Newcastle to lobby alone: IRU loses research-strong member

ANU Christmas carol

Hooray for Australian National University student Ari Hunt and her colleagues who created the university’s true-blue-Socceroo digital Christmas card. Just lovely. Is Ian “the gent” Young the first VC to ever star in an animation?

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 Newcastle out of IRU

The University of Newcastle has left the Innovative Research Universities network. Yesterday Newcastle VC Professor Caroline McMillen said the move was necessary to increase awareness of the university’s profile as a research-intensive institution, which also serves a lower income and educational attainment region. And she rejected any suggestion that Newcastle was out of sympathy with the IRU’s position during this year’s deregulation debate, “we were part of the discussions, there was collective engagement.” However “the decision has arisen naturally and come about in discussions since (deregulation was announced in) the budget. We have different priorities to the metropolitan IRUs and to the Regional Universities Network.”

According to Professor McMillen the move is not preparatory to joining another lobby and she pointed to the success of regional universities that are independent, Deakin, Wollongong and the University of Tasmania. “Issues are not decided by the group you belong to but by the quality of your case.” But she acknowledged the university, will need “a bigger presence around specific points” in Canberra. “My office will have to do more.”

Newcastle’s departure is a big blow to the IRU, leaving the lobby without a NSW member, Macquarie resigned in 2008. The IRU now consists of Charles Darwin, James Cook, Griffith, La Trobe, Flinders and Murdoch.

No borrowing right

Peta Hopkins and colleagues from Bond University have an article in the Library Journal of Australia on how librarians are using interactive technologies to connect with their customers. I am sure it is very interesting but I don’t know – publisher Taylor and Francis wants $39 for access. Um, couldn’t I borrow it for an hour or so?

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Over-sold

Without Chinese business students some Australian universities would be in serious strife. While the Group of Eight would never argue it, on the basis of its new analysis of international enrolments, there isn’t much doubt. The Eight has analysed public stats for the decade to 2013, which demonstrates Australia’s extraordinary education export success story. Over ten years international enrolments grew by 72 per cent to 525,000 and universities accounted for 44 per cent of them. But the data also demonstrates Australian education is dangerously dependent on China. In 2003 some 25 000 Chinese students were enrolled in Australian education, some 17 per cent of the international total – last year there were 92 000, 39 per cent of the enormously increased market. And there is no obvious growth market that could counter a drop in Chinese demand. In fact, there aren’t even four. Last year students from the next biggest markets, India, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia totaled only marginally more than half the figure for China. And the Indonesian and Malaysian markets are in decline, so is Hong Kong.

It get’s worse. Chinese nationals studying for their first qualification are concentrated in management, with two-thirds of them studying business. Gosh, dependence on a single source of customers, buying the one product, what could possibly go wrong?

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Here’s three things that could. First, China decides not to be as much of a pal. Yes I know they need minex and that Beijing wants to bribe us away from the US alliance and yes there is going to be a free trade treaty. But the thing about authoritarian powers is that they don’t mind subordinating citizens’ aspirations to state policy. If Beijing decided it did not want its people studying in Australia word would get around fast. Second, graduate un and under employment in China leading to lower demand for expensive overseas degrees that do not deliver big employment dividends. And third, the expanding Chinese university system becomes a value alternative.

Like I said, what could go wrong?

USI imminent

This does not sound good. The Australian Skills Quality Authority says the Unique Student Identifier is a “hot topic” with Registered Training Organisations. It seems that it is news to many RTOs that they cannot hand qualifications to anybody without a USI. But not to worry the new system does not start operating until January 2015. Plenty of time.

Expensive election

The National Tertiary Education Union’s attempt to have the Fair Work Commission overturn the ballot in which Swinburne staff voted for a management enterprise offer turned out to be a big blue about not much. As CMM reported yesterday, the FWC rejected the claim some ten months after the vote. It dismissed the union’s claim that former casual staff, not properly on the roll, voted. The Commission concluded that even if all 46 voters who should not have been on the roll voted for the deal it would still have passed without them – by ten. In the end a dispute that ran for nearly a year come to down to speculation about bare 10 votes, and I’m guessing a bunch of cash for legal costs.

Market might work

The OECD did not want to endorse the Pyne package, but ended up coming close. In its Australian survey yesterday it called for monitoring to make sure access for low SES students was not compromised by deregulation. But it noted, “fees for international and post-graduate students are already liberalised and exhibit high levels of price differentiation and competition between providers.”

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Surprising hot spots

The Brookings Institute has a list of the top five popular US cities for foreign STEM graduates of Amrican universities who use a visa programme to stay on to get work experience after graduation. The list should be obvious, Boston, for MIT, San Francisco and surrounds for Silicon Valley, Seattle for Boing/Amazon/software , Baltimore for Johns Hopkin and engineering, Washington DC for spending money. Obvious but largely wrong. In fact the top five are Los Vegas (multi-lingual hospitality workers), Miami (Hispanic business graduates), Seattle, (STEM), Honolulu (hospitality graduates) and New York (who doesn’t love NYC?). So much for US universities churning out endless STEM and science succeeders who all establish start-ups in high-tech hang-outs.

 

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