All cashed-up with nowhere to go

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank announces $1.1m in scholarship funding for 287 rural/regional tertiary students to study away from home. Will come in handy when they are finally allowed onto a campus.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Sonal Singh (UTS)  on the digital skills divide between regional/low SES students and the rest. This week’s contribution to Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.

How Flinders U uses Microsoft platforms to keep its community informed on COVID-19.

Merlin Crossley (UNSW)  on the leaderless life of the lab boss.

The coming education market in Indonesia

It’s time to start work to be part of it

There’s an on-line opportunity to look over the international education horizon tomorrow, thanks to the Australia-Indonesia Centre. It’s hosting a webinar on the Indonesian market for Australian higher and VET providers plus ed tech potential. Register here In Features this morning Eugene Sebastian and Helen Brown from the AIC set out the three things institutions who want to invest in Indonesia need to do now.

USQ invests in talent

There’s a $29 000 package for school leavers with alpha-ATARS who make University of Southern Queensland their first preference

The university’s Become Rewarded scholarships automatically go to school leavers with ATARS of 97, who apply and then enrol. Top-offer chancellor’s scholarships are, “valued up to” $29 000 and include “an optional study abroad package,” which may not have many takers just now.

And there are rewards for the not-quite as ATAR-endowed, a $20 000 scholarship for applicants with 88 and up academic rankings and $6000 for those who score 84.

“We want to give back to our community and for our high-achieving students to stay here in our local communities,” Vice Chancellor Geraldine McKenzie says. Although, out of region applicants are also eligible.

The university may not expect to be trampled in the rush of applicants –USQ invests in talent scholarships “are unlimited in number.”

Union defends over-sighting management savings

Just about every university that has rejected the NTEU co-proposed “job protection framework” cites the “expert oversight panel” as a reason

This would examine what universities were giving-up in return for staff accepting reductions in wages and conditions to protect jobs by saving institutions money. The panel would include union representatives.

Universities suggest the panel would intrude on the governance obligations of their councils.

With a nation-wide NTEU member vote on the proposal due within days the national leadership evidently does not want this argument influencing anybody and commissioned legal advice from Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, (“we fight for fair”).

Blackburn argues that university positions are “fundamentally misconceived” and based on misapprehensions of what the panel would do and how university enterprise agreements work.

“Under the framework, it remains entirely open for a university to decide not to institute any cost saving measures, or alternatively, introduce particular cost saving measures and not others, as a response to its economic circumstances,” Blackburn states.

The firm also suggests the framework addresses issues that are covered by enterprise agreements.

“We do not consider that the governance objection constitutes a legal impediment to the implementation of the framework in varied university enterprise agreements,” it concludes.

The opinion is in broad-agreement with the views of an independent industrial relations observer, writing in CMM; “claims that the deal cuts across the statutory role of councils/senates are wrong. Current EBs limit many elements of the managerial authority of governing bodies and vice chancellors (eg Higher Education Contract of Employment-style limits on the use of contracts and limits on forced redundancies) and the proposed deal is no different in principle or at law.” (CMM May 21).

International student leader leaves

Ahmed Ademoglu resigned Friday as national president of the Council of International Students Australia. The council announced his departure yesterday. Mr Ademoglu became president in July. He is a nursing student at Curtin U.

Deakin U goes it alone on savings-strategy

VC announces savings strategy and rejects union co-sponsored on protection plan

Cuts to come: Deakin U management expects 300 people to leave and 100 empty positions not to be filled as management responds to a 14 per cent fall in revenue this year. The university is quick to point out it employed around 10,500 individuals or 5,700 FTE at the end of 2019.

Vice Chancellor Iain Martin told staff yesterday revenue in 2021 will also be down, by $250-$300m.

Professor Martin says, “optimal navigation through the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic” will require, “spending appreciably more than we earn” for the next 18-36 months. However, the university will also “appreciably reduce” budget expenditure.

Including jobs; “while we will do everything possible to minimise staff impacts, we must look at our employment costs as well as continuing to minimise other expenditure to adjust to where we need to be,” he adds. The university adds the 300 positions to go are not FTEs.

By Deakin for Deakin: Professor Martin also ruled out adopting the wages-condition cuts for jobs proposal from the National Tertiary Education Union and four vice chancellors.

“We have an enterprise agreement that underpins the vast majority of employment contracts at Deakin U, and we see no need to change this to enact measures included in the framework such as stand-downs, forced leave, forced reduction of hours, across the board pay cuts of up to 15 per cent and deferral of incremental progression that we have no desire to implement,” he said.

However, Professor Martin joins other vice chancellors in rejecting the accord’s proposed oversight of participating university emergency finances by a national committee including union representatives. “Our council is responsible for setting the overall strategic pathway for Deakin U, and the framework will constrain its ability to decide what is in the best short, medium, and longer-term interests of the university. That independent governance oversight has served Deakin very well in balancing the needs of now and the imperatives for the future.”

What happens next:  Council has endorsed management’s COVID-19 plan and Professor Martin says a new strategic plan, a “balanced” approach to reducing costs and debt and “a phased approach to staff reductions,” “will now proceed.”

Reaction: NTEU Victorian secretary Mel Slee slams the plan, saying Deakin is in a “financially strong position” but will “embark on a major strategy shift involving a huge reduction of the on-going staffing complement.”

Dr Slee says the university should start with voluntary redundancies.

Last night Deakin responded that, “the proposed change that will soon be put out for consultation does not include a voluntary redundancy programme, however, if staff wish to indicate such an interest as part of the consultation, then that will of course be considered on an individual basis.

Stark stat on absent internationals


It’s been a while coming but there is bad news on China student numbers

The feds have released international student course variation figures for the first quarter. Most categories increased in line with overall student populations.  But not the number who deferred on compassionate/compelling grounds. There were 9212 of them in the category for Q1 last year – this year there are 30,798.

Higher education takes the hit, less jumping than rocketing from 3592 last year to 19 310 this.

It’s not because most of these people don’t want to study – it’s because they can’t. And those who can’t are from China. There were 1743 deferrals by students from China this time last year – now it is, 19 310.

It’s not all bad – at least as of end March it wasn’t. As the Department of Education, Skills and Employment points out, there were 60 000 Chinese student visa holders outside Australia then, who had not deferred. We have to wait to learn what they think of their first semester of on-line learning.

But the new deferral data certainly does demonstrate the March first semester intake numbers looked way better than they were (CMM May 18).

There is a swag of students who are technically counted as studying in the enrolment / commencement data but who we now know deferred. The still unknown at this stage is that with institutions relaxing their enrolment policies, the deferred number may still reach horrible heights over the rest of first semester.

The data also demonstrates institutes who have been reporting they were significantly down were ahead of the system-wide numbers.

The course variation figures are the ones to watch, certainly for this semester.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent