Stellar ambition at ANU

“Join ANU InSpace for a cosmic adventure to build a model of the universe with LEGO,” (via Twitter, yesterday). Presumably using just 42 bricks.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

James Guthrie (Macquarie U) on NSW unis investment strategies – borrowing for infrastructure and investments (does no-one remember Lehman Brothers/)

plus Sally Patfield and Jenny Gore on a Uni Newcastle programme to assist university teachers with no training in teaching. It’s Sally Kift’s new selection for her celebrated series, Needed now in learning and teaching.”

Rebound in researcher jobs

The job market for researchers took a huge hit last year – but there’s been a lift 

An analysis of job advertisements for academic roles reveals the market hit bottom in April 2020, with ads down 70 per cent on YTD 2019.

But by June this year advertisements were at 90 per cent of June ’19.

While the rebound does nearly nothing to restore university jobs lost during COVID-19 it does indicate a recovery of sorts.

The finding is in new research from ANU’s PostAc team, which analyses labour markets to find a, “better fit between the higher education sector and Australia’s other users of highly skilled researchers.”

PostAc also identifies a recovery in ex-university demand for positions requiring high research skills. Demand fell from 15 000 advertisements a month in 2019 to 6 400 in April 2020 Employment demand for research graduates outside universities was back at the 2019 average this February and June was 45 per cent up on the all-2019 number.

PostAc has a searchable database for researchers looking for expertise-relevant work outside universities.

Jabs on the clock

The NSW branch of the National Tertiary Education Union is campaigning for paid vaccination leave for all staff, and that includes casuals. The comrades claim wins at five unis (Australian Catholic U, Uni Newcastle, Uni New England, Uni Wollongong and Western Sydney U).

Dirk Mulder on six hard months in international education


The half year (YTD June) data is published by the feds. At the start of the year there was plenty of optimism about a return to status quo – it does not seem likely now

Across the nation in June, the key YTD stats are:

Overall commencers for all sectors were down 71 448, or 29.7 per cent against 2020, while against 2019 they are down 97 369 or 36.5 per cent. Total enrolments were down 124 902, 17.2 per cent against ‘20 while against 2019 they were down 108 970 or 15.4 per cent.

Higher Ed commencers were down 19 407, or 22.7 per cent against 2020, while against 2019 they were down 34 518 or 34.4 per cent. Enrolments were down 45,829 or 12.5 per cent against ‘20, while against ‘19 they were down 42 344 or 11.6 per cent.

VET commencers were down 9012, or 10.2 per cent against 20, while against 19 they were down 3584 or 4.3 per cent. Enrolments were down 3,041 or 1.3 per cent against ‘20, while against ‘19 they were up 28 704 or 14.6 per cent.

Schools commencers were down 3,855 or 54.1 per cent against 20, while against 19 they were down 4498 or 57.7 per cent. Enrolments were down 6175 or 31.8 per cent against 20, while against 19 they were down 8,173 or 38.2 per cent.

ELICOS (Visa) commencers were down 26 729 or 61.6 per cent against ‘20, while against ‘19 they were down 40 254 or 70.7 per cent. Enrolments were down 51 679 or 63.4 per cent against 20, while against 19 they were down 66 300 or 69 per cent.

Non-Award commencers were down 12 415 or 75.3 per cent against 20, while against 19 they were down 14 515 or 78.1 per cent. Enrolments were down 18 178 or 64 per cent against 20, while against 19 they were down 20 875 or 67.1 per cent.

China keeps On

Australia’s largest sending country, China appears to be holding the line. Well, as good as one could do so in a global pandemic. Albeit it in a different way. Overall Chinese enrolments are down 11.1 percent against 20 and 18.4 per cent against 19. This can be seen a relatively good result as 64 per cent of Chinese visa holders (as of August) are offshore. Keeping 90 thousand plus change Chinese nationals engaged in an offshore capacity is testament to the resilience of the sector to adapt to the current circumstances. If lost, the overall decline would look much worse.

NSW, QLD and ACT know something the other don’t about China

Commencers from China appear to like higher education in NSW, QLD and the ACT. Each of these states are up. NSW Higher Ed commencers from China are up 2511 or 22.2 per cent on ‘20. Queensland HE commencers from China are up 613 or 17.4 per cent on ‘20. While ACT’s Higher Ed commencers from China are up 436 or 46.1 per cent from China.

