What Uni Queensland spent on the Drew Pavlou case

How, much do you reckon the University of Queensland spent on law firms working on its misconduct case against student and human rights activist Drew Pavlou? Finish your coffee before you read the answer (scroll down) – you don’t want to spill it over you work-clothes.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

 Victoria Fielding (Uni SA) on the way enabling programmes prepare students for undergraduate study, (so why do university teachers underrate them?). It’s this week’s contribution to Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series, Needed know in teaching and learning.

 Merlin Crossley on how humour can help (and hinder) in teaching.

Amanda-Jane George (CQU) suggests there is a third approach – non R&D innovation, “simple or incremental innovation, like changing delivery methods or shifting on-line.”

Challenge for Chief Scientist: leading open access out of the policy weeds

Chief Scientist Cathy Foley says she is “closely considering” an Open Access strategy  – it might have surprised people who thought they were working on one

With “well over half of Australian academic papers requiring a payment to access,” this “hinders our capability to compete internationally,” Dr Foley said last week in a speech setting out her priorities (CMM March 18).

Which the two organisations working on OA could not but back. “Access to information is the great enabler for innovation and for research commercialisation.” We look forward to working with Dr Foley and colleagues across the research sector on this important initiative,” the Council of Australian University Librarians and the Australasian Open Access Strategy Group state.

But they want it known that the “foundations” for a national strategy “have been laid over the past 20 years.” These include CAUL agreements with small discipline society journal publishers (CMM, October 18 and November 4 2019).

And while CAUL and AOASG support the European Plan S for research open access, they also explain why it would not necessarily suit local circumstances (CMM February 12 2019).

The challenges for Dr Foley are to chart a course for OA implementation out of the policy weeds and find the needed money .

May the fans be with you

A learned reader points to the National Skills Commission’s labour market “enabler of intelligence,” which is called the Jobs and Education Data Infrastructure. The LR noticed what it acronyms to while levitating an X-Wing out of a TAFE swamp.

The arts of financial recovery at Uni Sydney   

A surplus is anticipated for Humanities and Social Sciences

There is talk at Uni Sydney that the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences was in surplus last year, in the mid $30ms is suggested. Management responds that “the figures for 2020 are still being finalised and we will share them as soon as we are able to.”

Good o, but until that happy event, U Syders suggest HASS well in the black is certainly in-line with the result the university was expecting last September, when management discovered the COVID-19 cash crisis was not as bad as first feared. Back then all-faculty income was put at $1.799m, up YTD from $1.689m.

And by end October overall student numbers for 2020 were 5.3 per cent down on original budget – a $98m drop.

Management attributed such a relatively good result to domestic student demand and internationals sticking with Uni Sydney. Which is what is still thought. “We know that we are in a better than anticipated position” due to, “this vote of confidence by our students, both in Australia and overseas,” a university representative states.

Even so, a sizeable HASS surplus will be an achievement, given that before the good news in the September student census, an 8.5 per cent HASS deficit was forecast – expected then to be the second worse faculty result (behind bized) (CMM September 18).

If there is a substantial surplus, whatever the final figure is will surely be a better result than was feared last August, when HASS “scenario-planning exercises” included four-day pay working weeks and staff cuts (CMM August 21).

Private providers claim top spots for student satisfaction

The winners (it’s all relative innit) were quick to congratulate themselves on outcomes in the 2020 QILT undergraduate survey

Pleased:  The Regional University’s Network is pleased indeed with member results in the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching survey. CQU and Uni Southern Queensland were two of the top four universities on student experience and all RUN members were above the national average for the overall result.

Griffith U kept it short and as sweet as it could, tweeting that it, “continued to deliver an above average overall undergraduate educational experience when compared to all Australian universities.” Which is completely correct, although it is just above the national average of 68.4 this year – at 70.7.

And Victoria U, in metro Melbourne also dug into the detail in pursuit of the positive – although it appears there is a point to make about the apparent success of its  block teaching model.

VU rated third in the country for learner engagement (61.2) behind Bond U and University of Notre Dame and ahead of the national average (43.2). This is a good result for a university with large numbers o low SES students, especially compared to Bond U. And VU states it was up 14 places year on year for skills development (82.2) – which puts it first in metro Melbourne. It’s also a category where block teaching (small group, intensive study of on short subject at a time) should shine – and appears to.

La Trobe U is also pleased it improved a bit (1.2 per cent) on student support which is better than backwards and was pleased to report it was ahead on overall student satisfaction of its local competitors, Monash U, RMIT and Uni Melbourne. Overall however Lt U stayed just below the all-uni overall average, just like last year.

Pleased indeed: The biggest noise about the bestest news came from Independent Higher Education Australia.

IHEA points to its members’ filling the top 19 to 21 places on all five of the undergraduate satisfaction categories. ““The response of independent higher education providers to the COVID-19 impacts demonstrates the core focus of the independent sector to deliver on what students need most – high quality learning and teaching.,” CEO Simon Finn says.

However private providers had an advantage in the assembling of the surveys –QILT data used is for two years, 2019 and 2020. QILT explains this is about sample size, because student numbers in private providers are way smaller than for universities

But comparing independent provider scores over the two time periods appears to indicate they did not take a huge hit in plague times. Overall student satisfaction was 79.4 in ’18-’19 and 74.9 in ’19-’20. The comparable public university scores are 78.4 in 2019 and 68.4 in ’20.

The scores would be even better for the top end of the non-public sector if the most marginal providers were excluded – the range between the good, bad and the awful is way wider than across the public system.

Riveting viewing

Week ahead looking bleak? – be of good cheer! Its Senate Estimates time

You only have to hang-on until Thursday for the fun to start. The department is on first followed by the National Skills Commission, ASQA and then the estimable NCVER with a big night provided by the ARC at (7.45pm) and ANU. TEQSA is on at 9.15pm. Who needs Netflix!

Counting employment barriers in maths and stats

Community leaders warn the pandemic made existing problems wors

Jessica Kasza (Statistical Society of Australia) and Ole Warnaar (Australian Mathematical Society) point to difficult circumstances for people with insecure employment and caring responsibilities, which are a double-burden for women, “in-particular.” People from backgrounds that are under-represented in maths “have seen increased structural barriers” for employment.

“The pandemic has impacted many people from diverse backgrounds in ways that are as varied and nuanced as people are different and nuanced. We exhort colleagues, managers and organisations to genuinely listen, to treat each case, thoughtfully, on its merits, and be prepared to work on suitably varied and nuanced solutions” they write.

Another opportunity to debate R&D funding

The Australian National Audit Office is reviewing programme administration and invites submissions

This isn’t an  opportunity for yet another argument over who should receive how much in tax incentives. But the line between policy and admin is thin for a high-stakes programme contested since the Review of the Three Fs (CMM July 7 2016, and umpteen subsequent stories).

R&D tax change went off the agenda in the last budget, which made changes to the complex scheme but left it costing $2bn over the forward estimates (CMM October 8 2020).

And that should be that, whatever the ANAO discovers.

Except that Education Minister Alan Tudge is talking up translational research and science lobbies have long argued for incentives to encourage industry to invest in university and institute programmes.

And guess where re-directed funding could come from.

The price of pursuing Drew

Uni Queensland leaders gave evidence Friday to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security. They were asked about the discipline action brought against Drew Pavlou, the student who fiercely criticises the university for links with the Chinese Government, including what it cost.

Finished your coffee? – $287 000 went to three law firms.