No faulting local interest

Leaders aren’t acing plans to bring back international students  

On Monday CMM suggested the “PM and premiers can rally like Djokovic and Nadal” on placing the international student arrivals in the other’s court. So, it seems can the states.

Late Monday there were reports the NSW and Tasmanian governments were talking about international students for the former being quarantined in the latter. This lasted not that much longer than Novak and Nadal’s 2012 Australian Open final before reports that Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said nothing-doing.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Ryan Naylor (Uni Sydney) on what students and academics expect from each other, (it’s more in-line than you might think). This week’s selection in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series on what we need now in teaching and learning.

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on friendship among academics easy to make, long to last and a pleasure to be part of.

Angel Calderon (RMIT) crunches the numbers on the QS subject rankings to show why they are an impressive result for the much of a much-ness Australian university system.

In the third CMM selection from his new book John H Howard (UTS) suggests innovating is the answer for HE in strife.

Unis Australia on-board the applied research bandwagon

But Chair Deborah Terry wants academics driving it in their preferred direction

Professor Terry (Uni Queensland VC) will make the case for university engagement in the applied research agenda in a speech to the National Press Club today, suggesting that COVID-19 established academics have the expertise, authority and community support to lead.

“Australians turned to trusted university experts during the crisis … They kept us safe and prepared us for recovery,” her prepared text states.

Backing Education Minister Alan Tudge’s support for translational research, Professor Terry makes the case for improving the application of research through collaboration between universities, industry and government.

“By working in closer partnership with government and industry, we want to play a greater role in lifting productivity, boosting the diversification of our economy, and creating new jobs.”

But having made-nice with what the government will do, Professor Terry’s text slips into the mix, blue-sky research, the work that happens way before there are any outcomes to apply.

“It’s critically important to our future prosperity that we continue to support our basic research.  That early-phase discovery science involves backing our researchers to follow their ideas, wherever they lead,” she says.

“If we don’t support basic research, there will be nothing to translate or commercialise.

And we won’t be in a position to drive our future. “

Neatly done. The government may specify funding for basic research in the expected translational fund – but if it doesn’t, Professor Terry will be able to tell the aggrieved legions in the labs that she tried.

The sound of silence

“How does living in Tassy sound?!” (Uni Tas announces a maths lecturership, via Twitter). Generally, pretty quiet, a learned reader laments.

Uni casuals underpaid: it happens, the question is why

Expect a boycott of straight bats at tomorrow’s Senate committee hearing on unlawful underpayment of employees

Perhaps not in the morning session, when the National Tertiary Education Union is on first, followed by “Casualised, Unemployed and Precarious University Workers,” (presumably not all of them).

In its submission to the inquiry, the NTEU sets out the core of the case that “wage theft” is common in universities; “the principal modes of wage theft for casual academics in public universities are: failure to pay for work required (including paying for less hours than the task takes) and unilateral classification of work to lower pay rates.”

Union reps might present examples of casuals not being paid the rate for jobs, as set out in university enterprise agreements. There are universities which have already acknowledged examples of underpayment and made-good wages owed, work is continuing at others. So, questions bowled-up should be benign, at least from Opposition and Greens senators.

But perhaps not so much when the employer-body appears, the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association, which represents most, but not all universities.

AHEIA’s submission distinguishes between, “the concept of ‘wage theft,’ which implies deliberate and systemic underpayment, from inadvertent underpayment of employees.” The former can occur AHEIA asserts, “as a result of complexities associated with payment regimes … or with complexities associated with the interaction of superannuation entitlements under EAs, superannuation fund trust deed provisions and ATO rulings.”

And, “where such issues are identified, they are properly addressed by employees or their representatives raising these directly with universities, with any underpayments being rectified as soon as practicable.”

Which might lead to a question about what can happen when payment rules are so complicated that nobody notices a problem for years, which has occurred with superannuation at multiple universities.

Or when middle managements employing casual teaching staff get it wrong.

As David Ward from UNSW acknowledged in the university’s submission. “In the case of the tertiary education sector, circumstances such as a necessarily high level of autonomy and self-management by academic staff, the typically devolved nature of administrative arrangements, and the relative complexity of applicable Enterprise Agreements, can create conditions in which a risk of underpayment may inadvertently occur.”

Which was surely the worst it can be for casuals surviving semester to semester, at least until work disappeared last year in the COVID-19 crisis.

Margaret Sheil makes a point

“We have a female chancellor, deputy chancellor, vice chancellor, university registrar, deputy vice chancellor (education), 80 per cent of deans, more than 50 per cent of council and 50 per cent of university executive plus indigenous members of council, senior team and university executive,” the QUT VC comments on the under-representation of women in HE leaderships, (via Twitter).

Claire Field on VET’s not so great for business diploma

by Claire Field

Business management skills will be important as Australia re-builds post-pandemic

People looking for entry-level management positions might consider a VET Diploma of Business or a Bachelor of Business. Bearing in mind that a VET diploma is equivalent to first year undergraduate study, the core subjects in these respective courses should be comparable.

UTS is highly regarded for its undergraduate business courses. Its Bachelor of Business contains eight core subjects:

* Accounting for Business Decisions A * Managing People and Organisations *Marketing Foundations * Economic for Business * Fundamentals of Business Finance *Business Statistics * Integrating Business Perspectives * Accounting for Business Decisions B

The VET Diploma (BSB50120) has five core units:

* Develop critical thinking in others * Manage budgets and financial plans * Manage business resources * Develop workplace policies and procedures for sustainability * Lead communication in the workplace

While I am all for Australian businesses being more sustainable – is writing policies and procedures for business sustainability really a core responsibility of an entry-level manager?

Similarly, I support critical thinking but it seems nonsensical that the VET sector is not focussed on helping new managers develop their own critical thinking, nor on the more basic demands of managing people.

And what does “develop critical thinking in others” involve? Well after RTOs secure sufficiently qualified staff to teach the unit, they will find it has 11 performance criteria – the first of which is to “research models of critical and creative thinking.” This is one performance criteria from one unit in a 12-unit diploma which is taught in 12-18 months. So, what seems like a major piece of research needs to be crammed into learning and assessment for 10 other activities in a four to six-week period.

At a time when the Australian Industry and Skills Committee has stepped up its work rate in approving new VET qualifications – it is unclear how much attention is being paid to the content of what is approved. I appreciate that people with a business background sit on the Industry Reference Committee that designed the new Diploma of Business– but I am struggling with their decision making and the qualification’s approval in its current form. The contrast with the university sector is stark.

Claire Field is an advisor to the tertiary education sector.