Makes a change from whist

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a scientist in possession of good data, must be in want of a topologist.ANU introduces Katharine Turner, topological mathematician and co-creator with her sister of Polite Society, a board game about Jane Austen novels (in all good drawing rooms soon). No topology (the study, as far as CMM can make out of shapes and spaces) was involved in making the game but it is  a truth universally acknowledged that a mathematician in possession of a great game will not be in need of any additional fortune.

There’s more in the Mail

Today in Features – David Myton’s regular wrap on what’s happening across the world in highered

Students say no to HELP helping itself to low incomes

Peak student groups have united to oppose the government’s student loan legislation. The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations and the National Union of Students says the bill “will compromise access to higher education.”

The legislation, expected in the Senate next week, reduces the HELP debt repayment threshold from $55 000 to $45 000, with a starting 1 per cent repayment. It also caps total lifetime study debt at $104 000 for most courses.

“The number of graduates earning below the current repayment threshold reflects a failure of this government in providing a quality education. The solution is to adequately fund universities, not burden low income Australians with this government’s failures in higher education,” CAPA and NUS claim.

Just about all submissions to a Senate committee inquiry into the legislation share the students distaste for the bill.

However, the Department of Education and Training submits that the new threshold would cost workers on base incomes $9 a week.

Bibliophiles and phobes

A learned reader from a university in the great city of Melbourne responds to DVC Marnie Hughes Warrington’s lament for the loss of loved books in the ANU flood (CMM yesterday). “I would rather have her than our management which has no problem weeding our print collection extensively, brutally, in order to create ‘more inviting student places’ and instead purchasing e-books, well not purchasing them, we rent them, because not all our electronic resources are owned in perpetuity – unlike our print books.”

NTEU warns industrial awards in a “fictional realm”

The National Tertiary Education Union copped a clobbering over the summer with the Fair Work Commission ruling against it on all-university issues. The union lost a bid to cover medical research staff in the institute sector CMM February 14 ). And the commission knocked the comrades back on proposals to codify protections in the basic awardCMM February 22), which the NTEU  describes as, “FWC endorses long working hours and unpaid work.”

But the union’s Linda Gale and Ken McAlpine do not blame individual commissioners, holding the Fair Work Act itself accountable;

“It would be easy to rail against the particular members of the Fair Work Commission involved in this decision as being biased against fairness and common sense, or as knowing more about industrial law than industrial relations, or even to decry the impact that years of partisan appointments to the commission have had on the level of sympathy to, or understanding of, real working conditions. But the reality is that FWC members have been constrained by the terms of the Fair Work Act 2009, that relegate awards to a fictional realm in which employers are all benign and enterprise bargaining mends all ills.”

Another gong for Galvin

Kevin Galvin is the fifth Australian to receive the mining technology Antoine M Gaudin Award. The University of Newcastle scientist is honoured for technology that uses water to separate fine particles. saving on processing costs. He follows UniNewcastle’s Graeme Jameson who won the Gaudin, awarded by the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration, in 2013. Professor Galvin won the NSW Premier’s science prize for energy innovation in 2016.

The University of Melbourne speaks up for the Melbourne model

The government’s proposal to decide student growth numbers on the basis of population increase and allocate them according to yet to be set performance measures “pose a major threat to the Melbourne model,” the university has told the Senate inquiry on the government’s proposed student debt threshold, in responses to questions on notice.

The existing University of Melbourne model combines undergraduate degrees and Commonwealth supported places in related professional masters courses.

“The Melbourne Model will only remain viable where there are policy and funding settings that enable it. … Funding arrangements that are based on year-by-year allocation of places result in a potential volatility that is insensitive to the pedagogical underpinning of combined undergraduate-postgraduate study programs. The resultant uncertainty disrupts that graduate pathway, where students who enter one of our generalist bachelor degrees plan to progress to a CSP in a professional masters program,” the university states in answers posted yesterday.

However, UniMelb expects the government to continue in any new arrangement the commitment to the Melbourne model made when a voucher system for CSP professional masters places was planned.

Flinders U management considers creating more teaching specialist jobs

Flinders U got through an academic and admin restructure largely unscathed ( CMM December 11 2017) but now the union worries another round is coming.

What alarms the union, among other concerns, is the possibility management will expand teaching-specialist positions to save money by reducing the number of academics who must be allowed time for research.

“If senior management decides to attempt a reconfiguration of the academic workforce to 50 per cent ‘balanced’ and 50 per cent ‘teaching-only’ they would have a mechanism to drive staff out of continuing roles. … Many staff may face the indignity of having to apply for teaching-only positions at lower levels than their current classifications, and then face a significant loss in salary while also having to fight tooth-and-nail to win the positions at all,” the union warns.

To which Flinders management replies; “the university is committed to the teaching specialist role and is currently assessing the implications of such a restructure process.”

The NTEU is quite clear that it does not oppose teaching-specialists,  agreeing with management in the Fair Work Commission that they can be continuing positions covered by the university’s enterprise agreement from this year (CMM August 23 2017).

However, the NTEU warns “any wholesale reconfiguration of the academic workforce will mean job losses and hardship. Teaching-only positions may be presented as shiny new opportunities, but the reality is more sinister.”

20 years of VOCED planning: busy doing not much

Now CMM understands why everybody is always about to fix vocational education and training but nobody ever gets around to. The secret authors of vocational education policy are admirers of Charles Dickens’ all-controlling bureaucracy, the Circumlocution Office, in Little Dorrit. And they have been busy, very busy doing nothing for 20 years. The estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research demonstrates how, by setting out VET policy planning and legislation if not achievements, in state and commonwealth jurisdictions and nine policy areas from 1998 to last year. And a bewildering bunch of blather it is too.  The Circumlocution Office had one abiding function to explain to governments intent on change “how not to do it.” In Australian VET policy its achievements abide.

Death: there’s a lot of it about

Flinders U and partner Care Search are running their  Dying2Learn MOOC for a third time. The federally funded course which explores attitudes to dying attracted 1156 starters for its first run in 2016 with nearly 900 completing.  Flinders researchers Jennifer Tieman, Lauren Miller-Lewis, Deb Rawlins, Deborah Parker and Christine Sanderson report participant responses. Participants in the first run were almost all women and two-thirds health professionals, but “interested to learn about death and dying outside their professional lives.”

“This may reflect a growing awareness that ‘palliative care is everyone’s business’ as the population ages and palliative care needs increase.”