No rush now

Uni Queensland Library has suspended fines on overdue books during the Brisbane lockdown. One less plausible excuse to break curfew.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

After 150 reports on R&D over 25 years the government might finally be about to act on innovation policy – which is good. Problem is some of the ideas aren’t great for university research. Amanda-Jane George (CQU) explains the issues and why researchers need to respond now (as in, right now).

Her previous CMM article on innovation is  here.

And Sally Male on getting grades right. “A grade should not depend on: who taught the student, who marked each assessment, which team the student was in, or the students’ sex or ethnicity,” she writes in this week’s contribution to Sally Kift’s series, “Needed now in teaching and learning.”

PlusMerlin Crossley (UNSW) on how universities can serve Australia and why now is the time to build on great research foundations.


Where the pieces could fit at Uni Newcastle

The third stage of the university restructure is at final proposal stage, with a model for schools sent to staff

This follows proposed admin changes, three-colleges replacing five faculties (CMM November 20) and rationalising courses (CMM December 10 2020).

Throughout the change process Vice Chancellor Alex Zelinsky has stayed on-message, that the restructure is not only about immediate and essential savings but also in response to, “very clear signals from government and industry, that our sector needs to adapt and support students to graduate into priority areas where career growth will be strongest.”

School structure

College of Engineering, Science and Environment to consist of: Architecture and Built Environment, Electrical Engineering and Computing, Engineering, Environment and Life Sciences, Maths and Physical Sciences, as well as Psychology

College of Health, Medicine and Wellbeing: Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy, Health Science, Medicine and Public Health, Nursing-Midwifery

College of Human and Social Futures: Business School, Law School, Humanities and Social Sciences, Creative Industries, Education. Apparently, a proposal to merge HASS and Creative Industries (CMM February 10) did not get up.

The final proposal for job cuts is:

Administration: 34.6 FTE

Colleges: eight professional FTE

Schools:  63.6 FTE academic roles and 11.1 FTE professional staff

Unis on court

It’s too late for March madness but there’ll be April excitement

The University Basketball League launches next month, with men and women teams from seven universities – La Trobe U, Uni Melbourne, Uni Sydney, UWA, UTS, Uni Sunshine Coast and VU.

The first games will be USC v LTU at Uni Sunshine Coast stadium on April 13. There will be five rounds through to late May with a finals series to follow.

Minister Tudge sets-out what’s next for international education

The boom won’t be back

A year to go: In a speech at RMIT this morning the education minister will set Semester One next year as the expected start of international student arrivals “in large numbers.” Mr Tudge’s text states that by mid-year there will be “more clarity” on vaccination preventing transmission and any system of vaccination certificates.

He adds that while he has discussed plans for earlier student quarantine with state and territory governments and university leaders, “to date (I) have not received any concrete proposal.”

But not more of the same: However, Mr Tudge makes it plain that even when international students can return he does not want a return of the pre-pandemic boom, stating, “the relentless drive for revenue in order to fund research (which then drives global rankings)” let students down. “Having up to 60 per cent of a classroom with international students from just one or two other countries is not optimising the Australian student experience – or the international student experience.”

The minister also wants less reliance core country markets and more diversity in what internationals study. “Currently almost half of international enrolments at universities are concentrated in commerce, while fields like engineering, maths, technology and health attract significantly lower enrolment shares than the OECD average.”

New, products, new markets: While study in Australia, “will continue to be a core offering,” Mr Tudge also wants Australian providers to diversify products, providing courses in growth markets. “The global on-line e-learning market is forecast to grow from $130 billion to more than $470 billion by 2026. This growth is driven by students around the world seeking lower-cost education, as well as greater flexibility in how and where they learn,” he says.

And he points to meeting markets through on-line delivery and/or hybrid learning models for full courses and/or micro-credentials “at different price offerings.”

Getting there: Work starts on a decadal international education strategy. The consultation process will be released this morning.


Early becomes earlier

Curtin U announces applications to enrol next year are open, based on students Year 11 results. Last year Curtin left it to May (CMM May 8 2020).  Murdoch U is also making early offers. As is UWA.

VET numbers: awful as usual

One day the estimable NCVER will have good news for VET – but it isn’t today

The September 2020 apprentice and trainee stats are out – they aren’t great but it is hard to tell how bad they are, compared to the last pandemic.  The National Centre for Vocational Education Research was not collecting data in 1919.

However, they are certainly down year and year – and continue the declining trend in-place for the five years recorded in the new report.

September quarter commencements in 2020 were 23 per cent down on third quarter ’19, with overall in-training numbers 4 per cent lower. The year on year drop was nearly 19 per cent. But this is not new, continuing a trend in-place long before COVID-19. Commencements for the year to September last were down 25 per cent on 2016, completions were 22 per cent lower and total in-training numbers were 4.8 per cent under September ’16.

Predicting the pandemic’s progress

The Melbourne School of Population and Global Health  pandemic trade-off  modeller is Zoom-launched today.

According to the school’s Tony Blakely, it provides 648 policy scenarios based on different policy settings, including different vaccination levels, vaccine efficacy to lower transmission and virus circulation in six and 12 months. Punch in the variables and the programme graphs likely outcomes according to different control/elimination strategies.

Claire Field spots a dud idea for training


In the VET sector it is rare for NSW government ideas to be sidelined, but that may be about to change

There are five VET reform blueprints underpinning the current National Skills Agreement negotiations.

* The Commonwealth’s Joyce Review and Productivity Commission Review.

* The Macklin Review from Victoria,

* The New South Wales Gonski-Shergold Review and,

*  the VET reform recommendations of Tasmania’s ‘Premier’s Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council’.

Ms Macklin delivered a comprehensive reform plan and, election permitting, Tasmania intends making TasTAFE more autonomous (potentially triggering significant industrial relations and infrastructure changes), pushing the Commonwealth for other VET funding reforms, and reforming how it funds VET.

NSW has five reform ideas:

* establish an Institute of Applied Technology (IAT) as an entirely new form of Australian tertiary institution

* establish Careers NSW

* improve the breadth and quality of VET in Schools

* improve industry engagement in VET by revamping the NSW Skills Board

* establish an income-contingent loan for Certificate III and IV qualifications

The Commonwealth has recently established a National Careers Institute and the Productivity Commission has recommended loans for certificate courses. Restructuring the NSW Skills Board and improving VET in Schools are good, modest initiatives and necessarily State-specific.

That leaves the IAT, which is going to be “entirely new” but also fit into “existing funding, regulatory and accreditation requirements.” The IAT will “fully integrate VET and higher education” so students can progress from a Certificate IV, through an Advanced Diploma and finish with a Bachelor’s degree.

Many international students already follow this path with independent dual-sector providers. Government funding restrictions preclude domestic students easily doing the same. Despite their higher education experience, the reviewers do not advocate funding changes to support the IAT, leaving its bachelor students to presumably access much more costly FEE-HELP loans than their university counterparts.

The IAT’s course development will not be “constrained by the present cumbersome processes of designing or changing national training packages.” It seems that it will therefore be limited to teaching niche accredited courses (outside Training Packages), further limiting its attractiveness.

States and Territories will be actively considering the Commonwealth, Victorian and Tasmanian VET reform proposals.

Less so those from NSW.

 Claire Field is an advisor to the tertiary education sector


From July, Megan Cassidy-Welch will be professor and programme director of Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Australian Catholic U (Melbourne). She will move from Uni Queensland, where she is head of the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry.