There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Zoe Terpening (UNSW) on the extraordinary potential of health precincts to radically transform care. “Universities are electing to put their research spaces within the four walls of our hospitals – a huge step forward in bringing academia closer to the patient bedside,” she writes.

plus Helping disengaged students can start with a phone call. Kelly Linden and Chris Campbell (Charles Sturt U) set out what to do, in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s for her celebrated series Need now in learning and teaching.

and James Guthrie (Macquarie U) on the financial state of Victoria’s public universities. “Their accounting methodologies are better suited to commercial, for-profit corporations, not charities,” he argues.

Performance funding for educ faculties not dead yet

The previous government wanted performance funding for teacher education providers – the idea is not dead yet

Back in February a report to the then federal government proposed funding incentives and  allocation of student places for initial teacher education providers on the basis of performance (CMM February 25)

It was the unfortunately acronymed Quality Initial Teacher Education Review which then acting minister Stuart Robert apparently thought included splendid ideas. And so he announced the Teacher Education Quality Assurance Expert Panel to advise on implementing them– to be chaired by Uni Sydney VC Mark Scott, (presumably because as a former DG of NSW Education he knows a bit about it).

Since then there has not been a dickybird. But QITER and the Scott Panel are not in the limbo of lost proposals by previous governments.

The Department of Education states that the review and the panel “will be considered as part of the education ministers meeting on August 12.”

The smart state of Vic medical research

The Victorian Government has long found a positive in the pandemic – pitching investment in medical research as essential for Australia

And now it pulls together sundry spending in a decadal “health and medical research strategy.” There’s no new money but there is a plausible statement of why the state is involved.

“One of the most important lessons of COVID‑19 — as demonstrated by the difficulty to secure mRNA vaccines — is that Australia is over reliant on global supply chains. Socially and economically, Australia must become more self‑reliant in areas of national interest — including health.”

The document reports the state’s commitment to;

* GenV: $30m for the “largest childhood research project ever developed in Australia … equitable, evidence‑based interventions and changes in Victoria’s health, welfare, education and services”

* $50m “to accelerate mRNA manufacturing, research and development

* $400m for the Australian Institute of Infectious Disease, involving Uni Melbourne, Burnet and Doherty and Walter and Eliza Hall institutes, Murdoch Children’s RI and CSL

Smart stuff. Health and medical research is a no-lose for state government, picking what it wants and leaving the Commonwealth with the blame for not funding all the good research that the NHMRC and MRFF does not support.


What skills ministers need to do now: Claire Field has a list


The creation of Jobs and Skills Australia is good but there are plenty of other issues to address

This week the government will introduce legislation into the Federal Parliament to create Jobs and Skills Australia. It will be of keen interest to many and is significant for Australia’s future.

However, in the Australian VET system it is states and territories, not the federal government, which have constitutional responsibility for VET. That is why so many of us in the sector were keen to read the communique issued after last week’s Skills Ministers’ meeting, to learn how ministers were progressing with previously agreed VET priorities.

Regrettably, the communique contained no specifics, despite Labor in opposition signalling their support for a number of reforms being progressed under the direction of skills ministers, such as changes to VET industry advisory arrangements.

While these reforms are not headline grabbing, they are important for VET providers and thus for employers and students.

If, for example, the proposed Industry Clusters are not ready to go on 1 January 2023 as planned – what will happen to the staff currently employed in the Skills Service Organisations which are being replaced in these reforms, and who will be responsible for updating national training packages?

Fifty training packages are currently undergoing review/yet to be finalised. When and how will responsibility for them be handed over to the new Industry Cluster organisations and indeed which organisations were successful in the Commonwealth’s tender process for the Industry Clusters?

With evidence that some TAFE Institutes are struggling to keep their courses up to date (and no doubt some private and community providers too) – what will providers do if the planned reforms are delayed? And what will delays mean for students and for employers already dealing with significant skill shortages?

Chisholm Institute’s on-line arm is now subject to weekly visits by Victorian government officials because they have not kept their courses updated and students have been badly affected. TAFE NSW is going to tender for help to update its courses, after previous outsourcing attempts produced unusable resources and again, students were badly affected.

These are only the examples that make it into the media – other providers are undoubtedly facing similar challenges.

Many in the VET sector will welcome the creation of Jobs and Skills Australia – I do.

What is also needed though is more progress and greater transparency from Skills Ministers on the VET sector’s other important reforms.

 Claire Field is an adviser to the tertiary education sector

Best western: WSU’s big deal

Western Sydney U comments on the proposed enterprise agreement are way too modest

The university and campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union have agreed on terms for enterprise agreement pay rises and for WSU academic casuals to have first chance at 150 new continuing jobs (CMM yesterday),

But university management properly wants it known that the proposal still has to be signed-off in a staff vote. Western Sydney U also thanks both campus unions, the other is the CPSU, for “their constructive engagement in the bargaining process to date.”

Good-o, but university management also deserves a share of the credit for what is said to have been a long and difficult negotiation in uncertain times which addresses the high profile issue of academics in insecure employment without ignoring the needs of other university staffers – notably lower paid professional staff, who will receive a top-up to base salary as part of the proposal.

If, as seems exceeding likely, staff approve, the new Western Sydney U agreement will be a model for bargaining across the country.

Good training numbers for now

There were 349 235 apprentices and trainees as at end December 2021,16.8 per cent more than at year end 2020

December quarter ’21 commencements were down on ’20 but “considerably higher” on the same quarter in the three years pre-pandemic, 2017-19, the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research reports.

NCVER suggests the increases occurred “largely as a result” of the commencements wage subsidy the Commonwealth introduced in October 2020, “to help recovery from the impact of COVID-19”.

Good-o for now – commencements collapsed from 2012, when the Commonwealth cancelled a previous wage subsidy which inflated demand.

Appointments, achievements

Six emerging research leaders join the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences mentor programme. * James Chong, cardiologist. Westmead IMR and Uni Sydney * Tomas Kalincik, clinical outcomes research. Uni Melbourne and Royal Melbourne Hospital * Francine Marques, genetics, genomics. Monash U * Lisa Moran, health lifestyle research. Monash U. * Suzanne Nielsen, addiction research. Monash U. * David Scott, emerging leadership fellow, Deakin U,

Jane den Hollander (former VC Deakin U, Murdoch U and UWA) becomes an honorary fellow of Cardiff University. So does former prime minister Julia Gillard. Professor den Hollander did her PhD at Cardiff U.

Brett Mitchell (Avondale U) wins the Commonwealth Health Minister’s 2022 Award for Excellence in Health and Medical Research. Professor Mitchell works on healthcare-associated infection.

Science and Technology Australia announces committee appointments. STEM sector policy: Kate McGeoch (ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science), Miloš Tanurdžić (Uni Queensland) and Vanessa Wong (Monash U). Equity, diversity and inclusion: Muneera Bano (CSIRO) Kate Callaghan (CSIRO), Corey Tutt (Deadly Science) and Sumeet Walia (RMIT)

David Llewellyn is Victoria U’s inaugural chief marketing officer. He comes from the Bellweather Agency, which he founded in 2017. He joins Corrina Langelaan who started in June as media and corporate comms director, moving from Uni Melbourne.