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University management a relevant issue

HARD-EARNED taxpayers? dollars are being eyed-off so hundreds of millions more can be earmarked for universities.

Opposition leader Kim Beazley recently released his complicated Knowledge Nation policy document.

This enormously expensive blue-print was, among other things, compiled to lift his electoral profile.

It was hoped it would capture imaginations, like former Labor leader Bob Hawke?s often-repeated nifty phrase, ?clever country?.

Earlier this month former Australian billionaire, New York-based media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, delivered a speech in Melbourne in which he claimed ?global irrelevance? awaited Australia if it didn?t spend vastly more on education and research.

And last week, Australian Democrats leader Natasha Stott-Despoja placed her party onto the bigger education-spending path.

Senator Stott-Despoja committed to ?an immediate injection of $500 million? to universities.

Why not $300 million or $950 million? Surely she didn?t just pluck $500 million out of the blue?

This Labor-billionaire-Democrat line-up suggests taxpayers should prepare for tax bites whichever party wins next month?s contest.

If it?s the Liberals, Senator Stott-Despoja will block tax cuts until more money is earmarked for universities. If Labor, money automatically flows.

Never far away when cash jingles is the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee (AVCC).

Its current head, University of WA vice-chancellor Professor Deryck Schreuder, said universities needed a billion-dollar boost just to make up ?lost ground?.

Education, unfortunately, is still treated like a sacred cow, so is rarely assessed critically to determine if Australians are getting their money?s worth. And if not, why not.

Are universities effectively managed? Are they over-bureaucratised? A gloves-off inquiry may well show extra billions are needed.

Perhaps campuses don?t need management trimming. Perhaps they don?t need greater academic self-determination and less bureaucracy.

But maybe we could get more if universities more wisely allocated funds. After listening to several academics, however, the signs are not good, primarily because vice-chancellors and their pro-managerial advisers have relentlessly pursued allocating more taxpayers? dollars into extending campus bureaucra-cies.

This problem was well enunciated recently by Adelaide University acting vice-chancellor Professor Cliff Blake.

?The University of Adelaide has, over the years, moved from a highly consultative academic decision-making process to more of a system of executive management, where a lot of power in decision-making has been concentrated in the vice-chancellor,? he said.

?I don?t think the academic staff feel the ownership of decisions they ought in a university.?

Moreover, Professor Blake appears to have embarked on a major effort to prune costly and demoralising bureaucracy. He?s the first vice-chancellor I know of to comment publicly on this costly, often academically demoralising issue.

Two WA universities are currently outlaying big sums on what?s called restructuring, meaning broadening bureaucracy by creating another managerial level over academics, thereby boosting administrator numbers.

Not surprisingly, administrators (now called managers) are pleased ? positions are multiplying and remunerative promotional prospects on-stream.

Meanwhile, once-consulted academics ? the crucial core of any university ? are dismayed, demoralised and further downgraded on the totem pole.

Both campuses are currently displacing academic departments with so-called ?teaching groups? as part of this managerial boosting exercise.

A typical Australian university today has a vice-chancellor, at least one deputy vice-chancellor, several pro vice-chancellors, many deans and many heads of schools.

Now, an extra new-style management layer is emerging. Talk about chiefs challenging the Indians.

Add to the increasingly burden-some managerialism, as time passes, cohorts of personal assistants, media spin doctors, secretaries, development and project officers and the like and you?re in the new-age hyper-managed university, with its un-ending demand for more taxpayers? dollars.

Precisely what all these managers manage baffles many.

Little wonder Professor Blake referred to academics being increasingly locked-out of decision-making, thereby losing the ?feel of ownership of decisions?.

Little wonder astute young careerist tyros are discarding ideas of being researchers, scientists, scholars, and teachers, opting instead for more secure, well-paid, and powerful, new-style managerial careers.

Little wonder so many academics, in staff lunchrooms and at conferences, are always discussing sackings, redundancies, size of payouts and the blossoming new managerial class.

Can a knowledgeable nation emerge from this? Academics are increasingly beholden to managers, whereas once they were central to campus governance, as Professor Blake has highlighted.

Messrs Beazley and Murdoch and Senator Stott-Despoja should focus on this pivotal issue instead of committing to increased funding.

What?s needed is a no-holds-barred parliamentary inquiry into precisely how universities spend money already allocated.



Agencies bank on finance flow

p Catie Low

LOCAL advertising agencies are facing another major client pitch with the announcement that BankWest is keen to talk to the industry ahead of a big push into new markets.

BankWest has doubled its annual marketing budget, pushing it up towards $10 million to support its bid for a share of the small to medium sized business market on the east coast of Australia.

Banks all over Australia are facing increased competition from building societies and credit unions

Peak industry body the Credit Union Services Corporation is looking around for an agency in the eastern states to handle a multi-million dollar account for a unified e-commerce platform.

A unified e-commerce approach for credit unions across Australia will give them the capability to launch a serious attack on the banks.

BankWest is the only bank serviced by a local advertising agency.

BankWest director of communications Don McLean said expressions of interest had been sent out to a large number of agencies, outlining the strategic push to secure a foothold in the SME market outside of WA.

