We see what you did there

“Can you see your future with us,” Uni Canberra VC Paddy Nixon spruiks an optometry professorship, (via Twitter, Friday.)

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Enabling programmes must be the new normal in higher education – without them wider access is unfair. Pranit Anand (QUT) makes the case in this week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

plus, the new NTU research-paper ranking is a good guide to what the next big bibliometric performance measures will reveal – the signs are still ok for Australia. Angel Calderon (RMIT) explains the NTU, how it works, why it matters and where the locals sit (it’s a good result for QUT, Macquarie U and RMIT).

and Merlin Crossley (UNSW on problems – they can expand to occupy all available brain-space but good scientists chose ones they can solve.

 with James Guthrie (Macquarie U) on the University of Adelaide’s strong 2020 financials (and yet there are more cuts).

A break at Monash U

The university provides staff with relief in “yet another full year of the unexpected”

On-going and fixed term staff in Australia have paid “recharge days” on Monday 27 and Tuesday 28th September – making a five-day weekend (Friday 24th is the Grand Final public holiday in Victoria).

The university also extends carers’ leave from one to two days for the remainder of the semester, “to assist with primary caring arrangements and remote learning for school children.” It’s available from accrued sick leave.

“We all need to work at thinking about how we are all coping and be more careful and kind to others and ourselves,” Vice Chancellor Margaret Gardner tells staff.

And the academic promotion schedule is amended to give people more time to prepare.

The Monash U move follows RMIT announcing five extra leave days to be taken before December 17 and a university wide “slow-down” this week (CMM August 18).

HSC in NSW: a happening (but not the only) thing

Responses include ambivalence and opposition

Last week Chris Hayes (Lab-NSW) suggested to the House of Reps, calling off the HSC, given the COVID-19 crisis in NSW saying it was “not a valid tool of assessment” for university entry (CMM August 26). Mr Hayes’ electorate of Fowler includes some of the communities hit hard by illness and lock-down.

Nothing doing. HSC exams will start late but at least some will run, with ATAR based university offers in January-February.

The state VCs committee chair, Barney Glover from Western Sydney U was quick to back the government. “The decision has been made in the best interests of students during a time of great disruption to their education.”

But he was also keen to make clear that the HSC and resulting Australian Tertiary Admission Rank it produces are not everything. “Do your best to complete your HSC appreciating that there are many pathways into university,” he tells students.

Good-o, but if there was ever a year to end the ATAR, replacing the ranking with universities own entry schemes this is it. Uni Wollongong reports record applications to its early-entry scheme.  Uni Newcastle will add “COVID points” to its entry scheme, “in recognition of the extraordinary challenges” Y12 students face. And UTS was quick Friday to remind Y12 that it’s Schools Recommendation Scheme helps people “when their ATAR alone may not be enough to gain a competitive place.”

The ATAR is a rank and as such adjusts to the range of scores, which could well be down across the board in this horrible year. But tell that to Y12 students in Sydney’s COVID-19 hotspots who will sit their exams in the context of way- worse community circumstances than the rest of the city. Plus, personal problems, not every Y12 student in southwest Sydney lockdown lives with a PC of their own, a quiet study space or internet access that always works

The NSW Education Standards Authority has a special consideration programme for Y12 students who face a range of COVID-19 disadvantage, including no access “to a device or the internet.” But this may not be a bunch of help to Y12 students from families who do not know how the system works and have a bunch of more immediate-worries.

As Mr Hayes put it to the House (August 12), “many high school teachers are less worried about their students’ results but most concerned about their students’ emotional wellbeing.”

Rumblings at RMIT

Chancellor Ziggy Switkowski will become chair of Crown Resorts (as in the casino company)

“How,” a learned reader asks “does a gambling business fits RMIT’s value statement, ‘we strive to make a difference, to be agents of positive change for our students, the community and beyond.’ ”

RMIT is certainly selective about industries it won’t accept money from. The university’s research policy directs staff that, “credibility of research findings … are not compromised by funding sources or association with the tobacco industry.” The university also has all investments in two managed funds which “exclude companies with fossil fuel reserves.

A way for WIL

Work integrated learning makes sense, until people ask how it’s done

The Australian Collaborative Education Network has ways to help – with three guides to making WIL work; one for industry and community partners, another for practitioners guide and a third for on-line WIL.

