Keeping calm and carrying on

The World Hypertension League honours UWA’s Lawrie Beilin (scroll down) and UNSW’s Anthony Rodgers. At last! A Marvel series about a league of superheroes saving the world from high blood pressure.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Monash U announces its Master of Indigenous Business Leadership and Rachelle Towart argues the time is (finally) right for pathways, “helping to cement Indigenous executives into consideration for mainstream leadership roles in Australian business.”

Plus, The obsession with impact ignores the important – it can’t happen without scholarship. “Whether you consider yourself a teaching scholar, a research scholar, or perhaps a service scholar, being a scholar is central to all of our academic practice,” Michael A Cowling (CQU) suggests. It’s this week’s addition to Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated CMM series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

AndJames Guthrie (Macquarie U) on the NSW Auditor General’analysis of universities. “Negative operating results in many universities in 2020 were because of the staff redundancy programme.”

As well as, Merlin Crossley (UNSW) crunches the QS numbers to find Australian universities are efficient and effective. “Over the last two decades as our universities expanded and took advantage of ‘economies of scale,’ remarkably, student satisfaction steadily increase

More cuts make savings target at Uni Newcastle

The university will abolish 150 FTE academic positions with the long discussed school structure now set to go ahead

Vice Chancellor Alex Zelinsky tells staff that half these roles are either vacant or will become so this year, through the university’s early retirement scheme and the end of fixed term contracts.

The university will also create 92.8 FTE new positions, for a net loss 59.5. There is no word on how many actual individuals make up existing FTE positions.

Across the three colleges the academic staff changes in constituent schools are;

Engineering, Science and Environment: 61 FTE to go and 47.6 positions to be created

Health, Medicine and Wellbeing: 49.5 going and 29.3 created

Human and Social Futures: 39.8 abolished and 15.9 new

Professional staff reductions in the schools are smaller;

Engineering, Science and Environment: 28.9 gone and 27.6 new

Health, Medicine and Wellbeing: 22.2 out and 24.6 new

Human and Social Futures: 12.9 abolished and nine created

The vice chancellor tells staff these changes will save $20m a year. When added to savings already announced for admin divisions and the colleges the university has reached its savings target of $35m recurrent.

Learned readers speculate that these savings may mean increased workloads for staff, especially academics. In some cases, they suggest, budgets for empty positions have been used to pay casual teaching staff – who are already gone and are not expected to be back.


A tough 2020 at ANU

VC Brian Schmidt has previously warned the 2020 financial report would not be great – it isn’t (CMM March 15)

ANU’s 2019 annual report did not appear until last October (blame the Federal Government for tabling it in Parliament late) but 2020’s is out in something approaching reasonable time. Perhaps because somebody decided it is better to get bad news out and over.

The university’s consolidated operating revenue in 2020 was $1.33 bn (down from $1.56 bn in 2019). Expenses were $1.34 bn (up from $1.24 bn in ’19). After adjusting for allocated income that cannot be used for operating expenses the university recorded an underlying operating deficit of $80.64m.

Employee-related expenses” accounted for much of the spending increase, rising from $674m in 2019 to $779m last year, presumably being the cost of staff early departures, although “voluntary separation” only appears once in the report, with no number is attached.

But what, you ask, did the 2018 cyber attack cost ANU? Not telling, is the university answer. The amount of the insurance claim, “cannot be reliably estimated at this time.”


Claire Field on why we need EdTech to help up-skill all workers


The challenge Australia faces is not just keeping up with other advanced economies, it is making sure “no worker is left behind” as we transform our workplaces

Australia is ranked 15th in the world for digital competitiveness, 38th in the sub-factor of employee training and 40th in the sub-factor of digital/ technological skills.

A recent report, The Learning Country: Digital Transformation Skills Strategy developed by an expert panel and released by the Australian Industry Skills Committee aims to lift Australia’s digital competitiveness. While the report was commissioned in the VET sector, many of its recommendations also relate to higher education.

The challenge Australia faces is not just keeping up with other advanced economies, it is making sure “no worker is left behind” as we transform our workplaces. The report cites research estimating that:

* automation will displace 2.7m Australian workers, and

* technology will augment 4.5m Australian workers.

There are two elements to the report which in my view underpin its critical importance.

First, the call for meaningful, well-crafted public policy change, including a national lifelong learning policy backed by a long-term multi-faceted model for shared investment, encouraging whole-of-government interconnected approaches (for example, VET being active in the Growth Centres, Industry 4.0 Testlabs and Cooperative Research Centres), and a long-term programme of independent trusted advisors to work with individual businesses to support their digital transformation and help them navigate the training options available.

The second area of focus which I think is critical (and is too often missing in similar discussions) is the recognition that educators also need upskilling on digital technologies, not simply so that they can teach new digital skills but to enhance teaching and learning more broadly.

In pre-COVID times I regularly attended international EdTech conferences and visited EdTech providers across the globe. The evidence is unequivocal. Leading EdTech companies are using AI, big data, gamification and other techniques to improve teaching and learning practices in ways which are evidence-based, replicable and more effective than traditional face-to-face methods.

Returning to my column from last week, we clearly do not want everyone learning fully on-line all of the time but the EdTech sector has much to teach us and the Expert Panel is to be commended for recognising this in their report.

And now we wait for the government’s response …

Claire Field spoke to members of the Expert Panel about their report on the latest episode of the free ‘What now? What next?’ podcast. Available in your favourite podcast feed or listen online.

Uni Newcastle chancellor says he will stay

With Mark Vaile not taking over, outgoing (until yesterday) chancellor Paul Jeans continues

“I look forward to working with our communities, in particular our staff and students, to take our university forward,” he said yesterday.

Presumably including the staff and students who effectively over-ruled Mr Jeans by refusing to accept the university council’s choice of coal company chair Mr Vaile as the new chancellor (CMM yesterday).

This is as big a victory for staff activism on climate-change as the UWA community rejecting a federally-funded research centre for political scientist and climate change economics commentator Bjorn Lomborg.

UWA withdrew after widespread campus criticism including warnings that Dr Lomborg’s appointment would not have been subject to peer review and would do reputational damage to the university’s research (CMM, April 23 2015, May 11 2015).

At Uni Newcastle, National Tertiary Education Union branch president Dan Conway made a similar point why Mr Vaile should not be welcomed, “the university has made a public commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2025 – all of our administrative appointments – especially those at senior levels – should be consistent with our forward-looking stance,” (CMM June 11).

There was no word yesterday on how long Mr Jeans intends to remain chancellor but if he will stay until a replacement is found who is willing to run the risk of a staff veto it may be a while.

Achievements, appointment

Emeritus Professor Lawrie Beilin (UWA) receives the Peter Sleight Excellence Award for Clinical Research from the World Hypertension League. Anthony Rodgers (UNSW) wins the League’s award for population hypertension control.

Thorsten Trupke (UNSW) wins the William Cherry Award for outstanding contributions to photovoltaic science and technology. The award is from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Alison Watkins becomes chancellor of Uni Tasmania at the end of the month. Ms Watkins is a business leader and present member of the Reserve Bank board. She replaces former state premier, Michael Field.

Uni Wollongong announces two masters of maritime policy students have won scholarships. One is Megan Reinwald, from the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources. The other is Uni Wollongong’s own Andrew Herring, the university’s Associate Director, strategic comms.