The magic of the in-person conference
Slower growth in 2020 research spending
Universities support for graduate employability is incoherent and inconsistent
Here’s to the (young) ladies who (don’t) lunch
A Uni SA study of Australian woman aged 18-24 attending university finds 28 per cent of them skip meals, purge and exercise to lose the weight alcohol puts on
Uni SA researcher Alycia Powell-Jones says the behaviour results from two “key social norms for young adults – consuming alcohol and thinness.” The phenomenon is called Drunkorexia, presumably named for the Goddess of Alcopop.
There’s more in the Mail
In Features this morning
How Flinders U uses Microsoft platforms to keep its community informed on COVID-19.
Darci Taylor (Deakin U); doffs a hat to the academics learning (fast) how to teach on-line. This week’s essay in Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.
Jess Harris (Uni Newcastle) on the responsibility academics owe to researchers in the precariat
PhD student Lana Ly (UNSW) on moving from full-time lab to home all the time: do what works for you.
Ignored and unemployed: helping at-risk casual staff
The Australian Association of University Professors says the first thing is to identify how many people are at risk and then empower experts to help them
by Tom Smith and James Guthrie
“The National Tertiary Education Union believes the accord, to apply at universities where both management and staff endorse it, and the Fair Work Commission ratifies it, could save the equivalent of 13,500 full-time jobs.
“We are concerned that many more university employees will lose work and ask everybody involved to start reporting people numbers, not Full-Time Equivalent staff numbers.
Universities are starting to announce mass layoffs of casual staff to offset the decline in expected revenues due to the loss of full-paying international students. Universities are talking in terms of Full Time Equivalent Staff (FTEs), but there are real people involved and many more than the FTE figures reveal.
FTEs do not tell the story of the people likely to be affected by the cost-cutting. Universities must disclose the actual number of people that are going to be affected by these cost-cutting measures.”
Smith and Guthrie (Macquarie U), for the Australian Association of University Professors, explain how many casuals there actually are, and present ideas to help them. It’s in CMM this morning, here.
Uni Melbourne says no to wages-conditions accord
The university says the union-vice chancellor proposal to protect jobs by temporarily reducing staff benefits is not needed
In an announcement Friday afternoon management advises, the accord “is not in the best interests of the university and its workforce … and will not participate.”
Uni Melbourne adds the deal “contains provisions that it has no interest in pursuing – such as stand downs, forced leave, forced reduction of hours, large pay cuts of up to 15 per cent and deferral of incremental progression – and believes there is no value in asking staff to vote on changes to employment conditions that it has no intention of making.”
Uni Melbourne, as with Australian Catholic U (CMM Friday), is not inclined to accept oversight of specific university agreements by a national committee, including National Tertiary Education Union representatives.
So, staff now know the reductions to conditions that management has “no intention of making.” However, persons from Parkville note the reference to “large pay cuts” being out does not necessarily mean smaller ones are off the agenda.
ANU is thinking about the cuts for jobs deal
VC Brian Schmidt tells staff he is “in close contact” with the lead negotiator for universities in the accord to cut conditions to save jobs
That’s Charles Sturt U VC Andrew Vann, who is also president of the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association.
“My principal goal is to make sure any agreement we might make is in the best interests of our community – and we are quite different from the rest of the sector. Our community comes first, and I will continue to resolutely adhere to that guiding principle.”
It’s a refreshingly frank expression of how Professor Schmidt views other university managements.
But will ANU need to sign-on to the accord, which is designed to deal with deficits? The vice chancellor tells staff that with first semester census closed, “we are starting to better understand and forecast our financial position,” (which) “is better than most other Australian universities.”
Five things Uni Sydney professors want in their new VC
They have told Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson all about it
A letter from 204 professors to Ms Hutchinson sets out the five things they want in the new vice chancellor, to will replace Michael Spence, taking over at University College London in January.
* “outstanding scholarship and integrity,” “a major university cannot be run in the same way as a public company without risking damage to its scholarly integrity”
* collaboration with academics, “at every level of governance.” “Unrelenting emphasis on change management can often detract from the achievement of excellence in teaching and research.”
* a defence of discipline-based departments, against “supersession” by interdisciplinary centres and programmes
* ease up on the marketing, which, “may risk becoming counterproductive if pursued further. “Marketing has become such a dominant force that even the university’s founding motto was removed from its crest and slogans appeared on buildings around campus”
* objectives the new VC must consider equally important: promotion of scholarship, research, free inquiry, the interaction of research and teaching, academic excellence
Support for students in virus-times
Just in time exit at Canberra U
The university announced Friday that students could withdraw from a first semester subject until midnight Sunday – exams start today. It was a recommendation from the Student Representative Council and adds to the “temporary grading strategy”, designed to assist students whose studies are disrupted by COVID-19.
