TEQSA gets the message out

Regulator TEQSA advises its Twitter friends that it has updated advice on its website for HE students on how to avoid contract cheating traps

Good-o can’t hurt telling the agency’s 2572 followers in the hope they will tell students.

CMM suspects not many of your actual undergrads follow the Tertiary Education Quality Standards and Agency on social media – what with the agency not having a Facebook or Instagram page nor a presence on Pinterest (at least that CMM can find). And the most excellent of agencies appears to have has no time for TikTok.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this week

Changes to the Fair Work Act can mean secure employment for casual academics. Jim Hackett explains how

Tracy Creagh on the big role for open access in expanding access to teaching and learning research and communities. This week’s paper for Contributing Editor Sally Kift‘s series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

In universities policies for equity, diversity and inclusion can build communities. And strategic planning helpsMerlin Crossley makes the case.

Angel Calderon crunched the numbers on Australian universities performance in yesterday’s Times Higher Impact Rankings. Here’s what he found.

Nothing super about fossil fuels

The National Tertiary Education Union leadership calls on university staff to join it in opposing UniSuper investing in “polluting companies fuelling the climate crisis

The union’s announcement follows grass-root staff and student demands over recent years by activists at individual universities.

“If enough of us write to the board in big numbers, I know we can make the switch,” NTEU national president Alison Barnes says.

She nominates BHP, Woodside and energy infrastructure provider APA as companies UniSuper now invests in, adding the union sold its fossil fuel investments seven years ago.

The NTEU has two seats on the UniSuper board, now occupied by former general secretary Grahame McCulloch and Sarah Roberts (assistant secretary for Victoria).

However, Dr Barnes says the NTEU wants unanimous board support, “The union expects all directors, not just the union nominees, to support UniSuper exiting fossil fuels by 2030.”

ANU and Macquarie U in recruitment alliance

The pair propose sharing expertise in attracting internationals

ANU and Macquarie U announce a partnership to, “develop more sustainable, long-term strategies to recruit diverse and high-quality international students to Australia.”

ANU will learn from MU’s “sector-leading international admissions practices” and MU will share ANU’s “deep experience in North Asia.”

With MU focusing on international undergrads and ANU postgrads the pair propose pathways for grads of the former to proceed to the latter.

Big chance for the CRC way

The impact of the Cooperative Research Centres programme is being assessed – just as a new research commercialisation policy is being developed

The assessment, following one in 2012, includes 20 questions on the progress, practise and performance of CRCs and the short-term objective-focused CRC Ps.

Some of them will be useful for the now being debated national plan on taking the outcomes of research to market, such as;

* has the CRC Programme generated a culture of industry-research collaboration, with firms and researchers seeing value in collaborative partnerships?


* how well CRC Programme participants match the intended target group and is the reach sufficient to realise the required scale of change?

The programme is mentioned favourably by some research lobbies in submissions to the research translation review (CMM March 1 and April 22).

If this assessment is positive, and completed in time, it will add to the case for using the CRC Programme, or at least something like it, in the new strategy to commercialise research outcomes (CMM April 13).

Uni international agreements: no changes for now

Word around the cloisters is that no universities have had international agreements torn-up by the feds (the fate of the Victorian Government’s “belt and road’ accord with the People’s Republic of China)

University lobbies were not happy about their members being included in the federal oversight legislation (CMM June 15 2020) but institutions have until June 10 to register agreements.  The feds probably have an idea already what they think of Confucius Centres.

ANU’s Schmidt says 2020, the hardest in its history

But the $160m operating loss is better than expected

Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt tells staff the final figure was $56m better than first anticipated, mainly due to $22m more in student income and $27m in research grants.

The headline deficit is $17m – but this includes insurance pay-outs for natural disaster damage and income from specific-purpose endowments and investments which fund superannuation.

“The sacrifices you have all made in the past year have gone a long way towards reducing our deficit and future-proofing the university from further financial shocks,” Professor Schmidt says.   He adds that ANU “does not anticipate any more job losses” than the 467 already announce.

Good but still not great. Supporting data to the announcement states the university expects to be in deficit to 2023.  In September – a $192m deficit for 2021, with losses of “a similar magnitude” in ’22 and ’23, was expected (CMM September 17).

