Applause for Esterman

Adrian Esterman is Uni SA’s media performer of the year. Good call, the biostatistician, and epidemiologist’s COVID-19 commentary is concise and calm, full of facts armoured by analysis and he appears infinitely accommodating of demands on his time.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Angel Calderon (RMIT) on the growth in  women in university leaderships and the challenges that continue, “universities need to focus on retaining and attracting academic talent but also ensure systems and robust process are in place which not only encourage but actively nurture women to apply for promotion.”

plus Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on the power of universities to encourage greatness and counter group-think

and  Jacquie Tinkler and Gene Hodgins (CSU)  on help for students with mental health issues who choose on-line. Some do so to manage study around their particular condition. This week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

with Garry Carnegie (RMIT) on –  global university rankings – why they are a menace.

Under-payments over-time at La Trobe U

The Senate Economic References Committee is hearing evidence on unlawful underpayment of staff in Melbourne tomorrow. The timing is not great for La Trobe U

The LT U Casuals Network will appear before the committee, as an industrial dispute at the university continues.

The campus  branch of the National Tertiary Education Union is disputing with LT U management over money owed to casuals for underpaid work (CMM January 31).

LT U states that after a review of records, staff underpaid over six years until June 30 last had received a total of $3.5m by year end. Identified underpayments outstanding will be made next month.

And the university adds, a review of marking is also underway and it expects people to be paid for work done by April. With this and other payments owing for the second half of 21, the total payment will be “in the region of $2.5m.”

However the union questions management processes and demands “genuine consultation.”

The overall repayment process has taken a while. LT U asked casuals who believed they were underpaid to provide records over a year ago (CMM December 11 2020). But by the following February the Fair Work Ombudsman had requested information on LT U’s “self-reporting of potential underpayments” and the university, “engaged an independent accounting firm to review our practises,” (CMM March 12).

Flinders U backs vax

Staff and students must be doubled vaxed to be on campus as of February 28. Those who are not will have to take “regular” rapid antigen tests and present evidence they are negative for COVID-19

VC Colin Stirling announced the requirement Friday, after a long consultation and a careful process. Rather than just issuing a statement the university has created a formal vaccination policy.

And while unvaxed staff can be on campus if tested to prove they are not infected, Professor Stirling makes it plain that people should chose vaccination and that accepting RATs  is not “acceptance of any arguments against the safety and/or efficacy of vaccines.”

“The evidence is clear that COVID-19 vaccines save lives and represent our best chance of defeating this pandemic. I would therefore like to thank and acknowledge the vast majority of staff and students who are already vaccinated, and repeat my call for everyone else, save those medically exempt, to seek a full course of vaccination,” he says

But for policy-purposes “a full-course” means two jabs, perhaps “in recognition that the pandemic is dynamic and that we may be passing the peak of the current omicron wave in South Australia.”


A start on micro-credentials

The Commonwealth is doing something

In December Acting Education Minister Stuart Robert announced $32m for “a systemic approach to deliver micro-credentials in the university sector” (CMM December 8). This was intended to demonstrate, cynics suggest, that the government wants to be seen to be doing something and to prod universities into action.

Mr Robert had another go last week, including $5m, to cover the HECS cost for students taking an m-c, in a routine HE bill introduced into parliament. “This will encourage student interest in micro-credential courses, incentivising providers and industry to participate,” the explanatory memorandum states.

Not many students and not much incentive – but at least it means there will be people ready to trial m-cs, if and when providers get around to offering and marketing more.


Good news day for international student arrivals


Accessing on-shore study just became a lot easier

Australia opens its borders to fully vaccinated tourists and all visa holders today. While more than 70 thousand students have returned since mid-December it is today that all visa categories return to pre-covid settings, meaning students can transit via destinations previously banned.

Travellers are still required to meet the government eligibility on being vaccinated. However, today’s relaxation simplifies operations for airlines and importantly for students, safe travel zones are no longer a limitation in accessing Australia.

Accessing flights via transit points will increase capacity

This is good for students from India. Prior to today, Ravi Lochan Singh, (president of the Association of Australian Education Representatives in India) explains,  they relied on Qantas and Air India for direct flights  but while Qantas introduced direct flights between India and Sydney and Melbourne  “it acquired a reputation … for cancelling flights several times.”

“India is a large country with several exit points for students and they tend to rely on flights through Singapore, Bangkok and Malaysia,” Mr Lochan Singh says.  Before today, these transit points were impacted and while Indian students could travel to these locations, they could not then fly to Australia.

With transit through destinations such as these now possible as of today, CMM is monitoring carefully how quickly airlines will respond to these openings and how quickly full flights will start returning to our shores.

In any case, today marks a day that is so important for a sector which continues its path back to an in-country, on campus, face to face educational experience for so many.

Dirk Mulder advises education and business clients on trends in international education. He writes regularly for CMM

Hot seat for Uni Adelaide academic board elected chair

Last year Uni Adelaide management signalled an academic restructure for 2022, following the faculty merger that took professional staff jobs last year. It’s still on – which will give the new academic board connection with council plenty to discuss (CMM September 30).

While “no assessment on the impact on roles and structures” has happened yet, work “will continue to occur over the coming months in concert with the academic community,” the university tells CMM.

The assessment might interest professors thinking of running for chair of Academic Board, to be an elected and important position under a plan adopted by university council next week.

“My hope is that Academic Board will come to be seen as the principal means by which the voices of the university’s academic staff reach the council,” Chancellor Catherine Branson told the university community.

Which may make for interesting conversations if academic staff kick-up over changes to courses and staffing.

Ditto at VC Executive – where the chair of academic board will be an observer.

Explanations about the chair not making policy may not impress staff appalled if courses are lost or upset if jobs go and who will expect their chair to speak up for them.

Appointments, achievements

TEQSA chief commissioner Peter Coaldrake will conduct “a wide-ranging review into culture and accountability” of the Queensland public sector. Premier Palaszczuk announced his appointment Friday

Evelyne Deplazes (Uni Queensland) has up to $130 000 over two years from pharma company Gilead Sciences to research fungal infections.

Stephen Foley (Macquarie U) is a 2022 fellow of the Geochemical Society and the European Association of Geochemistry.

Tim Soutphommasane becomes acting head of Uni Sydney’s Sydney Policy Lab (“bringing people together to help them change the world”). He replaces Mark Stears, moving to be inaugural head of the new policy lab at University College London, where his old boss, Michael Spence will be his new boss. Professor Soutphommasane is Uni Sydney’s director of culture strategy.

Uni SA announces its 2021 Research Excellence awards, going to, * higher degree: Sarah McDonald (Education Futures) *ECR: Dr Renly Lim, (Clinical, Health Sciences) * MCR: Amanda Hutchinson, (Justice and Society) * senior researcher: Carol Maher, (Allied Health and Human Performance) * Media performer:  Adrian Esterman, (COVID-19 coverage).

Erica Wilson (Southern Cross U) is the new chair of Council for Australasian Tourism and Hospitality Education.