Educational tourism

“You get a degree at any university but it is the lifestyle that really draws you into a particular place,” University of Tasmania, via Twitter.

Xenophon Team says no to funding cuts in Birmingham bill

The Nick Xenophon Team has signalled it will not support the government’s higher education package as it now stands. Speaking on the bill in the House of Representatives last night Rebekha Sharkie, NXT member for Mayo, said that the bill has some good measures but includes a big job-costing cut. In a strongly research speech she argued universities had taken big funding hits in recent years and warned performance-funding would create “hunger games” competition among universities.

While backing the demand driven system she spoke at length about graduate unemployment and called for a comprehensive state and federal review of post school education and training, including “to ensure young people successfully transition to sustainable employment.”

However, Ms Sharkie signalled while she thinks the $42 000 proposed HELP repayment starting figure is too high the NXT team is open to discussing a lower, but not specified, threshold for student loan repayments.

The legislation passed the House of Representatives at 7pm last night after the better part of two days of debate. The question now is how long will it be before the government decides it can risk the bill in the Senate, where Ms Sharkie’s three NXT colleagues can decide it’s fate. If at all.

Last night Education Minister Simon Birmingham said, “he would continue the constructive discussions he had underway with his Senate colleagues about the reforms.”

WSU makes a final pay offer

Western Sydney University has made a salary offer – 2 per cent per annum across the life of the agreement plus a 0.1per cent signing bonus. According to WSU management, this is “the final offer the university is proposing in our current financial environment.” WSU adds that it is above CPI and in-line with annualised increases offered/accepted in the present round. But if the NTEU does not accept the offer a university spokesperson says “the university will continue to negotiate and bargain in good faith with the unions,” – presumably not over money, what with yesterday’s offer being final.

Last night the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union described the university’s offer as “much better,” than the 1per cent management previously proposed. But added it is not enough, warning that management has made “no meaningful” concessions on job security, workloads, consultation and workforce casualisation. “In our view there is no serious prospect of our key claims being met without concerted action by our members,” union negotiators told staff.

Regional unis like the idea of a special deal for, regional unis

Two proposed amendments to the government’s higher education legislation were around yesterday. Labor shadow minister Tanya Plibersek proposed deleting all words after “a bill” and replacing them with “to recommend electing Labor,” (or something like that). But Cathy McGowan (Independent-Indi) has a marginally more practical idea. Ms McGowan wants to amend the bill so that people who study at regional universities only start repaying HELP when their income reaches $56 000, $14 000 than the government’s proposed threshold. She also wants a regional higher education strategy which is updated every four years.

The Regional Universities Network thinks these are splendid ideas “Ms McGowan recognises the pivotal role that regional universities play in the economic, social and cultural development of their regions,” RUN chair Greg Hill says. But while some outside regional lobbies could find the economics of these ideas improbable they might appeal to senators. The ABC reports, for example, that Derryn Hinch wants a universal repayment threshold of $50 000 and no cuts for regional campuses in his state, Victoria.

Good-oh but the senator’s vote is not enough. The government needs the three Nick Xenophon Team votes – a stretch to describe the three metropolitan Adelaide unis in their state as regional? Surely not.

“And so to build” chronicling construction at ANU

Marnie Hughes Warrington is the Pepys of ANU (but without plague or prurience) chronicling the rebuilding of the campus in her blog of university life. The project is now at the sharp end where the gentle elegance of design is replaced by the brute force of demolition. And DVC HW revels in the prose of the weekly guide to what is coming down; “think Northern Territory News without the crocodiles,” she writes.

So that’s four buildings to go, with asbestos safely removed and useful materials recycled so that six new ones are created – of a quality and condition some at ANU have never known. “Some people may think that university campuses flow with rivers of gold, but the shabby truth is that many staff and students try to work and to study at their best in buildings that weren’t even chic in the 1970s,” she writes.

But her message is a bigger one; when talking to staff call a spade “a 600 kg front loader.” “If you have a simple, blunt account of what to expect, chances are that it won’t be quite as bad as you imagined it to be without that information,” she suggests. Now there’s a message to convey via sedan chair to HR directors across the country with restructures to announce.

Southern Cross U VC works with what he’s got

Adam Shoemaker is doing what he can to energise Southern Cross University. In his first year as VC he has established open days (yes, they used not to bother), introduced new degrees, changed the livery and now announces a doubling of the undergraduate scholarship pool. Some 40 students will receive $2500, and perhaps more valuable, be trained in using social media, represent the university and participate in the VC’s student caucus, “a group that will play a key role in consulting on university decision-making.”

Gregor honoured

Shirley Gregor from ANU has received a lifetime achievement award at the 2017 Design Science Research in Information Systems and Technology conference in Karlsruhe Germany.

Go8 and Birmingham: but what do they really think of each other?

The Group of Eight is “appalled” by the government releasing stats on HELP debtors, especially the national top ten who owe nearly $3m between them (CMM yesterday).

“Creating a tabloid perception that students – who are our future professionals and the generations who will use their university courses for the betterment of Australia, as, for example, doctors, nurses and sciences, teachers, engineers, nurses and even politicians – are routinely lazily racking up massive debts over many years of indolent study for no result, is a new low,” Go8 CEO Vicki Thomson said yesterday.

Ms Thomson added that if the government is worried by high HELP debt, the present package, “does nothing to address this.”

To which Education Minister Simon Birmingham replied on Adelaide radio yesterday; “the Group of Eight can continue, of course, to try to find every argument they want to defeat these policy reforms, but what they fail to acknowledge is that they’ve had enormous increases in revenue to those universities over the last seven-eight years. That they’ve gone up around 71 per cent, in terms of their revenue streams. And under our reforms, they’re still going to see average revenue growth of 23 per cent across all Australian universities.

“You do have to ask, what are universities doing enrolling students in multiple degrees in those circumstances? They have enormous autonomy under the demand-driven system. They choose to enrol students, they have clear view of the academic transcripts, records and history of different students, and yet of course they seem to be accepting this type of behaviour.”

Max moves up

The very learned Max Lu, former University of Queensland provost and present University of Surrey VC is appointed to the UK PM’s Council for Science and Technology.

ANU leads new arts and humanities ranking

The Australian National University leads Australia in the Times Higher Education ranking for arts and humanities, released last night. At 33rd in the world ANU is followed by the University of Melbourne (35th) and the University of Sydney (58th) making them the only local institutions in the global top 100.

Universities in succeeding bands are:

101-125: Macquarie U, Monash U

126-150: UNSW, UoQ

176-200: La Trobe U, UWA, UniWollongong

201-250: UniAdelaide, Murdoch U, QUT, UniSA, Western Sydney U,

251-300: Curtin U, Flinders U, Griffith U, RMIT, UTS,

301-400: ACU, Deakin U, UniNewcastle, Swinburne, UTas

Stanford is best in world, followed by MIT, Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge and University College London, equal fifth