It could be worse

“Our enrolments and income in Session One have held up better than might have been expected,” Macquarie U VC S Bruce Dowton tells staff yesterday.

This is perilously close to optimism from the VC who, way before anybody was worried about Wuhan, warned, “the external circumstances in which we operate have changed significantly. Enrolment growth domestically and internationally has slowed significantly at a time when our base operating costs continue to rise,” (CMM November 4 2019).

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Inga Mewburn  responds to Frank Larkins and Ian Marshman’s suggestions on where universities will look to save money in CMM. “Our sector is in the position to bounce back well, but not if the only solutions are cuts, cuts and more cuts,” she writes.

Building collaborative learning communities with ideas from Amanda White (UTS), Michael Sankey (Griffith U), David Kellerman (UNSW) and Bardo Fraunholz (Deakin U). Content supplied by Microsoft.

Claire Macken (RMIT) on learning in tech-enabled future. It’s a new contribution to Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.

The Australian Association of University Professors makes the case for a Senate inquiry into the dire state of HE.

Job to keep wage subsidy

Murdoch U has taken the La Trobe U road (CMM yesterday) and urged staff to apply for the JobKeeper programme

But late yesterday the Murdoch branch of the National Tertiary Education Union advised members to give it a miss.There are potential consequences for staff which need to be clarified, and some staff are likely to be worse off under these arrangements,” a message to members states.

CMM suspects this refers to industrial conditions attached to the payment, which are less than some in the university’s enterprise agreement.

Not that it will matter. Word from Canberra is that the government has made it very clear to sector-leaders that the way unis are calculating their GST applicable revenue, to qualify for JobSeeker is not on.

Quick Uni Canberra courses for the crisis

The university picks up on the plan from Education Minister Dan Tehan for six-month certificate courses for people to reskill/upskill while they sit-out the COVID-19 jobs drought, (CMM April 14).

New vice chancellor, Paddy Nixon announces Uni Canberra will provide six-month courses in national priority areas, health, digital comms and IT. A second set of courses will roll-out in June.


Wellings of Wollongong asks staff to take a cut

Uni Wollongong taking a $90m hit with on-shore international student enrolments down

“There will be no return to normal in 2020 or 2021.  It is essential that we take measures to safeguard our institution from the growing economic impact,” Vice Chancellor Paul Wellings told staff yesterday.

He adds the university has already responded with savings programmes set to run for 18 months and that he and the university executive have all taken a 20 per cent pay cut for the next year.

However, Professor Wellings now asks staff to take cuts; “including considering a temporary and proportionate reduction in your salary and/or working hours or taking annual and/or long service leave.”

“If we do not act now, our ability to influence outcomes in the medium term will be severely compromised,” he says.

Workers not united

The National Tertiary Education Union federal leadership is talking to a group of influential vice chancellors about an agreed approach to protecting jobs. This is not universally popular with members

Why not? The discussions involve trade-offs on staff conditions in return for management wearing some of the COVID-19 pain and protecting jobs (CMM, April 2 April 14, April 16). But critics argue the NTEU should be campaigning not compromising.  Meetings at the universities of Melbourne and Sydney oppose concessions and a petition is circulating demanding the union push for more public funding and opposing the leadership’s approach.

A hard fight to win: Problem is that this is a call to arms in a fight against the odds. In early April, the Fair Work Commission called on “parties” to vary industrial awards (including HE) to “respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” adding it would “expedite” approval of agreed changes (CMM April 7). And enterprise agreement observers (hey, people have hobbies) point to powers university managements already have to stand-down staff and, ruthlessly relevant to these cruel times, apply to the FWC for variations to an agreement that are not union approved.

But it’s not over yet: Short of industrial law and process being abandoned, university staff will still get a say on proposed changes to enterprise agreements. If the NTEU leadership and VCs do reach a heads of agreement it would likely go to a national vote of NTEU members. If passed by them, university managements, and cooperative campus branches of the union, would then translate the national terms to local circumstances and put a joint proposal to all university staff. Union members who want to hold the line on wages and conditions still have two chances to stop concessions.

