Plus Australia where (most) of the researchers are above average

and, miss the OLT? Never mind, the feds have new teaching awards

App of the day

The University of Sydney has an app on dog behaviour with space for individual doggie data to share with researchers; all intended to improve canine calm and courtesy. CMM wants one that is fluent in border collie.


UoQ administrators to exit

The long promised University of Queensland formal proposal to cut jobs in HR and Finance went to staff yesterday. While no head count reduction is specified the goal for each area is a 25 per cent saving. Savings will be split between the business units that are cut and a university fund for priority teaching and research. “Our professional staff numbers have grown while the number of academic staff has declined. This trend must be reversed,” Vice Chancellor Peter Hoj says.

According to a paper by HR director Jane Banney and CFO Andrew Betts the cuts will occur in two stages. The focus from October to next January will be on organisational structure in central services, including senior staff but while the paper is out for consultation now people in management positions can be clear how many jobs there will be to compete for, with a table setting out the number of management service positions in the teams that will support the university’s eight teaching, research and support functions. The new model also means changed functions for school managers, whose positions will be reviewed. Restructuring operations and other personnel will take all of 2017, with the possibility of more jobs to be lost.

“A key factor in determining the likely change impact for multi-functional roles … will be the outcomes from the process improvement and digitisation programmes currently underway and other project that are transforming how transactional activity is performed,” Banney and Betts right.

While there are few specifics regarding redundancy the paper makes it clear that they will occur by committing to their management according to the Enterprise Agreement.

The day’s Hon Doc

Is from the University of Adelaide which has made Susannah Eliott a doctor of the university. Dr Eliott is founding CEO of the Australian Science Media Centre.


Data delivered

The Regional Universities Network wants the feds to fund a national ag research data set (CMM yesterday). What, like the one a learned reader points to that is already announced? The Data to Decisions Cooperative Research Centre is being funded under the Rural R&D for Profit programme to work with 20 partners, mainly rural research corps, to collect, store and analyse data holdings.

State of research

The Australian Research Council has released its state of the system report, based on inputs to last year’s Excellence for Research in Australia. While people think research that isn’t based on voced training manuals is a waste of time will not like it for everybody else it’s good news of ‘your taxes well spent’ kind. For a start the ARC points out that medical research accounts for 21 per cent of total outputs with engineering making up a further 13 per cent. In contrast the humanities and social sciences, which tend to attract the ire of the ignorant manage a bare 10 per cent between them, well behind the sciences’ 31 per cent.

And Australia does well on the Lake Wobegone law, with the ARC stating that 62 per cent of research entities are world class or better. But the big deal is how damn busy researchers are; in 2015 research publications were up 100 000, to 432 000, largely due to an extraordinary growth in journal articles. The number of monographs, where CHASS scholars like to make their mark, grew from 4912 to 5, 488, while journal articles where hard science appears grew from 206k to 301k.

Settling in

They’re gluttons for punishment at James Cook U, where arguments over the last round of job cuts aren’t long over and enterprise bargaining is underway, with meetings over the last couple of days. Talks started in June but at JCU three months is barely time for the pleasantries.


Signing on at Uni SA

Irene Watson is the first PVC for Aboriginal Leadership and Strategy at the University of South Australia. A University of Adelaide law graduate she has taught at all three SA universities since 1989.

Big ticks for teachers

The Australian Awards for University Teaching will be announced shortly and … . No CMM hadn’t heard of them either but it turns out they replace the honours handed out by the now abolished Office of Learning and Teaching, an agency so adverse to talking to hacks it made the Australian Secret Intelligence Service look a media tart.

There will be 16 new awards, worth $25 000 each in eight categories. One of the 16 also will be named university teacher of the year.

In the meantime the feds have announced “citations for outstanding contributions to student learning.” Perhaps on the principal that journalists would ask universities difficult questions of universities that had no staffers cited every institution has somebody, generally a few academics praised.  There are far too many to list but one pair that strikes CMM as especially worthwhile is Sarah Midford and Rhiannon Evans who are La Trobe University’s Ancient Mediterranean Studies Digital Humanities Team, whoseiTunes U course on ancient Rome, accessed by two million people.

But who did the choosing? It seems the exiting OLT started organising the award process last September, which explains why CMM had never heard of it. The office asked universities for nomination which went to the office’s eight member specialist award panel chaired by Shirley Alexander of UTS. This group sent its recommendations to a second six person panel chaired by Monash VC Margaret Gardner.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham will hand out the resulting 16 awards at ceremonies over the next few weeks. CMM hears that the event where the university teacher of the year is announced will also be the venue for the launch of the Higher Education Standards Panel’s anxiously awaited recommendations on transparency in entry standards.

Holt heads south

Leanne Holt is Macquarie University’s new director of Indigenous Strategy. She joins from the University of Newcastle.

Conflict at Murdoch

The enterprise bargaining blue at Murdoch University is toughening up. Yesterday National Tertiary Education Union branch president Anne Price told members that management’s lawyers had served court papers on union officials, “seeking to hold them personally liable for the union’s campaign posters and materials.”

“This is an appalling attack on the individuals who are working so hard to ensure that we retain our employment conditions and rights and is yet another indication of how out of touch Murdoch management is,” Dr Price said.

Murdoch management is yet to respond to a request for comment.