Phil Honeywood rejects Hoj warning: there is no need to expand international enrolments and reduce domestic student numbers 

A big deal at Deakin: staff to learn the detail of proposed wage deal today


The Group of Eight hires lobbying muscle

Everything’s new at U of Newcastle: (accept the staff-cut plan)


Group of Eight hire lobbying muscle

The Group of Eight has hired gun lobbyists Strategic Policy Counsel which is led by former Nationals Party federal deputy campaign director and government adviser, Michael Kauter. According to Mr Kauter, “his political judgement has been described by political and industry leaders as ‘spot on’.”  The government’s lobbyist register reports Group of Eight members Monash U and the University of Melbourne also retain the firm.  Other clients include the National Australia Bank and British American Tobacco Australia. University of Queensland VC Peter Hoj chairs the Group of Eight.

No need to cut domestic students says Honeywood

International education industry leader Phil Honeywood has questioned the need for Peter Hoj’s warning that federal funding cuts could force the University of Queensland to increase the per centage of international fee-paying students. On Friday the UoQ VC told staff, “the federal budget cuts – if passed – will increase the likelihood that we decide to enrol a higher percentage of international students, likely with commensurately fewer domestic students, as federal funding for infrastructure expansion and renewal has been siphoned away.”

However yesterday Mr Honeywood, chief executive of the International Education Association of Australia, told CMM, there are ready alternatives to what Professor Hoj proposes.

“The uncapping of higher education domestic student places makes it open to VCs to enrol as many local students as they believe appropriate for their entry standards. An institution’s international student profile should not impact on domestic enrolments. In any one year, an education institution can choose to employ more teaching staff to meet demand. They can also lease more teaching spaces if they find themselves short of infrastructure,” Mr Honeywood said.

“As an extraordinary high proportion of full fee paying international students are enrolled in business related courses it is not as though they are taking over limited laboratory or specialist infrastructure.

“This is largely why so many universities have been leasing large commercial buildings in downtown Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. They are taking their teaching spaces to where the international students are renting inner city apartments.”


App of the day

Lovers of fiction know that UNESCO made Melbourne “a city of literature” a decade back and now the City of Literature office there is offering $2000 for writers to create a walking tour app. The brief is to “surprise and delight.”  This is a natural for media studies students and anybody, if there is still anybody, studying Australian literature.

Six med science successes

Four major medical philanthropies have combined to fund 41 elite early career researchers, including six who work in Australian institutions. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Wellcome Trust, the Gates Foundation and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation are giving each scientist US$650 000 over five years to support their work. The locals are Mark Dawson from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute (malignant stem cells), Kathryn Holt from the University of Melbourne, (using genomic tools to study infectious diseases), Ryan Lister from UWA (epigenetic modification), Laura Mackay also at UniMelbourne (development of tissue-resident memory T cells), Seth Masters from Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (how the innate immune system works), and Wai Hong Tham also at Walter and Eliza Hall (how malaria parasites interact with human hosts). Six out of 41 is very good indeed, but lest anyone crow, six researchers from much smaller Israel also won funding.


Lowe to lead on food innovation

Andrew Lowe will lead the University of Adelaide’s food innovation research initiative. Professor Lowe is already at UniAdelaide, where he is a deputy dean charged with partnerships and collaboration in the Faculty of Science.

New , just not now, review of staff cuts

The University of Newcastle has launched a new research brand, “the world needs knew” and student recruitment messagenew needs you.” This was too good an opportunity for the university branch of the National Tertiary Education Union to miss responding that whatever the world needs the university’s workers want management to announce the long-time coming, and still not arrived, Global Professional Staff Review, which was announced in November (CMM November 21). While the union says there is talk of an announcement there is no date. CMM suspects it will not be while management has new campaigns to promote or perhaps even while there is a flash downtown building to celebrate, classes start at the $95m CBD NeWSpace in second semester. As the NTEU argues; professional staff who are moved to the new building “will find they are subject to restructuring and job shedding.”

Budget fun for soothsayers

Conor King from the Innovative Research Universities group has slammed the government’s presentation of its higher education funding package. “As it stands it is easier to understand how to apply for a university place than the government funding for it. Universities are working to make the former even easier. The government should now act on the latter.”

According to Mr King, there are 17 discrete elements in the federal funding plan with nearly all of them grouped into two “lumps” in the budget papers, “obscuring any information about the future funding for each initiative and the programs they affect.”

Mr King contrasts this with previous practise, where the government broke out each programme and presented year by year financials with a note on impact. And while there is more information in the Department of Education and Training’s portfolio statement than in the budget package itself, the financials in the former are presented for July to June, while public funding for universities is allocated under the act on calendar years.

University soothsayers have been hard at work deducing the detail of changes.  Fun for those who like such things; frustrating for university heads seeking to understand what is to change; inefficient for university operations, reducing the good use of university resources,” Mr King says.

However Mr King underestimates his own wonkish wizadry (above). Ever since the budget he has been discovering details in the budget that nobody much else had noticed or certainly not reported. For example, the proposed 7.5 per cent performance funding will not include regional and some other loadings, in Commonwealth Grant Scheme allocations. That should surely cheer up, albeit only a bit, campus Cassandras predicting regional doom,


A deal at Deakin

Deakin University and the National Tertiary Education Union have signed off on new enterprise agreement, the first of the current round. The joint-proposal goes to Deakin staff today, who will vote to approve or reject it.

CMM understands that the deal includes a pay rise consisting of a 2 per cent per annum increase at the end of May, followed by the same per centage in each of the next three years. Staff will also receive a $1000 payment at the end this month. For a staffer on an average Deakin income the package is said to be worth 9 per cent over the life of the agreement.  The deal also extends the 17 per cent management contribution paid to permanent staff to fixed term employees, regardless of the length of their contracts. However, the union push to have the same arrangement established for casual workers was rejected by Deakin management.

In a win for the union the proposal does not end the existing approach governing investigation of misconduct matters. Peak employer body the Australian Higher Education Association is pushing for an end to complex and codified employment conditions at universities across the county. While the existing three-person panel which considers misconduct matters will be replaced at Deakin by a single individual acceptable to management and union the principal of independent review remains. Only in cases of proved serious misconduct will a worker be dismissed.  The union is understood to have dug in on this issue as a core protection of academic freedom.

As the first agreement of the new round, Deakin’s will be closely studied by other universities, with deals along the same lines expected soon.  It certainly sets a workable precedent for universities not to follow the WA example, where managements are pushing for stripped down agreements.

“I’m sorry Dave, I can’t pick that for you”

A team from the Australian Research Council’s Australian Centre for Robotic Vision has made the finals of Amazon’s 2017 robotics challenge. The centre is based at QUT and includes researchers from UniAdelaide, ANU and Monash plus tech partners from Australia and overseas.

The challenge is to create a robot that could function in an Amazon warehouse, recognising and picking items and correcting any mistakes.

The 16 teams in the finals are competing for a US$250 000 prize, presumably what Amazon found when they looked under the cushions in the office couch. But the opportunity is about much more than money. According to QUT’s Jurgen Leitner, “We use the competition to create opportunities for our undergraduate and early PhD students to see how to develop robotics technologies for the real world. The challenge is a great way of testing various technologies required to make robots better, from improved mechanical systems, to learned computer vision algorithms, as well as, tight software integration of all the required parts.”

They have ten weeks to get it right. The University of Sydney also has a team in the finals but CMM’s lamentably  human contact system failed to find anybody to talk about it.