And game the play …

UNSW maths and game theory researcher Haris Aziz suggest winning the toss gives a cricket team such an unfair advantage that to balance things out the losing captain should get to put a price on it. Good batting wicket that will turn? The loser could suggest the first 100 runs scored by the team that gets to bat first don’t count, alternatively the winner could bowl first and get 100 runs credited when they bat. Endless entertainment for stats whizzes.

Lights out for (some) large lectures at Uni Sydney

Live in-person campus teaching stays

There was talk around the traps yesterday that Uni Sydney was joining universities taking all lectures on-line. Not so.

Yes, some large lectures (120 plus) will become “collaborative on-line classes that are live and interactive” but others will continue on campus. So will the 90 per cent of lectures with smaller audiences.

As for classes with students here and offshore, the university will deliver hyflex classes, combining live face to face and on-line delivery.

No faulting Uni Sydney for grim realism on the prospect of all internationals being here soon.


There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Angel Calderon (RMIT) on the new international education strategy and what Australia can achieve.

Plus, Frank Larkins and Ian Marshman (Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education) on 2020 uni financials – the worst could be over.

With Lisa Andrewartha on how to help students who are also parents. Sally Kift’s new selection for her celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

And Tim Winkler  makes the case for uni brands and why they must be way more than marketing. It’s an issue for his (with a little help from CMM) conference starting tomorrow, on key issues in HE marketing, recruitment and identity.

Sign-up for days two and three here

Undergraduate Certificates Survive

There is a late reprieve for the qualification – due to be dropped this month

The qualification was created last year as an emergency measure for people who wanted to use pandemic downtime to retrain but UGs were not permanently accepted by state and federal ministers as part of the Australian Qualification Framework.

They still aren’t. The Department of Education, Skills and Employment tells universities that the national skills and education ministerial council has extended the UG class until June ’25.

This is good news for institutions that held their nerve and kept the certificates in their 2022 plan – although this will have taken considerable calm. In October DESE advised universities not to offer UGs for 2022 starters. The department accept this, acknowledges this, telling VCs, “the timing of the decision later in late 2021 has created uncertainty for universities and students as they planned for the 2022 academic year.”

What still appears unknown is whether UG Cert places will be funded above a university’s load but that certs survive will relieve strategists who believe they meet a need for recognising student accomplishments.

There is also a big policy issue, as post school credential architects continue to be baffled by microcredentials.  As Sean Brawley (Macquarie U) put it in CMM (October 24), the jump from a non-award micro-credential to a AQF accredited short course “is bigger than it need be” and UG certs can be a bridge between the two.

A welcome in the west

WA announced its package to “safely re-engage with the world,” yesterday

There’s a package for international students, to “choose WA as their place to study” including a $1,500 in accommodation support for the first 5,000 students.”

Which will work wonders in markets where people know where Perth is.

Data not judgement in working out workloads  

What could be a precedent setting decision states specifications of the time academic tasks take should be based on hard numbers

The  Fair Work Commission has ruled on a significant dispute over workload models developed for three University of the Sunshine Coast schools, Health and Behavioural Science, Education and Tertiary Access and Law and Society. The enterprise agreement requires models to reflect time needed for teaching-delivery and related work.

Management claimed that it could develop workload models by consulting staff, considering feedback, looking at previous arrangements and leaving it to heads of schools’ judgements. The National Tertiary Education Union argued extensively that new models have to be informed by research and hard data. Both sides stated their approach was in-line with the university’s enterprise agreement.

However, the Fair Work Commission found for the union, that models should use “quantitative standards,” and “the numbers in the model must reflect …the time taken to do the work,” Commissioner Simpson states in the judgement just released.

“The USC method does not involve the step of conducting evidence gathering or research to settle the quantitative standard described (in the enterprise agreement). That is not consistent with what the enterprise agreement requires, which is that the model be based on objective quantitative standards” the judgement adds.

The FWC concludes, union and management must “either conduct research or gather data to develop workload models based on a median or average time taken to do the work in the relevant schools” and they should get on with it.

This looks like a win for the union which has national implications in requiring workload models to specify times per task which are based on what staff actually take to do them. “We think this is an opportunity for university managements across the country to sit down with the NTEU and develop some rigorous and, most importantly, reasonably accurate models to allocate work for academic staff,” the union’s Queensland state secretary Michael McNally said yesterday.

Then again, Uni Sunshine Coast could appeal – if the ruling stands managements across the country are going to have a hard time in enterprise bargaining now underway, or soon to be.

For whom the tocsin tolls

Morning VC Scott. At Uni Sydney, the National Tertiary Education Union is contemplating an all-staff ballot on industrial action, as per the Fair Work Act process.

Enterprise bargaining is underway and stop-works, or even a strike, would illuminate disputes on campus. Issues upsetting activists include the university’s wish for more teaching-only academic staff and (outside bargaining) the proposed reorganisation of HASS departments into “discipline groups.”

Members will likely decide to go hard, given they have just chosen a new branch president, Nick Riemer, who says “this is the highest-stakes enterprise bargaining round we have seen at the university. Management are making a frontal attack on academic workload and we are demanding improvements in job security …It’s vital for us to prevent management’s vision of the university from becoming a reality.”

Uni Adelaide prefers to be private

The university wants to keep what it pays its top people under wraps – which generated a longly-argued nothing-doing from the SA Ombudsman (CMM last week)

But there is more to this than management trying to avoid media stories about what executives are paid. Learned readers point out that Uni Adelaide’s response to the Ombudsman made a very big claim indeed.

“While the university is an” (government) “agency for the purposes of the FOI Act, it cannot be treated in the same way as a government department. The university is a significant commercial enterprise, financed primarily through sources other     than the public purse. The nature of its operations is far closer to those of a private corporation than a public body.”

Good-o, except universities do not pay tax on income, which private corporations are subject to.  (Making Uni Adelaide’s $40m net operating result on just under $977m in 2020 not that flash).

Appointments, achievements

The NSW Premier’s Science and Engineering Prizes are announced, including. Richard Bryant (UNSW) – innovation. Louise Causer (UNSW) and Rona Chandrawati (UNSW) – early career researchers. Gregory Dore (UNSW) – medical biological sciences. Peter Steinberg (UNSW) – biological sciences. Shujun Zhang (Uni Wollongong) wins the Mathematics, Earth Sciences, Chemistry, Physics category.

Stephan Tillmann (pure maths, Uni Sydney) receives the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award from the Humboldt Foundation, for research time at a German institution.

The University of Newcastle announces the (numerous) winners of its staff awardshere.