Blown on the wind

Venture capitalist blown away by university-born small wind turbine start-up,” University of Newcastle promotes campus-based Diffuse Energy. Perhaps they should have told people to hang-on to something solid.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Liz Branigan (La Trobe U) argues on-line learning is core business when properly done. It’s this week’s selection by Contributing Editor Sally Kift for her series, on what we need now in teaching and learning.

Garry Carnegie (RMIT) and James Guthrie (Macquarie U) on the hard lesson in financial risk management taught universities by COVID 19.

Dirk Mulder (CMM’s international educ correspondent) crunches the big numbers on what Indian and Nepalese want to study in VET

And Merlin Crossley (UNSW) welcomes chips on shoulders (if they are the right type of chip).

Uni Wollongong staff to vote on savings proposals

Uni Wollongong VC Paul Wellings offers three options, the union doesn’t like any of them

The university’s alternatives went to staff last week (CMM Friday). Two are intended to save jobs from the COVID-19 crunch UoW faces. “There will be significantly fewer forced redundancies,” under either, the university told staff.

The third option is to do nothing, which would mean, “job losses will be substantial.”

The alternatives go to an all-staff vote today and the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union urges staff not to vote for either pay-cut, arguing they do not protect staff. It calls on the vice chancellor to consult with staff and to make that happens urges people “to vote for option three to get us to option four.”

However, yesterday, in a message to staff answering questions on his proposal Professor Wellings told staff, “we are only able to work with the three options before you.”

“Our choices over the next few days will be an important indicator on how the university should approach the difficult decisions we have to make over the next 30 month,” he said.

Good things come to an end

For-profit publisher Elsevier has made research articles on COVID-19 open access

But not forever. Researchers who register have a licence to use resources on the Elsevier Coronavirus Research Hub, but only until October 28. Perhaps the publisher expects a vaccine by then.

Help for students open all hours

Mollie Dollinger (La Trobe U) and colleagues surveyed students who use on-line study support which their university sources from independent company (and CMM advertister) Studiosity

They found well over half of users were women, a third of survey respondents were regional students and that 40 per cent used the service at night, when the university’s own support unit wasn’t open. “These results may indicate that the service can provide a useful and relevant alternative to students who would like to access support outside of standard business hours when they may have work and/or family responsibilities.”

Overall, solid majorities of responders in 2018 and ’19 were “extremely satisfied” with the service.

“It is imperative that higher education institutions explore and evaluate suitable on-line student support services to further assist students, especially those identified as being ‘at risk,’ ” Dollinger and colleagues suggest.

There’s another reason for managements to invest in out-of-hours study support, “44 per cent of students also indicated that the provision of the service may make them more likely to stay enrolled at the university.”

Cuts now, improvements to follow at ANU, says Schmidt

Union members vote today on the university’s proposal to save money by varying the enterprise agreement, which the branch committee of the NTEU opposes. Yesterday Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt made the case

Where ANU is: The university wants staff to give up the enterprise agreement pay rise, due next month and to accept a voluntary redundancy scheme. Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt explained why last month (CMM May 28).

Yesterday he expanded why the university must make savings and how it will make them, including “making hard decisions about fixed term contracts, reducing our use of casual staff, and pursuing voluntary separations.” And he again pitched “deferring” the salary increase to save $13.5m for a full year. “By and large I have been told people want to defer their pay rise, although I note concern for our lowest paid members of staff. Many senior staff have offered to forego their salary increase to allow their junior colleagues to keep theirs.”

Where Schmidt wants it be: Professor Schmidt also outlines what the university can do to expand income.

He points to a diversified philanthropy and research funding strategy already in place.  He reminds the community that the pre-COVID 19 plan to, “become a smaller, more sustainable organisation,” has “prepared us better.”

And he says the university is, “looking at new joint or dual degree programs that could be delivered overseas.”

“This will be a longer transition but will ensure we can continue to recruit the best students from around the world – even if they can’t physically attend campus.”

Keeping gender equity on the agenda

Universities and peak bodies are thinking post pandemic

A five-point commitment to address the “gendered effect of COVID 19” is out for endorsement.

It focuses on maintaining existing programmes and monitoring the gender impact of pandemic-related decisions, “including compounding intersectional factors.”

Some eight universities have signed, La Trobe U, Macquarie U, Uni Melbourne, Uni NSW, Uni Sydney, UTS, Uni Wollongong and Western Sydney U.

As have the Academy of Science, Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, Equity Practitioners in Higher Education Australia, Male Champions of Change, the National Committee for Women in Engineering, and Science in Australia Gender Equity.

Claire Field worries the government has “changed tack” on the international market


 After almost a decade working to attract more international students, it appears that the government has rapidly changed tack

Pre-pandemic there were concerns about the risks universities were taking in being so heavily reliant on international students from just one or two source countries.

