Competitors coming for Western Sydney U


“finkel?” it’s Australian for unicorn

No issue ANZAC Day

CMM will be at the Austinmer Dawn Service on Monday instead of publishing an April 25 issue. Back to business Tuesday.


It’s Australian for unicorn

The Yanks call the billion dollar start-up that creates a new industry a unicorn, the Canadians call it a narwhal but while we have the innovators we haven’t got a name for them. So how about “a finkel”?

Yes, as in Chief Scientist Alan Finkel who delivered a speech yesterday awash with optimism at what Australian innovators are achieving and which made a paradigm shifting point – we are no longer limited in what we can accomplish by the fact that there are not many of us.

“Australians are looking for the global opportunities, building smart solutions and making them available at scale. … It takes just about the same effort to develop a high-tech product for a large-scale global market as it does for a small-scale local market.”

He also pointed to another epochal change that is underway, the role education plays in driving the economy. “The heavy lifting in the knowledge economy is done on campus,” he said.

Universities anxious to offer Dr Finkel an honorary doctorate please form an orderly queue.

As basic as it gets

The University of Adelaide is promoting University Mental Health Day, on Wednesday. The theme is back to basics and the first one is “breathe,” it sure as hell helps.


Westward ho

CMM hears the University of Wollongong intends to expand into the heartland of Western Sydney University. UoW already enrols students who travel overland from the b fringe to its Illawarra coastal campus. A senior UoW officer did not respond to a request for details however a university spokesman told CMM, “in its recently released strategic plan UOW stated its intention to align its facilities to changes in centres of population, the demand driven system and emerging research priorities. UOW will be making further announcements about how it is pursuing these objectives in the near future.” With the Illawarra region’s present population growth of 1.1 per cent pa expected to fall and that of the Camden district in the southwest of Sydney increasing by 7.6 per cent in 2014-15 alone, it is hard to miss where Wollongong is watching.

The University of Sydney also has its eye on WSU’s patch with a plan to expand its campus at Westmead, in western Sydney, from 1200 students now to 5000 over the next five years (CMM April 1.

Big hit missed

The campaign to save the functions of the Office of Learning Teaching daily gathers pace. Yesterday the National Tertiary Education Union got involved in the opposition to the expected budget abolition of the OLT, with no successor organisation established. “In an environment of extreme levels of casualised teaching and crowded workloads of other academics and professional staff due to chronic underfunding, the opportunities provided by OLT to focus and fund innovation in higher education pedagogy and programs is critical to the ongoing success of our higher education system and the outcomes for our students,” union president Jeannie Rea said yesterday.

None of which will be bothering the feds even a bit. When CMM April 7 broke the story that the OLT is gone it also suggested the Higher Education Partnerships and Participation Programme is also for the chop, with some new spending on programmes to reduce attrition as a kind of cover. The OLT’s budget is $30m while HEPPP is supposed to spend $155m this year so guess which cut the government wants everybody to exhaust their outrage over.

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A billion here, a billion there …

Thanks to the reader who pointed to a University of Michigan estimate that workforce cost in US education is US$768bn and suggests a 1 per cent productivity improvement would make quite a difference. But could the same happen here in higher and further education? You would have to ask TEQSA, ASQA, HESP, and every enterprise bargaining team in the country, not to mention ASQA, VETAB, the ISC and VET RT plus state regulators – as well as all the others CMM has missed.

Action ASQA

The Australian Skills Quality Authority yesterday announced “strategic reviews.” One will focus on very short courses and the other on “approved providers exhibiting behaviours of concern in relation to their obligations under the VET Quality Framework.” But don’t get excited about the prospect of VET FEE HELP rorters being called to judgement, or even having the behaviour being deplored in detail. “This review will not result in a detailed report, but ASQA will release a statement later in 2016 about the outcomes of its regulatory scrutiny of problematic VFH providers. The results of the review will also be able to inform the redevelopment of the VFH scheme that is currently underway.” Way too little way too late.

Eastern aspect for northern exposure

The CRC for Northern Australia announced a year back, (CMM June 22 2105), will be based in Townsville. The centre will focus on commercialising research in tropical health, food and agriculture.

There was talk then that Charles Darwin U VC (and Pork CRC board veteran) Simon Maddocks would make a strong case that the centre’s base should look north not east but if he did it was not string enough d( CMM June 23 2015).

Townsville MP Ewen Jones says “it is just the kick-start that the Townsville economy needs to create jobs.” Not that this had anything to do with the choice; “Townsville was not chosen for any other reason than we are the obvious place for the CRC to call home,” he adds.  But where specifically? Last year James Cook University was suggesting its Townsville campus would be a great place for the CRC but there was no mention of the university in yesterday’s announcement.

Natural selection

The Nature ranking of research papers is out, with Australia placed 12th in the world, just ahead of India, a nation that rarely rates on rankings which include a survey of academic and employer opinions. The Nature Index counts the number of papers and contribution to them an organisation’s staff work on in a sample of 60 000 journal articles.

The global big five are no surprise being the United States, China, Germany, the UK and Japan. Neither is the overall makeup of the Australian top ten; University of Queensland -105, Monash -110, ANU – 117, Uni Melbourne – 151, UNSW – 158, UniSydney – 167, CSIRO – 279, UWA – 288, Uni Adelaide – 375 and Curtin – 328. Macquarie U (476) and U of Wollongong (480) are the other Aus entries in the global 500.


People who happily remember that brief time 20 years back when the Commonwealth was in credit had the pants scared off them by the Parliamentary Budget Office’s recent report on the size and cost of student loans (CMM April 7 and CMMApril 8.) They had just got their trousers back on when the PBO issued a second report late Wednesday. This was a partially successful attempt to clarify a bunch of ambiguities in the assumptions underpinning the first report fully understood by as many people as Conor King and Andrew Norton.

But it also started a new round of predictions on what the Himalayas of HECS HELP debt means for the government’s promised new policy and/or the budget. As of this morning this is what CMM hears we should expect:

* an increase in the repayment rate of HECS HELP, to 50 per cent of course costs. (This is dead-set cert)

* a reduction in the HECS HELP repayment threshold (but not to the $42 000 pa income as some expect)

* a cap on university enrolments in some courses (Minister Birmingham will be at lengths to explain why this is not the beginning of the end for demand driven funding)

* deregulating fees for courses where graduates supposedly earn big money (necessary to placate ministers on the Expenditure Review Committee who still believe in the original Pyne plan)

* no HECS HELP access for students at non university higher education providers

* restricted institutional access for VET students to FEE HELP and less stringent than scarifying penalties targeting for-profit providers in breach of new funding rules