Plus ça change …

Universities are braced for another international student story

Teaching staff say that universities are risking their reputations by taking on students who are not capable of advanced levels of learning,” ABC promo for Monday’s Four Corners.

Universities, “are selling access to millions of foreign students and reaping many billions of dollars of revenue but now the alarm has been raised that increasingly Australian universities are exposing themselves to corrupt practise, to lower standards,  Four Corners, April 20 2015.

What to expect: below

WI Fi-nancials: what Vic unis spend on IT  

Victorian universities reporting their IT outlay spent an average of 8 per cent of income last year

An analysis of annual reports tabled in the state’s parliament sets out IT spending in seven of the state’s unis.


University IT Spend % of total income Total income
Uni Mel $161M 6.5% $2,494M
RMIT $107M 7.5% $1,433M
Deakin $112M 9.1% $1,232M
Swinburne $69M 9.6% $719M
Vic Uni $68M 15% $453M
La Trobe $59M 7.3% $804M
Fed Uni $16M 4.8% $330M

A learned reader points out It is quite a spread, with a ten per cent gap between the per centage of income allocated at Federation U and Victoria U.

Where VU’s money goes is not apparent from its report but it seems UniMelbourne has got operations under control and is spending up on investments – $72m goes to new projects.  Swinburne U is also building, with just half identified outlays going on business as usual.

The generality of spends are 60 per cent ops and 40 per cent new projects, although not at Federation U, where the budget all goes on BAU.

But, where IT watchers wonder, is the Monash U figure. The  annual report’s compliance index states ICT expenditure as required to be disclosed, but lists a page number as n/a.

Looking for a dyson of a design

Student engineers get to pitch their projects

The Dyson (as in Sir James of the vacuum cleaner) Awards open Monday, with a 2pm event at the University of Sydney. Robotics professor and awards judge Salah Sukkarieh will do the honours.

The competition is for engineering, product and industrial design undergrads and recent (four years) graduates, who have an invention, which “solves a problem.” The global top-20 entries will be assessed by the big D himself.

And yes, entrants keep their IP, “Dyson will not steal your idea,” organisers assure

Labor keeps the HE and research announcements coming

Another day another tens of millions of dollars in this paradise of promises

Labor has promised $28m for infrastructure at the University of Newcastle’s new Gosford campus, near its medical school which is scheduled to accept students next year. Presumably the money will come from what is left of the $300m University Future Fund.

Labor also has$10m for a QUT – Queensland health system venture, the Herston Biofabrication Institute, to produce “customised patient medical devices.” This cash appears to come from a different bucket, given it is announced by Industry shadow Kim Carr and not one of the education spokespeople.

“This commitment to research infrastructure by Labor is necessary because Australia is still without a long-term dedicated funding vehicle for university infrastructure,Senator Carr says.

He refers to the government’s attempts to re-allocate the $3.5bn balance in the dormant Education Investment Fund, first to the NDIS and then in the Budget to become a natural disaster recovery reserve.

It demonstrates the lock Labor has on research and education announcements in the election. But it’s different in health and medical research. The Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes is tracking which side is promising what (woebetide the winner if it does not deliver every dollar to AAMRI’s satisfaction), There the conservatives are making plenty of commitments.

Humanities research: crippled capacity not absence of ability

To understand static and slipping HASS research performance look where universities don’t invest

There’s more than methodology in explaining the decline in humanities and social science research ratings, identified by Frank Larkins (CMM May 1 and CMM May 2). “There’s been a continuing running down of research capacity in the humanities, and the primary culprits are the universities themselves,” says a well-informed observer of Excellence in Research for Australia outcomes, from start to present.

Universities are investing where the returns are – in biomedicine and engineering and moving money out of the humanities, the learned reader remarks. The absence of investment shows up in an emphasis on undergraduate programmes that put students in seats but don’t foster the next generation of senior scholars and in the way unis are not creating intellectual infrastructure, “how many HASS-based research institutes have universities — or, for that matter, the ARC, funded in recent years, the LR laments.

“It’s due to crippling capacity not an absence of ability.”

 Bracing for a tough Tuesday

Universities are preparing what Four Corners will report  

Universities are bracing for ABC TV’s Four Corners report Monday night on international students which claims institutions have compensated for budget cuts by increasing international enrolments. “Higher education institutions that only a few years ago were cash strapped are now flush with billions of dollars brought in from fee paying international students,” a promo states.

The programme is reported to claim students who are admitted on English-language test results which meet requirements can turn out to lack the spoken and written fluency necessary for university study.

The programme is said to look at universities in Queensland, NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and WA and includes academics talking about their experience. Peak body Universities Australia was interviewed and programme researchers heard concerns of unionists, as well as local and international students unhappy with their learning experience.

Universities which fear allegations of admitting students whose English is inadequate are said to be especially alarmed by the programme.

The apparent premise of the programme seems flawed – the post-school education system has been building international business for three decades, not in response to the recent freeze on funding growth for student places. But evidence of unis exploiting international students, their classmates  and teachers will hurt, especially if it is more than anecdotal.

Appointments, achievements of the week

Design industry maven Karen Webster joins art and design college LCI Melbourne as dean and principal.

The Australian Council of Graduate Research announces its excellence in research training awards; graduate research supervision, Rod Barrett, Griffith University, graduate research leadership, Alex Boussioutas, Uni Melbourne and industry engagement in graduate research, Siobhan Banks (Uni SA).

Melissa Conley Tyler is director of diplomacy at the University of Melbourne’s Asialink.  She moves from the Australian Institute of International Affairs.

Wendy Lacey will move to the University of Canberra in July to become dean of business, government and law. She is now dean of law at the University of South Australia.

Jennifer Rowe receives an hon doc from Western Sydney UniversityMs Rowe is a sometime publisher and an author of crime fiction and books for children, (the former not for the latter).

The University of Wollongong has awarded a hon doc to Philip ClarkMr Clark chaired the 2016 research infrastructure review.

The University of Adelaide has awarded hon docs to; Julia Gillard,  Peter Hoj (VC Uni Queensland) Caroline McMillen, (Chief Scientist of South Australia) and Hugh Possingham, (professorial fellow, UoQ).

Reading researcher and education-policy maven Jennifer Buckingham leaves the Centre for Independent Studies for MULTILIT, “a research-based initiative of Macquarie University, assisting children with reading difficulties since 1995.”

Monash U confirms Sarah Newton as PVC (Enterprise) she has acted in the role since September 2017.

Clive Barstow is the new president of the Australian Council of Deans and Directors of Creative Arts. Professor Barstow was the council’s founding VP and steps up to replace inaugural president, Su BakerProfessor Barstow is executive dean, arts and humanities at Edith Cowan U.

La Trobe U’s Jenny Graves is elected a foreign associate of the US National Academy of Sciences. Professor Graves won the 2017 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science for her work on genomics in animal biology, ecology and conservation.

Carolyn Varley is leaving her corporate comms leadership position at the University of Queensland – she is moving to the Queensland Mental Health Commission. Kim Lyell will act until a permanent appointment is made.