Checkout crisis management

Marketing researcher Louise Grimmer (UTas) sets out the strategies used by Coles and Woolworths to account for unpopular actions. “The results suggest Coles and Woolworths dominate the Australian market to such an extent that image repair might not be an organisational priority. … Issues and crises played out on social media (and to some extent in the digital media) tend to become ‘yesterday’s news’ so quickly that many organisations choose to ‘ride out’ a crisis until the issue is replaced by another transgression from another organisation.” No, it only looks like some universities behave this way.

SAGE expands

Universities are keen to work on gender equity in science

The Science in Australia Gender Equity pilot programme is expanding. SAGE uses the UK Athena SWAN evaluation and accreditation framework to assess institutions improvement on gender equity policies and practises. SAGE is run by the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.

The new participants are the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Murdoch University, Geoscience Australia and the University of Adelaide. There are now 32 universities in the assessment programme plus six publicly funded research agencies. There are also just six medical research institutes.

The new members will be welcomed at the SAGE conference in Brisbane this morning.

ANU announces anticipated AI expansion

The Australian National University will partner with CSIRO in the Autonomy, Agency and Assurance Institute, which will assemble “the best researchers from around the world” to address “complex problems around artificial intelligence, data and technology and managing their impact on humanity.” The institute will be based in the engineering and computer science faculty and run by Genevieve Bell, who has recently joined ANU from Intel.

Vice Chancellors defy NTEU and take wage offers direct to workers

Michael Spence is asking the UniSyd community what they would like to be asked

The University of Sydney is polling staff for their opinion of its enterprise agreement offer. Not that the university is asking people whether they endorse the offer, just whether management should put it to a vote.

“Given it appears we will not be able to gain union endorsement of our proposal, and conscious that we wish to avoid disruption for our students and staff, we are now seeking feedback from the broader staff community about whether we should move to a formal vote on the university’s proposal,” Vice Chancellor Michael Spence told staff last night.

The university is offering annual salary increases, starting in July, of 2.1 per cent per annum across the life of the agreement, without major trade-offs on conditions. As such this offer is at the generous end of the current round. However, to date the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union has hung tough for a better deal.

If a staff majority support the proposal of management’s offer being put then it will go to a formal vote,  regardless of the union’s position.

This is done rarely. In the last bargaining round Andrew Vann at Charles Sturt University won a vote over the active opposition of the NTEU, but with the support of another union on campus. However, the long in-place convention across universities is that management and union settle on terms and jointly recommend an offer.

This could still happen at UniSydney but only if the university loses this first vote, the union backs down or there is a now unexpected outbreak of peace.

Which does not look likely. The NTEU is urging staff to vote against “management’s push poll” which the union sees as an attempt to undermine its standing on campus.

“This is a radical attempt to undermine the role of unions and collective bargaining at the University of Sydney.

The fact that the vice chancellor has sent this message to you while even today we have been seeking further meetings to discuss acceptable outcomes … is both disrespectful to all staff. It should not be allowed to stand.”

But if it does it will be a major defeat for the union. Last week the Fair Work Commission cancelled the effect of the expired union-negotiated agreement at Murdoch University. The NTEU cannot afford another loss, especially if it is at the hands of staff, not the FWC.

James Cook management ignores union and goes direct to staff

Last night James Cook U DVC Tricia Brand announced that it had talked enough with the campus unions and that it would put its enterprise agreement offer to a staff vote, starting Wednesday next.

“After 41 meetings, all parties have made their positions clear.  We do not think that this will change with further meetings.  It is our staff who determine whether they want this agreement, through voting. … While we understand that the NTEU represents approximately 400 staff who are members, university wishes to ensure that all of its approximately 4500 staff, including NTEU members, can be heard in relation to the proposed EA.”

This is a direct challenge to the union’s standing at James Cook U.

Deakin U’s brilliant new community-service MOOCs

The moociverse is expanding in two directions, self-help and helping others. There are ever-more MOOCs for people who want to pick up university-level skills and knowledge in job generating business and IT disciplines. But while they are far fewer, Australian universities have created MOOCs for people who need help, and those who want to help them, in dealing with disease, disadvantage and disability. There are MOOCs on autism (Swinburne), dementia (UTas) and addiction (UniAdelaide) and now Deakin U announces open online courses, via FutureLearn, on caring for older people and breast feeding.

CMM is puzzled why government does not recognise what a cost and communication effective source of information on health and community service issue MOOCs, like Deakin’s new ones are and start commissioning them instead of conventional comms campaigns.

VC, you have the handle

Geraldine Mackenzie took over as vice chancellor at the University of Southern Queensland with her accession to authority marked by the ceremonial change-over of the university’s Twitter handle. It is now Geraldine Mackenzie‏ @USQVC

UniSA is still friends with Open Universities Australia

The University of South Australia has been marketing new online courses for weeks (CMM August 10 ) but formally launched “a suite of 11 career-focused degrees,” yesterday. “Each of UniSA Online’s new bachelor degree programs is designed specifically for online education and will be rolled out with a suite of unrivalled dedicated student supports to enable successful learning,” the university states. The 11 all-on-line degrees cover IT, business and health disciplines.

UniSA has a long and proud history of reaching out and bridging barriers to educational access, dating back to the 1990s when we were one of the largest providers of distance education in Australia. A few generations on and UniSA Online is a next step in that evolution,” the university states.

But where does that leave the online breakthrough provider and UniSA partner Open Universities Australia? “We are still working through OUA and see it as a wholly complementary channel to UniSA Online,” VC David Lloyd says.

“There is no real threat to OUA from UniSA’s move to set up an internal online education unit” OUA CEO Paul Wappett adds.

“(UniSA) will continue to sell through OUA all of the existing subjects and degree programs that they have traditionally offered through us, and we are negotiating with them about how they might offer those new online degree programs through the OUA marketplace as well as through their own direct channel. “So, we are delighted for UniSA (and for us),” Mr Wappett says.

Principals in training

Monash University is launching a graduate certificate for aspiring school principals, offered jointly with the state government’s Bastow Institute of School leadership. Some 640 “aspiring principals” will take the course over the next four years.

Set in stone

The eagerly anticipated Australian Higher Education Industrial Association starts today in Christchurch NZ (maybe it’s out of NTEU surveillance satellite range). The official theme is “beyond benchmarking” (CMM July 27) but there is one benchmark that will be set in stone – Murdoch U’s win in the Fair Work Commission.

Bottoming out

Training numbers are down, again

The estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research reports yet another decline in the decline of combined apprentice and trainee numbers. In the March quarter 275 000 people were in training, down 3.7 per cent on the previous year. However, there is at least one sign that the long drop in numbers is ending, with commencements effectively stable year on year, down just 0.1 per cent to 56 000.

Even so, it looks like more evidence that the training system is broken, but only because trainee and apprentice numbers are combined. According to the Mitchell Institute, apprentice numbers are steady over decades, the big falls are in traineeships, which are driven by government subsidies (CMM August 21).