But wait, there’s more! And then wait some more

“The sectors has been very forthcoming in pointing out where they think the real issues are, where Government help could come from and we will continue to have those discussions, in the lead up to this Budget and next year’s Budget,” Education Minister Dan Tehan, ABC TV, Wednesday night.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on airlines and universities: they take us where we need to be

And what a week it was!

 Marnie Hughes-Warrington (Uni SA) on why we need just one ERA, but effectively have two.

James Guthrie and Tom Smith (both Macquarie U) on how university magic make casuals disappear.

Tim Winkler went to 17 virtual open days. He found much not to love and three ways recruiters can make them better, way better.

Sally Varnham (UTS) makes the case for a dedicated body to deal with student-university disputes. It’s a new idea in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series, “Needed now in teaching and learning.”

Uni Sydney in (sort of) surplus this year

But there is still a proposed voluntary redundancy round, “towards easing the pressure on other areas of our expenditure”

Vice Chancellor Michael Spence proposed the round yesterday, assuring staff there is neither financial nor headcount target and, “we hope (it) will be the only staff measure” required.

The VC added that this is possible because savings and “exceptional work undertaken by staff to retain and attract students,” mean Uni Sydney will be in surplus this year, “relative to our revised budget.”

However, the “future remains uncertain” and international student numbers are expected to be down next year.” (Scroll down for more).

This means continuing savings which “cannot be sustained at anywhere near their current levels for the next three to four years.”

“The hiring freeze, no investment in infrastructure or equipment, restrictions on travel and other measures are already having an impact on many parts of the university. While it is clear that spending restraint will have to continue, it is essential that we ease some of these restrictions in key areas,” Dr Spence said.

Thus, savings from the proposed VR round, “will go towards easing the pressure on other areas of our expenditure, many of which have a direct impact on staff and their capacity to undertake research and teaching.”

Three Adelaide amigos aren’t impressed with the funding bill

The Adelaide public uni VCs appeared at the Senate committee inquiry yesterday

Theirs were policy rich-performances, explaining in detail the legislation’s limitations. So when Rex Patrick, the independent senator from the great state of SA, asked them about the bill none offered him any overwhelming reason to pass it – although they all thought being funded at the regional rather than metropolitan growth rate would be splendid.

Which encouraged Labor senator Kim Carr to ask if they had been promised regional funding – to which Mike Brooks (Uni Adelaide), David Lloyd (Uni SA) and Colin Stirling all, individually and emphatically, responded they had not.

More jobs to go at RMIT

It’s not as bad as speculated but it’s still bad

On Wednesday CMM asked RMIT how many jobs could go as a result of the current consultation for a redundancy round and was told; “RMIT, “is not working to or aiming for a particular headcount target, ”(Thursday’s issue).

This changed overnight, with the university rejecting an ABC report Thursday morning that 1200 people at RMIT “could be out of work.”

“While no final decisions will be made until consultation is completed and feedback has been considered, should the proposals proceed it could see up to 250 job losses across the university,” RMIT stated yesterday.

Jove! If this in the number of people who could go when RMIT, “is not working to or aiming for a particular headcount” imagine the carnage if management tried.

And RMITers report some managers are trying, with academic and professional staff being invited to chats about their future or lack of it, if the existing change proposal occurs.

Word around the campus traps is the proposal has provisions for involuntary redundancies and for “spill and fills” in restructured units.

Some 355 staff were approved for VR in the round just completed.

This could soon be 600 departures.

Murdoch U asks staff to back savings plan

Last week management set out temporary concessions on pay and conditions to save $8.5m – the proposal will go to a staff vote (CMM September 10)

But only after the university surveyed staff and modified the original proposal. The freeze on the October pay increase stays but there would be a flat $500 payment for low paid staff and casuals. Annual leave loadings for the rest of this year and next go, except for low paid employees. Step progressions for next year are frozen and people can be told to take “excess” annual leave.

As to what is in it for staff – there is no number on the number of jobs the $8.5m saving will protect.

Implementing all this requires an all-staff vote to vary the university’s enterprise agreement, next week. The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union opposed the original proposal.

Job protection deal not done at Victoria U

Talks stop at Victoria U on a joint union-management savings plan

The proposal appears based on the Job Protection Framework, created by four VCs and the federal leadership of the National Tertiary Education Union, for universities to respond to the COVID-19 financial crunch.