Harsh Suri and Friederika Kaider (both Deakin U) led the project, with Annette Marlow (U Tas), Wayne Read (Deakin U) and Leoni Russell (RMIT).

The guides are here.

Science and Technology Australia works with the box it’s got

The peak industry organisation has backed the Commonwealth’s proposed “patent box” tax concession for biomedicine

“The patent box will align Australia with similar economies which already have such policies in place,” chair Jeremy Brownlie and chief executive Misha Schubert write in a submission to a Treasury paper on policy design.

The patent box (as in the square ticked on a form to claim a tax concession) is the government’s new big thing in R&D policy, effectively ending all hope of the funding reform set out in the Ferris, Finkel, Fraser review of the R&D Tax Incentive (as covered in umpteen CMM stories.)  Kirsty Abbott and Amanda-Jane George (CQU) explained it for CMM here.)

STA also urges the government to extend the patent box proposal to low emissions technology which would be “a clever strategic move …. Adding clean energy technologies to the patent box can build a strong stream of Australian export income from Australian-made clean energy products.”

STA backing the patent box is realistic. The lobby long hoped for a change to the R&D Tax Incentive, with a 20 per cent concession for investors who partnered with universities and research institutions (CMM March 31 2020) which hasn’t happened.

It is now working on what its members will likely get.

The WAM way it was

Uni Melbourne drops the weighted average mark, again

Academic Board says second semester subjects will not be included in a student’s WAM unless it equals or improves the existing one. It’s an acknowledgement of COVID-19 impact, as was in place last year, (CMM April 21 2020) but not first session this year.

Clouded optimism at Uni SA

Vice Chancellor David Lloyd is not entirely his sunny self

In a message to staff Professor Lloyd looks forward to the vaccinated state of SA and  “a return to life under our control, not in the control of some unseen malevolent microscopic life-threatening foe that somehow infringes on our civil liberties by remote control.”

“We are positioned so much better than most in the sector – let’s not lose sight of that, and the opportunity that privileged position affords us.”

Which is sunny. What isn’t is his warning  the university will be in shade for a while yet as the loss of ‘2020, ’21 and maybe half of 2022 commencing international students impacts on finances. The impact, “is unseen and it’s travelling. It’s unseen in annual reports. It’s travelling in the actuals – the reduced budgetary projections, where ironically we hope that our forecasting is for once, not accurate. But the gap is certainly there, and it is material.”

There is a likely reason for this. While Uni SA got through 2020 in ok shape, (“we emerged from 2020 with only a little scathe,” the VC writes in the annual report, (CMM August 26)) perhaps he wants to discourage great expectations.

Especially now, enterprise bargaining is underway and management is facing a tough team from the National Tertiary Education Union.

More or less, from the Medical Research Future Fund

With $21.4bn in the kitty researchers are always interested in who is wearing the cat’s pyjamas and what they cost

In particular people have been looking at legislation before parliament for change that could inadvertently or otherwise assist some research interests more, or less, than others.

The changes in working out who gets what all appear based on the fund experience so far – extending the duration for priorities and the fund’s strategy, for example.

But there are changes to how much there will be in grants in any given year. Now the Future Fund Board (which manages the MRFF) decides what amount will be allocated, using the Reserve Bank’s cash rate target plus 2 per cent.

But the proposed bill changes this, setting a new investment mandate and specifying a maximum spend of $650m a year, which the minister can change, by a legislative disallowable instrument (parliament, generally the Senate, can knock it back). “While this would increase the risk of losses in the short term, it would also increase expected earnings and support the perpetual funding objective over the long term,” the explanatory memorandum for the bill states.

Which will be good – unless it isn’t.


Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia announces board appointments. Alan Bowen-James (Le Cordon Bleu Australia) becomes deputy chair, higher education.  Kathryn von Treuer (Cairnmillar Institute) also joins the board.

 Helen Klaebe starts this morning as dean of Uni Queensland’s Graduate School. She moves from QUT.

At Griffith U Andrew O’Neill moves from Business School research dean to dean of the Griffith Graduate Research School.

Flinders U marketing director Callista Thillou is leaving to become to become ED Engagement at the new Sydney-based James Martin Institute for Public Policy.