plus new visa favours Aus uni graduates

UWS takes on the union in wages negotiations

and UTS on a roll with degrees in innovation


Knowledge by the glass

University of Sydney academics are back in boozers, laying down the law in mini lectures on their work, which people will pay to hear. They did it last year when the first Raising the Bar programme ( CMM September 30 2015) was a hit, winning a gong at the US Council for Advancement and Support of Education awards (CMM June 10 2016) .

Some of this year’s talks are a bit double shot of earnest on the rocks but you can choose your poison and book here. Michael J Biercuk explaining quantum computing interests CMM, although it will have to be straight soda water if he is is to have any hope of understanding the talk.


Innovation attraction

The Commonwealth has created a  new visa category for entrepreneurs who want to move to Australia to develop an innovation and have $200 000 in funding from a specified third party. The visa provides a pathway to permanent residence and people with postgrad qualifications in STEM and some ICT disciplines from Australian universities score five additional points.

Sound familiar? It will to the Victorian Government. In its international education strategy it proposed nominating for visas aspiring immigrants with PhDs in priority occupation fields from Victorian universities, (CMM March 18 ).


WSU toughens up on bargaining

Western Sydney University is signalling a tough approach in the new round of enterprise bargaining to come by making a unilateral offer to staff at its subsidiary, pathway provider, The College. After a year of discussions the university will offer a new deal new on wages and conditions, without the support of the National Tertiary Education Union.

Western Sydney University has been in bargaining to develop a new enterprise agreement for The College since June 2015. The university has reached a point where it will make the proposed new agreement available to college staff to review and vote on,” a WSU spokeswoman says.

CMM hears management has offered staff a 2.5 pay rise – university staff get 3.8 per cent a year this year. Staff at The College, who are governed by a separate agreement, already earn less than university employees. Perhaps the motivation is money – WSU has not had a great year, with a spending freeze and a voluntary redundancy offer just announced. Unless the university is just being cautious, a financial briefing by VC Barney Glover struck staff as gloomier than the financials warranted (CMM July 26).

But CMM also suspects the university is acting locally but planning nationally. Professor Glover is also president of peak body Universities Australia and as such his every act is observed. With the universities IR advisory agency, the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association, signalling a tough approach to staff wages and conditions across the country (already being implemented in WA) Professor Glover may want to provide an example to his VC colleagues and a warning to NTEU officials representing the main university workforce.

Good times in Tassie

“Attracting more Tasmanians into higher education will create a more prosperous future for us all,” University of Tasmania VC Peter Rathjen, ( March 16 ). It’s obviously working, at least at the university, as a staffer tweeted Friday, “Great night @ U Tas VC Awards. The whiskey truffles at the dinner were a highlight.”


Let independent experts fix the funding mess

Australia needs an independent agency to make funding decisions in post-school education and training, according to Peter Noonan, from Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute. There is “a strong case,” he writes in a major paper released this morning, for a tertiary education funding authority, which could make pricing decisions, “encompassing subsidies, student contributions and HELP settings, by reference to a transparent evidence based process.” Professor Noonan points to budgeting processes for hospital and disability services as an example. More broadly, he sees such an agency advising government on policy and spending in the ways Infrastructure Australia, the ARC and CSIRO do.

“Our major priority must be developing and adopting a coherent and integrated approach to financing, and taking long-term investment decisions to achieve near universal participation rates in tertiary education in Australia. This is a complex, demanding national building task. It is a national project similar, but no less complex, to that which Australia commenced over 30 year ago when we set ourselves the objective of achieving universal participation to the end of senior secondary schooling,” Professor Noonan writes.

His new call for a national policy approach address the present shambles in the allocation of funding and the risk of declining participation rates in post compulsory education and training builds on his July recommendation for reform of student loans systems to take account of the different circumstance in higher and vocational education (CMM July 21). And it reinforces University of Melbourne VC Glyn Davis’ s call (CMM February 1) for an independent agency to oversight higher education policy.