But Vice Chancellor Peter Dawkins told staff last night the union would not support the proposal.

This is not entirely surprising given a meeting of NTEU members voted against cooperating with management on savings (CMM August 10). The union’s formal vote on a joint approach is said to have provided branch leaders with the barest majority for talks (CMM September 11).

VU management proposed changes to the university’s enterprise agreement include a pay rise delay and a leave-purchase scheme over three years. In return, management committed to protecting 90 FTE positions, no forced redundancies if 100 voluntary separations occurred and oversight (including by a union nominee) of university finances.

The university had hoped to put an enterprise agreement variation to a staff vote by month’s end.

But not now. “This development is disappointing, however, we will continue to explore options to limit the adverse impact of this significant number of job losses on our people and on our organisation,” Professor Dawkins said.

Unless a way is found to talk more. The campus branch of the NTEU told members last night, outstanding issues are whether forced redundancies are allowed, and if so what number, plus the duration of the enterprise agreement variation. The union states it has options to propose on the EAV and describes the negotiations as “stalled.”

Good-looking (as they are going to get) numbers at Uni Sydney

Teaching revenue is well up on 2019 year to date

The COVID-19 crunch at Uni Sydney is not as crunchier as management first feared – in March this year’s revenue decline was expected to be $200m, next month the expectation was $470m (CMM April 9).

But as VC Michael Spence told staff yesterday, things are looking up.

And faculty income figures certainly point to better than feared forecasts.

They are now  at $1.799m, up from $1.689m last year. Dr Spence may have been alluding to this when he mentioned second semester enrolments are better than expected (CMM August 12).

Of course, this may be as good as it gets – enrolment observers suggest student numbers may fall at student census date, September 29.  Even so, revenue is 4 per cent under budget now and forecast final revenue is expected to be down not much more, at 6.3 per cent.

Faculties forecasted to have the worse results, against budget are, the business school (-11.6 per cent) and FASS (-8.5 per cent).

Observers suggest things are are ok-ish because of local domestic demand and international students sticking with Uni Sydney, by studying on-line.

Dr Spence has previously warned international numbers are not likely to return to pre-COVID-19 numbers next year but yesterday he told staff the university now expects commencing international students in first semester 2021 to be 65 per cent of what was planned and 80 per cent in second semester.

Appointments, achievements

Of the day

 Mark Green (Uni Melbourne) is announced the Society of Reproductive Biology’s 2020 Fellow.

Moira O’Bryan is appointed dean of science at Uni Melbourne. She moves from Monash U.

Of the week

John Anderson (Uni Newcastle) is appointed academic member of the NSW Sentencing Council

ANU’s chancellor Julie Bishop is one of four new Fisher Family Fellows at Harvard University. Fellows, “train the next generation of diplomatic leaders,” with (virtual) seminars, research and by mentoring. Ms Bishop joins Palestine Liberation Organisation official Saeb ErakatFederica Mogherini from the EU and German diplomat Peter Wittig. Ms Bishop was foreign affairs minister 2013-18.

Tim Boyle (ANSTO) becomes chair of ATTP, “the global alliance of national peak professional bodies for commercialisation, industry engagement and entrepreneurship.”

Mia Christensen (QUT) receives the university’s Jean Ferguson Memorial Award for early childhood education.

Laura K Davey joins ANU as a research fellow in the Crawford School of Public Policy. She moves from the Public Service Research Group at UNSW.

Carol McGregor wins the 2020 John Mulvaney Fellowship from the Australian Academy of the Humanities. The Fellowship is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early career researchers and PhD students in the humanities. Dr McGregor, “revives the traditional possum skin cloak as a contemporary art form.”

Meredith Makeham joins Uni Sydney as Associate Dean (Community and Primary Healthcare Practice in the Faculty of Medicine and Health.

Julien O’Connell becomes acting chancellor of Australian Catholic U following the death on Saturday of long-serving chancellor John Fahey.

Hugh Possingham (Uni Queensland) becomes Chief Scientist of Queensland

Sally Young (Uni Melbourne) is awarded James Cook U’s Colin Roderick Literary Award for 2020. Professor Young wins for Paper Emperors: The Rise of Australia’s Newspaper Empires (New South Publishing).