But no Mars rover

The Australian Space Agency advises, “merchandise is now available”. “With t-shirts, caps, mugs and mission patches for sale, we’re sure you’ll find something to show off your inner (or not so inner) space fan!” Presumably one of the missions badged is the successful touch-down of the space agency in Adelaide.     

UA calls for reinstatement of demand driven system and return of research funding

Margaret Gardner will call for a return to the demand driven supply of publicly funded undergraduate places and restoration of research funding.

“We cannot develop high quality graduates ready for innovative careers without research that creates new knowledge. This research-teaching nexus is the foundation to create and disseminate the next generation of ideas,” the chair of Universities Australia and Monash U VC will say in her speech to the National Press Club today.

Professor Gardner positions her pitch on UA’s new social media campaign, “university research changes lives,” (CMM December 14 2018) which presents research helping people suffering from stroke, cancer and domestic violence.

“The stories of Australians … – whose health and future rely on university research breakthroughs – speak to trust, to respect and to impact.”

Professor Gardner also argues the electorate understands the importance of access;

“Two-thirds of Australians believe that cutting funds for student places at universities is the wrong decision for Australia’s future.  Many Australians worry deeply and rightly such cuts are profoundly unfair to Australians from disadvantaged backgrounds, from regional Australia, and to future students.”

And she adds, Australians recognise the value of research; “two-thirds of Australians believe that cutting funds for student places at universities is the wrong decision for Australia’s future. They fear – rightly – such cuts will mean fewer university researchers able to work on life-changing breakthroughs.”

UA’s chair will point to a survey commissioned by UA after December’s MYEFO funding cuts that show they are opposed by two-thirds of respondents.

An election?  Who knew?

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian had her photo taken with vice chancellors Barney Glover (WSU) and Ian Jacobs (UNSW) and Uni Wollongong health dean Alison Jones at Liverpool Hospital, in Sydney’s south-west yesterday.

They were all there for a re-announcement of a new health and innovation precinct. You would think, a learned reader suggests, there is a state election on.

Watch for another multi-uni imminent announcement, the LR adds, at Blacktown, in Sydney’s west-west.

Unis grow student work-experience placements

Some 450 000 undergraduates participated in work placements, internships or field work as part of their study in 2017, according to Universities Australia.

The data is in federally funded research on work-integrated learning arranged by UA member universities with industry partners.

Work placements (43 per cent) are the most common workplace experiences, followed by industry projects (23 per cent), fieldwork (10 per cent) and industry simulations (13 per cent).

Health and education students take work placements, with IT, engineering, architecture, management, commerce and creative arts participating in industry based projects.

Nearly 360 000 Australian students took on  work-experience placements in 2017, with 93 000 internationals participating.

All sensible stuff, but with placement programmes now the norm the support students expect in developing generic job search and securing skills will surely escalate to include personal development and search programmes.

Ramsay degrees for Uni Queensland on-track

University of Queensland management’s long march towards a Ramsay Western Civ Centre programme continues, with Senate authorising Monday night Chancellor Peter Varghese and VC Peter Hoj to continue negotiating an MOU.

Where UoQ is now: Professor Hoj tells staff non-negotiable issues remain but also points at progress, stating the Ramsay Centre will include “a commitment to academic freedom” in a future agreement. He added senior academics in HASS and Law are looking at staff comment on the proposed degrees, “to consider what changes to the proposed curriculum are warranted.”

What happens next: Humanities and Social Sciences Dean Heather Zwicker tells staff there is a “small working party” on curriculum, with dedicated professional staff support. It will “reach out to experts as necessary in areas like music, gender, political theory, Indigenous history and scholarship, Australian studies, and any other essential areas. … One of their central responsibilities will be to build on the excellent curricular suggestions we heard within the faculty and across UQ.”

Professor Zwicker hopes a Ramsay degree will be ready for the HASS Board of Studies meeting on April 9 and reach Academic Board for the May 13 meeting, or failing that, July 1.

Looks like a duck but isn’t: UNE wins pay-cut case

The University of New England has a win in the Fair Work Commission in a  case involving pay-rates for casual academics in the school of education, teaching on-line.

Last year management reduced payment for on-line teaching from $133 to $62 an hour, without any commensurate cut in the work involved.

Unsurprisingly, this upset people. The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union argued it is in breach of the university’s 2014 enterprise agreement, to which management replied it was only enacting what the EA actually states and that the previous pay-rate was wrong.

