Misery in the message at UNSW

Plus how to have your course cost control cake and deregulate it too

And jam tomorrow at Uni South Australia

“In breaking news … ”

“A survey found 75% of women would like more pockets in their clothing,” Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Melbourne, via Twitter yesterday.

Batons Passed

“At UA vice chancellors and chancellors meeting today. 80 chancellors and vice chancellors in a room – what more can I say” CQU VC Scott Bowman via Twitter yesterday. CMM suspects he thought of something, probably congratulations to the new and renewed board members of Universities Australia. Monash VC Margaret Gardner stays on, as deputy chair and John Dewar (La Trobe), Jan Thomas (USQ) and Andrew Vann (CSU) step up. Jane den Hollander (Deakin), Peter Lee (SCU) and Ian O’Connor (Griffith) are retiring.

Wednesday

Help where it is needed

Announcements of million dollar donations to Group of Eight universities are now routine but not so much at institutions without old money graduates. So well done Charles Sturt University for having attracted a $3m bequest from the estate of Carole and Stanley Droder which will fund scholarships for a CSU student living on each campus.

PS, your sacked

Staff at UNSW are pondering why some got one and others two versions of VC Ian Jacobs latest feel-good-gram. One was all about the “exciting times” at UNSW and how “there is a mixture of excitement from our supporters and trepidation from our competitors about what we plan to do.”

It’s not just competitors who are trepidatious, staff members who got the second message are alert and alarmed by advice that the strategy office’s “operational excellence portfolio” is “conducting reviews of several service areas. The key objective is to identify changes that will improve our processes,” Professor Jacobs writes. “So by ‘review’ does this mean ‘those that we are about to fire?’ or is there some other recommendation that might come from ‘identifying changes’?” a Kensington correspondent writes.

CMM suspects the former. In February Professor Jacobs said 25 per cent of the $3bn cost of his ten-year plan will come from “reprioritising existing resources,” (CMM February 5). Sounds like the reprioritising is underway.

Obscurely inspired

From the team that brought us “unleash your fearless.” Thanks to the learned reader who points to the Brisbane outdoor campaign for the University of Southern Queensland with the slogan, “more than knowledge, we’ll help you discover belief.” No, CMM has no idea what it means either.

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Jam tomorrow

UNiSA’s Unijam kicks-off tomorrow morning and runs to Friday. The online discussion forum allows “thousands of participants to have a conversation on a range of issues in real time from wherever they are located. … You’ll be able to chat with VIPs, industry and business leaders from all over the world, plus senior managers from UniSA. You can ‘follow’ particular threads of discussion or a specific person’s comments, as well as make your own comments,” the university says. The first jam back in 2103 generated actionable ideas, from a great hall to a smoke free campus and UniSA is hoping for more.

Regulated competition

Policy ideas are the only way to save the post election debate on student funding from another nupathon so good on ANU economist Rabee Tourky for building a new model of course funding, which contains student costs while creating a market that gives universities options. He sets out his thinking in two posts to the Core Economics blog founded by Joshua Ganz.

In essence he proposes competition within four price bands; “the government provides a fee schedule that is downward sloping in quantity of students admitted to programs. The higher the quantity the lower the fee. If a university admits fewer students, then they get higher fees. So, as is usual in this kind of analysis, the universities’ main choices remain the quantity of students they admit (inversely related to ATAR scores).”

Professor Tourky presents examples of how this would work for universities with different resources and strategies. For example a university could increase its ATAR for a degree and push its fees to the maximum allowed. Revenue would be up but numbers and thus costs down. A second school could charge a lower price for more students because its cost of teaching is lower. A third institution could charge the next lowest band and enrol the increased number of students this allows which would be viable because its mixed mode of delivery is cheap to run. Finally a private provider could accept large numbers of under-qualified students but rely on volume to compensate for high attrition and low cost.

The model will work within the existing administrative framework and allows universities to enrol students according to their aspirations and cost structures, he says. Even better for the feds, because Canberra can set fees and enrolled numbers per band, “the proposed scheme provides greater flexibility to government than either the existing system or a fully deregulated system.”

But how to stop universities and government brawling over funding levels per enrolment band? CMM has an idea – leave it to the regulatory commission Labor proposes.

DIGITAL MARKETING Strategies for Higher Education

VETs vanished

A reader wonders how the federal government’s Vocational Educational and Training Advisory Board is going. Hard to tell really, what with the way it is listed on the Department of Education and Training’s website, but with a link that goes nowhere. Much like the VET FEE HELP discussion paper.

Not so exciting

It seems the excitement of the innovation nation might take longer to arrive than the prime minister expects. Thanks to James Cook U research strategist Bradley Smith for the pointer to new Australian Bureau of Statistics numbers on higher education research and development expenditure showing growth has stalled. Although it increased six per cent, or $535m, between 2012 and 2014 to $10,145m R&D was stable at 0.63 per cent of GDP over the two years. This followed a growth trend from 0.46 per cent of GDP in 2004. Labor costs were up 2 per cent, with capex down by the corresponding amount over the recent period. It will be a couple of years before we see stats for the period since Mr Turnbull announced we are all innovators now.

Discrete departures denied

The savings process at the ANU School of Culture, History and Language is at the sharp end with staff members being told there do not have a place in the new structure. Supporters of two have started petitions urging VC Brian Schmidt to keep them on. Both academics involved are obviously admired but CMM hopes they agreed to these expressions of support and are not embarrassed by having their departures publicised.

Setting standards

Thanks to the learned reader who overheard a public transport conversation, in which a young man complained on his phone that a for-profit trainer of some notoriety would not enrol him because he scored badly on a literacy test. Now there’s an idea for VETAB (above) if it ever reappears.

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