Unhappy in Adelaide: the city’s VCs speak-up

Uni SA has so-far escaped COVID-19 all but unscathed, no thanks to the Morrison Government, suggests its VC

In an Adelaide speech, yesterday David Lloyd outlined what universities had done for the national government, notably paying way-more of their way by enrolling international students, while HE dropped from first to third in national education spending over a decade. It was an achievement ministers used to praise.

But then the political winds changed, “by July 2020, that same once-proud Federal Government was now publicly decrying the flawed model of Australian universities and their ‘over-reliance’ on international students,” he said.

“Our nation’s independent medical research institutes, were allowed into the Job Keeper programme, recognising the value of their activities for wider society, but their parent organisations, the universities, who deliver the majority of all health and medical research and training in this country, were not,” Lloyd lamented.

And then the government had another go, changing the funding base so that in aggregate it pays less and students more. “Universities are required to teach more students to receive the same amount of base funding,” he said.

Professor Lloyd ended with characteristic optimism, “ours is not a broken business model … whatever gets thrown at us, we have shown ourselves to be pretty much unstoppable.”

No thanks, it appears, to the Morrison Government.

Colin Stirling has a message for the Government, “words actually matter”

The Flinders U VC spoke at the same event, pointing to government rhetoric, “around China, around trade-wars, around COVID – around international students, frankly – and the risks and the threats and the financial impost they have created for universities and the challenges associated with them.” That rhetoric does nothing to temper racism in the community, Professor Stirling said.

“We need a higher calibre debate around China. Chinese Australians did not cause COVID-19, they did not influence the trade war with China. It’s incumbent on our government to deliver that because words actually matter.”

Professor Stirling added that international students who return home with life-long affection for Australia  are “qn immensely valuable asset and we diminish it at our absolute peril.”

And Uni Adelaide’s Peter Høj wants less focus on narrow politics and more community interest

Professor Høj joined his VC friends, and spoke on the importance of international students  both in funding research and to the broader SA economy.

“People should be outraged by everything being seen through a narrow political lens rather than what is in their broader interests” he said.