Who knew what when

In a report on how best to provide social services the Productivity Commission nails why VET FEE HELP became a magic pudding for spivs and shonks. “Better oversight of providers and tighter controls on service users’ access to government funds would have had administrative costs, but could have helped avoid other costs that ended up being much larger.” Quite right. And yet oversight was absent, which seems strange. What seems stranger is that the officials who oversaw the scheme have not been asked why it went it was allowed to end up as it did.

Baldock back to Tas

Clive Baldock is leaving the Australian Research Council, where he is executive director for STEM, physical sciences and IT. He is returning to the University of Tasmania to take up the new role of PVC R and D. Previously dean of science at Macquarie, ( CMM January 22 2014) moved Professor Baldock joined UTas as deputy dean of STEM in November 2014. He went to the ARC in October 2015 ( CMM October 21 2015). Baldock is being replaced by Stephen Buckman, director of ANU’s Research School of Physics and Engineering.

And a hard place

Australia missed out on an ig-Noble but two Kiwis cleaned up in the enw awards. Shelagh Ferguson (Otago) and Mark Avis (Massey U), with UK colleague Sarah Forbes won the economics award for a journal article on personalities people ascribe to rocks. The point of the research was stone-cold serious, intended to demonstrate the nonsense in a famous brand-identity marketing model.


Degree of the day

UTS is launching a Bachelor of Technology and Innovation, “a direct response to industry demand for graduates working at the intersection of technology, creativity and innovation. Through the focused application of emergent technologies, students will develop the expertise required to connect people, skills, data and technology. They will be prepared for the jobs of the future.”

CMM has no idea of the syllabus or the competencies graduates will have when they hit the job market but BTI ticks all the boxes for messaging.

UTS is on a roll with new courses that suit the temper of the times. It is also launching, a masters in animation and visualisation, in cooperation with Animal Logic, think Happy Feet, CMM August 5.

TAFE on the Indian menu

Regular readers (hello mum, hi dad) know CMM is mightily puzzled that Australian VET providers are not investing in India, what with the country’s need for 70 000 new voced trainers a year (CMM August 10). So good on NSW TAFE for producing an e-booklet on food preparation health and hygiene in India. Produced in conjunction with India’s Food Safety and Standards Authority, it’s a great way to put TAFE on the training menu.

IT jobs to go at UoQ

The University of Queensland administration restructure proceeds according to process, with a meeting of the professional staff consultative committee on Friday afternoon. But it’s not the only source of worry among people who fear for their jobs, with ample anguish  in the parallel project to reassemble IT, (CMM September 16), now being set out in detail. According to IT director Rob Moffatt, despite changes over the last five years, “current IT structures at the university are fragmented and mainly focused on delivering commodity IT services; there is a tendency to build and maintain rather than a focus on smart procurement of innovative solutions.”

Mr Moffatt’s plan consists of a comprehensive collapse of existing teams and the construction of new ones with authority, now diffuse, concentrated in a chief information officer, “with line of sight functional responsibility and accountability for IT at the university.” While his plan ticks all the boxes for the consultation requirements of UoQ’s enterprise agreement it has the look of a settled strategy, including the jobs that wil go. The two-stage plan specifies reducing head count from 370 to 297 however an UoQ observer wise in the ways of its IT suggests the net loss will be more like 40.

Off target

The University of Wollongong is confident it can take market share away from regional rival Western Sydney Uni. The former is opening a campus next year at Liverpool, in the latter’s southwest Sydney fiefdom (CMM May 3). And UoW wants people to know about, with an outdoor campaign now running. CMM saw a bus-side poster in inner-city Redfern, where the hipster inhabitants may have heard of Liverpool.

U21 still around

Universitas 21 has a new provost, University College Dublin’s Bairbre Redmond who becomes chief academic, overseeing the network’s student experience and researcher engagement. The universities of Melbourne, NSW and Queensland are U21’s Australian members wth the University of Auckland representing New Zealand. Yes, CMM had forgotten about U21 as well