COVID-19 assistance in Adelaide

The government of South Australia has stumped up $13.8m for international students in the state. There are payments to match support provided by the state’s three public universities, $500 grants for internationals at other institutions and $200 for school kids.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning 

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

Ian Marshman and Frank Larkins on the costs universities will cut as they face $13bn in losses

Claire Macken’s (RMIT) pick of digital learning-tech. It’s a new essay in Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series on what we need now in learning and teaching.

The Australian Association of University Professors calls for a Senate inquiry into rebuilding the HE system.

Marshman and Larkins on where unis can make savings

Universities with medium to large international enrolments are set to lose from $120m to $1bn in fee income over the next four years, making savings essential

In a new CMM analysis Ian Marshman and Frank Larkins set out where the money can come from including;

* drawing down on surpluses, the all-university kitty was $1.46bn in 2018

* rationalisation of course and subject offerings

* staff reductions, including “a consolidation of roles which may have emerged in times of plenty”

Their full analysis is in Features this morning.

Deakin VC warns avoiding redundancies “impossible”

Deakin U’s income this year will be down up to $110m on 2020, increasing to $250m-$300m by end 2021

“We cannot adopt a position which is predicated on riding out a 12-month disruption,” Vice Chancellor Iain Martin tell staff.

“If we did so, our Future Fund would be exhausted in less than two years and, we would still be facing the tough decisions we are looking at now,” he says.

“Although we will be doing so with a heavy heart, it will be impossible to avoid redundancies given that employment costs are more than half of our total expenditure. These decisions will be shaped so that we ensure focus on our core activities of education, research and innovation.”

Professor Martin will brief staff on May 11.

He is believed to have taken a 25 per cent pay-cut for the calendar year and to be donating to the university student relief fund.

Research funds translates to national security

Science and Technology Australia wants government “strategic investments” in manufacturing

STA president, Jeremy Brownlie suggests the COVID-19 crisis, “should be a reminder about the essential equipment, supplies and technical knowledge we should always have onshore, so we aren’t so heavily dependent on off-shore suppliers and open transport routes to meet our critical needs.

“While it would always be in Australia’s interests to be an outward-looking, globally-engaged trading nation, so too was having greater sovereign capability. The two objectives are complementary,” he says.

Associate Professor Brownlie (Griffith U) adds a research translation fund is a way to “direct strategic investments by government in key capabilities.”

“The dividends it would return on investment to our economic recovery would be profound, but it would also secure Australia’s longer-term self-sufficiency to weather global social and economic upheaval.”

Aspro Brownlie suggests supporting such a fund with savings the government wants to take from the R&D tax incentive.

CQU to take a hit

No new international students this year and maybe next

CQU will close small delivery sites in regional Queensland and its Sunshine Coast campus as it struggles to close a $114m COVID-19 budget gap this year, with further losses next.

“It is unlikely that we will be able to on-board any new international students for Terms two and three this year, and possibly throughout 2021,“ Vice Chancellor Nick Klomp says.

After non-staff savings, the university expects to be $55m short and is calling for VRs and early retirements.

“We must emerge from this crisis as a different university – one that can thrive in the ‘new normal’. Some universities will not be able to do this, but CQUniversity can – and must,” Professor Klomp tells staff.


COVID-19 makes open access essential

The open access duumvirate calls on for-profit research publishers to make OA the new normal

“The time has come to make free and open access to all research a reality. It is critical that once the pandemic is over, in order to accelerate the global transition to free and open access, publishers do not once again restrict access to COVID-19 content. This will be especially crucial in light of the economic challenges all sectors of society will be facing, including universities dealing with constrained scholarly content budgets.” The Council of Australian University Librarians and the Australasian Open Access Strategy Group state.  The two organisations drive Australia’s OA campaign.

Uni SA announces new course for the crisis

The Government’s proposal for short-courses for people unemployed by COVID-19 (CMM April 14) was met with harrumphs about it not being worth universities effort

But not at Uni SA, which announces a certificate in aged care to start late May.

“Graduates who complete the fast-tracked certificate will also have the opportunity to continue their studies to compete a Diploma in Aged Care and subsequent pathway into bachelor’s degrees in health, nursing or social sciences.”

When Education Minister Dan Tehan announced the proposal last week he cited Uni SA as having courses ready to go – and lo, it has.

Nothing for UNSW casuals to relax about

The Casual Staff Network at UNSW warns people are “quietly being fired without notice”

A survey by the Network found one in three UNSW casuals has lost work while casual teachers still employed have increased unpaid workloads as they meet student needs caused by the move to on-line teaching.

The survey also reports over half UNSW casuals are PhD students who need a six-month extension in funding and for completions, given the impact of the current crisis.

According to the Network; “UNSW management has said nothing about the future of casual contracts,” although “casual workers are already reporting that individual schools and faculties are attempting to make up budget shortfalls with cuts to casual employment.”

UNSW did not respond to a request for comment made yesterday morning.

Claire Field warns we are missing a once in a generation training opportunity


The Commonwealth and states are ignoring the reforms Australia will need

Finn, Mayer and Carmichael. Names from another time … Specifically the early 1990s when unemployment was at record highs and there were fears for the future competitiveness of Australian industry.

The Finn Review, the Mayer report and the Carmichael report recognised the profound challenges facing Australia, not least the impact of the recession, and the significant investment needed to improve the economy and individuals’ life chances.

Their recommendations were bold, strategic and laid the foundations of the current Australian VET system, including:

* the AQF

* a national quality/recognition framework for providers

* competency-based training

* apprenticeship reforms including User Choice, and

* national targets for youth participation and attainment.

It is hard to imagine what the “founders” of the modern Australian VET system would make of the current responses to the skills challenge arising from COVID-19.

Instead of grasping the opportunity to invest in skills development to help workers transition to new and emerging occupations and a more digital future – instead we have:

* the Commonwealth tweaking the VET Student Loan scheme

* NSW offering short on-line courses at TAFE in business admin, word processing, how to use spreadsheets, etc., and

* Victoria investing money in stabilising TAFE funding (not necessarily extra places) and short on-line courses in cleaning, food hygiene, and first aid.

While other jurisdictions noticeably Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT have invested more in their VET systems, the additional investment is not always easily quantified and seems unlikely to be sufficient to meet the skills needs of millions of unemployed people.

There is also no overarching purpose to the activities each jurisdiction is undertaking.

Coalescing around the recommendations of the Joyce Review would allow the VET sector another once-in-a-generation opportunity to support the economic reforms Australia is going to need.

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

Appointments, achievements

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

 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.

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.

On-line ideas for teaching engineering, science and tech

This is the sixth and last in a series by Steve Mackay and Edwina Ross (Engineering Institute of Technology)  

Testing the often untestable: one of the on-line elephants in the education room is the authentication of students. Who is actually doing the work? And are they enjoying unreasonably high levels of outside support?

On-line proctoring software offers a solution; it allows for the remote testing of a student’s knowledge. It ensures the student is properly invigilated and it can authenticate her. (A student must accept and embrace this solution and be well-prepared for the proctoring operation before sitting for a test.)

The following issues need to be dealt with in:

* security: testing on concepts (rather than requesting regurgitated content) heightens academic integrity

* interactivity: live, face-to-face tests (e.g. orals) are preferable to online ones

* equity: all random questions should be targeted at a similar level

* hands-on labs: physical demonstrations can be assessed using screen-capturing software

* team work: needs to be assessed as it is a key activity of engineers and scientists.

finally …: remember that when the technology ‘disappears’ and the student makes seamless contact with her teacher and her peers you have arrived at a good place with online education.