First things first at Uni Adelaide

It took less than an hour from the announcement of Peter Høj as next VC of the University of Adelaide for speculation to start on a merger with Uni SA

Certainly, Professor Høj was keen on it when he was VC of Uni SA. “I was fully committed to a merger. … I have been very vocal on it and I clearly believe that none of the three SA universities have enough scale … it will have to happen,” he told The Advertiser (April 26 2012).

But not so much right now

“Whilst my top priority is to engage deeply with the university community and to assist with the healing process, ensuring we have a culture focused on respect and collegiality, I am of course also focused on the University’s financial viability. The University of Adelaide’s $1 billion operation is by far the biggest in the state, and consistent with its ranking in the world’s top 1 per cent of universities,” the incoming VC said yesterday.

“I know from the chancellor’s previous communications that the University of Adelaide remains open-minded to the possibility of a merger, or some other rationalisation of higher education in the state.

“My past views on a merger are well-documented, based on my knowledge of the state when I was vice chancellor of Uni SA.

“Any merger needs to be in the best interests of the University of Adelaide and of the state.

“Ultimately that would be a decision for the University’s Council.”

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

There’s a way for universities to understand the challenges regional and remote students face, listen to them. Janine Delahunty sets out why motivation and determination to succeed at study aren’t always enough. It’s this week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.


Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on working out what is best for students

Tom Smith and James Guthrie (both Macquarie U) on the way casual staff are lost in university statistics and why we need to count people not accounting abstracts

Hold the phone at UNSW

 “Desk phones are a thing of the past” UNSW told staff in December

The university announced it was moving to a new internet based system, with staff using laptops or “mobile devices” for telephony, with all handsets were due to be collected before Christmas.

University mobiles were also covered, which does not appear to have been universally well-received. “The project team received a substantial amount of feedback which was reviewed and carefully considered,” management advised this week.

“In reviewing the feedback, key themes were identified which made clear the need to retain a limited number of UNSW funded phones/services to ensure UNSW business and research can continue to be performed effectively.”

There is now an exemption policy which “will be very stringent and approvals will be permitted only in very limited circumstances.”

CMM suspects the exemption contact phone or laptop, will ring off the hook.


Peter Høj new Uni Adelaide VC

He is perhaps the most prepared VC to ever start at an Australian, certainly a South Australian, university

Prior to this appointment, Professor Høj was chief executive of the Australian Research Council (2004-2007), VC of the University of South Australia (2007-2012) and VC of Uni Queensland (2012-2020).

His experience should serve Uni Adelaide well in two vital areas. Professor Høj is an astute research leader deeply experienced in winning and allocating funding and with an entrepreneurial enthusiasm for next-generation science. He inherited a solid research base at Uni Queensland and built on it, leaving the university one of the top three for reputation in the country.

While Uni Adelaide is a member of the Group of Eight, its position as one of the nation’s leading research institutions is not assured – Professor Høj has the experience to create and implement a plan to improve Uni Adelaide’s research outcomes in a competitive marketplace where it lacks the scale of the five largest Go8 institutions.

Professor Høj also has the experience of university cultures Uni Adelaide needs in the aftermath of predecessor Peter Rathjen’s departure prior to a report from the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption.

Høj had to rebuild the Uni Queensland community’s confidence in management following the controversial exit of previous VC Paul Greenfield.

However, Professor Høj is not a vice chancellor given to giving-up on unpopular programmes. He stared down vocal campus opposition to secure a Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation at Uni Queensland last year. But it’s a strength that can need nuance . He appears to have been slow to realise the impact of political and media criticism of Uni Queensland’s links with the Chinese state.

Overall Høj’s appointment is a win for Uni Adelaide – one that he is keen to start delivering on.  He starts his five year term on Monday.

Executive deans announced at UNDA

The University of Notre Dame announces leadership for its three new faculties.

The appointments follow last year’s announcement of an academic structure to address “substantial inefficiency” in academic programmes, course administration and “campus based processes,” (CMM October 16).

