Reading magic

Uni SA establishes the Mem Fox Visiting Research Fellowships in children’s literature and literacy. Ms Fox, the Australian Literacy and Education Association, and an anonymous donor are funding the positions.

They have to be named The Possums.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Chris Campbell (Griffith U), Kathryn Coleman (Uni Melbourne) and Melissa Cain (Australian Catholic U) wondered how teaches are coping with teaching on-line in the pandemic. So, they asked them. The news is good.

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on the benefits of learning rather than googling.

Uni Sydney’s big research call

That richter of outrage you just heard was surely Uni Melbourne researchers reading an announcement, “Sydney has the most influential academics in Australia”

It comes not from all six universities in the harbour city but just from the auld enemy, the Uni Sydney, which has  compiled  a list of its staff appearing in two new rankings. One is researcher citations by field that appeared in PLOS Biology, (in August). The other is last week’s Highly Cited Researchers list from Clarivate.

Undoubtedly all the data is accurate, however “influential” may be interpreted differently south of the border and arguments over specific meanings can end unpleasantly. CMM is sure it will not come to DVC Rs doing a Burr and Hamilton at 20 paces.

Uni SA Christmas cheer for former staff

The university is writing to people who did not get all their entitlements on leaving

Over the next couple of weeks past and present staff employed by the university between 2014 and 2020 will find deposits in their bank accounts from the university for rec leave not paid. Turns out the university was calculating what it owed to the last completed month of service, not day, as is now the rule.

It seems Uni SA has joined a bunch of universities whose payroll practises let them down on pay  and superannuation owing, as distinct from those who were paying the wrong rate for jobs, notably to casual academic staff.

Uni SA appears keen for it to be known that it is among the former. To explain what happened and what’s been done management has advised the National Tertiary Education Union, the Community and Public Sector Union, the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency,  of “the proactive steps we have taken to resolve this matter”. Perhaps they should be on the safe side and let the International Court of Justice know as well.

Australian Catholic U in the money

The university is issuing $50m in 20 year bonds at 3 per cent 

The money will go to completing a building at the Melbourne campus and fund capex. It follows the university’s 2017 sustainability bond which raised $200m for ten years at 3.7 per cent (CMM February 28 2018).

The university separately proposes to reduce recurrent expenditure with $42m in staff savings by 2022 (CMM October 16).

Garton in the chair

Uni of Sydney is not rushing an announcement of the next VC

Incumbent Michael Spence announced in February that he was leaving at year end and last month management said there would be an update on the recruiting process this year (CMM October 23).

That Senior DVC Stephen Garton will serve until the next VC arrives has long been known. What isn’t is when that will be. Dr Spence was discrete about it in his farewell address last week, saying “I am so pleased that he will be looking after the university in 2021.”

“A roaring lion of a place,” scroll down for Dr Spence for his take on where Uni Sydney is and the three big questions for higher education.

Quiet achievers: uni marketing award winners

With restraint rare among marketers, some winners of the Universities Australia marketing comms awards have not applauded their own achievements  

So CMM will do it for them;

QUT leads the awards, winning in two categories

Big-budget campaign: Charles Sturt U, “It’s what we do” (recruitment)

Best with modest moneyQUT for QUTeX (prof, exec education in Queensland and Canberra)

Proactive comms: UNSW innovation story about use for banana plantation waste

Real-time response comm: QUT’s emergency student fund appeal

Large team fund-raising: Uni Queensland, COVID-19 vaccine project

Small team fund-raising: Western Sydney U, “giving day”

A trilingual “no” to La Trobe U  

LT U proposes “a cessation” of Hindi, Greek and Indonesian studies because “market demand and student enrolments have been consistently low for several years”

Cue outrage from supporters of Greek studies, with a loud community campaign, pointing to the importance of the language.

Advocates of Indonesian make the point that Australia needs speakers of the language of our nearest large neighbour. Lt U’s Bahasa Indonesia Students Association warns out 22 universities taught the language in 1992 and only 14 do now.

The Hindi no-speak made SBS, which is not great for LT U given its high-recognition of matters Indian. When the university gave film star Shah Rukh Khan an hon doc they had to set up an OB to cope with the crowds who wanted to watch the ceremony (CMM July 17 2019).

International students on the move – but not to Australia (yet)


Change could be coming

 Last month Canada announced it was opening borders to international students but visas were a problem, with many consular posts around the world remaining closed. However last week the Canadians opened up In India. Ganga Dandapani from CANAM Education Consultants reports they are receiving student related communications from the Canadian Government. She says Canada is now set for a large January intake.

Non-EU international student numbers are up 9 per cent in the UK. With providers staying open, demand for face to face teaching has been high and it appears this will continue into the next enrolment season.

The appeal of the US is increasing, not least as the political situation stabilises. However, with COVID-19 still rampant and visa’s requiring face-to-face interviews a significant increase in new international students isn’t imminent.

As to Australia, Asian media was quick to pick-up on the prime minister’s “Australians home before students” statement (CMM November 16). This is not good, given an IDP survey finds 56 per cent of present and prospective international students are prepared to switch countries to access in-person teaching (CMM November 20).

