Plus the right teacher numbers, more or less

Key finding

In breaking news Edith Cowan University researchers have found that car thieves like to nick people’s keys.


A parody of  The Australian is being handed out on campuses and public transport this morning. Called The unAustralian (the un is in small type) it is full of horror-stories about university life under deregulation and is the work of the National Tertiary Education Union, which says “it is a spoof intended to show a possible version of the future should the higher education changes pass the Senate. …”  But why The Australian? It’s the only national publication that also has a higher ed section,” the NTEU explains.

In demand and over-supplied

There was a fuss about teacher numbers yesterday, with suggestions universities enrol more students than there are jobs for them – which would distinguish education deans from their law school colleagues how? In any case new modelling for the feds suggest that an over-supply of teachers is not inevitable. The National Teaching Workforce Dataset looks at the impact of people entering and leaving teaching in a range of scenarios and its base-line data does not demonstrate new teachers who cannot get work swamp the system. In 2012 some 31 000 people commenced teacher education courses (starts are increasing by 3 per cent per annum) but only 70 per cent of them are expected to complete – there were 17 000 in ’12. But of them only 14 000 registered with their local regulator – many of those who didn’t went into early childhood education. Among the 14 000 four months after graduation 64 per cent were working as teachers. Immigrant teachers plus overseas trained ones who do not show up in the data add 4000 people to the workforce. As for outgoings 5.7 per cent, or 17 000 of teachers let the registrations lapse. Overall this does not look like an army of unemployed teachers to me.

As to how many new teachers we will need, the report models three scenarios. Under one the rate of people leaving the profession slows and the growth in university enrolments increases. Over time the ratio of students to teachers drops from 9.5 now to 9.4. A second scenario assumes more teachers are available more quickly and the ratio to students drops faster. However even if teacher numbers grow but more leave the profession each year (presently 4.5 per cent, modelled at 7 per cent) and the student population grows faster than expected, from 0.9 per cent to 1 per cent the student-teacher ratio grows to 10.7 in five years and 11.5 in ten. Under these circumstances it takes 20 years before the proportional growth in teacher numbers exceeds the same measure for students. Guess which scenario universities that depend on teacher education foe revenue will cite.



On their own

The University of Sydney has banned staff travelling to Ebola effected African countries, unless “due to the nature of the University’s business, there is a legitimate need to travel.”  So Uni Sydney medicos who want to help are on their own.

Deal and no deal

Whatever happens in the Senate, the University of Newcastle is confident that it can pay for a new staff deal that pleases even the National Tertiary Education Union. The union is urging staff to vote for the agreement it hammered out with management, which includes 3 per cent per annum pay rises across the life of the deal plus a bunch of flexible workplace conditions. The Community and Public Sector Union, representing general staff is also pleased. But peace does not prevail at the University of New South Wales, where NTEU members went out for the afternoon yesterday. Back in June management put a 3 per cent per annum offer, which Vice Chancellor Fred Hilmer said was fair but that the university would work through union demands “for more extensive changes”. This does not seem to have gone well, with the union yesterday demanding improved conditions and “a fair and decent pay rise.”

Another complex question

Last week ANU student newspaper Woroni was promoting a seminar, to be held last night on “the social, religious, legal and security issues surrounding the Islamic State. The conflict is nebulous by its very nature, and so the objective of this panel discussion is to dispel myths and provide answers to complex questions.” The promoted panel consisted of big ANU names, Clive Williams, Aman Saikal, Mathew Davies, Andrew Carr and Kevin Boreham, plus Amne Alrifia, a “blogger at Unveiled Thought’ who describes herself as “a 20-something-year-old-Muslim-Lebanese-Australian-Daughter-of-Migrants.  … Be warned. I’m a scientist by trade and a dreamer by instinct.” So how did it go? It didn’t. Yesterday afternoon ANU media released a statement that all the ANU academics had withdrawn, explaining, “the addition of a representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir on the panel, without prior notice to the academics, changed the nature of the event from an open academic discussion into a political discussion about the actions of ISIS,” and that the university supported their decision. Funnily enough Woroni was not pleased issuing a short statement (well it was via Twitter) apologising for the short notice and promising more information on why the event was cancelled.

Pyne pushes on

To the undoubted alarm of his army of admirers for an hour yesterday it looked like Christopher Pyne would sit silent through an entire Question Time in the House of Representatives. But no, one of the last questions of the day was from his colleague Russell Broadbent (Liberal-Victoria) who asked Mr Pyne if there was support for his plans to deregulate student fees. The minister replied that indeed there was and rattled off endorsements of the bill from all the university lobbies. He went on to urge the Senate to pass this “important economic reform” next week.

The Senate committee that conducted the inquiry into the legislation is scheduled to present its reports on Tuesday, (I’m guessing one from government members and one each from Labor and Greens) with the bill to follow all but immediately. So that’s it, we will know in a week who is bluffing, Mr Pyne who has never stopped sounding confident or Labor’s Kim Carr who consistently claims the government does not have the numbers. I have no clue which of them is right – although it is worth noting that the Opposition did not ask the minister any questions yesterday, on a day where there were no especially big issues.


Energetic Austrade

Austrade’s annual report is just out, mentioning the many things it does to assist education exporters. But it is a bit light on for metrics. We learn, for example, the Future Unlimited competition, offering study opportunities to people who like the idea of an Australian education attracted 37 000 entries and the number of “study in Australia” Facebook fans grew 80 per cent, although there are no numbers on whether it generated any fee paying enrolments. Austrade also reports “educated-related travel services” generated $4bn from China, but how much of that was due to Austrade is not stated. Certainly higher education visa applications from China were up by 20 per cent in the year from March 2013, but again it’s not clear what percentage of the growth is attributable to Austrade. There are many similar statistics, -education visas from the Philippines grew by 35 per cent for example, but sadly because Austrade does not actually sell anything it is impossible to assess return on investment. I wonder what would happen if the agency was closed (as the Commission of Audit suggested) and some of its budget distributed to universities that do their own recruiting.

No fooling senators

With a week to go the NTEU obviously intends to fight deregulation down to the wire, especially given the risk the minister will make enough concessions, notably on loan interest rates to get it through. Last night the union assured us that Senate cross benchers “will not be fooled by amendments that fail to address the underlying problem with the Minister’s policies: that the deregulation of university fees will see many Australians paying more than $100,000 for a degree at a public university.” Is this realism or optimism?

The day for it

What a coincidence! As Joko Widodo was being inaugurated as president of Indonesia yesterday it occurred to ANU to announce that it has won seven grants from the Australia Indonesian Centre. Admittedly they are not very large grants, totalling $125000. Still, anything Indonesian was in order yesterday.