Professional staff have taken the employment hit. Academic staff declined from 1782 to 1755 between December 2019 and 2020 while professional staff numbers fell from 2670 to 2454. These numbers are EFTs which means the actual number of individuals who lost jobs is not identified. However, year on year casual staff salaries were $9m down.

Improving the social return on university service

Australian universities do well pursuing the UN Social Development Goals – Angel Calderon argues they can do more

Some 17 out of 24 participating Australian universities were in the global top 100 in last week’s Times Higher impact rankings, which measure achievements against the SDGs. Angel Calderon (RMIT) analysed the data for CMM here).

But he suggests they, in common with HE institutions around the world, have the resources to do more on SDG’s, by identifying their strengths, systematically assessing achievements and, notably by partnering with stakeholders to build capacity.

“HEIs need to detail more about their partnerships and ethical advocacy for improved governance, transparency, and accountability at all levels of society,” he writes in a briefing note for the Accreditation Council for Entrepreneurial and Engaged Universities.

“Adoption of the SDGs forces higher education institutions to assess how they engage with these goals and how they address societal challenges head on.”

Needed: more academics on uni councils  

In 2016, the WA Government changed the membership of university governing bodies. Gerd Schröder-Turk suggests it was a bad idea

University councils in the west now have only one elected academic and are dominated by appointed externals, who, with university managements have the numbers on key committees – including nominations, he states in an article for the National Tertiary Education Union’s Australian Universities Review.

Councils, Schröeder-Turk suggests, should ensure “sound financial and commercial management,” but otherwise, “focus on the core purposes and functions of the universities which by and large are educational and academic in their nature.”

And that requires engaging with the experts;

“Academics are the experts in this area; their contribution to governance is not banter. Rather, to ensure that the academic voices and perspectives are central in the university council’s decision making is good governance, and the best assurance that the council keeps the core functions of the university at the heart of its decision making.”

Aspro Schröder-Turk makes it plain that while there is a risk of self-reinforcing selection bias on councils due to the state government’s changes, he does not conclude it occurs.

And he is careful to add, the article “represents academic work that the author has conducted in his role as a member of the academic community.”

In March staff re-elected him to Murdoch U’s council with just under 70 per cent of first preference votes (CMM March 15).

In 2019, the university moved to strip him of council membership following his claims Murdoch U was accepting low-academic quality international students, (which the university strenuously rejected).

“The university maintains that all members of Senate must uphold their duties. In doing so, there is a requirement as both a matter of law and a matter of principle that members of the Senate must at all times act in the best interests of the university and not use their position to cause detriment to the university,” Murdoch U stated (CMM January 20 2020). Schröder-Turk commenced legal action to stop this, which management contested, before withdrawing its motion that Council sack him (June 15 2020).

And so, Schröder-Turk continues as an academic at Murdoch U and a staff elected member of its council. The AUR by-lines him as an “honorary ASPRO” at Murdoch U but it’s a mistake.

Cause of uni crisis: way more than COVID-19

The way they are now run does not serve Australia, new reseach suggest

“At the heart of the problem lies a failure to understand what creates resilience in enduring institutions, versus what makes resilience in revenue-seeking organisations,”  James Guthrie (Macquarie U) argues in a new MU Business School paper

The present university business model, “does not serve Australian democracy, economy, and prosperity” he argues.

He points to increases in academic salaries (223 per cent), professional staff salaries (242 per cent) and “general expenses “ (264 per cent) soaking-up the 230 per cent increase boom in international student revenue between 2008 and 2019.

And he examines universities debt, surpluses and dependence on international student revenues to suggest those at most risk.

The top ten universities had an average surplus of 12.01 per cent in 2019, while the bottom ten had 0.1 per cent.

And he warns  the “current social crisis” caused by staff redundancies is not due to the pandemic’s impact on international enrolments, pointing out universities did not add academics to teach increasing numbers of students, but used extra income to fund research.

In the short term-tern, he suggests universities should develop short-courses focused on domestic employment demand, which could be sold offshore as “premium digital offerings.”

But over time universities must get back to basics. “There is an urgent need to re-establish Australian universities as academic communities guided by research and education priorities that will stabilise and enhance the Australian body politic over the long term.”


Sharon Lewin (Doherty Institute) is appointed president of the scientific advisory board of the new French research agency on emerging infectious diseases.