CReaTe and the NTEU's initial response
After requests from university management for its view on ‘CReaTe’ reports, Deakin NTEU Branch officers have responded. Here is a condensed version of our email. The full email is available to members from branch officers:
The NTEU consults thoroughly, accurately and professionally with its members on matters which are important to them. For this reason the Deakin NTEU Branch Executive will not be able to provide a “Branch View” on these reports for some weeks or months. It is possible that any NTEU ‘view’ will only unfold during the course of enterprise bargaining as the sometimes vague enthusiasms in these documents change into concrete actualities and are translated into the more mundane terminology recognised by statutory industrial relations processes. Consequently what is written here should not be quoted or referred to in any way which presumes that it is the ‘NTEU’s view’. However it may be a useful exercise to characterise these CReaTe documents in order to get to grips with what these papers actually are and what they reveal about various aspects of Deakin University’s history, workings, policies and thinking.
“As the originators of these documents will be aware, the CReaTe reports imply changes to work patterns, careers and livelihoods. They have major implications for thousands of Deakin staff this year, over the next decade and beyond. This impact is most apparent in the reports of workstreams CD06 and CD08. The CD08 report in particular implies new workloads models when it discusses a Framework for Academic Resource Management (FARM). By contrast the reports from CD03, CD04, and CD05 principally comprise speculative and aspirational statements. Those three reports tend to resort to neologisms in order to restate the principles of good higher education and the potential of new technology which have been discussed in simpler language for a decade, and in some instances for decades. It is rather worrying that the authors of those reports seem to be gripped by some sort of self-congratulatory terminological euphoria as if they have just discovered for themselves matters which are neither new nor surprising to staff who have been at the web-interface (coalface) of university teaching and research for some years. Papers CD03, CD04, and CD05 are disturbing in a number of ways. Firstly they seem deaf to the continuing failure of university management to engage with the multiple difficulties of current Deakin operations including current workload, pedagogical, administrative and education delivery realities. Secondly there is no analysis of the persistent shortcomings of university management over the decades – and it is now decades – to properly assess, install and implement new technologies. Those of us who have been around for a while would have expected that by now there would be some degree of embarrassed self-consciousness over the repetition of the same breathless and bright-eyed wonder about coming technological miracles. The self-congratulatory excitement among headquarters staff who are far away from the real teaching action has long resulted in a jaded reluctance by the majority at the front to enlist in what are often seen as misguided adventures. In particular there is that often repeated sanguinity that students have a sophisticated understanding, dexterity and desire to use technology – a sanguinity which is simply not borne out by current experience of many if not most real academics and real students. Much of the discussion in these papers seems to be about taking a punt that students will be very different in these respects in the future than they are today.
By contrast with the futuristic papers, paper CD06 is a refreshing admission of Deakin’s history of mistakes and pathologies. These are mistakes and pathologies which make many Deakin employees’ lives extremely difficult and which discourage them from joining in the breathless excitement of the other reports. These are some of the buckets of cold water in CD06:
[From the preamble] Finally, there needs to be a reduction in the administrative duties required of academic staff and more provision for support roles. Addressing this issue requires, wherever possible, removing tasks that can be more efficiently and effectively completed by professional staff.
4. the strongly held perception (borne out by recent research from ACER, CSHE, ALTC) that academic workloads are not manageable, and that “bureaucracy” (interpreted as administrative work) takes up too much time
5. research that shows academia as a profession is not as attractive as other employment options
6. a strongly held perception that the scholarship of teaching is not ‘appropriately’ recognised at Deakin, compared to research
7. the need to more strongly embody our ‘casual’ staff within the life of the School and/or Faculty.
CD06 also refers to the appalling occupational stress findings in:
“Winfield, A. H., Gillespie, N., Stough, C., Dua, J., Hapuarachchi, J., and Boyd, C (2003). "Occupational Stress in Australian University Staff: Results From a National Survey.." International Journal of Stress Management.”
The above sections and CD06 in general confirm that past Enterprise Bargaining demands by the university have been short sighted and punitive. With a blatant disregard for how things should be organised on an individual staff member and at the operational unit level, the university has forced academic staff to increase output willy nilly. For staff determined to maintain professional standards this has resulted in incredible stresses. These stresses have been made worse by management ‘league table’ aspirations. They have resulted in some self-promoting academic managers targeting and victimising those who cannot run fast enough in all aspects of their employment in order to satisfy all the current fashions.
CD08 indicates a “Framework of Academic Resource Management” elements which would appear to be the basis of the proposed workloads model which will be encountered in the forthcoming Enterprise Bargaining Round. This will hopefully be where the union and management will try to address some of the above pathologies and concerns.
Again it should be stressed that the above is merely a commentary on the CReaTe papers recently sent to the Deakin NTEU branch. It is offered in a collegiate spirit in the hope of fostering clearer understandings which might assist as our membership consolidates its definitive views on this and other matters in the course of forthcoming discussions.”