ACT News


Upheaval blamed as ANU staff move to better-paying UC jobs

The Australian National University is experiencing something of a brain drain as esteemed academics cross Belconnen Way for the University of Canberra.

As ANU budget cuts, early retirements and industrial upheaval continue to play out over the campus - most noticeably in the School of Political Science and International Relations - the UC has become the new home to a number of former ANU names.

This includes most recently Professor John Dryzek, who is a world expert on deliberative democracy.

Professor Dryzek is relocating his team - including Dr Simon Niemeyer, Dr Nicole Curato and a research assistant - to the UC's Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis.

Other ANU academics to make the move to UC include biomedical scientist Dr Nicole Beard, population health expert Professor Colin Butler, ecologist Dr Janine Deakin, governance expert Professor David Marsh and nutrition expert Dr Fiona Lithander.

Former ANU School of Music curriculum director Dr Jonathan Powles is heading up the UC's Teaching and Learning Centre, working alongside a handful of former ANU academic development staff who made the swap.


Meanwhile, the ANU is searching for a new chief information officer after Peter Nikoletatos left in sudden circumstances ''by mutual agreement'' last week, according to an internal memo to staff from executive director of administration and planning Chris Grange.

It is believed Mr Nikoletatos has signed a confidentiality agreement with the university, and an ANU spokeswoman refused to comment further.

Professor Dryzek's move brings the ANU's School of Politics and International Relations academic losses to 10.

The ANU's spokeswoman said ''movement between institutions is a normal feature of the academic sector'' and that over the past 12 months, the university had appointed close to 250 new academic staff.

There was also growing student concern over ANU management's decision to end many of the courses taught by outgoing academics - including Religion and Politics in Australia, Contemporary Australian Political Issues and Australian Democracy. Some felt the School was moving from a qualitative Australian approach to a more American quantitative approach.

Alumnus and member of the ANU Education Action Group Jason Andrews said there had been no consultation with affected students about staff and course losses, nor the general change in direction within the school.

The winner of the LF Crisp Prize for International Relations in 2012, Mr Andrews, said it was a considerable loss that Professor Dryzek and his team were leaving the ANU for UC.

The ANU spokeswoman wished Professor Dryzek the best and recognised he had made an outstanding contribution to his field.

She said that as ANU was going through a period of academic renewal it would include changes to some course offerings. ''There has been no change to the core subjects offered in the School of Politics and International Relations, and students should be assured a new suite of non-core courses will be offered once new appointments are made.''

The National Tertiary Education Union ACT division secretary Stephen Darwin said the ANU was ''rapidly losing critical staff under the weight of its relentless and obsessive cost cutting''.

''It is clear that people are voting with their feet.'' Mr Darwin said the UC's stated aim of boosting its research ranks had been partly facilitated by the ANU creating a market of staff.

''A number of academics don't want to leave Canberra for a number of reasons, so if they are well supported and paid more, then good luck to them.'' The UC's pay scales are consistently higher than the ANU's.

A spokesman for the UC said: ''It is not uncommon for staff to flow between universities. The University of Canberra is an attractive place for top academics to work. We offer great opportunities and high salaries, so it is not surprising that we are attracting new staff from well-known institutions in Australia and overseas.''


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