A new policy shop

The NSW state government funds the James Martin Institute for Public Policy, in partnership with Uni Sydney, UTS, and Western Sydney U

“Our unique approach builds on a close partnership with government to bring academic experts into the early stages of policy making. By creating a trusted environment we can enable the contestability of ideas and neutralise vested interests,” the website advises.

Want to learn more? To “read our launch press release with comments from the NSW government, university vice-chancellors, our chair of board and CEO,” one has to fill in a form, providing name and email and nominate an industry.

Perhaps it’s a way of keeping watch on “vested interests”.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Measuring student and graduate experience of study is important to quality assurance but are no measure of employment outcomes. Jason Brown and Peter McIlveen warn universities should not use them in marketing. This week’s addition to Commission Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated series, Needed Now in Teaching and Learning.

Plus Angel Calderon (RMIT) on this year’s Good Universities Guide ranking – the institutions that do well, the way the metrics work and the GUG’s enduring achievement.

And James Guthrie (Macquarie U) digs into the UTS annual report to discover how the big building programme was funded – but not how many jobs COVID-19 has cost,

With Merlin Crossley (UNSW) who explains how science would have found other ways to fight COVID-19 without vaccines. It is what a “high-quality knowledge agenda” makes possible.

Uni Wollongong union asks about the accounts

The NTEU has 20 questions for management

Last year Uni Wollongong and campus unions struck a deal, ratified by an all staff vote, for concessions on conditions, in return for job protections.

The agreement included a management commitment, “to provide regular briefings” to the National Tertiary Education Union and Community and Public Sector Union, “on the university’s financial challenges and responses, subject to confidentiality requirements.” Regular updates were to be provided directly to staff, (CMM July 17 2020).

But, according to the campus branch of the NTEU, information on all sorts of financial issues is absent in the updates.

The union raises 20 questions which it asserts management has not adequately answered or answered at all – issues which presumably it thinks are unanswered in the annual report including;

* components of the university’s reported $42m loss last year

* the availability of cash invested

* funding of the student accommodation project

* increased fees paid to international education agents

* exact head counts of staff by employment category as of November ‘19 and ’20.

For a context to all this, read James Guthrie’s analysis of the UoW 2020 annual report (CMM July 13).

Dosh of the say

The feds are funding arts organisations to “reactivate”

The Australian National Academy of Music receives $73 000 for a two-day event of new Australian music.

Uni Sydney’s Cleveland Centre has $496 000 for 16-months of “multi-genre productions and events.

Great leap forward on CQU’s long march to medicine

The university is accepting applications for its new Bachelor of Medical Science which, to avoid understating intent, has a sub-title, “pathway to medicine”

It’s a three-year degree with a maximum 40 students a year to feed into Uni Queensland’s four-year MD.

The programme is a JV between CQU, Uni Queensland, plus the Central Queensland and Wide Bay hospital and health services.

It demonstrates where patience and guile can get a regional university. Former CQU VC Scott Bowman scrubbed-up in 2018, when he and a Queensland Health exec briefed Rockhampton media on why the city was just the place for a medical school  – Uni Queensland already having a clinical training school there helps (CMM March 9, November 13 2018).

And successor Nick Klomp kept at it, two years later signing an MOU for a  medical programme in Bundaberg and Rockhampton by 2022, in the presence of then Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles (CMM March 22 2019).

And now it is starting to happen, at least in Rocky (Bundaberg now gets placements at its hospital).

Another fight if the education minister wants one

Mr Tudge powered up the outrageatron Friday

What happened: Alan Tudge was exercised over a report in The Australian newspaper that an ANU student organisation would ban the Australian Defence Force from having stalls at a student welcome day.

“This is completely unacceptable.  It is one thing for some fringe students to have a pacifist view of the world, but quite another for the university’s student association, using compulsory student fees, to place a political lens over who they serve. … The ANU could immediately intervene to stop this individual example,” Mr Tudge said in a statement.

To which ANU responded, “once more detail comes to hand, and if any of our relevant policies or codes of conduct have been breached, the university will respond accordingly.”

What could be next: But Mr Tudge appears intent on appearing ready if ANU decides they aren’t. “I am going to look more carefully at how we prevent compulsory acquired student fees being used in an overtly political manner.” This could include, “insisting that student associations be subject to a similar free speech code that we are asking universities to adopt.”

Perhaps this could be done, with changes to the Study Assist-HELP scheme, under which the Commonwealth loans students the maximum $330 pa student services and amenities fee universities levy.  Or perhaps not, CMM asked the minister’s office and was told he “is considering a range of options.”

And why: This may, or may not be, enough to ensure some of Mr Tudge’s coalition colleagues do not demand immediate action.

When the SSAF was introduced a decade back, then Opposition members argued it was a way to force undergraduates to fund left-wing campus activism and to pay for services most did not use.

Some coalition members argue such still. In 2019 Senator James McGrath (LNP- Queensland) proposed a bill to abolish the compulsory student service fee, calling it, “unfair, unpopular, undemocratic, unnecessary, burdensome, politicised and wasteful,” (CMM February 15 2019).

Mr Tudge has nothing to lose by upsetting student unionists and creating additional imposition on universities.

And anything that annoys either goes down well in his party-room.

UWA sticks to its case for cuts

A management change proposal for the School of Social Sciences includes reducing the number of anthropology and social science staff from nine academics to one (CMM July 12)

It’s part of a $40m university-wide savings strategy, with VC Amit Chakma, telling ABC Radio Perth, “the key criteria is student demand, unfortunately the programmes in question have not been able to attract a large number of students” (CMM July 16).

Just how many make “a large number” is not clear. A National Tertiary Education Union submission on behalf of members in Social Sciences provides numbers which it states demonstrate student declines 2016-20 are nowhere near the 77 per cent quoted by management. And an email from the vice chancellor acknowledged an “unintended error in data extraction and subsequent processing” – the real figure, he stated is 40 per cent.

“But,” Professor Chakma added, “this does not alter the basis and need for strategic change.”

The consultation on Social Sciences is now closed, with no sign the vice chancellor is inclined to abandon the proposal.  On Friday UWA told CMM, “our priority at this time remains supporting affected staff and students, while we develop a way forward that supports the University’s objectives cognisant of the feedback we have received.”

Hard to see how management could say anything else.

The VC expects most schools will make head count savings targets through attrition and/or early retirement, there will be a “formal restructuring process” in seven or eight over six months (CMM July 16). A concession now could inspire resistance later.



Anna Nowak (UWA) is inaugural recipient of the Medical Oncology Group of Australia’s Professor M Tattersall Heroes Award.

Amanda Ruth is the new Guest of the Chair at the Medtech and Pharma Growth Centre. Dr Ruth is policy manager at Rare Cancers Australia.

Uni Sydney’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences has new appointments.  Libby Graham is confirmed as general manager, she has been acting in the role since March. Lisa Adkins becomes Deputy Dean (Strategy) while continuing as head of the School of Social and Political Sciences.