked test for conversion.  This is immensely significant for universities which have rejected casuals for conversion who have similar work records as his.

Which means “the significant adjustment “ issue is where the next argument will be. The timing could not be better given enterprise bargaining is underway or scheduled to start at universities across the country. The union could push for new job classifications, say “teaching assistants” that cover long-term casuals, who teach but do not develop course content, for example.

Appointments, achievements

Nigel Curtis (Murdoch Children’s RI) wins the European Society for Paediatric Diseases’ award for clinical practice, teaching and research.

Michael Healy wins the Career Development Association of Australia’s 2022 award for  research

At Flinders U Jaqui Hughes is the inaugural clinical research professor for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Advancement

Michael Milgate becomes CEO of Sydney International School of Technology and Commerce. He moves from Polytechnic Institute Australia.

Uni Melbourne presents the Marles Medals (“excellence in research impact”) for HASS to Sharon Goldfeld (children’s health and wellbeing) and Jane Pirkis (mental health).

Monica Whitty has joined Monash U from UNSW, as a professor in the IT faculty. She will become head of the Software Systems and Cybersecurity department from July.