Dear graduate, sod off

A learned reader reports things are not quite right with University of Newcastle testamurs. Or left actually. The learned reader’s name and award are off-centre on a newly-issued testamur, not far enough off to be somebody’s idea of design, but enough to be noticeable. Ah, thought the LR, a production error, which the university will rectify by issuing a corrected record.

No, the university replied to the LR; “the testamur design in its current form was approved by university council a few years ago which unfortunately displays the award information slightly to the left on all testamurs issued. As the design was approved by council, we do not have the authority to change the layout and reprint documents.”

Swinburne staff accept pay offer

Some 96 per cent of voting Swinburne University staff approved the management-union recommended enterprise agreement reached late last month (CMM November 23). “This is an excellent outcome for our staff and for Swinburne,” Vice Chancellor Linda Kristjanson says. It certainly is, while this deal took months the last one took years, which is why Professor Kristjanson, “acknowledges” PVC Chris Pilgrim, Swinburne’s bargaining team and the National Tertiary Education Union, “for conducting such a collaborative and constructive period of bargaining.”

But what will she do on Tuesday?

“It’s my goal that with the leadership and support of Science Technology Australia, Australia’s governments, private sector, academic institutions and the Australian public will agree on, and pursue, an ambitious, courageous, and dogged agenda to build a new knowledge nation on the foundations of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. By supporting and embracing science and technology we will be empowered to shape the nation rather than have it shaped for us. We will be the creators of the new jobs that replace those lost to automation, we will be the creators of the new sustainable industries required by dwindling resources, energy challenges, and rapid climate change. We will empower a booming new economy, and we will facilitate a healthy and just society.” – Emma Johnston, dean of science at UNSW and new STA president sets out objectives.

It hasn’t happened until UniMelb announces it

As Victoria soaked on Friday UniMelb warned late afternoon; “heavy rain and thunderstorms are expected to affect the University of Melbourne across all campuses.” The university also advised staff and students, “do not under any circumstances walk, cycle or drive in floodwaters.” Quite right, although a learned reader remarks that people smart enough to be at UniMelb generally know to stay out of the rain.

Words that matter

UNSW is in the market for a speech writer, “to promote the authoritative voice and contribution a great university can make”. The news interests UNSW people who wonder where the position will sit, what it will cost and why management is not happy with what is written now. The advert is silent on pay and relations with “the existing writer and communications manager” (one person, two people?) so CMM asked UNSW about salary range, work unit, continuing appointment/contract status and reporting line, to get some idea of the standing and experience the university wants in a writer. To which the university replied; “the specifics of this important role have been detailed in the job advertisement. The successful applicant will work closely with existing communications staff who are committed to building UNSW’s profile and reputation.”

Nicely done, in the hands of a lesser writer this would have read “but-out.”

Online study life-line performs in pilots

The results of federally funded pilots of On Task, “providing personalised, timely support to large student cohorts,” are coming in. Project lead Abelardo Pardo (University of Sydney) who describes how OT works here, reports progress.

The University of South Australia used OT in a biological science course with 200 plus students. They received three personalised feedback messages in OT, prepared by the instructors, with data showing an increase in engagement.

The University of Sydney piloted OT with 600 engineering students in engineering. They received ten personalised emails from the instructor with suggestions and feedback on engaging with weekly activities. “The study data showed a significant increase in student satisfaction with feedback and a slight increase in academic performance.”

Associate Professor Pardo adds that further studies at UNSW and University of Texas, Arlington will report in the middle of next year. “Overall, we are very pleased with the response of the stakeholder groups,” he says.

Something to sing about (quietly) at UWA

UWA has decided that its school of music should be a conservatorium, “in recognition of its outstanding contribution to music.” Nothing else changes, but head of school, sorry conservatorium, Alan Lourens, says “the new name reflected UWA’s musical excellence.” Good-o, but why was Friday’s happy news gone from the university news page on Saturday?

Top teaching awards at Deakin and RMIT

At Deakin University the Vice Chancellor’s award for teaching team of the year goes to:

Diabetes Education Future Learn Team: Rhonda Brown, Catharine McNamara, Virginia Hagger and Ashley Ng.

Faculty of Arts and Education: Chie Adachi, Christian Bass, Natalie Crawford, Tim Crawford, Peter Lane, Susie Macfarlane, Liza Marsh, Darci Taylor, Danielle Teychenne, David Williams, Brett Wilson and Travis Zimmer.

At RMIT the Vice Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award goes to the professional writing and editing team in the School of Media and Communication: Penny Johnson, Stephanie Holt, Ania Walwicz, Clare Strahan, Dzintra Boyd, Olga Lorenzo, Elizabeth Steele and Yannick Thoraval.

Train wreck of university hopes

The University of Sydney is upset that timetable changes have expresses on major rail lines roaring through Redfern, the nearest station to campus. This means students and staff need to change at the next stop and double back. “These timetabling changes create major complications for the university’s already significant public transport pressures, and in a further blow, we are dismayed to learn that these changes have happened without any consultation with those affected,” Vice Chancellor Michael Spence says.

This is the second time that Dr Spence’s train of hopes has derailed. In December 2015 the state government ignored the university’s case to route a new metro line via campus CMM December 17 2015).

He is not the only Group of Eight VC to be on the wrong-side of the tracks. Last week the Victorian Government announced the name of the station on the in-planning metro line that will service the University of Melbourne will be Parkville. UniMelb had lobbied for “University”.

But at least they still/will have trains. Next year the NSW government is shutting down the line that services Macquarie University, while it is reconfigured for new kit.

Union says no La Trobe U performance pay proposal

La Trobe University proposes paying all staff annual bonuses if the university’s student satisfaction rating improves during the duration of the next enterprise agreement (CMM Friday). But the union is not having a bar of it, “we do not accept conditional payments,” National Tertiary Education Union Victorian state secretary Colin Long says.

Otherwise LTU observers say negotiations are going ok, although the union would like to see the 0.3 per cent over three years now tied to student satisfaction added to the pay rise on offer. The standout issue to settle is the union push to extend 17 per cent superannuation to fixed-term staff. Word is the NTEU bargaining team thinks a super hike for casuals is a claim too far but is keen to see fixed termers get the same super as continuing employees

Market backs UniWollongong

The University of Wollongong has raised $175m with a ten year 3. 54 per cent note, which it describes as “a new record low yield, bettering all previous medium term note debt raising transactions by Australian tertiary education institutions.” The capital will fund expansion at Wollongong and at the new southwest Sydney campus at Liverpool.