Still standing, getting moving

Big ideas at ReMaking HE

Join Brian Schmidt (VC ANU) Ashley Farley (Gates Foundation) and Lucy Montgomery (Curtin U OA expert) as they talk about the future for research funding and where open access fits in. Another session at Remaking HE: ideas for the post (or perhaps continuing) pandemic university. Dates and details for the on-line conference, here.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Garry Carnegie (RMIT) and James Guthrie (Macquarie U) on the savings-plan at UWA. With the university’s finances appearing in ok-shape VC Amit Shakma should make the case.

Angela Brew on undergraduates as researchers. This week’s selection by Contributing Editor Sally Kift for her series on what we need now in teaching and learning

Angel Calderon wraps a great ranking year for Australia.

Luke Hesson feared leaving medical research – he found a new life when he did.

David Kellermann (UNSW) on creating a serious solution for on-line lecturing. Curated content from Microsoft.

Group of Eight warns: research funding essential for unis to stay unis

The Go8’s submission to the Senate committee inquiry into the provider category standards bill (CMM October 26) does not go on at length because it “has gone through an extensive consultation process.” Instead the Eight use the opportunity, “to inform the work of the Senate by placing (the bill) in the context of inter-related policies and legislation for higher education as relevant to the fundamental question of how we support research in the national interest.”

Thus, the Eight point out the proposed category standards increase “the scale and quality of research expected of a university” while the government is now providing base funding to support teaching and international student revenues, which have been used to “subsidise and underwrite government commissioned research,” are down.

The combination of funding policies, “may put pressure on some universities to retain their Australian university status. The alternative for institutions in this position is to transition to the university college category which comprises high quality, education focused higher education providers without research standards applied,” the Eight warns.

Neatly done.

Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

They were announced last night

PM’s Prize: David Blair, David McClelland, Susan Scott and Peter Veitch from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery.

Innovation: Thomas Maschmeyer (Uni Sydney)

New innovator: Justin Chalker (Flinders U)

Physical scientist: Xiaojing Hao (UNSW)

Life Scientist: Mark Dawson (Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre)

Primary school science: Sarah Fletcher (Bonython Primary, ACT)

Secondary school science: Darren Hamley (Willetton High, WA)

Uni Newcastle running hard to stand still

The university is spending more on “core activities” than it earns” there’s a proposal to fix it

“We are all fatigued by these seemingly never-ending incremental cost reduction measures, running hard just to stand still. It’s time to approach this problem in a different way,” the paper released last yesterday by Vice Chancellor Alex Zelinsky states.

Structural change is based on the already announced move from five faculties to three colleges (CMM August 19) and aligning administration with the new schools-college model.

The plan also includes teaching and learning change, notably;

* the course review process underway

* more work integrated learning

* a review of the academic workload model

* increasing student demand with “an engaging and relevant suite of academic programmes”

The new model is expected to be in place by April.

The paper argues that while the university is in better financial shape than most, it is propped up by investment income, with core operating functions in deficit. “If we do not address the gap between our revenue and expenses, our longer-term sustainability will be at risk. If we want to provide innovative and life changing experiences and support for our students, and if we want to continue to contribute to changing lives in our communities, we must rebalance our cost base.”

The price of campus life at Uni Adelaide

South Australia’s public universities have a pilot programme to bring back 300 international students now overseas (CMM October 22).  They may not be the first of many

Uni Adelaide announces an “off-shore study rebate” for “all continuing and commencing international students who are studying off-shore and unable to travel to Australia due to border restrictions.” The price cut is capped at 20 per cent and applies “throughout 2021,” or until travel restrictions are lifted.

The university states the price reduction is not available to internationals in Adelaide, who will be able to study on campus as in-person classes start. “The fee rebate is an acknowledgment that our off-shore international students are not able to engage in campus life, through circumstances beyond their control.”

Tehan’s free speech bill is in the Reps

He said he would and now he has – Education Minister Dan Tehan has introduced a bill into parliament, “to strengthen protections for freedom of speech and academic freedom”

The bill will include the content of the model code created by Robert French in his review of free speech in universities, in the Higher Education Support Act. Mr Tehan announced he would legislate at the beginning of the year (CMM January 22). It followed his warning that he would also benchmark the way universities include Mr French’s recommendations in their codes (CMM December 2 2019). Presumably Mr Tehan is now waiting on Sally Walker’s review of how they are going (CMM August 10).

While universities do not like ministers telling them what to do they are unlikely to complain about the legislation – basically because they can claim its purpose is already covered by their existing rules and policies. Their response to whatever Mr Tehan decides to do about Professor Walker’s review might be a bigger issue. But now and in the future, there is little to be gained and a deal to lose by making a stand for university autonomy.

There is a caucus in the coalition that believes universities drive out critics who challenge managements over climate change research and relations with China’s government and communist party.

The sacking by James Cook U of scientist Peter Ridd is the example of choice on the former and Uni Queensland’s suspension of student Drew Pavlou on the latter. Queensland senator Pauline Hanson, who supports campus free speech legislation and Independent MP Bob Katter share coalition opinion, in whole or part.

The bit in the bill which will appeal to university critics is the definition of academic freedom to include; “the freedom of academic staff and students to express their 23 opinions in relation to the higher education provider in which 24 they work or are enrolled.”

The bill is now before the Reps, and whatever measures follow is the least Mr Tehan will do to demonstrate that the government will act to protect dissidents.  More will follow when the government amends the Higher Education Threshold Standards to conform with Mr French’s proposed model code

Dolt of the day

Is CMM. In yesterday’s email edition Claire Field referred to TEQSA re-registering Murdoch U – this long-awaited event is yet to occur, assuming it does. She meant the agency’s recent compliance assessment of the university.

Appointments, achievements

Andrew Godwin (Uni Melbourne Law School) is seconded to the Australian law Reform Commission from December to be special counsel for the review of corporations legislative framework and financial services regulation.

 Monash U is losing CFO Paul Townsend who is moving to ag chemical company Nufarm Australia. VC Margaret Gardner says his work was vital in, “assisting the university to weather the significant downturn of revenue that came upon us unexpectedly in 2020.”

At Flinders U, Tracey Wade is appointed director of the Orama Institute for Mental Health and Wellbeing. She is now a Matthew Flinders distinguished professor in the university’s College of Education, Psychology and Social Work.

Mike Wilson joins Charles Darwin U as provost. He moves from Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates.