Long arm of the law

“Get hands-on experience as part of your course with a four-week placement in a law office,” QUT spruiks a course, via Facebook. Presumably the hands are attached to 1.5m social-distance arms.

There’s more in the Mail

This morning in Features

Frank Larkins and Ian Marshman set out the financial future for universities – even the ones in the best shape are in terrible trouble. They warn the crisis could mean the end of the unified national system.

Sophie Arkoudis (Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education) argues student comms skills are not always explicitly assessed. They need to be. It’s Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s selection this week for her series on what’s needed now in teaching and learning.

The Australian Association of University Professors wants more support for international students now and less reliance on them for future uni funding.

Deakin U staff kick-up over cuts

Deakin VC warned the university community there would be job losses. Now they have started people aren’t happy

“Although we will be doing so with a heavy heartit will be impossible to avoid redundancies,” Iain Martin told staff in April (CMM April 22). Last week he specified 300 positions will go and 100 unfulfilled ones will stay that way (CMM May 26). A bunch of professional staff jobs to go are already identified (CMM May 29).

People aren’t happy. Last month, 360, mainly academic staff called on Professor Martin to hold-off redundancies until there was a “focused and genuine grassroots discussion of what a post-COVID-19 Deakin University might look like and how best to realise it.”

Now that hasn’t happened, 80 or so staff have written to Professor Martin, telling him theyfind the ‘top-down’ nature of your decision-making regarding this change program both disturbing and insulting. Your unilateral action to dismiss our casual colleagues, in order to force more work onto full-time staff … would be stressful at the best of times.”

They make five demands; * “detailed financial transparency around any decision to shed staff,” * executives “take meaningful pay cuts” before redundancies, * VRs and leave-without pay offered before involuntary redundancies start, * “clear and detailed information” about workplace change and * protecting casuals’ employment and for those that do go, a right of return and library access.

Needed next: new international ed strategy

The Committee for Sydney gets that opening the borders to internationals isn’t all the answer

It also calls for three long-term visa changes to make Australia attractive.

* a year studying on-line with an Australian provider counts for a post-study work visa

* completing a degree here guaranteeing a four-year post-graduation work visa

* grads who use their four years to work in “key industries,” – advanced manufacturing, computer science – have a pathway to permanent residence.

Now is the time to make this change – if we wait until the crisis is over, competitors like Canada and the UK will be hard to catch,” committee CEO Gabriel Metcalf says.

La Trobe VC says plan is best option to save jobs

John Dewar really wants a local version of the now cancelled national Australian Universities Job Protection Framework to get up

He was pitching it to a meeting of staff yesterday as the best bet to save LT U jobs. “We have a choice – adopt the AUJPF for 12-18 months or accept an earlier and more severe change/redundancy programme.” How severe? “The AUJPF won’t save every job but it’s our best option and will save the financial equivalent of approximately 225 jobs in 2020 and 2021.”

The proposal goes to union members later this week, ahead of an all-staff vote (CMM, yesterday).

Politics is local for Charles Sturt U

Federal Minister Andrew Gee wants an external audit into CSU’s finances

Mr Gee says the university warns there is an $80m revenue decline but while, “I have now been given varying explanations, nobody from the university has been able to explain with any clarity precisely how that figure of $80 million could be a direct impact on Charles Sturt University’s bottom line.”

Mr Gee is minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education and also member for Calare, which covers major CSU campuses at Bathurst and Orange.

His demand follows state Nationals MP Paul Toole the member for Bathurst  questioning CSU’s medical school partnership in Orange.

In April Vice Chancellor Andrew Vann briefed staff on the need for change involving campuses and courses (CMM April 3). Even before COVID-19, CSU was barely breaking even (CMM April 2).

Swinburne U proposes redundancies

VC Linda Kristjanson tells staff, “we have done all that we can to cut costs” but more savings are needed

The university faces a $51m deficit this year, followed by the same in 2021 and ’22. To address the losses, it will consult on voluntary redundancies for fixed-term and continuing academics, professional staff, plus pathways and voced employees.

