Good thinking Deakin U

Deakin University says all its buildings with façade cladding meet Australian standards and codes and a recent audit found they complied with fire detection, warning and protection requirements. But while the university has “no reason to think any Deakin building is unsafe” it is running materials tests for its 29 buildings of three or more storeys. Very wise. Are you universities with tower blocks doing the same?

Devil’s in the dental

Think students can’t cheat in practical assessments? Don’t bet your teeth on it

In 2014 dentistry pracs at the University of Sydney one student smuggled a previously prepared (plastic) tooth into an exam and another removed a tooth from a dummy for better access. Wendy Currie, Susie Dracopoulos and Graham Hendry report the incidents led to a “complete review” of assessment practises which appear to have worked. The authors report no incidents of academic dishonesty in practical exams since, although they ask “does this mean the new processes have been effective or have the students simply found smarter ways to cheat? ” (Thanks to a learned reader for the pointer)

ATAR advice: don’t have a go

Queensland is moving to replace its university entry OP rank with the ATAR, which admission authority QTAC explains (well it has a go) here. But what possessed it to create a case study about Sophie who does physics because she thinks she should, rather than dance, which she really likes? Hardly a way to encourage young women to stretch themselves.

MOOC of the morning

The far-sighted UK Physiological Society is working to keep the discipline healthy by attracting a new generation with a  MOOC (via Future Learn) introducing “the amazing systems in our bodies that keep us alive.” It is of “particular relevance to 16-19 year olds studying biology, and considering a subsequent undergraduate degree such as medicine, dentistry or the life sciences.”

What’s in the ballot box Professor Pandora?

At the University of Sydney the union wants staff participation in decision making enshrined in the new enterprise agreement. “Too often staff have been left to pick up the pieces from poorly conceived and badly executed changes imposed by senior management. We are therefore seeking greater staff participation in change management, workload allocation, and management selection processes,” the comrades claim.

Will management’s surveying staff on wage negotiations this week count as a precedent?

TAFE, it’s Labor for training

Labor education shadow minister Tanya Plibersek has again ruled out an end to demand driven funding. When asked about a cap on student places on ABC TV yesterday Ms Plibersek said; “we we absolutely shouldn’t do that. We know that the jobs of the future are going to require a post-secondary school education. … We support the uncapping of undergraduate degree places, although we have to do that with improvements in TAFE as well because we don’t want to see a shift from TAFE to universities, we want both sectors to be strong.” Does Ms Plibersek mean training, as including private providers when she talks of TAFE, or does she mean TAFE as in, well TAFE.

Bold move, bad result for the University of Sydney

Uni staff have told management what to do – keep talking to the union

On Monday the University of Sydney announced it would survey staff to ascertain whether they wanted to vote on the management pay offer now or negotiations with the union to continue. The response was decisive, with 4349 staff voting and 61 per cent of them responding that “they did not want to participate in a formal vote on the university’s proposals at this point in time.”

In a gracious acceptance of the unavoidable, last night Vice Chancellor Michael Spence told staff that the university is “continuing to talk to the unions … we have reached in-principle agreement on more than 90 percent of the unions’ claims.” However, Dr Spence added “as I said to the unions last Friday, we are not in a position to increase the overall financial package.”

Management is offering 2.1 per cent a year for the life of the four-year agreement, starting next July plus a $500 one-off payment.

This is a big win for the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union, which worked hard this week to get the vote out. It now has a mandate to argue-on, and on. The next negotiating meeting is today.

CHASS choices

The Council for the Humanities Arts, and Social Science has announced the long-list for its Australia Book Prize

Marco Duranti (University of Sydney), Conservative Human Rights Revolution (OUP)

Tom Griffiths (ANU), The Art of Time Travel: Historians and Their Craft, (Black Inc)

Kim Mahood (ANU), Position Doubtful: Mapping Landscapes and Memories, (Scribe)

Mark McKenna (University of Sydney), From the Edge: Australia’s Lost Histories, (MUP)

John Murphy (University of Melbourne), Evatt: A life, (New South Publishing)

Elizabeth Tynan (James Cook University) Atomic Thunder: The Maralinga Story (New South Publishing)

Campaigning at James Cook U

Union members at James Cook U meet this morning to kick-off the no campaign against management’s pay-offer, which staff will vote on next week. The university acted unilaterally to bring on a vote, instead of waiting to reach an agreement with the National Tertiary Education Union after deciding talks had failed. However the union says it had proposed a settlement which meant proportionally more money for lower-paid staff and a $7m overall increase across the agreement. JCU’s 2016 staff costs were $273m.

Higher qualifications, lower costs at UniMelb school of education

The Melbourne Graduate School of Education’s expenditure grew twice as fast as income from 2010 to 2016. Management is looking for a solution

The University of Melbourne is circulating a change proposal for the MGSE, which involves more continuing academic and professional staff roles but at the cost of a net 29 positions.

The university’s plan cuts 58 academic jobs, while creating 29, with eight admin jobs going but the same number of new ones created.

“While MGSE’s academic outcomes have led the university, and in some cases the field of education nationally and internationally, its financial performance has been impacted by variations in revenue across all sources, and a high expenditure operating model,” management’s change proposal states.

There is also more than money involved in the plan. Changing academic requirements dictate a doctorate is “an essential selection criteria” for a teaching and research and teaching specialist roles.

The school proposes the redundancy/redeployment period begin on Monday, however the campus branch of the NTEU is asking staff to petition management for more consultation time “The people who made the MGSE the number one education school in Australia need your support,” the union says.

Irritated AAMRI

The Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes says CMM was unfair in reporting that only six of its members are participating in the Science in Australia Gender Equity pilot. Although six are named on the SAGE site, another seven, the association states, are “participating through a university” and around one-third of research institutes’ staff work at participating institutions. Just because a medical research institute is not participating in SAGE does not mean gender equity issues are unaddressed, the association asserts.

Dolt of the day

Is CMM, by two. Monash U’s Times Higher ranking was transposed yesterday. It dropped not rose, six spots to 80th in the world. CMM also titled the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes as the Association of Independent Medical Research Institutes.

India to go it alone

It looks like universities keen to expand into India can forget it

For years Indian officialdom considered allowing international universities to set-up there, But not now. The country’s three year  “action agenda” makes no mention of a role for foreign institutions. The idea now is to designate 20 research-focused universities “world class” and provide the ten public ones with money and autonomy to “compete globally”. There is no word of importing research, teaching or governance expertise.