Chris Pyne pummelled in past and present

And Chaney chimes in

Magical UQ kingdom

University of Queensland students can apply for a six-month paid internship at Disney World in Florida. Apparently it’s a chance to graduate with a degree, “that includes magic, movies and memories.” What, you ask, ever happened to alienated undergraduates who wore black, smoked Gitanes and banged on about theories of the text? I suppose they apply to Euro Disney in Paris.

Chaney sends a signal

Well, more a flashing neon sign flashing a message to Education Minister Chris Pyne. Last night Michael Chaney, the chair of NAB and Woodside and chancellor of the University of Western Australia, told ABC TV’s Lateline that he would “prefer the government to leave interest rates on student loans where they were” – indexed to the CPI. “I know that this increases the cost to government but it would be a good compromise,” Mr Chaney said. Whether it will be enough of a compromise to secure the passage of the rest of the Pyne package is another question but it is a price this business leader is willing to see the government pay. Mr Chaney added that the expansion in student numbers over 25 years had reduced taxpayer funding per head and that it was clear governments of both persuasions would not increase this. However he dismissed warnings of $100,000 degrees as scaremongering.

So does Palmer

Clive Palmer is having lunch with Mr Pyne today but it is unlikely to be long. He made it clear to Fran Kelly on Radio National this morning that changing his mind on increased student fees “would be a very hard task, our policy is clear.” ” I stand with students and universities across the country – I had and Chris Pyne had the benefit of free education.” The PUP leader said he agreed with getting “revenue in line with expenditure. The question is how you do it. Fairness is the issue.”  Perhaps a reduction in the proposed fee increase and a cut in the intended interest rate will make the package fairer but who knows.

Transition at TEQSA

The Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency has a new acting head, Nicholas Saunders. Perhaps he will be confirmed in the job if the legislation Labor’s Kim Carr has stalled in the Senate ever passes and/or when Carol Nicholl’s original appointment as foundation head expires. Mr Saunders is a former VC of the University of Newcastle, where he sacked staff to fix its finances. He later went on to be a DVC at Bond from October 2012 to this April. He replaces Dorte Kristoffersen (she leaves early next month), who has held the fort since Ms Nicholl went on leave in the aftermath of the Lee Dow-Braithwaite report on TEQSA’s operations. One governance observer yesterday said Mr Saunders was “a good appointment to keep TEQSA on the even keel it is now until the longer term position is resolved.”

Unexpected understatement

The Group of Eight has released a guide to research funding, how much there is and where it comes from. It is an excellent overview of the system, but makes for a surprising read – there is not a word about how the G8 does all the research that matters and that spending money elsewhere is a wicked waste. What’s, I wonder, with the unexpected modesty?

Cop that Christopher

Kim Carr is obviously enjoying taking the fight to Education Minister Chris Pyne. The Labor shadow was on Newcastle radio yesterday explaining how the Pyne plan is a very bad idea for the local university, reducing the funding needed for research and teaching. And not only is Mr Pyne’s plan a bad one it isn’t even original. “He was very lazy in opposition; he’s relied now in government on a very old cabinet submission from 1999 under Dr Kemp and we saw that when it was leaked it was dropped pretty quickly when people understood what it meant.”Not quite. Senator Carr is referring to the West Review, which spent a year travelling the country and reading submissions, which were considered first in a discussion document and then in a final report, which was the basis for a cabinet paper. West proposed a universal post school voucher system, the possibility of which was real for about a minute after it was leaked to Labor and dropped by then Prime Minister John Howard in October 1999. My guess is that if the Pyne plan goes down that will be it for another 20 years before another minister risks deregulatory reform.

And here’s another one

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations is very pleased indeed that Jacqui Lambie has signed up to its “no fees on PhDs” campaign. Senator Lambie has already endorsed the National Tertiary Education Union’s $100 000 degrees? I didn’t vote for this,” push. Extending the loan system to research degrees is one of the dumber ideas in the Pyne package, I suspect born of a misplaced idea that postgrads all write up their research and sell it at vast profit to business. But wherever it came from, it only adds to the arguments against deregulation. There was a sense last week that Mr Pyne was winning the policy argument, with Universities Australia all but asking for terms after the Minister’s press club performance last Wednesday. But this will not do him any good if he gets pummeled on the politics.

Exchange of opinions

Next Monday ANU VC Ian Young, Universities Australia chief Belinda Robinson and campus student association president Cameron Wilson will discuss deregulation at an open (but ticketed) lunchtime meeting. This does not impress local National Tertiary Education Union chief Stephen Darwin, who writes, “there is as much diversity in Ian Young’s ANU student ‘forum’ as there is likely to be in future Go8 institution.”

Closing the book

Around 140 people are slated to lose their present jobs in the library restructure at the University of Sydney and there is a protest meeting today (Fisher Library, 1pm) where David Malouf, no less, will speak. But while the formal plan is not due until early next month, this has the look of a done deal to me, based on University Librarian Anne Bell’s very complex planning document. Yes staff whose positions are redundant are allowed to apply for new jobs – workshops on resume writing are on this week – but there will surely be more losers than survivors. But why? There is the usual corporate guff in the plan about the need for change but not many specifics I can see about how the new structure will deliver quantifiable improvements. To Ms Bell’s credit, the present document includes considerable critical comments from staff, but there is still a sense of fear and bitterness at what is to occur. And rationales such as “the university library has commenced this change programme in order to increase alignment with institutional priorities, to transform its services and to begin to address existing capacity and capability gaps,” hardly explain what is intended to occur and why.

Smart statement

Swinburne’s international head Jeffrey Smart has responded to homophobic facile Facebooking by a member of the university’s student Liberal Club. It is a considered piece written by a gay man to explain to explain why stupidity and slurs were hurtful when he was young, why they hurt people now and what the response to them should be. “We can state what is not OK, the behaviour which we will not tolerate. And we can make sure that our commitment to Swinburne’s queer community is visible around campus and in our policies, strategies, plans, and work/study places.” Good for him.

Transfield free

So will UniSuper be exercised by the NTEU contemplating calls for the fund to sell out of Transfield because it has subsidiaries providing services to mandatory detention immigration facilities (CMM Monday)? Perhaps not. It seems the fund does not hold Transfield Services shares, although UniSuper’s external funds managers do. However UniSuper has a range of investment options that are definitely Transfield free. I wonder if this will come up at the meeting called by the union to discuss what to do about the fund’s involvement with Transfield tomorrow night at UTS?

Know something the world needs to know? Anonymity guaranteed but lots of questions asked, stephen4@hotkey.net.au