International students: maybe the good times are revving up

But how many and where? Following the open-borders announcement Monday CMM and Twig Marketing are adding a session to address the biggest issues in HE, at our Redefining Value in HE conference.

All the event details here.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Frank Larkins and Ian Marshman (Melbourne Centre for the Study of HE) on the states where HE hit hardest in the pandemic year.

 and Theo Farrell and Alyce Mason (Uni Wollongong) on the digital transformation of teaching and learning , why it will stay and how, if universities get it right it, “digitalisation can improve equal access to higher education.”

with Chris Ronan (Country Universities Centre) who explains how regional students can study successfully by combining on-line courses and a local learning community.  This week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her celebrated series Needed now in teaching and learning.

plus Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on more metrics for education-focused academics. “Developing them is important if we want to provide opportunities for great university teachers, invest in them, and bring in new blood.”

Count the croaks

A chorus of researchers (including Uni Newcastle and UNSW) have discovered two “very loud” frog species

It’s not that previous researchers were hard of hearing, but because the outspoken amphibians were mistaken for the well-known and popular Bleating Tree Frog. But investigation reveals they are different and so there are now two more species, named Slender Bleating and Screaming Tree frogs. Great name for a band.

Nursing as usual: major education review shelved

The Commonwealth has (quietly) responded to the Schwartz Review of Nursing Education

Triple VC (Brunel, Murdoch and Macquarie universities) Steven Schwartz filed late 2019 and the Commonwealth has now responded to his recommendations.

Professor Schwartz comprehensively addressed issues really relevant to nurse education institutions with suggestions including, independent assessment of literacy and numeracy of candidates for nurse registration, a database of accredited courses, four-year degrees for registered nurses and more placement hours for bachelor courses. He also called for a review of funding for UG nurse education (CMM December 6 2019).

Health Minister Greg Hunt now calls the report “a significant opportunity for the nursing profession, together with the higher education sector … to develop a coordinated view of what needs to be done.”

But not who will do it. Mr Hunt says the Commonwealth will “facilitate consideration” of the review’s recommendations but the majority, “relate to areas which are not within the Australian Government’s direct responsibility.” Overall the feds support two recommendations, support one in principle and “note” 24.

They can float but they can’t hide

A Google subsidiary is running a  coding challenge to create tech to detect under water the Crown of Thorns Starfish, as in the coral eater devouring the Great Barrier Reef. Its via open-source AI organisation Kaggle, in partnership with CSIRO. Entries close in February.

Research or (not and) teaching

Research performance policy is being debated at Uni Wollongong, with fears that it could concentrate funding

The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union questions management on performance metrics that could direct funds to “research-only” centres at the expense of staff on the traditional 40:40:20 research, teaching, service, model.

“At the heart of the policy seems to be the intention to create more teaching-intensive positions through an assessment of staff as not performing at the standards outlined in this policy,” the NTEU warns.

A divide between research specialists and other academics could be an issue in new enterprise bargaining at universities across the country – it already is at Uni Sydney (CMM, August 10, November 15).

Federation U means business

A restructure proposal is all about employment, just not jobs for everybody who now works there

The university predicts enrolments next year will be 30 per cent down on 2019 and it plans to respond by focusing on future employment demand for graduates and making the university more responsive to employers.

This involves changes to academic structures, “which are designed around historically inward-facing models of academia.”

To address this management proposes to consolidate its six schools into “three employment and start-up centres,” intended to “respond to employer and innovation demand.” Dean positions are gone, replaced by CEOs, ‘with a strong external focus”

The new academic organisations will also “align” with research centres “which successfully leverage industry collaboration and funding and adopt an agile cross-university model, driving innovation and engagement.”

And for staff who do not like it, the exits are open, with voluntary redundancies available for most continuing staff.*

“We understand that the overall changing environment may not align to where some of our people currently wish to be, which is perfectly understandable. Workplace skills are changing at a rapid pace as well as technology capabilities as we become a more flexible workplace,” the university states.

Overall the VRs appear intended to change culture as much as address any specific financial issue as “there is no specific target or number for the savings achieved.”

