There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning David Myton looks at the challenges facing university lecturers in the new high-tech learning environment.

RMIT ignores arrested adjunct

Bangladeshi photojournalist Shahidul Alam is detained in Dhaka, reportedly for covering protests. This is causing concern among staff at RMIT, where he is an adjunct professor.  However, management tells CMM, “RMIT will not be making any formal statements in this regard. However, the university has a well-developed position on academic freedom.” And won’t that lead to criticism of the government in the Jatiya Sangsad.

UWA VC speaks up for free speech but cancels on controversial speaker

Last week the University of Western Australia accepted a venue booking from the Australian Family Association. US paediatrician Quentin van Meter, who argues transgender people are delusional, was scheduled to speak.  Cue campus outrage, with just under 10 000 people signing a petition opposing the event and on Friday, the day of the event, the university cancelled.

This rather reduced the credibility of a previous statement from Chancellor Robert French and VC Dawn Freshwater explaining why the university would allow Dr van Meter to speak on campus. It was closely-argued and well written, Mr French being a former chief justice of the High Court probably had something to with that, setting out the university’s competing obligations, to “create a trans-friendly culture, free from discrimination and harassment” and “the right to freedom of opinion and expression.”

“There is an ongoing task to be undertaken within the university about the development of workable principles which strike a balance between the values of respect for human dignity on the one hand and freedom of opinion and expression on the other,” they said.

However, this was followed by another message, just from the vice chancellor, explaining the booking was cancelled because the hirers had not submitted “a risk assessment and detailed event management plan.”

“The university holds firm on the principles of freedom of expression and maintains its position that it does not wish to set a precedent for the exclusion of objectionable views from the campus. However, in this case the event hirers could not meet their obligations of the venue hire contract, providing no confidence that UWA could ensure safety on campus.”

Professor Freshwater announced the booking was cancelled ahead of a planned Friday afternoon student protest.

In 2015 then UWA vice chancellor Paul Johnson abandoned a proposal to establish a federally funded research centre, led by controversial political scientist and environmental economics commentator Bjorn Lomborg,  following staff protests (CMM May 11 2015).

New UniSA chancellor

Pauline Carr is the University of South Australia’s new chancellor. The UniSA pro-chancellor was appointed at the university council meeting on Thursday night.  She replaces Jim McDowell who resigned to become head of the state’s department of premier and cabinet. The change-over occurs at a sensitive time, with public discussions underway of a possible merger between UniSA and the University of Adelaide.  With his UniAdelaide counterpart, Kevin Scarce, Mr McDowell was sponsoring the process. However, UniSA says Ms Carr, “has been involved in the merger discussions since their inception.”

She has 30 years-experience in the resources industry and has served on the university’s council since 2010.

UniSydney still talking to Western Civ Centre

It seems western civilisation (as in the Ramsay Centre for the study of) isn’t about to end after all. Word is that discussions to set up (liberally funded) courses continue at the University of Sydney. An MOU is expected soonish, but there is no need for barricades yet – the document will set out principles to govern negotiations. Greg Melleuish (University of Wollongong) makes a considered case for why there is a western civilisation and why it is worth studying for the Ramsay Centre, here.


WA government to make international students (marginally) more welcome

The WA government has announced a graduate migration list, “to attract the best global talent with the advanced qualifications, skills and experience and help grow Western Australia’s share of the international education market.” According to Premier Mark McGowan, “we need to send a message to the world that we welcome international students.” That’s not the idea they are getting now –with international recruiters complaining the state government’s cutting occupations on its skilled migration scheme from 178 to18 impacted on enrolments by overseas students looking to settle after study.

The acceptable occupation cuts is not the only problem WA universities have attracting people to Perth but it has not helped a struggling market, Perth picks up just 6 per cent of international students.

Mr McGowan also says the new plan will not replace the Skilled Migration Occupation List, which quarantines many trades-positions and the new plan only applies to people with postgraduate qualifications.

TAFE lobby backs student protection plan

The TAFE lobby welcomes the government plan to protect VET students whose colleges close. TAFE Directors Australia head Craig Robertson, congratulates voced assistant minister Karen Andrews, “for adopting these strong protections for students.”

The plan, (CMM Friday) extends the existing Tuition Protection Scheme for international students to locals.  If a college closes, students will be transferred to a similar course, with a subsidy to providers picking them up.

The scheme will be funded by federal levies on colleges, with TAFEs paying an administration fee and private providers paying this, plus a risk levy and an additional surcharge.

““While some higher premiums will be required for a while, the close watch that the TPS office keeps on providers should ensure that risks of sudden closures are reduced, along with premiums.”

Activist challenge in UniSydney union election

Union members at the University of Sydney have a choice in the branch election underway, between candidates from the left and the leftier left. While National Tertiary Education Union branch president Kurt Iveson is unopposed there are contests for other union executive positions. The challenge comes from the Union Action ticket of activists who want to see more grass-roots action and think the established leadership of theMembers Together team, has a style that is too top-down. The distinction was well made last year when the NTEU branch negotiators struck an enterprise agreement with management, after a long argument, only to face a revolt from within the leadership group. The die-harders said the deal was not good enough for casual staff and that industrial action should continue.  The debate was divisive enough for a member meeting splitting 300 in favour to 140 against approving the deal (CMM September 22 2017)

ARC agrees to improve support for Indigenous early-career researchers

The Australian Research Council has  released its response to a Wells Advisory report on support for Indigenous researchers and research.  The core recommendation from Wells was that the ARC should redirect some support to Indigenous higher degree research students, postdoc and early career researchers, “in order to broaden the entry base for ARC-funded Indigenous researchers.”

The ARC thinks this is a splendid idea, although what it will do about it is unknown with the council stating it is; “considering possible actions.”

The council will also “work to increase Indigenous scholars’’ applying for Future and Laureate fellowships, “where, “participation rates are low.”

But the ARC knocked back a proposal to cap, at two or three, senior researchers winning Indigenous Discovery grants, “as they play an important role in capacity development.”


Kliti Grice from Curtin U has received the ANZ Association for the Advancement of Science award “for her extraordinary contribution to science. Professor Grice is founding director of Curtin’s Western Australian Organic and Isotope Geochemistry Centre.