A whole lot of Hitchcock going on

UNSW researchers Corey Callaghan, Shinichi Nakagawa and William Cornwell report the global population of 9 700 species of birds, (92 per cent or so of the total). Using citizen-science observations, they did the math to conclude there are 50 bn birds in the world.

This includes 10m Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos, most of which are on CMM’s deck.

There’s more in CMM

In Features this morning

People whose partners sabotage their education through coercive control need help – university communities should provide it. Angela Hill, Braden Hill, Fiona Navin and Michelle Rogers (all Edith Cowan U) make the case. It’s this week’s essay in Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series, Needed now in teaching and learning,

On Thursday Labor leader Anthony Albanese proposed funding a “start-up year” for students and new graduates “with ventures attached to a tertiary institution or designated private accelerator.”

But how will they know how to start their start-up? Flinders U has a university-wide programme teaching innovation and enterprise skills and competencies. Vice Chancellor Colin Stirling explains what it does and why it works.


At Uni SA they haven’t got mail

The university was hacked on the weekend – it still is

Uni SA confirms what it first described as a “security incident” was a weekend cyber attack.

On Sunday morning university email was “experiencing technical issues” and later that day management advised that “a number of PCs and laptops” were disabled, “as a security precaution.”  By Monday morning the student VPN was also down.

CMM asked if staff and student personal records are safe and if any demand for payment has been received. The university responded late yesterday with a statement from Vice Chancellor David Lloyd, that “we believe the issue has been contained with no data breaches identified.”

However, he added, “it is quite likely that staff email will be impacted for the next few days.”

Final countdown

It’s a week to day three of the Needed Now in Learning and Teaching conference

So https://www.needednow.com.au/ sign-up for,

* Future work and learning: the best chance for all, with, Claire Field (Claire Field and Associates) Helen Huntly (CQU) Sally Kift (Australian Learning and Teaching Fellows) Megan Lilly (Australian Industry Group) and Beverley Oliver (EduBrief)

* On-line learning: what have we learnedwith, Chie Adachi (Deakin U), Shirley Alexander (UTS) Phil Dawson (Deakin U), Michael Sankey (Charles Darwin U) and Cathy Stone (Uni Newcastle)

* On-line learning for the future, with, Helen Partridge (Deakin U), Matt Riddle (Curio), George Siemens (Uni SA), Chris Walsh (Victoria U)


Swinburne U appoints its own chief scientist

It’s a great way to build the brand

It’s Virginia Kilborn who will, “provide leadership in science within and outside the university, driving scientific relationships and policy with government, industry and schools.”

Smart move. It’s in-line with VC Pascale Quester’s MO, “my vision for Swinburne is that we need to differentiate from the pack and that our DNA at Swinburne is fundamentally STEM and technology and preparing the human capital required to make it sing,” (CMM July 9 2020).

And it is brilliant for building recognition.  Swinburne U reports a big student recruitment problem is, “unfamiliarity with the brand.” So, the more awareness of science at Swinburne the better. The university’s new consumer brand is “Next Gen_Now,” which is intended to position Swinburne U, “at the cutting edge of what is happening right now … it’s the way tech companies position a new product, and that’s very deliberate” (CMM April 30).

Professor Kilborn is a radio astronomer who became dean of science in April 2019. Science is to merge with the school of software and electrical engineering, under Alex Stojcevski, (CMM May 3).

Big money for hard data

Research analytics provider Clarivate is to buy ProQuest (content and data management)

The prise is US$4bn in cash and $1.3bn in equity.

It’s another consolidation in the research support and analysis industry. Journal-giant Elsevier regularly reports purchasing companies to help it monetise its vast data holdings (for example, CMM August 24 2020).

What some Uni Sydney staff say they aren’t paid for

A survey claims casuals work without pay to get the job done

It finds that for every paid hour worked, casual staff did a further 28 minutes to complete tasks.  The findings cover both academic and professional staff.