The parties argued at length about what on-line teaching involved and what pay-rate applied, with Commissioner Johns concluding the agreement does not include on-line work in the class of the more highly paid tutorials.

“This is not a case of where ‘if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck’. And so, while the on-line work undertaken by casuals may have all the hallmarks of a tutorial that is not how it is defined in the agreement,” the commissioner said.

“The task I have performed does not involve a rewriting of the agreement to achieve what might be regarded as a fair or just outcome. Had I done that then the interpretation advanced by the NTEU would likely have prevailed. But that is not the role of the commission in interpreting agreements. The agreement before me is that which was produced by the parties and it was open to them to define ‘tutorial’ as they liked. Having decided that the agreement has a plain meaning I am not permitted to contradict the plain language of the agreement. To adopt the contentions of the NTEU would result in the plain language of the agreement being contradicted and have me fall into error.”

The win for management only applies in the education school, but UNE observers suggest a loss would have had uni-wide implications.

Back in January the commission also concluded that UNE agreements mean what they say but that an existing workload model could not apply to an academic operating unit that did not exist when the EA was agreed ( CMM January 19).


Staff well-meaning but stretched

Online study support provider (and CMM advertiser) Studiosity reports 71 per cent of domestic students surveyed  and 86 per cent of internationals said they felt their universities supported thempointing to learning assistance on offer and their sense that staff care. However they also believe teaching-staff are stretched and do not have the time needed for feedback and advice. “Whether or not a student feels part of a learning community can have a significant impact on their educational experience,” Studiosity’s chief academic officer Judyth Sachs says.

Deborah Terry next chair of Universities Australia

Curtin U VC Deborah Terry is elected to replace Margaret Gardner as chair of Universities Australia. Professor Terry is presently a UA deputy chair.

Professor Terry signed-on for a further four years at Curtin last May, which will take her through to 2023. This followed a blinder of a first term. Under Professor Terry Curtin has created a medical school, opened campuses in Dubai and Mauritius built a MOOC list (via edX), notably in the career-study micromasters market and is working on a $500m property project at the Bentley campus.

Curtin U has also rocketed up the rankings. It rated 302 on the Academic Ranking of World Universities in 2014 and was in the 151-200 band last year. Observers attribute this in no small part to Professor Terry’s three-point research development strategy; support early and mid-career researchers to nurture stars, broaden research capacities and encourage knowledge transfer.

Griffith U maths educator is uni teacher of the year

Kevin Larkin is Australia’s university teacher of the year. Dr Larkin lectures in math education at Griffith U. His award was announced last night by Universities Australia, which has taken over the teaching awards on behalf of the Commonwealth.

“Dr Larkin has transformed how maths education is taught – based on his internationally-published research and three decades of experience in school teaching and leadership,” UA’s citation states. Dr Larkin also wins the social and behavioural sciences teaching award.

The category winners are:

Teaching Excellence: Simone Gibson (Monash U): biology and health. Christian Moro (Bond U): early career award for work with health science and medicine students. Alistair Thomson (Monash U): humanities and arts. April Wright (UofQ): law, economics and business. Susan Page, Michelle Trudgett, Gawain Bodkin-Andrews (UTS): Neville Bonner award for indigenous education. Timothy McIntyre (UoQ): physical sciences. Kevin Larkin (Griffith U): social and behavioural sciences

Enhance Learning:  Suzzanne Owen (Griffith U), Helen Massa (Griffith U), Lyn Armit (Education Queensland):

Educational partnerships and collaborations: Carol Crevacore, Hazel Neale, Fenella Scott, Michelle Dixon (Edith Cowan U): assistant nursing training

Curriculum Design and Pedagogy Practice: Caroline Nilson Martin Hopkins, Prue Andrus, Helen Dugmore, Cormac Norton (Murdoch U): nursing e-portfolio learning.  Glenda Linscott, Samantha Chester, Donald Woodburn, Luzita Fereday, Andrew Lewis (Edith Cowan U): Bachelor of Arts (Acting)

Student Experiences and Learning Support: Tricia Wylde, Emma Hawkins, Kasey HartungEmma Boyne (UWA): Fit for Study programme

Global citizenship and internationalisation: Peter Jones, James Fink, Janie Smith, Dianne Reidlinger, Nikki Milne, Ned Wales, Nikki Gommans (Bond U): work placements in the Solomon Islands