Land of the brave, home of the lowish cost

It turns out the average US student debt for the class of 2014 is – $33,000. How long till the Yanks start warning about expensive Australian-style degrees?

Big breakfast or last supper

The big brekkie briefing at Parliament House went well yesterday, with Group of Eight types saying people were attentive and apparently interested. But that is all they were saying. I would love to report the names of senators swayed by the authority of the eight – but I can’t. Neither can VCs who did the duchessing. The Pyne package enters the House of Reps today, but it’s fate in the Senate is what matters.

Carr signalling go-slow?

Labor’s Kim Carr was quick smart to comment  yesterday on the dangers of $100,000 dollar degrees under the perfidious Pyne plan – except that his source was a less thin than translucent story quoting modelling which showed old and rich universities making enormous amounts of money. Um, except the modellers warn in the story that results could be a lot less. But not to worry, the Labor spokesman on education was going to let enemies of the people know what he thought about the plot, “thee Labor Party will oppose this every inch of the way. And the Group of Eight, who are here today, will hear that directly from us, because these changes are unfair, the people of Australia did not vote for them and they will be rejected, I hope, by the Australian Senate.” He hopes? Is this a sign that Senator Carr fears the crossbench is not as solid as thought?

Looks like it, says one of the most astute tacticians in this fight. “Senator Carr is now talking of a committee, no longer that Labor the Greens and PUP will vote down the Pyne package on day one. This means the Palmer United senators were not certain to reject as a whole immediately. So it will go off to committee, which means the crucial debates and votes will be in November and into December. It is pointless guessing votes before then.” This could take some time, which is probably why Mr Pyne keeps telling us, a patient man.

Training in trouble

The training figures for the March quarter are out and terrible they are. Overall apprentice and trainees starts were done 11.8 per cent with the overall annual figure 20.5 per cent lower. According to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, the problem “appears” a withdrawal of a Commonwealth commencement incentive, which applied to starts before July ‘12. The NCVER says as employers who benefited from subsidies in the past look to take somebody knew on they discover the old benefits are gone and walk away. Bad news for young people looking to train. Bad news for the economy down the track.

Unsinkable optimist

As if Chris Pyne does not have enough on his plate of PUPs the education minister also has to protect his patch – and jobs are always an issue in his home town of Adelaide. So there he was yesterday, hosing down stories that Japan was going to take over the next generation submarine project. “Labor playing politics with jobs but our future subs project will create jobs,” Mr Pyne tweeted yesterday afternoon, which sounds reassuring but does not explicitly state that the boats will be built from conning tower to torpedo tube in Adelaide. Maybe the Australian Research Council could rustle up a Centre of Underwater Excellence for SA universities.

From the Miss Manners Studies Centre

Researchers at the University of New South Wales have found “that thanking a new acquaintance for their help makes them more likely to seek an ongoing social relationship with you.” Who would have thought.

Southern (very) Cross University

Just when the Regional Universities Network is explaining to parliamentarians that members will need funding for deregulation because of tough times a brawl has broken out at Southern Cross University. According to Genevieve Kelly, National Tertiary Education Union NSW state secretary, there is indeed a crisis but “a catalogue of poor management decisions leading to the current crisis, that further job cuts will do nothing to correct”, causes it The union is demanding the University Council intervene. The university responds that staff are kept informed and the NTEU should “take a mature, professional and constructive approach to supporting SCU through this challenging period.” The united front RUN needs this is not.


Free kick for Chris

Independents do not get so much Question Time attention that they can make a polite inquiry that generates no media so everybody expected a Lambie-like attack when Andrew Wilkie (Ind-Tasmania) got the call yesterday. But Mr Wilkie confounded the House by asking a sensible question of Education Minister Pyne. What, Mr Wilkie wanted to know, was what the government is doing to stop the decline in forestry research? More than Labor, was the substance of the answer – what with the way the previous government had closed the Forest Cooperative Research Centre. The minister went on to talk about other funding for forest studies and how the University of Tasmania, Southern Cross U and UWS have the highest rating in the world for forest science – oh and by the way Tasmania gets an ice bucket of money for Antarctic Research. It was an answer that put the D in Dorothy Dixer, without a mention of the other D word, deregulation. No wonder the minister said he hoped Mr Wilkie would ask him more education questions.

 Monro moves but Centre stays

With Tanya “photon girl” Monro off to the University of South Australia where does that leave the University of Adelaide’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale Biophotonics, which she led and was a big part of. Readers suggests with some of her most productive colleagues at an age where they might consider retiring the Centre could soon lack the talent that won it $23m from the Australian Research Council. But the ARC is ok with everything at Adelaide telling me, “a new centre director appointment is approved by the ARC under the terms of the funding agreement,” which does not quite address the issue. According to Uni Adelaide DVC (R) Mike Brooks an interim director “will be engaged shortly” with an international search for a permanent appointment.  Staff are also being hired for the centre’s three nodes, at Adelaide, Macquarie and RMIT.