But the minister makes it clear – there is no new money 

plus Adelaide and Curtin deliver the MOOCs of the morning

how to help researchers engage with Asia

and indigenous enrolments how are uni groups performing now


Post hoc ergo propter hoc, not

CMM hears George Christensen (Nats-QLD) announced his resignation as National Party whip on Monday, just hours after meeting with a certain university lobby group.


What he didn’t say

People at the Universities Australia conference yesterday knew Simon Birmingham was not going to announce the government’s new funding policy when he arrived without a SWAT team to assist with his departure.

But the education and training minister still left his audience with plenty of alarming ideas about what is on the way. “When I talk about equity and fairness in higher education I have not only participation in mind, but also ensuring successful completion, resulting in improved employment outcomes,” the senator said.

And he made it clear that there would be incentives around such outcomes, just as the government in introducing for research which engages with and impacts on industry and community. ‘

’A key question is how we equally incentivise similar excellence in teaching and learning. … In our demand driven system for undergraduate students, competition for those students should be one driver of excellence. However, this competition is far from what economists would describe as a pure market. Accordingly, I am very focused on how we best leverage other factors like standards and payments, to ensure the highest return on investment for both students and taxpayers.”

And in case anybody missed that the future includes rewards and punishments he expanded the point.

“Our policies must incentivise universities to make optimal decisions about who to enrol, how many students they enrol, and what they enrol them in. Universities must be accountable for the outcomes of those students. … Are they successfully completing their courses? Are they getting a better job when they finish than would otherwise have been the case? Are they entering the workforce job ready? Are graduates collectively meeting the economic needs of Australia?”

Oh, yes and there will be no more new money. “We must face up to the significant budgetary pressures which do make changes in our higher education settings a necessity. I, at least, am being honest with you about this reality,” the senator said.

Changes, huh? But to what? CMM suspects Senator Birmingham spoke volumes by not mentioning HECS HELP.

Below decks for detail

After days surveying the boundless seas of higher education policy from the bridge of Universities Australia quality experts will get into the engine room on Friday for discussions on assessment and accreditation. Highlights will include Charles Sturt U VC Andy Vann channelling his inner Le Corbusier with a paper titled, “Une université est une machine à ….?” and University of Southern Queensland VC Janet Verbyla will chair a panel on transparency, attrition and the ATAR, including that great engineer of understatement ACU chief Greg Craven. Details here.

MOOCs of the morning

The University of Adelaide has launched its first micro masters MOOC, via provider partner edX. It’s on big data and how to transform it “into business insights and solutions … to advance your career.”  Completing the MOOC will generate enough course credits for 25 per cent of the university’s Master of Data Science.

Curtin U is also expanding its micromasters programme, with a suite of five marketing courses over 46 weeks which can be a pathway into the university’s marketing masters.

Riley rises

Christopher Riley is the new PVC International at Australian Catholic University. He steps up from Executive Director I.

Research defies distance

Knowledge knows no bounds and the Innovative Research Universities group makes the case in a new paper calling for the Australian Government to create an Asia Research and Knowledge Network.

“The paradox is that while many research issues increasingly require the interaction of considerable resources to be pursued effectively, the rapid changes in digital technology and their impact on communications means that researchers from all universities can be effective members of world wide networks … the colocation of researchers with related research interests is less important than previously,” IRU argues.

The paper points out that research in Asia, particularly China is set to take-off anticipating that China will be IRU members’ largest research publication partner by 2020. The IRU proposes the Australian Government work to create an Asian Research and Innovation Network to foster collaboration, fund cooperative research infrastructure and engage industry.

Qualified commendation

The National Tertiary Education Union commends Universities Australia’s indigenous participation plan (CMM yesterday) but suggests a correlation between employment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in universities and ATSI student numbers. The union warns that various university managements want to delete clauses specifying ATSI employment from enterprise agreements now being negotiated.

Coming off a low base

With universities committing to increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander undergraduate enrolments by 50 per cent more than overall student increases (CMM yesterday) a learned reader had a look at where the various  university groups are for indigenous student enrolments compared to the system wide average of 1.6 per cent. In 2015 the Regional Universities Network led with 3 per cent in 2015, up from 2.4 per cent in 2012. The Innovative Research Universities group followed with 2.5 per cent in ’15 an increase of 0.4 per cent three years prior. ATSI students accounted for 1.6 per cent, up from 1.1 per cent in unaligned universities. The figure for the ATN was stable over three years at 1.2 per cent with enrolments in the Group of Eight rising from 0.7 per cent to 0.8 per cent.

No speaks

With enterprise bargaining stalled at Murdoch University the National Tertiary Education Union has now extended its ire to Curtin U, accusing management there of making matters worse by unnecessarily calling on Fair Work Australia for assistance with negotiations. The union’s state secretary, Gabe Gooding says there are issues on the table which could be resolved by the two side in scheduled March meetings. But Curtin management signalled they wanted to move things along a month back, telling staff; “while there is still scope for some differences to be resolved, the parties remain apart on some important issues.”

This looks like the same sort of strategy adopted by Murdoch University, which has asked the Fair Work Commission to cancel conditions in the now expired enterprise agreement, (they generally stay in place until a new deal is done). This is less about reducing staff benefits than making a point about the need for a more flexible new agreement, But as at Curtin the union says Murdoch U is ignoring the union being reasonable. “The NTEU has also foreshadowed its willingness to make substantial compromise offers on the key outstanding matters in the expectation that Murdoch will reciprocate with genuine good faith compromise responses,” General Secretary Grahame McCulloch said last month, (CMM February 14th).

Uncomfortable Estimates

Good for Doug Cameron who made life uncomfortable for officers from the Department of Education and Training and the Australian Skills Quality Authority in Senate Estimates yesterday. The Labor senator politely asked a bunch of questions about the disastrous gone and too quickly being forgotten VET FEE HELP horror-show, many of which officers took on notice, which will prolong the bureaucracy’s discomfit in explaining how this 2.2bn dollar disaster occurred.* Good; rorting of the scheme is one of the great public policy stuff-ups of recent years,  – the more that is in on the record about how it happened the better. * Australian National Audit Office estimate,  CMM December 16).