The week to come

Jobs are now top of the HE agenda

Vice chancellors and the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association, representing most universities, were scheduled to talk with the National Tertiary Education Union over the weekend.

They were looking for a common approach to the coming crisis in university employment, as internationals leave and locals struggle with on-line learning. A unified approach would help Education Minister Dan Tehan with any support package he takes to cabinet. The NTEU also has a social-media push today, urging members and supporters to tweet the PM “to defend jobs in higher education”.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Frank Larkins explains COVID-19 will be worse for international education numbers in Australia than competing countries. And some unis here will do way-worse than others. Plus research, heavily funded by international student fees, will take a big hit.

Plus, the eight-elements in open-learning students most want. Dominique Parrish, Allan Christie and Chris Campbell lay them out. It’s a new essay in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series on what’s needed now in teaching and learning.

And Alex Maritz and colleagues, on Australian entrepreneurship, a way to bounce back after the virus passes.

As well as Merlin Crossley  on the pandemic: if we buy enough time science will deliver 

Michael Sankey warns about e-exams, technical solutions that may not help.

Australian unis to be hit hard, real hard

Institutions which relied on big international student numbers to fund research growth will hurt, warns Frank Larkins

“In a number of universities more than 40% of the funding for research comes from their discretionary income, of which overseas student fees are a significant component,” Professor Larkins writes in a new analysis of COVID-19 impact on university finances

“This source is unlikely to be as readily available in the near future,” warns the University of Melbourne professor emeritus and long-time analyst of HE funding and organisation.

Professor Larkin’s warnings of the post pandemic funding future is in CMM Features, this morning.

Pandemic data should be out there

First the feds weren’t releasing it, then they said they would, and then it wasn’t clear. Enough already, Ian Frazer argues

“No evidence base will be perfect, but it’s better to understand how the evidence base was created than not at all,” Professor Frazer, co-inventor of the cervical cancer vaccine says.

Last week the Academy of Science pushed for the government’s pandemic modelling data to be made public. “Australia must make full use of leading scientists’ expertise …  to sharpen our response,” academy president John Shine said. Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly appeared to agree, saying the “epidemiology” would be “unlocked,” and “we need to be more open transparent, and we will be,” (CMM April 1). But by the week’s end what was being released was not clear.

Optimists say the data will be out there on Tuesday.  Pessimists point out the prime minister says he will report, which is not the same as release the data. What Mr Morrison said Friday is; “the Chief Medical Officer and I will be conducting a briefing on that information and sharing that with the nation.’

Which might not be enough for the scientists, as Professor Frazer puts it; “it’s really important that we understand the basis of the decisions that are being made on our behalf by government. Some of these decisions are quite strict and impose quite limiting rules on what we are allowed to do. So, we really need to know the evidence that’s being used to support these decisions is there and how it was derived.”

Messages for the Mail

Stephen Matchett’s old ISP now delivers emails in-person, by sedan chair, annually. So CMM has a new address, stephenrmatchett@gmail.com

Commute not class is the problem

Uni Sydney dentistry students are still in some classes. Not everybody is smiling

The university has closed its student clinics but simulations are still on. These are pracs using plastic teeth. According to the university they are, “continuing to run to fill the void in clinical training due to the current COVID-19 crisis and to prevent disruption in training the future dental workforce. The simulation clinics operate under special assurance for infection control.”

Good-o, but some students travelling to class on public transport wonder whether the risk is worth it.  “We, should be considered as a non-essential service at a time like this. We should be staying home,” one says.

New student support

Monash announces a $15m package

Students can qualify for $500 now and $7000 after April 14. All enrolled UG and PG coursework and HDR students are eligible.

UWA commits to $5000 grants

An unspecified number are available to domestic and international students, to support specified, “legitimate costs.” There is also a “dedicated fund” for low SES students.

“With much of the fund generated from philanthropy, the University extends its gratitude to its generous donors for their continued passion and support of UWA students.”

Charles Darwin U announces relief fund

It’s open to all students at the multi-sector institutions including internationals.

There are grants of $2000 for students with COVID-19 caused financial hardship.  How many grants is not specified and while the CDU Foundation has kicked in $200 000 the overall budget is not announced.

PM to international students: you’re on your own

The message is bad news for them, and  for international education

On Friday Scott Morrison said international students warrant they are able to support themselves for the first 12 months of study. And if they can’t now, “then there is the alternative for them to return to their home countries.”

It’s disastrous for international students here, who may not be able to get home and for education providers who hope that if they do they will come back when the pandemic passes.

