How good is Australian advocacy?

The best lobbying-line for the Morrison Government is already taken

Higher education advocates have missed the best lobbying line for the next election. The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association already has it, “how good is Australia? Only as good as the health of its people.”

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this week Geoffrey Crisp (Uni Canberra) writes on assessment, in CMM’s series on what teaching needs now.

An election-first for UNSW

Did the uni teach the PM everything he knows?

Vice Chancellor Ian Jacobs tells staff Scott Morrison is the first UNSW graduate to be elected prime minister. CMM suspects this will not get a big run in recruitment advertising.

Professor Jacobs also lists the limited funding the government promised HE in the election but promises to keep pitching for the sector, notably for the return of demand driven funding and removed research funding. “Whilst the government’s agenda is being developed, we have an opportunity to make the case for the importance of our universities to the future of Australia,” the VC says. No faulting him for optimism.

Uni Newcastle on its own in misconduct matter  

There’s a limit to new approaches in the Fair Work Commission

The University of Newcastle has made misconduct allegations against three staff over commercialisation of software. One of them, university secretary David Cantrick-Brooks  is not covered by the dispute resolution provisions of the university enterprise agreement, which sets out how misconduct investigations are handled.

Mr Cantrick-Brooks went to the Fair Work Commission asking it to deal with his matter under its New Approaches function. Learned readers suggests this is interesting because New Approaches involves the Commission facilitating discussions between parties on what they want from a negotiation and how they can achieve it. New Approaches was used successfully in enterprise bargaining at Macquarie U last year.

But it won’t be in this matter. Deputy President Saunders has  found that the basis of New Approaches is that all parties agree to it being used, which the university does not.

Research the government loves (yes it’s from MRFF)

Even before it was re-elected Greg Hunt was announcing MRFF grants

Once and future health minister Greg Hunt announced Medical Research Future Funds grants the day before we voted. Mr Hunt at least honoured the caretaker conventions by announcing the funding on Liberal Party letterhead and making them contingent on re-election. The grants, around $1m each include,

* epilepsy research at the Florey Institute

* brain-machine interface for vision at Monash U

* antibiotic resistance database at UTS

* Monash U work on the Zika virus

* The Burnett Institute and partners funded for technologies to assist women’s sexual and reproductive health

* technology for stroke victims at Uni Melbourne

* biomedical treatment for cerebral palsy developed by John Parker, adjunct professor at UNSW

* Uni Queensland research on therapeutic ultrasound for brain disorders

* genome editing at Walter and Eliza Hall

* 4D diagnostic technology developed at the Australian Lung Health Initiative

Lobbies congratulate but can’t manage to celebrate Morrison ministry

With a Morrison majority confirmed in the Reps higher education leaders offered polite congratulations and then got back to business

UA’s agenda: In her first public statement as Universities Australia chair Deborah Terry congratulated the prime minister, and acknowledged education minister Dan Tehan’s, “deep passion for educational opportunity for young people from regional Australia in particular.” She went on to explain the need for more student places and research funding.

The Go8 make it plain: The Group of Eight was brief in congratulating and longer in explaining what its members, and thus all Australians need. “Our priorities do not change – a focus on research, international engagement and a post-secondary education system that provides the workforce for our times, Executive Director Vicki Thomson said.

Scientists seek a hearing: The Australian Academy of Science was less in the prime ministerial mug, reminding him of its splendid ideas on important issues and asking for a seat at the policy table. “We look forward to meeting with the government to discuss science, research and technology priorities,” said president John Shine.

While high tech is highly realistic: Peak lobby Science and Technology Australia actually acknowledged what happened on the weekend; “re-election gives the coalition a mandate to continue their work in setting a clear and strategic direction for the STEM sector.” President Emma Johnston (UNSW) added the government’s 2017 science statement was “a good first step” and had one specific ask, a translational research fund, to match the MRFF for non-medical disciplines.

U Tas audit ok

But look where it wants to grow revenue

As domestic student revenue stagnates the U Tas looks to internationals for more money.

The university was in deficit last year, the state Audit Office reports, but not by much – in the red for $10.57m, up from $6.68m in 2017. The university reported 2017 total operating income of $679m.

