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Maths and Stats at Murdoch

  • 10 Feb 2021 4:23 PM
    Reply # 10075291 on 10075238
    Chris Lloyd wrote:

    As John says, the HR management sounds abysmal. Since so few academics are in the union these days, let's put that to one side.

    I am unclear whether the changes are Tehan driven. I thought STEM was viewed favourably under that system. Are the redundancies more Covid related? Math and Stats are highly vulnerable to the Chinese market which may never come back in the previous numbers.

    Perhaps any members from Murdoch could bring us up to date on who have lost their jobs, the final shape of the "restructure" and what they see at the root causes of the changed.  


    The major is gone - no students can enrol in it. Chemistry, Physics and most engineering undergrad degrees have suffered the same fate. Staffing-wise, there were 11.8FTE at Murdoch in maths & stats last year, currently there are 5FTE with further reductions likely (due to people "voluntarily" leaving). Academics were told the major was being cancelled BEFORE Covid hit in Jan 2020, and there aren't large numbers of international undergrads at Murdoch (unlike some east-coast universities). There was no logic or solid reasoning given for the cancellation/discontinuation - it was "not viable" as a major as less than 25 students graduate per year, but all units in the major are viable...

  • 10 Feb 2021 3:59 PM
    Reply # 10075238 on 9398063

    As John says, the HR management sounds abysmal. Since so few academics are in the union these days, let's put that to one side.

    I am unclear whether the changes are Tehan driven. I thought STEM was viewed favourably under that system. Are the redundancies more Covid related? Math and Stats are highly vulnerable to the Chinese market which may never come back in the previous numbers.

    Perhaps any members from Murdoch could bring us up to date on who have lost their jobs, the final shape of the "restructure" and what they see at the root causes of the changed.  

  • 2 Dec 2020 12:18 PM
    Reply # 9398386 on 9398063

    There are two aspects of this - the HR side that, while it sounds terrible, I would rather not comment on and the teaching of the disciplines of mathematics and statistics at a place that says it is a university.

    Murdoch has never had a large statistics group but it has always, from my observation, been a high quality group.  I have employed a number of graduates from Murdoch and they have been uniformly good.  Indeed, when some of the other statistics groups in Western Australia had troubles, Murdoch filled a critical role.

    A large proportion of university research involves some level of statistics and having research statisticians - not just teachers - is critical to support this.  At a time when many universities are recognising this by supporting consulting groups, it seems that Murdoch is going backwards and in the long term lowering its standards across the whole institution. 

    We should support our statistical colleagues at Murdoch, for their sake, for our profession and for Murdoch itself.

  • 2 Dec 2020 8:31 AM
    Message # 9398063

    Some shocking news to share about goings-on at Murdoch university (received from Graeme Hocking, via a colleague.)

    Surely this behaviour can't be legal? It is certainly immoral. Message follows:

    Dear Learned friends and colleagues,


    I apologise for this email, and for sending it en masse. However, I think that it would be of some use for me to explain what has happened today at Murdoch University. It is a national outrage and should be unreservedly condemned.  I will be in contact with all of you individually of course.


    On Friday, staff in Maths and Stats, Physics and Chemistry were sent emails requesting (demanding) meetings (this is the clean version – in fact this was a very messy process with meeting invitations being sent, retracted, modified and resent) for today, Monday. Each was told they had a meeting on their “future” and they should bring a support person. Meetings were attended by someone from HR and at the meeting we each received a letter putting the following information in writing.


    Meetings were held with multiple “senior” staff, and in each, people were told whether their Voluntary redundancies had been approved (none in Maths were). They were also told that their position as a “teaching and research” academic would be made redundant, but that they would be offered a “teaching only” equivalent position. This means you would be required to fill 80% of your workload with teaching. They were then told that if they didn’t take that new position, they would be deemed to have resigned. You could continue to do research, but NOT for “credit” – except as “service”.  This is a thinly veiled attempt to force staff out without having to pay for the redundancy.


    It gets worse. In the Provost’s (et al) "town hall" this afternoon, it was explained that these disciplines would be called “foundational” and all majors would be hitherto cancelled. Engineering, whose staff had NO meetings, were told that NO undergraduate students would be taken in for S1 next year. Students who had already enrolled would be told to take another course or go elsewhere.  It is not clear what will be done to Engineering staff.  No students have been admitted to any of the technical STEM disciplines for 2021 - even though a number applied.


    It is the end of STEM at Murdoch. They are saying “we will put STEM EVERYWHERE”, just no major. We have 10 days to comment on the proposal.  Past evidence suggests this will be ignored.  I don’t need to say anything about how outrageous this is, or how distressed staff are, or even how mad it is.  They claim they are fulfilling the "intent" of the Tehan "Job Ready Graduates" package by doing this.


    In the recent ERA research assessment, Chemistry received a 4 and a 5, Physics a 4, Applied Maths a 4.  Statisticians contributed to a 5 in Biomedical science.  Now research in those disciplines will no longer be supported by the University (for non-Australians, this is out of a possible 5 and termed "above world average research quality"). 


    Two years ago I predicted that this administration had a goal to make Murdoch a teaching college. This is now coming to pass.

    I'm not going to say any more now.  None of us have any idea how we can proceed. However, knowledge can be powerful, so perhaps the more people that know .....


    Professor Graeme Hocking
    Mathematics and Statistics
    Murdoch University

    Last modified: 2 Dec 2020 8:31 AM | Bob Durrant
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