All will be revealed

The government’s announcement yesterday of $134m for regional universities stated it would be funded by “capping the growth of funding for the Research Support Programme.” But when CMM asked the minister’s office for details a response came from the Department of Education and Training,  that “further details will be outlined in MYEFO.” Good-o but as the government surely knows what hit individual universities will take it would help them with budgeting to get the news out now rather than waiting for the mid-year budget update, which can be much closer to Christmas.

As Johnny Mercer famously put it, the country’s “in the very best of hands.”

Siemens awards University of Queensland $500m in manufacturing software

Manufacturer Siemens will provide the University of Queensland with software for digital manufacturing, with an in-kind commercial value of $500m. The kit includes product lifecycle management platform, “which digitally tracks a product’s life from its design inception through to manufacture, use, maintenance and disposal.”

UoQ points to multi-scenario vehicle traffic flows and simulations for physiotherapy rehab as examples of the vast range of applications.

The grant is part of a $1bn Siemens programme with Australian universities. In August 2017, it provided Swinburne U with $135m in manufacturing software to create a digital factory of the future, (CMM August 15 2017). The company followed with $447m worth of engineering, energy and shipbuilding software for UWA, which could create “a virtual twin” of an LNG plant (CMM November 6 2017). Siemens went on to supply the University of South Australia with product management software for manufacturing, (CMM June 7 2018).

Games people play

QUT is offering five $10 000 scholarships to people who play for the QUT Tigers in the 2019 League of Legends Oceanic Challenger Series. It’s presumably part of the university’s plan to position QUT, “as the industry leader in eSports”  (CMM July 24).

Uni Canberra staff knock back management offer

Staff at the University of Canberra have decisively rejected management’s proposed enterprise agreement. With 59 per cent of staff voting just under three-quarters voted against the deal.

This is a big win for the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union, which campaigned against the offer and a set-back for management as it returns to the bargaining table.

In a message to staff yesterday Vice Chancellor Deep Saini stated the current agreement, “continues to be operational until it is replaced, varied or terminated” and that the 1.9 per cent pay-rise due in January will be paid.  Professor Saini adds bargaining will resume, “as soon as feasible in the new year. UoC observers say it will continue until there is a deal.

Government silent on what unis will pay for new regional undergrad places

The regional universities that will share the $134m funding the government announced yesterday are pretty pleased. Lobbies representing the universities which will lose research funding growth to pay for the regional grants are not.

According to Education Minister Dan Tehan, the $92m to fund new undergraduate places will come from, “capping the growth funding for the Research Support Programme.” However, the government was not explaining yesterday how this would work and how much it would cost individual universities.

But whatever the amount, fewer funds for research upset Universities Australia. ““It is folly to be undermining the nation’s future by raiding precious research funding when Australia already spends far less than our economic competitors in the region and the world,” CEO Catriona Jackson said.

And the National Tertiary Education Union was “totally perplexed.”

“The irony is that the government’s freeze to university funding has hit hardest on regional universities, their students and communities and is the reason they require urgent additional support,” national president Alison Barnes said.

The Group of Eight was not best-pleased either. “All the minister has done is set in motion a funding decision that pits university against university and which will gradually see a drop in the world class research carried out by Australia’s university sector that sees seven Australian universities ranked in the world’s top 100 universities based on their research results,” CEO Vicki Thomson said.

It was a gift for Labor, which spokespeople Tanya Plibersek and Kim Carr unwrapped; “If Scott Morrison reversed his reckless decision to cut $2.2 billion from universities and cap places, the Liberals wouldn’t have to rob Peter to pay Paul by slashing research to pay for more student places, they said last night.

Cash for copying: Copyright Agency wants to know the value of what universities use

The Copyright Agency, (“standing up for creators for more than 40 years”) is taking action in the Copyright Tribunal “to determine the value” of educational content copied under a licence held by Universities Australia. The Agency says it is acting, “after a breakdown in commercial discussions” with UA. It argues the $32m pa licence, “has been decreasing in real terms, given inflation, the rapid growth in student numbers and the fact there has been a huge increase in the digital platforms available for copying and sharing material.”

