The view from North Terrace: sunlit plains extended

The government’s student place funding bill is on the Senate notice paper for today, with speculation that there will be an amendment to move SA universities to the regional category for student growth funding. If this happened it would surely, learned readers suggest, lead to Uni Adelaide leaving the Group of Eight and joining the Regional Universities Network.


There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Kym Fraser (Swinburne U) and Denise Chalmers (UWA) on why quality teaching should be the basis of performance funding.  This week’s selection by Contributing Editor Sally Kift for her series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on university promotion systems- they work on talent, performance, persistence, plus luck and no two paths are the same.

Despite all the extra work, Michael Sankey (Griffith U) and Amanda Bellaby (QUT) discover  it’s a good year for many educational designers.

Overdue FBT exemption

The Feds used to slug business with Fringe Benefit Tax on re-training for workers who moved to new roles with their existing employer, not any longer

The example the government uses is a sales person who does a web design course so they can sell on-line.

It’s way short of the old FBT arguments, that people should have to pay tax on their yachts, even if they did a course on chart-reading.

Troy Williams from Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia says the change is “great news.” The existing application of FBT is, “an unnecessary tax on workforce development.”

So AI can understand “are we there yet”

Researchers want to tape kids talking so that AI can learn to understand what they are saying

A database being built by UNSW, Uni Sydney, Western Sydney U, Macquarie University, and Uni Melbourne will also be used for speech therapy, apps for learning to read and coaching ESL kids on pronunciation.

The team wants to get 750 children talking for two hours, to create an open-source speech database.

But is it, a learned reader asks, entirely wise to equip AI to understand the demands of an aggrieved child?

Ok at USQ

Uni Southern Queensland wants to cut jobs, just not many, and only volunteers

The university is accepting applications for voluntary separations, but only 40 staff will get to go. And only if they can be spared without “unreasonable impact” on operations or workloads.

The savings aren’t to cover losses but to fund investment. “Our revenue profile is favourable and we have achieved a better than expected result this year. We want to maintain and build on this strong position to ensure our future growth over the coming decade,” Vice Chancellor Geraldine Mackenzie says.

Outshines even the sunny Deborah Terry at Uni Queensland (“compared to most … we are in a healthy position,” CMM Friday).


Not much with more

The government’s student place funding bill includes imposing on universities an unnecessary bunch of rules designed to keep VET private providers honest

According to the Independent Research Universities, the new requirements proposed to apply are in Division 19 of the Higher Education Support Act, which is twice the length it was a generation back.

I’s not the only new example of officials doing not much with way more. A learned reader points to questions officials would like people to ask about the contents of the National Priorities and Industry Linkages Fund consultation paper (CMM Friday). There is a ceiling of two pages on responses, just a little longer than the space taken to set out the 18 questions.

Billion dollar training ways to rebuild the workforce

There’s $1.2bn in the budget for new apprentice and trainee wage subsidies

Employment and Skills Minister Michaelia Cash has announced the scheme. The subsidy is $7000 max a quarter through to September next for employers to take on 100 000 new starts in any industry. It’s on top of the existing support scheme.

The new funding is less endorsed than enthusiastically applauded by private training providers peak lobby, ITECA; “this is exactly the boost that is required to get more people into apprenticeships and traineeships, giving them the skills that will set them on the path for a new career,” CEO Troy Williams says.

The National Apprentice Employment Network is also pleased with the plan as addressing pandemic damage. “There has been a sharp fall-off in apprentices and trainees in work during the COVID-19 crisis and there has also been a slowing of commencements as businesses have put their plans on hold,” says CEO Dianne Dayhew.

And there’s a case for extending the approach

Work-study subsidies also appeal to Peter Dawkins, (VC, Victoria U) David Lloyd, (VC, Uni SA) and Peter Hurley (VU) who propose a national job cadet programme, “to avert an escalating labour market crisis for young people in Australia.”

They propose a model of students combining work and study at diploma and above qualification level, based on wage subsidies from government. As to what they should study, the authors suggest a range, from existing programmes to, “bespoke courses that combine training and employment using a flexible delivery mode.”

The proposal’s initial objective is to prevent the pandemic recession preventing young people entering the workforce now and having diminished long-term employment opportunities. However, they suggest the scheme could also apply to people of all ages.

They propose 50 000 cadetships with wage subsidies of $14 000 and $28 000 – for a total $1bn cost to government.  And they call on the commonwealth and state governments to establish processes to set up a scheme, through National Cabinet.

Ultimately, it’s about individuals

Ben Hamer and Timothy Bednall (Swinburne U) suggest an even broader view of ways to generate employment – by expanding the national skills base.

“Governments, businesses, and education institutions will need to work together to help their people adjust to the disruptive impact of new technologies.”

They specify four specific challenges; * capacity building, using pandemic caused employment down-time to help individuals build people-skills, * supporting individuals into community learning, * moving workers with transferrable skills from flat to in-demand areas of the economy and * using generic abilities to switch occupations.

Accomplishing this would involve education providers, government and industry; “given that the labour market is no longer clearly delineated along traditional lines between supply (education), demand (industry), and supported by policy (government), the respective parties must cooperate and collaborate to drive a concerted skills agenda.”

But ultimately, it is up to individuals: “to take control of their own re-skilling and up-skilling effort. This must be underpinned by a broader attitude towards self-directed and life-long learning, for the most successful employee in the future of work will not be the smartest person, but the individual who can find out what they need to know, when they need it, and from who.”

Appointments, achievements

CQU announces the VC awards for learning and teaching; Sonia Saluja (Health, Medical and Applied Sciences). Physiotherapy team; Vanesa Bochkezanian, Luke Heales, Sasha Job, Sean Ledger, Steven Obst, Tanya Palmer, Anthony Schneiders, and Samantha Swain.

Diana Glenn becomes head of Australian Catholic University’s School of Arts. Professor Glenn moves from Flinders U.

Jenni Judd is appointed academic lead and mentor for CQU’s First Nations Research Higher Degree Academy. Professor Judd is based in the university’s Centre for Indigenous Health Equity Research.

Brian Martin (Monash U) is awarded Eucalypts Australia’s Bjarne K Dahl Medal for “a significant and sustained contribution.”

Australian Catholic U promotes Michael Ondaatje to Deputy Director of the new Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences.