The visa mess streamlining international education into strife

plus University of Sydney works on a new structure while the University of Adelaide abandons one

Mugshots

“Last chance to expose a feral,” No its not an opportunity to Facebook a pic of that especially unstylish colleague. Rather it’s advice that the Invasive Animals CRC’s will soon close entries in its annual competition for photos of appalling intruders, wild pigs, foxes and the ubiquitous rabbit, for example, and the damage they do.

Tuesday Aug 23

Keeping it simple Sydney-style

The University of Sydney last night released the draft change proposal for a new academic structure designed to simplify the existing complex one, which, “has meant that the efforts and goals of university staff and students are often inhibited.” There is an immense amount of detail on who will report to whom and what resources will go where. And just to keep it simple, staff are assured that the Sydney School of Business is in fact a faculty. But don’t worry, it’s all sorted with the people who matter, 300 university leaders have already discussed the plans. Presumably including some who could lose their jobs – the plan specifies a bunch of senior academic administrative roles and professional positions where people might go. (But not in the business faculty, sorry school, or engineering and IT, both of which stay as they are.) This is a long and complex document, with ample org charts and plenty of position descriptions but beyond a list of ten senior staff effected it is hard to tell how many heads will roll. Provost Stephen Garton will lead consultations which start now and run till November.

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Uni Adelaide staff stay in silos

In a major management backdown the University of Adelaide has abandoned a new academic structure sent to staff for consultation last month (CMM July 1). The plan was to reduce the number of faculties and empower the university’s 16 schools to get staff out their silos and start cross-disciplinary research conversations. “The challenge now is to embolden schools to embrace new connections and combine their capacities to interact in ways that maximise their external impact unobstructed by organisational barriers,” Vice Chancellor Warren Bebbington said then.

But despite the VC’s assurances there were no job losses attached to the plan (apart from two dean positions, one of which is empty) the academic community was not buying. While the university leadership is said to be solid, staff in the schools said they like things the way they are. With 300 staff participating in consultations Professor Bebbington concluded; “there was a wide concern that executive deans would become quite remote from the schools they represented and supervised in the changed arrangement.”

The university will now create funding incentives for staff to work with academics outside their schools, create new collaboration KPIs for deans and heads of schools and appoint additional theme directors.

Dodson to Monash

Monash graduate Mick Dodson is taking up a three year vice chancellor’s professorial fellowship at the university. He is now a professor of law at ANU. Professor Dodson is a former commissioner at the Human Rights Commission and was the 2009 Australian of the Year.

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Streamlining stuffed up

Disquiet with the new visa application system for international students continues. Instead of fast tracking students from low-risk countries into esteemed institutions some are talking of postponing pathway programmes due to enrolled students not arriving, especially from China because of visa delays (CMM August 26). Some international industry insiders are bemused by the way high-quality applicants are being delayed while aspiring students from countries the feds used to keep a close eye on are sailing through. The requirements are now tougher for the former and easier for the latter one industry veteran explains.

However the Department of Immigration and Border Protection is said to be assuring universities that all is well with the scheme, it’s just that officers are just stretched by a rush of applications under the old rules. Whatever the reason, this is seriously disrupting pipeline programmes, where students have to start ELICOS and diploma programmes by dates in September and October to meet completion deadlines in time to start undergraduate programmes.

This is very bad indeed, as International Education Association of Australia CEO Phil Honeywood points out; “education agents will quickly redirect students to other study destination countries if Australian authorities cannot meet key intake deadlines.”

“Ironically, the new simplified student visa framework system was supposed to make things even more ‘streamlined’ than the former ‘streamlined visa procedures’ system. We can only hope that all of this streamlining of administration has not resulted in too much preemptive streamlining of resources to enable students to actually obtain the piece of paper that permits them entry here”, Mr Honeywood says. The IEAA is seeking an urgent meeting with assistant minister for immigration Alex Hawke.

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New script doctor

Pia Aqulia is the new head of screenwriting at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. Dr Aqulia has previously taught at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She is now an adjunct aspro at the University of Newcastle.

Location, location

La Trobe U has $1m from the Victorian state government to fund aspiring entrepreneurs, including those living in centres where it has regional campuses, Bendigo, Shepparton and Albury-Wodonga. “These are areas of incredible untapped creativity and innovation and this program will be the catalyst to transform undiscovered business ideas into reality,” PVC Industry Engagement Daniel Grant says. Good-oh, but isn’t it in the nature of entrepreneurs to go where the money is rather than wait for resources to come to them?

This does not apply to the eleven grants of $22 000 available to “young scientists, researchers and innovators” with ideas for agriculture, fisheries or forestry. You can’t innovate in forestry in inner city, Sydney. Or San Francisco for that matter, (CMM April 28) where a federally-funded start-up space has just opened. It’s the equivalent of funding people to write Australian novels in Paris.

Not on the notice paper

Parliament begins today with the government listing a litany of legislation, but as Swinburne’s Andrew Dempster points out one urgent bill that isn’t listed is Simon Birmingham’s plan to fix the VET FEE HELP mess. Surely an oversight.

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More of the same

Education exporters expect to grow over the next three to five years through selling existing products in the same markets they are in now, according to a University of Sydney survey published in a new report by the Australian Export Council. And that mainly means China, which, including Hong Kong, accounts for 22 per cent of responders’ overseas revenue, followed by Japan, India, Indonesia and Singapore, all providing 5 per cent. China is also a market of choice for organisations not active there, with 16 per cent of those saying they will enter new countries specifying it. This makes it equal with India as the preferred market to pursue.

As to impediments, responders nominate international competition, Australian bureaucracy and currency movements as the big three problems.

Awful attrition
The estimable National Centre for Vocational Education and Training reports that completion and attrition rates for apprentices and trainees are, and will stay, stable, which is the good news. The scary stats are that the individual drop-out rate for trades and all trainees are both in the low 40 per cent range.

This is generally attributed to people giving their course away because they did not enjoy the occupation involved. This is understandable but surely it is also avoidable to some extent if better information was available on study content. Still, it will make universities feel better – they are hammered for attrition rates that are less than half the figure for people in training.

 

 

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