Short and sweet: more micro-courses

The budget includes $252m for 50 000 places in new higher education short courses in agriculture, health, IT, science and teaching. Education Minister Tehan is really keen on short courses, small-ish numbers now, but its part of a way-bigger plan.  (CMM September 25). If the funding is at the level paid for courses created as part of the response to COVID-19 there will not be much in this for universities who stick to existing teaching models. But CMM suspects they aren’t the providers the minister has in mind.



There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

David Kellerman (UNSW) on creating a serious solution for on-line lecturing. Curated content from Microsoft.

Kym Fraser (Swinburne U) and Denise Chalmers (UWA) on why quality teaching should be the basis of performance funding.  This week’s selection by Contributing Editor Sally Kift for her series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on university promotion systems- they work on talent, performance, persistence, plus luck and no two paths are the same.

Budget biggie: $1bn to “safeguard research”

Last night’s budget provides $1bn in 2020-21, “to safeguard Australia’s research sector against the impacts of the pandemic.

The funding will fund research infrastructure, “secure research jobs” and “strengthen partnerships” with industry.

This is new money, an improvement on the $700m speculated last week.

There is also a $40m fund for universities to collaborate with surrounding communities on local problems.

But the 12 000 additional UG places Mr Tehan  announced last week are to be allocated to “national priority areas,” including education, nursing, science and computing.

Among the surprises there was one that wasn’t exactly gasp-making; $5.8m for scoping a University Research Commercialisation Scheme, “to better translate and commercialise university research outputs” and one that is a new idea; $24.8 million “to create pathways to STEM careers for up to 500 women through industry-sponsored advanced apprenticeship-style courses.”







Government set to get its way on uni funding

Education Minister Dan Tehan needs one senator for his funding bill to pass, he got it yesterday 

What happened: The state of the Senate means Mr Tehan needs three cross-bench votes to pass his bill – two are from Pauline Hanson and Macolm Roberts. Of the other cross-benchers Jacqui Lambie (Tasmania) and South Australian, Rex Patrick (now independent, recently Centre Alliance) are adamant nays.

Which meant it came down to SA senator Stirling Griff (Centre Alliance) who in-line with his House of Representatives party colleague Rebekha Sharkie announced yesterday he will back the bill, just before debate on it started in the Senate.

Why: Senator Griff and Ms Sharkie say they are backing an amended version of the original bill, “that delivers funding certainty to the university sector while giving disadvantaged students and students from regional areas greater access to university education.”

“Regional areas” like metropolitan Adelaide, where the state’s three public universities all have their main campuses. “This means substantial extra funding for our three universities over four years, over above current funding allocations, and an additional 12,000 students will have access to a university education over a four-year period,” Senator Griff says.

Critics were quick to point to Ms Sharkie’s original response to the bill’s provision of increased course costs for law, business and humanities students. “I will be forever grateful to Flinders U for my arts degree, it took me ten years to complete while working and raising three children. I would not have had my career or the privilege of sitting in the Houses of Representative without it,” she  said (CMM June 22).  However yesterday Ms Shark  stated, “it is ridiculous that year after year we churn out thousands of law graduates, many of whom will never work in law, and yet we import engineering graduates. Something has to change”. This is in-line with her 2017 warning, “we must look at how we prepare the next generation for the world of work to ensure young people successfully transition to sustainable employment. Right now, we have university educated young people stacking shelves at supermarkets because there are few graduate jobs,” (CMM June 22 2020).

Response: Social media was far from speechless with rage at Centre Alliance as news broke yesterday. The National Tertiary Education Union’s Alison Barnes was out early, setting the tone for the lobbies that opposed the bill, saying the government “has completely abandoned Australian universities during their worst ever crisis.
“Rather than stepping in with a robust support package, the Liberals and Nationals have pushed the cost of the crisis onto students and the university workforce. Livelihoods and careers will be destroyed and damaged by this legislation.”

However university peak bodies, including some which have ambivalently, backed the bill kept quiet, likely waiting until the Senate actually passes it. Although the VCs of SA’s three public universities Mike Brooks (Uni Adelaide), David Lloyd (Uni SA) and Colin Stirling (Flinders U) expressed support for more UG place for SA in Centre Alliance’s announcement.

Budget Reaction

Realists that they are, the lobbies like it

The Innovative Research Universities was quick to welcome the research money, if not effusively. “Congratulations to the government for recognising the need for a major investment in research across 2021 to ensure our research system continues,” Executive Director Conor King said. Although he added, “the Coalition is always more supportive of research than education.”

Luke Sheehey from the Australian Technology Network liked the 50 000 new short course places, calling them “a vital measure to support 1000s of Australians looking to get the skills they need for long-term, secure work. We are ready to support industry & workers in our recovery & warmly welcome this announcement.

The Group of Eight was pleased indeed.”This is a budget for its time with an unprecedented one-off injection for research funding,” CEO Vicki Thomson says. “It is both timely and welcome and the Morrison Government is to be congratulated on its commitment to and recognition of the emergency status of Australia’s research funding, and for acting upon that in tonight’s Budget.”

As was Universities Australia chair, Deborah Terry (Uni Queensland VC); ““the government has this evening added $1bn to the nation’s research effort, allowing universities to secure an important and continuing role in national recovery. The sector’s voice had been clearly heard. You can’t have an economic recovery without investing in research and development.”

