Fears merit-free hiring in universities and public service could lead to cronyism

A large part of the original rationale for using tests and exams was to give people without personal contacts an equal chance of being hired.  Looks like that is being lost.  Will hiring now be dependent on whom you know, not what you know?  That's pretty sad in a university

Merit-based hiring has been abolished for academics and public servants in Queensland to stamp out “unconscious bias’’, sparking concern about “jobs for mates’’.

Both the Queensland government and Queensland University of Technology are dumping the word “merit’’ from their selection policies, and will instead hire staff based on “suitability’’. Job applicants will have their achievement rated against “opportunity’’.

In a proposed new hiring policy that has angered some academics, QUT will ensure that an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander employee vets any applications from Indigenous jobseekers.

The new rules would require selection panels to assess “the extent to which the person has abilities, aptitude, skills, quali­fications, knowledge, experience, and personal qualities relevant to the carrying out of the duties in question’’.

“This includes consideration of achievement relative to opportunity,’’ the draft policy states.

“The panel must consider the diverse ways in which responses may be expressed or demonstrated, including with respect to applicants who are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples, people from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds, applicants who identify as LGBTIQA+, applicants for positions where it is a non-traditional area of employment for women or men, and applicants who have a disability.

“The panel may consider how appointment would achieve organisational equity, diversity, respect and inclusion obligations.’’

One academic, who did not want to be named, questioned whether students should now be “marked based on suitability, rather than merit?’’

“The policy to get rid of merit is bordering on embarrassing,’’ the academic said. “It’s completely disrespectful to tell students who will be charged thousands of dollars for a program that they will be taught by people chosen not on merit, but suitability.’’

Australian Institute for Progress executive director Graham Young said that abolishing merit-based selection at universities and in the public service “will enable cronyism’’.

“Merit is about meeting a set of criteria that is skills-based,’’ he said. “Assessing on suitability allows a move away from that.’’

QUT vice-chancellor Margaret Sheil – the first woman to become a professor of chemistry in Australia and a former chief executive of the Australian Research Council – said the university was “trying to build on the culture of choosing the best possible people for each role’’.

“There’s nothing sinister in it at all,’’ she said. “I’m the anti-­cronyism, jobs-for-the-mates champion of all time.’’

Professor Sheil said her university’s existing selection policy was “sort of bureaucratic’’.

“You had to get a score for each candidate against each selection criteria, and trying to get a merit score – that was very hard to apply in any kind of serious modern contemporary recruitment,’’ she said.

“It’s really about trying to move people away a little bit, as many places are, from the notion that merit’s something that’s completely objective – and in the case of academics, numerical – to looking at whether this is the person who’s most suitable to take the role.’’

Professor Sheil said “I still like quirky mathematicians’’. But she said QUT wanted to ensure that staff with stellar academic credentials were also excellent teachers, and respectful to other staff and students as well.

“The best person on merit in terms of CV might be the top researcher in all the publications and the best qualifications, but if you’re not going to actually be interested in teaching students, we don’t want them,’’ she said.

“The reason they’ve got the best CV is they’re not interested in doing anything other than their own research. We want people who are interested in teaching students as well.’’

Professor Sheil also pointed out that the requirement to have an Indigenous staff member screen job applications from ­Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander applicants, and recommend if they proceed to an interview, was designed to ease pressure on Indigenous staff.

Under the existing policy, selection panels interviewing a First Nations applicant must include an Indigenous staff member.

Professor Sheil said this requirement was placing undue pressure on Indigenous staff members to constantly take part in selection panels.’’

She said the requirement had been imposed “before my time but suspect it was for cultural safety reasons’’.

Professor Sheil said the proposed new hiring rules would look at “the whole person and the whole picture for the person who is applying’’.

“The problem is if you leave people to select on merit, some sort of supposed analytical criteria, they will automatically score the person who looks like them higher,’’ she said.

“I see it all the time, that’s the unconscious bias.

“People talk about merit often to exclude people, not include people.’’

Professor Sheil said the new selection method would ask, “have they got the qualifications to do the job, can they do the job, are they outstanding in whatever they’ve done, and are they suitable for what we want to do?”

“Sometimes that will give you a more diverse field, sometimes it won’t,’’ she said.

QUT is basing its controversial policy on a new hiring rules for Queensland’s public service.

The Queensland Public Service Commission yesterday said that recruitment “must be fair and transparent and directed to the selection of the person best suited to the position’’.

“The best person must be selected for a role, and this is consistent with the concept of merit in the previous directive and legislation,’’ a spokeswoman said.

“Where there is a mandatory qualification for a role, the person must have that qualification to be appointed.’’\

A new Queensland public service directive, issued last month, states that selection panels need to identify the person “who is best suited to the position‘’ – replacing the previous requirement for appointments ”based on merit’’.

Panels must “consider equity and diversity and cultural considerations‘’, as part of a ”holistic assessment’’ to choose the ”eligible person best suited to the position’’.



No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments containing Chinese characters will not be published as I do not understand them