They’re just saying at JCU

“There’s a buzz in the air at James Cook U’s Bebegu Yumba campus as new and returning students arrive for their first week of studies in Semester Two,” JCU statement yesterday.

As in arrive on-campus, in-person in the no-lockdown north.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

James Harland (RMIT) on the on-line lab. It will never replace the real thing but it adds to the learning mix. This week’s addition to Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

James Guthrie (Macquarie U) analysed the University of Tasmania’s financial statements – here’s what he found.

Right research message from tech unis

The Australian Technology Network announces “Frontiers” a new resource, “to transform Australia’s next generation of PhD and Research Masters students into industry leaders”

ATN says it is a free programme for it members’ postgraduates, covering entrepreneurship, engaging with industry and data analytics. There will be courses and classes and big-picture summits.

Good for HDR students and good for ATN, which recognises that the times suit it, that its applied technology focus is what the government thinks research should be about.

And Education Minister Alan Tudge likes it a lot, “it does what we are trying to achieve and that is to give some of the PhD students some of those real practical skills to help them better engage with industry, to further their careers and make a real impact. This is one of my top priorities.”

Labor shadow Tanya Plibersek agrees, up to a point, “the practical skills gained will be crucial to building Australia’s research capacity now and into the future,” she says.

New RMIT VC: he’s going to feel at home

Alec Cameron (ex UNSW and UWA) will return from Aston U in the UK

It’s a step-up in size for Professor Cameron, Aston U has little more than a tenth the students of 100 000-strong RMIT. But like RMIT, Aston is big in bized and STEM strong – its planning to get stronger. In April Aston U proposed dropping history and languages.

Aston is also a goodish-fit with dual sector RMIT, “having pioneered” degree-apprenticeships in the UK.

Ante-Aston, Professor Cameron was a DVC at UWA which he joined in 2013, from UNSW where he was dean of business and DVC R. While at UWA he was briefly famous for putting a price ($16 000 pa) on what degrees there would cost if the Pyne plan to deregulate fees had happened (CMM October 14 2014).

Like RMIT predecessor Martin Bean, Professor Cameron is keen on on-line. At UWA his portfolio developed the 2014 Education Futures Plan, which committed staff to, “provide students with a wide range of blended learning experiences through the use of various learning technologies.” Routine now but radical enough then to upset staff, who complained it emphasised digital teaching over professional development for in-person classes CMM September 18 2015).

At Aston, Professor Cameron is big on partnerships, signing on with US services provider Keypath for it to supply research, marketing, student recruitment and support for on-line graduate business degrees (CMM July 21 2017). More masters were added last year.

RMIT says his appointment follows a “global recruitment programme over many months.”  Professor Bean’s departure was announced at the beginning of March, effective last month. Until Professor Cameron arrives early 2022 COO Dionne Higgins continues to act.

Mission (not entirely) impossible: how uni mergers can happen

In CMM yesterday Inga Davis demonstrated how hard it can be, using UK and US examples. But mergers aren’t always impossible.

This morning she asks an architect of the celebrated Manchester merger how it happened. Taking egos out is important, a visionary leader from outside really helps. And give the different campus communities a say in the new name (once all the key decisions are made).

Anybody in South Australia want to have another go? Take notes.

Claire Field wonders why NSW does less with more in VET


 Why is the NSW VET system not supplying the required numbers of graduates the state economy needs?

The National Skills Commission is to be congratulated for their new Skills Priority List covering occupations requiring both higher education and VET qualifications.

The annual list is intended to be “a key input to a range of Australian Government policy initiatives, including targeting of skilled migration, apprenticeship incentives and training funding.”

Definitely worth a read if you are involved in planning the future delivery profile of your institution.

It is the state-territory differences which really caught my eye.

While there are a range of occupations experiencing national shortages – there are some stark differences between the three large east coast states.

The NSC’s analysis shows 17 occupations requiring VET qualifications are currently in shortage in NSW and will have strong future demand; worryingly many are in community services.

In contrast, Victoria has only three occupations in shortage with strong future demand, while Queensland has just one (and that shortage is only in regional Queensland).

Why is the NSW VET system not supplying the required numbers of graduates the state economy needs?

NSW invested almost $400m more in VET between 2017 and 2019 (the latest NCVER data). By contrast, the Victorian government reduced investment by $24m and the Queensland government funded a modest $22m increase.

Perhaps the issue then is less the quantum of funding, than where it being spent?

Although Victoria and Queensland are shifting their VET investment from independent providers to TAFE Institutes and dual-sector universities, they currently still provide much higher levels of funding to non-TAFE providers than NSW.

In 2019, 80 per cent of VET funding in NSW went to TAFE NSW. By contrast TAFEs and dual sector universities received 68 percent of Victorian VET funding and only 59 percent in Queensland.

Would more funding to non-TAFE providers allow NSW to address its VET skills gaps, or is something else driving the shortages?

 Last year on the ‘What now? What next?’ podcast Claire Field spoke to Dr Don Zoellner about the limits and challenges of a ‘market-based’ VET funding model. Listen here

All politics is local

Government backbencher Rick Wilson announces “more tertiary opportunities for regional students in Albany”

It’s a federally funded resource centre in southwest WA “for students to access tertiary education and training close to home.”

This is a good-news natural for a government member to share with Education Minister Alan Tudge. And there used to be more like it. For a while when Dan Tehan was in the portfolio government backbenchers got to announce research funding on their patch (CMM yesterday).

But that seems to have stopped. This is not great for higher education – which needs friends on the coalition backbench. There is no better way to make them than funding announcements in their electorates.

Achievement, exit

Nicole Brigg will leave Macquarie U in early September. The PVC International departs after eight years, to become COO of a “national network of skin cancer centres,” which she tells colleagues is, “on a strong growth trajectory.”

Jeannette Taylor (UWA) wins the Sam Richardson Award for the most influential paper published in the Australian Journal of Public Administration. Aspro Taylor is awarded for her paper on whistle-blowing in the Australian Public Service.