There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Dawn Bennett and colleagues  wondered what bized students want so they asked 6000 of them.

Kylie Austin on widening HE participation – we need a national collaboration and not an institutional focus. It’s Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s selection this week for her series on what we need now in teaching and learning.

The cash before the storm. Garry Carnegie and James Guthrie on theNSW Auditor’s report on 2019 university financials.

Merlin Crossley on the long path to publication. Why it takes so long, why it is tough on young researchers and how it could be done a bit better.

Making the unethical illegal

The House of Reps passed the academic integrity bill on Friday

The legislation targets commercial providers of essay-writing services for students (CMM December 5 2019), which “undermines the integrity of Australia’s higher education system.”

There was a good deal of debate last year as to whether it is the best way of addressing the issue or whether over-assiduously applied the legislation could capture parents and friends helping a student struggling with an assignment. “We need a national conversation about where, exactly, the line is between cheating and feedback, collaboration and collusion,” Melissa Zaccagnini, and colleagues argue (CMM September 22 2019). 

The government and TEQSA have made it clear that commercial providers are the target but the debate will roll-on after the legislation is rolled-out.

Labor,”is very concerned” about vulnerable students targeted by cheating services and wants universities to ensure students, “have somewhere to go for help”.

However, CMM understand the Opposition will support the bill.

Fahey out at Austrade

CEO Stephanie Fahey will leave the agency on July 10

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham announced her departure Friday. Tim Beresford, one of Dr Fahey’s two deputies, will act until a permanent appointment is made. Dr Fahey’s Twitter account was silent late Friday on what she will do next.

Capital outcome for internationals

On Friday the Prime Minister mentioned a pilot programme for international students to return to campus

Access terms and quarantine conditions would apply and while no institution was named he did say it could work in the ACT.

There were suggestions on the weekend 350 students could arrive, ahead of ten times that next year.

Cue glee from the capitals major two campuses which Fred and Gingered a coordinated response. “The University of Canberra is situated in one of the safest cities in one of the safest nations in the world. We are working with the full support of the ACT Government in tandem with ANU to welcome our continuing international students back to Canberra as soon as possible,” VC Paddy Nixon said.

“We have missed them and it’s been tough on them being away from the city and campus – and from a community they contribute to substantially, ANU’s Brian Schmidt agreed.

“We’re working in close partnership with the ACT Government and the University of Canberra to develop a pilot to safely return our student.”

The ANU branch of the NTEU was quick to suggest a pilot would improve ANU finances to such extent that the management-proposed pay-rise cancellation is now not necessary.  An all-staff vote on varying the Enterprise Agreement to cancel this year’s pay-rise starts Wednesday.

ACU specifies where savings could come from

Australian Catholic University says it’s “not considering voluntary redundancies.” Good-o but fixed term and casual/sessional staff should watch out

ACU forecasts a $125.9m revenue loss across 2020-22, due to COVID-19 and the loss of international student revenue.  Measures to manage it include, reducing non-salary expenditure ($31m) and, with university senate approval, using $53m in “future forecast surpluses” to create a “reinvestment fund,” “to invest in saving the jobs of our staff.”

However, and it is a considerable qualification for staff involved, there will be a, “review of further fixed term employment,” and “reduced sessional and casual employment.”

And no part of ACU will escape. “Workforce costing savings and staff reductions will be applied to each organisation unit,” The target for savings on staff is $42m.

But staff will have to be involved; “we are not considering a voluntary separation programme. Where a change is required, change management will be undertaken in-line with the enterprise agreement,” the university states. This means staff would vote on any move to “vary” the 2021 pay-rise now in the EA.

None of which went down well with the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union, “the NTEU condemns in the strongest possible terms the development of plans that erode staff conditions and result in the loss of security, agreed entitlements and the livelihoods for our colleagues.”

Branch president Leah Kaufmann adds the union will oppose any proposal to vary the enterprise agreement, “proposed by the ACU alone.”


Case closed at Murdoch U

The university has stopped its legal action against staff member Gerd Schröder-Turk, who has ended his counter-claim against the university

What’s happened: The university adds it has “permanently withdrawn” a motion put to the university’s Senate in May last year to remove Aspro Turk from his staff-elected membership of the governing body.
Associate Professor Schröder-Turk remains a valued member of both the Murdoch University academy and of the Murdoch University Senate,” it said in a Friday statement.

Where this came from: In May ’19 Schröder-Turk appeared on ABC TV’s Four Corners, alleging Murdoch U had accepted international students whose academic-quality was low. Management vehemently rejected this and moved to end his Senate membership, which Schröder-Turk opposed.  In October, the university also sued him for loss of income and reputation.

