There’s more in the Mail

In Features this Morning

Everybody talks about teaching university teaching – but on the Q.T. there’s a practical way to do it with, “self-reflection, course and assessment design, peer review of teaching and the work of communities of practice.” Sally Patmore (Uni Newcastle) and colleagues, explain HERE. New in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning

plus It’s Open Access week, with climate research the theme. Ginny Barbour,Fiona Bradley and Clare Thorpe make the case for, “openly sharing research findings in order to drive rapid responses and solutions to the climate crisis,” HERE.

and Maree Meredith (Poche SA+NT) on why universities need more Indigenous leaders HERE.

And in Expert Opinion (episode 20)

Shazia Sadiq (Uni Queenland) on the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering’s new policy paper out this morning on STEM education solutions to digital skills shortages, (scroll down for more).


A basis for expanding STEM skills

That Australia needs  STEM skills and lots more of them is universally agreed. Problem is while there are aspirational objectives there’s not enough intellectual infrastructure to underpin programmes – which is where the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering comes in.

This morning ATSE announces its “roadmap for an innovative workforce,” including two foundation proposals, without which all the STEM promotion in the world will not amount to a hill of cyber beans.

one is a national skills taxonomy: common terms for people to state the skills they have and organisations to specify those they want. This is needed for “upskilling, re-skilling or transferring skills” across sectors.

There is a bunch of work already done, including by the about to exit National Skills Commission, but it needs to reach a way bigger audience, notably to help people who want to learn and grow, in life and work.

another is evidence-based STEM programme development: “there is a proliferation of STEM resources and training programmes, especially on-line, but little curation and evaluation of quality and effectiveness, “ ATSE argues. To address this it proposed Fed-propelled resources, including

*  a self-assessment framework for “skills imparted and competency level”

* a directory of “quality-assessed STEM training programmes”

* a home for quality – assessed, “self-serve STEM resources, for business, workers and teachers who need knowledge outside their field.

Good-o, but who is to do it: ATSE looks to “the federal government.” But as the fate of the Noonan Review of the Australian Qualifications Framework demonstrates, policy coherence and practical need do not create action without a champion.

More work for Jobs and Skills Australia?

Better financial times for UNSW and UoW

Rating agency S&P lifts its ratings for UNSW and Uni Wollongong

S&P (as in Standard and Poors) states the outlook for the pair is now stable, an improvement on the previous negative ratings.

UoW lifts due to “diminishing pandemic-related risks” and “a plan to begin paying down its elevated debt burden.” (UoW got itself into strife with an overly optimistic student accommodation deal).

UNSW repaid and terminated lines of credit totalling $150m and had larger surpluses.

S&P also rates ANU and Uni Melbourne.

Uni Melbourne’s AA+ rating is unchanged although S&P reports it increased debt (including lease liabilities) by $600m this year, including a $200m green bond in August.

ANU also stays AA+ – not borrowing $243m as anticipated. However if it does borrow money it might be to refinance a $200m bond due in 2025.

Overall, S&P is cautious about finances improving for universities in general, from the return of Chinese students. And the agency is watching to see what happens from the feds.

The government, “may be more ideologically sympathetic to universities than its conservative predecessor, but we are watching to see if this translates into any material shift in funding S&P states.

Isn’t everybody?

ASQA sticks to its day job


Even without managing training package assurance it has heaps to do

On Friday the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations announced that, in conjunction with states and territories, a decision had been taken not to transfer responsibility for Training Package Assurance to ASQA.

Instead, the staff who undertake this work and are accountable to the soon-to-be-abolished Australian Industry and Skills Committee, will continue within DEWR for an as-yet-unspecified period – presumably until the Industry Cluster arrangements are reviewed, although it should be noted that no announcements on successful tenderers have yet been made despite the new Industry Cluster organisations being due to commence on 1 January 2023 (these organisations will then take over responsibility for individual Training Packages).

