La Trobe’s reasonable retrenchments

Black holes

According to Science Alert, “new theory suggests that two parallel universes were produced by the Big Bang.” Everybody who watches TV already knows that, what with Big Bang Theory being on pay and free to air networks simultaneously.

Less than fair share

Paul Koshy and Richard Seymour have updated their equity enrolment analysis to include 2013 for Curtin University’s National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education. Overall the results are mixed. Total domestic undergraduate enrolments grew by 140 000 or 26 per cent to 668,000 between 2007 and 2013. Some equity groups grew faster, notably low SES (37 per cent), students with a disability (57 per cent), indigenous students (45 per cent) and NESB (36 per cent). But before Canberra thinks equity cash is no longer needed the authors suggest some of the growth is really not that great. For example, they argue an “equal share” of enrolments for students from low SES backgrounds is 25 per cent, but the quartile only grew from 16 per cent or so in 2009 to 17.6 per cent last year. And while growth has occurred across the system low SES students are not comparably represented across the various university groups, ranging from 11 per cent in Group of Eight institutions to 30 per cent in members of the Regional Universities Network.

ANU tap into

Back in June the feds were promising $700m across the forward estimates (to 2018) for the Higher Education Participation Programme (separate to student fee funded scholarships) under Deregulation MkI. Who knows what will finally roll out under Deregulation MkII, but you have to hope that this sort of money buys more than a 1.6 per increase in low SES enrolments.

Individual expenditure

Productivity Commission research released this morning finds all-government expenditure on tertiary education for indigenous Australians was $1099 per person in 2012-13. The comparable figure for all other Australians was $894.

Price of fame

UTS is pleased that ratings agency QS has renewed the university’s five stars overall and awarded it five in all eight assessed categories. The university does not report that institutions participating in the QS stars process pay the agency $30 000 for an audit and a three year licence.

Out of the man cave

Universities and industry groups are always encouraging young women to become engineers – and over the last 20 years many have listened, with female engineering graduates increasing by a third. Problem is the number of them in the workforce actually fell by 0.7 per cent, to a tenth of the profession’s workforce over the same approximate period. (CMM November 18). One of the issues is that work gets in the way of family – another is that women don’t enjoy workplace cultures that are planet bloke. Two findings on STEM entrepreneurs from the US Small Business Administration make the point. The first is obvious. Kids “significantly and substantially decrease women’s near-term patenting and entrepreneurship, with no similar effect for men.” But the other makes the point about culture; female STEM professionals who establish their own business or join entrepreneurial firms do it less for family friendly employment, “than to improve their working conditions. Female STEM PhDs value the independence of self-employment more than their male counterparts.”

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Gras ist immer grüner

A high-powered German delegation is in Australia as party of a technology exchange agreement – and yes I am sure that is the real reason – they are hardly here for the cricket. The problem is that while the Germans are cashed-up and keen to get things moving the Australian side is light on for proposals. But not to worry, everybody is envious of the other country’s ideas about how to work with industry. Some of the Australians are impressed by an emerging German 15 year funding model, with researchers reviewed every five years by an industry panel. And Germany’s Fraunhofer research hub scheme inspired the British Catapult Programme, which the Industry Department is said to admire. In return, the Germans like the look of the CRC programme (now under review) and the Monash platform scheme, “core facilities and capabilities that provide high-quality specialist research services.” As the old proverb puts it …

 Swinburne’s cyber strategy

Swinburne University is setting up to invest in voced next year, just not in a way that will thrill the new Victorian government, which is keen to see students on the university’s former Lilydale campus. Swinburne has made it clear that it will help any organisation that wants to open up there – but that’s it. This does not mean the university has lost interest in training – far from it. In her end of year message Vice Chancellor Linda Kristjanson mentioned “some significant opportunities for us to grow in the online VET space.” I’m guessing that will occur through specialist subsidiary Swinburne Online, where staff are not all as bolshie as some on campus.


Campion head to go

With 90 students Campion College Australia does not have a high profile but the “authentically Catholic institution, whose mission is to develop the Catholic mind and character,” has a strong academic profile, teaching history, science, philosophy, theology and Latin. All its academics have doctorates and president Ryan Messmore has two degrees from Duke, a masters from Cambridge and a DLitt from Oxford. He joined Campion in December 2012 from self-described “conservative” Washington think tank the Heritage Foundation, where he worked for seven years. But Dr Messmore leaves Campion next week and friends of the institution wonder why, in particular whether it followed a disagreement with the board. A courteous but firm “no comment” was Dr Messmore’s only response when I asked him yesterday. The college is governed by an institute chaired by Joe de Bruyn, recently retired national secretary of the shop workers union.

Rotten rate

The National Centre for Vocational Education Research re-announces good news, sort of, “91.4 per cent of trade apprenticeship or traineeship graduates are employed after training.” Um, so 8.6 per cent are either out of the workforce are unemployed. Even with overall unemployment at a 14 year high, 6.3 per cent according to the ABS yesterday, this is a terrible result.

Peace in their time

Unlikely as it sounds peace may now prevail between La Trobe and the National Tertiary Education Union, with the union having running out of courts to complain to. Ever since the university announced compulsory redundancies in its restructure plan back in 1618 the union has protested on campus and argued in the courts. Having lost a last ditch claim in Fair Work Australia the union went to the Federal Court, arguing that management had not met the “reasonable” test in clause 74 of the new enterprise agreement in the measures it took to avoid retrenching staff who do not want to go. Where it lost again. For anybody who likes this sort of thing the judgement is here.

Life begins at 40

Most university media teams will happily announced the VC has noticed what day it is but Deakin turned 40 and graduated its 200 000 students this week without sounding guns and trumpets, at least that I heard. They should have –it’s a hell of achievement and one which might be the saving of Geelong.


Exports bounce back

Australia was hosting 563 000 full-fee paying international students in October, up 12 per cent on last year’s figure. Even better, commencements were up 17 per cent to 327 000. There was growth in all major markets, with China, which accounts for a quarter of all overseas fee-payers up nearly 9 per cent and the Indian market roaring back, with close to a 30 per cent increase. Higher education accounted for 43 per cent of enrolments and 32 per cent of commencements, with VET and English language colleges splitting most of the remainder.