While China prefers Higher Ed, India still seek VET

CMM has continued to report on the uptake of Indian nationals to the VET system since the pandemic started… the trend continues. NSW and VIC lead the way.

Indian VET Commencers in NSW were up 124 or 3.6 per cent against 20, while against 19 they are up 1367or 62.9 per cent. Enrolments were up 2210 or 25.9 per cent against ‘20 while against ‘19 they were up 5881 or 120.9 per cent.

Indian VET Commencers in VIC were up 188 or 1.9 per cent against 20, while against 19 they are up 3,361 or 52.1 per cent. Enrolments were up 4,813 or 22.2 per cent against ‘20 while against ‘19 they were up 13,463 or 103.4 per cent.

Don’t think VET is attracting all new students either. Across all nationalities pathways data indicates only 27 per cent had no prior study, the rest has completed study in another sub-sector. Of these, Higher Ed was the largest at 39 per cent, Elicos at 31 per cent, Schools at 2 per cent and Non award at 1 per cent.

 The economics of it all

English Australia’s recently released economic impact research showed that the drop in ELICOS numbers at a top-level is A$2.7bn. This is the cost of COVID-19 and having the borders closed. This is made up of AU$1.2bn in direct contributions and A$1.5bnn against future pathways.

English language study has always been considered the canary in the coal mine when it comes to the heath of the broader international education sector. If this remains true, the sector still hasn’t bottomed out.

Dirk Mulder advises education and business clients on trends in international education

Peak research funding agencies split on pre-prints

The National Health and Medical Research Council approves citing pre-prints in research funding applications

In an announcement late yesterday, the council stated that it had taken advice from its research committee and that as of October it will accept pre-prints, “as publications for track-record assessment purposes.”

This is starkly separates the NHMRC from the Australian Research Council, now being criticised for rejecting applications for its Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards that included pre-prints (CMM Friday and Danny Kingsley’s analysis, yesterday). The ARC states that the rule was clearly included in DECRA paperwork – but not why it is there.

In contrast, the NHMRC specifies acceptable pre-prints must not be peer-reviewed and “be available in a recognised scientific public archive or repository, such as  arXiv, bioRxiv, Peer J Preprints, F1000 Research.”

The NHMRC is also looking at expanding open access considering requiring papers based on research it funds to be free to read on publication, either in the journal where they appear or in an institutional depository holding the author’s accepted manuscript. In contrast the ARC’s OA policy requires OA within 12 months of publication, “except “in cases where this requirement cannot be met for any reason, including legal or contractual obligations,” (CMM April 16).

Right the first time: academics’ pandemic responses

People were alarmed and exhausted by the impact of COVID-19 – and that was when the worst was yet to come

The Australian section of a six-nation survey conducted June-July last year found 77.6 per cent of respondents, “suffering from digital fatigue” 69.3 per cent believing COVID-19 had “intensified top-down governance” and 59.6 per cent feeling “weakened trust in university leaders.”

A paper based on the survey focuses on whether the pandemic — and institutional responses, “were intensifying already established trends in higher education as a result of marketisation.” *

Respondents were certainly concerned about employment, with 76 per cent “fearful for their current job”, and 80 per cent predicting “increased casualisation.”

And they weren’t expecting help from people in power. “As elucidated by our respondents government appeared to abandon the sector and university leadership were seen to use the pandemic as an opportunity to reduce costs,” the survey-researchers state.

But there was some optimism, 66 per cent of respondents enjoyed working remotely. “Working from home was seen to have benefits for both staff and employer if done properly.”

Overall, people thought COVID-19 would mean permanent change, “there was a sense that campus life, student life, academic work and society at large would be unalterably transformed … and that strategic virtual student and collegial sites could be developed in the way that already happens in many other areas of contemporary society such as on-line shopping, dating and banking.”

* Fiona McGaughey (UWA), Richard Watermeyer (Uni Bristol), Kalpana Shankar (Uni College Dublin), Venkata Ratnadeep (Indraprastha IIT), Cathryn Knight (Swansea U), Tom Crick (Swansea U), Joanne Hardman (Uni Cape Town), Dean Phelan (Maynooth U) and Roger Chung (Chinese U of HK), ‘This can’t be the new norm’: academics’ perspectives on the COVID-19 crisis for the Australian University Sector Higher Education Research and Development (September 2021)