Splitting the difference

The Higher Education Support Legislation Amendment (Student Loan Sustainability) Bill 2018 was in the Senate yesterday with Senator Derryn Hinch proposing an amendment to increase the repayment threshold from $44,999 to $50 000. Perhaps in the interests of balance Senator Pauline Hanson offered an alternative, reducing the starting income for repayments to $29 999. Even if they split the difference graduates are better off with the government’s proposal. But nothing will happen now until the Budget session, the Senate ran out of time before it got to the bill.

Finally, an agreement at Murdoch U

Some 95 per cent of Murdoch University staff have endorsed the enterprise agreement proposed jointly by university management and the National Tertiary Education Union. And if you think that sounds like a poll of Pyongyang proportions it isn’t. As much as staff satisfaction with the deal the vote reflects a universal desire for an end to a long, very long, dispute.

Back in June 2016 CMM suggested, “it’s not that the two sides aren’t on the same page. They aren’t reading from the same book,” this turned out to set the scene for months of conflict. For a while enterprise bargaining at Murdoch U was a national proxy for a dispute between managements that wanted to simplify industrial terms and conditions and the union that wanted codified rights and protections to continue. This dispute continued at Murdoch long after other managements decided to settle.

Yesterday Murdoch’s Chief Operating Officer Darren McKee said the agreement, “delivers us all the certainty and the flexibility we require to underpin our continued growth. We look forward to continuing to work together to secure a strong future.’

That should fix everything

“An estimated 25 million children in Pakistan don’t go to school. To change this, … a Master of Education graduate is working to promote teaching methods, equal educational opportunities and the love of learning, University of Sydney Arts and Social Sciences, via Twitter yesterday.

First new CRC announced, more news to come, just slowly

The first successful CRC round 19 bid was announced yesterday. The MinEx CRC has $50m in federal funding (plus $165m in cash and kind from partners) for minerals exploration research. The award was jointly announced by assistant minister for science and innovation Zed Seselja and resources minister Matt Canavan.

News on the other winners wait for days when both a funding agency minister and one from the portfolio involved can make a joint announcement. This might take some time.

UTas expands Hobart housing to meet unmet demand

The University of Tasmania will spend $50m building accommodation for 450 students, just blocks back from the Hobart waterfront. New vice chancellor Rufus Black announced the project yesterday. The development will be a built by a private investor and operated by the university, with rooms rented at standard UTas rates.  It is expected to house an even mix of domestic and international students.

Professor Black added the university would also find 200 beds for second semester this year, there are believed to be 150 students on the UTas accommodation wait list.

There is a housing shortage in Hobart caused by an extraordinary spurt of growth since 2016, including a rise in international student numbers and overall population now increasing at twice the recent rate. Residential vacancies are estimated by the university’s Institute for the Study of Social Change to be at an “historic low” of 0.3 percent.

Professor Black’s announcement came as local federal MP Andrew Wilkie (Ind-Denison) asked the PM for housing help for Tasmania in Question Time.

Cyber thieves foiled at UofQ

In the US, nine Iranians are charged with “a coordinated campaign of cyber intrusions into computer systems”. Australian universities are among the hundreds of higher education institutions targeted. But which ones? The US Department of Justice is not saying but given the Iranians allegedly sought to steal IP unis with big research reps are the obvious targets.

Like the University of Queensland; “we believe that UQ may have been a target of this group on several occasions over the past few years,” Chief Information Officer Robert Moffatt said yesterday.

But despite making off with what the DoJ says is 31 terabytes of data and documents it seems that the cyber thieves were neither ambitious or effective. “Their activities centred around the attempted theft of academic journals through the library journal subscription service and not the attempted theft of UQ research data.”

“All incidents that we suspect may have been attributable to the Iranian group were low key and quickly dealt with,” Mr Moffatt says.

The Murray Darling debate rolls on

Andrew Gee (Nats-Calare) was on his feet in the Reps yesterday, making the case, again, for the Murray Darling Medical School. Country people are tired of “patronising city lobbyists” rejecting the need for more doctors in the country the MDMS would deliver, he argued. Mr Gee is right about the lobbying, universities whose medical schools run regional training programmes regularly explain to officials what they can accomplish and why the Charles Sturt and La Trobe U proposed MDMS is not needed. This is tricky for deputy Nationals leader and minister for rural health, Bridget McKenzie. The MDMS is loved in National Party seats but if it gets up the established medical schools in NSW and Victoria will be furious and the MDMS proposal, around well before the two rivers ever flowed, has not been popular in the past with Finance and Treasury. Whatever happens in the budget people will be upset with Senator McKenzie for a decision she may, or may not, like but is stuck with selling.

