All the news that’s fit to hear

“During 2020-24, TEQSA will develop a podcast series,” the agency promises in its annual report.  Something to wait, and wait, for.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Michael Healy (Uni Southern Queensland) argues that although student employment and career development are different in both research and service they need to work together. This week’s essay in Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series on what we need now in teaching and learning.

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on competition – there are times to apply the changing the bike tyre test.

On-line work and learning: what technology can provide  

In Features this morning IT networking provider Cisco  and telco Optus set out how the permanent switch to virtual learning and remote working creates opportunities for staff and students

“The rapid (and permanent) shift to virtual learning and remote teaching and administration has completely changed the education landscape and pose opportunities to reimagine what the work and learning experience looks like for staff and students alike.” The paper is here.

Private provider lobby calls for hold on charges  

With borders not opening private providers that have been doing it tough expect to do it tougher (CMM Friday).  A peak body calls for continuing help from the feds

Independent Tertiary Education Council of Australia asks for existing federal assistance to stay and that new charges not start.

Specifically, ITECA asks that Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency fees and charges for already registered providers now waived stay that way for an extra year, to end June 2022.

ITECA also asks that TEQSA delay full cost recovery until then.

“Independent HE providers continue to face challenges associated with intermittent border closures and mandatory short-term discontinuation of on-campus study, ITECA’s Troy Williams tells Education Minister Alan Tudge.

Debt-free Deakin U

Tom Smith and James Guthrie include Deakin U in their list of ten “highly vulnerable financially” universities (CMM February 4). VC Iain Martin says they’re wrong

In a Friday message to staff Professor Martin describes Smith and Guthrie’s analysis as “superficial.”

“Deakin University carries no debt and the paper as presented understates our financial reserves … There is absolutely no doubt that Deakin is in a secure financial position,” he states.

Monash U reports $259m operating surplus for 2020

But VC Margaret Gardner warns “no full university economic recovery” with deficits in’22 and ‘23

In a message to staff late Friday night, Professor Gardner set out financial results for last year, which turned out not as bad as originally expected.

* a $259 operating surplus, which she describes as “a buffer for the future”

* final “revenue shortfall” was $142m down on budget, compared to the $350m expected when the pandemic started

* international student enrolment income was down 11 per cent, $121m.

Monash U now predicts a break-even budget this year, with a $55m surplus but a $149m deficit in 2022 and $77m in ’23, “as lower numbers of students in 2020 and 2021 work through the system.” Overall international student numbers are expected to be down 27 per cent this year.

“We know that the continuing decline in international student numbers means that full university economic recovery will not happen this year (or in 2022),” she states.

However, Professor Gardner says the staff-agreed delay to a pay rise will end as scheduled and “we need not plan for university wide job losses” this year.

Which is an improvement on last, when, the VC says “a number of staff left the university.”

Quite a number, by October 286 people in operating areas targeted for cuts had “lodged interest” in a voluntary separation and 156 staff in other eligible units had asked about exiting. The university wanted to reduce headcount by 277 FTE, (CMM October 27).

Climbed every mountain

ANU chancellor’s is the 2021 Kissinger Fellow at Arizona State U’s McCain Institute for International Leadership

According to the Institute, the fellowship, “develops future foreign policy and national security leaders.”  Which makes CMM wonder what there is for the former foreign minister to possibly still accomplish – unless she is interested in the UN.


Dirk Mulder reports international education still ignored

The international education community was waiting for a word on its future from National Cabinet, all they heard Friday was silence


It wasn’t as if industry advocates had failed to give the prime minister, premiers and chief ministers anything to talk about.

Major lobbies, International Education Association of Australia, English Australia and Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia had made their cases to  ministers and got their message into the media prior to the meeting.

What they all wanted was a message of support for international students who are stuck outside Australia and an indication of when they might be able to return.

With Australia now alone in the Anglosphere in keeping its borders closed to students, the industry thinks this is a minimum-must. But National Cabinet stayed silent, while managing to make plain, international education is not on its agenda. “It was agreed once again that the return of Australian residents is the priority, in terms of arrivals to Australia. We must remember that our borders are actually shut. No-one can just come to Australia. To be able to come to Australia, you need to be an Australian resident or citizen, or have a particular exemption,” Prime Minister Morrison said.