“Licence fees support the Australian educational publishing industry to continue to produce high-quality educational material. Not paying a fair rate undermines the ability of publishers, authors and artists to invest, innovate and develop more Australian content,” CEO Adam Suckling says.

Last night Universities Australia CEO Catriona Jackson responded, “universities pay hundreds of millions of dollars directly each year to publishers and copyright owners and that amount continues to grow.

Universities pay a fair price for the content they use and will continue to do so.  We have negotiated in good faith with Copyright Agency.”

Audit office approves new VET student loan scheme

The student loan that replaced the $2.2bn losing VET FEE HELP scheme is cleared by the auditor.

The Australian National Audit Office reports design and implementation of the  VET Student Loans programme, introduced last year,  “was largely effective.”

“The department executed an appropriate design process that considered the impacts of the new program on key stakeholders and was informed by lessons learnt from the former VFH scheme and consultation with stakeholders.”

That the Department of Education and Training has got it right this time only adds to the disgrace of VET FEE HELP, the implementation of which went radically wrong.  The ANAO’s report on VET FEE HELP is here.

Disruptor or disrupted: UTS’s Brungs sets out the choice for Australia

National prosperity and social wellbeing depend on Australia developing learning cultures capable of dealing with disruptive waves of change across the economy, according to UTS Vice Chancellor Attila Brungs.

Without a national effort to create continual re-skilling “large-scale disenfranchisement will lead to widespread societal breakdown” he warns in a paper for the Committee for Economic Development of Australia.

Government must fund career-long learning, business needs to invest in workforce training and education providers must adapt offerings, to; “to evolve new, shorter and more modular forms of learning and reskilling (including micro credentials), mandate internships, and continue to invest in online platforms, he proposes.

Getting this right will set Australians up to “be disruptors rather than disrupted.”

“The right approaches will enable us to create an agile, skilled workforce and an adaptive and engaged society that will be able to prosper and take advantages of emerging opportunities, growing our standard of living.”

Carr moves to protect research independence

Labor research spokesman Kim Carr is keeping the pressure on the government over cancellation of research grants, foreshadowing a motion for the Senate today.

In Senator Estimates last month Senator Carr uncovered information that former education minister Simon Birmingham had over-turned Australian Research Council experts’ recommendation to fund eleven projects.

Senator Carr’s motion; calls on the government to explain why the grants were vetoed and for parliament and political parties to, “commit to the Haldane principle that politicians should not make decisions on funding of individual research projects.”

He also urges the ARC, “to actively encourage the scholars whose grants were rejected to submit them again.”

Education Minister Dan Tehan will not have to respond as he sits in the House of Reps, but Simon Birmingham is a senator.

TAFE lobby calls for support from Minister Cash

Last week TAFE Directors chief Craig Robertson hopped into the government for funding Deakin U to develop logistics training for Indonesia – a job he said should have gone to TAFE,( CMM November 8,  CMM, November 9). This week he acknowledges Deakin U has expertise in the area but he still has a go at voced minister Michaelia Cash, “why is Minister Cash abandoning her own industry advice arrangements in favour of a university?  That’s the answer that’s needed.”

Protecting international students from politics

Saudi Arabia is upset with Ottawa and in August ordered 15 000 of its scholarship students to leave Canada in a month. This wasn’t good for Canadian universities, but it was a disaster for the students. A disaster of a kind that universities around the world where Saudis will turn up, should be ready to address. Paula Durance suggests institutions should always be ready to help international students whose enrolments could be at risk from politics at home and the vagaries of international relations. “Coordinated service provision through an investment in each stage of the student experience is an expression of soft diplomacy, protecting students and institutions from the effects of disputes and uncertain times. This activity operates beyond the business of international education and enhances our ongoing work towards productive relationships and successful student engagement,” she writes.