Industrial action off at UNSW

Tomorrow’s industrial action at UNSW is off.

Word is management came up with an improved offer yesterday and the National Tertiary Education Union has cancelled the second action of the present enterprise bargaining campaign at both Canberra and Kensington campuses.

In addition to wages the union is exercised by the impact of the university restructure. “With academic calendar change and more restructures expected, we need strong protections in our agreement. We call on management to address job security, and to improve redeployment and redundancy entitlements as well as staff consultation around major change,” the NTEU’s Amity Lynch said last week.

Three new CRC Ps

There is a new CRC P, “to rediscover lost antibiotics and fight drug-resistant bugs.” Partners are Macquarie U, UWA, biopharma company, Microbial Screening Technologies and Advanced Veterinary Therapeutics. The feds will allocate $3m over three years with another $3.9m in cash and kind from partners.

RMIT’s MicroNano Research Facility and partners have $1.7 from the feds for a CRC P to create flexible electronics for bedding, intended to unobtrusively check on the comfort and condition of people in assisted-living circumstances.

The University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre, with partners, has $2.36m for a neuroimaging analysis centre.

International student starts up again, except in WA

International education doomsday is delayed, again, with May numbers showing higher education commencements by Chinese students increased, again. Year to date starts to this May were 36 506, compared to 32 315 last year. The all-sector YTD figures for China commencements were 66 427 and  60 791 in 2017.

All up, the higher education system saw 87 723 international students from all countries commence in the year to May, compared to 79 622 on the corresponding months in 2017.

The three big states all grew, NSW led with 89 000 all-sector YTD commencements, followed by Victoria with 73 000 and Queensland with 38 000.

South Australia grew marginally, by 300, to 9 893 while WA all-sector enrolments dropped by from 15 803 in YTD May 2017 to 14 506 this year. This may account for Murdoch U discounting fees for commencing international students in Perth (the university calls it an “international welcome scholarship”, CMM July 20 ).

Australian women embrace university education

The per centage of working age women with a master’s degree or higher tripled between 2001 and 2016, rising to 7.4 per cent of the population, according to the new HILDA analysis from the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic Research. In contrast, the comparable figure for males doubled, to 8.5 per cent.

Over the same period, the per centage of women aged 25 to 64 with a bachelor degree rose from 22 per cent to 35 per cent. A bigger proportion of women are now degree qualified compared to men, 22 per cent in 2001 and 31 per cent in ‘16.

Women are also larger consumers of higher education, with 49 per cent of those with a post school qualification holding a degree, compared to 41 per cent of men. The reverse applies in VET.

Overall, the per centage of men with a Certificate III, or above, increased from 59 per cent to71 per cent. The figures for women were 42 per cent to 68 per cent.

HILDA is the federally funded Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia longitudinal study of Australian households. This 13th annual report is by Roger Wilkins and Inga Lass.

The HILDA analysis does not report returns on investment in education, measured by employment and income, however the authors suggest “quite a strong relationship” exists between employment and educational attainment. They also find connections between qualifications and weekly earnings, except for women with a Year 12 top qualification earning more than those with diplomas.

Margaret Gardner’s three innovation-starters

Australians are natural entrepreneurs, with 14 per cent of adults starting a business, nearly 50 per cent of firms innovating and universities having strong innovation cultures – the challenge, Margaret Gardner says, is to get everybody talking. “Much more is possible.  It just needs a behavioural nudge to encourage Australian businesses to venture where they have not ventured before, “ the Monash U vice chancellor and chair of Universities Australia told an AFR conference yesterday.

She proposes three kick-starters.

Committing to research-communities where universities and industry can combine.  “If we in Australia are going to build the culture and the environment to foster higher levels of new to market innovation and collaboration, we need to selectively, based on evidence, invest in the regions and precincts where there is high-quality research collaboration with industry, spin-outs and/or start-ups to accelerate their future success.”

Investing in fundamental research, where the ideas come from. Investment in research is not a separate question to Australia’s innovation future… Australia has had declining investment in basic research and in non-medical research, which needs to be addressed to prime the engine, lest the commercialisation opportunity now available outstrips the potential targets available.”

Nudging industry in the direction of universities: “The Commonwealth Government’s business R&D tax incentive is the largest single program in the Commonwealth’s science, research and innovation spending.  It is time to use this program to provide an incentive (a nudge) to businesses to partner with an Australian university on their research and development to build a stronger collaborative base for the future.”

Um, it may be time but the time is not yet ripe. The budget changes to the R&D tax incentive did not include a break for business working with universities.

VET review over-due

There is increasing enthusiasm around the traps for Labor’s idea of an all-of-post compulsory-education review, in large part to address the VET mess. And why not! as the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research demonstrates, there have only been 37 reviews of voced since 1954. The last was a Skills Australia discussion paper in 2010 so it’s about time for another one.



Warren Hogan is the inaugural executive in residence at the UTS Business School. He is well known for his work as ANZ chief economist.

Daniel Martin becomes director of development for medicine and science at UNSW. Until December last year he was director of development at the University of Sydney.

Exclusive analysis: the international ed mess in the west and what to do about it

by a CMM special correspondent

 May international student numbers are released and it’s more bad news for already struggling WA, with Perth market share continuing to fall to an overall 6.2% of national commencers.

Analysis of this data shows both the VET and higher ed sectors not able to match the growth from the eastern states and in decline.

In VET, WA struggles to keep pace with NSW, Victoria and Queensland. May data show’s they are up well, with NSW and Queensland slightly below 11% growth and VIC at 8.5%. In contrast WA VTE is at -0.4%.

Higher education it is a similar story, NSW up 9.4%, Victoria 12.8%, Queensland 13.3% and SA 6.2% with WA struggling at -0.4%.

There are two core issue in Perth’s performance.

Traditional markets: Many of WA’s traditional bread and butter markets are off the boil. Take Singapore for example, in the same time zone and a quick flight down to Perth. 2011 was the last high point for Singaporeans in Australia, you have to go back to 2002 to see a higher number in the May YTD figures. Since then WA’s commencement rate has moved from 444 to 284 in 2018 or a 36% decline. The situation is similar with Indonesia.

China: It appears Perth isn’t as attractive to the east coast or even SA for Chinese students.  In higher education, using May data, the past 5 years has seen east coast institutions increase their commencements significantly – NSW (65%), VIC (115%), QLD (80%), SA (52%). WA has a total increase in rate of just 11%, and this is rounded up. With the national growth at 82% for this sector over this period WA is well behind the pack.

To make matters worse SA, whose commencements from China YTD May are at 2,057, almost outdoes WA to a factor of 2:1 with WA commencements at 1,041.

In VET it is a similar story with NSW up (29%), VIC (85%), QLD (21%), SA (2%). WA has gone backwards with -1%. National growth over this period is 52%.

As China watchers largely tip that market to come off the boil in the next 12 months WA may have missed the greatest opportunity in the last two decades.

What’s the fix?:  Continuing investment from Queensland, Victoria and to a lesser extent NSW is now biting, with WA institutions doing their own thing, without coming close to matching what competitor destinations have been doing – building good will and champions for their proposition.

The WA State strategy is expected   in coming weeks and with it an expected funding boost. It will be left to a changed Study Perth to champion this. On the back of the recently released “Understanding the International Student Experience” report  they will be busy indeed with the spotlight firmly on their activity.

The light at the end of the tunnel may well be Navitas founder and former CEO Rod Jones who is the newish Study Perth Chair. If anyone can herd the cats it is he. Let’s hope the government and institutions alike listen, and listen hard.