Ready for the Ring

All CMM knows about Wagner comes from the Brothers Warner. But people looking forward to next year’s Brisbane production of his Ring Cycle will want to bone-up with Warren Bebbington’s (Uni Melbourne) four webinars, one per opera.  No, there aren’t any hobbits.

Rankings achievers and how they did it

Angel Calderon from RMIT examines the new Times Higher university rankings and puts Australian alpha outcomes in the context of the year’s other results

“The key to Australian universitiesongoing improvement is to reduce dependency on recruitment of highly cited researchers, or top researchers. A viable strategy is to sustain improvement over several years on multiple fronts,” he explains in Features this morning.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Garry Carnegie and James Guthrie argue we need more up to date financial information than universities have supplied on the pandemic’s impact.

Student data is essential for learning analytics but it must be kept say Ruth Marshall (Practera) and colleagues. It’s this week’s piece in contributing editor Sally Kift’s series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.

Tracy Woodroffe (Charles Darwin U) argues a cultural shift is required to improve educational outcomes for Indigenous students. It’s a new contribution to a series by Indigenous academics and policy people from commissioning editor Claire Field.

Murdoch U warns existing salary costs “cannot be sustained”

Management tells staff a $25m cut must come

Vice Chancellor Eeva Leinonen says management has already made $30m in savings this year but needs to find $25m more next.

As to the case for cuts; Professor Leinonen does not attribute it solely to COVID-19 causes, warning, “staff salaries alone now represent 62 per cent of our cost base. This cannot be sustained.”

“Accordingly, we have invited the National Tertiary Education Union to commence discussions,” she adds. Professor Leinonen does not say about what, but asking the union into the tent suggests management is looking for an agreement on a plan.

This could include, a freeze on enterprise agreement pay-rises, with an accompanying guarantee to protect a specific number of FTE positions. But this would not reduce the staff establishment – the only way to do that is redundancies, voluntary or not.

Uni rankings: this could be as good as it gets

It’s a boomer of a year for Australian unis on the international performance measures

Uni Melbourne is not just in the global top hundred on the Times Higher ranking released last night. And a top 50 spot does not impress at Parkville. The university is now 31st in the world, on this year’s list.

It’s a great result – but Vice Chancellor Duncan Maskell wonders whether this is as good as it will get.

“While the full impact of the pandemic on the University of Melbourne and our global peer institutions is largely unknown, it is likely that falls in revenue will have an impact on research outcomes,” he said yesterday.

Times Higher measures more than research but Professor Maskell’s focus is common, at least among vice chancellors and international student recruiters.

Which is why there was also quiet (up to a point) satisfaction with last month’s Academic Ranking of World Universities (CMM August 17). Seven Australian universities are in its global top 100. RMIT analyst, Angel Calderon suggested in CMM , that next year there could be one or two more.

“Overall, there are 34 out of 41 Australian universities ranked in the ARWU list of 1,000 institutions. This means that 83 per cent of Australian universities are ranked by the ARWU compared to 40 per cent for the United Kingdom and 7 per cent for the United States,” he adds.

But Professor Maskell is right in counselling caution. While no-one knows for sure what declines in international student fees will do to research output, Frank Larkins warns the COVID-19 collapse in international student revenues means Australian universities will have “several billions” less to spend on research, especially basic research.

And research rankings run on money. As Mr Calderon explains, “a key issue is sourcing a continuous flow of funds to support these endeavours.”

Dreaming the impossible dream with Universities Australia

UA’s budget wish-list is in: it’s mostly pragmatic and possible

UA asks for;

* extra funding for time-limited research projects delayed by the pandemic

* a collaboration premium for the Research and Development tax incentive, (this depends in what happens to legislation to reduce funding for the existing programme, stalled in the Senate since the War of the Bavarian Succession)

* money for university international student hardship funds

* funding for alternatives to clinical placements such as simulations and university-based clinics, “to avoid a lag in workforce supply”

And as ever the lobby dreams the impossible dream, recommending; “the Australian Government increase investment in university research as an essential pillar that underpins national prosperity, competitiveness and security.

Learning survey for the times

Uni Sydney researchers started studying on-line student learning and placements before the pandemic – the work was relevant then, it’s essential now

Amani Bell and colleagues are interested in student and educator experiences across the last ten years of e-placements, such as telehealth or work integrated learning supervised in on-line meetings. The survey they hope people will complete is  here.

The project is a JV with the US Government’s e-intern programme, the Virtual Student Federal Service. CMM is sure they accept corporeal ones as well.

Australia’s best-ever Times Higher top 200 ranking result

Some 12 universities are in the global top 200, with nine improving on their 2020 position

The newcomer is Macquarie U, which joins the top 200 group at =195th.

UNSW also does well, again – it was 96th in 2018, 71st last year and is 67th this – the slope gets sleeper the higher up the top-100 a university climbs.

UTS is also strong, up 34 places on last year.

And Uni Canberra has another win. Last year there was scepticism when it cracked the top 200 (193) with suggestions that there was some statistical good fortune in its rapid rise – it only made the world first 500 in 2016. But Uni Canberra has improved again, to 184th. (Leigh Sullivan explained how it happened last year in CMM, (September 12 2019).

Overall, it’s bragging rights as usual in the top 200; Uni Melbourne-31 in the world (=32 last year, =32 in 2018 and =32 in 2017). Uni Sydney-=51 (60, 59,61). ANU– 59 (50,49,48). Uni Queensland– =62 (66,69,65).  Monash U =64 (=75, 84, 80). UNSW-67 (71,9691). Uni Adelaide– =118 (120, =135, 134). UWA-=139, (131, 134, 111). UTS-=160 (194, 196, 201-250). Uni Canberra-=184 (193, 251-300, 351-400). QUT-186 (179, 201-250, 201-250). Macquarie U– =195, (201-250, 251-300, (CMM could not find the 2017 score).


Patricia Davidson starts as Uni Wollongong VC in May. She moves from Johns Hopkins where she is dean of nursing. Professor Davidson has a bachelors and masters from UoW.

Gregor Kennedy moves up at the University of Melbourne, becoming DVC A and deputy provost. He is now PVC Teaching and Learning. Professor Kennedy succeeds long-serving Richard James, who will move to an as yet announced Uni Melbourne role.

Author Bruce Pascoe is appointed Enterprise Professor in Indigenous Agriculture at the University of Melbourne.