In breaking news

“We have recently approved an extended transition period for FNS42020, FNS50217, FNS50417 and FNS60217 qualifications,” Australian Skills Quality Authority, via Twitter yesterday. There’s a link to details, which will help providers who memorise course codes.

Uni lobbies ask for a friend at court

The big four interest-groups all want an independent HE advisory agency

The ATN universities want an “independent authority” and Universities Australia proposes “a mechanism” to help with government (CMM yesterday).

There’s no such weasel wordery from the Group of Eight in its submission to the O’Kane Accord team (scroll-down). The Eight recommends, “a tertiary education commission that would be structured as an independent body to sit between government and the tertiary education sector.”

Plus it wants a whole of government research agency, charged with implementing a national strategy.

The Independent Research Universities group also want “a dedicated body to provide leadership and oversight and provide independent advice to government.”

There’s more in the Mail

in Features this morning

There are five myths on curricular approaches to student wellbeing – here’s how to bust them. Jacquelyn Cranney, Nalini Pather, Leesa Sidhu, and Gary Velan (all UNSW) explain in this week’s selectionby Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her celebrated series, Needed now in learning and teaching.

plus Conor King (Tertiary Education Analysis) on the purposes of higher education: personal development, economic outcome and social status. Plus what Dr Seuss has to teach about the third, HERE.

and Sean Brawley, Richard Cook and Ellenie Petrou on how Uni Wollongong learned to manage change

Group of Eight’s Accord big call for new system

Mary O’Kane says she wants the authors of her submissions to her HE Accord team to think big and be bold (CMM February 22). The Group of Eight has done just that in a comprehensive plan that would transform funding and end the unified national system 

The Go8’s proposal-rich submission includes calls for,

* integrating VET and HE, with both-direction pathways and a target of 75 per cent of 25-39 year olds with, or working to, post Y12 qualifications by 2040

* a tertiary education commission, advising the Commonwealth on funding allocation and “to assist in brokering accords and other agreements, including funding between the government and HE providers.” The commission would support the independent board of a TE system fund, along the lines of the now abolished HE endowment and education investment funds

* a national research strategy and “an overarching government body” with all-agency oversight

* an HE sector, “that is diverse in its offerings.” “Specialist institutions can concentrate in excellence where they excel,” examples are, UG teaching, “disciplinary specialisation,” “advanced research and education,” “professional training, “comprehensive research programmes or more focused ones”.

* “newly constituted” federally funded research-intensive universities which also provide infrastructure and support for other institutions’ research

* a single student contribution (ex medicine and similar) and Commonwealth contributions “to reflect the variability” of full qualification costs. Graduates of courses with “higher private financial benefit” progressively income-taxed.

Western Sydney U wins Covid speech case

Western Sydney U nursing student Nera Thiab was not allowed to do a placement necessary to finish her degree because she expressed COVID vaccine scepticism. She went to court claiming this was discrimination, based on a political belief she held, which the university’s Act forbids (CMM June 20 2022)

In the NSW Supreme Court, Justice Parker agreed that “opposition to vaccination may be based on genuinely held political beliefs.”.

The Court of Appeal doesn’t, because “to the extent that Ms Thiab held negative views about vaccination for COVID-19, those views did not arise from any belief that could be described as ‘political,’ even taking a broad view of that concept. Rather, her belief or views were born of concerns, no doubt genuinely held by her, about the efficacy of treatment and reports of negative health consequences including myocarditis.

As to the university not allowing Ms Thiab to do her course placement because of her expressed views, “the cancellation decision was made on the basis of a practical assessment that a person who had twice expressed those views in clinical settings (albeit to other healthcare staff) posed a risk of being unable to provide safe information and education as to the benefits of vaccination to patients.”

