the city slides on international student best city rating

plus why the new VET student loan system is a mess in the making

and friendless EIF: it’s not looking good for dedicated federal facilities financing


Love the one you’re with

“How do polyamorous people celebrate Valentines?” Macquarie U’s Niko Antalffy asked yesterday, via Twitter. Diplomatically, CMM suggests.

More to learn in Melbourne

The UK Higher Education Academy and consultants Ranmore are leading an Australian tour of universities in Melbourne and Sydney this week. The Melbourne schedule included UniMelb, Monash, Deakin and La Trobe, plus the Melbourne Polytechnic. However, it will be slimmer pickings in Sydney tomorrow with a trip out to Western Sydney U and then east to UNSW taking up a day with visits to Torrens U and Top Institute scheduled for Friday.

While here the HEA is setting up an advisory board presumably to expand its local base, it has 700 ANZAC fellows already.

Off to no start

Cairns Campus is closed this morning due to power outage. O Week activities will be rescheduled,” James Cook U, via Twitter yesterday.

Very distinguished fellow

The University of Melbourne and King’s College London have appointed Bronwyn King their inaugural Joint Distinguished Fellow in Australian Studies. Dr King is a radiation oncologist and “an acknowledged leader in the fight against big tobacco investment.” She will research in Melbourne and London.

Where the jobs will/won’/t be

Warning that universities are pumping out too many teachers look overblown given Department of Employment data, which projects a ten per cent increase in demand for school teachers through to 2020. But for all the talk about the importance of scientific research, DoE says demand for researchers will grow by just 1.9 per cent. However, that’s a boom compared to demand for journalism graduates who want to work in newspapers (oh come on, you remember newspapers) where employment growth will grow 0.1 per cent. And for anybody who thinks the media jobs will all be online, employment in internet publishing and broadcasting will stay where it is now, at 900. (Yes, it seems low to CMM as well).

Cheaper checking

The ABC is relaunching its fact check unit, this time in partnership with RMIT. The service was closed last year to save money. But it should be cheaper this time round, based in RMIT facilities and using journalism students and alumni as interns.

Hon doc for diplomat

Former diplomat and Kevin Rudd staffer, Philip Green (you needed the skills of the former to work with the latter) has picked up his second honorary doctorate in 12 months. In August he received an hon doc from James Cook University (CMM August 2 2016) and now Murdoch University has awarded him one.

Few friends for EIF

Universities Australia warns that closing the Education Investment Fund will, “end the last remaining federal program dedicated to financing university buildings and infrastructure” and yesterday released a long list of the projects the EIF has already paid for. It follows a UA announcement with CQU of what the fund has accomplished in regional Queensland (CMM Monday).

But while Labor research spokesman Kim Carr says there is no policy case for closing the EIF other people in politics weren’t commenting yesterday. Opposition attention was focused on the government’s omnibus welfare savings proposal, intended to free up $3bn for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, (the government says some of the remaining $3.7bn in the EIF is supposed to go to the NDIS). Perhaps this is because childcare trumps university infrastructure as an issue, unless it is because Labor wants to stay quiet about the EIF as honeypot. Back in 2009 then ministers Kim Carr and Julia Gillard allocated $400m from the EIF to pay for research-infrastructure “related to the Clean Air initiative” and a further $250m for “climate change and sustainability initiatives” in VET, higher education and research institutes.

Location location

Whatever is marvellous about Melbourne isn’t as much as it was, with the city slipping from two to five on the QS rating of best student cities, released this morning. But that is a bunch better than Adelaide, down from 26 last year to 44 now and Perth which was 35 and is now 50. The other Australian cities on the list are all down as well, Sydney from four to 13, Brisbane dropping from 18 to 20, Canberra slipping from 17 to 22 and the Gold Coast declining from 69 to 78. QS says the drop is due to increases in the cost of living. The cost of housing probably has a bunch to do with this but it looks like a case of people getting what they are prepared to pay for. The QS survey has Sydney at number two in the world as a desirable place to live and Melbourne fifth.

Too quickly created

The first comprehensive analysis of the new VET student loan scheme finds it is “under-developed” and introduced without proper planning. In a scathing analysis of the scheme’s fee system, for the L H Martin Institute, Mark Warburton argues, it “was rushed though the parliament on a wave of public outrage about the rorting of VET FEE-HELP. The old scheme was voted out with little understanding of what the new one might bring in.”

Without “substantial changes” “there will be problems administering the scheme and VET providers and students will be confused and have difficulties understanding and using it” the expert in large-scale government benefit programmes warns.

Mr Warburton presents an omnibus of anomalies and ambiguities on how the new system will effect students and providers, problems that may not exist if the legislation was drafted over the 18 months he suggests legislation like this needs to be properly drafted.

Overall he concludes the scheme’s operation depends on the secretary of the Department of Education’ “extraordinary” discretionary powers. “The objective of ensuring that the department has power to control providers has overridden almost every other consideration. It certainly overrode the development of a coherent scheme and any guarantee of fairness for students and consistency of outcomes for providers.”