Monash VC on lock-downs: “here comes the rain again”

“Australian students do not have a better education from being separated from the perspectives and experiences of other nations and cultures – or seeing them through a zoom darkly,” – Monash VC Margaret Gardner to staff, Friday in a message titled, “here comes the rain again.”

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There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Employers will participate in work integrated learning but they need help to make it happen. Incentives for universities under the National Priorities and Industry Linkage Fund are not enough. Anne Younger (Australian Industry Group) and Judie Kay (World Association for Work Integrated Education), make the case It’s this week’s addition to Contributing Editor Sally Kift‘s long-running series, Needed now in teaching and learning.


Angel Calderon (RMIT) on the (pretty good) Australian results in the 2021 Shanghai subject ranking.


The mystery of Vic uni job losses

In Features this morning James Guthrie (Macquarie U) and Brendan O’Connell report searching Victorian universities documents for the number of people, people, not accounting abstractions, who lost their jobs last year

They found changes in accounting practises and calculating headcounts make final figures hard to find.

They set out their data here.

South Australia requests take-off clearance to bring international students back


 The Marshall Government has formally requested Commonwealth endorsement of a plan for international students to enter South Australia

Premier Steven Marshall wrote to federal education minister Alan Tudge Friday, seeking endorsement of a return to SA plan for 160 students, who would quarantine at the Air Training School at Parafield Airport, in Adelaide’s north.

The proposal follows the Northern Territory approach, where Charles Darwin U students quarantine at the Howard Springs facility, outside Darwin.

Phil Honeywood, from the International Education Association of Australia, welcomed the SA initiative, saying the state government and industry organisations, “are to be congratulated for doing the hard yards to finally gain health and police sign off. Only nine months out from a state election this is also a politically brave move by the Marshall Government.

“Clearly, on a similar basis to the NT’s Howard Springs facility, Adelaide’s Parafield Air Training School offers air flow and discrete arrival containment attributes that hotel based quarantine cannot guarantee.

“The ball is now very much in the Federal Government’s court to approve for this comprehensive student return plan.” Mr Honeywood said.

Australia, after pursuing an original containment strategy and then moving to an eradication objective has failed to convert them into first mover advantage for students and while it remains firm on border closures it continues to lose ground to key competitors when it comes to welcoming students back. Calls from business, tourism and education industries are growing stronger for the federal government to plan for re-opening.

Australia is already way behind key competitors on vaccination rates . Australia is 1.9 per cent fully and 12 per cent partially vaccinated, compared to the UK (36 per cent fully and 21.2 per cent partial) and the USA (39.9 per cent fully and 9.8 per cent partial).

So, while this 160 student proposal is a step in the right direction for the industry and good for students who wish to return to study in SA, it does little to address global movement in what is, or maybe was Australia’s third largest export industry.

Dirk Mulder advises education and business clients on trends in international education. He writes regularly for CMM

Setting the right rate for the job at Uni Melbourne

As well as not being paid for all the hours worked casual academics get cross when they are not paid according to expertise

This can be an issue all over, as Stuart Andrews from the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association told the Senate Economics Committee’s inquiry into employee remuneration in March, “There are different rates of pay for the same amount of time taken to perform the activities. That is one form of complexity in virtually all enterprise agreements.”

It’s certainly a complexity causing conflict at Uni Melbourne, where the National Tertiary Education Union complains that faculty managements sometime try not to pay people with PhDs the rate for highly-qualified teachers.

The union is now escalating this into an all of university dispute,  arguing that people with PhDs should be paid the specified rate if their doctorate is relevant.

“A person teaching Australian history whose PhD is in string theory would not be eligible for the higher payment. However, if their PhD was in any field of history or Australian studies, they would be eligible for the higher rate. It does not have to be the identical discipline, but merely a relevant one. Nor is ‘discipline’ to be read narrowly” union branch president Annette Herrera states.

She wants management to tell everybody deciding people’s pay that the PhD rate for casuals teaching in a relevant discipline should be paid, “regardless of whether any decision has been made as to whether such a qualification is ‘required.”

Monash U VC warns: we must not “cower in fear on our island”

Margaret Gardner says Australians need to “have more choices of what we can do and where we can go”

Throughout the pandemic VCs and peak uni lobbies have been careful to never look like they were putting their own interests first, backing public health official advice on lock-downs and borders.

Monash U VC Margaret Gardner still is, telling staff Friday the university, “remains committed to maintaining as much open on-campus education and research as is permitted by health and safety requirements.”

But Professor Gardner also argues that Australia now needs “to put ourselves in a situation where we have more choices of what we can do and where we can go – not less.”

“We should live the benefits of reaching out beyond our boundaries, of being an open, diverse and tolerant society – not cower in fear on our island, seeking comfort in our isolation,” she wrote.

