There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Open access to research is set to expand. Cameron Neylon and Lucy Montgomery (Curtin U) explain a big change.

Social-media uni reviews are here to stay. Mahsood Shah (Swinburne U) argues universities must learn to live with, and from, them. It’s Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s final selection for the year in her series on what we need now in teaching and learning.

Michael Tomlinson on why the new higher education provider category standards will make it possible for a range of roses to bloom sweetly

Once super two now fab five

When Uni Sydney and UNSW were the harbour city’s HE super powers they competed to spin school leaver first preferences as a sign of superiority

Now not so much, what with there being less duopoly and more big five. The Universities Admission Centre reports Uni Sydney leads first preference applications for next year, with 18.11 per cent of UAC applications, UNSW follows at 15.83 per cent, UTS is at 13.92 per cent, Macquarie U 11.62 per cent, Uni Newcastle has 11.55 per cent.

Australian Technology Network is one up

Deakin University  joins the ATN, bringing its membership to five

Deakin  is now  a member, with UTS, RMIT, Uni SA and Curtin U.

This is a big win for ATN – with Deakin U replacing QUT, which left two years back (CMM October 2 2018).

The Network can now argue it is the second largest specialist lobby in higher education, measured by student numbers, research reputation and funding. It is also an achievement for ED Luke Sheehy, appointed in mid 2019. He has energised ATN, lifting its policy presence and profile to back-up chair Attila Brungs (UTS).

The times suit ATN, with applied research top of government mind. The network is making the most of it.

Macquarie U proposes a $25m saving on academic staff costs

Management is asking for volunteers, but if there aren’t enough forced redundancies will follow

The hit is on top of $13.5 saved by voluntary redundancies across the university this year. The $25.1m now required is split across all four faculties; Arts ($5.5m), Science and Engineering ($7.9m), Medicine Health, Human Sciences ($4.3m) and the Business School ($7.4m)

Vice Chancellor S Bruce Dowton sets out what management proposes in a paper sent to staff yesterday.

The university has re-opened VRs for academic staff, with applications to be accepted until January 29. But in case heads need to roll, management makes it plain that selections for sacking will be based on more than what staff cost, including, “exploring opportunities to strategically align the academic workforce with the teaching and research work of the university into the future, including building capacity for ongoing innovation in how we undertake our teaching mission.”

In the first instance, faculties will decide where to look for their own savings. Faculty committees will then assess staff by recent performance on the university’s five promotion criteria.

Individuals would be allowed to submit a two-page statement, but sparing them an extra indignity, Professor Dowton assures academics, “we are not proposing interviews.”

But while these proposed cuts are for continuing staff, there is also unspecified bad news for casuals, “it is anticipated that the predicted reduction in student enrolments will lead to a reduction in casual academic hours available. This is highly variable across the university and is not proposed to be included in this framework.” However fixed-term academics are “in-scope”.

The new proposal for exits by academics follows a previous a prop for professional staff with a $25m saving in 2021, There are also separate change plans for IT, Finance and the PVC Learning and Teaching portfolio.

And that’s not the end of it – the university’s briefing paper states it could still need $38.3m in more savings, “this may require further change in 2022.

Claire Field on the changes to come in VET and HE


Profound change is underway in higher education, with new funding arrangements which separate teaching from research and send conflicting signals to students and institutions. Short courses were rapidly introduced and significant organisational restructuring is now underway in some institutions. Further change lies ahead with decisions on research funding arrangements still to be taken, and changes to higher education provider category standards and foreign interference laws before the parliament.

International education has proven remarkably resilient despite the border closures. While higher education commencements are down 25 per cent, enrolments are only down 4 per cent and some institutions have performed well in an online-only environment. The VET sector has surprised with growth in both enrolments and commencements, and while ELICOS providers are hardest hit, there have been few ELICOS or VET provider closures, as government financial support and the option of regulatory hibernation have worked as intended.

Next year is when international education providers will struggle if National Cabinet does not agree to carefully reopen the borders to students.

Fee-for-service VET activity was hit hard as employers stopped spending, but government funding flooded into the sector and there was much talk of national reform (albeit the $1bn JobTrainer scheme is less nationally consistent than expected). The year ends with a suite of reforms and long-term funding decisions still being negotiated as the basis for the next National Skills Agreement. One reform to keep an eye on in 2021 is an innovative pilot being run by the Digital Skills Organisation. It focuses on skills assessment and employment outcomes rather than nationally recognised training and two of the three organisations involved are not RTOs. Will this ‘tech training’ deliver what employers want and if so what might it mean for training packages and nationally recognised qualifications?

Claire Field is the host of the ‘What Now? What Next? Insights into Australia’s tertiary education sector’ podcast. In the latest episode she interviews Patrick Kidd OBE OAM, CEO of the Digital Skills Organisation.

Six unis not “aligned” with government-supported free speech code

Minister Tehan urges them “to take action”

Sally Walker’s Review of university implementation of the government’s campus free-speech code was released last night. Professor Walker’s review, commissioned by Education Minister Dan Tehan, examined how university free-speech policies are now aligned with recommendations of Robert French’s review.

