“Hand me the scissors Hal”

Flinders U and BAE Systems announced a tech-collaboration for work on the navy’s new frigates. Industry, Science and Technology minister Karen Andrews did the honours, assisted by a “collaborative robot,” which cut the ribbon. Sssistant ministers be warned.

A shot in the arm for the China relationship


The feds are funding research for COVID-19 virus vaccine – somebody should tell China

Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday announced $2m from the Medical Research Future Fund is up for researcher-grabs in a competitive process. The Doherty Institute, CSIRO and Uni Queensland researchers are already on the case.

Which is good – what will be great is telling China all about it.

The Chinese will remember who helped them in the crisis and who didn’t. At the moment, the Australian focus on loss of international student income has us in the second category.

Demonstrating Australia is supporting China in its efforts to get on top of the virus outbreak would be displaying Guanxi or demonstrating our trust and strong relationship. It would go a long way to getting us back into the category we should be in.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent. Reach him @ [email protected]

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning, Jason Lodge (Uni Queensland) on the  importance of process in student learning. It’s this week’s essay in Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series on  what is needed now in teaching and learning.

And Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on the science and cricket of research publishing strategy.

Live and in person at Macquarie U

Not only can Macquarie U staff have e-input into the new operating plan some staff and students can tell the VC what they think direct

Vice Chancellor S Bruce Dowton is hosting workshops for invited staff and students, on a range of issues that input into the plan. It’s all part of a comms opportunity to “collectively decide our next steps.”

Staff who don’t get to go to meetings can still comment on-line and vote on ideas.

MU observers say the consultations look like management recognition that it needs to talk more with and less at staff. Members of the university executive are said to have been surprised at how badly staff responded to the October announcement that the Faculty of Human Sciences would be broken up to save money.

The top of the international boom

Students from China accounted for 261 000 enrolments in Australian education last year

There were 758 000 international students in Australia at end December, 9 per cent up on end ’18.

And the boom showed no sign of slowing, with commencements increasing 7.6 per cent on ’18, just 0.3 per cent less than the previous five-year average.

The figures are in annual data announced by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

Higher education enrolments increased by 11 per cent to 442 000, 46 per cent of the system, although commencement growth (7.9 per cent) was way behind VET’s 16 per cent.

Overall the boom depended on demand from China. While growth in Chinese student enrolments in all sectors seems to have peaked – up only 2 per cent on ’18, they accounted for 28 per cent of all-nationalities at the end of 2019.

Victoria U VC announces departure

Peter Dawkins will retire at the end of his second five-year term, next January

Professor Dawkins told staff yesterday that, “I believe it will be a good time for the university to move forward under new leadership.” However, he added that he will, “will not allow the momentum to subside in my last year as vice-chancellor.”

Professor Dawkins nominates precinct plans for four campuses and a new research strategy, including a new flagship programme, “planetary health” as major projects for his last year.

Dawkins begins his long goodbye with VU in vastly better shape than when he arrived, or even at the end of his first term.

The obvious example is the block-teaching model, where students complete one-subject at a time, which started for first-years and is now rolling out across the university. It is a huge success, creating a global rep for VU.

But Professor Dawkins and his team have accomplished much more, restoring finances and improving the university’s local, national, global reputation.

Perhaps the most extraordinary achievement is the transformation of staff relations. Three years back VU management was distrusted by much of the workforce, to the extent that its enterprise bargaining offers were twice voted down. But now there is a sense of campus pride in what the university has done and can do. In September, the university won the Voice survey award from the university managements’ industrial organisation for, “substantial positive change,” (CMM September 5 2019).

One, among many, achievements.


Claire Field on learnings from COVID-19

If institutions are strategic in their actions they could come out of this crisis ahead of their competitors

COVID-19 (aka the coronavirus) is likely to have both short and long-term impacts on the Australian tertiary sector. Aside from any requests for government financial assistance it seems clear universities will move to reduce their dependence on students from China (with “diversification plans” given more attention).

In the longer term, I think it is likely we will see a renewed emphasis on online learning – and if institutions are strategic in their actions they could come out of this crisis ahead of their competitors.

The global EdTech sector is booming and it’s now about much more than MOOCs and micro-credentials – useful though they undoubtedly are. EdTech is starting on a significant transition which will change how we teach.

The use of big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence, as well as sophisticated learning platforms, is delivering measurable improvements in student learning over traditional face-to-face models.

Bringing educators and data scientists together is paying off for companies like:

Sana Labs:

* 1.8x increase in student proficiency (i.e. students learned more)

* 19 per cent increase in student retention rates, and

* 91 per cent accurate predictions of future performance of learners

Century Intelligent Learning:

* 30 per cent improvement in student learning

* learners from low SES backgrounds learning at the same pace as other learners

* reduction in teacher workload of six hours per week

I chose a VET focus for the EdTech conference I am hosting in Sydney next month, as I thought the higher education sector better understood the threats and opportunities EdTech offers.

It is ironic then, that the impact of the coronavirus on the VET sector is much less than the impact on higher education (with only 2,669 VET students with visas caught in China as a result of the travel ban compared with 97,968 higher education students).

Claire Field advises on VET, international education and private higher education

A new campus for USC – a big achievement for Greg Hill

It’s the first ever O-week for Uni Sunshine Coast’s new Moreton Bay campus

That the campus exists at all is a tribute to Vice Chancellor Greg Hill’s political skill, not to say persistence. Back in 2015 he and the local council agreed the campus was needed to meet demographic demand and since then he has made persuasive cases with successive ministers.

First, he convinced the feds to fund infrastructure and in 2018 he pointed out that buildings were no good if the freeze on undergraduate growth places applied, and lo 1200 Commonwealth Supported Placess were promised – which are now delivered.

And it wasn’t just Moreton Bay where Professor Hill went the full oliver, he also asked for more at other USC campuses.

Professor Hill is retiring this year, which should relieve Treasury officials.


MOOC of the morning, again

Those who can, teach and teach how to teach

Kym Fraser (Swinburne U) and 20 colleagues from Aus unis present “Contemporary approaches to university teaching,” running for the third year, via Canvas.

Teaching in the first few years can be daunting, challenging, enjoyable –  mostly exhausting in my experience,” Aspro Fraser says.

“Most of us have to learn how to teach at the tertiary level and we can’t rely on teaching as we were taught.”


Claire Bowers becomes La Trobe U’s media and comms director. She has acted in the role since November, replacing Tim Mitchell.