More research at ACU

The university announces seven new research centres

They are in sports performance, digital assessment of education, disability and neuroscience, social/political change, gender and women’s history, refugees and migration and, because the C in ACU is for Catholic, to study for the Second Vatican Council.

They join a range of “research intensification” institutes created in 2014, including positive psychology and education, social justice, religion (CMM August 1 2014).

What’s next at Macquarie U

Vice Chancellor S Bruce Dowton sets out core issues for the coming five-year operating plan in a message to staff

* students first: including, supporting employability, simpler coursework, “clear and easy study plans”

* learning and teaching: “more from the course and major perspective and less from the perspective of aggregation of units. This is a significant cultural shift and one we need to embrace.”

* “harnessing the power of learning analytics”

* tough decisions on university investment in areas of research: with strong accountability for quality, productivity and outcomes

* people: harnessing the “good aspects” of the university’s culture. “Significant improvement” is needed, “in staff development, alignment of workforce profile and uplift of capabilities.”  “We need to get the intersection right between our culture and our aspiration.”

Professor Dowton says a “tangible plan” will go to staff within weeks, with implementation to start this year.

Swinburne U asks staff to share debt burden  

The university is in the hole for $30m, having found savings of $46m against an expected $76m revenue drop

To save another $10m Vice Chancellor Linda Kristjanson invites on-going and fixed-term staff to work a nine-day paid fortnight. Professor Kristjanson assures the university community that “contribution leave” is entirely voluntary, that people taking it will not be expected to do anything on their tenth day and that leave will accrue as if they were working a standard fortnight. The offer applies to part-timers pro rata. It will run for eight-fortnightly pay-cycles, from May to August.

“We believe this approach is consistent with our Swinburne values and is a fair way to share the burden and support fellow employees as best we can,” Professor Kristjanson says.

The VC warns international student enrolments are down, “will be impossible in Semester Two,” because of travel bans and the problem will continue into first semester 2021.

Austrade launches global platform for Aus ed on-line

 “Study in Australia” is an industry-wide pitch


Austrade launches, “Study with Australia,” in partnership with 12-million user, FutureLearn.

As face to face learning shuts down, Austrade is encouraging Australian universities and English language providers to present courses on-line with a provider which has reach and credibility.

The pilot (until 30 June) is an opportunity for Australian universities who aren’t already in the market to showcase brands and expertise via free taster courses, to a worldwide audience. The initiative will also allow promote Australian courses in industry areas, including business, digital technologies, STEM, healthcare and teaching courses.

The pilot will be supported by paid marketing efforts focusing on Asian, American, and European markets, including China, Brazil, South Korea, Japan, Italy, India, Nepal, Colombia, Mexico and the USA.

All Australian Universities and English language providers are invited to participate in this on-line learning showcase and will be included in an Australian Partner Directory.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent.

Appointments, achievements of the week

Nathaniel Belcher will join Curtin U as head of the design and built environment schoolHe moves from Pennsylvania State U.

Ann Bonner takes over Monday as head of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Griffith U. She joins from QUT.

Jodieann Daw is to join Uni SA as director of research and innovation. She moves from Flinders U where she managed research development and support. Prior to that she was research and engagement head at the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research.

 Andrew Flatau is promoted to head of the dentistry and health sciences school at Charles Sturt U.  He replaces Francesco Marino who was acting following the departure of Boyen Huang.

Patricia Kelly joins the Australian Research Integrity Commission as chair.  John Finlay-Jones joins as a member. Ms Kelly is a former director general of IP Australia. Mr Finlay-Jones is a Charles Darwin U emeritus professor.

Jane Mills is to be head of La Trobe U’s rural health school. She will move from Massey U in NZ, where she is health college PVC.

Rachel Parker will move to Uni Queensland in July to be director of the Global Change Institute. She leaves QUT.

Zlatko Skrbis is acting provost at Australian Catholic University, replacing Pauline Nugent. Professor Nugent announced a July departure at the beginning of the year but has brought it forward. Professor Skrbis is DVC Education and Innovation at ACU.