Bit late now

Last year the HE regulator thought two universities were over-exposed to international students. It did not suggest they change

TEQSA has stated that it occasionally sees patterns of over-concentration of international students generally or of students from one country, and in those circumstances would always recommend diversification where possible,” the Australian National Audit Office’s report on the HE regulator, yesterday.

“ANAO analysis of 2019 risk assessments identified correspondence with eleven non-university providers and two universities that noted international student growth or revenue concentration, but no recommendations to diversify were made,” ANAO adds.

Scroll down for more on the TEQSA audit.

Lost international student income: hard years ahead

Ian Marshman and Frank Larkins warn recovery will take years, if it ever occurs

In CMM features this morning the HE policy mavens estimate international student fee revenues lost to the COVID-19 crisis will be up to $15bn.

“This makes no provision for a probable reduction in later year course fee levels as Australian universities seek to rebuild market share in a more competitive environment in which an exclusively campus-based student experience may be challenged by on-line modalities,” they warn.

Research and capital works will take the heaviest hit.

There’s more in the Mail

New in Features this morning, how to teach molecular biology from home, Crossley-Lab style.

La Trobe U looks to staff for savings

After cutting costs La Trobe U is still $40m short

Measures outlined to staff yesterday include;

* casual staff will be paid until the end of the month but that’s it, unless they are designated as essential or other work is found for them

* re-deploying under-utilised staff, “within their skills and competencies”

* staff making voluntary contributions to the university, via a range of schemes

* variations to the university’s enterprise agreement to reduce staffing costs – as per system-wide negotiations with the National Tertiary Education Union, “that will reduce staffing costs during the crisis so as to avoid redundancies as far as possible.”

Workers not united

Union branches oppose the leadership’s negotiating on staff savings with uni managements

National Tertiary Education Union federal officials and vice chancellors are talking about terms for campus cost cuts (CMM v w and z). But some union branches aren’t happy.

Uni Melbourne’s demands, “an industrial and political campaign to defend every job, every condition and every income of staff,” and censures the national executive, “for undercutting our industrial and political response.”

A meeting of union supporters at Uni Sydney demands, “a government bailout with no conditions, and that university managements use their lines of credit to sustain employment and working conditions in the sector. That includes re-employing casuals who were lined-up for work this year, and supporting the demands of students who have lost their incomes.”

Unis are communities says Brungs from UTS

There’s an extra $6.7m in the studnet welfare budget

The funding adds to the existing $8.3m for students doing it tough.

““While universities provide vital research, and will have a significant role to play in skilling and re-skilling to enable the recovery after COVID-19, we are also communities in ourselves. We take our responsibility seriously, and we are committed to ensuring our vulnerable students are provided for,” VC Attila Brungs says.

“It is times such as these when our public institutions are most needed.”

Funding, available to local and international students includes, $3000 interest-free loans, $1500 living expense grants, IT support and food “subsidies” for students self-isolating.

TEQSA: slow and using out of date data

An audit of the HE regulator agency finds its effectiveness “mixed”

The Australian National Audit Office  concludes the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency’s approvals processes were, “effective but not always timely.” While key approvals were made within time required, the agency did not meet its own targets for re-registration and re-accreditation of low-risk providers, generally public universities. “Limitations” in information relied on also meant that, “for the majority of providers, risk assessments were usually based on two-year old data.”

“This can impact on the accuracy of the provider risk profile,” the audit office warns

The ANAO also advises TEQSA’s compliance and enforcement processes were “partially effective.” While TEQSA started increasing compliance assessments last year they, “have not always been adequately documented.”

“TEQSA provides limited reporting on the outcomes of some of its enforcement processes.”

However, the auditor also points to TEQSA taking, “appropriate action to support the sector to address the majority of identified key risks.”

The agency accepts all recommendations in the report but adds; “TEQSA has only recently had its resourcing increased following a period of significant reduction in resourcing and reduced capacity.”

What’s to be done about huge cuts to come

Universities income could be down $10bn by 2020-23, unless its $19bn

Peter Hurley and Nina van Dyke from Victoria U model the cumulative losses in a new analysis of COVID-19’s impact on international student numbers.  The $10bn loss is based on there being no second semester in-take. The higher figure assumes no international in-take next year.

So, what is to be done:   Hurley and van Dyke propose three policy approaches;

* increase funding for HE and VET domestic places to cater for increased demand from school leavers not taking gap-years and people choosing study over unemployment in a weak economy

*  support for international students in the present crisis and “implement measures that support a quick recovery to international student commencements when travel bans are lifted.” (Nothing specific is suggested.)

* diversify funding models to support smaller/regional universities that missed the international boom. “The aim of any policy reform should be to encourage lively and creative learning spaces at smaller and regional universities, rather than propping up campuses that have low enrolments. It may also include encouraging international students towards rural and regional universities.”

Criminal stupidity

There’s a scam targeting international students, which purports to be from their university investigating paid employment and demanding bank account details.  Internationals working more hours than visas allow – sport the flaw.

Uni Sydney postgrads call for help

They need more time and money

Their association, SUPRA, is calling for a 20 per cent in coursework degree fees, because students are now financially stretched, plus there “are many complaints about the low quality of teaching for some on-line courses.”

For research PGs they ask for a further extension on submissions, on top of the six-month study-period the university has already announced.

“Many HDR students are suffering financial hardship (and) have carer responsibilities, meaning their ability to meet research deadlines is impossible. Suspending if you receive a scholarship means no income, not being able to pay rent or eat. One research period is not enough.”

SUPRA also calls for financial support for research postgrads, particularly those not on scholarship and for an “emergency financial package” for internationals, to pay rent and “basic living expenses.”