Where penguins vote

The University of Tasmania is very pleased the feds will fund a new runway in Australian Antarctica. UTas “has joined with the Antarctic community” to welcome the research-assisting infrastructure. Is there no science vote this government will not pursue?

But what has the government done for Uni Sunshine Coast lately?

When the feds cancelled demand driven student places they committed to funding universities for 2018 and 2019 at 2017 undergraduate student numbers, with growth places after that allocated according to a yet to be set formula. But the University of the Sunshine Coast (undoubtedly for the soundest of policy reasons) won an exemption, with 1200 new places already guaranteed for each of three years from 2020. This is to get USC’s new Petrie campus going.

Good for USC, but not apparently good enough. Sunshine Coast media are running stories that the government’s cap on funded places means few nursing places at USC’s Fraser Coast campus. The university says it is considering quotas for nursing places this second semester  and  for a free tertiary prep programme.

Different programmes to be sure but guess which government funding decision will be remembered.

Negotiations going nowhere at UniNewcastle while new approach provides progress at SCU

Union members at the University of Newcastle will vote on taking protected industrial action as part of the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union’s enterprise bargaining campaign. There is, the union says, insufficient progress in talks with management.

But at Southern Cross U peace prevails, which makes a difference from last time, when management put a contract offer to staff without union endorsement – the workforce knocked it back (CMM June 28 2015). Times have changed under new VC Adam Shoemaker; “we have experienced a much more collegial approach, with a ‘roll-over with tweaks’ proposal, to which your bargaining team have agreed,” the union states.

ACOLA to address the big AI and IOT issues

The Australian Council of Learned Academies has two new federal government grants, to report on artificial intelligence and the internet of things. They are part of ACOLA’s Horizon Scanning project and will follow studies of electricity storage technologies and precision medicine, both published. The AI and IoT reports will examine social and economic impacts. “It’s important Australian researchers are supported in exploring emerging areas of science and technology and are able to evaluate their potential impacts,” Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham says.

Just one brand

The University of Southern Queensland responds to complaints that a new research restructure will reduce centre brands: “It is only the university’s brand that should be promoted externally. … USQ will continue to strategically promote its research achievements externally. Such an approach does not require the promotion of a specific research unit name.”

UniNotreDame pitches to grandparents

Australian universities rarely miss a self-promoting ploy (“Researchers report today is Monday”) but last week’s QILT results were met with all but universal silence, with Universities Australia left to speak for the system, “student satisfaction with uni education remains high.”  Just about the only marketing message was from the University of Notre Dame which spent up-on advertising in Saturday newspapers, that’s papers, to report another year’s stellar result for approving undergraduates.  Brilliant targeting, assuming the university wants to reach prospective students’ grandparents.

The lose-lose-lose options for student funding

The National Tertiary Education Union has analysed the university system’s options under the government’s funding cap on undergraduate places. The news is bad, bad and bad.

Option One: maintain current participation rates, with student numbers growing in line with population increases. This will increase domestic numbers by 4.9 per cent, to 665 000 in 2022. However, the freeze on funding at 2018 levels will mean Commonwealth Grant Scheme support per place will fall from $11 100 to $10 057.  “Universities will need to decide whether they try to maintain participation rates or try to maintain the real level of Commonwealth funding per student.”

Option two: Reduce enrolments by 4.6 per cent to keep CGS support per place at 2018 levels. But this will cost money as the government plans to increase funding by the per centage increase in the 18-64 population, which the union suggests will be lower than CPI. Welcome back unmet demand – the NTEU suggests 66 000 people will miss a place by 2022.

Option three: Freeze enrolments at 2018 levels through to 2022, but this does not save money if CGS increases are below CPI.

Of course, CMM suggests, managements have other options, they could increase international numbers and reduce the share of income faculties received for teaching such students. Or they could reduce the transfer from CSP to research funding. But both break the prime directive of taxation maximum revenue for minimum complaints.

As it stands universities face a loose, loose, loose scenario if they stick with variations of their present business models.

Uni New England goes the LBJ way

“The status quo in times of disruptive change is not a winning strategy,” says newly arrived UNE DVC Todd Walker. So, management is convening staff groups to discuss “what UNE should look like in 2025.”  The wider university community will also get a say through meetings, forums and online discussion.  This is very wise, people at UNE are sensitive to change and critical of plans they do not like. Last winter a staff meeting expressed no confidence in VC Annabelle Duncan over an academic restructure (CMM August 25).  As Lyndon Baines Johnson said, better to have critics in the tent and peeing out than the other way around.


Two Murdoch U emeritus professors are honoured by the Australian Veterinary AssociationDavid Hampson wins the Gilruth Prize for distinguished service to science and research. John Edwards receives the Kesteven Award for vet disease research.  A third MU emeritus professor, Richard Read, received a meritorious service award.