Flinders needs a new DVC R

VC Colin Stirling tells CMM why it’s a great job at a great uniHERE

Innovative Research Uni’s astute case for change, before it’s too late

“the system is not broken, however if current trends continue it will become less diverse and less representative of the community,” the Innovative Research Universities make their Accord submission politically impossible to ignore

The IRU makes a case for more of pretty much what is in the spirit of the existing public university system. Recommendations include;

* “address equity” through mission-based individual uni accords

* replace the previous government’s Job Ready Graduates model with a two-tiered HELP rate and a three-tiered government contribution

* increase research block grants, “to cover the research mission of all universities”

* broaden research commercialisation programmes with funding for engagement and collaboration with “public and community sectors”

* a body to “take a system-wide view of university research and innovation and to support informed analysis and collaboration across different parts of government”

* funding to “improve outcomes” for Indigenous students and 5 per cent of Australian Research Council funding to Indigenous researchers

And then there is one that will appeal to officialdom,

“Institution-specific mission-based Accord agreements should be the primary basis for allocating public funding to universities in-line with agreed priorities, with universities reporting publicly on outcomes and impact.”

Happy to be at work today?

If you work in HE, we really want to know – about your week, your year and your working life in general

Twig Marketing and CMM are collaborating  to survey Australian higher education staff over the next month, to get a better understanding of why you do what you do, and how you are enjoying your job.

There’s a random prize draw for a $250 gift card if you choose to leave your details at the end (all results will of course be de-identified) and we are going to use the results to provide some insights into where the HE sector is headed.

The survey should only take 2-3 minutes, based on early respondents, and will really help get new discussions underway on a whole range of issues that usually fly under the radar.

Please dive in and share your thoughts: HERE

$117m operating loss at ANU-it could have been worse

VC Brian Schmidt says the university had estimated an operating deficit of $182m for ‘22

The university council has signed-off on last year’s financials, which are in the annual report, yet to be tabled in federal parliament.

However Professor Schmidt tells staff “high-level” figures provide “more context about our situation.”

The improvement on estimate is largely due to $15m more than expected in tuition revenue and nearly $66m more in grants.

He adds the overall net result is a $139m deficit – which includes investment income and insurance proceeds, which cannot be used for operating expenses and a $50m unrealised investment loss.

He adds the university “anticipates” another operating deficit for ’23.

As for the overall context, “we are spending $2.25 million more per week than we are earning.

What works at work

After all the pandemic pain it’s time to work through the lessons of lockdown and build better HE workplaces

HEjobs invites you to an in-person event to talk, listen and learn about jobs that work better HERE.

Claire Field on the big Accord issues


The Universities Accord Panel’s Discussion Paper canvasses a wide range of topics, asking 44 questions as it looks to craft a new vision for the sector


In responding to the issues raised in the paper, my submission provides answers to approximately half the paper’s questions by attempting to answer seven broader questions:

* what higher education funding arrangements are needed?

* which students get access to Australian higher education?

* what kinds of higher education institutions does Australia need?

* how to encourage quality teaching and learning?

* what level of digital capability is needed

* how do we encourage more lifelong learning?

* how do we strengthen VET pathways?

I argue for a range of changes – and some parts of my submission drew heavily on the recent five-year Productivity Review and Andrew Norton’s earlier Accord submission. My recommendations include:

*  a return to demand driven funding including additional funding for research activities

* additional funding for regional universities

* retaining the existing flexibility in how universities use their CSP funding

* student contributions aligned to average expected earnings

* removal of administration fees on FEE-HELP loans for students at non-university higher education providers

* that some of the extra places needed for the Costello baby boom students be allocated to Table A universities (and some to other providers)

* as there is increasingly no meaningful difference between Table A and Table B (which do not receive funding for Commonwealth Supported Places) universities, the latter should be eligible for CSPs

* clearer data for prospective students on the overall cost of their loans, average expected earnings, and labour market forecasts by occupation to support more informed study choices

* publishing annual data on the diversity of university senior leadership and university governing councils

* publishing annual institutional data on the diversity of international student cohorts, and

* re-thinking the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching

In relation to my last three questions – I did not settle on specific recommendations to the Panel but instead argued that:

* despite universities needing to make major changes to embrace the digital age – the challenge is less about funding than culture

* government funding for lifelong learning should predominantly focus on lower-skilled workers (ie not prospective HE students), and

* university funding rather than the AQF or the competency-based nature of VET is what is principally holding back more higher education-VET pathways for domestic students.

Claire Field is a consultant and advisor to the tertiary education sector. Her submission is available on her website.


David Thomas is inaugural director of UNSW’s Centre for Molecular Oncology. He continues a fractional appointment at Garvan IMR.

Michael Wilmore (now Uni New England) will move to Uni Sunshine Coast in June, to become DVC A.