Making a case against less when there appears more

The AFR reported Saturday Treasurer Jim Chalmers is preparing “to cut harder than first flagged” in October’s budget. Perhaps Uni Sydney should not feature in any HE campaigns for more, not less funding – what with it reporting $1.04bn headline surplus last year.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Understand reporting requirements for equity funding? Oh that it was so. There are new rules for evaluating the impact of initiatives.

But fortunately, there are ways to find out what you need to know. Sonal Singh (UTS) and Nadine Zacharias (Swinburne U) explain in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated series, Needed now in learning and teaching.

plus Victorian Unis: good, different. Keith Houghton (Higher Education and Research Group) on  what distinguishes them and how they compare with the rest of the country on research productivity.

and in Expert Opinion

The university teacher of the year awards are on again (thanks Universities Australia) which is good – but Australia’s great learning and teaching culture deserves more.  Liz Johnson (Deakin U) and Sally Kift (president, Australian Learning and Teaching Fellows) discus what could be done and what should be done to foster learning and teaching research and achievements.

Tim Winkler (Twig Marketing) has been to a bunch of open-days to find that they present what managements like to see,  which isn’t necessarily what prospective students want to learn. In CMM, Tim talks about where open days are and where they need to be.

More research open access

Journal publisher Annual Reviews makes all its content “open”, as in for everybody, access” in ANZ

The Council of Australian  University Librarians announces the arrangement for Australia and New Zealand a year before the publisher goes global.

The arrangement is based on Annual Reviews earning target income from subscriptions and on that basis making all content free for everybody and anybody to read.

The publisher piloted this “subscribe to open” model in 2020, when readership increased four-fold.

Annual Reviews is a non-profit, “dedicated to synthesising and integrating knowledge for the progress of science and benefit of society” by publishing research literature reviews in 51 journals.

This is another innovation for CAUL, and a variation on its OA approach with multiple publishers that links open access and pay to publish to the cost of subscription (see for example CMM November 23 2001).

It may also suit the idea Chief Scientist Cathy Foley  floated last year, of centrally negotiated  national agreements with publishers, (CMM November 16 2021).

Uni Queensland identifies underpayment

The university  reports a clerical error in March 2018 led to it underpaying casual academics

It’s the end of a process that appears to have commenced in September when  National Tertiary Education Union members compiled a report on underpayment (CMM September 22).

The university conducted an internal review and then commissioned an external investigation (CMM  October 22).

And now management reports salary increases were incorrectly entered into the payroll system. The university is now advising people what they are owed – which it reports is under $100 “for most.”

As the total owed, observers suggest that the error total is around $1m.

Slow visa issues hurts  international ed recovery


 In  February  CMM highlighted a looming issue with visas, “It seems not all of government received the email that Australia is open,” (February 14).

Fast forward to June and it appears industry is increasingly frustrated with Home Affairs and its inability to turn around visa application in a timely manner. Published student visa rates updated 5 May 2022 show:

* Higher Education visas: 25 per cent of visas finalised are completed within 16 days, 50 per cent are finalised within 29 days, 75 per cent with 57 days and all finalised with seven months.

* this blows out for a VET visa. 25 per cent of visas finalised are completed within 33 days, 50 per cent are finalised within 54 days, 75 per cent with 7 months and all finalised with 12 months.

Informed observers suggest the average wait time in India has blown out to 55 days while in the Philippines a visa that normally takes four-six weeks is now at 79 days and that seems to be the norm. Quite simply “we are going to start losing students to other destinations” says one provider who does not want to be named.

University semester two intake is looming and while short term corrections may still impact this, pathway providers and those in trimester mode aren’t as lucky.

Phil Honeywood, CEO of the International Education Association says  there are three key issues.

* that upwards of one third of the national visa processing budget was recently ripped out by the previous Government has huge repercussions.

* the Covid pandemic has also resulted in the temporary and permanent loss of skilled visa processing staff across our embassy network. This has created anomalies such as Colombian student visas being processed at our Embassy in Vietnam.

