Their time starts now

“Great question from Cathy McGowan in Question Time on what the government was doing for regional students, and great response from Minister Tehan. Government will have more to say in the near future in response to the Regions at the Ready Report,” Regional Universities Network, via Twitter yesterday.  At least some universities are happy.

Fewer rooms of their own: tax bill puts new student housing at risk

Housing for students at big city campuses is a perennial problem for internationals and locals who live away from home, which the government could make worse through new legislation.

The bill is designed to tighten tax collections from international property investors and has the certainly-not-intended-to appeal-to-populists title, “Treasury Laws Amendment (Making Sure Foreign Investors Pay Their Fair Share of Tax in Australia and Other Measures).”

The bill doubles the tax withholding rate for Management Investment Trusts to 30 per cent, and this applies to foreign superannuation funds. The problem is that this will capture investors in purpose-built student accommodation, creating a risk that the big international industry specialists will reduce construction commitments. These will not be picked up by local investors such as superannuation funds, which are said to prefer assets in industries they are familiar with.

The industry proposes an amendment for purpose-built student accommodation to be treated as “commercial residential premise” and thus liable to the existing 15 per cent withholding rate. The Purpose-Built Student Accommodation Industry submission to a Senate inquiry says there are plans in place to increase beds by a third, to 63 000 by 2021, which should not be put at risk.

“It is a very important market sector to promote and to incentivise to attract additional capital. Otherwise as supply is constrained, rental prices will go up and there will be a natural limit placed on the number of international students that can be accommodated, thus impacting the offering to those students, PBSA warns.”

There is also a domestic political aspect to the issue – the industry estimates that some 30 per cent of beds in student accommodation are used by Australian residents.

QUT announces first courses in on-line expansion

QUT is not mucking about in launching its new on-line courses, in conjunction with Online Education Services, announced last month (CMM September 14).  Yesterday QUT detailed the first grad dips and masters, to start in January. They are grad dips in financial planning and domestic violence and masters of health and project management. All courses will be offered multiple times over the year.

QUT is pricing to the market, charging $32 000 or so for the masters and $27 000 for the financial planning diploma but the diploma studying “the risks and characteristics of domestic homicide and suicide” is set at an estimated $10 000. Smart move, people working to protect domestic violence victims are not hugely rewarded for vital work.

Nearly a deal at University of Newcastle

UniNewcastle management and the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union are close to a deal on enterprise bargaining. Pay is said to be settled, with management upping its pay offer to 8.25 per cent over the agreement running from June this year to 2021.

However, it seems the two sides aren’t agreeing on what negotiators settled on roles of committees of inquiry on academic probation and staff performance management, the latter being an issue at other universities in this bargaining round. The university is challenging what the union has told its members was decided.

This could delay a deal but probably won’t. New vice chancellor Alex Zelinsky arrives next month and he may have new views on outstanding issues.

Quantum of celebrity

A Brisbane conference is celebrating the career of University of Queensland quantum information and computation scientist Gerard Milburn. Co-sponsor Griffith U advises (via Twitter) big names in science will gather “at venues across Brisbane.” Presumably they will be in two places simultaneously.

All well at Murdoch U

Last month CMM reported Murdoch U chancellor David Flanagan had commissioned a barrister to conduct “a preliminary review” of issues including aspects of international student recruitment and staff appointments. At the time there was no comment from Murdoch U management, “it is not the university’s practice to comment on such matters,” a representative said, (CMM September 18).

But there is no silence now. VC Eeva Leinonen has told staff that there had been an independent external review “relating to concerns raised about various university matters. … The chancellor informed me that there were no adverse findings about Murdoch staff.”

Call to expand oversight of international education providers

A learned reader reports Labor MP Julian Hill (Victoria) has delivered a considered speech on education exports in the Reps.

“Australia needs a better mix of marketing effort by governments and providers. Universities’ annual spending on student acquisition costs now exceed $1.5 billion. Given the benefits that accrue to providers, there is a strong case for contributions on a modest per-student basis to an international education marketing and quality assurance fund matched by government support. Fund design and administration could be overseen by the national council,” he suggested.

Good ideas, although Austrade, ASQA and TEQSA might inquire as to what they are – chopped liver?

And then there is the peak industry body established to advise government, the Council for International Education, which perhaps could become the body Mr Hill suggests.

UNSW moves to tougher student conduct code

UNSW is circulating a consultation draft of a new student conduct code. This might make more difficult protests, like the recent chancellery occupation over university fossil fuel investments (CMM October 3).

A clause in both the existing and proposed codes requires students to comply with any reasonable direction /request by the university that “supports safety, good order and compliance with UNSW policy.” But the University now proposes an additional requirement that students, “express political and religious views in a lawful manner which do not risk the safety of individuals and/or unreasonably impinge on university business or the reasonable use of university resources.”

Should cover whatever management wants it to cover.

Appointments, achievements

Nine new members are elected to the board of Science and Technology Australia. They are, Damien Belobrajdic from CSIRO. Eileen McLaughlin, Uni Canberra. Tom Cresswell, ANSTO.  Marina Costelloe, Geoscience Australia. Adrian Barnett, QUT. Cathryn Trott, ASTRO 3D. Rachel Burton, Uni Adelaide. Branwen Morgan, Ausgem. Jasmine Chambers, Uni Sydney

The Washington based Optical Society (achievements in “the science of light”) announces its 2019 fellows. Australians include; Judith Dawes (Macquarie U), Christina Lim (UniMelb), Richard Mildren (Macquarie U), Geoff Pryde (Griffith U)

Curtin U announces its research and engagement awards, including;

Research impact and engagement: Andrew Briggs and Helen Slater, Physiotherapy and Exercise Science

Demand driven research: Milovan Urosevic, WA School of Mines

Paul G Dunn research development award: Brent McInnes, John de Laeter Centre

John de Laeter Centre Early career researcher award: Vinicius Cavalheri, Physiotherapy and Exercise Science

John de Laeter award for research leadership: Hong Hao, Civil and Mechanical Engineering


Dolt of the day

Yesterday CMM reported Jason Cowie will join Curtin U as COO, wrong, he will be CIO.