Also ran

La Trobe did not win yesterday’s Melbourne Cup (a gallant 18th) – connections blamed reduced federal funding for higher education.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning Bret Stephenson (La Trobe U) on ghost students – you better believe they are real. It’s a new  essay in contributing editor Sally Kift’s series on what’s needed now in teaching and learning.

Macquarie U VC makes case for cuts

Dowton tells staff why savings are essential

The university is forced to make savings due to a decline in domestic and international enrolments, Vice Chancellor S Bruce Dowton explained to staff last night.

Professor Dowton pointed to:

* “a constraint” on Commonwealth supported places

* the “highly competitive” domestic postgraduate market. “We cannot expect sudden and sustained growth until new programmes have been tried, tested and gain traction and renown.”

* international student markets , which “have become very challenging and volatile”

“We are projecting enrolments in 2020 will be flat. The lack of student growth has a significant and abrupt impact on our financial health,” he writes.

Still spending: Professor Dowton also points to “significant, important and expensive long-term work” already underway including;

* renewed curriculum and pedagogy

* expanding research in “key disciplines”, nominating engineering and computer science

* “to address historic deficits and under-investment, including in our digital infrastructure and in the built environment on this remarkable campus”

Savings to come: Professor Dowton added the proposal to abolish the Faculty of Human Sciences and relocate constituent departments could save $4m-$5m a year.

And then there’s the hospital: He also acknowledges questions about the impact of Macquarie University Hospital on the university’s finances, pointing to growth in research income for the faculty it is part of, and adding, “the decision to establish the hospital was part of a bold strategy by the prior leadership team to accelerate the performance of research.”

“With the relatively recent integration of all aspects of care delivery under MQ Health, the overall performance of the hospital is on an ascendant trajectory,” Professor Dowton states.

Why it’s happening: Last week Professor Dowton advised university management that the financial plan now being changed assumed a $28.6m deficit this year, “closer to break-even” in 2020 with an operating surplus in 2021.” But that this was “based on a continuation of growth in enrolments.”

“The steps we are currently taking, along with the options being explored, are designed to place the university on a more sustainable footing. Hopefully this makes clear the need for remedial steps for the near-term financial health of the university,” he added last night.

Below: what worries staff

University press to applaud

It’s university press week, so what’s to celebrate? ANU Press is what

There was a UK report last month on academic monographs, which concluded the time is not yet be ripe for open-access to HASS monographs on-line.  But somebody forget to tell ANU Press, who has already published 850 titles, on-line – for free and with a price for printed. Guess which is better for people without a library book budget.

Claire Field on working out the new AQF


Ever had one of those moments when you pause and think … is it just me?


 I’m talking about the AQF Review’s suggested changes to qualification design.

To my mind, the review’s major failing is its application. There are major problems in VET because there is no arbiter of the relevant AQF level for each qualification. This creates significant inconsistencies, for example:

* Diploma of Business: comprises only eight units (all electives)

* Diploma of Forest and Forest Products: 15 units (six core, nine electives)

* Diploma of Hospitality Management: 28 units (13 core, 15 electives)

* Diploma of Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Engineering: (33 core units and electives worth 130 “points”).

I have examined the units in the “shorter” diplomas and they are no more complex than those in the “longer” diplomas, so that does not explain the variation, (bear in mind that each of the above qualifications can be taught in the same timeframe).

Against this backdrop, the AQF reviewers suggest a need for more flexibility in qualification design. They propose two alternatives – with different degrees of flexibility, in terms of the levels of knowledge, skills and application descriptors to be included in qualifications.

I foresee problems in implementing either model, but so far, I have not seen anyone else raise any concerns about these recommendations.  Is it just me and if so, what am I missing?

The two options are outlined on pages 30-36 of the report.

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

Macquarie U staff ask what the problem is

Opponents of the abolition of Macquarie U’s Faculty of Human Science are organising

Before Vice Chancellor Dowton’s message to staff last night, opposition to his proposed cuts was building.

There’s a lunchtime protest tomorrow and a petition circulating opposes the job losses closure will bring and asking Vice Chancellor S Bruce Dowton to convene an all-staff meeting, “and explain to us, your university community, why such a drastic proposal is required.”

Preparing for Cyber Strangelove

In an excellent example of anticipatory ass-covering for when the big hack comes the feds are suggesting universities are not doing enough to prepare for the cyberclysm

A Home Affairs discussion paper in September pointed to, “concerns about whether the education and training system is meeting the needs of the cyber security sector, (CMM September 10).

Granted, one may not want to engage ANU’s advice on cyber security, but asking Edith Cowan U might not be a bad idea.

A learned reader points to ECU’s Cyber Check Me, pop-up events for small business in the university’s catchment. ECU is also home to the Cyber Security CRC, which is tasked with “training the next generation of cyber security professionals.”

Appointments, achievements

Martina Linnenluecke (Macquarie U) and Tom Smith (Uni Queensland) (with Robert Whaley from Vanderbilt U), win one of journal giant Emerald’s 2019 author awards for “The unpaid social cost of carbon” in Accounting Research Journal.

Munjed Al Muderis is the 2020 NSW Australian of the Year. Associate Professor Al Muderis is an orthopaedic surgeon at Macquarie University Hospital

Andrew Stewart joins ANU’s Australian War College in January as the principal of the military and defence studies programme. He moves from King’s College London.

Offshore and out of mind: the alumni error to avoid

Grads overseas are way too important to forget


As of August there were 423,349 international students enrolled in Australia.

They make our campuses and communities more diverse and provide financial contributions to the institutions they attend. But they are forgotten when they graduate and return home.

Another largely forgotten group are domestic Australian students who, in an ever-increasing globalised workforce, leave Australia to pursue their dreams of making it big overseas.

And then there are transnational alumni, living and working in two or more countries on a regular basis. Think domestic and international alumni working for a multinational and travelling regularly overseas (and that can mean back to Australia); or the international alumni who have called Australia home for many years.

All these groups are out of scope for the institutions they attended and their members have lost touch, both geographically and emotionally with their university or college.

The relationship between student and alma mater is an important one, which should run well beyond graduation.

In a five-part series Dobson and Mulder explore the key elements to enhance relationships with international alumni.

Part one is in Features, here.