Response to NTEU on budget questions
Last week we notified members in the NTEU LTU E-bulletin 7 September 2011 that the Branch had received (on that day) a response from the CFO about our concerns relating to the budget model. We have now had a chance to consider that response and we would also appreciate feedback from members on the document and suggestions for how other aspects of the budget model can be improved. A copy of the memo can be accessed here and feedback can be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org .
We realise that it is not possible to alter budget parameters overnight but welcome areas where management has engaged seriously with our concerns in a way that will influence future budget practices.
We highlight the following positive outcomes:
- "...the budget for 2012 will have a built in contingency in which to assist in smoothing the effect of a downturn in revenue.” (p.1)
- a recognition that there is “...a need for greater expertise within the University to set targets and undertake market research...” (p.3)
- recognition that central charges need to take into account fluctuations in student load: "La Trobe is more than happy to incorporate the feedback provided by the NTEU and will extend the central cost allocation process undertaken in a given year to incorporate an update based on actual FTE and EFTSL." (p.3)
- in addition to more education about how to budget for the use of outside earnings, “... faculties will be asked to budget for an allowance to allow flexibility of spend from accounts such as outside earnings.” (p.6)
- in relation to research grant income consideration is being given for 2013 to “...the establishment of a research provision / carry forward pool for future years that can be managed at the University level.” (p.7)
However, we have the following major concerns:
- The memo states that the Workload Management System (WMS) is intended to be “...a key driver in ensuring that the budget in future years is developed with with appropriate deployment of resources, specifically to where they are required based on the strategic initiatives and operational planning activity outputs as identified in Vision 2015 and the University Operational Plan.” (p.2)
The WMS is supposed to facilitate the transparent, equitable and manageable allocation of workloads and the manner in which it is being explicitly linked in a number of documents to budget imperatives is concerning. NTEU is meeting at the end of the week with the Chair of the WMS Steering Committee to try and resolve our concern that the system is being used to intensify teaching workloads at the expense of other activities (see article here). If you have other concerns about its implementation please let us know so that we can forward them to Professor Handley in advance of the meeting. E-mail: email@example.com .
- The heavy reliance upon ERA discipline rankings in the allocation of research support. The university should support high quality research but it should not be tied to a government policy that is highly likely to change in the next few years, which has many identified flaws, and is being misused by university managements across the country. We draw members’ attention to the NTEU’s national ERA Watch campaign website www.erawatch.org.au and encourage you to lend your weight to the campaign.
- We have strongly objected to the blunt instrument approach of fining Faculties between $20,000 - $30,000 for low enrolment subjects. We have been told verbally by the Senior DVC that the fines would be paid into the VC’s “Strategic Fund”. The memo states: “The introduction of an administration change (sic. - should this be charge?) is a temporary measure to be undertaken over a period of 2 years to ensure that teaching curriculums are developed in a sustainable manner.” (p.4) Staff and their Union have not been consulted about this proposal and we believe that it would create all kinds of unforeseen problems with the restructuring of programs based upon budget rather than pedagogical imperatives. What do you think about this issue? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Overall we are pleased with the collegial nature of the discussion with the CFO and we hope that with further consultation we will be able to moderate or overturn some of the proposals which we do not believe are in the best interests of the University community.
NTEU La Trobe