Shortlist #3

Arc Board stalls on affirmative action

The Arc Board’s attempt to implement affirmative action policies for the election of new Board Directors appears to have stalled.

In the last issue of Tharunka, it was reported that there was strong support on the Board for affirmative action, and different models for ensuring women were elected were being considered. Nominations for Arc Board elections opened last week, and advertisements being promoted through Arc channels confirm the only affirmative action applying to this year’s election relates to ensuring a student from the College of Fine Arts is elected.

Despite significant support for affirmative action, both on the Board and amongst women students, as reported by Tharunka, it appears the earliest such a policy will be implemented will be for elections in 2014. There is a chance that the Board decides against implementing any form of affirmative action at all, and pushes instead for “cultural change”, something women activists on campus fear is code for an approach that doesn’t tackle systemic and institutional barriers to women’s participation.

Currently, only three of the fourteen Board Directors are women.

Sydney University staff vote for two-day strike

Staff at the University of Sydney have overwhelmingly voted in favour of a two-day strike in Week Four of Semester One. This follows a 24 hour strike held in Week One, where hundreds of students and staff members formed picket lines around university entrances and tried to convince students to not attend class that day. The university’s operations were significantly disrupted with all first year Mathematics and Science classes cancelled, and campus activity more reminiscent of the summer break than the first week back.

Staff, through their union, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), have been locked in an industrial dispute with university management for months. The strikes are in response to attacks on academics wages and conditions and delays in negotiations, according to the NTEU. The President of the Sydney University Branch of the NTEU, Michael Thompson, said, “management is continuing to delay, defer and not engage as they should in the bargain process.”

The offer put to the NTEU by university management reduces the number of sick leave days, strips out intellectual freedom protects for staff, abolishes the right of staff to criticise university governance without fear of harassment, and significantly weakens the role of the union in negotiating on behalf of members.

The University of Sydney has yet to comment on the proposed two-day strike.

New super-School in Faculty of Engineering

The School of Surveying and Geospatial Engineering (SAGE) has been absorbed by the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CVEN) to form the largest School in the Faculty of Engineering. The new addition contains approximately 2000 students and over 150 staff.

It is expected that SAGE undergraduate and postgraduate programs, and research activities, will continue as before and most SAGE academic, research and technical support staff will now work under CVEN. It is unclear if the merger will result in a “rationalisation” or reduction in the number of courses and majors on offer or whether staff cuts are on the agenda.

The merger is part of a growing trend at the University of New South Wales and follows School closures and mergers in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Faculty of Science. These restructurings have often met opposition from students as they have been used to justify a reduction in course and degree offerings and cut staff.


UNSW makes Top 100 list

The University of New South Wales has broken into Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings Top 100 List for the first time.

UNSW ranked in the 81-90 band, joining five other Australian universities. The University of Sydney was ranked 49, Monash was ranked in the 91-100 band and the University of Melbourne was Australia’s top ranked university with a ranking of 39.

Other Australian universities ranked are the Australian National University (42nd) and the University of Queensland (in the 71-80 band).

The rankings were based on the “reputation” of universities, as measured by a survey of 17,000 academics.

UNSW Vice-Chancellor Fred Hilmer said the university was proud of its achievements. ”You can see that with the increasing quality of the students that are applying here, you can see that with significant increases in research funding we’ve won in competitive research arenas and you can see that in terms of a rejuvenation of the physical campus,” he said.

The editor of Times Higher Education, Phil Baty, said the survey was ”remarkably simplistic”.

The more objective and data-based Times Higher Education World University Rankings also placed UNSW in the Top 100 for 2012. However, the Times Higher Education rankings have been criticised for focussing too much on research output and not enough on teaching quality, making them redundant for students looking at which university to study at.