Back to Macquarie University
What the VC doesn't want you to read...
NTEU Members posting to the VC's latest blog, "Higher Finance" have started having their blog posts moderated. If you are in this situation, feel free to use the comment function on this blog to post what you sent to the VC's site. Let the debate continue!
One from the Branch President, Cathy Rytmeister:
Al, you don’t seem to get it. Academics don’t want double the income in order to do more work that they don’t wish to do. They want to be properly supported to do the work they love and have been trained to do – academic work.
There is no university in the world that could pay me enough to do more administration. I don’t want double the salary (although I do want the pay rise to keep me on par with colleagues elsewhere – which the University’s current offer won’t do), I want time to do high quality academic work.
Steven, your response to Abeed completely misses the point. He said nothing about cutting scholarship money – you’ve set up a straw man argument there so you can maintain the illusion that you are properly funding your strategy. (So who is being disingenuous now?) His point was about the loss of travel money that comes under the Department budget. And THAT is a direct result of this extraordinary attack on the Faculty of Science.
There are also grave concerns in some Departments that PhD students will also lose access to sessional teaching, as programs are cut – this income is also an important factor in them coming here, as living in Sydney on a scholarship is almost impossible without supplementation. Again, the cuts will make Macquarie less attractive to researchers, at odds with the MQ@50 goals.
The simple fact is that the shortfall in the Science budget is largely due to three things: the change in the WEFTSL rate, as Christophe pointed out; the imbalance introduced by the unfunded or underfunded imposition of CoRE positions; and the time lag between performance and reward in research funding. The change in WEFTSL rate is no doubt a response to a number of factors including the diversion of funds into capital works and projected falls in international student income – but we wouldn’t know, because no explanation or justification has been given to the University community.
Instead, we find that Macquarie’s apparent goal is to become one of Australia’s top 8 property developers – “the Multiplex of the Higher Education sector” (as Lance Dale has said in the NTEU’s response to the managing change proposals in Science). Is education and research just a sideline now, subservient to the property development ambitions of the University Management?
Oh, and for those who haven’t read my earlier post, I will declare my union roles: I am the President of the NTEU Macquarie Branch, with executive and committee roles at State and National levels.
P.S. You know, there is a fairly straightforward way out of all of this tension. Clearly the Faculty Funding Model needs more transparency and accountability. The elements of the model should be explained to the University Community, in particular the rationale and basis for the WEFTSL rate and the changes in research funding. The model should be reviewed to include some sort of short-term contingency funding to ensure that Faculties don’t suffer from the time lags in funding, especially where research in many CoRES is just getting going, as people come on board. This could be in the form of an advance on research funding, up to a reasonable projected income level (so that it can be made up later).
The CoRE strategy has brought many fantastic people into Macquarie – researchers whose work is of great value to their disciplines, the wider community and the university. But the central funding period is simply too short (if it exists at all – some positions have had no additional funding but people have been appointed anyway) to enable Departments to absorb the cost of the appointments. This needs to be stretched out over a longer time period, with perhaps a sliding scale of cost-sharing over 2-5 years. That would provide a much more sustainable financial basis for the appointments while enabling responsible workforce planning at the Department level.
Lastly, commit to the principle of no retrenchments (forced job losses) as a result of Faculty budget changes. This would take most of the heat out of the current situation and allow people to make sense of what is happening without the anxiety involved in having to rush through measures to accommodate budget cuts that are beyond their control and the rationale for which is not well understood across the University community.
Faculty of Science staff have lots of constructive ideas about a way forward, and are ready to talk. There are many opportunities in this situation but also great risks if it is allowed to continue to cause unrest and anxiety. It’s time to work together on a solution.