Professor Walker also recommended university governing bodies be required to publish a statement demonstrating their institutions alignment with the French code. Mr Tehan endorsed this last night, saying that, “if agreed, the statement would be made annually and published in the university’s annual report.”

In his statement Mr Tehan reported Professor Walker found, “nine universities had policies that were fully aligned with the French Model Code, 14 universities were mostly aligned, four were partly aligned and six had policies that were not aligned.”

The nine in-line are, Australian Catholic U, La Trobe U, RMIT, Torrens U, the universities of Newcastle, Queensland and the Sunshine Coast, Uni Sydney and UWA.

Professor Walker cites La Trobe U, Uni Sydney and RMIT as “exemplars of particularly good practice”

The six reported as not-aligned are, Federation U, James Cook U, Monash U, UNSW, UTS and Uni SA.

““Universities have until the end of the year to honour their commitment to align their policies with the French Model Code and I strongly urge those universities that have not already done so to take action,” Mr Tehan said.

Legislation amending the two higher education acts to include the French Review is before the parliament. “The Australian government is strongly committed to supporting academic freedom and freedom of speech in Australian universities. Our universities are critical institutions where ideas are debated and challenged. We must ensure they are places that protect all free speech, even where what is being said may be unpopular or challenging,” Mr Tehan said in his second reading speech in the Reps.

UNSW says we go further than French

Last night UNSW stated its commitment to free speech exceeds the French Model Code requirements

“UNSW is totally committed to academic freedom and freedom of speech and our existing policies and procedures go further than the Model Code’s requirements, which impose certain limits, ” the  university asserted in a statement last night.

“UNSW’s position is clear and unambiguous: freedom of expression at UNSW is no different to freedom of speech across Australia. The only constraint that we place on freedom of speech is the law. We will not restrict the right of staff, students or others to express their views however challenging or controversial, as long as they remain within the law.”

Spill and fill for Uni Queensland Library staff

Management proposes to spill 51 FTE positions, with a net loss of 19 from an existing strength of 220 FTE

The university tells staff this is not a COVID-19 driven proposal, but, “the pandemic has brought into sharp focus the need to accelerate the development of the Library’s digital support services and ensure the staffing model is fit-for-purpose.”

The Library needs to, “lift the capacity, expertise, and digital capabilities of its workforce – this is not a criticism of staff but an acknowledgement that the “digital pivot” by Uni Queensland requires more,” the change proposal states.

Management points to expanded demands for teaching and learning support, “the need for hybrid delivery modes and the opportunities that digital learning provides, including student flexibility and incorporating technology into the classroom to support active learning, means the increased need for IT support is going to continue.

And for research, “the Library has an ongoing role in supporting scholarly publishing. The opportunity is now is to reframe this to whole-of-research-lifecycle support to add more value at all points – from idea conception, to identifying funding opportunities, establishing best practice research data management, making strategic publishing decisions, and tracking the impact of scholarly outputs.”

However, the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union suggests, “the new structure will also take us further down the road towards embedding hybrid teaching across the university.”

And it points to the impact on people, “at the end of this dog-eat-dog process, some highly professional and dedicated staff will end up unemployed.”

Consultation closes on December 22.

Appointments, achievements

Luke Bennetts (Uni Adelaide) receives the Australian Mathematical Society’s medal.

Andy Keough from defence technology company Saab Australia joins Uni Adelaide’s council.

Moira O’Bryan starts as science dean at Uni Melbourne. She was previously head of the biological science school at Monash U.

VRs at Murdoch U

186 staff applied for voluntary redundancy, 96 are approved to go, “so far”

Vice Chancellor Eeva Leinonen tells staff that applicants are from both academic and professional staff, “from right across the university.”

“it is regrettable that we have had to take this step. This is not something we could have foreseen heading into 2020,” Professor Leinonen says.

But it seems some departing staff are not immediately redundant. “Some of you who have accepted a voluntary redundancy may be asked to stay on for a few weeks or months longer. This is to ensure we transition as seamlessly as possible into 2021 and support our new and returning students,” the VC adds.

La Trobe U Excellence awards

They were announced yesterday

Research – early career: * Joanne Kemp, (School of Allied Health, Human Services and Sport) *  Yves Rees,(History) * Kate O’Connor, (Education)
Research – mid-career : * Jason Dutton, (Molecular Sciences/Chemistry and Physics) * Andrea Carson, (Journalism)
Research supervision: * Kay Crossley, (Sport and Exercise Medicine)

Research engagement and impact: Dana Wong, (clinical neuropsychology)
Learning and teaching – sessionals: * Hosu Ryu, Danny Fryer

Learning and teaching – early career: *Amanda Shaker, * Anita Mackay

VC teaching awards  * Bachelor of Food and Nutrition Course Leadership Team, * Human Biosciences Employability Team, * Monica Peddle, and the Accounting Experiential Learning Team

VC teacher of the year: * Human Biosciences Employability Team 

VC cultural qualities awards * Accountable, Payroll Team. * Connected, Research Performance and Rankings Team * Innovative, International Digital Roadshow Team and Virtual Open Day 2020 Team * Care: Domestic Outbound Call Campaign Team, and International Student Services Team