And about time too

Health Minister Greg Hunt announced $377m in Investigator Grants yesterday – three weeks since winners were notified. The National Health and Medical Research Council twice told them to max out the modesty and say nowt.

Which they duly did, at least not that CMM heard.

Now for the hard parts

The national council of the NTEU backs the federal leadership’s proposed accord with universities to cut wages and conditions in return for protecting jobs

There was an 80 per cent vote for the proposal. It now goes to a national vote of the union membership on every campus. If that gets up, VCs will need to decide if they want to negotiate terms and any outcomes with the local union, which will then go to an all-staff vote. And that will be that. Not in NSW at least, where the state branch of the Community and Public Service Union said no last week to any cuts for jobs deal (CMM April 29).

There’s more in the Mail

In Campus Morning Mail Features

 Garry Carnegie (RMIT) and James Guthrie (Macquarie U) wondered whether Queensland universities recognised the COVID-19 business risk before the pandemic reached us, so they read their annual reports. The University of Queensland saw a possibility of a $100-$200m revenue hit in first semester. But most of the others did not see it coming.

Darci Taylor (Deakin U) tips a hat to uni teachers who are meeting the on-line challenge. This week’s story in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series on what’s needed now in teaching and learning.

How Flinders U uses Microsoft platforms to keep its community informed on COVID-19.

Lin Martin asks how on-line assessment compares to in-class for professional accreditation. Michael Sankey responds .

Uni R&D grows (and stays the same)

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports higher education research and experimental development was up 12 per cent, on current prices in 2016-18, but unchanged as a proportion of GDP, at 0.62 per cent

How much: $12,158m in calendar 2018

Split how: Current costs (including labour) were up 10 per cent on 2016 and capex grew 33 per cent

Sourced from: general university funds (56 per cent) and other Commonwealth sources (16 per cent)

Spent where: In the eastern states (76 per cent)

On what: medical and health sciences accounted for 31 per cent of HERD

Who does the work: Postgrads (56 per cent), academics (30 per cent) and support staff the rest

RMIT rejects wage cuts for jobs deal  

RMIT will not sign-on to the accord negotiated by the NTEU and a group of vice chancellors

Reasons for rejection, include,

* the terms are for higher education staff and as such exclude dual sector RMIT’s VET staff, * the deal includes provisions for reduced working hours and maximum pay-cuts which the university rules out

* the university branch of the NTEU opposes its national leadership’s proposal

The university warns staff that revenue declines mean job losses, but commits to being governed by the university’s enterprise agreement in negotiations.

Medical research grants announced: where the big money goes

The National Health and Medical Research Council awards $367m in Investigator research grants

The overall success rate in yesterday’s announcement was 14 per cent, with just 253 successful applications. But this bad news is relatively gender neutral. Some 138 projects with male chief investigators got up (14.6 per cent) compared to 115 (13.5 per cent) with women CIs. Although, average funding for a bloke-led project is $1.634m, compared to $1.323 for those with women.

Where most of the money goes: To the institutions that generally clean-up. Uni Melbourne, $77.8m, Uni Sydney $62.4m, Monash U $46.6m, Uni Queensland $31.8m, UNSW $29.6m and Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, $19.4m All up they picked up 70 per cent or so of the swag.

And some are above average: Institutions with more than ten applications that matched/exceeded the all-entries 14 per cent success rate are; Baker HDI four successes for 15 per cent, Burnett Institute, four and 30 per cent, Deakin U seven and 18 per cent, Monash U 30 and 14 per cent, Uni Melbourne 54 and 24 per cent, Uni Sydney, 43 and 19 per cent, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, ten and 20 per cent.


The National Measurement Institute announces awards.  Renée Webster (Defence Science and Technology) wins the NMI Prize for analysis of fuels at high temperature. Warwick Bowen (Uni Queensland) is awarded the Barry Inglis Medal for developing quantum technologies.

Cutting courses, constraining costs in Uni Sydney FASS

Casual academics call on management to reverse cuts to “up to 30 per cent of courses” in arts

In a letter to Vice Chancellor Michael Spence and Dean of Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Annamarie Jagose 100 plus casual staff call on them to reverse cuts to units in the faculty. “These cuts will not only undermine the scope and integrity of students’ degrees. They will also have a devastating impact on some of the most vulnerable members of our university community—those hundreds of casualised staff who do the bulk of teaching in FASS,” the signatories warn.

However, Professor Jagose says the university, “is not cutting 30 per cent of its units of study.”

“Given the steep projected decline in student enrolments, however, we are working closely at discipline level to ensure that costs are responsibly constrained. This will involve pausing some units of study, adjusting teaching delivery in others and using bequest funding, where available, to maintain a breadth of subject offerings,” she says.

New Discovery Grants

The latest round of Discovery Grants is announced this morning, with researchers in all states and territories sharing 77 awards

It’s a big morning for the University of Queensland, with 16 grants. Uni Melbourne (nine) and Monash U (eight) are the other leaders.

“Enough with the ideology”: VCs wrong to oppose union job plan

Vice chancellors’ opposition to the union-negotiated accord on job protection is misplaced 


Suggestions the national deal to save staff jobs proposed by the National Tertiary Education Union somehow limits the managerial authority of VCs (or even university senates/councils) and their options for responding to COVID-induced revenue hits make very little sense.

Under current enterprise bargains, management has no rights to reduce fractions, defer pay rises or reduce pay (to name just three of the key measures) as an alternative to job reductions. And where a university wants to not renew fixed term or casual contracts it retains the options it already has under the current EB agreements.

What is really objected to (without explicit amplification) is that new measures must be worked through by joint union/management committees with provision for fast track arbitration where there is a dispute about the severity of revenue loss and the relative proportionality of measures proposed.

This opposition is nothing more than an ideological reflex, given the range and depth of new options available under the proposed deal.

Unless some, to steal Rahm Emmanuel’s phrase, want to make sure restructuring opportunities presented by the crisis are not wasted. Others may simply prefer to rely on job reductions, particularly amongst casuals but won’t say so.

Claims that the deal cuts across the statutory role of councils/senates are wrong. Current EBs limit many elements of the managerial authority of governing bodies and vice chancellors (eg Higher Education Contract of Employment-style limits on the use of contracts and limits on forced redundancies) and the proposed deal is no different in principle or at law.

The union deserves better than this given the deep responsibility it has shown. It is very odd to see some vice chancellors on a unity ticket with the radical left, which opposes the deal.

As for Universities Australia, it plainly should be recommending that universities at least seriously consider it.

The Learned Reader is an independent observer of Australian industrial relations