But a degree is still the best bet for pay and employment

Birmingham’s not for budging on funding cuts

plus CQU making friends in Cairns

and new name in Tiger land

Relax everybody

The Senate programme for next week’s sitting is out and the government’s higher education funding legislation is not listed. Lookouts stand down.

Tigers still there

But there’s a new name on Punt Road

Last week Senator Bridget McKenzie (National-Vic) asked how many universities sponsor football clubs. The question came in a Senate committee hearing on the government’s proposed university funding cuts, in the context of suggestions that universities are not short of a quid.

Senator McKenzie will find part of her answer when she next walks through Tiger Land.  Yesterday Swinburne University hosted a function to celebrate stronger ties with Richmond FC, including renaming Punt Road Oval the Swinburne Centre. At least the team isn’t the Swinburne Tigers

Universities ordered to report

Birmingham tells universities to report to TEQSA what they are doing about sexual assault and harassment

On Tuesday TEQSA responded to the campus sexual assault report by reminding universities that “a safe and secure environment” is one of the mandatory threshold standard for all providers.

Just in case anybody missed the point Education Minister Simon Birmingham says he has written to al universities “asking them to provide the tertiary education regulator with their clear response to these findings, the actions they are taking, how they are upholding those standards, and I expect the regulator to enforce the standards properly at every Australian university.”

University lobbies loathe the government’s proposal for new performance metrics but this will be a requirement none dare oppose.

New DVC at Macquarie U

Kevin Jameson is confirmed as DVC A

A defector from the fortress of silence that is Macquarie University brings news that Kevin Jameson is confirmed as DVC Academic, after acting in the role for this year following the departure of John Simon. The versatile Professor Jameson has held a range of roles at Macquarie U, including minding the business faculty last year, until Stephen Brammer arrived.

CQU has big plans for Cairns

Anything JCU can do CQU wants to do better

CQU has plans to build a $54m campus in Cairns, teaching an extended range of subject to 2500 students, more than twice its present enrolment. This is the newest move by VC Scott Bowman into markets James Cook U used to have to itself. CQU opened modestly in Cairns with a study centre in 2012 and has grown fast. So fast, locals suggest, it led James Cook U to extend into the city from its suburban Cairns campus.

Presumably on the principle two universities are better than one CQU’s plan has on the record local support, notably from federal MP Warren Entsch whose word carries weight. In Canberra as well as Cairns; “I am excited about continuing to work with the university as we seek federal government support for this expansion proposal,” he says.

Birmingham’s not for budging

Simon Birmingham summarises his Senate sell

University lobbies have had a red-hot shot at pushing the education minister off-message on the case for funding cuts, arguing they are not awash with dosh as he claims and that they cannot cop cuts. But the minister isn’t moving. He stuck to his script yesterday, with Sabra Lane on ABC Radio’s AM;

“These are modest changes that ensure financial sustainability in terms of the equity of access to Australian universities. They slightly slow the rate of growth in funding to universities over the next couple of years, but there will still be a 23 per cent growth in relation to university revenue for teaching and learning over the course of the forward estimates period. That’s quite strong growth in terms of revenue those universities will get, and we’re guaranteeing continued access for Australian students without upfront fees.”

This is a far easier Senate sell than Christopher Pyne’s transformative deregulation – which was gone as soon as the community heard about “$100 000 degrees”. Nothing like that has happened this time and may not occur at all – universities warning they are under-resourced does not have the same sort of cut-through. While the learned Ms Lane raised the issue over on Channel Seven’s Sunrise, Samantha Armytage wanted to talk to the minister about Naplan and same sex marriage, which were the subjects of all the other interviews he did as the day rolled on.

By pitching the cuts as keeping the demand driven funding status quo in place Senator Birmingham has made his legislation lot easier for crossbench senators to support.

Top talent

Economics may be marginal in schools, but not at ANU

The Reserve Bank worries about the generational decline in high school economics enrolments, especially among young women (CMM Tuesday). The RBA should chill – for the time being there are plenty of female economists of the elite type it likes to hire. Word from ANU is that women make up 13 of 15 new students in the “highly mathematicalmasters of financial economics.

Winning by degrees

A degree does not deliver what it used to but it is better than the alternatives

The new edition of the University of Melbourne’s Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia longitudinal survey reports recent graduates  now are paid less than they once were. In 2001-05 new graduates earned $859 a week (in 2015 dollars), rising to $1407 after five years but the 2010-11 group started on $835, rising over five years to $1189. The classes of 2012-13 started on $791, a lower rate of pay than earned by new graduates a decade plus prior.

The HILDA employment outcomes are more complex. While the survey reports “no clear consistent change,” in the proportion of graduates not working or studying full time, FT employment in the year after graduation fell from 56 per cent for the 2001-05 group to 43 per cent for 2012-13 graduates.

“Concerns about deteriorating labour market outcomes for university graduates are somewhat validated,” the report states.

But a degree is the least worst outcome for young people. Some 81 per cent of high school completers in 2001-2005 who had no further qualifications were in full-time employment four years later. But for this group in 2010-11 the FT work figure was just 31 per cent.

“It is not clear that a reduction in higher education enrolments would be desirable for young people, the labour market, or the community more broadly,” HILDA states.

More may not be better but it is necessary

HILDA also indicates postgraduate degrees do not deliver in employment markets like they used to. Some 59 per cent of postgraduate completers in 2001-05 were employed FT within a year of graduation, which was down to 41 per cent in 2012-13. Earnings also went backwards, from $1170 a week for the ’01-05 group to $956pw for those who completed a postgraduate degree in 2012-13.

Still, declining rewards are better than none and as Peter Derbyshire points out, more bachelor graduates will be forced into postgraduate study. “How do students stand out from the pack in an increasingly difficult job market? Enter the postgraduate course,” he writes for the National Tertiary Education Union’s magazine for university casual staff.

Mr Derbyshire is president of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations and wants to see “fair and equitable support” for coursework masters students so they can compete in the job market. “Students are going to need postgraduate qualifications to compete in both a domestic and a global market but right now these qualifications are closed off for many,” he writes.

Fertile research field

Murdoch University will host a crop research hub

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce announced the $5m project at Murdoch last night. The Grain Research and Development Corporation has kicked in $3m with Murdoch committing a further $1.5m. The balance comes from partner Curtin University and the state government.

The research facility will focus on plant physiology, genetic improvement and crop pathology.