UTS underpaid somebody $209 000

The money was owed due to  years of underpayments under the minimum amount for casual work rule, (scroll down for more).

Accord needs a recipe for a bigger research costs pie

Nicholas Fisk and Daniel Owens (UNSW) argue the Research Block Grant pie is not big enough to feed established research schemes, let alone the MRFF and commercialisation programmes. Cooking up a solution is up to the Accord

In Features this morning they warn that the shortfall in funding for what research grants don’t cover ($1.14 on the dollar) is only some of the extra cash unis must find to keep the lab lights on. There’s also the gap between what projects cost and what research grants fund, plus salary shortfalls.

So what is to be done? Fisk and Owens estimate a full-fix would cost $1.9bn-$5.8bn a year but they suggest there is $3.2bn in research and development tax offsets “that are ripe for scrutiny.”

Which might be a bit of a political ask for the Accord to recommend. Then again, its terms of reference include, “support a system of university research that delivers for Australia, securing the future of the Australian research pipeline, from basic and translational research to commercialisation.”

UTS underpaid people for years and owed them millions

The university did not act on its own enterprise agreements and owed 2777 staff $4.4m

The Fair Work Ombudsman reports the university failed to pay casual professional staff for the minimum three hours per engagement, as EAs require. The three-hours requirement was introduced in the 2014 agreement.

The problem occurred because UTS did not update systems.

With interest and superannuation the university owed staff $7.7m of which $4.5m is now paid with the FWO requiring the balance be provided by July 31.

The average underpayment was $1509 – although somebody was owed $209 000.

The Ombudsman reports UTS reported its failure, cooperated with the resulting investigation and “demonstrated a strong commitment” to paying people and ensuring no repeat. The FWO has imposed an “enforceable undertaking” to ensure it happens. This includes a university-wide pay review, “with FWO oversight.”

“The underpayments by the UTS are the latest warning to all universities, and employers generally, that if you don’t prioritise workplace compliance and apply all entitlements, you risk underpaying staff on a large scale and facing enforcement action,” Ombudsman Sandra Parker states.

Charles Sturt U and Uni Newcastle are under enforceable undertakings and the FWO has two court cases against Uni Melbourne.

Answer the question before its next asked

In Reps Question Time yesterday Independent member for Fowler, Dai Le asked the Treasurer about indexation of students’ loans “on top of their already exorbitant HECS debt”

“Young people are our future and deserve fair and equitable access to education,” she said, asking Dr Chalmers, “what will the government do to ease their debt pressure with your budget surplus?”

To which he replied, “obviously, the indexation of student loans has not been changed by this government. These are the usual arrangements that apply,” adding the government “will do what we can to help” young people, including students.

He might want to work on that. The Greens have run hard on student debt and it is has media traction. Something, the government and universities, cannot afford is a popular loss of faith in (what CMM still sometimes calls) HECs.

Uni Sydney’s not as bad as it looks financial fall

It’s 2022 underlying operating surplus was $298m – “significantly down” on 2021

The university’s headline operating result for ’21 was $1.04bn, but that included a bunch of one-offs, land sales, pandemic-emergency Commonwealth research funding, booming investments.

On management’s preferred measure, the university’s underlying margin, last year’s $381m compared to $453m in ’21.

This is not too terrible, compared to Uni Melbourne’s operating deficit of $104m last year.

Looking towards this year’s result, Uni Sydney states, domestic UG enrolments for first semester are similar to ’22, while PGs are down 19 pr cent, “following a surge during the pandemic.” International UGs are on target with PGs 10 per cent up.

Uni Sydney is the first NSW institution to release their headline financials, ahead of all annual reports being tabled in state parliament.

Asking researchers how to measure their performance

Chief Scientist Cathy Foley will advise the government “on the future of assessment practices in Australia’s research system”

Dr Foley’s office has commissioned the Australian Council of Learned Academies and the  Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia to ask researchers, in part via a survey, HERE.

The intent is to identify measures of research assessment that,

* recognise “mentorship, outreach, team science, innovation commercialisation”

* “support “a diverse research workforce”

* recognise “research quality and research excellence, while supporting research integrity”

* provide “the right incentives for researchers and institutions to engage in high quality research, development and innovation”

Tough issues all – especially as they go to who gets how-much research funding.

The National Health and Medical Research Council has struggled for years with age and gender distribution of grants. And the Sheil Review of the Australian Research Council Act recommended the agency, “review and simplifies the criteria used to assess research opportunities in respect to academic careers.”

Dr Foley’s office states the work is, “at the request of the Australian Government,” but there is no word on whether the brief is from this government or the last.

Appointment, achievements

The Royal Society announces new Fellows including * Graeme Moad (CSIRO) and Rajeev Varshney (Murdoch U)

Peta Wyeth will be UTS dean of engineering and IT from July. She will move from QUT.