“Our Australian students do not have a better education from being separated from the perspectives and experiences of other nations and cultures – or seeing them through a zoom darkly. Our academics and professional staff cannot develop and create in a world where the opportunity to observe is restricted.”

But while she does not mention international student fees, she does state “we should be able to welcome all our students back to our campuses to meet with their teachers and supervisors and with each other. We should be able to welcome visitors from other nations to our campuses.” The emphasis on all is her’s.

And as Victoria was locked-down for a fourth time she suggested, “we have learnt much about what to do – and we know that we can prevent outbreaks that threaten our health and wellbeing with higher levels of vaccination and effective quarantine.”

NSW unis financial results: the best are ordinary

The 2020 annual reports from (nearly all) NSW universities were tabled in state parliament Friday

Macquarie U: Consolidated group income was down 2.43 per cent, to $1.152bn “mainly driven by lower international teaching revenue.” Expenses were up 1.2 per cent to $1204m, “driven by employment expenses due to payments for voluntary redundancy schemes” (and depreciation and amortisation). Net result was a $50m loss up $42m in 2019.

Southern Cross U: Operating income fell from $316m in 2019 to $299m last year. Employment expenses were stable – $167m in 2020 up $1m the year prior. The overall result from consolidated continuing operations was a loss of $2.6m, compared to a $15m profit in 2019.

University of Newcastle: Operating income fell $16m to $794m and employee costs increased from $457m in 2019 to $472m in 2020. Overall the university’s consolidated result was a $7.5m surplus, compared to $25.6m in 2019.

UNE: 2020 income was up $7m, to $368m however outlays increased from $366m in 2019 to $385m in 2020. This appears to be largely driven by staff costs, presumably departures as part of a restructure. Employee expenses were $225m in 2019 and $239m last year.

UNSW: Revenue was $2.265bn, down from $2.456bn in ’19. Operating result was a $19m loss compared to a $38m profit in 2108. Staff costs increased from $1.326bn in ’19 to $1.340bn in 2020 – likely to have been driven by redundancies.

Uni Sydney: University management clearly acted on its early 2020 assumptions that it needed to make big savings fast. Employee costs for the year grew by $40m, driven in large part by funding staff departures, to $1.13bn. Overall operating revenue was down 3.5 per cent to $2.644bn.

UTS: Took a hit. Revenue was down ($39m) to $1.30bn and costs were up, $1.153bn in 2019 and $1.180bn last year. The net result was a $65m decline, from a $15m surplus in 2019 to a $50m loss in 2020. Most of this was due to employee costs – up from $674m in 2019 to $715, in ’20. And UTS is not optimistic. “The university has assessed its ability to continue operations due to decreased revenue from international students and has taken measures to limit the financial impact. Those measures include the obtaining of an additional $100m revolving debt facility and successfully implementing a voluntary separation program for staff which will reduce future employee benefit costs for the university.” There are more cuts to come, as recently announced in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, (CMM April 30).

Uni Wollongong: Consolidated operating revenue was way down, from $854m in 2019 to $785m last year. Expenses were up $8m, to $829m – this appears largely due to staff costs increasing $17m.  The report states $16m went to fund an early retirement scheme. The overall net result was a $48.8m loss, compared to a just under $27m profit in 2019

Western Sydney U: Word at WSU mid last year was that it would make it through ok-ish. And lo! it did. Income was down $13m, to $887m more than matched by savings, expenses were $887m in 2019 and $865m in 2020. But staff do not appear to have paid the price, with no sign of exit payments for wholesale departures – spending was $460 061m in 2019 and $460 703m last year. The net result last year was even a bit better, $21m up from $19m (correct) in 2019.

Charles Sturt U’s 2020 annual report was not tabled on Friday, nor is it on the university policy/annualreports website. Maybe the Bathurst mail coach is delayed.

CQU pay talks: not looking short, not looking sweet

CQU management wants a short enterprise agreement with no pay rise – the NTEU wants a standard-length deal plus more money

On the eve of bargaining beginning, Vice Chancellor Nick Klomp proposes a two-year agreement, instead of the common three, with no pay rise. The VC says he needs the time to improve finances, “so that in 2023 we will be in a much stronger position to be really generous with our staff.” And he wants a deal with campus unions fast, saying bargaining “can be really divisive,” (CMM May 28).

To which Robert Rule, Queensland Industrial Officer for the National Tertiary Education Union responds, “no way” to no pay rise and that staff want the “certainty” of a three-year agreement.

As to reaching a speedy settlement, Mr Rule says the union has agreed to weekly meetings with management until July. “Given how far we are apart we do not expect quick negotiations.”



Corporate lawyer Jane Seawright is the new chair of TAFE Queensland. Valerie Cooms (Griffith U and Uni Queensland) also joins TAFE’s board.