New response to yesterday’s threat

TEQSA has blocked 100 academic cheating sites, using “protocols” it has in place with ISPs

Good-o, but as CMM suggested last week, with GPT4 updating daily, this is rather like banning crossbows as Death Stars become open access.

Not that the agency wasn’t aware of what has arrived. A year back Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency Chief Commissioner Peter Coaldrake warned text-generating tools were emerging (CMM March 14 2022).

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Rankings began 20 years ago. Angel Calderon (RMIT) reports on what’s changed and what’s about to.

with Ashleigh Prosser and Shannon Johnston (Murdoch U) on Murdoch U’s new teaching and learning building and the CHAT it makes possible. New in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

and Nicholas Fisk and Daniel Owens (UNSW) on why research grants don’t fund all the work involved – like $5.8bn a year worth of work. It’s a problem the Accord must address, HERE.


ARC completes national defence against foreign interference in research

Australian Research Council’s Internal Audit finds it is doing ok on security risks but can do more – it will

In March ’22 the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security’s report on foreign interference at universities recommended an audit of sampled ARC research grants “to determine exposure” to “talent recruitment programmes” of foreign powers (CMM March 28 2022).

Which the ARC duly did, with its Internal Audit finding that since 2018, “the ARC has continued to develop and strengthen its policies and procedures to identify, assess and manage material risks” across the research grants process.

“Internal Audit found no issues based on review of three matters relating to foreign interference that have been addressed by the ARC since 2019,” the ARC’s report, released yesterday, states.

However there are ways the ARC could make things more secure, which the agency accepts, including

* check that research grant administering organisation are managing identified risks “appropriately”

* develop a strategy (or framework) for the ARC on managing risk and consider publicising it, “to support transparency and aid stakeholders’ understanding of the ARC’s role”

* annual spot checks/reviews for accuracy of a sample of grant contracts

To all of which the Group of Eight responds that the ARC agreeing to a framework for countering foreign interference, is “the previously missing piece in countering foreign interference in the university research system.” Chief Executive Vicki Thomson says the Eight will work with the ARC on development.

Budget criticism correct: Aus under-performing on research spend by GDP

Robyn Pryor of the Parliamentary Library sets out the spin-free spends in the Budget

the big picture: the last all-sector GERD (gross expenditure on R&D) figure dates from 2019-20 when it was 1.79 per cent of GDP. The OECD average then was 2.6 per cent. An Aus update is due in August.

the Fed spend: $12.1bn in ’22-23 – up 3.2 per cent on the previous year but 0.49 per cent of GDP, way lower than the 0.6 per cent average since figures were first kept recorded in 1978-’79. However there is an additional $1bn for science, research and innovation, largely in the Industry and Science portfolio.

on what: the big three outlays are R&D tax measures (26.1 per cent), research block grants for universities (16.8 per cent) and CSIRO (8.3 per cent)

A story with legs

Last night’s 7.30 Report on ABC TV ran a story on student debt and why it is rising due to CPI. It was HECS 101, including Bruce Chapman explaining the system.

Good report, calm and full of facts – but that it made prime-time at all should worry universities – so should coverage of the Greens campaign on study debt and Independent MP Dai Lee‘s question to the Treasure in the Reps last week.

Because underpinning unrest among slugged students are questions whether debt for degrees is now good value.

New script for GP study

Uni Sydney establishes a new clinical school, “to enhance general practice as a preferred career choice”

Which is well-timed indeed. Health Minister Mark Butler warns 14 per cent of medical graduates become GPs. “Ten years down the track, if we don’t turn that around, we will be in all sorts of difficulty,” he says

The new college, “is on par with the university’s hospital-based clinical schools spread throughout metropolitan and rural NSW.”

Cynics suggest that as well as meeting medical needs the new college positions Uni Sydney as a champion of general practice, which will be useful next time the med school wants something from government.

But what can you expect from cynics?

Damages done by degree inflation and what to do about them

“Australian universities demean and debase themselves by defining their purpose as issuing employment credentials for employers. They are much more important than that,” Steven Schwartz argues in a new paper for the Centre for Independent Studies

The thrice VC (Brunel U, Macquarie U and Murdoch U) argues that the growth of graduate numbers allows employers to require degrees for jobs that do not require them. An end to “degree inflation,” he argues, would be beneficial; by opening more jobs to more people and increasing the value of other education and training.

He makes the case as a foundation for proposals to the O’Kane Accord, “designed to improve social mobility, make university funding fairer and (with some luck) restore the status and standing of higher education,” including;

* drop degree requirements for jobs: (except where required for professional registration). Governments should lead and business will follow. “Employment decisions should be based on capability and experience, not on irrelevant credentials, sex or family background.”

* raise standing of voced: both HE and VET providers should offer the others’ programmes

* charge interest rate on student loans, “allowing the government to make more generous loans to those who need them and rebalance the risk of non-repayment from taxpayers to graduates

* teaching not research for most academics: “we cannot expect to find a world-beating genius standing in front of every lecture theatre”


Matthew Clarke will be acting DVC R at Deakin U from July end. The university is recruiting for the position.  

Alyssa White becomes Chief Governance Officer at Uni Sydney, stepping up from deputy. She replaces David Pacey, who move to University College London to be university secretary. UCL is run by former Uni Sydney VC Michael Spence.