Compare and contrast

Commonwealth Integrity Commission draft legislation consultation period: Nov 2020-Mar 2021. Biggest overhaul of higher education in a generation (Job-ready Graduates) draft legislation consultation period: August 10-17 2020,” the Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, (via Twitter, yesterday) is just saying.


There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

 Tom Smith and James Guthrie (Macquarie U) on how universities report staff numbers – the case of UNSW.

Mollie Dollinger (La Trobe U) makes the case for student partnerships, at a same distance. It’s Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s new selection for her series on what’s needed now in teaching and learning.

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) argues metrics in research teaching are unavoidable but they aren’t everything.

David Kellermann (UNSW) on creating a serious solution for on-line lecturing. Curated content from Microsoft.

Still standing, getting moving in HE

Join Margaret Sheil (VC QUT), David Lloyd (VC Uni SA) and Natalie McDonald (VP strategy La Trobe U) at next week’s on-line conference

Take an hour out of your day to hear them consider one of the big HE questions; is there a future for the young academics who should be the future of higher education.

ReMaking HE: ideas for the post (or continuing) pandemic university. Dates and details here.

Questions on TEQSA role in research measurement

The government’s bill establishing new provider category standards sailed through the Reps and looked set to do the same in the Senate, until a committee inquiry was established

The issue that had previously exercised universities was the government’s decision to change the proposed name for high-performing private providers, “national institute” to “university college,” (CMM October 26).

But another issue is emerging, one which did not originally appear unsettling – how the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, which will measure the research output universities must maintain to keep the title, (CMM October 12).

In its submission to the Senate inquiry, the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering raises three issues;

* TEQSA regulating “may impose new costs, red tape and uncertainty on the tertiary education sector”

* TEQSA has “sole regard for determining matters relating to research quality” and the bill is silent on any “oversight or review” of its decisions

* without a definition of “research quality” the agency could end up duplicating work of the Australian Research Council and/or National Health and Medical Research Council. Plus, TEQSA may, “end up regulating matters that it is not equipped to deal with.”

Smiles all round

Four “premier dental schools” partner to “advance and transform” research, education and practise

The four are at King’s College London, National Uni of Singapore, Uni Melbourne and Uni North Carolina.

The five year DentAlliance (no, CMM did not make that up), builds on existing relationships.

Union nod for voluntary redundancies at Uni Sydney

The CPSU (unenthusiastically) accepts management’s proposed VR scheme

The Community and Public Sector Union reports that after consulting members “it does not oppose” VRs at Uni Sydney” “It would seem perverse to prevent people going if they can do so with a financial package, particularly as this may help to reduce the need for forced redundancies.”

The university wants VRs to create funds for “key areas” that are now frozen by COVID-19 savings requirements (CMM September 18).

However, the CPSU is not giving management a free pass, setting out five conditions on VRs and adding it will, “trenchantly oppose forced redundancies for the harm they would do to individuals, their families, to the service provision, teaching and reputation of the university.”

The huge cost of HELP

The HELP student-debt numbers for 2019-20 are  out.

As ever there are anomalies which make year on year comparisons complicated. Hazel Ferguson from the Parliamentary Library explains it all here.

But the headline figures are screamers. There is $66.3bn in student debt on the Commonwealth’s books, with 2.85m individuals owing. The time it takes people who have paid off their entire loan has increased from 7.3 years in 2005-06 to 9.3y in 2019-20.

Griffith U releases restructure plan

Management expects to be down $700m through to 2025 – this is the response

Yesterday Griffith U presented staff with its proposal to deal with what it attributed to the impact of COVID-19 and the government’s new undergraduate funding model.

Jobs to go: The university proposal specifies 299 positions, 111 via voluntary retirement and 188 to be made redundant. Management says VRs “would be offered in targeted areas only.” Some staff whose work is to be outsourced will be able to compete it for against outside tenders.

Restructures: Portfolios specified for new models are academic/student support and enabling and professional services. Academic units in health are to be consolidated and research restructured in arts, education, law and the sciences.

Management also proposes, “exit and rescaling of disciplines, sub-disciplines, programmes and courses.”  There would be a “rebalance of academic work profiles primarily towards greater teaching intensity.”