?We?ve proved we?ve got a fairly strong foothold in WA, but we see opportunities on the east coast or outside of WA,? he said.

Incumbent agency 303 has looked after BankWest for the past eight years and, while BankWest is very happy with 303?s performance, the budget increase has prompted the bank to have a look around.

?Basically we?ve been with 303 for eight years. It?s just (that) with an increase in our spend it seemed like an ideal time to look and see what?s available in the marketplace. It will be quite an intense

tender,? Mr McLean said.

?We haven?t approached any agencies with expressions of interest point of view outside of WA, but that?s not to say if someone came to us and said ?we could do this and we

would like to do this? that

we wouldn?t talk to them.

?I think the issue for BankWest is how BankWest portrays itself.

?I think credit unions and building societies have their place but there?s much more to making the banking decision.

?Certainly Statewest and Police and Nurses have taken a line and have a customer base, but they?re still small players.?

BankWest remains caught up in the groundswell of negative publicity banks attract.

It was a case of being tarred with the same brush, Mr McLean said.

?Banks generally have a pretty poor image ? we are different but it?s how we demonstrate that to the community, and that?s not just advertising it?s actual delivery,? he said.

?SME is a good example of our view because we can provide a different offer because we are an unknown quantity.?

The Credit Union Services Corporation public relations and media manager Peter Hansen said the corporation was looking at an e-commerce strategy for CUSCAL but it was early days.

?CUSCAL undertakes regular research and the most recent research in July showed eight out of 10 people are members of a credit union and they?re extremely loyal,? Mr Hansen said.

?Credit unions recognise the need to do more marketing and advertising out in the general community.

?Some credit unions have quite strong brands, but the range is quite large.

?Credit unions differ form banks because they?re member based and have a significant belief in social obligation.?

Increased marketing activity by the credit unions has resulted in accounts such as the Police and Nurses Credit Union becoming hot property for the local advertising industry.

?We?ve now got a slightly higher profile ? to create a greater awareness of the credit union as an alternative to the banks and get people into our branches,? Statewest senior manager retail Tony Romano said.

Statewest has an impressive six-figure marketing budget and works hard to get its brand out into the community.

?Our market share is still small comparably but we are all enjoying good growth,? he said.

?We?ve been with J&G Marketing for about six years now. They tend to be strong in direct marketing and direct relationships.

?We do a lot of direct work back into our internal data base. In the main it?s home loans ? and the fact that we?re small allows us to work with our members.

?We get customer satisfaction and we find when we recruit people from the outside we very seldom lose people.

?One advantage we?ve got is public perception. We?ve got very positive public perception so we don?t have to break through those negative barriers.?



Oil giant?s spill costs $8,000

p Gary Kleyn

APACHE Northwest Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of US oil and gas giant Apache Corporation, has been fined $8,000 after pleading guilty in the Perth Court of Petty Sessions to charges of failing to prevent a major oil spill off WA?s north-west coast.

On the same day, Normandy Yandal Operations Ltd pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to provide a duty of care to employees and was fined $60,000.

The charges against Apache were launched by the Department of Mineral and Petroleum Resources after approximately 23,000 litres of light crude oil was released off Varanus Island, 110 kilometres west of Dampier, in July 1999, forming a slick 500 metres long and 10 metres wide.

The spill occurred after a chain attached to a transfer hose caught and sheared off a valve on a subsea loading line when a tanker attempted to hook up to transfer crude oil.

Department of Petroleum division director Bill Tinapple said while the oil spill had a limited environmental impact, Apache failed to ensure adequate management systems were in place to prevent an incident like this occurring.

?Companies should assess the risks of their operations and make sure they have appropriate controls in place,? Mr Tinapple said.

Department of Minerals and Energy safety and environment general manager Richard Carddock said WA had an average of just 10 spills a year off the coast, most of which were only a few litres. Last year the total volume of spills was 660 litres.

Mr Carddock said Apache originally intended to defend the case in the courts but decided to plead guilty. Apache achieved revenue of more than $220 million through its Australian operations last year.

Business News attempted to discuss the matter with Apache, but no representatives were available for comment.



Crude oil drives strong petroleum sales

STRONG petroleum prices and a depreciating Austra-lian dollar brought about a 40 per cent increase in sales revenue despite a modest fall in the quantity sold last year.

Petroleum sales increased $2.9 billion for the year to $10.6 billion (see table right), with the largest contribution coming from crude oil sales, the value of which increased more than 50 per cent, according to the Department of Minerals and Energy 2000-01 Statistics Digest released this week.

Liquefied Natural Gas revenue jumped 39 per cent despite a 5 per cent fall in volumes sold.

The quantity of conden-sate sales also fell by 8 per cent, while achieving a 25 per cent increase in the value of sales to almost $2 billion

Woodside Petroleum?s capture of a large LNG contract with China as it continued to look for more trading opportunities in Asia was a notable highlight in the sector during the year.

The company also expand-ed its North West Shelf drilling projects, while Apache

had exploration success at its Harriet field.

During 2000-01, crude oil prices fluctuated signifi-cantly averaging prices of just under $US31 per barrel at the beginning of the financial year.

The price then surged to a 10-year high of $US34 in September 2000 before falling back to $US28 a barrel in June 2001.

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