ACT News


ANU staff celebrate backflip on PhD edict

The Australian National University has backed down on making PhDs a mandatory requirement for academics at the School of Music, and has allowed staff to stay on at the institution after a difficult fortnight.

Academic positions are being reduced from 24 to 13 and administrative positions are being reduced from 10 to 8 as part of a major structural overhaul to make courses more vocational and less performance-based in a bid to save $1.5 million a year in costs.

Up to 10 internationally acclaimed musicians have already signed voluntary redundancies.

But those who intended to apply for positions under the new school structure expressed outrage last fortnight when the position descriptions required PhDs. This automatically excluded the majority of remaining staff who are specialist music performance educators and have not completed doctorates.

The National Tertiary Education Union warned such job descriptions would be considered ''exclusionary criteria'' and the union was considering taking the case to Fair Work Australia.

Newly appointed School of Music Director Peter Tregear said at the time that there would be ''room to move'' on the issue, and after intense negotiation over the past fortnight, it is expected the new position descriptions removing the PhD mandate will be approved by the end of the week.


The new wording will express a desire for applicants for the remaining academic positions at the school to possess ''a PhD in music, or a strong commitment to completing a PhD in a relevant area, or equivalent experience as evidenced by a demonstrated track record in undertaking research.''

The union's ACT division secretary Stephen Darwin said the outcome would come as a relief to those staff who were committed to staying on at the institution.

The new wording would significantly increase the likelihood of current School of Music academic staff being directly transferred into new academic roles - ''minimising the potential disruption that loomed with exclusionary criteria''.

But the union had ongoing concerns about the proposed general staff position descriptions which required higher level administrative requirements.

Staff have been told lower level duties would be ''automated'' in the future but Mr Darwin said it was not clear how administrative workloads would be managed.

Mr Darwin said a formal occupational health and safety risk assessment of the School of Music had been requested ''due to acute levels of workplace stress being experienced by staff as a result of the brutal experiences of the last four months''.

He said staff who were committed to staying on at the school were keen to be transferred to new positions as quickly as possible.

''They need to be allowed to effectively prepare for 2013 and offer continuity for existing students who have also been shaken by the upheaval of the last few months.''

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