For optimists, there is a hint of hope in this reiteration of Australians-first. Returning arrivals to the cap in place before the appearance of the UK strain of COVID-19 and the agreement to consider options to increase quarantine capacity at the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory, will bring more Australians home sooner.

But for now, it is back to talking to ministers about what the industry immediately needs.

English Australia boss Brett Blacker says ensuring capacity in the feeder sectors is essential. This means continuing financial support for staff once Job-Seeker payments are paired back next month. While the Job Keeper programme has kept English language schools afloat to date, there is real concern they will start to close from March.

On top of the impact on staff, Mr Blacker warns this will impair the sector’s ability to rebuild and supply the usual feeder channels, from ESL to tertiary course providers, when governments decide to admit students into Australia.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent


Exit at Victoria U

VU announces the departure of Mark Farrell, dean of business and PVC for business and law

Interim Provost Corinne Reid told staff Friday afternoon, “as a result of the challenges facing VU due to the effects of COVID-19, and in light of the university’s strategic priorities … the university has decided to re-conceptualise the future direction and leadership structure of the VU Business School.”

Professor Farrell was previously head of the school of business and law at RMIT.

His is the first senior departure announced since Adam Shoemaker became VC in December, taking over from the long-serving Peter Dawkins. However, VU watchers say further exit announcements are imminent.

Credit ratings for ACU, Macquarie U, Uni Sydney and UTS

Ratings agency Moody’s reports a periodic review of four universities long-term debt rating. They all rated second-tier investment grade

Australian Catholic U: is rated Aa2, “which reflects its robust financial profile and strong market niche in the provision of graduates in nursing, paramedics and teachers” plus “supportive institutional framework with sizeable grants” from the Commonwealth.

Macquarie U: is also Aa2. Moody’s points to “flexible operating and capital expenditure structures that support its healthy operating margins” and government support, “in the unlikely event that the university faces acute liquidity stress.”

While, “robust operating profile and various countermeasures” will “mitigate against current conditions” the agency does note, Macquarie U’s, “credit profile is constrained by an elevated debt burden and lower levels of liquidity compared to similarly-rated universities, at a time when it faces a substantial shortfall in international student enrolments.”

Uni Sydney: Aa1’s rating, “reflects (its) flagship status in Australia and its prominent research and academic reputation.” The university has a “solid liquidity position, which provides ample support to its operations and obligations.”

“Strong financial performance — bolstered by secure Commonwealth grants, international student fees and conservative fiscal practices — allows the university to continue funding a large portion of its capital improvement program through surplus internal cash flows.”

UTS: is also rated Aa1. The agency points to “healthy operating margins and cash flows,” plus “a high likelihood” of Commonwealth support, “should UTS face acute liquidity stress”.

However, Moody’s points to the impact of the pandemic on international student numbers. “Its credit profile is constrained by lower levels of liquidity compared to domestic peers; exacerbating downside risks during periods of heightened volatility.”

But the good news is; “we expect UTS’s robust operating profile and various countermeasures being implemented over the next few years will partially mitigate current conditions.”

China state media warns students against Australia

Nil impact now but it might make Canada and the UK more appealing


 As reported by state-media paper Global Times, the Ministry of Education warns Chinese students to make a full risk assessment and consider carefully whether to go or return to Australia to study.

“A series of vicious attacks on Chinese students that have happened recently in multiple places in Australia have posed a serious threat to their personal safety,” the paper reported, adding, “the raging pandemic also makes international travel risky.”

Other than adding to the quota of denunciations of Australia by Chinese Government agencies and associates the story will have nil impact now. Students can’t travel to Australia and those already here will make up their own minds.

But this sort of coverage might encourage people starting to think about overseas study to look at countries where they are welcome now, notably open-borders Canada and the UK.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent

Appointments, achievements

Freya Campbell is acting chief comms officer at UNSW, replacing Darren Goodsir who left end January.

Jennifer Hunt moves from ANU to the Department of Security Studies and Criminology at Macquarie U.

Nalini Joshi (Uni Sydney) wins the Australian and NZ Industrial and Applied Mathematics medal. Lewis Mitchell (Uni Adelaide) wins ANZIAM’s J Michell medal for a new researcher and Mike Plank (Uni Canterbury) wins the mid-career E O Tuck medal.

Lindsay Robinson joins UNSW as Chief Development Officer. She moves from Uni Sydney.

Peter Varghese (Uni Queensland chancellor) is the new advisory council chair of Uni Melbourne’s Asia Link.