The 4.1m jobs people will need to prepare for

There will be 4.1m jobs for Australians to fill over the next seven years, with strongest availability in professional (973 000) and management (570 000) positions. Some 54 per cent of the jobs will be those of people leaving the workforce.

The estimate is in scenarios presented in new research by Chandra Shah and Janine Dixon from Victoria U for the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research, using the VU dynamic computational general equilibrium model.

They suggest an occupational shift away from sales and towards professionals. The structure of industries will favour professional, scientific and technical services, health care and social assistance and manufacturing (ex vehicles) with lesser roles for construction, retail trade and public administration and safety.

“The experience of many countries suggests that labour market forecasts can form a basis for intelligent and informed debate, as well as support better matching of education and training with jobs,” Shah and Dixon propose.

The authors project ten occupations with the highest net gains and losses in jobs

Where the work will be (in descending order of growth): tertiary education teachers, accountants and auditors, analysts and programmers, engineers, architects and surveyors, sales, marketing and PR people, legal professionals, advertising and sales managers, fabrication engineering trades, mechanical engineering trades

Fields with falling demand (from best to worse): defence, policy and firefighting personnel, checkout operators, social and welfare professionals, health and welfare support workers, retail managers, child carers, school teachers, midwifes and nurses, personal carers, sales workers.

Curtin U names new distinguished professors

Curtin University has announced nine new John Curtin distinguished professors. From Science and Engineering they are, Teri Balser; Phil Bland; Victor Calo; Neil Foster; and Shaobin Wang. From Health Sciences, Michael Berndt, Simone Pettigrew and Christopher Reid. Mark Harris from Business and Law is also elevated.

McWha steps up again

Across the ditch, Robin Pollard has resigned as VC of Lincoln University, after just two years. Professor Pollard is a former head of what was once Monash U’s Gippsland campus. He is replaced by Lincoln’s pro-chancellor, the indefatigable James McWha. Professor McWha is experienced in stepping into sensitive situations. When Mary O’Kane resigned at short notice at the University of Adelaide in 2001, Cliff Blake (ex CSU) became interim VC, before McWha took on the substantive role and ended up staying there for a decade  This time however the appointment is only to December.

Lincoln U has not been especially well-regarded by the NZ university regulator, which reported last year, (CMM February 17 2017); ““because of its small size and the consequentially smaller pool of staff, Lincoln might be challenged to cover the full range of academic leadership roles which is normal for a university of any size. Similarly, the need to encompass a breadth of responsibilities within single roles might lead or have led to a dilution of impact in particular areas.”

Reasons why Professor McWha will not hang around beyond Christmas seems clear

Less Chinese whispers more shouting match: Scholars split on what the CCP is up to

What is Beijing up to?: A second ground group of China scholars has entered the debate on the government’s proposed foreign interference legislation, stating they are “deeply concerned by a number of well-documented reports about the Chinese Communist Party’s interference in Australia” and that “an open debate on the activities of the Chinese Communist Party in this country is essential to intellectual freedom, democratic rights and national security.”

Scholar’s split: This new statement from “Scholars of China, the Chinese diaspora, China-Australian relations, and Australia’s relations with Asia” is a response to a submission on the bill from 31 “scholars of China and the Chinese diaspora” that states they; “see no evidence … that China is exporting its political system to Australia, or that its actions aim at compromising our sovereignty,” (CMM Monday).

However, the new group warns, government and community, “must remain vigilant” against, espionage by “Chinese officials or their proxies,” interference with Chinese-language media in Australia, monitoring of Chinese students and “covert organisation” of political rallies by the Chinese Government.

“Should the CCP’s operations of interference be allowed to continue in Australia, they will fuel divisiveness between Chinese communities and other Australians, weaken the Australian government’s ability to communicate with Chinese communities and harm the democratic rights of Chinese Australians.”

Signatories include, Rory Medcalf, head of the ANU National Security College, who wrote in an earlier personal submission to the inquiry; “it is a fundamental test of Australian social inclusiveness, cohesion, equity and democracy that we ensure all in this country have freedom of expression, freedom from fear, and protection from untoward intervention by a foreign power.”

But not everybody is alarmed:  Funnily enough universities with Confucius Institutes don’t have much to say about the debate. For years now US academics have questioned the role of CI’s, with the American Association of University Professors, warning in 2014 that CIs are arms of the Chinese state (CMM June 25 2014). When CMM asked Australian universities with CIs what they thought of this back then none responded.

The new letter from China scholars also urges vigilance against the Chinese government’s; “cultivation of prominent Australians in attempts to sway public and elite opinion.”

Gosh,  who do you reckon they they mean by that?

CMM is taking Easter off

Next issue on Tuesday. Have a good break.