No harm in asking

Conor King from the Innovative Research Universities was early in applauding the Victorian Government’s $450m support package (below). “I urge the other states and territories to support their local universities in a similar way to minimise harm to education and research outcomes,” he said.

The Australian Technology Network had the same optimistic idea, “during a time when Australia is the envy the world, the states have really come to the fore. We hope to see this continue.”

There’s more in the Mail

In Campus Morning Mail Features

James Guthrie and Tom Smith for the Australian Association of University Professors say, to help casuals stay in work: first count them (all of them).

Darci Taylor (Deakin U) tips a hat to uni teachers who are meeting the on-line challenge. This week’s story in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series on what’s needed now in teaching and learning.

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

Lana Ly on researching a PhD from home.

Lin Martin asks how on-line assessment compares to in-class for professional accreditation.  Michael Sankey responds .

Dewar says the university needs staff to back cuts for jobs accord

Without the proposed union-management accord La Trobe U will require redundancies – and need to borrow to pay for them

Vice Chancellor John Dewar made the case for the accord, to trade temporary cuts in wages and conditions for job protection, in a message to staff yesterday.

His presentation to staff stated generating additional savings that reduced this year’s deficit to $10m-$15m, “will protect the rough financial equivalent of 165-300” jobs. A balanced budget could protect 235-470.

He also warned LT U will need to save a further $80m to $110m next year.

“We can guarantee there will be fewer jobs lost with the Australian University Job Protection Framework” the presentation states.

Professor Dewar is one of the four vice chancellors who negotiated the accord with the National Tertiary Education leadership.

NTEU members will vote on the proposal next week, followed by all-staff votes at universities willing to participate. La Trobe U management is the first to declare for the proposal.

As to debt, a university brief for staff reports LT U has maxed out its borrowings, to $170m and warns, “banks are being cautious about any substantial increases in the total debt of the overall university sector.”

Ship has not sailed

No classes at this college

The “Naval Shipbuilding College is a great way to get the skills needed to get your foot in the door!”, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment tweets. Not necessarily of a ship-yard.

The college was announced by Christopher Pyne as back in 2017 but has not actually trained anybody to build anything. A Senate committee inquiry in March heard it has planned workforce demand and worked on a training kit for welding. But as for actually training anybody itself, an official told Senator Patrick (Centre Alliance, SA) “the name is a slight misnomer,” (CMM March 2).

UNSW to meet with union on cuts for jobs trade-off

Jacobs reserves judgement on the accord

Vice Chancellor Ian Jacobs says the university is “carefully reviewing” the accord negotiated between a group of VCs and the National Tertiary Education Union to trade temporary reductions to wages and conditions for job protection.

Professor Jacobs tells staff management will meet with the NTEU’s campus leadership this week.

This is a big-call for Professor Jacobs, indeed for every VC. To say no  to the deal because, it “places too many constraints on their options,” as Jacobs puts it will not impress staff if that is followed by wholesale job losses.

VCs welcome Vic Gov funding

The state announces $460m worth of support for the state’s universities

There is $350m, for investments. The state will also allow $110m in payroll tax deferrals.

The state government says the investment fund is intended for “capital works, applied research and research partnerships that will boost Victoria’s productivity.”

The payroll tax deferral is so universities can, “retain as many staff as possible.”

The University of Melbourne was quick to congratulate the state’s generosity. VC Duncan Maskell said the funding will save jobs, and “will make a difference on campuses around the state.”

Professor Maskell took the opportunity to add the university is also grateful for the state government’s $45m assistance for international students, who “should not be seen in market terms. They are talented, intelligent people who learn new knowledge and skills, share great ideas and contribute to the vibrancy and success of our city and then take their new knowledge and skills to help other communities around the world.”

Deakin U was also pleased, so pleased, that it welcomed state government engagement in how the investment fund is spent. “We look forward to developing a compact with the Victorian Government to support crucial projects across our university that are in alignment with the State’s economic development priorities,” VC Iain Martin said.

Monash U was economic with its thanks, tweeting “it welcomes” the $350m fund, same for Victoria U. John Dewar (La Trobe U) said he is, “deeply grateful to the Victorian government for acknowledging the pivotal role universities play in assisting economic recovery; in educating and re-skilling the workforce and in conducting life-changing research for which we are globally recognised.”

Swinburne U VC Linda Kristjanson was also pleased that the capital fund “will create jobs and stimulate the economy,” while the payroll tax deferral will “give universities much needed cash-flow during this time of crisis.”

The long road back to campus

It’s orientation day at Bond U, wherever students are

“You might not be on campus yet, but you are now officially part of the Bond community,’ BU assures new students. They really mean it – today’s on-line official welcome is compulsory.

Uni Adelaide classes coming back, a bit

In-person classes start Monday, “in a very limited number of courses” – but only for people who want to be on campus. “Alternative arrangements will be made for students who cannot or will not want to attend those activities.”  The university says it, “is working toward a more extensive resumption of face-to-face teaching” for second semester.

Macquarie U calls in selected staff

Staff in priority areas” will return Monday. “You should remain working from home unless your manager has advised you that you are permitted to return to work on campus,” Vice Chancellor S Bruce Dowton tells staff. This first of three-stages of bringing staff back will run for a month. The Library re-opens Monday, “on a limited basis”.

Uni SA leaves lectures on-line for all of 2020

But on-campus tutorials start on June 15, with “appropriate” protocols in place. Studios and pracs not now on campus also return then. Exams for study periods two and three will be on-line, with an extra hour to complete. (No such luck for always on-line students).

Be assured, says Claire Field, ASQA still has sanctions


Self-assurance does not mean “no assurance”

Regular CMM readers will know I have a surprisingly positive view of the ASQA Rapid Review (CMM May 6)

However, I have started to hear concerns that the Review’s focus on “RTO self-assurance”, as well as on ASQA taking an educative approach, will lead to quality problems.

To my mind, that is a misunderstanding of the Review’s recommendations.

In short:

* self-assurance does not mean “no assurance” by ASQA – instead it means a regulatory approach which tests how well providers self-monitor and manage their operations, and

* an educative approach does not mean ASQA will not impose regulatory sanctions.

As the architect of the Australian VET system, Terry Moran, stated in his 2018 Capability Review of TAFE SA, “more emphasis and resources should be applied to developing professional educators in capable training organisations within a strategically-led national system. It is therefore imperative that the VET system moves quickly towards a new style of regulation, directed towards the professional capability of RTOs, rather than a deadening attempt to micro-manage delivery in a highly prescriptive manner.”

TEQSA’s regulatory approach and that of the New Zealand tertiary education regulator (the NZQA) were examined in the Rapid Review. Both regulators are more transparent than ASQA and both also operate regulatory systems which reward providers which have strong internal systems and organisational capability – and take action against weaker providers.

The recommendations of the Rapid Review will enable ASQA to do the same.

With respect to this new approach the Reviewers noted, “while this supports a more proportionate response (and encourages self-reflection and return to compliance by the majority of genuine and willing providers) ASQA still needs to retain its capacity to take significant and immediate action in the event that providers are not genuine or otherwise represent a significant risk to the achievement of VET outcomes.”

 Claire Field advises on VET, international education and private higher education


Annabelle Bennett has a second term as Bond U chancellor

Keeping cyber-campus safe

The Commonwealth’s eSafety Commissioner creates a new on-line safety resource for universities and their students

With just about all 1.4m students learning on-line during the present pandemic it’s well timed to meet an immediate need. The agency reports a 200 per cent year on year increase in complaints of image-based abuse in March-April, just as study started.

The new Toolkit for Universities is a collaboration with Universities Australia and includes resources for staff and students, including dealing with cyber abuse and using videoconferencing. There is also a range of governance resources for university managers and academics on cyber-safe policies and practises.

The kit is released this morning,  here.