Thursday, 30 April 2020

Dear UWA staff,

Protecting University Jobs

As you all know, Universities Australia has been in discussions with the National Tertiary Education Industry Union (NTEU) at the national level about how we can collectively protect jobs in the current COVID-19 crisis.

Universities Australia has estimated declines in revenue of about $4bn and job losses approaching 20,000 across our sector. We at UWA are not immune to these pressures and as I reported last week it is likely our core revenue streams are likely to decline by 24% when everything is taken into account.

I am hopeful that we are close to an agreement that would:

  • protect as many jobs as possible and provide for reasonable workloads;
  • permit us to take reasonable steps to reduce employee costs through temporary reductions in some of the following: time fractions, directing the taking of annual and long service leave, pay freezes and deferral of increments and loadings;
  • respect the primacy of the existing Enterprise Agreement through terms and conditions reverting back to those in the Enterprise Agreement at the end of a specified period (after six months for example);
  • fairly ask higher paid staff to bear more of the burden than lower paid staff; and,
  • provide for close consultation with the NTEU over the implementation of cost saving measures, recognising the partnership based nature of our relationship.

Any agreement would be put to a vote by staff and while the Commonwealth Government has recently reduced the period which employees have to consider such agreements to one day, we will provide staff with a reasonable opportunity to consider the agreement, ask questions about it and think about the implications for them and their colleagues before they vote on it. We will explain the pros and cons of the proposed agreement as well as the potential consequences of not having an agreement. I hope that we can explain the agreement and have it voted on by the end of next month.

Over the past few months we have begun to look at ways to protect current jobs. This includes stopping all consultants and contractors, reducing subscriptions, ceasing capital works and projects that are not core to our survival, increasing our borrowings and asking you to take leave. We have stopped advertising jobs externally and have developed the [email protected] scheme to temporarily reassign staff who are unable to perform all or part of their current job due to restrictions imposed because of COVID-19 into other roles. Not only is this a good way of avoiding the need to stand down affected staff, it is a great way of developing additional skills and experience. We have successfully trialled [email protected] in the Dental School and will roll it out more broadly next week.

I will keep you fully informed as the discussions with the NTEU progress. What I know you will know is that only by working together we can successfully plan our way from here to a more certain and secure future.

In other news………

Gradual Opening of our Campus

The State has made remarkable progress in flattening the curve with few infections over the past week or so. There is still a way to go to be completely safe and so while the campus remains open for working and learning activities that cannot be done remotely, we will continue to deliver tuition in online mode for the remainder of Semester. And, as previously advised most Semester 1 Assessments will be in online format where possible.

Our plans will continue to align with government advice and we will communicate with you as and when these changes occur. Please continue to visit our staff intranet for the latest information.

Extended Library opening hours

These UWA libraries currently remain open to UWA staff and students:

  • Reid Library: Monday-Friday 8am–12am, Saturday/Sunday 12pm–8pm
  • Beasley Law, J. Robin Warren Libraries: Monday–Friday 9am–5pm

From Monday 4 May, all UWA main campus libraries will be open as follows:

  • Reid Library: Monday–Friday 8am–12am, Saturday/Sunday 12pm–8pm*
  • Barry J Marshall Library: Monday–Friday 9am–10pm, Saturday/Sunday 9am–5pm
  • Beasley Law, J. Robin Warren and EDFAA libraries: Monday–Friday 9am–5pm

*As usual, from Monday 11 May the Reid Library will be open 24/7 to support the end of semester/examination period.

Everyone, staff and students, must continue to observe the physical distancing requirements on campus – in the library, in labs and in any group work. Groups of up to 10 are now allowable, but must maintain 1.5m between each person at all times

Where possible, we still encourage students to utilise technological platforms (Zoom, Microsoft Teams etc.) to minimise physical interaction with other members of the university community. For more information, visit the Library website .

Examplify: an Update

Concerns have been raised about the use of online exam platforms. We have therefore done more to ensure we protect the integrity of assessments, as well as student privacy and safety when using the tool.

Privacy and Software

The Examplify platform is a highly secure tool that uses high levels of encryption and data protection to maintain the integrity of assessment and user data. During an exam, Examplify will apply additional controls in line with those specified by UWA for the exam. This may include use of the webcam and microphone. These additional controls remain in effect only for the duration of the exam.

Unlike other systems, Exampilfy (ExamID) authenticates the exam taker using personal data collected specifically for the purpose rather than official personal ID such as a drivers licence or passport.

In signing the agreement with ExamSoft, the University ensured ongoing alignment with Australian privacy legislations and protections around any data stored, preventing the re-selling or provision to other parties outside of the delivery of the exam. Where this is provided, such as for proctoring, only de-identified exam data is provided.

Once the student has completed their exam(s) they can uninstall the Examplify software and all assets of the app and security tools used during the exam will be removed from their device.

We are confident that Examplify is a responsible platform to use in order to ensure integrity of assessment and with respect to student privacy. The FAQs are regularly updated to help students stay informed and students are aware they can still opt-out and sit the exam at a later date when face-to-face options are available if they remain concerned.

Technology requirements

Exams will be delivered in one of three ways – through Online Blackboard (LMS), Online Examplify (ExamSoft) or Alternative Assessment. Students will need a laptop or desktop with a camera, microphone and speakers connected. Technical requirements are available here . For all exams students will need internet access to download and upload the paper. LMS exams may require a live internet connection, however Examplify can operate offline during the exam itself. If Government advice changes we may be able to safely make computers on campuses available to sit exams.

Next Steps

Staff are working to finalise arrangements for assessment during the Semester 1 exam round (commencing Saturday 6 June). On Monday 4 May the exam timetable will be released which will contain information on the date and time of scheduled exams. The timetable will also publish the mode of exams including whether it is an alternate form of assessment, LMS-based exam or using Examplify.

The Exams Office will email all students on 4 May announcing the publishing of the timetable and will also provide updated information on exam conditions for online exams and how to opt out if students remain concerned about sitting an exam on Examplify.

Contribution to Post COVID-19 recovery​

The Go8 Roadmap to Recovery Report is a magnificent document and I hope you all read it. Our UWA experts who were part of the taskforce and contributed their knowledge to this most important work include: Dr Chris Blyth, Katrina Boterhoven de Haan, Professor Donna Cross, Associate Professor Tim Inglis, Professor Romola Bucks, Associate Professor Ullrich Ecker, Professor Peter Robertson, Professor George Milne and Professor Pat Dudgeon.

This report, developed in double quick time by more than 100 of the nation’s top minds is testament to the reality that our universities will be the key to unlocking our COVID-19 safe future.

The home strait of a Semester that will become the stuff of legend is upon us. You have all invented ways to be better at what had to be done in our education, research and administrative obligations and activities. It reminded me of the trailblazing work of Florence Nightingale who through her inventions and action sparked worldwide health care reform and much debate about quality of care and life. She is quoted as saying “ Were there none who were discontented with what they have, the world would never reach anything better ”. Thank you for your hard work and focus and especially what you have achieved this semester. It IS the stuff of legend.

And for those of you who asked: Yes I have signed up for the COVIDSafe app.


Professor Jane den Hollander AO


UWA Forward