No good way to spin it:  There was not much ministers could do to minimise the meaning in the PM’s message.

Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge barely tried Saturday; “the government will undertake further engagement with the international education sector who already provide some financial support for international students facing hardship.”

But he pointed-out being self-supporting is a condition of student visas. And just to make that a little harder he added that the increase in permitted hours (to 40 per fortnight) for students with existing jobs as supermarket shelvers (CMM March 16) reverts to the pre-crisis 20 PW, next month, “as more Australians are recruited into these roles.”

Mr Tudge was followed on Saturday afternoon by Education Minister Dan Tehan; “my message to our international students is you are our friends, our classmates, our colleagues and members of our community.”

Mr Teehan added, the government is working with HE providers, “on finding innovative ways to support our international students.”

At least the minister did not tell internationals to get the first flight.

So how tough are things for internationals now: Probably crook, real crook. Universities Australia included them in the most recent edition of their survey of student finances, in 2018.

UA reported nearly half international students have living expenses exceeding their income, with 89 per cent relying on families/partners. While just over half have some savings, 38 per cent had to draw on them – and that was when families could send money and there was paid work available.

Business as (sort of) usual for uni entry

The 2021 admissions process will happen

The Australasian Conference of Tertiary Admissions Centres “is committed to ensuring that prospective students will still have a pathway to tertiary study,” next year.

And that means ATARs as usual with any changes to state-based examination and assessment processes “accommodated within the existing framework.”

“Year 12 students and others aspiring to further study should remain committed to their goals and confident that all state and national education bodies are working on an equitable way forward that maintains the integrity of tertiary admissions,” ACTAC announces.

COVID-19 wrap: new uni actions

Swinburne U leadership takes a pay cut

VC Linda Kristjanson tells staff the leadership group is taking a 10 per cent pay cut, with no bonuses for the year. “Our priority is to minimise the impact on our people and manage the financial impacts together,” she says.

VC Iain Martin tells the Deakin U community “we were able to make a reasonably seamless shift to fully on-line study”

Even so the university is giving students space to decide if the shift was seamless enough. There is an extension to census date, a similar extension on assignments, no medical questions asked and

No hibernating at Uni Wollongong

“In an economy where some sectors are going into hibernation in order to ride out the pandemic, the last thing that should slow is the university sector, as high-level training is one of the only routes back to a resilient and vibrant economy,” Vice Chancellor Paul Wellings tells the university’s Council.

UoW reports moving (virtually all) 1026 subjects on-line,  with classes resuming today.

UNDA offers free health PD courses on critical care 

The University of Notre Dame Australia presents two on-line courses, detecting-responding to acute clinical deterioration, and respiratory assessment and basic ventilation strategies. The free courses are on the mornings of April 24 and May 1. Each counts for eight continuing professional development hours.

And Uni Melb med school launches the first of its on-line COVID-19 quick courses

Participants will learn how to perform a lung ultrasound, which can be done in minutes, is “superior to a stethoscope” and “more sensitive” than a chest x-ray.

The course is for medical, nursing and paramedical staff, takes 30 hours, and is free.

Uni Melb has more to come

National Union of Students and Universities Australia are as-one on the crisis for internationals

They met last week to discuss, “an increase in financial assistance and on-campus support for international students.”  To which UA added yesterday, ““It is in everyone’s interests that both Australian and international students can complete their studies as we face the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. Universities will do all we can through support packages and welfare funds to assist our valued international students

Achievements, appointments

The Australian Council of Graduate Research announces its 2020 excellence awards. GR supervision: Australian Research Council Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production, Uni Adelaide. GR leadership: Natalie Edwards, Uni Adelaide, Industry engagement in GR: Liam Smith and Felix Mavondo, Monash U

Sharyn Davies becomes director of the Herb Feith Indonesian Engagement Centre. She moves from Auckland Uni Technology.

Marina Harvey (UNSW) is elected president of the Council of Australasian University Leaders in Learning and Teaching. She was elected Friday at CAULLTS first ever digital AGM.  Jillian Hamilton (QUT) is VP and Trish McCluskey (VU) is a new committee member.

Peter Lloyd joins Universities Australia as comms director. Mr Lloyd is a long-time ABC journalist and recently a consultant to the government of Timor Leste.

Christine McLoughlin will be the fourth chancellor of the University of Wollongong. Ms McLoughlin is a company director. She will take over from outgoing chancellor Jillian Broadbent, “later this year”. The university states selecting a new VC as an early task for Ms McLoughlin. Incumbent Paul Wellings retires in June next year.