Plus new degrees and big research investment as Uni Sydney expands west

Serious money

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is going after a for-profit training provider the commonwealth paid $210m for VET FEE HELP diploma course enrolments. The ACCC is prosecuting the Australian Institute for Professional Education for false or misleading representations and unconscionable conduct.

“We allege AIPE marketed its courses to some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in the Australian community, including consumers from low socio-economic backgrounds and consumers with intellectual disabilities. Further, for these online courses, some people were enrolled who had limited reading and writing skills, could not use a computer, and were not able to use email. We allege that AIPE failed to take adequate steps to ensure that it was not taking advantage of these vulnerable consumers, ACCC chair Rod Simms says.


Knight unknown

The University of Western Australia has retained an HR expert named Matthew Knight to provide HR advice on academic retrenchments. Is this the same Mathew Knight who was HR director at the University of Leeds when UWA senior DVC and restructure head Dawn Freshwater worked there? CMM asked the university yesterday but a spokesman said it “would not be appropriate to supply background details on an individual.”

Bargaining begins

The National Tertiary Education Union has launched its Round Seven national wage campaign in Western Australia with a demand for a 3.75 per cent per annum pay rise for four years. The union says the RBA is forecasting inflation at 3 per cent and this “15 per cent salary increase over four years is required to ensure that Australian university salaries remain internationally competitive,” the union advises.

This contrasts with Round Six, which started with a 7 per cent per annum claim. According to NTEU national secretary Grahame McCulloch, that was “set in 2012 at a time when the mining investment boom was at its peak, annual wages were growing at 3.7 per cent and the Gillard Government had committed to a 5 per cent increase in base funding (including a new salaries indexation package).” While Curtin University, settled first at 4 per cent Mr McCulloch said the generality of deals last time were between 3.25 per cent and 3.75 per cent pa.

Other claims in the new round will focus on job security, including converting casual and fixed-term jobs to on-going employment and for contract research staff to have guaranteed employment for the length of externally funded projects.


Bennett of Bond

Bond University’s incoming chancellor is recently retired federal court judge Annabelle Bennett. Dr Bennett, a member of Bond’s council will become the university’s eight chancellor, replacing Helen Nugent, who was term limited.

Two council members have also reached term limits, patriarch of education policy Kwong Lee Dow and sometime GE Australia CEO Steven Sargent. Recently retired Department of Education secretary Lisa Paul and investor Manny Pohl replace them.

It is Ms Paul’s second appointment to a private education provider board since retiring. In February she joined for-profit Navitas, (CMM February 8).

Unhappy ending

Former University of Queensland neuroscientist Bruce Murdoch received a two-year suspended sentence for research fraud yesterday. Back in 2013 the university trawled through 90 papers by him and associate Caroline Barwood and followed up by returning research funds, advising a journal to retract a paper and providing a report to the state Crime and Misconduct Commission. UoQ management was not talking about it yesterday.

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New Sydney strategy

The University of Sydney will expand into the city’s west, creating a campus for 6000 students in medicine and health sciences, up from 1200 now at Westmead, in the catchment of the University of Western Sydney. And UniSyd will triple research investment, with a new innovation precinct at its existing inner city base and an $150m per annum fund. The university also plans to establish its first-ever offshore facility, a research incubator and study centre at Suzhou in China. The moves are laid out in Vice Chancellor Michael Spence‘s second five year plan.

The overall goal is to become “the leading comprehensive, research-intensive university in Australia and among the very best in the world.” However the university admits to reach it, “we need to improve the quality and impact of our research output.”

UniSydney will also redesign its education architecture, offering four different degree pathways. The first is an undergraduate degree as exist now. The second is a bachelor degree plus a one year advanced studies bachelor. In combination they will allow students to undertake, “two disciplinary areas in depth,” (plus) “multi-disciplinary and real-world problem-solving activities, often, but not always, embedded in industry and community settings.” The third is a bachelor degree plus a professional or specialist masters, both publicly funded, “subject to a funding agreement with the Commonwealth.” There is also a research career suite, consisting of an undergraduate degree plus a research track masters and following PhD. The university will also emphasise interdisciplinary knowledge and entrepreneurship in undergraduate programmes, with project-based learning subjects in third year.

This will involve reducing the number of undergraduate degrees on offer. The university has previously announced it will cut faculties from 16 to six with three independent specialist schools.


App of the day

Training Minister Scott Ryan spoke at the launch of Paddl, (“casual jobs for career savvy students”) yesterday. For those not there details are sparse, the website states it is still in test but apparently it’s a “a simple web application that connects students to relevant casual work experiences and jobs for their course.” Sounds like a good idea as the graduate population grows students will want every chance to graduate with an employment edge ion the competition.

Dominique Fisher’s Career Lounge is the creator of Paddl, one of a suite student employment related products. Ms Fisher is prominent in the training establishment, being appointed by former industry minister Ian Macfarlane to a training reform board (CMM August 18 2014).