* with some student source countries, such as India, Home Affairs also identified an upsurge in fraudulent documents. This has played a part in Nepalese students having far more student visas issued compared to Indian student applicants.

Mr Honeywood adds, “Industry stakeholders have requested clarification on all these issues from the Home Affairs Department at this week’s Education Visa Consultative Committee meeting.”

The committee meets on Friday. CMM, along with industry, is interested to see what comes from it… hopefully faster processing times. There was good news Friday, with the Commonwealth committing at National Cabinet to, “address a backlog in processing visa applications in areas of skills shortages, reduce visa processing times and prioritise training and migration.”

Dirk Mulder advises education and business clients on trends in international education. He writes regularly for CMM.

NSW Government announces yet more for medical research

While the Commonwealth is stumping up for hospitals, which the states run, states are piling into the political positives of medical research, which the Commonwealth mainly funds

There’s $270m in the imminent NSW budget for medical research including $143m for a biomedical research partnership between Uni Sydney and neighbouring Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

This is on top of $119m over ten years for an RNA research translation project (CMM June 14).

Medical research is always electorally popular (“cure for cancer” is a message that resonates with voters). The extraordinary pace at which Covid vaccines are created adds to it.

Court finds for COVID vaccine critic disciplined by Western Sydney U  

The university’s act includes a “bulwark of academic freedom”

Western Sydney U  stopped nursing student Nera Thiab from undertaking placement necessary to complete her degree because she, “expressed scepticism about the safety of the vaccines which were available at the time.”

The university also held a disciplinary hearing which required her to apologise and write a 1500 word “appreciation” of why her conduct breached professional obligations.

Ms Thiab took the matter to court, arguing Section 35 of WSU’s act of parliament, forbids discriminating against a student for religious/political views or beliefs.

In the Supreme Court of NSW Justice Parker found

“the opposition to vaccination may be based on genuinely held political beliefs. The cogency of such beliefs, and how widely they are shared, are beside the point. Nor should this be surprising in the field of public health. Public health is a social science. It often requires that a balance be struck between people’s individual freedoms and the desirability of government action being taken in the collective interest to restrict the spread of disease. Inevitably that may be politically controversial.”

However, he added “nothing in my decision prevents the university from making genuine academic judgments about the quality of its students’ coursework. Creationists who answer questions in a palaeontology exam by quoting the Bible will not be able to complain if the university declines to award them degrees.”

Nor did his decision, “necessarily prevent the university from action because of clinical or other professional misconduct by its students,” which if such arose, could have been dealt with “in a clinical setting.”

“ if in the end there is a need for the university to take disciplinary action against its students, based on their conduct and not their beliefs, the university may do so.”

But he also pointed to the importance of Section 35, “in a university context, freedom of thought has a public dimension. Universities exist to advance human knowledge and understanding. The theory behind s35 is that this is an objective process and the personal beliefs, whether religious or political, of those involved, are, or should be, irrelevant. Section 35 can thus be seen as a bulwark of academic freedom.”

Appointments, achievements

Melbourne lawyer Virginia Bourke becomes pro chancellor of Australian Catholic U next month, She replaces Julien O’Connell who steps down after seven years.

Greens senator for NSW Mehreen Faruqi keeps education in her portfolio responsibilities. Senator Faruqi is the party’s deputy leader.

Sam Van Holsbeeck (Uni Sunshine Coast) wins the Blue-Sky Young Researcher Innovation Award from the Australian Forest Products Association.

Another honour for Chief Defence Scientist Tanya Monro – on Monday she became an AC and on Friday the Russian Government banned her from Moscow. Other Australians the regime considers enemies include ANU VC Brian Schmidt.

Tin Fei Sim (Curtin U) becomes national president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia

As of July, Robert Wellington will be director of ANU’s Centre for Art History and Art Theory. It’s an internal ANU appointment.