There’s always hope

“As a society we have a lot of work to do to find out how in a social media age we can have civil, respectful conversations … where people listen carefully and consider both sides,”  U Tas VC Rufus Black on the controversy over moving the campus from Sandy Bay to the city. ABC radio in Hobart yesterday, (scroll down for more)

Claire Field on what’s next for VET


The election brings policy change, which won’t settle the strategic shifts underway

VET was an area of clear policy difference between the two major parties at the election. Labor’s VET policies cover three main areas:

* fee-free TAFE places

* limiting Commonwealth funding to non-TAFE providers, and

* VET sector reforms.

The experience in Victoria indicates fee-free TAFE may not come without its challenges and the programme may not deliver a lasting increase in TAFE student numbers. Conversely fee-free TAFE is not necessarily bad news for most independent and community providers.

To ensure TAFEs receive the majority (70 per cent) of Commonwealth VET funding we can expect to see changes to VET Student Loans where currently TAFE students receive 56 per cent of VSL funding and private/community students 44 per cent.

If Labor provides the same level of funding to the VSL scheme, then independent and community providers look to lose (and TAFEs look to gain) approximately $38.25 million per annum.

Looking at Labor’s plans for the VET sector as a whole – they support the new Industry Cluster model and associated VET qualification reforms, and will establish a new agency, Jobs and Skills Australia, which will incorporate some of the work currently being done by the National Skills Commission.

When releasing their costings Labor stated that the differences between their figures and the coalition’s included their extra investments in areas like VET, so funding for the 465,000 fee-free TAFE places appears to be additional to the extra $3.7bn that the former government included in the Budget. That means more new VET places above the fee-free TAFE places.

Labor has not indicated it will reform VET pricing in the National Skills Agreement, which will be welcomed by states and territories. Labor has also said it supports microcredentials but has not indicated they should be government funded.

There are more details on my website.

And as if navigating all of these changes was not complex enough there are a broader range of strategic shifts impacting businesses, the community and the economy – which still need to be understood and addressed by both public and private VET providers.

Claire Field was joined on the What now? What next? podcast by public and private VET sector leaders sharing how they are dealing with significant, high-level, change impacting the industries they train for and their learners. Listen in your favourite podcast app or online.  

Uni financial results: some look better than they want to admit

None come close to Uni Sydney’s $1.04bn headline surplus last year  or even the $453m it prefers to admit to (CMM yesterday) – but  Uni Newcastle and Western Sydney U did ok

NSW university annual reports were tabled in state parliament, Monday and Tuesday, including;

Macquarie U

Total revenue was $1.18bn up 2.6 per cent on 2020 with the university announcing a net result of $62m. On-shore international student fee income was down $50m, to $242m but this was offset by a $72m decline in staff costs.  2019 employment was 3833, which fell to 3737 in 2020 and 3392 in 2021.

Uni Newcastle

Excluding subsidiaries, total earnings were $944.7m up from $794.9 in 2020. This was driven in large part by investment income, $152.2m last year compared to $31.7m in 2020. Costs were down, from $789.1m in 2020 to $761.7 last year. This appears largely due to savings on staff, $472.9m in 2020 and $453.2m in 2021.

However the university is keen to make it known that without investments, the university made a $1.9m loss. Uni Newcastle group’s investments total $625.6m.

Uni Wollongong

Reports $814m in income, up from $785m in 2020, however without abnormals earnings last year were $740m for an underlying loss of $21m. Overall staff costs were down 6 per cent on 2020, to $444m. Academics accounted for all the saving (11 per cent lower) while professional staff costs increased slightly. UoW reports FTE staff numbers were 2934 in 2019 and 2546 last year.

Western Sydney U

Total 2021 income from the university’s parent group was $961m, up from $887m in 2020. Outlays were down $27m, to $838m, for a net result of $122m, $101m up on ’20. The savings mainly came from $20m lower staff costs.

U Tas is going to town, whatever the time it takes

VC Rufus Black says that even without a Sandy Bay campus sale the university will continue to relocate into Hobart’s CBD

“We would have to do it more slowly and fund it over a longer period of time,” he told Leon Compton on ABC radio in Hobart yesterday.

Selling land on the existing campus, for housing is fundamental to the city move but it requires rezoning by Hobart City Council.

The university plans to turn Hobart city into a university town, with teaching and research, performance and service functions embedded in the downtown. But it is widely opposed, by people who do not want new housing in Sandy Bay and those who do not want U Tas going to town. And is has long been unpopular with U Tas staff who like the existing campus.

The university had a recent win when council approved redevelopment of the former forestry commission building in the city, intended as a jewel in its yet unforged teaching and learning city crown (CMM May 4). But it came at a price, with council now requiring more community consultation and there is a parliamentary inquiry into the university, which has very broad terms of reference (CMM May 9).

To all of which Professor Black indicated equanimity yesterday, agreeing to keep consulting, “in any change that affects the character of a city you would expect real conversations,” he said.

Not that he has much choice. The university is said to have bought all the property it needs in the city and the prospect of selling it to pay to update Sandy Bay for a permanent stay would be a comprehensive, perhaps career concluding defeat.

Which Professor Black does not appear keen to contemplate. When asked yesterday if he wanted a second five-year term (the first is up this year) Professor Black replied, “I will sign-up for the mission, however long that is. That’s what I am here to do.”


H (for high) in computer research ranking

This is a don’t-read warning for people who loathe such lists

But for everybody else, as of December, Rajkumar Buyya (Uni Melbourne) rated ninth in the world – on a new computer science ranking from

His 845 publications generate an H Index (number of publications cited by that many times) of 154 – world number one Anil K Jain’s (Michigan State U) is 201.

Overall, Australia ranked seven, with 250 researchers rated. Globally it is the US (4090) then daylight, China follows with 850, ahead of the UK (527), Germany (435), Canada (366) and Italy 267.

The ranking is based on four bibliometric scores and scrutinises pay-to-publish journals to exclude “predatory publishers.” CMM is sure this does not mean all the big for-profit houses, which use article processing charges.

Appointment, achievements

Laura Chahda (Uni Melbourne) wins the 2021 best paper award from the International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology.

Paul Duldig (COO, ANU) is moving to become chief executive of Victoria’s state library. Prior to ANU he was at the University of Melbourne, where he led university services 2014-18.

Geoff Webb (Monash U) wins the distinguished research contribution award at the Pacific-Asia Conference on knowledge discovery and data mining.