Those concerns are irrelevant for the moment but, if media reports over the weekend are right, there was an equally significant risk which none of us foresaw… our own government!

After almost a decade working to attract more international students, it appears that the government has rapidly changed tack.

Just months after launching a Reputational Taskforce and videos to encourage international students, Education Minister Dan Tehan now wants universities to “put less energy into chasing international students and more into educating our own”. Despite there being no hard evidence that universities are not focussed on local students, the minister is apparently not alone in these views. There are others in government who are more critical.

International education brings profound personal and social benefits to local and international students.

It also has a positive economic impact – not least to thousands of small businesses outside education.

Universities will need to better explain these benefits,* as well as reassure government and the public that the return of international students will not jeopardise educational opportunities for local students nor see international students displace unemployed Australians seeking work.

Universities’ high rates of student satisfaction and ABS data on the sector’s economic importance should not need to be put to government, but equally clearly must be.

Meanwhile, the government needs to get beyond its apparent disdain for universities and recommit to international education. If not for all the benefits it brings (including complementing international diplomacy efforts), then for the fact it generates 40% of annual tourism revenues, let alone its contribution to other sectors of the economy… construction, food and accommodation, retail anyone?

*An exception being Monash U VC Margaret Gardner in this excellent interview.

Claire Field advises on VET, international education and private higher education.


ANU tops locals on QS ranking

The top of the league table stays much the same

The QS rankings are much the same as last year – with seven of the Group of Eight in the world top 100, generally within two or three places of where they were last year (except UWA which dropped six spots to 92nd). Uni Adelaide is just outside the golden century, unchanged at =106th.

ANU is 31st in the world (29th last year), followed by Uni Sydney at 40th (42nd), Uni Melbourne, 41st (38th),  UNSW, 44th (43rd), Uni Queensland, 46th (47th), Monash U, 55th (=58th), UWA, 92nd  (86th).

After Uni Adelaide only three other institutions make the second 100, UTS at =133rd (up seven places from last year), Uni Wollongong at 196th (well up from =212 in ’19) and Uni Newcastle at =197th (=207th).

The full listing is here.

India and Nepal the growth story for Australian VET

 March YTD student data demonstrated a big swing from higher education to VET. The choices of students from India and Nepal are the reason


 Indian enrolments grew 22 percent from 2019, increasing market share from 14.6 per cent to 16.8 per cent.

Nepalese enrolments increased 14.2 per cent, maintaining a 14 per cent-15 per cent market share.

Indian student commencements were up 3.8 percent but with a big swing from HE to VET while Nepal rose steadily by 8.5 percent.

The winning states for Indian enrolments were South Australia, up 44 per cent, Tasmania, 60 per cent, Northern Territory, 73 per cent and ACT, 44.9 per cent.

The pattern is similar for students from Nepal. SA up by 41 per cent, WA 27 per cent, Tasmania 81.7 per cent, Northern Territory 293 per cent and the ACT up 155 per cent.

 In all cases VET drove the growth

Indian students: NSW 73 per cent, Victoria 60 per cent, Queensland 48 per cent, South Australia 87 per cent, Western Australia 71 per cent, Tasmania 88 per cent, Northern Territory 727.3 per cent ACT 58.7 per cent.

Nepalese students: NSW (down 11 per cent) and Queensland (down 23 per cent) lost out but everywhere else was up. Victoria 19 per cent, South Australia 36 per cent, Western Australia 16 per cent, Tasmania 74 per cent, Northern Territory 504 per cent and ACT 72 percent.

The courses that are popular and why

The four course areas popular with students from India and Nepal are; automotive engineering and technology, business management, cookery and hospitality management. Full figures, state by state are in Features this morning.

While there may be all sorts of reasons, Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZCO) skill shortage occupation codes reveal these course areas qualify for an occupation on the medium to long term or short term skills lists.

Students are enrolling in these programs and will likely access the 485 graduate work visa in the graduate skills category on completion of 2 years of study. This will allow them to stay on, providing they meet requirements, for an additional 18 months. In some cases, students will be able to utilise this time to gain relevant experience in the nominated occupation which will serve them well when applying for a skills assessment leading to a more permanent visa.

There is also potential for state / territory governments to nominate students for the 491 or 190 visa categories, if they can present a full skills assessment and their nominated occupation is on the relevant state/territory skills shortage list.

But how realistic is it that these students will find the relevant work experience in the allotted timeframe to enable a positive skills assessment for PR? In some cases, this could require 12months work, out of 18, in the designated field.

Certainly, enrolments in these programs are intended to support a migration outcome however the system is extremely complex and many of the paths that these students are on will inevitably lead to a non-desired outcome. This will start to bite approximately 12 to 24 months from now.

Stats by states and fields are in Features this morning

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent