The Week that Was (19 April)

A learned reader reports that back in 1985, the then Academic Salaries Tribunal set salaries of “first group vice chancellors” at $85,500 a year. Adjusted for inflation that translates to $270,400 now. There would barely be a VC in the country who does not earn twice that adjusted income and at least ten make five times more. “Grade inflation indeed,” the LR remarks.


James Cook U announces “evidence of historical compliance concerns” in paying casual staff. JCU nominates minimum works worked and entitlements and tells staff it has brought in “external wage remediation specialists to work with “senior” payroll people to investigate, “the level of inconsistencies with its obligations.”  As to how many people JCU, says this is “still to be determined”, but the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union claims 7,500.

The university has advised the Fair Work Ombudsman, which probably isn’t surprised that yet another university has discovered it has problems correctly paying people. It’s not a first at JCU. In 2020 the university reported it had not added superannuation to allowances paid to 1,600 staff for up to ten years.


The campaign to force Uni Tasmania to abandon relocating to Hobart’s CBD did not rate much of a mention in the State Election. Liberal candidates committed to requiring approval of the move by both houses of parliament if the party won a majority – it didn’t. Prominent opponent of the move Ben Lohberger ran for parliament – and lost. The move has been an issue in local government but the City of Hobart did not list it as an election priority. And yet opposition rolls on, with Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds hosting a post poll interested-parties meeting about the move and the ABC reporting the university’s law school will stay at the Sandy Bay campus rather than move into town.


Legislation enacting Margaret Sheil’s review of the Australian Research Council Act came close to achieving the policy impossible, unqualified acceptance from the scientific community. This is no mean feat given the common assumption that government should hand  over the cash and butt out, leaving researchers to run things. This certainly appears the position of peak bodies, Australian Institute of Physics (AIP), the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) and the Astronomical Society of Australia who complained that active researchers appear ineligible for the ARC board. “This group can provide direct experience with a funding body from a researcher’s perspective. We believe it is important for this perspective to be represented on the ARC Board, provided that conflicts of interest are managed properly,” they wrote to Education Minister Jason Clare.

To which Department of Education official Claire Sainsbury replies that avoiding conflicts of interest is, “essential given the Board’s accountability” but if people think “their specific circumstances do not present a conflict,” they should apply.

“The selection panel will consider conflicts of interest on a case by case basis.”

Hard to see how the government can do anything else but it will not be long until researcher rivalries lead to claims board members are conflicted.


Adelaide Uni is a happening thing – it has its own Act of Parliament and a “transition council,” with six members each from Uni Adelaide and Uni SA and two not filled (sorry, no idea what that is about). Uni SA Chancellor Pauline Carr is Adelaide U chancellor, deputies are Janet Findlay (Uni Adelaide) and John Hill (Uni SA).

Plus there is a joint committee “responsible for the coordination of design and operationalisation” in seven “key domains,”

Paul Beard (Uni SA COO) – corporate and finance, Jane Booth (Uni SA Chief People and Culture) – people and culture, Joanne Cys (Uni SA Provost and Chief Academic Officer) – curriculum, Jessica Gallagher (Uni Adelaide, external engagement) – engagement, Anton Middleberg (DVC R Uni Adelaide) – research, Tom Steer (Uni SA academic services) – student experience, John Williams (Uni Adelaide, provost) – legislation/governance. Bruce Lines (Uni Adelaide COO) – “university integration”.    

Plus there is a transitional academic board, which includes professional staff, PG and UG members.


Science deans sick of rare rates of ARC success may want to consider yesterday’s National Defence Strategy stated innovation priorities, hypersonics, directed energy, trusted autonomy, quantum technology, information warfare and long-range fires.

The always on-message Universities Australia quickly responded to the strategy, reminding all that universities are “central” to meeting defence workforce and research challenges.

If the government announced  funding for pasta sauce supply UA would point to Bachelors of Bolognese taught by members.


The brand new Barcelona Declaration (all data used for research performance metrics should be OA) is having an immediate impact. Within hours of announcement (Future Campus, Wednesday) Digital Science, “making processes more efficient, data more effective, and collaboration more seamless,” issued its own statement of supportive principles. “We believe that research outcomes are owned by the global community and should be available to all,” is the essence. But what if, any, will be the response of big analysis providers with paywalled databases?


The possibility of a Budget end to the coalition’s discriminatory pricing for arts, business and law degrees was always buckleys and now it looks like none. The bized and law lobbies have never loudly demanded an end to their degrees costing students, as of next year, $16,200 per annum when education and nursing students will pay $4,400.  The humanities lobby has never presented a politically compelling case for their students – bipartisan indifference to HASS appears to run deep. Plus students have not responded to price signals and abandoned arts.  

Disarming the Job Ready Graduates course funding model will also be fiendishly difficult. It would be very expensive for the Government, unless fees for now lower cost to student degrees, say nursing and teaching, are increased to reduce the price of what UGs in arts pay – which is not going to happen.

But Education Minister Jason Clare is a master of diversion and he will have positives to talk about if he has to ignore questions about why the UG pricing model stays as is. One could be reducing the compounding rate for HELP debt interest, now tied to the CPI. Another will be funding for workplace placements for students studying politically popular degrees – nursing and teaching for example.     



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