There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on access and equity to post school education – expanding and funding access has got better over time. And now there’s a new challenge.

Plus, where there’s WIL there’s a way towards graduate-level jobs for new uni completers. Denise Jackson (Edith Cowan U) and Anna Rowe (UNSW) on outcomes of work integrated learning. It’s a new selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning

Margins of safety: the 2021 international fee drops unis could cope with

In Features this morning Frank Larkins and Ian Marshman estimate public uni income streams and how institutions would cope with a decline in international student fee results for this year. (Looking good ANU)

They base their prediction on investment income returning to 2019 levels, the known distribution of the federal government’s $1bn in emergency funding for research and a 5 per cent rise in government grant income, HECs payments and related income streams.

With such income lifts the system as a whole could absorb a drop in fee and charge income (mainly earnings from international students) and still match 2020 income. The system-wide buffer is 30 per cent.

This completes a CMM trilogy by the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education pair.

Their analysis of the states and institutions which took the hardest pandemic hits is here.

And last week they analysed 2020 financials and concluded the worst could be over.


Labor’s education election promise: more student places

There are 20 000 more undergraduate places but the main message is “Free TAFE”

 “Australians studying in an industry with a skills shortage will be supported through the provision of free TAFE,” Labor leader Anthony Albanese announced yesterday.

Under the plan there will be 465 000 “free TAFE places” including 45 000 “new places”.  There will also be a $50m TAFE technology fund “to improve IT facilities. And when Labor refers to TAFE it means exactly that – state government public providers.

Plus. there is $480m across the forward estimates for 20 000 university places, allocated across 2022-23.

Funding will be allocated to universities that, can provide additional places in priority/skill shortage occupations, target first in family and equity groups and where there is demand.

Reaction: The National Tertiary Education welcomed the commitment, just not enthusiastically.“Further funding is always appreciated, however if its purpose is to secure the recovery of the higher education sector … it must match the scale of the destruction.”

The Group of Eight, called the statement “a down payment on meeting skills needs in priority areas,” but warned, “redirecting funding from other disciplines to high need areas is not the answer – we do need additional places to boost our domestic capability.”

And Universities Australia chair John Dewar (La Trobe) wanted to know more.  “When Government invests in our universities, it invests in the future prosperity of us all. We look forward to when further details on this policy are made available.”

But the Australian Technology Network was explicit in endorsing more student places in both university and TAFE, calling Labor’s “a strategy for growth and prosperity

“ ATN has long advocated for a tertiary education system that prepares Australians from all backgrounds with the skills and capabilities they need to succeed.”

The Regional Universities Network also enthused, saying Labor’s announcement, “would enable regional universities to meet increasing levels … of demand.”

And the biggest winner of the day was loudest in support. The Australian Education Union, which represents TAFE teachers, said Mr Albanese’s statement, means, “life changing opportunities for TAFE students.”

“Labor’s commitments will ensure TAFE teachers have the resources they need to deliver high quality vocational education and that students have the skills they need to get a secure job.”

Australian Catholic U plans to open up

75 per cent plus of classes are scheduled for campus next semester

According to COO Stephen Weller, “we are confident that there will be a lower level of restrictions across all of our campuses,” next year.

Dr Weller adds “facilities and services such as libraries, gyms, track, and cafes” are scheduled for normal operations, good news for all, including those who like a coffee after sprint-training.

But what of the other 25 per cent of classes?  ACU observers suggest that this is not a new plan to scale-back live in-person lectures. Prior pandemic half of lectures were consumed on-line, which accounted for 15 per cent of on-line activity.  Another 10 per cent now is students taking core subjects on-line.

Overall optimism prevails at ACU – face masks will not be mandatory, indoor density limits are reduced and the university has not made its own ruling on mandatory vaccination, “if you are not yet vaccinated, you need to check and comply with the public health orders in your state or territory.”

But, there is an inevitable but, “any changes to our approach will be advised by public health orders.” ACU has no Perth campus, but there is one in Brisbane.


Australian Research Council urged to consult … researchers

Physics researchers took the hit in the ARC pre-print shambles. Their discipline peak calls on the council to ensure there is no repeat

The obscure ban (in terms of need and researcher awareness) on pre-print citations in funding applications led to 32, almost all in physics-disciplines being thrown-out by the Australian Research Council. And now after an uproar the ARC has backed down (CMM Friday).

Whicb is what the Australian Institute of Physics wanted. As president Sven Rogge and his NSW colleague Nicholas Fisk explained IN CMM, citing of pre-prints in the physical sciences “is not only common practice but failure to do so can be considered unethical, (CMM August 31,  here ).

