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A New Academic Career Structure - UWA Academic Staff Association

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					                            UWA Academic Staff Association

“A new academic career structure for the University of Western Australia: Issues & options”
                            Draft document (10 August 2007)
                                       Available at:
           http://www.hr.uwa.edu.au/hr/publications/discussiondocs

             Comment by Professor Stuart Bunt, UWAASA Vice-President

Preamble
The following comments comprise a set of initial, informal observations from Stuard Bunt
about the proposals in the draft document “A new academic structure…” released to staff
on 14 August by Professor Margaret Seares, Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor. The comments
are designed principally to encourage members to review the actual document and identify
issues that are perhaps less obvious on immediate perusal. The comments are designated
“informal” to reflect that they do not represent the official view of the Association after we
have had time to consider and digest the proposals in detail.

Comments
We value the chance for consultation and comment on what is far reaching and complex
document. UWA has a history of good consultative relationships between the union, staff
association and the university.

Any changes to staff pay, working conditions and naming come under the enterprise
bargaining system. The present UWA enterprise bargaining agreement runs out in 2008 and
these proposed changes would be assumed to be up for negotiation in 2008.

While the document purports to discuss the changes to titles it goes much further to
propose numerous changes to salary scales, working practices and conditions; effectively
changing an academic's role and duty statement.

The university has staff from many international backgrounds so opinion on the naming of
levels will be similarly diverse. However, for those used to the present scheme (which is
recognized in Europe and many commonwealth countries as well as the UK) the proposed
two year transition period may be all too short.

One of the major impetuses for these changes is the erosion over more than a decade of
academic pay scales and the ageing of the work force due to the continuing cuts to the sector
(university funding has not been index linked for many years). It should however be
pointed out that under the existing scheme, the ability to pay above level bonuses and
incentives has always been available to universities to attract good staff from industry. The
difficulty with a fixed budget is that to be able to do this other staff must be paid less.

The introduction of overlapping scales is new to this university, breaking the nexus between
promotion and an increase in salary. It should be noted that the present promotion process
is most rigorous, far more so than is the norm in industry. There is some confusion in the
document as it states that the present promotion process will not change while elsewhere it
suggests the work of the promotions and tenure committee will be reduced.
We are encouraged to see the extra support for staff on short term contracts with a proposal
to pay superannuation on 12 mths rather than two year contracts. However the indication
that researchers shou ld not expect to work for more than two contracts may mean many
highly skilled an experienced scientific technicians, who cannot necessarily aspire to an
ongoing academic appointment, having to leave the university after their second grant.

Of particular concern, in spite of statements to the contrary, is the continuing breakdown of
the research and teaching nexus. It is proposed that a research intensive staff member may
do as little as 10% teaching - this could be a few PhD students. Effectively removing the
staff member from conventional undergraduate teaching. While it is superficially attractive
to suggest staff members may "dip in and out" of teaching during their career, in reality it is
often a one way street as the teaching academic cannot produce as much research output and
will become less competitive for research funds and on a vicious circle that allows no
escape. Meanwhile students are taught by people out of touch with cutting edge research.

The recognition of service (unfortunately an increasing component of the overregulated
university sector) is to be applauded. This may be particularly advantageous to female staff
who often bear a disproportionate administrative load , as they are often asked to over
participate- for example to mantain gender balance on various committees.

There is mention of removing the term tenure. It is forgotten that the purpose of tenure is
not "jobs for life" which has not been the case since the HECE award, but rather to protect
freedom of speech - to be able to criticise even the university if needs be.

Regards

Stuart

Vice president UWAASA (and VP, NTEU UWA branch)

Professorial Fellow Stuart Bunt
School of Anatomy and Human Biology M309
University of Western Australia CRICOS Provider No. 00126G
35 Stirling Highway
Crawley 6009
08 6488 2983 (W) 08 9245 1908 (H) 041 206 9598 (M) Homepage:
http://www.iaaf.uwa.edu.au/smbunt/

				
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