Provost Pauline Nugent says the three EDs will work to ensure UNDA, “continues to excel in the provision of a student centered approach to program delivery.”  The appointees are;

* Elizabeth Labone (from ACU): Arts, Sciences and Business & Law

Aron Murphy (from UNE): Medicine, Nursing and Midwifery & Health

* Caroline Mansfield (Dean of Education at UNDA-Fremantle): Education and Philosophy & Theology

Needed from National Cabinet: a single positive message for international students


Phil Honeywood from the International Education Association of Australia warns the meeting of the PM, premiers and chief ministers on Friday is the one forum that can speak for the country

He’s right. Until now, the commonwealth and states have stuck to their own very different song sheets which has accomplished confusion in the industry and among students studying abroad who wonder when, or if, they will be allowed into Australia.

A coordinated message from all governments would be a powerful reassurance that they are not lost in the system or just forgotten.

That many fear they are should not come as a surprise. With the exception of the Darwin pilot, Australia appears alone among the Anglosphere education providers in not announcing a scaled return. As CMM reported Monday, Indian students are now looking to Canada, which will welcome them, over Australia, which won’t, at least not in-person.

Mr Honeywood says this week’s executive meeting of the Association of Australian Education Representatives in India heard first-hand evidence of Indian students changing their preferences from Australia to other countries, including Canada, New Zealand and the UK.

Not that open-borders are all the answer. UK’s Channel 4 provides an expose of international student life in the depth of winter, reporting a foodbank in east London catering for 1700 internationals a week.

What Australia’s international education industry needs on Friday is for national cabinet to set an indicative date when students will be allowed into the country.

This should not be that hard.  if Tennis Australia can pull off quarantining for the Australian Open and Rugby Australia can invite the British and Irish Lions to tour, without attracting much hostile attention, there is surely room for Australian governments to agree to a safe, scaled return of international students to Australia.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent

MOOC of the morning

The “Contemporary approaches to university teaching,” MOOC franchise is running for a fourth year, (via Canvas) but it’s under new management.

Founder Kym Fraser (Swinburne U) is retiring from academic work and the Council of Australasian University Leaders in Learning and Teaching has taken it on, with a pilot for semester one to assess need and resources. Agnes Bosanquet (Macquarie U) and Marina Harvey (UNSW) are academic leads.

Claire Field on the challenge of the next new normal on-line teaching and learning


How many institutions will fully embrace EdTech to lift the quality of on-line delivery, student engagement and satisfaction?

What is the new COVID normal and what does it mean for us as educators? I have been pondering this for some time but in the last few days my thinking has crystallised.

In a CEDA address on the Workplace of the Future, Telstra’s CEO, Andy Penn, explained how 80 per cent of its call centre staff now choose to work from home. He also reflected on the need to think about “how we train, coach and mentor today’s job market entrants in a much more virtual world.”

Penn’s insights echoed a discussion I had during the week with a senior education leader in Singapore who observed that students in the latter years of their degrees had adapted well to fully on-line delivery during COVID and were generally happy to continue with a higher level of on-line learning. By contrast, first-year students had found it much more challenging to socialise with each other and to adapt to university life. These insights are reflected in a recent study by Studiosity.

With Australian universities grappling with if, and when, to bring students back to campus – some have indicated that lectures may remain fully online. Good pedagogy and the demand from students for greater flexibility are amongst the drivers.

While institutions grapple with defining their new COVID normal (i.e., how much on-line vs on-campus delivery) and how to support new students in a more virtual environment, we need to keep in mind that we are having these discussions against a backdrop of predominantly “On-line Teaching 1.0” (Zoom and PowerPoint).

The more strategic question is how many institutions will push on to ‘Online Teaching 2.0’ and fully embrace EdTech to lift the quality of on-line delivery, student engagement and satisfaction.

Claire Field is the host of the ‘What now? What next?’ podcast. Last year she interviewed Cherie Diaz from OpenLearning on making the shift to online learning and Professor Judyth Sachs and Jim Micsko on successful tertiary transitions in a post-COVID world.

Appointments, achievements

Michael Gilding joins Flinders U as VP and ED of the College of Business, Government and Law. He moves from Swinburne U.

 Olivia Groves joins the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education as a post doc fellow.

Stephan Tillmann (Uni Sydney) is the new deputy director of the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute.