Flinders prepares for the worse

“How can you keep your mobile phone working when a volcano destroys the network towers?” Flinders U News reports research. Quite right. Just because Mount Gambier hasn’t erupted for a while does not mean it won’t.

OECD warns 250 000 Australian graduates have low literacy/numeracy skills

Some 20 per cent of the three million Australian adults with low literacy/numeracy skills have above upper-secondary school education, according to a new report from the OECD. And nine per cent of them have a bachelor degree or better. The figure for the VET qualified is 16 per cent.

Numeracy is a bigger problem than literacy, particularly among women, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development reports.

The three million total puts Australia on par with New Zealand, better than the US and UK but worse than the Nordic nationsJapan and the Netherlands.

“Although Australia’s average results are not poor, the challenges presented by adults with low basic skills may lead to Australia being left behind in terms of innovation and economic growth by nations that have been more successfully investing in the skills of all their people, the OECD warns.

The OECD urges government to:

  • increase women’s participation in STEM
  • strengthen maths in secondary education
  • target support for VET students at risk of low skill levels

Navitas just misses $1bn revenue

Private provider Navitas could not repeat its 2016 $1bn sales achievement, announcing a 5 per cent decline in revenue in its 2017 annual report. Income is $955m, down from $1010m last year. Profit is also down, from $90m last year to $80m this.

The company attributes the decline to a range of factors including “the final closure” of Macquarie and Curtin U colleges in Sydney and “the de-recognition” of $17m revenue, as the company converted its Edith Cowan College into a JV with that university. These factors plus currency movements and “the continuation of the restrictive UK international student visa regime,” led to a 10 per cent decline in university partnerships revenue, to $574m.

However the company reports, “confirmed continued strong growth in demand for both international and tertiary education across many of Navitas’ core markets. An evolving sector will provide extensive growth opportunities for a nimble, well-funded and high-quality education provider like Navitas.”

The company adds it is investing in “the next generation of education focused initiatives for growth.” This includes investing in Studylink, “a leading provider of unaccredited management programmes.”

Moses steps up at UNSW

Lyria Bennett Moses is the lead for the UNSWLiving with 21st technology” grand challenge. This and other challenges facilitate discussion and illuminate the university’s research on “the greatest issues facing humanity.” Associate Professor Bennett Moses is in the law faculty.

It is rocket science: universities launch space partnerships

The University of South Australia is to collaborate more closely with existing partner; the French International Space University (chancellor, Buzz Aldrin). The ISU has run a summer school at UniSA since 2004 (systems engineering, life sciences and the law, economics and comms of space industry) and the partnership will now extend to nurturing student start-ups.

ANU has signed-on with the German space agency to pursue “potential cooperation opportunities in space related fields,” including optics, lasers, hyperspectral imaging payloads and personnel exchanges, presumably not in space.

UNSW Canberra will share $9.96m with the RAAF on small satellites. Defence Industry Minister Chris Pyne emphasises education, saying the programme will create and launch three miniature satellites, to “develop elements of a space flight mission.” UNSW adds the partners will use the three cubesats to develop skills in maritime in maritime surveillance.

CSIRO, the Defence Materials Technology Centre and six (unspecified universities) will develop sensor and on-board data processing technology for unmanned aerial systems and small-satellite platforms.

As the ever-energetic Defence Industry Minister Chris Pyne puts it; “the sky is certainly not the limit”

Learning tech leaders

Monash College is joint winner of the team accolade in the 2017 (UK) Association for Learning Technology awards. The college, Monash U’s pathway provider, shares the honour with staff from the University of Sheffield.

Labor promises ASEAN studies centre and Asian language learning

Labor in office will create an ASEAN Studies Centre, run by Australian universities in cooperation with south east Asian nations. “Australian universities host US Studies centres, China Studies centres, and Monash University hosts the Australia-Indonesia Centre while the University of Western Australia hosts the excellent Perth US-Asia Centre. But we lack an Australia-ASEAN Studies Centre. Comparable centres exist in the US, Japan, Korea and India but not in Australia,” Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen said Friday in a wide-ranging speech on engaging with Asia.

Mr Bowen also commits to fostering a long-term engagement with Asia and spoke of the need to expand Asian language learning in schools, promising to “ use the COAG processes to collaborate with states and territories to lift the focus on Asian languages and work on specific programs in this field.”


Nursing dean appointed

Sally Robertson is confirmed as dean of nursing at the Sydney campus of the University of Notre Dame Australia. She has acted as dean all year.

Peace is busting out all over with union and managements doing deals

The temper of the industrial times has changed as the National Tertiary Education Union adopts a make-nice strategy and managements respond.

The union was never looking for scalps in this bargaining round but after the Fair Work Commission’s ruling that Murdoch U is no longer bound by wages and conditions in the old enterprise agreement NTEU leaders started to push for peace, lest other universities decide to follow Murdoch’s hard-line approach.

So, last week deals were struck for new enterprise agreements at ANU and Edith Cowan, following Sydney the week before. There are now seven universities where management and union will jointly recommend a deal to staff, with at least one more soon to settle.

And now at Murdoch U, the test case for a tough management approach, the VC says she wants a deal by the end of the year. While the university’s pay offer is well under the emerging average it is entirely possible that both sides will set aside their anger and talk. The combination of a per cent age pay rise and flat cash increases Murdoch is offering is a model the NTEU likes – it increases the overall per cent age for junior staff.

Even at Western Sydney University, where the union leadership is famously unafraid of a fight, there are indications of nice being made.  After a stop work the other week NTEU branch organiser Dylan Griffith says;

“there was a clear change to the tone of the negotiations. … “We are now confident that with the active support of members, bargaining can be completed with strong outcomes for members on salaries and super, job security, anti-casualisation measures, protection of incomes under organisational change within the next couple of months.”

The union also points to progress on stopping management simplifying misconduct and workload management, which are the sorts of areas the universities industrial relations lobby wants to get tough on and the NTEU wants to stop.

“We are certainly keen to secure new agreements, and we believe management is keen to get the process finished as well,” Mr Griffith says.