Catch of the day

“Did you know: 83 per cent of apprenticeships and traineeships in the Aquaculture and Wild Catch industry were in Tasmania in 2019?” The estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research announces an industry update. We do now.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Rola Ajjawi (Deakin U) on helping, not blaming, students for academic failure. This week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift on what is needed now in teaching and learning

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on who’ll be on the post COVID-19 campus.

Whatever is in the diary, we’ve got better ideas

What’s on at our ReMaking He on-line conference today

At 11am Maree Meredith (Flinders U) and Rosalind De Sailly talk to Tim Winkler on the future for women and Indigenous Australians in the higher education.

And at noon David Lloyd (Uni SA), Natalie McDonald (La Trobe U) and Margaret Sheil (QUT) consider the shape of the future university workforce.

You can join register for $31.19 a session  here (and have a look at what’s on for the rest of the week).

The international agreement oversight bill: it can’t be good but it can be improved

Universities don’t like the government’s plan – but changes could make it manageable

The bill to give the Federal Government oversight of universities international agreements was in the House yesterday, where Labor’s Richard Marles acknowledged its importance but moved the government redraft it, to deal with anomalies and address the “huge compliance task (that) is now being placed upon the universities.”

This isn’t going to happen there but universities in NSW have proposed amendments that could appeal to Opposition, Greens and cross-bench Senators.

Observers suggest they are being presented as accepting the intent of the bill while making more manageable the administrative task for universities. This could be done by applying the bill to new, not existing, Australian university arrangements with international institutions and exempting agreements that are not legally binding – “just how many MOUs can an official read?” a learned reader remarks.

Universities also propose simplifying processes, one possibility would be only requiring universities to advise the government when negotiations are agreed, not when discussions start, another to put a time-limit on a minister rejecting a deal.

Such changes would go a ways to address some of the main concerns that research-strong and tech-focused universities have with the bill. “They don’t like it but if the admin burden is reduced they will live with,” an observer suggests.

What Aus tech can manufacture

The feds are asking industry what the focus should be for Australian manufacturing. The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering has four preferences.

Medical products: “Australia has the skills, capabilities and potential for a sustainable medical device industry, but the conditions have not been created to attract significant private investment in manufacturing facilities, and inconsistent incentives have resulted in much of Australia’s medical manufacturing move offshore.”

Recycling and clean energy: “Appropriate new technologies are available but are yet to be widely adopted in the recycling and manufacturing sectors.” Australia is a “world leader” in solar and wind, “but challenges remain in stability systems for reliable and low-cost supply.” Other opportunities include a hydrogen market, energy storage and grid stabilisation.

Resource tech/critical mineral processing: “Significant new investment and collaborative models are needed to develop breakthrough technologies and world-leading hubs in Australia for minerals, given the reduction of major new mineral discoveries in Australia.”

Food and beverage: “Agricultural biotechnology can increase the efficiency of land, water and energy use while delivering higher quality crops.”

Claire Field on the help international students need


They are typically thousands of miles from home, have no local support, and Australia’s way of life is often entirely foreign

According to a report in The Australian (October 30) international student pathways programmes have “negligible eligibility requirements” and are “ripe for abuse.”

Clearly TEQSA and the universities must ensure academic standards are maintained. However, if we follow this spurious argument through to its logical conclusion we would also have concerns about negligible entry requirements” for domestic students using alternative entrance pathways. And ATAR cut-offs would be set in stone, lest standards slip.

If we are going to debate university entry requirements for international students and the increasing use of pathways programmes – we must understand our students.

They are typically thousands of miles from home, have no local support, and Australia’s way of life is often entirely foreign to them. No wonder they value extra support where it is available.

Take for example, Sveto Muhammed Ishoq who joined me this week  podcast. She was a student at the American University in Kabul in 2016 when it was attacked by the Taliban. Seventeen students died and 53 were injured. Sveto was one of the lucky ones.

We met in 2018 when she was an international student (a Schwarzman Scholar) at Tsinghua University – she is a remarkable young woman.

While few international students will experience something as horrific as a terrorist attack, the lives students live before coming to Australia and the stress and challenges they face while studying here mean we cannot assume that seeking extra support in their first year of study is a bad thing.


A final note following the US election: Dr Jill Biden is an educator of long-standing in the community college sector. She was the talk of the community college conference I attended in Chicago in 2016. Her policy proposals and commitment to her students stand in marked contrast to the reprehensible actions of the current administration.

Claire is an adviser to the tertiary education sector and the host of the “What now? What next?” podcast 

Big and better: International students and the uni future Australia needs

Australia has to avoid “education nationalism” and must not use the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to exit the international student market

A sole focus on local students, “would consign the sector to a future of shrinkage, low horizons, reputational decline, infrastructure decay, research mediocrity and minimal services for local students themselves”, the Asia Taskforce (made up of Business Council of Australia, Asia Society, PWC and Uni Sydney) argues.

Why international fees are essential: Their paper points to increasing infrastructure, declining public support and growing wage bills accrued under the “still highly unionised industrial relations system” which universities have needed international student fees to fund.

“In the absence of significant income from international students, the net effect of a permanent fall in international fee revenue would be long-term impoverishment of our public universities. Any rebalancing of numbers in favour of local students must involve a reconsideration of per-student Commonwealth funding and not simply a redistribution of funding between degrees or an overall increase in the number of Commonwealth Supported Places.”

But international students come at a cost: While universities need international students, notably from China, the single greatest source, the Asia Taskforce acknowledges their presence has a price. “The dependence on Chinese students has instituted a form of classroom mono-culturalism in which encouraging students to embrace the values of academic integrity and free debate, and facilitating the development of core capabilities in critical thinking, effective English communication and cross-cultural competence, have become increasingly difficult.”

And that means changing what universities offer: The paper proposes universities in general and the Group of Eight in particular, “has a pressing need to revise and revitaliseengagement with international students. “There is clearly considerable scope for universities themselves to improve the international student experience both within and beyond the learning space.”

“The time has also come for the whole sector to leverage more effectively the possibilities opened up by digital learning and to embrace a fresh approach that ‘blends’ on-line and on-campus learning in ways that appeal to both domestic and international students.”

What is to be done: Among a range of options, the paper recommends;

* institutions end over-reliance on China or India and become fee-flexible

* higher entry standards for students from China and lifting learning-outcomes and job-readiness of Chinese graduates

* leveraging alumni networks

Appointments, achievements

Engagement Australia announces the shortlist for its community service awards. EA is a partnership of 22 universities, “working with their communities to address contemporary global challenges.”  EA took on the awards programme from the now closed Business Higher Education Round Table.

Stuart Parsons (QUT) is the new president of the Australian Council of Environmental Deans. He replaces Dianne Brunton (Uni Canberra) who continues on council. Ian Clark (Uni SA) continues as secretary.

Stacey Reinke (Edith Cowan U) wins the Metabolomics Society’s President’s Medal (for early career researchers).  The discipline studies, “small molecule metabolites in biological systems”.

Academy of Social Science 2020 Fellows announced

The new Fellows of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia are;

Nick Allen (psychology) Uni Oregon, Uni Melbourne
Garry Barrett (economics), Uni Sydney
Katherine Boydell (mental health) Black Dog Institute, UNSW
Kate Burridge (linguistics) Monash University
Andrew Byrnes (law) UNSW
Sandra Eades (medicine) Curtin University
Karen R. Fisher (social policy) UNSW

Pauline Grosjean (economics) UNSW
Terry Hull  (demography) ANU
Rob Hyndman (statistics) Monash U

Kanishka Jayasuriya (politics) Murdoch U

Fleur Johns (law) UNSW
Susanne Karstedt (criminology) Griffith U

Jeanette Kennett (philosophy) Macquarie U

Jenny Lewis (public policy) Uni Melbourne
Adrian Little (political theory) Uni Melbourne
Alan Lopez (population and global health) Uni Melbourne

Fethi Mansouri (citizenship, globalisation) Deakin U
Gael Martin (econometrics) Monash U
Jude McCulloch (criminology) Monash University
Felicity Meakins (languages and cultures) Uni Queensland
Andrew Neal (psychology) Uni Queensland
Amanda Nettelbeck (history) Uni Adelaide and Australian Catholic U

Graeme Orr (law) Uni Queensland
Christine Parker (law) Uni Melbourne

Bruce Preston (economics) Uni Melbourne
Michael Shields (health economics) Monash University
Jane Simpson (Indigenous linguistics) ANU

Thomas Suddendorf (psychology, Uni Queensland)
Matthew Tonts (geography) UWA

Ariadne Vromen (public admin) ANU

Megan Warin (social sciences) Uni Adelaide
Rob Watts (social policy) RMIT University
Sarah Wheeler (water economics) Uni Adelaide

Hugh White (strategic studies) ANU

Andrea Whittaker (anthropology) Monash U

Sarah Wilson (psychology) Uni Melbourne)

The late Professor Tony Winefield (psychology), Uni SA