UNE asks for advice

The university’s  five-year plan ends this year . It’s asking alumni what they want in the next one

“We need your help to think big, be creative and work together to devise a new strategic plan,” Vice Chancellor Brigid Heywood states.

“How we design and deliver education, and add value through our engagement in productive knowledge partnerships will need to transform considerably.”

Follow the money in UG enrolments

Universities across their costs can profit from the new UG funding rates

In CMM this morning Frank Larkins and Ian Marshman suggest how universities can profitably “modify” their student load, demonstrating what switching engineering places to arts could deliver.

Fortune will favour universities who understand their course costs and can flexibly adjust the teaching mix, they argue. However, “there will be knock-on implications for the student profiles of universities less able to take advantage of the increased levels of funding flexibility”

They explain what could occur  here.

“Time to back Australia’s ability” says Merlin Crossley

He calls for a national new-blood appointments scheme for researchers – and has a way to pay for it  

 Professor Crossley (DVC A, UNSW) warns, “if we don’t act, I fear the burden of hiring freezes will fall disproportionately on the new generation of aspiring academics and that just isn’t fair.”

Or in the national interest, “the talent available is extraordinary and we should harness as much as we can from Australia and from across the world,” he writes in CMM this morning.

He proposes doubling ARC and NHMRC research fellowships and funding them from the Medical Research Future Fund, ARC equipment grants or student fees.

There’s more in the Mail

Also in Features this morning

Garry Carnegie (RMIT) and James Guthrie report on the 2019 audit of Victoria’s eight public universities. They report the Victorian Auditor General found the sector was financial sound last year but added COVID-19 and funding caps for domestic students will need to be “actively managed”. “Several commentators may consider this a potential understatement,” Carnegie and Guthrie suggest.

Marina Harvey (UNSW) and colleagues on reflections in teaching and learning. It’s this week’s pick by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift.

Challenge to Deakin U’s go-it-alone savings strategy

Work on 15 staff change proposals are on-hold

Origins: Vice Chancellor Iain Martin says the COVID-19 cash crunch means the university needs to cut 300 positions and not fill 100 vacant ones (CMM May 26).  The university has been consulting staff, as required by the enterprise agreement, but separately by operating units. The National Tertiary Education Union argues these consultations are parts of one all-of-university proposal and as such management should consult on that basis. This would give the union the opportunity to propose alternative savings.

Outcome:  The NTEU took the matter to the Fair Work Commission, where Commissioner Bisset ruled yesterday that until the dispute is settled management must stop staff consultations and not implement change proposals involved. She directs the parties to confer and come back Tuesday.

Implications: In May  Deakin U rejected the proposed union-universities accord on negotiating savings, saying university council had approved a plan to reduce costs, which would proceed.

There are two ways of implementing this – management asking staff to cooperate on savings measures, by voting to vary enterprise agreements, or cutting costs in-line with a university’s EA. So far, it looks like Deakin U is going with the latter.  On the existing evidence, it seems the first works when management and union agree on terms (La Trobe U, Monash U, UWA, Western Sydney U). Universities looking at option two will watch what works out at Deakin U.

Tougher times ahead for UNSW

The university has already found $317m in “non-people” savings – it’s not enough

Vice Chancellor Ian Jacobs briefed staff yesterday on the university’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Better than expected: Although student numbers are hard to predict the university expects to be down between $300m and $400m this year Initial estimates for 2020, were for a loss of up to $600m.

Savings made: “through an extraordinary collective effort” the university has found “non-people” savings of $317m.

Good news now: “I am confident that we will be able to address the financial impact of COVID-19 on our 2020 finances without compulsory job losses,” Professor Jacobs says.

But not for next year: “The flow through effect of smaller student numbers in 2020 means that, even in the more optimistic scenario, we will have a significant financial challenge,” he says.

And that means job losses to cover the “financial gap” for 2021 and 2022. Attrition will provide some, a voluntary scheme others. But the vice chancellor warns, “it is unfortunately likely that there will need to be a compulsory process to achieve the total number of job reductions required.”

Professor Jacobs says he will “provide information … about the job losses required” by month end.

The shape of research to come

There is $25m for five new Industrial Transformation Research Hubs 

Which do what? According to the Australian Research Council, which administers the programme, they, support HE institutions and industry “to focus on strategic outcomes that cannot be realised independently of each other.”

The new ones will research: * steel innovation: Paul Zulli Uni Wollongong ($5m), * offshore energy infrastructure,” Phillip Watson, UWA ($5m), * waste resources into construction and manufacturing materials, Sujeeva Setunge, RMIT ($5m), * nitrogen in agriculture, Deli Chen, Uni Melbourne ($4.95m), *eliminating fire risk in new energy storage technologies), Ying Chen, Deakin U ($5m)

Just what the minister wants: “We want universities to be even more entrepreneurial and engaged with industry,” Education Minister Dan Tehan says

More university than industry:  Learned Readers suggest the hubs can be a handful for business partners in a bid unused to the ARC’s ways – with questions about peer-reviewed research publications and a time-frame suited to the pace of academic life, not industry.

CARE continues

Programme funding for four CRCs ran out on Tuesday – but one works on
Adam Barclay from CARE, the CRC for environmental remediation, says it still has things to do. Participants have stumped up to keep it running for another 12 months.

Appointments, achievements

Of the day

Engineers Australia’s 2020 list of innovators is out, academics include.

Community: Huaiwen Leon Song (planet-scale VR) – Uni Sydney. Anusha Withana (electronic tattoo) – Uni Sydney.

Electronics and comms: Nitu Syed (piezoelectric film) – RMIT. Sruthi Kuriakose (2D nanomaterial) – RMIT.

Manufacturing and automation: Farshid Pahlevani (emissions-free phosphorous) – UNSW.

Mining, oil, gas: Jun Huang (reducing CO2 from oil refineries) – Uni Sydney.

Research and academia: Michael Mortimer (VR driving simulator) – Deakin U. Hala Zreiqat (3-D printed synthetic bone) – Uni Sydney. Behnam Akhavan (plasma coated implants) – Uni Sydney.

Utilities: Qilin Wang (zero-energy water-treatment) – UTS. Nicky Eshtiaghi (sludge pipe) RMIT.

Young engineers: James Gilbert (planet hunter) – ANU. Rona Chandrawati (nitric oxide functions) – UNSW. Wenyue Zhou (wearable UV sensors) – RMI

Of the week

Tim Bonyhady (ANU) and Greg Lehman (U Tas) win the Dick and Joan Green Family Award for Tasmanian History for The National Picture: The Art of Tasmania’s Black War, (National Gallery of Australia).

Jolanda Jetten (Uni Queensland) wins the European Association of Social Psychology’s lifetime achievement award.

The Snow Family Foundation announces $8m over eight years  for fellowships for early and mid-career biomedical researchers. Inaugural fellows are Marian Burr (ANU), James Hudson (QIMRBerghofer MRI) and Owen Siggs (Garvan Institute of MR).

Hai Tran will lead the South Australian government’s Australian Cyber Collaboration Centre. Mr Tran joins from WA Police, where he was chief information security officer.