And a merry Christmas to you all

A learned reader reports the University of Canberra student union is organising a Christmas in July lunch and wonders whether the marley and scrooges of management, will allow the bob cratchits who do all the work time to attend. Word is approaching 100 people have left under a voluntary separation programme.

Bond U’s open day of the day

Some universities promise open day information on the unknown, explorations of infinity and the degree that will make you secretary general of the UN. Bond U however promises to give aspiring students what they want. “No question unanswered.”It’s the one day of the year our staff and our lecturers will all be in the one place. They’re at your service. No question too tough; no question too simple.”

Good lord, consumer-focused information is OD’s USP – how did they ever think of that?

Flinders U says courses fine as partner uni stands down dean

Flinders U’s partner in entrepreneur education for undergraduates has stood down its dean of business. Philadelphia based Temple University’s president Richard Englert has removed head of the Fox Business School, Moshe Porat, who “knowingly provided false information to at least one rankings organisation about the on-line MBA.”

Flinders U uses “study modules” developed by Fox, in undergraduate courses (CMM August 19 2016).

Last night Flinders U said Mr Porat was “one of many” people at Temple it had spoken to but there is “no connection” with the on-line MBA there and the entrepreneurship courses Flinders uses. A Flinders spokeswoman said Temple U had kept it informed of the ranking inquiry.

Group of Eight’s big ideas to fix the research system

The Group of Eight warns higher education research “operates in a fragmented and bureaucratic system” and the entire national effort “is in need of a long term and holistic approach.”

The elite research universities make their case for reform in a submission to the House of Representative committee inquiry into research funding, which calls for an end to the present, “distorted funding model.”
“The current policy architecture, developed over the past three decades, is suffering from growing inconsistencies and contradictions. The bulk of university funding in Australia is tied to student numbers. Yet an unintended consequence of this model is that it provides a financial disincentive for universities to grow research capacity. At the same time research itself is underfunded leaving both direct and indirect costs of research to be heavily cross-subsidised from teaching funding.”

The Go8 proposes eight comprehensive but carefully calibrated affirmations of best practise and reforms to resourcing.

rigorous, efficient, and transparent peer review system: “should continue to inform decisions of research funding based upon research excellence.”

a funding model that deals with the full economic cost of research: “we have a system under pressure and one that is not delivering anywhere near to the full economic cost of research – both in terms of direct and indirect costs”

reviewing policies that place inordinate and unnecessary pressures on both funded and funder resources: notably, Excellence for Research in Australia. “Accountability for research excellence could be delivered more efficiently by a modified ERA using publicly available data. Extending the period between iterations of ERA … would also increase efficiency while potentially not impacting on accountability.

continue to capitalise the Medical Research Future Fund: While the Go8 warns MRFF funded projects will add to indirect and infrastructure research costs, it “strongly supports” the government’s $20bn by 2020 target. This, “will contribute significantly to the health and well-being of the Australian community and the Australian economy by translating Australia’s world leading health and medical research.”

addressing the decline in real funding ex medicine via the Australian Research Council and a translation fund for research outside medicine and health: “Investigator led non-medical and health research is becoming less important in government funding terms, as priority-driven research takes precedence and the government’s “focus on fundamental or blue-sky research (is) eroded.” “This fund should be seen in the context of supporting the entire research pipeline from basic research to translation research and commercialisation.”

efficiencies in grant administration: “Funding agencies, and the commonwealth at large, can streamline existing requirements to reduce this significant investment of time and resources by researchers and university personnel without any reduction in research quality and funding accountability.”

evaluation of the economic and social benefit ROI of research and research training:  This, “is critical information that will demonstrate the economic return on supporting research and allow governments to make informed decisions to increase support for research in the national interest.”

increasing incentives for industry to engage with HE: While not proposed by the government in the R&D tax concession legislation, an incentive for business to collaborate with universities and public sector research agencies, “is a key measure to connect industry to the research sector.”

MOOC of the morning

Griffith U’s “Plague, pestilence and pandemics: are you ready?” (via Future Learn) starts Monday week. Taught by GU’s Peta-Anne Zimmerman and Thea van der Mortel the course is “designed for healthcare workers, particularly student healthcare workers, student nurses, policy makers and dentists.” So are we ready? On the strength of the promo video, CMM suspects not.

Of mice and men  

Male mice exposed to other male competitors have thicker penis bones according to a new study by researchers at UWA,” the university reports. Who says only blokes worry about this stuff.

Union chief’s farewell warning: bureaucratic management pushing universities to crisis-point

Grahame McCulloch is giving activism away. After serving the National Tertiary Education Union as national secretary for all of its 25 years, and as official of a predecessor union for ten years before that, he will retire in October.

In his farewell to members he looks back to find much in the creation of a mass university system, which the higher education community, and all Australians can be proud of, including “dramatically increased,” “opportunities for working class people, women, recent migrants, and very importantly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Mr McCulloch also points to NTEU achievements in wages (“salaries are amongst the highest in the world”) and conditions and the way, “collective agreements have sharply circumscribed managerial prerogative.”

“These achievements have been possible because of the union’s highly democratic structure, the active participation of our members and the incremental but continued growth in the union’s membership.”

But he warns that the present palls. Falls in public funding have increased the fee burden on students and widened the divide between richer and poorer universities. And university cultures are transformed, for the worse.

There is an exponential growth of an “out of touch (and sometimes parasitic) senior executive elite.”

“Their inflated salaries reflect neither the contribution nor, in many instances, the capability of this bureaucratic management caste.”

Academic and professional staff, “are assessed against sterile metric-driven performance indicators that bear little relationship to the core teaching, research and community service obligations of universities.”

Professional autonomy is eroding and workloads and insecure employment are increasing,” he warns.

For the next generation of leaders he points to “big strides” in gender equity and equalising pay and promotions for academic women but not those on the professional staff, saying “there is more to be done for both groups.” And he nominates “rising workloads and increasing casual employment” as the “two biggest challenges.”

And overall, he warns the union must face-up to managements.

“The system is approaching, but has not yet reached, a crisis point.  There is still scope for university staff to assert their professional rights and to have their voice heard within most university decision-making processes.  But this could all but disappear if there is not an urgent change in the management culture of universities.”