Passing on the Pyne package

Plus Ian Chubb, Caroline McMillen and the week’s other winners

ARWU out today

The Academic Ranking of World Universities 2014 is embargoed until 2 pm Sydney time today – CMM will honour the embargo.

Takes one to know one

Christopher Pyne is the worst education minister since education was invented,” Curtin University sources say Bill Shorten said yesterday. Mr Shorten is too hard on himself, he was only education minister for only ten weeks last year, nowhere near enough time to really stuff anything up.

For future reference

People are always pinching my copy of the Kalgoorlie Miner, so thanks to the Group of Eight for pointing me at UWA VC Paul Johnson’s recent oped in it. Professor Johnson is on the record as supporting deregulation, but not as vocally as some of his energetic colleagues who undoubtedly will welcome his new contribution. It’s standard stuff; asking why the government regulates what university’s charge and arguing that deregulation will encourage competition. And, it could help regional students who do not want to move to the city, at least straight away. “It is feasible that under the proposed changes universities could enter into partnership agreements with new non-university providers such as regional TAFE colleges allowing students to start their post-high school studies closer to home before transferring into a traditional university undergraduate course a year or two later,” Professor Johnson wrote. And won’t that be quoted back at him if deregulation passes the Senate!

Three wise men

Does CEDA know something we don’t? The Committee for Economic Development of Australia is holding a Melbourne forum on September 22 on how higher and further education will adapt to reform. If it happens that is. Vice chancellors Peter Rathjen (U Tas), Peter Dawkins (VU) and John Dewar (La Trobe) will provide the wisdom. You never know, at the rate his working party on course costs is going Professor Dewar might be in a position to report by then.

Reform, of a sort

At week’s end we know as much as we did about the prospect of parts of the Pyne package passing into law as we did on Monday – and that is sod-all. Certainly Clive Palmer and PUP pal Senator Jacqui Lambie are on the record against increased student fees but there is anticipation/anguish that the education minister is not done yet. One idea out there is that Treasury wants its notional 20 per cent saving more than it cares about a market and will stick with the cut, with universities allowed to charge their own fees, capped at say 30 per cent of what students pay now. A market this would not make but everybody outside the Group of Eight could live with it, not least because, as in England, every institution would charge the maximum thus perpetuating the fiction that all universities are equal, in their own different ways. And it would defuse the gazillion dollars for a degree warning. But what of NUHEPs? A realist who remembers how nothing was salvaged from the West Review suggests the Senate will settle for them to be funded for Commonwealth Supported Places at a lower rate than universities (what with their not having to pay for research). “Gosh, we could call them colleges of advanced education,” this veteran suggests. It would be incremental reform of a sort and it would meet a goal most universities want – to ensure the Go8 does not get what it wants.

City and bush both

UWS VC Barney Glover is upset indeed at the absence of process, which means his university cannot give students any idea of what they will be up for in fees in 2016. But he told staff yesterday that the university will stay firm in opposing the Feds 20 per cent funding cut, supporting “modifying” the student debt interest rate hike and “providing support for regional universities.” Which, he says, includes UWS. And there I was thinking it was the University of Western Sydney when it must be the university (way) west of Sydney.

Chisholm expands

Want to know how a deregulated market would work? Have a squiz at Chisholm Institute, which has launched an on-line program for the sub-degree market. This sends a powerful message about what NUHEPS can accomplish (especially for private sector investors – don’t right off the public voced system). CI now offers Certificate IV and diploma courses in childcare and engineering, community services (it means mental health and addiction) and management, occ health and disability. For the present courses are covered by the Victorian Training Guarantee and/or VET Fee HELP. The branding is like every US for-profit provider campaign, targeting people who are in the workforce and want to move up. One to watch.

Winners of the week: gentles, start your engines!

There were winners all over this week. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop got to announce (for a change) some good news – with all of ASEAN signing on for the New Colombo Plan. University leaders bang on about the importance of Asia, when they are not cutting language course and it is good to see Ms Bishop doing something about it, by supporting Australians to go and study with the neighbours. Swinburne’s international director Jeffrey Smart also did very well indeed with a considered response to especially idiotic homophobia on campus. There are times when stupidity needs addressing and it was one of them. Michelle Simmons from UNSW was nominated for the Eureka Prize in science leadership. If there is ever a quantum computer her research will be an important part of it. Nicholas Saunders stepped up for TEQSA this week, taking on the interim CEO role as it waits new legislation. The former VC at Newcastle and DVC at Bond is the type of hired governance gun we need more of. Chief Scientist Ian Chubb made his 700th speech on why Australia needs a science strategy. He should keep at it – only when he is supremely sick of the subject will it be getting through to Canberra. Australian Catholic University marketer April de Haan had a huge week – with a recruitment campaign that targets prospective students and explains what ACU will do them. Both should be standard in marketing every university – they’re not. But who can pass the fast finishing Caroline McMillen? The University of Newcastle is competing in “a celebrity drag race” on the weekend.

Horse(ing around) power

Sadly the above isn’t quite as much fun as it sounds, Professor McMillen is driving “a mobility scooter” and will not be cross-dressing. It’s part of electric vehicle field days this weekend.

All those in favour of motherhood

The University of Sydney is holding an open meeting of graduates, staff and students to debate deregulation in the Great Hall at 6pm on Monday week, (register here). The university will select speakers to “ensure that the discussion is comprehensive and interesting.” Speakers will address “the proposition,” “we call on all Australian governments to support the university in realising this commitment through ensuring an equitable balance between student and government contributions to tertiary study.” I’m guessing they will struggle to find speakers against.

Unless you prefer a cage fight

They like a more in your face approach at Griffith University, where a team from the modestly named Griffith Open Debating Society will take on “three highly acclaimed academic staff members” on the motion that “deregulation of university fees is a good thing.” The teams, “will duke it out to reveal an ultimate winner.” The duking begins at noon, today week in the Sir Samuel Griffith building.

End of story

A week or so ago I asked UWS about allegations that the student newspaper Cruwsible was less a paper for and by students than a paper management provided them. The contact person in management ignored the questions but yesterday a university spokeswoman responded. “Cruwsible is a student-run newspaper, with all the decisions on content, design and production made by its team of student edit.”

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