Returning to the approval of Training Package qualifications: many of you will ask – so what, in terms of which government agency does the work?

In Australia this work has always sat outside of the national VET regulator, but it is worth keeping in mind why former New Zealand Minister, Steven Joyce, recommended the change. His review of the Australian VET system identified (a) significant problems in Australia’s current Training Package approval processes and (b) that in other countries it is not unusual for one agency to have responsibility for approving VET qualifications and registering training providers.

While I supported Joyce’s proposal to move this function to ASQA, I had concerns about the agency’s capacity to readily staff it and to deal with a potential backlog of Training Package changes when the new Industry Cluster arrangements commence.

As it turns out ASQA will now be able to continue its focus on training provider regulation, which is particularly important given the three very large providers recently entering administration or liquidation:

* The Malka Group went into administration in August. It is CRICOS approved to educate 5794 international students and have a Skills First funding contract with the Victorian government

* Inspire Education was re-registered by ASQA in January and went into liquidation in October. They had been offering 34 qualifications on a fee-for-service basis to up to 13 000 domestic students

* Xamerg Pty Ltd (trading as The Eagle Academy) offered 21 courses and had CRICOS approval for 1270 international students. The national training database shows their registration as “current” but the Tuition Protection Service states that they closed their doors two weeks ago.

Claire Field is an adviser to the tertiary education sector


Appointments, achievements

The Australian Council of Deans of Education announces appointments to the executive. Simone White (RMIT) is elected VP. Michele Simons (Western Sydney) has a second term as president and Barney Dalgarno (Uni CanberrBronwyn Bartscha) as secretary/treasurer.

Roger Daly (Monash U) receives the Garvan MRI’s inaugural award for research excellence and mentorship.

At La Trobe U Stacey Farraway is appointed inaugural DVC Future Growth. She moves from acting DVC, Global.

Dirk Mulder reports new International Education Association of Australia board appointments, * president: Simon Ridings (Swinburne U) * VP: Ren Yi (Uni Southern Queensland): * board members: * Mike Ferguson (Charles Sturt U), Sarah Todd (Griffith U), Emily O’Callaghan (Uni Melbourne) * board members on alternate cycles: Bronywn Bartsch – treasurer (Australian Catholic U), Tim Field (Uni Sydney); Jana Perera (The Gordon), Tanveer Shaheed (Macquarie U); Kelly Smith (Murdoch U); and Marnie Watson (Acumen)

Realpolitik reaction

Universities Australia had a good idea what was coming, which was not much. The peak body all but endorsed the budget strategy, “returning the budget to a strong position means we will be able to fund the things we all value and want.”

And it makes it’s a standard pitch for funding universities to get the job done. “We look forward to engaging with the government through the Universities Accord process over the next year to achieve further positive outcomes for higher education, the economy and our nation.”

The Group of Eight was similar. “This good faith budget has an appropriate focus on relieving cost of living pressures and reducing debt … Good faith because the Go8 knows the government recognises that Australia’s research universities are key to the economic solution.” .

The other HE peak lobbies joined the chorus. The Australian Technology Network accepted the inevitable, pointing to positives, and stating “the government has delivered on its pre-election promises to higher education.”

And the Innovative Research Universities pointed to funding for the Universities Accord process, “which lays the foundations for necessary long-term reform.”

It was left to the Independent Higher Education Australia to kick-back, pointing out its members are excluded from the 20 000 new UG places and stating it would continue to call for, “as much as possible,” a level-playing field between public and private providers.

Budget: not much ado about nothing much

Higher education

The government’s 20 000 new UG places are announced for the second, unless it is the third time.

Ditto, the proposed Universities Accord, which will “deliver recommendations to drive accessibility, affordability, quality, certainty and sustainability in the higher education sector.” And there is $2.7m to drive the process – over two year, which may alarm people hoping for quick change.


All as previously announced. But we now know much anticipated Jobs and Skills Australia will have $12.9m over three years. And losing the training package assurance function will cost ASQA $15, over four