Where to find a scientist when you need one

The always up to (light) speed Australian Academy of Science has expert video information for people worried about COVID-19

Robert Booy (child health, Uni Sydney) addresses a bunch of big questions in two minutes, for people who need knowledge to protect their kids and their pets.  Damien Purcell (molecular virology, Peter Doherty Institute) does the same on why slowing transmission matters.

Want to know how the Academy has won 2.1 million Facebook followers (CMM March 10)? Work like this is why.

There’s more in the Mail

You’re going to love the commute but working from home is hard work. Tim Winkler’s ten tips on getting stuff done is in Features this morning. Plus Michael Sankey (from Griffith U) on how to get up to speed fast to teach on-line, here and here.

Appointments, achievements

Emmanuel Nathan from Australian Catholic U is appointed inaugural Denis Edwards visiting fellow at Campion Hall, Oxford U. The fellowship is for researchers working in theology, science and ecology.

Westpac announces three Research Fellowships. Alice Motion (chemist, Uni Sydney), “to build greater awareness of science and the power of collaboration between researchers and the community.” Yu Heng Lau (synthetic biologist, Uni Sydney) researches converting CO2 “into useful organic compounds”. Lou Bennett (Uni Melbourne) will work on “creative ways to revitalise Indigenous languages.”  They each receive $500 000 over three years for salary and research costs.

English language colleges: we will miss them when they’re gone

ELICOS is the canary in the international education coal mine. COVID-19 is making it sick


 The coverage COVID-19 has focused on universities due to the scale of their operations and loss of international-student income, but the impact on ELICOS is huge.

ELICOS is the canary in the coal mine for international education – its students track through to other sectors.

The immediate problem is for the independent ELICOS providers that typically cater to thousands of people, many not on student visas, from countries that are now subject to Australian travel restrictions. Over 70 per cent of ELICOS enrolments from Japan, Korea, and Italy are not on student visas. Independent providers operate in highly competitive markets with small margins. COVID-19 has significantly reduced their current and future bookings and many long-standing operations will close.

Already, providers are reducing staffing levels to stay in business. As such, many teachers and associated staff in this highly casualised workforce have no income.

Closures in the ELICOS sector will have a huge impact, with a quarter of all international higher education students and nearly a third of all international vocational education and training students utilising ELICOS before commencing their tertiary studies.

Not only will this impact future tertiary numbers but closures will limit the capacity of the international education sector to bounce back and will damage our reputation as a global leader. This is a huge set-back at the start for the new English Language Teaching International Engagement Strategy 2025.

ELICOS peak body English Australia is calling for federal government assistance for the sector – it’s needed and needed now.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent

Bad time for new HE cost

Tertiary education providers are due to start funding their own regulation this year – an industry lobby wants a 12-month delay

The Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia argues the 135 independent HE and 3000 VET providers have enough to deal with in the COVID-19 crisis and that the feds introduction of regulation fees in July should not go ahead.

“Independent tertiary education providers are facing some real challenges; challenges that genuinely threaten the sustainability of many sector participants in the wake of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak,” ITECA’s Troy Williams says.

Call from the Lion City

It’s not just Australia calling its people home

Singapore has issued a general call to its students off-shore to come home, “given the evolving COVID-19 situation.”  Higher Learning Institutes are already recalling students on internships or exchange overseas.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises, “the government will liaise with airlines to facilitate flights to key cities when necessary during this period, to cater to demand for return flights to Singapore.”

Med students on placement: helping hands or in the way on the wards

Can medical students in clinical placements can help with the COVID-19 surge, unless they get in the way

In South Australia opinion is divided. Flinders U wants to keep them in the field. “At this stage, there is consensus that placements should continue for now, aligned with SA Health’s and NT Health’s position that students should not be withdrawn from hospitals. This is also consistent with other jurisdictions, and the approach taken by almost all medical schools across Australia.” Jonathan Craig executive dean medicine and public health tells students.

But Uni Adelaide is hard-no with executive dean of health and medical sciences Benjamin Kile moving to suspend all student placements immediately and indefinitely.

“We appreciate the health sector is under a great deal of pressure and we hope the removal of students will clear the way for health professionals to manage their own priorities,” a university message to providers states.

COVID 19: Unis shape up for on-line April

Griffith U announces virus leave

Full-time and permanent PT staff can use special leave if they are ill with COVID-19 and run -out of sick days. Leave is also available for staffers in self-isolation and staffers as carers. Casuals and sessionals can access ten days if ill with the virus however they have no carer leave.