Which led to: the university being condemned on social media, one petition attracted 38 500 supporters.  Academics and scholarly associations in Australia and Europe also criticised the university.  National Tertiary Education Union leader Alison Barnes summed up the critics’ case, “Academic staff not only have the right, but also an obligation to the public to speak out about matters of importance to higher education, including to criticise their employers when necessary.”

The university started to walk things back in January, when it dropped its claim for damages, although it still wanted Schröder-Turk off Senate, with the case scheduled for an April court hearing.

But it appears Murdoch U management thinking changed, in early February the university invited Aspro Schröder-Turk’s lawyers to “resolve the on-going legal matters” adding, “as always, Murdoch University is committed to freedom of expression and will always provide an environment for students and staff to speak freely,” (CMM February 4).

It’s all over now: Speaking-freely is what Associate Professor Schröder-Turk intends to do. In a message to supporters Friday he said; “I … look forward to contributing, as a member of the academic community, to the public debate on the many aspects of Australia’s higher education sector that, as is now clearer than ever, require some discussion.”

When China students stopped arriving

Last month Dirk Mulder warned truly terrible numbers for international education would start appearing in leave-of-absence reports (CMM May 18) And lo! on Friday they did

The bad news was in a synthesis of stats reported by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, including international student deferment data for March and April.

March deferments in 2019 were 7 111, this year they were 20 682. In April ’19 they were 3 138 and this year 22 277.

Separate arrivals and departure stats data for the first quarter also showed the number of people with student visas was down 21 per cent, year on year. Ex China the decline was just 3 per cent. The drop in China arrivals was 48 per cent.

Where the evidence leads

Federal and state/territory governments are kicking in $50m for a national evidence institute on school education

Jenny Donovan, now NSW Government ed stats person, will lead. Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan, who put up half the money says, “the institute will research and collate effective teaching and learning practices and share them with teachers, principals and educators to help drive further improvements.”

The institute was recommended by the 2018 Gonski Review which called for an agency to create a national research and evidence base, “that can be easily accessed and implemented to improve student outcomes.”

Griffith U proposes a pay freeze

Last month VC Carolyn Evans warned staff the university faced a $100m COVID-19 caused loss and next year, “is likely to be worse”  

“We may need to consider a simple variation to our enterprise agreement to be able to determine a sustainable response to the ongoing financial impact of COVID-19 and to protect jobs,” she said (CMM May 22).

Simple but, it now appears, painful. The VC proposes abandoning the Enterprise Agreement pay-rise scheduled for March, deferring salary increment advances to 2022, and a freeze on pay-rises accompanying academic promotions until then.

The university estimates these measures would save 80 jobs next year but as yet there is no word on how many would still be at risk, and where they might be.

The changes will likely be put to campus unions (NTEU and Together) before any staff vote to vary the agreement.


VET: a better career pathway for internationals, unless it’s about immigration


Before COVID-19 put international student intentions on-hold Indian and Nepalese students were moving from HE to VET

As I reported last week (CMM June 9,10), March YTD data demonstrated students from India and Nepal are driving VET growth, with enrolments concentrated in four course areas, (CMM June 10).  It’s a big change, and one, a learned reader points out,  with important implications. The LR suggested looking at the churn rate for these students, which I did, to discover.

 From HE to VET:   Visa data demonstrates that 3643 (57 per cent) of Indians studying in VET had previously studied in the Australian HE sector. In comparison, 2,075 (32.5 per cent) did not have a visa prior to commencing.

The situation for Nepalese is similar, with 920 students (47.5 per cent) previously studying in HE compared to 790 students (40.8 percent) who had not held a student visa prior to studying.

Overlaying onshore v offshore visa grants for the two countries confirms the prior studies data.

Offshore grant rates for both India and Nepal have plummeted – India had 1480 offshore VET visa grants in financial year 2018-19, compared to 484 for financial year 2019-20 (to April 30). While Nepal had 5654 offshore and 384 for the same time periods.

Onshore went the other way. India had 6509 onshore (in Australia) VET visa grants in financial year 2018-19, compared to 9382 for financial year 2019-20 (to April 30). Nepal was not as stark having 3177 and 2538 for the same time periods.

 What this may mean: The movement from HE to VET is a real one and it is large. Students are entering Australia in HE and converting to VET – a cheaper and potentially shorter course offering.

For the cohort of students whose last course was higher ed prior to heading into VET, the question is did they complete their original course and then start VET to get a job?

Or did they course hop?

 What we need now:  We need to know whether big international markets are starting to think VET is a better career basis than HE. Unless VET is now seen as a more cost-effective path to permanent residency.

Completion data by nationality needs to be the new big thing in compliance analysis.


Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent