Plus CSU’s Vann says tax has a place in the deregulation debate

Where’s Luke?

Hands-up who can name the training minister and if you said Simon Birmingham do pay more attention. In fact since Prime Minister Turnbull elevated “softly softly” Simon to the overall education portfolio Luke Hartsuyker (Nats NSW) has taken over at training. Where as of yesterday he was saying not much. The contrast with Minister Birmingham is stark, right after being appointed junior minister to Christopher Pyne the senator was out addressing problems in the for-profit training sector. Many of them are still there yet Mr Hartsuyker is adopting a less low than subterranean profile. Modesty or orders to keep his head down?

ANU Sept 15

On the cash case

Fundraising can look like a cargo cult – with enormous buckets of money just missing vice chancellors as they fall out of the sky. But it isn’t easy as it looks, as speakers are explaining at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education conference this week.

The Mount Eliza meeting features experts in pursuing the elusive spondulicks, including Sion Lutley, who runs the University of Melbourne’s “Believe” campaign and the University of Queensland’s Clare Pullar. However most of the university-focused speakers are from overseas, including Oxford’s fundraiser for China, Jeremy Woodall, (how long until an Australian university appoints such a specialist?). Krista Slade, now back in Canada, who is the god person of higher education fundraising education in Asia, will also speak. This conference probably would not have occurred without her establishing a Singapore base for CASE in the Asia-Pacific.

Higher education how-to

The estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research is holding a webinar today week, for voced providers interested in getting into higher ed. Presenters are Kaye Bowman and Victor Callan who are the authors of an NCVER how-to guide, which includes a warning; don’t do it unless you have something serious to sell. Quality providers, “generally look to complement rather than compete with other higher education providers, especially universities, and rely on special points of difference to attract higher education students,” they write. (CMM July 31).

Options on demand driven funding

Is demand driven funding on the table? Labor says not; although higher education spokesman Kim Carr worries about attrition and questions why universities should pump out graduates with low-demand degrees. But when Chris Pyne was minister the government was adamant in support of funding a place for every local student universities would accept. So what was new education minister Simon Birmingham signalling yesterday when he spoke about university funding on Sky News, yesterday?

Universities are like any other institution, business or otherwise. They will respond to the incentives that are on the table and at present the incentive as it is structured is one of uncapped places that they can offer at a fixed price and so that means that the only way, in terms of undergraduate degree students at least, that they can manage to increase their revenue, is to put more people in to lecture theatres. So, I think we do need to have a look at whether that incentive is working in the right way.”

Good-o, but if the Senate will not wear deregulated fee increases, what is the alternative – more public money for fewer students?

Minister Birmingham also added that he still hoped for reforms in this parliament but if not, “we’d always reserve the right to take them to the people at the next election as well.” Whatever he contemplates campaigning on, CMM suspects it isn’t anything that can be described as “100k degrees.”

ANU Sep 15 4

Deciding what is in demand

The feds are now accepting submissions for the 2016-17 Skilled Occupations List, which is the government’s attempt to match aspiring immigrants against workforce shortages now and in the future. This is a big deal indeed and industry, employer and occupation lobbies variously argue for occupations, 190 now, to be added/left/removed from the lists each year. Submissions for this year are here.

State of the debate

Andrew Vann has identified there is a bloody great grey beastie in the higher education debate chamber. “If we want sustainable funding (for HE), it has to come from somewhere,” the Charles Sturt U VC says.

“The HELP income contingent loans scheme, recovered through the taxation system, is effectively a graduate tax. If we don’t want the tax burden to fall more heavily on graduates, by increasing student fees, there needs to be another plan. … So it seems at the national level we might now have a debate about sustainable expenditure and taxation. In my view, this is the mature political debate that has been missing through most of the last decade.”

This is a start, much of the debate up to now has been of “the government, not students should pay”. The hard bit will be deciding who should deliver how much more to the ATO to fund higher education. And why they should. Compared to health and welfare, universities are way behind  what the electorate values most.

Professor Vann has also had a go at advocates of allocating research funding according to publications and income. “This creates an aversion to taking research to the next step of intellectual property development and transfer, because it risks limiting publication and other traditional measures of success,” he says.

Instead of a focus on publications and citations, he advocates industry engagement in funding allocation and he proposes extending the rural research and development corporation model, which funds very applied research. Although, CMM suspects Professor Vann is not as keen on that bit of the RRDC system, which levies industry producers.

UNSW threat

Last night UNSW Director of Facilities Management Robert Kelly updated university staff and students on threats against the campus community made during Monday. “An anonymous user of social media site 4chan posted a threat to the safety of staff and students on campus. The police have been involved since the threat was first reported and investigations are ongoing. UNSW is continuing to liaise with NSW Police and an increased police and security presence will remain on and around campus overnight and tomorrow.”

Facing reality

With term-limited Martin Cass standing down as chair of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training yesterday Mel Koumides from Academia International stepped up. It’s a sign of the hard times that his first message as chair focused on all the measures the government has in place to clean up the industry. “The ACPET board intends to stand for and demand quality from the sector. You will therefore see over the coming weeks our demand for further changes to make sure only the best can prosper in education. Industry leadership has never been more important.” Meaning as he begins to go on, no doubt.

Ninja, pirate, dean

At WSU, DVC Scott “focus” Holmes reports James Arvanitakis is the new dean of the graduate research school. Professor Arvanitakis will certainly bring a multi-skilled approach to the job. Back in March he described his approach to acquiring teaching skills as “like an academic ninja” and last month he was helping colleagues at the University of Canberra learn how “to teach like a pirate,” (CMM September 4)

Teacher ed alert

Warning bells must ring at Australian Catholic University whenever the words “teaching graduates” and “unemployment” appear within kilometer of each other. It happened yesterday when The Australian ran a story about a surplus of teaching graduates and within a couple of hours the ACU was out explaining why we need more new teachers. “The reality is we have an ageing teaching workforce and a boom in school student numbers. This means we need to ensure Australia is producing enough education graduates to meet the growing demands of our schools,” ACU VC Greg Craven said. How fortunate that the ACU is in a position to graduate so many of the new teachers we need, depending which model you consult. The National Teaching Workforce Datatset, (CMM October 21) provides three scenarios, but even on the most conservative it does not seem we face a generation of unemployed teachers.

Dolt of the day

Is CMM. Yesterday’s email edition reported Fair Work Australia and then a Federal Court judge found for the National Tertiary Education Union in a dispute over whether La Trobe U management had met the terms of the university’s enterprise agreement when retrenching staff. In fact, both found for the university, it was the union that appealed. As reported, following a split full-bench judgement, the matter is now back with the original Federal Court judge for another look.