Education Focused Roles
As the fog and uncertainty around what ‘education-focused roles’ are and what they are designed to achieve begins to fade, it has become clear that for most staff these new roles will be nothing more than dressed-up teaching intensive positions.
While initially welcoming attempts by Profs Adam Shoemaker (DVC-E) and Marnie Hughes-Warrington (PVC-L&T) to provide recognition and support for high quality educators amongst Monash staff, the release of recent documents and guidelines relating to education-focused positions highlights that the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions.
NTEU views with concern the current guidelines for education-focused roles released by the Vice Chancellor, and as such has no option at this time but to caution members against moving into such positions.
What is the NTEU position?
NTEU believes that there is a clear legitimate role within the University for staff whose primary focus is on the delivery of high quality education, who wish to pursue and initiate innovative teaching practices, and who seek to undertake research and scholarship in learning and teaching.
In theory, therefore, the union is not opposed to the establishment of a cohort of staff who are identified as ‘Education-Focused’, and we welcome the support for such staff through the Office of the PVC-L&T.
However, NTEU is firmly opposed to such a label simply being used as a cover for staff members being enticed or pushed into positions which are comprised solely of excessive ‘normal’ teaching duties and have no requirement or support for substantial research, educational leadership or developmental activities, and offer no real advancement or promotional opportunities.
Members should be aware that under the current Enterprise Agreement there are only two categories of Academic Staff: Research-Only and Teaching and Research. There are no categories such as Teaching-Intensive, Teaching-Only or indeed Education-Focused. Clause 60.6 of the EBA states:
The starting point for discussions about the allocation of work for teaching and research academic staff is: Teaching 40%; Research and Scholarship 40%; Other activities 20%. These percentages may be varied in an individual staff member's engagement profile.
As such, staff members wishing to consider a transition into an education-focused role should negotiate the weighting assigned to their various work duties through the Performance Management process and should do so to maximise their potential for job satisfaction, impact and advancement. It cannot, and should not, be mandated from senior management.
There is a need to maintain the integrity of what a Go8 University is and does. NTEU supports the right of all University academic staff to be engaged in the core distinguishing activities of teaching and research, and that research activities continue to represent a reasonable proportion of an individual academic’s workload. The minimum research component required of a Teaching and Research Academic staff member to achieve promotion at Monash is currently 20%.
A staff member in an education-focused position should have the right to expect that they be given the workload, time and support to maintain a minimum 20% research fraction, however research is defined, and that they be supported in this by the Office of the PVC-L&T and by their academic supervisor.
Unfortunately, it looks like this will not be the case. Education-focused staff in Levels A-C will only be allocated “up to 5%” for research (15% for Level C staff seeking promotion), meaning the fear that such staff will become simply the teaching workhorses of Schools and Departments is real and apparent. Staff engaged in research activities consuming 30-40% of their time already know it is this area of work which is most squeezed and compromised. A time allocation of ≤5% (2 h in a 40 h working week) is both meaningless and disingenuous.
Crucially, criteria for promotion through Levels A-E need to be clear and transparent, and a staff member in an education-focused role should be allowed to develop a balanced work portfolio that allows them every opportunity to obtain promotion. Guidelines and criteria for promotion are still yet to be released.
To reiterate: NTEU is concerned that University management, Deans and Heads are looking at education-focused roles, particularly those in Levels A-C, as teaching-only positions in which staff are treated as teaching workhorses rather than embedded education leaders. There is no place in a top University for tenured teaching-only staff.
In consideration of the current guidelines and circumstances, we strongly caution members against considering a move into an education-focused role until certain assurances are provided:
Staff are appointed or remain as Teaching and Research Academic Staff.
Staff considering an education-role will be free to negotiate the fraction of their work duties which constitute research and scholarship, beginning from the standard 40:40:20 distribution ratios, and School or Departmental Workload models.
That time and support will be given to staff to allow research and scholarship activities in teaching and learning, and in their discipline if desired.
That staff are provided with clear and achievable promotion criteria, and that staff are supported through Performance Development in attaining promotion.
If any staff member wishes to consider taking up an education-focused position we would urge you to seek advice and support from NTEU. You can contact the Branch by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 9905 4110.
Room GO2A Bdg 19 Clayton Campus
Phone: 03 9905 4110
Fax: 03 9905 5746
Branch Industrial Organiser
Division Industrial Organiser