To all of which campus branch president of the National Tertiary Education Union, Mathew Abbott expresses scepticism, calling the proposed restructure, “a high-risk strategy that could do irreparable damage to education in the regions.”

“There is no evidence that a wholesale adoption of an industry sponsored approach has been rigorously market tested amongst employers, students, careers counsellors, and parents,” he says. “‘Business start up’ experimentation is old. It has been going on for two decades now and has not born fruit – Ballarat is not the technophile or Silicon Valley phenomenon that was once promised.

“It’s a high-risk strategy that could do irreparable damage to education in the regions.”

* Facilities staff are not eligible for VRs, due to an agreement with unions in place for another year and “high performing research staff” which includes junior people with potential, are also excluded. This programme appears separate to the cuts in arts previously proposed (CMM September 16)


Senior cancer researcher referred to Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission

QIMR Berghofer states its governing legislation obliged it to refer findings against former employee Mark Smyth

The move follows a preliminary investigation in “response to a number of complaints” relating to Professor Smyth’s research conduct and a subsequent independent external investigation by a retired judge and three unnamed “eminent independent scientists.”

This panel found Professor Smyth had breached codes of conduct relating to research. The inquiry process followed the National Health and Medical Research Council and Australian Research Council guide to investigating potential breaches of the national research conduct code.

QIMR Berghofer adds that it has also established “an independent review” into “a broad range of issues arising out of the panel report.”  This will be conducted by Bruce Lander, the immediate past South Australian Independent Commissioner Against Corruption.

Professor Smyth is a very senior scientist, on the NHMRC honour roll of peer reviewers and the “most highly cited immunologist” in the country, according to the Australian Academy of Science.

Claire Field on the numbers that will drive VET funding


If the Commonwealth puts enough money on the table for states and territories then reforms are likely

With both the Federal Government and Opposition talking about skills and apprenticeships last week, and the National Skills Agreement still to be signed, it seems clear that VET funding will feature in the upcoming election campaign.

Thanks to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, we now have more frequent releases of data on government-funded VET activity and can better monitor emerging trends.

Given that the majority of VET funding comes from states and territories, any and all federal election promises will only have a significant impact if they are agreed to by the premiers and chief ministers. But if the Commonwealth puts enough money on the table for states and territories then reforms are likely.

The starting point for reform of government-funded VET looked like this at 30 June 2021:

* more than 1 million enrolments, up 21 per cent on the first half of 2017 and an increase of 10 per cent on 2020

* 60 per cent of government funded enrolments in TAFE and other government providers, 32 per cent in private providers, 3 per cent in community education providers and 5 per cent in other providers

In the last five years there has been growth in government-funded enrolments across all provider types, except community education providers (where sadly government-funded enrolments have declined 17 per cent). TAFEs, by contrast, saw a 17 per cent increase, while private providers and other providers experienced 32 per cent and 34 per cent increases respectively.

Government-funded enrolments also show some noticeable state and territory differences. Against the national increase in enrolments of 21 per cent, in the five years to June 2021 Victoria saw only a 1 per cent increase, Tasmania a -2 per cent decline and the Northern Territory a substantial -21 per cent decline.

Three jurisdictions saw significant increases in government-funded enrolments:  New South Wales: 36 per cent, Queensland: 33 per cent and South Australia: 30 per cent.

Government-funded enrolment increases in the ACT (17 per cent) and Western Australia (12 per cent) were below the national average.

Further analysis of government-funded enrolment patterns by Training Package are available on my website.

Claire Field is an advisor to the tertiary education sector

Appointment, achievements

At Griffith U Dawn Adams will become director of the Autism Centre of Excellence. She steps up from deputy director, replacing Jacqueline Roberts who will retire at year end.

Australian Catholic U announces the Vice Chancellor’s Medal for Excellence goes to the “Credit where credit is due” project team, for “their work to develop a ground-breaking framework to map military training to tertiary credits.” Eduardo Almeida, Aaron Cornwall, Wendy James, Nick Linnell and Liz Moon.

Bruce Campbell (Melbourne Brain Centre) wins the Leading Light Award from the Australian Society for Medical Research for his “stunning work in the stroke space.”