And the boycott goes to …

The April award for the straightest of bats goes to the NSW Government

In the state’s Legislative Council, David Shoebridge (Greens) asked Education Minister Sarah Mitchell ten critical questions about the way the state’s universities are managed (Tertiary Education Minister Lee sits in the Legislative Assembly) (CMM March 30)).

The responses to which are, unis are autonomous, TEQSA regulates them, the Commonwealth collects data, there have been no legislative change on the powers of academic senates and the (state) Treasurer is responsible for the annual reports act.

All accurate information without addressing the intent of Mr Shoebridge’s questions.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

In the rush to on-line teaching it was easy to over-look research postgrads, many being even more isolated than usual.  Trina Myers, Wasana Bandara, Sharon Altena (all QUT)  and Rebecca Evans (JCU) suggest ways to help them. This week’s contribution to Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s long-running sand in all ways excellent series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

Amanda-Jane George (CQU) and Julie-Ann Tarr (QUT) on the big issues  in uni-industry collaboration. There’s way more to it than demand- and supply-push incentives or commercial returns.

Marnie Hughes-Warrington (Uni SA) and Andrew Klenke (Swanbury Penglase Associates) on what 19th century Adelaide shows us about innovation.


New ways to keep research safe: open access and science diplomacy

The government is keen to protect university research safe  from foreign powers, with cyber security oversight, approval of agreements and an inquiry into foreign interference– there are other ways

Australia is an open-research society, with 60 per cent of publications being collaborations with international partners (39 per cent in the US). This is a good thing- but it is going to get harder, Paul Harris warns.

Governments and research institutions are right to increasingly focus on the challenges of ‘illiberal innovation’ in China and elsewhere,” he says.

The director of ANU’s US office points to, “the risks of foreign interference and intellectual property theft, and the application of science and technology by authoritarian governments to uses contrary to democratic values and human rights.”

“A key challenge for 21st century policy and diplomacy will be how to remain connected to the cutting-edge of global science and technology – wherever it might now be – without compromising national security, sovereignty or values,” he suggests in a new paper for ANU’s National Security College, released this morning.

Mr Harris proposes Australia create “global data-sets on scientific publications” to ensure government and researchers know who is doing what where, “to support better decisions about the benefits and risks of science engagement.”

And while Australia should “prioritise engagement”, for example with Five Eyes partners (US, UK, Canada, Aus and NZ), “we should be wary of locking ourselves in with a small number of partners who represent a declining share of global science.”

It is, he suggests in the national interest for researchers to continue to collaborate with China, without compromising “our security or values.”

Easier said than done, but Mr Harris proposes three ways;

* “intelligence and science communities create the open-source scitech analysis capability “to inform policy and strategy”

* the Chief Scientist (Cathy Foley) and Chief Defence Scientist (Tanya Monro) “evaluate how current investments and institutions should be adjusted given changes in the global system, and;

* DFAT develop science diplomacy “for international engagement in the national interest”

Innovative ATN

It’s the last day of the Australian Technology Network’s conference, with a big start and finish to a programme focused on “taking innovation global”

Christopher Pyne, now a Uni SA Industry Fellow leads at noon (AEST) with Chief Defence Scientist, Tanya Monro delivering the closing address at 2.45.

Claire Field says we should try again on international students and skilled migration

This time we must design, implement and regulate robustly to ensure the integrity of our international education sector


This week I examined the post-study work rights available to international students in Australia, Canada, the US, the UK and New Zealand.

As everyone working in international education will know, Canada has taken a welcoming approach to international students and migrants – including during COVID-19. International students in Canada are eligible for:

* eight months to three years’ post-study work depending on course of study, and

* an additional 18 months work on an Open Work Permit.

Migration options for international students are clearly identified on the Canadian government’s website “Find your path to permanent residence” and they have just announced permanent residency for 40,000 skilled graduates with relevant Canadian work experience in specific occupations.

Last year Australia told international students and skilled migrants to return home.

While our closed borders have served us well, employers in key industries are now grappling with the loss of skilled migrants. And so, when launching consultations for the development of the next Australian Strategy for International Education, Education Minister Alan Tudge asked:

“Can we use levers, including migration levers, to encourage more students to study in the areas where we know we have shortages? We do this to encourage students to study in areas outside the big capitals. Could it be extended?”

The last time Australia closely linked international education to skilled migration, we saw fraud and poor educational quality emerge in one part of the private VET sector. The problems were exacerbated by the fragmented regulatory approach then in operation (with responsibilities split across states, territories and the Commonwealth).

Australia should make the changes the minister is canvassing, but this time we must design, implement and regulate robustly to ensure the integrity of our international education sector.

David Riordan, former member of the Council for International Education, joined me on the latest episode of the podcast to discuss a raft of international education issues. Listen online or check your podcast feed.

Claire Field is the host of the ‘What now? What next? Insights into Australia’s tertiary education sector’ pod

A path to permanency for casual academics (shame about the pay)

The Fair Work Act is amended to provide casual employees a path to a permanent position

There are three requirements, 12 months with an employer, “a regular pattern of hours” for six of the months, which would not be significantly changed by becoming a permanent staffer.

Which looks like it is not much use for academic casuals only-employed one semester at a time. Except for 66B (1) (b) of the amended act, which states “during at least the last six months of that period, the employee has worked a regular pattern of hours on an ongoing basis.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s information sheet also states a casual can apply for conversion to permanent status if, “you have worked a regular pattern of hours in the last six months on an on-going basis (and) your regular hours could continue as a permanent employee.”

“The key thing” a learned reader suggests, “is that whatever a person is doing, it is likely to continue in future without too much change. You don’t have to be doing things every week.”

Not that permanency may mean improved pay – with casuals being employed for the same hours and presumably at the same rates. Which may be why the National Tertiary Education Union leadership could be keen on improving hourly rates and hours for specific tasks in the enterprise bargaining round starting this year.

And why university managements, notably ANU and Monash U (CMM yesterday) may want to get deals done independent of the bargaining process.

Seven steps to skills reform

A peak provider lobby proposes ways to meet a post COVID-19 shortage of skilled workers

Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia appears to have no great expectations for the budget, and looks to the next parliament for skills-reform.

ITECA advocates

* integrating HE, voced and training, “to operate as one, yet retain their separate and distinct strengths and identities.” The feds should develop a five-year strategy to do this

* a National Cabinet strategy, “eliminating duplicative, redundant and burdensome regulation” in state/territory national jurisdictions

* expand “Commonwealth-subsidised” student places at private providers

* federal skills funding only for “jurisdictions” where students can choose a public or private provider

* National Skills Commission identify which qualifications need subsiding, “reflecting the cost of achieving excellence”

* a single student loan programme that supports lifelong learning

* an International Education Commission

Appointments, achievements

Biotech entrepreneur James Campbell joins the board of industry association AusBiotech

Harlene Hayne starts as VC of Curtin U, her appointment was announced in October (CMM October 9). She moves from Uni Otago, where she was VC 2011-2020.