AI ABBA (but better)

Australia has won the Eurovision AI Song Contest
The human one was cancelled but broadcasters in host nation, the Netherlands, ran a competition for songs created by AI (CMM May 1). A team from RMIT, UNSW and studio Uncanny Valley won for “Beautiful the World” which synthesised calls of koalas, kookaburras and Tasmanian Devils into music, with AI lyrics.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features;

Lin Martin (ex TEQSA commissioner) warns on-line is no automatic equivalent of in-person classes.

Garry Carnegie (RMIT) and Bruce Guthrie (Macquarie U) have analysed Western Australian universities 2019 annual reports. They report UWA recognised early that COVID-19 was going to be a problem.

How Flinders U uses  Microsoft platforms to keep its community informed on COVID-19.

Andrew Harvey (La Trobe U). The COVID-19 burden weighs on disadvantaged students. This week’s essay in Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.


Sue Gregory (UNE) and colleagues on classroom experience for teacher education students when schools are empty.

International arrivals collapsed in April

Temporary student visa arrivals, April 2019, 46,580. April 2020, 30. No CMM did not leave noughts off


 The new overseas travel statistics confirm what international education observers expected – and then some.

The number of people arriving on temporary student visas in February was down 34.5 per cent on last year. The decline was 18.3 per cent in March. And then in April arrivals collapsed by 99.9 per cent.

Commencement and enrolment data for March is imminent, which might confirm the bad news.

But what isn’t as awful as expected is the data for departures. The idea that international students already here when the COVID-19 crisis commenced went home in droves is wrong.

In February, departures in the temporary student category were down 35.1 per cent (44 650 in 2019 to 28 960 in 2020). They were up in March by 31.9 per cent (31 950 last year, 42 130 this).  And in April they were down 78.2 per cent (45 410 in 2019 to 9 910 in 2020).

February-April overall in 2019 saw 122 010 departures, compared to 81 000 for the same period this year – a decrease of 33.6 per cent.

Certainly, some might not be able to get home, but it would appear the majority of international students decided to sit-out the pandemic here.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent

Charles Darwin U goes the full Dvorak

CDU is sold, really sold, on short-courses, including Dan Tehan’s certs and dips for people who want to reskill

“There has never been a more important time to gain the credentials to boost your career. Together, we will build a new world.”

Who cops what in peak accord

The NTEU national leadership and a panel of VCs have done a top-level deal to save jobs by cutting conditions at universities (CMM yesterday)

What workers get:

* no redundancies “without a reduction of work”

* people stood down because there is no work receive 30 per cent – 50 per cent of pay indefinitely

* voluntary separations before redundancies

* continuing work down by casuals stays with casuals

* no new appointments

What they wear:
* temporary pay cuts, generally between 5 per cent and 10 per cent but first $30 000 is exempt

* hold on reclassifications, payrises and promotions

* nine day fortnights

* transfers to other duties

* reducing leave balances

How it works:

What universities can ask for depends on the size of the COVID-19 hit they have taken, based on revenue loss, and operating cash flow margins. This will be overseen by expert panels of union and management reps at both national and university levels.

What happens next:

For the NTEU, if national council endorses the deal it will go to an e-ballot of all union members. If that passes, each university management will put a proposal based on local conditions to all staff.

Workers not united

Not all the comrades are happy with the plan to cut wages and conditions

The National Tertiary Education Union’s Uni Melbourne branch leadership does not sound keen. When VC Duncan Maskell alluded to changing conditions before yesterday’s announcement, the local union leadership told members, “our branch has NOT commenced negotiations with the University on potential amendments to the Enterprise Agreement.”

“We are yet to see enough evidence that the university’s financial position is dire enough to warrant further attacks on staff wages and conditions.”

The branch said it would oppose any move to cut conditions.

Nor is the arrangement a hit with the Community and Public Sector Union, which represents support staff on campuses.

Late last month the CPSU’s NSW branch warned the NTEU that it would “actively oppose” pay cuts for the people it represents (CMM April 29). And yesterday the branch said it will oppose any campus ballot on the proposal until “obvious and less intrusive measures” are explored.

“Never before have your terms and conditions of employment, which we have developed and negotiated over many years, been under such a threat from such unusual quarters,” the union warns members.

Uni reaction

Universities Australia backs the deal negotiated by Andy Vann (Charles Sturt U) and colleagues. But on the management side what happens next depends on individual universities

Last night Universities Australia chair Deborah Terry (Curtin U) thanked the VCs, and the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association, whose ED, Stuart Andrews was part of the team.

She added that “Individual universities will now need to look at the details and decide if they will take part, based on their own unique circumstances.”

And lo, Murdoch U made that very point.

Yesterday afternoon Vice Chancellor Eeva Leinonen reiterated savings already in place and urged staff to get their leave down. As for the proposed agreement; “we are closely reviewing the detail and will advise you of our position in due course.” So what would happen if staff wanted to vote on the broad-proposal but management was opposed? Could the Fair Work Commission call-on a ballot? Sorry, no idea.

In-person classes before internationals arrive

Optimists suggest international students are on the way back. It won’t happen until there are in-person classes on campus

Education Minister Dan Tehan made the point on Radio National. “We think that one of the first things we have got to do is make sure that we have got our campuses reopened for semester two, that we have got international students, who are here in Australia, able to access teaching on university campuses, and ensuring domestic students also get access to those campuses, so they can do face-to-face tutorials or go to lectures, with social distancing protocols in place. So, that’s our priority.”

Yet more Tehan short-courses

Charles Sturt U signs-on

CMM wondered whether DE specialist CSU feared the government’s low-cost, short-courses for people unemployed by COVID-19 would eat its lunch. But the university has signed-on, announcing 14 “graduate certificates” and one “university certificate” (it’s a pathway to CSU’s course for NSW Police).

So does ANU

With grad certificates in machine learning, data engineering and three others, which all, “aim to give Australians the expertise and skills needed to succeed in our future economy.”


Peter Phillips becomes deputy chancellor of James Cook U. He has been a member of the university’s council since 2009. Mr Phillips is a Cairns banker.

David Sibbritt is the inaugural head of UTS’s School of Public Health. It’s an internal appointment.