ANU: broker than it looks, says VC

Staff are voting on management’s plan to drop a scheduled pay-rise and accept a VR scheme (CMM May 28, June 10).

It looks like the vote will be decided by how broke staff think the university is.

The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union, which opposes the proposal, argues, in considerable detail that the university is not in as bad shape as some and asks why it has not released the figures that are the basis of calls for cuts.

“The pay freeze involves staff helping to pay for the 2020 cash flow squeeze. We can’t grasp the extent of this issue without a clear estimate of this liquidity problem, or without more contextual information about the ANU’s accrued wealth,” a union brief circulating on campus states.

Yesterday Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt responded to “viewpoints” staff are hearing.

Yes, the VC said, ANU has a $1.8bn reserve, but $629m will go to operating costs this year and $1.2bn is committed, “it is not ours to spend.”

As to salary savings, Professor Schmidt warns ANU, “will need to achieve at least $70 million per year for 2021 and beyond (a 10 per cent decrease from 2020).”

The 2 per cent pay rise he wants staff to agree to defer represents $13.5m a year, which “will allow us to employ more staff next year than otherwise,” But as to how many, the vice chancellor helpfully advises, “the number of staff who will earn the saved $13.5m. And that is guaranteed.”

I wish the rumours were true and we had more money to help us through this unprecedented time. But let me be clear, even as we look at a bleak financial situation: saving jobs is my priority and I will do anything I can to keep as many staff as possible.”

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Frank Larkins analyses the new higher education research and development funding stats. They set a record, but even before the impact of COVID-19 funding for basic research is way too low.

Tim Winkler on the way the ATAR and tertiary admissions centres work, or don’t, for school leavers.

Kylie Austin on widening HE participation – we need a national collaboration and not an institutional focus. It’s Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s selection this week for her series on what we need now in teaching and learning.

Dawn Bennett and colleagues  wondered what bized students want so they asked 6000 of them.

And there’s an up-date to Angel Calderon’s article on rankings. The Nature Index standing of Australian universities is revised due to changes by the publisher. “The Index is based on a relatively small proportion of total research papers, with heaps of co-authors, so a small change in the count of papers can make a difference,” Mr Calderon says.

Staff could go at Swinburne (but only willing ones says union)

At Swinburne U voluntary redundancies are on the agenda as management looks for savings to deal with a $51m deficit this year and in ’21 and ’22

The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union is not convinced management is out of non-staff savings and makes its case in a restrained, respectful document written deep in the policy and budget weeds.

“We believe any moves towards redundancies are premature,” the comrades conclude.

But if the university is intent on VRs, the union says, “a voluntary redundancy program is preferable to forced redundancies,” as long as there are, “appropriate safeguards for remaining staff.”

People being sacked isn’t being considered, at least not yet.  However, “there is a possibility that involuntary redundancies may be required in coming months to meet the changing environment we are now facing, Vice Chancellor Linda Kristjanson says, (CMM June 3).

If that happens, the apparent good-will would go, the union flat-out rejects involuntary departures.

Not what they signed-on for

Managers at Uni Melbourne have lost the salary increase others can keep.

The university confirms this, stating the pay rise for April is deferred, at least until November.

An executive-level saving made in hard times, perhaps. Problem for people at the top of middle management is that they were taken off the enterprise agreement, when the current one was negotiated, on the proviso that they would not be worse off.

“There will be no reduction of terms and conditions, as it is important that we maintain and grow competitive and attractive terms for our senior management roles,” a university representative told CMM (October 15 2018).

But they are worse off now. Staff covered by the EA voted last week not to surrender the recent 2.2 per cent pay rise, which management asked to cancel as a COVID-19 saving, (CMM June 12).

Uni Wollongong staff reject management savings plans

Staff say no to temporary pay cuts

What they were asked: Management asked staff to specify preferred options in a survey on how to deal with COVID-19 deficits.

Two choices were for scaled pay-cuts over 12 or 18 months, with savings used to reduce job losses, to 150 or 200. The third option was the status quo, which management warned would lead to “substantial” job losses across the university, “possible double” those in the other two.
What they replied: A majority of staff voting decided to take that chance, with 62 per cent in favour of no change.

“The survey results come as some staff who indicated a preference for this option have since expressed concerns that they did not fully appreciate the consequences of their choice or had been persuaded by union campaigns suggesting a fourth option would evolve, which is not the case,” UoW states.

But the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union responds, “if management wants a united community in a time of crisis then they should sit with us and work out how we can meet the shortfall without major job losses.” Branch president Georgine Clarsen points to Western Sydney University, where management and the two unions hammered out a savings-plan, which they all recommend to staff.

What’s next: Uni Wollongong management is going to give the union another chance to back wage reductions.  The proposed full variation to the university enterprise agreement for the least unpopular option (10 per cent pay cut for 18 months) will be  sent to the management-union Joint Consultative Committee, “to immediately explore whether our local staff representatives will agree to support that option.”

Management does not have much choice than to bring the unions in – staff who aren’t members listen to them when university managements want to change working conditions. Last week the University of Melbourne lost a vote to cancel a pay-rise ,a move strongly opposed by the NTEU.

A new OA deal for Uni Cal

The University of California signs an OA deal with for-profit publisher Springer Nature (yes, that Nature)

It’s a gold –OA arrangement (pay to publish) covering 2700 journals and while top Nature titles aren’t in it, the plan is for them to be included by year three of the agreement.

 U Cal says it’s the biggest OA agreement in North America to date. As to the stalled talks with Elsevier, “progress remains slow.”

“Time to re-set at SCU”

Southern Cross U management adapts to hard  times and adopts block-teaching

After weeks of bad news (CMM June 5) Vice Chancellor Adam Shoemaker was on the front foot yesterday explaining where the university is and how it will start scoring runs. It’s “business as unusual,” he said.

Certainly, there was talk of savings that must be made but the big-policy news is that SCU will adapt what and how it teaches, to meet the needs of its communities.

Domestic applications for second semester are up 20 per cent and the university is introducing its own version of the Victoria U block teaching model, rolling out over two years. There will be a six-study period year, with people completing one or two subjects at a time.

As at VU, it is well-targeted to students who do not have strong academic backgrounds, but it is also designed for the re-training market SCU needs to build. The university is also reaching out with a message that education empowers people in times of crisis. Last month it launched a new recruitment strategy, “time to re-set” (May 7).

Which is what SCU is doing.

Appointments, achievements

Melitta Hogarth becomes the Melbourne Graduate School of Education’s first assistant dean (Indigenous). She moves up from senior lecturer at MGSE.

Keith Jones is leaving the University of Adelaide, where he is executive dean of the science faculty. He will move to the University of Sussex, to become PVC Research and Enterprise in October.

Eric Knight is appointed executive dean of the Macquarie University Business School. Professor Knight joins from Uni Sydney.

The (US) National Fire Protection Association honours Jim McLennan, (La Trobe U), Barbara Ryan, (Uni Southern Queensland), Chris Bearman (CQU),  and Keith Toh, (RMIT) with the Bigglestone Award for communication of fire protection concepts. They win for, “Should we leave now?: behavioural factors in evacuation under wildfire threat,” in Fire Technology, (July 2018).

Craig Simmons (Flinders U) joins the Australian Research Council as executive director for maths, physics, chemistry and earth sciences. He will continue research projects at Flinders U while at the ARC.