Consultation is open until November 27.

Reaction: The National Tertiary Education Union warned last night that the majority of jobs to go will be professional staff who “make the university work. … This will have a significant negative impact on the student experience.”  Queensland state secretary Michael McNally added academic staff would also be moved to teaching-intensive roles.

“These cuts are arbitrary and unnecessary,” union branch president Garry McSweeney added.

QUT says it’s time to end ERA

The Australian Research Council is reviewing its two research metric schemes, Excellence for Research in Australia, and Engagement and Impact

QUT’s submission argues ERA has done what it was created to do, “provide a reliable means to confirm or correct previously impressionistic assessments of the quality of Australian university research.” However, its time has passed.

“ERA is no longer telling us much that we do not already know, and there are reasons to suspect that what it does say is now less reliable than it has been in the past.” The reasons for this are variously structural and behavioural and the result is the ARC, “should not run further rounds of ERA in the foreseeable future.”

As to EI, “It is structurally susceptible to manipulation and persuasion – to the particular detriment of smaller and less wealthy institutions – in ways that favour a variability in outcomes that have no relation to the underlying impact and engagement that it is intended to measure.”

Accordingly, “EI should be postponed until a more effective and reliable methodology is devised.”

QUT engages with the issues the ARC nominated for specific answers ,in a complex submission that diplomatically addresses the core controversies, now attached to ERA,  in particular, the improvement in citation based research performance, compared to disciplines assessed by peer review.

“Some commentators have argued this suggests that the quality of Australian research in STEM is rapidly improving, while HASS research has stagnated. QUT finds this reasoning superficial and suspect, as it is at least as likely that the differential outcomes are explained by the methodological variance itself. An increase in the sophistication of strategies to maximise performance against assessment criteria in citation analysis fields, for example, could explain an increase in performance relative to fields where the rather more enduring scepticism of peers provides a consistent moderating influence. Indeed, the stability of peer review assessments may be read as a commentary on the assumptions about the fitness of metrical approaches as proxies for underlying quality, particularly over time. The divergence has now widened to the point that the fitness of the metrics as proxies for quality requires empirical validation.”

Get the word out

The ARC plans to release submissions to the research metrics review after it is out, which seems a bit late for a debate. So, CMM will report and/or link to, as many submissions as it can – send them in people.

Murdoch U announces major change on courses, jobs and workloads

VC Eeva Leinonen tells staff, “we will need to reflect on our strategic delivery and adapt the way we deliver on our priorities”

Professor Leinonen announced yesterday a voluntary redundancy round, “further work … to reassess our academic courses, units and disciplines” and development of a change proposal “for professional staff.”

She added the aim of the VR round is, “lessening the impact of any required future involuntary redundancies.” Staff interested will need to be quick, expressions of interest close Friday week.

Professor Leinonen also announced consultation on adapting the academic workload model, for next year. This will build on the 2019 academic career framework, which included research targets which critics variously considered ambitious or impossible (CMM October 2 and October 4 2019).   Management is also working on a proposal for, “change which will focus on alignment of the professional staff resourcing required to enable and support our key activities and strategic priorities.”

Planning is also underway for “change to our unit, course and discipline offerings.”

Appointments, achievements

THE Australian Collaborative Education Network (for work-integrated learning people) announces its awards;

SME engaging with university: Hidden Harvest (reduces food waste) with Uni Wollongong

Collaboration: RSPCA Queensland with Uni Queensland

Innovation: Healthstop (student-led health checks) with Uni Tasmania

Life membership for services to WIL: Judith Smith, QUT and Judi Kay, RMIT



Melissa Brown (Uni Queensland) is the new president of the Australian Council of Deans of Science, replacing Brian Yates (U Tas). He continues on the council executive as past president.  Andrew Smith (Griffith U) is new secretary/treasurer. New council members are Farzad Khosrowshahi (Victoria U), Virginia Kilborn (Swinburne U),  Lee Smith(Newcastle) and Laura Parry (Adelaide). They join existing member Helen Blanchard (Uni Wollongong).