Griffith U makes no mention of a campus shut-down and as such there is no information as to what will happen if casuals and sessionals are fit to work but cannot.

Flinders U steps right up

“First and foremost, I am announcing that from today, all staff (including casuals) will have access to up to ten working days of paid special leave during the next six months. Such leave can be taken by staff required to self-isolate or during a temporary university closedown,” Vice Chancellor Colin Stirling, email to staff yesterday.

Timely timing – late yesterday the university announced a student was confirmed with COVID-19. But things appear ok. It appears they caught it from their partner, just back from overseas but the student had not been on campus for eight days. SA Health is not warning anybody at Flinders.

Southern Cross U courses on-line and campus stays open

As of Monday, “all study programmes” will be delivered on-line, “in the best interests of our students and our teaching staff,” Vice Chancellor Adam Shoemaker says.

Professor Shoemaker also praised general and professional staff for being “instrumental in transitioning teaching and learning resources on-line, and supporting COVID-19 responses.”

.ANU music students are performing/composing in “a virtual learning space”

All performances from the school, plus those scheduled for Llewellyn Hall are cancelled. And while a “virtual music school” is not needed yet, “it is likely that it will be required very soon.”

For now, lectures and tutes are on-line, with specialist software where needed, for example classes on harmony. Concert practice continues but if needed students will record their own performance and submit it for assessment.

Head of School Kim Cunio is also “proud to state” that the university is paying sessional staff. “Teaching at the ANU School of Music is the last job standing for many ACT musicians. Other teaching contracts have been cancelled and all live performances, regardless of style or genre have been cancelled. Our musician / scholar / teachers are extremely vulnerable at this time.”

Murdoch U cancels classes for a fortnight

Next week’s study break will now run for a fortnight, “to allow us to prepare for a transition to more online learning,” VC Eeva Leinonen told the university community. To “ensure continuity of student learning” the study-break week commencing June 15 will now be normal classes.

MU is also looking at “alternate assessment protocols” for large semester-one exams.

When classes resume next month all lectures and tutes will be on-line.  However, the campus stays open.

The university has also established ten days virus leave for staff, including casuals, who have to self-isolate, or have primary care responsibilities.  It’s available to July, when the situation will be reviewed.

Victoria U stops teaching for a week

Classes are suspended on Melbourne and Sydney campuses for a week from Monday, “to ensure smooth transition” to “digitally-supported remote delivery” that, “maximises the personal health and safety” of the university community.

VC Peter Dawkins adds, “this change will help us to be as prepared as possible for any long-term disruption to classes.”

Exceptions are HE students on placements and VOCED civil engineering and trades courses.

When classes resume on March 30 “as many classes as possible will be delivered digitally and remotely.”

As will ANU as it takes time to “pause and regroup”

All coursework teaching stops Monday and starts again on March 30. Classes will be made-up after mid-semester break, April 6-17.

“There comes a time in every challenging situation to pause and regroup and make sure we are able to keep doing what we do best for the long term. This is that moment for COVID-19,” Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt told staff yesterday.

The university will use next week to; * finalise moving courses to “remote learning,” “so we can finish semester one and continue teaching for the rest of the year,” * “focusing on safely bringing home” staff and students off-shore, and * set-up working from home arrangements, “for when they are needed.”

All staff, including casuals, will be paid as normal and the week will not affect leave or self-isolation.

And QUT will be nearly all on-line by April 20

All lectures are on-line only from Monday, for the rest of first semester. All tutes, workshops, laboratories, studios and small team-based learning is “paused” for next week, “for staff training and preparation.” The university expects this to include most casual and sessional staff.

The goal is to have the majority of learning and teaching activities on-line by the end of mid-semester break on April 20.

“We understand we have a lot to achieve in a short period of time so we will be trying to reduce other non-essential university activities to allow you to focus on this significant transition in our learning and teaching practice,” Vice Chancellor Margaret Sheil tells staff.

CQU to “transition” on-campus teaching to all on-line

The move starts Monday and will stay in place for the rest of first term. VC Nick Klomp says he, “expects this to be a relatively seamless transition.” With CQU’s 50 years DE experience it would want to be.

As with just about everywhere else who is going digital, campuses stay open.

Macquarie U thinks things are getting serious

Vice Chancellor S Bruce Dowton, message to staff, yesterday: “As community transition increases, we will no longer be issuing updates to the media or our community about COVID-19 diagnosis as continued escalation of cases in NSW makes it no longer practical to do so.”

Professor Dowton also announces all staff and students can access ZOOM remote conferencing. This allows for 300-person meetings, without time-limit (perhaps he should not have told staff they can talk forever).