“We have initiated consultation on voluntary redundancies because this option provides an opportunity for participation and shared decision-making,” the VC says.

And if VR’s don’t do it; “there is a possibility that involuntary redundancies may be required in coming months to meet the changing environment we are now facing, including significantly reduced student numbers and less capital investment.”

“We hope that this is not the case, but it is important that we are honest about this future possibility,” Professor Kristjanson adds.

In their new analysis of COVID 19’s impact on universities Frank Larkins and Ian Marshman estimate Swinburne U derives 21 per cent of revenue from international students but suggest it “delivers a significant proportion of its international student programs offshore and this may moderate its financial vulnerability.”

Efficient prices in training: not great for TAFE


It could mean more places funded at a lower rate

The Prime Minister’s recent comments on the new VET funding agreement have the support of both the TAFE sector and independent providers. Both are looking forward to a leading role in the new arrangements.

The PM indicated that the new agreement will draw on elements of the National Health Reform Agreement – specifically “national efficient pricing and activity based funding models”. He also expressed concerns about “a lack of visibility over the quality of training providers.” The Joyce Review and ASQA Rapid Review recommendations to publish all provider audit reports and provider-level data will address this latter issue.

Returning to funding – the sector needs national consistency in fees and subsidies and an overall increase in funding. It is the efficient price which is tricky.

It will work for independent providers but I am surprised that the TAFE sector is so supportive.

TAFEs are currently under some pressure:

* TAFE Queensland is headed for a budget deficit of at least -$38.4 million

*  TAFE NSW teachers are concerned about quality in short courses

*  Box Hill Institute is facing a class action after problems with aviation training

Against this backdrop and often facing higher delivery costs, the introduction of an efficient price risks seeing more training places funded at a lower rate per TAFE enrolment.

Leading TAFE thinker, Don Zoellner, has expressed his concerns about the impact of markets and efficient pricing on TAFE. He considers that TAFE’s role in delivering public value should be recognised in its funding model. I think he is right.

On Friday we will see more details of the new VET funding agreement.

National efficient pricing (plus hopefully long-term funding stability) will be good for independent and community providers and their students. The question is whether the new approach will also deliver for the TAFE sector?

Claire previously managed TAFE NSW Planning and Performance Review and was seconded to the Commonwealth for VET reform negotiations with states and territories.


How to say “broke” in Bahasa Indonesia


With a new free trade agreement Australia is set to do business in Indonesia – problem is we won’t have anybody who can do the talking

The Australian Consortium for In-Country Indonesian Studies could be out of business, long before travel between the countries re-starts.

ACICIS sends Australian students to Indonesia, 2500 since 2014. But it stopped in March as COVID-19 kicked-in.

The consortium has 25 member universities (23 Australian) but their fees amount to only 10 per cent of programme funding. With no student-income, ACICIS expects to be out of business by October, before student travel is expected to start.

It needs $150 000 to see it through to mid-2021, when it believes something approaching normal operations will resume. It has launched a fundraiser,  here.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent.

Appointments, achievements

Peter Coaldrake becomes a commissioner of the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency. The former QUT VC is the author of the well-regarded review of HE provider category standards, adopted as the basis of Commonwealth policy.

 Clare Pollock (DVC Students) at Flinders U keeps that job while becoming Senior DVC.

 Southern Cross U announces four appointment to its National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine; Matthew Leach (deputy director, education), Romy Lauche (DD, research), Janet Schloss (clinical research fellow), Renea Duigan (GM). They join director Jon Wardle. The centre has $10m from the Blackmore Foundation. Leach joins from Uni SA, Lauche from Sozialstiftung in Bamberg, Germany, Schloss from Endeavour College, and Duigan transfers from SCU HR.