Futurefocus: Grappling with HE’s toughest workforce questions

Remaking HE Zoom

Session 6

The Higher Education sector seeks to be a leader in progressive treatment of staff, but in a number of areas, statistics suggest otherwise.

Who do we allow to be the makers, custodians and teachers of knowledge?

Casual staff have long been the backbone of Australian higher education, but tens of thousands have lost their entire income and any semblance of job certainty during 2020, raising many questions.

  • If universities can’t make more staff permanent because of uncertainty over future enrolments, then why not improve enrolment forecasting?
  • The steady growth in direct applications is sidelining the TACs. Why not shift completely to direct enrolments to improve enrolment certainty?
  • If universities can’t find a solution to employing casuals, why doesn’t everybody become casual? Certainly, universities will want to offer contracts to their Hi Cite stars and their best admin, sales and recruitment people – but if it is acceptable to rebuild the system based on the flexibility of casuals, why should the most powerless group in the Australian HE system have to bear income uncertainty and workplace disenfranchisement on their own?

Young staff face many barriers as they seek promotion.

  • What does the future hold for our brightest young stars?
  • What signs are there of better employment prospects in future?
  • Should retirement be compulsory at 65, or do we need new approaches to support and include older staff?

Indigenous academic staff have comprised just under one per cent of the total academic workforce in Australian universities for a decade, despite a range of public declarations of action.

  • Is that ratio good enough for a university in 2021 and will reconciliation with Australia’s First Peoples take a back seat while institutions reconcile their budgets?

Add your questions to this fascinating discussion on the future of Australia’s higher education workforce.


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