And now Professor Rogge welcomes the ARC dropping the ban and funding some of the originally excluded applicants.  “It is very late, but it is fair. I am thrilled since I know that some of these newly announced fellowships will change the career paths of fantastic upcoming scientists. I expect that the ARC will also apply the same framework to all the grant rounds that are not yet announced. These need to be announced as soon as possible to provide certainly to the researchers involved.”

And he suggests what should happen from now is continuing consultations with researchers, or their organisations.

“The AIP is looking forward to working with the ARC on reforms to ensure better consultation and transparency. We hope to avoid a single discipline, especially its early career researchers, being impacted so severely.”

It would make a change. As ARC chair Sue Thomas told a Senate committee asking how the ban happened, “we did not consult on it, we were not consulting universities on every mortal thing in 2020, which was probably the most extraordinary year of our lives,” (CMM November 1).

TEQSA’s happy place: it’s not crowded

The Australian Public Service staff census is out – there are results worse than last year

The May-June survey records an overall “employee engagement score” of 66 per cent, a touch down on the previous census, but 9 per cent lower on the all regulatory agencies result and 8 per cent below the combined figure for “extra small-sized” ones.

Across the board, there are many way worse results from last year, when esprit de corps appeared improving (CMM July 22).

Now, just a third of staff would recommend their agency as a good place to work, (39 per cent below the all-regulatory agency figure).

The irony is at a team-level esprit de corps is excellent. Staff believe in their mission, 79 per cent are committed to agency goals, relationship with immediate supervisors score in the 70s, results are generally within 10 per cent of the similar agency average.

So, what’s the problem?


While supervisors score 74 per cent for effective communication, top management rates 27 per cent for delivering word from on-high. And senior executives really should do a better job of pretending to get on. Just 27 per cent of survey responders think the leadership “works as a team.”

Chief Executive Officer Alistair Maclean states the survey took place “while the agency was also engaged in an extensive consultation about how we can strengthen our workplace culture and foster a working environment that supports all our staff to achieve their best.”

Longer summer holiday at Monash U

Maybe management is keen to reduce its leave liability – offering staff two “bonus leave” days in return for taking annual holidays over the summer

The university kept working right through the pandemic and with nowhere to go and nothing to do in Melbourne lockdowns, learned readers suggest a lot leave would not have been taken.

This is the second set of days off the university has granted. In September, on-going and fixed term staff got the Monday and Tuesday, after the state Grand Final long weekend, as university holidays, with no need take any leave, (CMM August 30).

To qualify for the new offer, people need to book-in and take ten days (ex public holidays) in January (pro-rata) for PT staff). Those that do will get December 21 and 22 off as uni-paid leave.  Staff who must work then can take the two days in April during semester breaks.

Engagement Australia awards

The 2021 honours are for university community-building and economic-advancement initiatives

Community engagement: Uni Sunshine Coast and Alliance for Suicide Prevention

Indigenous engagement: Uni Queensland for tele-health access to specialist health services for Indigenous Australians

Industry engagement: Monash U and energy company Woodside for workforce development

Research impact: * Edith Cowan U and State Library WA’s family literacy programme

* Flinders U and NT Department of Health for remote community pathology testing

Student engagement: * Uni New England: student workers in schools

Alumni engagement: CQU micro-volunteer programme

Leadership: John Thwaites (Monash U)

The Engagement Australia awards continue the work of the former Business Higher Education Round Table

Appointments, achievements

Adam Bridgeman becomes interim DVC E at Uni Sydney, during recruiting to replace Pip Pattison who retires this month. Professor Bridgeman’s substantive position is PVC Education Innovation. His role will be covered by Danny Liu, as Academic Director (EI).

Gayle Milnes will become the National Data Commissioner when necessary legislation passes federal parliament. Ms Milnes is a senior federal bureaucrat. The commissioner regulates access to national government data.

Garry Stewart (Flinders U) is honoured for lifetime achievement at the SA Government’s Ruby Awards, (for “arts and culture”).

Newish Victoria U VC Adam Shoemaker must be close to having his team in place. From next month Peter Radoll will be DVC People and Organisation at Victoria U. He moves from PVC Indigenous at Uni Canberra.  Andrew Hill also joins in January, moving from La Trobe U to become DVC Research and Impact.

Women in STEMM Australia announces two co-chairs, Madhu Bhaskaran (RMIT) and Sarah Chapman, a teacher in Cairns.