Australia’s success at containing COVID-19 is great for demand but we are not capitalising on it.  For Australia to stay a major provider of international education governments must address our quarantine system and find a safe way to being back students at scale.

NSW Premier Gladys Gladys Berejiklian appears to get this, telling Nine Newspaper’s on the weekend that NSW could use a third of hotel quarantine rooms for international students and skilled migrants and workers. This build on enthusiasm for the idea her jobs and tourism minister Stuart Ayres expressed in September. He told the Australian Technology Network Conference that his experience managing the state’s hotel quarantine programme convinced him that extending it to cover international students “is quite manageable,” (CMM September 24).

This may be why Nine Newspapers report Ms Berejiklian would like international arriving in six weeks. This would be in good time to clear quarantine for first semester.

The prime minister has made much of getting off-shore Australians home for Christmas. But after then who knows – perhaps January will be a happy new year for some, some, international students and HE providers.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent


Spence of Sydney’s Farewell Address

With admirable brevity, the Uni Sydney VC took just 4750 words to share thoughts about the state of his university and universities in general as he prepares to depart

Dr Spence included his, “take on the three most important questions facing research-intensive universities,” such as his (his full text is here).

His nominated issues were:

The nature of a university as an institution. “It genuinely is the case that creativity demands space for the researcher and teacher to set the agenda for their work and to follow their intellectual passions, but it is also the case that research and teaching are increasingly activities that require coordination at scale and that an institution must have some capacity to set a course for itself in terms of the work that it will undertake and the outcomes for which it will be responsible.”

Who does the university serve.  “For all that the university should be externally engaged and producing work in both teaching and research that has impact in our community, I would argue that our ultimate loyalty must be to a purpose, to the unrelenting pursuit of the true, the good and the beautiful; whether that is knowledge that has immediate application, or knowledge just for its own sake, whether those are visions of the good and the beautiful currently popular, those long abandoned or those still seeking acceptance.”

Is the mission of universities international or domestic?  “We have an overriding duty to serve our community and therefore, for example, to support research into issues of primarily domestic interest, and to maintain the teaching of locally important disciplines even where that teaching is not financially self-sustaining. But in order to serve Australia well, a university such as ours can never be exclusively, or even primarily, domestic in its mission.  The great conversations of our age, the great chains of innovation, cross national boundaries and require the participation of universities, researchers and students, all over the world, both from countries with whom Australia closely shares political and social values, and from those less similar. The university must be a place that takes the best of our learning overseas and brings back insights from all over the world.”

Appointments, achievements

The Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia announces the four winners of the Paul Bourke Award for early career researchers, Kari Lancaster (UNSW), evidence-based policy on drugs and infectious disease. Sarah Walker (UNSW); development economist. Dylan Lino (Uni Queensland)  Indigenous constitutional recognition. Michelle Tye (Black Dog Institute) suicide prevention.


The Australian Space Awards (as in outer not social distancing) are announced, including:

Academic institution of the year: Uni Sydney

Academic: Alan Duffy (Swinburne U)

Graduate: Steven Despotelli (Melbourne Space Programme)

Researcher: Joshua Chou (UTS)

Executive: Sarah Pearce (CSIRO)

Innovator: Matthew Tetlow (Inovor Technologies, “turnkey small satellite solutions)


Katie Ellis (Centre for Culture and Technology) wins the Curtin U research award for business, community, society service. She also wins the university’s John de Later Award for research leadership.

Come April Terry Flew will leave QUT to become professor of digital communication at Uni Sydney.

UNSW Vice Chancellor’s Teaching Awards

Teaching: Isabelle Jalbert (Optometry and Vision Science)

Teaching (early career): Susann Beier (Engineering)

Student learning: Nirmani Wijenayake Gamachchige (Biotech, Biomolecular Sciences)

Student learning (PG coursework): Simit Raval (Engineering)

Student learning (sessional staff): Megan Catherine Ross (Arts and Social Sciences)

Student learning (early career): Maria de Lourdes Melo Zurita (Arts and Social Sciences)

Student learning (early career): Deborah Barros Leal Farias (Arts and Social Sciences)

Curriculum design and pedagogical practice: Jonathan Bollen, Erin Brannigan, Meg Mumford, Theron Schmidt, Bryoni Trezise and Caroline Wake (Arts and Social Sciences)

PG coursework teaching: Heather Bailey, Sandra Killick, Sandeep Kirpalani, Tom Ray, Lucas Olmos, Ben Pecotich and Katilyn Percival (Centre for Social Impact)

Teaching innovation: Yenni Tim (Business School)

Heroes award: Dijana Alic, Monica McNamara, Kathy Argyropolous, Ellen Clapin, Tom Richards, Dean Utian, Anjalika Wijesunrendra (Built environment)


Edward Sze-Tu (UNSW Global) Victoria Clout (Business School) Craig Smith, Shalini Saverimuttu, Tracey Beacroft, Carolina Alamos (South Western Sydney Clinical School)

HDR supervision (emerging supervisor): Hoa Nguyen, (Arts and Social Sciences) Lina Yao (Engineering)

HDR leadership: Melissa Hart (ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes)

HDR supervision: Sarah Williams (Law)