Hexed at UNSW

The university advertises on-line courses starting in “Hexamester Five”. Presumably named for the Fury who punishes academic timetablers.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

How bad could funding for research get? Larkins and Marshman estimate the drop in international student fees from 2018 to ’24 will cost research $7.23bn That’s 4600 FTE researcher jobs.

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on why independent funding protects free speech on campus.

Garry Carnegie (RMIT) and James Guthrie (Macqurie U) on the ten unis with the biggest per centage of operating income from international student fees .

Another big ranking win for UNSW

Last year UNSW cracked the ARWU top 100 – it’s way up this year

The new Academic Ranking of World Universities is pretty much the same as it always is – reflecting the research resources, (for now, at least) of old and rich institutions. Harvard U is number one in the world for the 18th year.

But strategy and spending can deliver change, as UNSW demonstrates again, being =74th in the world. Even better it is equal with the auld enemy, Uni Sydney.

Another ARWU win at UNSW: Last year joy was unconfined at Kensington as UNSW made it into the global top 100, just – rating 94th. VC Ian Jacobs said this was an eight-place improvement on 2018, (institutions above 100 are listed alphabetically in numerical bands, (CMM August 15 2018, August 16 2019).

Cracking the 100 is one thing, improving 26 spots is many more. The ARWU ratings tend to be relatively stable at the top and while a move this big may be due to anomalies in the ranking formula UNSW moving up three straight years looks like a trend.

This follows UNSW’s remarkable performance on the ARWU discipline rankings. It is the first Australian institution on the top 100/50 list this year (37 of 54 subjects), (CMM June 30) and was last year (38 of 54). In 2019 it was in equal first place for appearing on the most discipline lists (52 of 54) with McGill U, Uni Michigan-Ann Arbor and Uni British Columbia (CMM June 27 2019).

Local heroes: All the Aus unis in the ARWU global top 100 this year (with their 2019 and ’18 positions) are:

Uni Melbourne: 35 (41 and 38). Uni Queensland: = 54 (55 and 55). = ANU 67 (76 and 69). UNSW =74 (94 and estimated 102). Uni Sydney: =74 (=80, 68). Monash U = 85 (73,91). UWA =85 (99 and 93.)  Uni Adelaide is next in the 151-200 band.

Next set: Universities in the 201-300 band are. Curtin U, Deakin U, Macquarie U, Swinburne U, U Tas, UTS and Uni Wollongong.  Swinburne U is up from the 301-400 band last year and James Cook U drops from this band to 301-400.

Across the ditch, Uni Auckland is the only New Zealand institution to make the 201-300 group, same as last year.


Good day sunshine

Helen Bartlett starts work as VC of U Sunshine Coast

She moves from physically (and fiscally) frozen Ballarat-hqed Federation U (max temp 12° the other day). There will be more for her to enjoy than the sunshine. Garry Carnegie and James Guthrie reported in CMM Friday that last year Federation U depended on international student fees for 44.9 per cent of income from continuing operations – the highest figure in the country. In contrast, internationals made up 20 per cent of USC student enrolments last year.

Uni Wollongong to reduce student accommodation  

The university will close two student residences “throughout 2021”, because “occupancy rates are low and the sense of community that our students enjoy has been effected” 

Residents who relocate to other university housing will get a 10 per cent cut in accommodation costs.

It’s not the only housing issue UoW faces. Word is it is contractually obliged to underwrite 85 per cent occupancy on some facilities – which are now half-full. UoW says it “does not comment on the details of contractual discussions or arrangements.”


JobKeeper for universities: in the too-hard basket

Why the public system gets no wage support

“Universities were not excluded from JobKeeper. The eligibility criteria for universities are different from the eligibility criteria for other businesses,” Jenny Wilkinson from Treasury told a Senate inquiry Friday.

Ms Wilkinson was appearing before the Senate Select Committee on Covid-19’s  inquiry into the government’s response to the pandemic.

Senator Whish-Wilson (Greens-Tas) asked if Treasury had provided advise to the government on excluding universities from JobKeeper. She replied that Treasury had, “provided advice to government on the design of all elements of the JobKeeper programme, including the particular situations that universities were in.”

As to universities circumstance;

“The situation with universities is more complicated than a lot of businesses for a range of reasons. It’s partly the way in which GST turnover is measured for universities, and also the way in which revenue is accrued over time and the way in which particularly overseas student enrolments are recognised. It was for all of these reasons that the eligibility criteria for universities was set out in a different way than for other businesses, not only because of their definition of turnover but also the fact that they needed to meet a decline in turnover over a six-month period.”

So that explains it, the government wasn’t being hostile, things were “complicated.”

Every little saving helps at RMIT

The university says, “several grants are available … to provide with you the opportunity to pursue excellence in your research.” Just not next year

A notice to research leaders advises there will be no university scholarships, “through usual rounds” for research students in 2021.  There will be an update mid-year.

Students are advised to check scholarships in funded projects.

RMIT needs to find savings – Carnegie and Guthrie estimate it depends on international students for 43 per cent of total income from continuing operations last year, (CMM Friday). Larkins and Marshman rate it the second most at-risk university in the country, with available reserves unable to cover predicted declines in international student income, (CMM May 31).

Attrition: a problem for unis

University managements were largely silent during the deplorathon over the government decision to exclude people who fail half their subjects – funny that

Dan Tehan responded to the uproar at the end of last week, telling Rafael Epstein on ABC Radio in Melbourne, “What we don’t want is students taking on a study load that they can’t complete, leaving them without a qualification and a large debt. … And, so, when they are not doing well, we want universities and the student to be able to sit down and discuss how the student is performing. And, then, if need be, either provide additional assistance, or maybe steer them to another course which is more suitable for them …. “

Which is a very polite way of pointing to a problem of the dare not speak its name kind –attrition.

Back in 2018 the Higher Education Standards Panel, report on attrition found; “significant improvements in provider approach are possible to maximise students’ chances of successfully completing their studies.”  (CMM June 8 2018).

And HESP was not having universities pointing to students’ SES as the main cause for their drop-out rates.  “An analysis using regression techniques showed that student characteristics only explained a small part of the overall variation in student attrition. The institution is a more important factor than the basis of admission, the student’s ATAR score, type of attendance, mode of attendance or age in explaining attrition.” (Although, HESP added, “measurable factors only explain 22.5 per cent of the overall variation in attrition.”)

Appointments, achievements

James Arvanitakis moves up PVC Engagement, from PVR Research and Graduate Studies, at Western Sydney U.

The Australian Council of Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities has a new executive; Cathy Coleborne (Uni Newcastle) is president. Nick Bisley (LT U) is secretary. Annamarie Jagose (Uni Sydney) is treasurer and Tony Ballantyne (Uni Otago) represents Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Clive Baldock joins Uni Wollongong as dean of graduate research. He moves from U Tasmania where he was PVC Researcher Development.

 Kevin Hall (DVC R) will leave Uni Newcastle in November to become vice chancellor of the University of Victoria, in British Columbia – where they lay welcomes on with a trowel.

The 2020 Victorian Young Tall Poppies for scientific achievement include; Nir Eynon (Victoria U0, Ben Henley (Uni Melbourne and Monash U), Francine Marques (Monash U). And among the South Australian YTPs are – Maria Inacio (South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute and Uni SA) and Janet Sluggett (UniSA and SAHMRI).