They will still be up for fees and will receive a “withdrawn-late” grade.
Curtin U marketing to locals
The university announces any Y12 student who makes Curtin their first preference for next year, gets in and enrols, will get their Tertiary Institutions Services Centre $55 fee back. Curtin management says that this acknowledges, “a difficult year financially for many people.” It follows the new early entry scheme which will make offers on “predicted” ATARs, “calculated from Y11 results,” (CMM May 8).
Back to CSU soon-ish, sort-of
Charles Sturt U plans a “phased return” to on-campus studies by month-end. Lab based and high-prac courses will get preference, but, “some courses may remain entirely on-line for second session.”
ANU’s three steps to everybody being back
At ANU this morning college deans start deciding how to open what when. Research staff who need to use kit on campus will likely be first starters, with other staff and “approved” students to follow in a fortnight. The present plan is for everybody to be back, “with restrictions in place” on July 27.
Union says no to Murdoch U increased teaching hours
Murdoch U wants academics to teach more – nothing doing says the National Tertiary Education Union
University management wants academic staff to take on more teaching and cut back on research (and presumably service), meaning up to a day a week more teaching, observers estimate.
The university explains that this is necessary, “due to the significant financial pressure” now faced and that while individual loads will vary, “everyone is expected to make a significant contribution”.
It’s not an expectation shared by the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union, which disputes the proposal.
The union says the teaching increase will have a “significant impact” on workloads and in consequence peoples’ health, will restructure roles, having a “significant impact on staff research track records and career trajectories.
And union officials are not convinced that management is solely responding to the COVID-19 caused crunch. Rather, it is, “part of a greater change being foreshadowed to occur post COVID-19 and of a permanent on-going nature. Is the proposed major change to academic workloads quarantined to the COVID-19 pandemic only?”
If it is on-going, the union suggests, there will be “a likely reduction” in employee numbers.
RMIT calls for volunteers to teach
The School of Science is looking for people to take classes casuals used to
“We’re currently recruiting volunteers with a high-research focus to assist with teaching, tutorials and marking in semester two. Our casual staff budget must decrease by 40 per cent in the second half of the year, so if you’re able to give your time and take some pressure off our academic staff, please contact your associate dean” the school announced late last week.
There was outrage on social media over the announcement, but RMIT says it does not mean what people think.
““We are aware of a recent communication issued by the School of Science which may have caused some confusion amongst school staff. With an aim for undisrupted learning, some members of our academic community may be requested to provide support in different areas in semester two, with a focus on learning and teaching. This communication was in no way asking people to undertake unpaid voluntary work.
“It is important to note that different programs and courses have different requirements and any individual changes to workload allocations would be undertaken directly between a staff member and their manager and in line with enterprise agreements.”
RMIT will, of course, consult with staff and unions if any major change proposals are made in future.”
Good-o, but learned readers point to the school asking for volunteers and the university response stating, “some members of our academic community may be requested to provide support …”
Julia Gillard is the next chair of UK health and medical research foundation Wellcome, starting April 2021.
International numbers: three reasons why they are worse than new stats show
By Dirk Mulder
Universities are reporting stress caused by the loss of international students but is not showing up in the stats – yet
The March YTD numbers for first semester intakes of international students are not as bad as all but universally expected.
Overall the sector contracted 0.8 per cent. Non-award suffered the largest decrease, 7.5 per cent closely followed by higher education, down 6.3 per cent and ELICOS at 4.9 per cent. VET was up 14.8 per cent and schools up 1.9 per cent. There’s a full breakdown of the March YTD figures in CMM tomorrow.
So, what’s going on? International education executives say three things could be disguising the drop that has occurred.
Delayed semester one commencements pushing the fall back to April stats
Some institutions pushed back commencements. Others were as flexible as possible about the start of the semester and the move to online. This involved moving their census dates back to the first half of April (even to month end) and/or extending the cut-off for withdrawal without penalty and subsequent trigger for reporting).
So, given a 14-day period for reporting non-commencements it is possible reporting finished just four days ago. If so the May data will reveal the real situation.
Leave of absences
International Offices have large numbers of leave of absence requests from students, which haven’t processed, or are only now about to be. Their impact on the overall numbers is anybody’s guess but that they are not yet counted certainly impacts YTD statistics.
Most institutions have purposefully attempted to keep students enrolled, allowing them to withdraw up until, in some cases, the last day of the teaching period. Institutions that have done this are bracing themselves for large numbers of withdrawals towards the later stages of the semester. One institution tells CMM they are starting to see withdrawal applications.
While students can withdraw without academic penalty whether there will be financial ones is largely unknown. Typically, approved withdrawals activate a fee credit for the following semester. CMM understands many institutions are yet to make decisions around this scenario at present.
Tomorrow: March enrolment data for international students: all the states, all the sectors
Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent.