Changing plans at Deakin U: computer says no

Staff who want to vary leave booked can’t  

When people go on-line to vary intended leave already in the system they find the way to do it is gone.  According to DeakinPeople; “while we understand and empathise that the reason you may have booked a period of recreation, long service, purchased leave or leave without pay may have changed, we must continue to manage our leave liabilities.”

You can still change your dates, as long as the new ones are in this year and for the same period of time.

At least the university isn’t making people use up their leave to get the liability of the books in case things really get crook.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Frank Larkins warns what COVID-19 may mean for the national research effort. “The disruption will have a major impact on research productivity, impacting differentially on various disciplines, with laboratory-based research being most curtailed,” he writes.

“It is essential that universities and government bodies respond generously to ensure all research students, domestic and international, are adequately supported in this time of crisis.”

And Dominique Parrish, Allan Christie and Chris Campbell

set-out  the eight things students want from on-line learning.

Plus Alex Maritz and colleagues on how entrepreneurial spirit can help the economy on the other-side of the COVID-19 crisis.

And Merlin Crossley explains if we give science enough time it will deliver.

A Corona Bot with no lime but lots of AI

Uni Sydney wanted a bot double-quick, to answer student questions on COVID-19. So they asked Microsoft

The company created Corona Bot in a week. It answers two or three questions from 300-400 students a day. How it happened and why it works are explained by Microsoft, here.

Uni Queensland’s best worst case

VC Peter Hoj says revenue could be down $240m – unless it is twice that. Here’s what he is doing about it

 There’s good news: Uni Queensland domestic student numbers have survived the move to on-line teaching. Domestic enrolments remained steady, at census date, when students become liable for semester HECS debts.

But the bad news is really bad: However, internationals dropped 20 per cent and the VC warns the “next challenge” is student numbers for semester two and in the first semester of 2021.

And philanthropy and research revenues are already down.

“So much uncertainty exists around the longevity of current restrictions, it is difficult to predict where our numbers might land. We estimate our 2020 drop in revenue at best could be $240m, but could easily be double that,” he tells staff.

What’s being done:  Operational savings will deliver over $100m across the year and capex already  deferred will save $120m. Professor Hoj makes no mention of staff cuts or reductions to wages or conditions.

More of the same please, but better:   He asks staff to “focus on three things,”

* “retain students – we need to ensure our teaching is as good as it can be, our systems are as robust as possible and our students feel supported and connected”

* keep research productive and support HDR students

* focus on “long-term sustainability”.

Fed U’s not great timing

Marketing for Federation U  is promoting a July start for international students to study on its regional campuses

CMM came across the pitch yesterday from marketing site Study in Australia, yesterday. “You will find incredible value in the learning experiences at regional campuses and the communities in which you live and study.” Um, but perhaps not so much value now, what with internationals students who lose work having no recourse to public support. (The university has an assistance package).

The impact of COVID-19 on internationals is a problem for Fed U, which expanded its international enrolments by 72 per cent in 2017-18. In ’18 internationals made up 38 per cent of total enrolments.

Dawn Gilmore’s on-line learning tip of the day

Your content is online, what’s next? 

“Tip 8: Challenge your assumptions about student participation Drops in student participation are normal about a quarter of the way into any online course. Here’s what to expect.”

Dr Gilmore is Director, Teaching and Learning at RMIT Online. She has a masters in education design from Uni Pennsylvania and a PhD in on-line learning from Swinburne U.

Different times – same issues with the ATAR

Tehan makes it plain: no Year 13

The education minister had a direct message yesterday for Year 12 students – “there will be no Year 13. There will be no mass repeating of Year 12.”

“We want Year 12 students to finish their education and next year go to university, undertake vocational training or enter the workforce,” Mr Tehan said after state and federal education ministers met.

But this year’s Y12 is unlike all others, so how school leavers qualify for university is on the agenda, including courses with tightly rationed places that use academic ranking.

Mr Tehan suggested Monday that starting students might need short catch-up courses to get them up to starting speed for first year courses come next February (CMM yesterday).

And while he acknowledges universities “always have measures in place to be able to assist students who might have had difficulties,” Mr Tehan sees a role for the ATAR. “The ATAR system has always been able to be adjusted for regions that have been hit by fire or drought or flood. It’s been adjusted when students are ill. So, there is no reason why we can’t have a national adjustment to take into account the pandemic,” he says.

 Universities Australia reminds there are many paths to university

But Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson suggests there are plenty of pathways into university.

“Every year, universities and tertiary admission centres use a wide range of methods to assess and admit students – in addition to the ATAR,” she says.

However, while “the admissions process will look different to previous years, … the commitment to fairness, consistency and transparency would remain,” Ms Jackson says.

Another thing that will remain is an argument over the ATAR at year end- whether it is a good predictor of student capacity for university study or whether it privileges students from well-resourced schools and affluent families.

Crunching the virus numbers

The Academy of Science pushed for the government to release modelling data

And now it’s encouraged by “indications” future models based on Australian data will be public.

Papers on modelling for the government by the Doherty Institute were released yesterday, which the Academy welcomed, saying, “they are being reviewed by discipline experts within the Academy’s Fellowship.

“The scientific process which we have relied on for hundreds of years has shown us that peer review and interrogation of data, leads to the best possible evidence base to inform decision making,” the Academy stated last night.

Tehan makes it plain: no emergency cash for universities

Universities Australia’s case for emergency funds from the feds has not convinced the minister

UA’s argument for emergency funding was put to Education Minister Dan Tehan by Fran Kelly on Radio National, yesterday. Mr Tehan responded;

“When it comes to loans, the Government has obviously put liquidity, more liquidity, into our banking sector. Most universities have relationships with their state treasuries when it comes to finances and financial loans. So, I know many universities are pursuing that with their state treasuries. I continue to work with them on what we need to be doing to look at the domestic load. Now, at the moment, we’ve seen a declining domestic load. But, the expectations are that we will see an increase in that domestic load over time, and that is what I want to continue to work with the sector on.”

Just weeks back this would have cheered HE up, appearing to indicate the possibility of more growth places  in 2021 than provided by performance funding. But now.


Claire Field warns: the government will kill international education for a decade

The treatment of international students is wrong


COVID-19 is an enormous health and economic challenge and the Australian Government is to be commended for many of the actions it has taken in response to the crisis.

But it is wrong in its treatment of international students.

Many in the international education sector have tallied the economic damage arising from COVID-19.

But as a former peak body CEO who had a leadership role following Australia’s last international student crisis – it is also the future of the sector that worries me.

The decision to withhold financial support from international students will all but kill off international education in Australia – for at least a decade and probably longer.  Consider for yourself – if it were your son or daughter who you were sending away to improve their future life chances where would you choose to send them?

To Australia – a country which only welcomes them in the good times?

Or to somewhere like Canada where their Emergency Response Benefit is open to international students, or the UK where their Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is open to all workers?

This phrase in the minister’s media release stands out “… Australians and permanent residents must be the Government’s number one focus.”

Given Australia’s “focus” we should not be surprised, when the crisis passes, that prospective students and their parents will identify other countries as the “focus” for their education.

Australia has the privilege of educating some of the best and brightest minds in our region. We began our international education offerings through the Colombo Plan – scholarships to educate students from developing countries.

We are one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Yet when our neighbours and their children need our temporary help – our priority is ourselves. We should hang our heads in shame.

Claire Field advises on VET, international education and private higher education.

Monash U’s $15m student support package leads the COVID-19 wrap

Monash U offers a two-payment package, up to $7500, available to all enrolled students “affected by” COVID-19

There is also specific support for HDR students, with doctoral candidates on scholarship automatically qualifying for a three-month extension. Those in their final year who, “can demonstrate that their work has been disrupted by the current situation,” can apply for another extension, taking maximum funding to three years and nine months.

Uni Sydney announces student support

Vice Chancellor Michael Spence told students yesterday the university offers “general bursaries” for living expenses (no details) and interest-free personal loans up to $1000. There is also a “no-disadvantage” policy for assessments, assisting students whose studies are impacted by COVID-19, and an adjusted weighted average mark that excludes this semester for final academic transcripts.

 The NSW Government is funding vaccine R&D

Health Minister Brad Hazzard announces $25m for medical research and vaccine trials and $11m for commercialising research. There is no word on who decides where the dosh will go. Perhaps the NHMRC could help.

Peter Hoj makes student support a personal cause  

The Uni Queensland VC is contributing 20 per cent of his pay to the university’s student hardship fund.

TEQSA has advice for providers taking courses on-line

The Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency provides resources and expert advice, which it expects to expand over the coming months as more experts contribute. This might strike people who have just sweated blood to get content on-line at light-speed as a bit late, but there will be more courses to come. Plus, there’s another good reason to use TEQSA’s advice – sooner or later the agency will be around for a look at how universities are going.

Uni Queensland announces UQ marketplace

It’s for staff, “to register their available time and transferable skills so they can be matched to roles and work in other parts of the University … efficiently and at scale.