Plus Bill Shorten says still no deal on fees for degrees

No rough beast

And the award for the best use of W B Yeats in a speech on industrial relations goes to La Trobe VC John Dewar. He titled his presentation yesterday at the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association conference, “Slouching towards Bethlehem: are our industrial instruments fit for purpose?”

Shorten detail

Labor leader Bill Shorten told us what he will not do about universities in his budget reply speech last night. “Labor will vote against $100 000 degrees every time you bring them to this parliament Christopher Pyne,” he said. (Strangely this line is missing from the first transcript but will be in Hansard). It brought the House, well the public gallery, down with cheering and applause. But that was it. Yes there was a commitment to STEM in all areas of education and for Australian universities and industry to be spending 3 per cent of GDP on research and development by the end of the next decade. And he promised that Labor would “write off the HECS debts of 100 000 STEM students (although he did not explain which ones or to accomplish what).

But as to adequately funding the increased number of students the demand driven places regime created there was not a word. For the moment the staggering status quo continues.


Irate Eight

Vicki Thomson has had enough. The Group of Eight CEO says her members do the heavy lifting in research and carry a big share of teaching and yet for all the political talk of ‘fairness’ do not get the fair share of resources they deserve. “It seems that governments don’t fear the voter backlash from our sector that they fear from others. If they did, we would be treated very differently,” she writes in her budget commentary. So what is she going to do about it? Plenty.

“It’s time to stand up and be heard, to be one of those organisations which advocates strongly in ways that cannot be ignored … it’s time we cast off our measured politeness and become forceful and vocal.” Like? The Business Council and Minerals Council are comparisons she has in mind.

Ms Thomson says the Go8 intends to explain to the community, “why we are so important to them every day in so many ways.”

“Only then will politicians recognise that voters do care about our sector’s future in the way that really counts to politicians: through their votes.”

Tough stuff.

Less than gr8t outcomes

The Go8 declaration makes the point that many cabinet members graduated from its members, but their memories of what a good education entails, and costs, have obviously faded. Unless, as a higher education analyst put it last night, “the lack of outcome and good sense from the current cabinet is all down to the appalling Go8 education they got way back when standards were standards.” Expect more similar sniping – the political unity of the university system is about to be stretched.

NCRIS continues

Christopher Pyne announced $150m for the resurrected National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy for 2015-16 yesterday and committed the same amount for 2017-17. He also confirmed CMM’s budget night report that there will be 50 Future Fellows this year, establishing a half-round for a programme previously for the chop. Mr Pyne was very happy indeed announcing both programmes in Question Time – during which the Opposition was not, hearing him in silence rather than responding that the next tranche of NCRIS funding just about equalled budget cuts to the Sustainable Research Excellence infrastructure programme. University critics of the SRE reduction, particularly in the Group of Eight have a point. Research-intensive universities are losing infrastructure money in favour of NCRIS, which funds a bunch of organisations that involve universities but run their own shows. But given the passion with which NCRIS supporters made their case at a LaborGreens convened Senate committee inquiry into deregulation this would have been immensely elastic opportunism.

ANU new 1

Silly sausage

CMM had not heard of the “dadbod phenomena” until UoQ explained yesterday. Apparently women are supposedly attracted to blokes “with unsculpted, but fit, fairly natural bodies,” thanks to a gym and pizza diet. And the university’s considered opinion? “It’s a load of baloney,” and not the low-fat vegan variety.

Lloyd stays on

David Lloyd will serve a second term as VC of the University of South Australia, taking him through to 2022. In his three years to date Professor Lloyd has energised UniSA, spending up on student services, new teaching programmes, notably the James Morrison jazz school and investing in research. Last year UniSA convinced the high prestige consumer choice research unit then at UTS to defect en masse. So what does Professor Lloyd hope for from government in his second term? “Stability and certainty,” he said last night. Optimism never hurts.

League of links

Thanks to Shirley Alexander from UTS for pointing out networking site Linkedin’s list of the top universities Australia’s big 30 companies hire from. They are, UNSW, UTS, Uni Sydney, Monash and UoQ. CMM has no idea about Li’s methodology but with 7 million Australian users (who knew?) it has a bunch of data to crunch.

Focused group

The University of Western Australia’s new corporate campaign, “pursue (im)possible” could advertise running shoes just as much as a university in the way it says nothing about what actually goes on there (CMM, May 12). To stop that happening at Swinburne the marketers have spent months listening to what 120 staff think the university is all about. The research will shape a rebranding rollout across the university from midyear. Quite right. Credible advertising is based on what a university is actually about. The only way to establish that is to ask the people who do the work.

Unlikely adjustment

Last week Training Minister Simon Birmingham announced the Australian Industry and Skills Committee, which is where the power will lie in VET curriculum development, in his new regime. This accounts for its heavy-duty business and bureaucrat membership. John Pollaers (ex ceo Pacific Brands and Fosters) is in the chair and Jenny Lambert (ACCI) and Mick McMahon (ex CEO of labour hire firm Skilled) are among members. But there are no teachers, (CMM March 8). This does not impress training veteran Rod Camm now heading the Australian Council for Private Education and Training. “Developing skills to meet the needs of the future labour market does not end with approving the qualification. Skills development actually comes through collaboration and partnership, between employers, their training provider and of course the student, “ he says. And he hopes committee membership, “can be quickly adjusted, “to ensure we develop industry led qualifications that can actually be interpreted and delivered by quality training organisations.” Good luck with that one.

Ethereal excise

The UK Publishers Association reports the sales of academic books and journals are stable but the market share of digital editions was up to 35 per cent – which is very good for publisher profits, what with cyber editions being light on for printing, post and packing costs. But CMM wonders whether they will be slugged with the government’s proposed GST on digital imports?

Music to the ears

The Victorian TAFE Association has announced its annual conference for July. It’s pretty standard stuff with state training minister Steve Herbert and further education commissioner David Collins speaking. Reserve Bank Board member John Edwards will paint the big picture, talking on the economy beyond the China boom and export expert Phil Honeywood will consider the industry offshore. But its the dinner speaker who will really pack them in, the multi-skilled Kim Williams, ex News and Foxtel chief and clarinet composer and player. CMM wonders if the AISC (above) is across a skills package for woodwind composition.