Staff costs last year were up 2.2 per cent and domestic student revenues down 2.5 per cent.  But the university looked offshore with enthusiasm to make up the shortfall, increasing international student numbers by a substantial 22 per cent. Perhaps too enthusiastically, the university has commissioned an external review of offshore recruitment.

The Audit Office also demonstrates the university is significantly investing in infrastructure, with new campuses in the north of the state, a new arts centre in the Hobart CBD and accommodation projects in the city.

The AO reports no outstanding high audit risks.

Messages the government will want to hear

Instead of telling the government what to give them HE lobbies could ask ministers what they want

The new government will not think it owes higher education anything so the sector needs a new approach to get back into the policy game, suggest observers wise in the ways of the min wing.

Some suggest the sector needs to change the terms of engagement, by asking what the government wants and then setting out what they need to deliver it.

This would be a way to stop payback from ministers who see campus as hostile ground and it would allow universities to tailor their requests to specific targets. One observer suggests the science and medical research lobbies get this and are well-positioned to work with the health and innovation ministers.

Good-o but will Education Minister Tehan have mayhem on his mind? All analysts CMM spoke to yesterday agreed that if the prime minister wanted to hammer universities he would not have announced during the campaign Mr Tehan would stay in the portfolio if the government was returned. “If he wanted to punish the system he would have saved it for an ideological hardhead,” one says.

Even so, this is not a good position for people who continue committed to demand driven funding for undergraduate places, given the general view of observers is that it is not coming back.

The new challenge is to position the system for positive outcomes from the three big reviews due ear lythis term, Wellings on performance and incentives, Noonan on the qualifications framework and Coaldrake on provider standards.  “The government does not like unis but it knows its voters want their children to attend one.  We have to keep the focus on education need,” an observer suggests.

A good – and achievable – result, will be a government ready to listen to university ideas for a sustainable funding system after 2020.  “It’s time for a bit of “yes minister” – but not in a Sir Humphrey sense,” a veteran of funding negotiations says.

New board members at Universities Australia lead appointments and achievements

Curtin VC Deborah Terry takes possession of the HE chair  today, taking over at Universities Australia as the Morrison Government’s majority in the Reps was confirmed. She succeeds Monash U VC Margaret Gardner.

Ian Jacobs (UNSW VC) and Margaret Sheil (VC QUT) also join UA’s board.  Continuing directors re-elected are Brian Schmidt (ANU), John Dewar (La Trobe U), Andrew Vann (CSU), David Lloyd (UniSA) and Annabelle Duncan (UNE). It will not be a long appointment for Professor Duncan, who steps down at UNE in August.


Wojciech Chrzanowski is awarded the National Measurement Institute’s Barry Inglis Medal for excellence in measurement science.  Aspro Chrzanowski teaches and researches in the University of Sydney’s School of Pharmacy.

ASPREE (aspirins in reducing events in the elderly) is the Australian Clinical Trials Alliance trial of the year. It was, “a clinical trial to determine whether aspirin helped older people to live well for longer by delaying the onset of illnesses in the first place.” Some 16 700 people participated. Monash U’s John McNeil is the principal investigator of the Australian component of the international project.


Uni Queensland academics reject Ramsay, again, but management unfazed

Humanities academics unbending in opposition to the Ramsay Western Civ Centre

The HASS faculty board of studies has voted against the revised curriculum proposed for Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation degrees. This follows an April vote against the original study-plan. According to the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union, staff are concerned at implications in proposed Ramsay funding for academic freedom and university autonomy. They also dislike the Ramsay “great books approach,” which, it is said, “promotes an outmoded and uncontested view of ‘western civilisation’ and arguably seeks to promote a neo-conservative political agenda in universities.”

According to NTEU branch president Andrew Bonnell, “this second rejection by the HASS Board of Studies surely means that if Uni Queensland management intend to honour their commitment to proper academic governance, they have no option but to drop the Ramsay proposal.”

However last night the university responded that the HASS board of studies, “is advisory to the executive dean” and not an approval body. A spokesperson added, “feedback from the meeting will be considered carefully as the program progresses through its standard governance process.”

The university’s student union has called an open meeting next week to discuss Ramsay.