“These results reflect systemic wage theft at the University of Sydney. Over the past three decades, the University of Sydney has increasingly relied on casual labour to do its core work …. this has only been possible because the University of Sydney does not pay its casual workers for all of the work they do.”

Nor, the report argues, pay them for the skills needed to do the job. “There is considerable variation and ambiguity in the ways that teaching duties which imply high levels of responsibility are categorised and remunerated across the university,” the report states.

Anticipating criticism that the survey only covers 29 staff, the report states it, “accords with a substantial amount of other research in this area.”

Uni Sydney is reviewing mistakes back to 2014 in paying overtime for casual staff and “a small number of errors” effecting academics (CMM April 30). But this is distinct from paying for hours worked at the skill level required.


Paul Wellings still saying what he thinks

The Uni Wollongong vice chancellor leaves end June but is still letting staff now what he thinks

Yesterday Professor Wellings had a go at the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union for a survey which he rates an “F”.

The comrades invited staff to answer questions about UoW after a decade of Wellings and offer comments. The responses were not enthusiastic, the best positive rating was 26 per cent for “supporting research.”

To which Professor Wellings responds that such surveys “are flawed by design, method, and analysis” and provides examples rebutting its conclusions.

The NTEU and Professor Wellings have not always been best friends. There was a long-running dispute over the university accepting course funding from the Ramsay Western Civilisation Centre. And last year a management COVID-19 savings-plan opposed by the NTEU was rejected by staff before they accepted a joint proposal from the university and campus unions. Last month the union attacked management changes to the membership of academic senate, suggesting the university was not treating it “as the peak body for academic matters.”  (This last argument isn’t over).


That’s CXO not CEO

The university is recruiting a principal advisor to the Chief Experience Officer , that’s CXO, not CEO

It might not be an easy job to fill, what with candidates having to keep faces straight while explain how they will meet objectives, including; “design and implement the experience planning processes and coordinate the delivery of outputs underpinned with agility and contemporary ways of working.”

There will be a bit to advise on, the CXO brief includes half a dozen portfolios, which look like marketing to CMM.

And in case applicants thought the R in RMIT stood for robots, the advert adds, “our people make everything at the university possible.”

Claire Field on the Budget: stay braced


Last week’s Budget raises the question of where and when reform really happens  

While many, myself included, thought the Budget should have provided additional funding for universities to mitigate the ongoing impact of COVID-19, the lack of any additional funding served to highlight the significance of the myriad reforms implemented by former education minister, Dan Tehan.

While Australia’s closed international borders have hit universities hard, the impact has not been consistent and in some universities other factors are at play (see Marshman and Larkins’ typically excellent analysis .

The changes resulting from the Job-ready Graduates package are also having an impact due to the imposition of an overall funding cap and lower average funding per student place, leaving universities looking to growth through increased HECS loan revenues (equally excellent analysis  from Andrew Norton).

And then there is research. Last year’s $1 bn boost was not just a COVID-response, it was also temporary funding while the Research Sustainability Working Group finalises advice to government on future research funding.

Even as the sector waits for clarity on research funding, there are likely to be serious threats for some universities as the new Higher Education Provider Category Standards come into play. Minister Tehan’s reforms, combined with COVID-19, could leave Australia with fewer universities.

And so, to the VET sector – it received very welcome additional funding in the Budget with a one year extension of the JobTrainer programme, an extension of the Building Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidies, and a number of other new funding measures.

The reality though is that major VET funding reforms are still to come in the next National Skills Agreement due by the end of August. What they will mean for providers and students is not clear. It is quite likely though, that their impact could be just as consequential as the reforms Minister Tehan introduced into higher education.

Claire Field is the host of the free  What Now? What Next? podcast. In the latest episode, she unpacks the Federal Budget.


Paul Wellings (about to be former VC of Uni Wollongong) receives the Asia-Pacific Leadership Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.