Degree that delivers, just not now

Just in from CMM’s bleeding obvious reporter

The Association of MBAs report employers are “overwhelmingly positive” about hiring people with the degree, but, “there is a lack of confidence in the future of both local and global economies, “with most survey participants taking a conservative – and in some cases pessimistic – view on their upcoming recruitment plans.”

There’s more in the Mail

In Campus Morning Mail features

Tim Winkler explores Swinburne U’s virtual open day. It’s a go-bold or go-home play in the digital recruitment world. “Does the substitution of a university experience with a computer game allegory ultimately burn or burnish the value proposition for universities?” he asks.

Andrew Harvey and Lisa Andrewartha (both La Trobe U) on welcoming defence forces veterans into high education. They bring unique strengths and perspectives that benefit the learning of all students. It’s this week’s essay in Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series, on what is needed know in teaching and learning @

Elizabeth Baré, Janet Beard and Teresa Tjia on securing sustainable savings in professional services.  Retrenching can save money in the short-term, but staff numbers bounce back. Rather than retrench universities should invest.

Spence warns Uni Sydney community, ’21 will be tough

Finances for the rest of this year look better than expected – but not next year

Vice Chancellor Michael Spence tells staff, “we have so far managed to largely mitigate” the $470m budget shortfall for 2020 through savings measures. Expectations of better semester two enrolments could also help.

But, and it is a big but indeed, international students are not likely to return to pre COVID-19 levels, as originally hoped and “relative gains” this semester will not claw back enough. “This means that we must now look closely at our projections for 2021 and revise our revenue forecast downwards.”

Dr Spence says scenario planning and option exploring are underway but he offers no detail, promising, “more definitive information once it is available.”

But it does not sound good. The vice chancellor talks about decisions to ensure, “the future viable operation of the university.”

USQ – you’ve got this

VC Geraldine Mackenzie is spruiking USQ study to Y12s on social media

Standard stuff, except for the, engaging, encouraging empathising way she does it. Professor Mackenzie acknowledges what a woeful year it is for Y12s but how she knows they can overcome the awful. “Some self-pity would be understandable but instead I am seeing a dogged determination to turn this around. … You have had a crash course in the qualities we know are essential to success. Grit, adaptability and resilience … You’ve got this, you know that and we have your back.”

There’s a USQ theme here – a couple of years back the university ran a recruitment TVC of a young woman being assured at significant life moments, that “you’ve got this,” including her USQ tutor, as she worries about study (CMM November 17 2017).

USQ-student recruitment – they’ve got it.

No deal on Uni Newcastle savings

Vice Chancellor Alex Zelinsky says management will need to find an extra $12-$15m from existing sources

The university has been in talks with the two campus unions to temporarily cut staff conditions and delay pay rises due next month and September next year. Professor Zelinsky says this would have saved up to $15m, “which would have equated to around 120 additional jobs.”

This appears to have met one union demand. On Monday, the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union called on management to specify jobs that would go under proposed restructures and how many saved by cost savings.

But management had set a Monday deadline for an agreement – to allow time for an all-staff vote on deferring next month’s pay rise.

With this not happening the university says it has to save $35m next year to cover COVID-19 losses. They will now come in total from, “restructuring, course reviews, and seeking other efficiencies across the institution.”

TAFE’s role in VET: surely more than technology transfer


The training sector is grappling with what it exists to do

Having read all 88 submissions (as at August 11) to the Productivity Commission on the next VET Funding Agreement, one of the key issues the sector is grappling with is the role of TAFE and whether it is “just another provider”, as the Commission implies with its recommendations for more contestable funding.

I have previously criticised state and territory governments for not clearly articulating a role for TAFE. Fortunately, most government submissions have now sought to address this issue.

The notable exception was South Australia. The SA Government’s submission does not specifically mention TAFE. Instead, it makes two fleeting references to “the public provider” and argues; “significant reforms are required to make Australia’s VET system a more efficient, competitive market, driven by the informed choices of students and employers.”

I was surprised that TAFE directors’ lobby consider their most important role to be “technology transfer”, i.e. “the repository of knowledge and techniques of production and service processes that are systematised and codified for transfer via education, training and ancillary services.” They note that “this is difficult to conceptualise given the complex nature of modern economies, however it would be known if this function were absent.”

By contrast, state and territory government submissions focus on TAFEs improving student outcomes, strengthening communities and meeting Australia’s skill needs.

The relationship between governments and their TAFE Institutes is something for another column – including the impact of reforms to “centralise” TAFE operations and what that means for Australia’s future skill needs. One former TAFE CEO got in touch recently to lament that; “at a time when the policy and strategic challenges are, arguably, greater than in ages, one doubts whether these ‘reforms’ in TAFEs will result in the types of agile organisations and enterprising staff that are needed to meet them.”

I could not agree more.

Claire Field is an adviser to the tertiary education sector. She has compiled a summary of the key issues raised in submissions responding to the Productivity Commission’s Interim Report.

Course cost changes not settled yet

The government yesterday released the consultation draft of the legislation to change the cost of some degrees for students

Not that minds are for changing, at least they weren’t yesterday. The Department of Education, Skills and Employmentwelcomes submissions” on the legislation’s operation and how it “reflectsgovernment policy. But they might be this morning.

National Party MP (Calare-NSW) Andrew Gee has made it plain for a while that core constituents want change. The junior minister for regional education has previously said moving social work and behavioural sciences from the new band four student-payment category ($14 400 pa), to the way-cheaper band two (allied health – $7 700) was raised at a roundtable of chancellors and vice chancellors from regional unis. And he reported they want the $5000 payment to help country kids relocate to study to be restricted to those who enrol at regional universities.  His report of roundtable recommendations appeared on his ministerial website, on July 13.  They were all over old-media yesterday afternoon.