Good question

If the government has campus security covered why does a minister want more power

Education Minister Alan Tudge took a question in Reps Question Time yesterday, from Celia Hammond (Lib-WA), (former VC of the University of Notre Dame Australia). Ms Hammond wanted to know how the government is “safeguarding Australians from foreign interference in our universities.”

Mr Tudge detailed the government’s various measures to protect campuses from bad intel actors. And very thorough he was too, which rather raises the question, why does Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton want further cyber security powers over universities infrastructure (CMM February 15).

Perhaps Minister Tudge’s answer was informal information for the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, of which Ms Hammond is a newly appointed member. The committee is inquiring into security risks affecting HE and the research sector.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Tim Pitman (Curtin U) on support for students with a disability. Good services are undermined, “by a single bad actor, process or learning design.”  It makes the case for making disability awareness training mandatory for all staff, he argues. It’s a new selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.

Frank Larkins (Uni Melbourne) on the universities that need, really need, international students taking coursework masters and what their absence means for coffers and campus life.

Merlin Crossley argues thinking small is a strategy for success when building a research career.

Four ways to protect against cyber attack

The threat is only going to increase 

As mass-connectivity and sensor driven digital campuses become a reality – enabled by next-generation technologies – university leaders will need to take secure a much larger surface area,” Cisco and Optus warn. In Features this week, they propose four ways unis can respond.

And how large, pray, will that surface area be?  “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,” Cisco and Optus also explain.

From HE boom to bust and on to build

The good-times for public universities are over, John Howard (UTS) sets out what should come next

“Now is not the time for ‘root and branch’ structural change. Change should consider the evolution of existing financial, student and research profiles, strengths, and distinctiveness of different provider operations, and encourage and support evolutionary change through clearly defined and differentiated university strategies,” he writes in a new e-book,  Rethinking Australian Higher Education, published today.

Professor Howard  suggests the existing system could “grow and transform around several distinct, but connected, provider categories,” a process already underway as institutions “self-select” what they will do.

He proposes seven strategies

*  the six established research-intensive universities grow “at scale”

* IT, engineering and technology “capability and capacity” in the technology universities

* research and teaching in outer metropolitan comprehensive universities, adjacent to hospitals and medical research

* low-growth metro unis build niche markets and amalgamate where practical

* a specific charter for regional universities to support regional economic development

* growth of non-university providers in fields not driven by research

* “effective participation” by TAFE in a national tertiary education system

Having proposed he sets out how to do it, in deeply-informed detail.

In CMM next week a new series by John Howard on what needs to restructure HE and how to do it

More change for Uni Adelaide

The VC wants more digital delivery of courses  and more admin change

New VC Peter Høj tells staff that what predecessor Mike Brooks told them last year that the financials aren’t as bad as expected (CMM September 9). In particular, the staff-agreed pay-cut will not happen.

But Professor Høj warns, “we will by necessity be considering how the University of Adelaide can be more financially sustainable, not just now in the midst of a global pandemic, but more permanently to make us more resilient to the range of financial and geopolitical pressures that we and other universities face.”

The VC has two means in mind.

He wants to “offer new courses in delivery modes which can engage a greater cohort of knowledge seekers irrespective of their geography and border closures.

“I encourage all of our academic leaders to start thinking about how best to accomplish this essential task sooner rather than later.” Which is good for people cracking to catch-up with Uni SA which went big on digital delivery years back.

The VC also wants to ensure, “the savings we made are sustainable into the future”. This means admin, because “professional services … is where the largest cohort of staff” took voluntary redundancies.” (He’s right 119 of 157 people who have left were professional staff).

So, it sounds to CMM that people who are stretched because colleagues left but work didn’t should not get their hopes up for more help. Unless of course more jobs will go to fund a restructure.

Whatever Professor Høj is thinking will be a happening thing. There will be details on organisational reform “in the not too distant future.”

Swinburne U still says no to world-languages

Despite protests and an intriguing proposal Japanese, Chinese and Italian are out

Even before she started at Swinburne U VC Pascale Quester was clear that world languages were out and tech was even more in than it already was. “Do we need to be the 10th university that teaches Chinese or Italian? No… we are the Swinburne University of Technology, we are going to be working with industry and students on creating the technology of the future.”

“My vision for Swinburne is that we need to differentiate from the pack and that our DNA at Swinburne is fundamentally STEM and technology and preparing the human capital required to make it sing,” she said (CMM July 9).

And now the university now has its ducks in the row needed to stop teaching Chinese, Japanese and Italian.

A union and academic campaign warning Australia needs world-language speakers, does not appear to have had any impact with management.

Swinburne U management adds that it consulted with the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, “in accordance with requirements under our funding agreement.”

But there is also a proposal to make language-learning at Swinburne U STEM focused. It includes courses in technological and digital business Chinese and reading scientific reports in the language. (Plus a vocab unit using Chinese science fiction!)

There’s a similar syllabus for Japanese.

This, supporters say, meets the VC’s objective for Swinburne U, “to differentiate from the pack.” However, Swinburne’ overall response is that the “decision to discontinue Chinese, Japanese and Italian courses was taken following a strategic review and consultation process, as required by our industrial agreement.”

So much for Dan Tehan’s line that learning a language adds to employability.

Science advice: it’s good for democracy

A Senate committee calls for a parliamentary science office to advise MPS – it would get very different questions

The Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs has delivered its report on “nationhood, national identity and democracy” born of a “bipartisan recognition that governments in strong liberal democracies such as Australia must not take that strength for granted.”

One of the report’s recommendations is for a Parliamentary Office of Science, modelled on that in the UK, “to provide independent, impartial scientific advice, evidence and data to the parliament, and all members and senators.”

It is born out of submissions warning undermining science is damaging to democracy.

There is another call for government-funded science advice which makes a similar point, although it’s advocates would likely differ on where the undermining is occurring.

Three Queensland National Party senators propose the Commonwealth and Queensland governments fund, “office of scientific review to evaluate the existing science of the Great Barrier Reef and how it informs policymaking,” (CMM October 13 2020). And their Reps colleague George Christensen wants “an independent science quality assurance agency, to check scientific papers underpinning public policy and affecting peoples’ lives and livelihoods,” (CMM September 16 2019).

Appointment, achievements

The American Society for Microbiology announces its 65 2021 Fellows. Three are Australian-based; Alex Andrianopoulos (Uni Melbourne), Brajesh Singh (Western Sydney U) and Timothy Stinear (Uni Melbourne).

John Brumby (La Trobe U chancellor) is the new chair of the Victorian Government’s International Education Advisory Council. He replaces former Deakin U VC Jane den Hollander.