But Alison Barnes from the National Tertiary Education Union was not happy at all, arguing the $1bn in research funding was “mostly future funding bought forward.”

” The Budget also fails to seriously address the funding and jobs crisis that universities are experiencing. Livelihoods and careers have been demolished in the past six months. … Australia’s universities desperately need a rescue package, but the Treasurer’s focus on jobs in the Budget clearly doesn’t include higher education.”






Faith, hope (but not much) charity in Tehan triumph

Dan Tehan looks like achieving what Christopher Pyne and Simon Birmingham could not, the passage through parliament of structural funding change for higher education

It’s third time lucky for the coalition which appears close to imposing its will on the higher education community. And this will make Mr Tehan a hero in the coalition, for changes that combine faith that the economy requires many more STEM graduates and fewer in law, humanities and business and hope that his policy will be a vote-winner in regions but with very little charity towards HASS scholarship which government backbenchers consider suspect.

Christopher Pyne’s planned a market in HE, with universities free to charge whatever the liked. Simon Birmingham first proposed savings, while leaving demand driven funding in place. The Senate said no to both ministers.

But now Mr Tehan, by the barest majority, is close to having the Senate pass a Heath Robinson funding machine as complex in application as its outcome is unclear, (CMM June 19, 22, 23 and a bunch of subsequent stories).

Still, an about to be win is a win. There’s a reshuffle coming – Mr Tehan will likely be rewarded with his pick of portfolios.



When an MBA isn’t – when it’s a Uni Adelaide “MBA programme”

Uni Adelaide has a “one-time only offer” an MBA programme for $20 000

The university is offering 200 places in its Emerging Leaders MBA programme at 59 per cent off the $49 500 list-price. The offer applies for February starts and the programme can be completed in 12 months. “People who are due to graduate, recent graduates and industry professionals” are eligible.

“By complementing your undergraduate degree with an internationally recognised MBA qualification, you will be primed for leadership positions and develop the critical soft skills demanded by today’s employers,” Uni Adelaide  asserts .

Undoubtedly this is a great deal, even though this “MBA qualification” is not an actual MBA – it’s an “MBA programme,” – as a university representative was quick to explain when CMM called.

Silly old CMM – problem is other people might also miss the distinction. The city of Adelaide’s own Advertiser newspaper appeared to. The lead on a a very positive story on the programme is; “Up to 200 students will be offered scholarships worth nearly $30,000 to develop their leadership skills through a Master of Business Administration at Adelaide University.”

So did MBA News, which headlined a  yarn yesterday, “University of Adelaide offers 200 $20 000 MBAs”.

So what  academic acknowledgement of this MBA programme will completers receive? CMM asked.  “A testamur that says MBA (Emerging Leaders),” Uni Adelaide responds.

But completing the programme does not necessarily count toward entry into the University of Adelaide MBA. “If any student wants to change into the Adelaide MBA, they would need to meet the entry requirements for that program. Consideration of credit would be governed by the university’s academic credit arrangements policy, and would be considered and decided according to that policy,” the university states.

“However, there is no reason for a student who has completed the MBA (Emerging Leaders) to undertake the Adelaide MBA, and therefore there is no automatic pathway to cater to this.”




Claire Field on the budget: few new initiatives but money for VET


A budget with money for VET but few new initiatives and instead a significant investment back into the Department (in the form of an IT upgrade and more staff)

The key skills initiatives announced in last night’s Budget were of three types:

Employment programs with a training component – including: $62.8 million over two years to establish a Local Jobs Program to coordinate employment and training solutions in 25 regions across Australia, * $21.9 million over four years to connect young people (15—24 year olds) to specialist assistance (the Transition to Work service), and to develop online training to increase their job-ready skills, * making the Youth Jobs PaTH (Prepare-Trial-Hire) Internship program demand driven, (replacing the previous capped funding arrangements).

Apprenticeship wage subsidiesAs announced on Sunday: $1.2 billion over four years to increase the number of apprentices and trainees through the Boosting Apprentices Wage Subsidy for those who commence an apprenticeship or traineeship in the next 12 months.

Skills Reform funding of $263 million – of which more than half goes on a new IT system, more public servants, and a new skills list: * $91.6 million over four years (and $1.8 million per year ongoing) for a new Apprenticeships Data Management System, * $52.3 million over three years to provide additional foundation skills places via the Skills for Education and Employment programme * $29.6 million for the National Careers Institute * $1.7 million for the development of a National Skills Priority List for Apprenticeships * $75.9million over four years in additional resourcing for the Department of Education, Skills and Employment Package $11.9 million over three years to continue the VET FEE-HELP (VFH) Redress measure in 2021 and 2022 to support students who incurred debts under the VFH loans scheme due to inappropriate conduct of their private VET provider. This remedy measure will close for new applicants on 31 December 2022.

In addition: there was a good but very modest investment in international engagement (to be met within existing Departmental resources): * $2.0 million over four years (and $5.2 million over ten years to 2030-31) to support approximately 180 international and domestic university students each year to participate in short-term student exchanges with universities in Australia and 16 selected Asian countries. This program will resume once international borders re-open.