Review of Academic Year at MQ
If you missed the news on MQ Announcements, a Green Paper on the Review of the Academic Year, is currently out for comment. The Green Paper may be found at http://www.mq.edu.au/provost/reports/review_academic_year.html Submissions are due in by May 31 - the NTEU encourages all affected staff to make a submission.
The document has been developed by a Working Party charged with the responsibility of outlining the benefits and costs of a variety of options for Macquarie’s Academic year.
The options identified by the group were:
1. Optimisation of the current two semesters;
2. Fully develop the existing Summer School; and
3. Introduce a third semester.
1. Optimisation of the current two semesters
The NTEU questions the suggestion that there be greater use of breakfast, evening and weekend teaching, predicting that such a move will potentially force staff into unsocial and family unfriendly work practices.
With a proposal for greater flexible learning use the NTEU would like to know what analysis has been conducted to assess the appropriateness of the proposal for online learning to be used to replace face to face teaching, especially for discipline areas not easily converted to this mode of delivery?). With the expected significant increase in student enrolments, and particularly in the People and Planet units, how will academic staff manage such huge teaching loads and still have adequate time for research?
2. Fully develop the existing Summer School
This option leans heavily on the proviso that all high demand 100 level units and all People and Planet Units can be taught during Summer Session, and that International students can be brought to Australia earlier.
The NTEU believes that by placing a higher priority on Summer School, the University poses OH&S, or more particularly, ‘burnout’ issues for all affected staff, and puts in jeopardy the reputation of Macquarie as a ‘research intensive’ university.
One solution to the problem of staffing high demand units in a Summer School session is to use ‘teaching only’ staff but, as identified in the document, this is not a category of staff under the MQ Enterprise Agreement, and is not one that the NTEU will agree to in this bargaining round or likely ever, as it undermines the very nature of academic work.
Furthermore, the NTEU challenges the assumption that International students can simply be brought to Australia earlier. Where is the evidence for this?
Again, the informal survey of students in the Provost’s report ‘Bi-annual Student Lunch with the DVC (Provost)’ in November 2009 does not support this with comments from students pointing towards a perception of downgrading of quality and scholarship in their education.
3. Introduce a third semester
The current academic workloads are already severely under pressure with times between semester taken up with administration, curriculum expansion and review, and increasing pressure to meet ‘research activity’ requirements. Academic staff currently use the time between semesters to complete work that they are not able to perform during semester time.
NTEU also believes that the workload pressures that this option presents would be unacceptable and that the quality of teaching would decrease as a result, with a reduction in the number of weeks available to cover the same information and not enough time between trimesters for grading and preparation. There would likely be significant impacts on staff morale as staff feel exploited and enslaved to a ‘production line’ mentality.
Finally, NTEU strongly maintains that a focus towards teaching and away from research, purely as a money-making venture, will be detrimental to the University’s research culture. This realignment of focus may also prove unattractive to current benefactors who may choose to take their financial support to more research-focused institutions.
Options not canvassed in the Green Paper:
• Building more teaching spaces
• Employ more continuing staff to share the workload across semester, without resorting to technological delivery modes
• Employ more continuing staff to increase staff-student ratios and thereby create a Learning and Teaching culture beneficial to ‘social inclusion’ goals and also better serve our current cohort.
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