Opportunity to applaud

The Senate’s legislation committee calls for submission to its inquiry into the Government’s bills establishing Jobs and Skills Australia (CMM July 28). It’s an excellent opportunity for stakeholders to make a case for whatever they want and tell the government why JSA is the best thing idea since NBEET.

But they will need to be quick, submissions close August 19.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Angel Calderon on the new NTU research ranking.Australian university leaders are likely to be pleasantly surprised by the results from these subject rankings. Despite the criticisms that global rankings are irrelevant, pointless, and out of depth, these results reinforce subject areas of strength (and areas of relative weakness) across institutions,” he writes.

plus Paul Oslington (Alphacrucis University College) on five dysfunctions  of academic governance – and what to do about them, HERE

and,  while universities work on grand-plans there are three big things they can do now. Tim Winkler (Twig Marketing)s sets them out.

Expert Opinion with Mahsood Shah

Professor Shah (Swinburne U)points to the scale and speed of course innovation in the global market and warns local regulators and accreditors must help Australian institutions keep up. It’s this week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her celebrated series, Needed now in learning and teaching.

CMM wanted to learn more and asked him on Expert Opinion. The interview is HERE.

Westacott win for Western Sydney U

Jennifer Westacott, one of Australia’s most acute education and policy analysts, will be the university’s next chancellor

Ms Westacott is the most marvellous of mandarins, with decade of experience in senior roles in state and Commonwealth public services. As chief executive of the Business Council of Australia (where she will continue) she has driven policy debates at the intersection of education/training with employment and economic growth. In 2018 the BCA proposed a single post-secondary funding system and life-long skills accounts for people to use in HE and VET.

But while she is generous with her time and policy nous she works in a world of real politik, warning the Regional Universities Network last year, that its members must compete, “not to drive innovation, but to survive,” (CMM September 20 2021).

And she says what she thinks needs saying – responding to criticism of the BCA funding model from the HE policy community (CMM November 7 2018),

“the view that came across was we’re fine, leave us alone, and focus on improving the VET sector, but make sure there is no impact on us.  I consider it immoral to make yourself better off at someone else’s expense.”

She will succeed Peter Shergold early next year.

Charles Sturt U has debts to pay

Vice Chancellor Renée Leon announces it owes $4.69m to staff underpaid over seven years

The university discovered what it owed  following “an external review into its wage compliance in response to widespread reports of underpayment in the higher education sector.”

She adds the university’s review was not required by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, the Fair Work Ombudsman or the Australian Taxation Office.

Money owed includes underpaid wages and superannuation.

“The review found no deliberate underpayments of staff occurred” and that they “relate to misclassification of work and minimum engagement.”

Professor Leon states there are now “procedural enhancements”  to “ensure ongoing wage compliance.”

The university does not report the number staff underpaid or their work roles. However the  CSU branch of the National Tertiary Education Union estimates current and former staff owed money since July 2015 will receive an average of $2500.

CSU joins a string of universities reporting underpaying, generally casual staff, over recent years. Last October TEQSA Chief Commissioner Peter Coaldrake stated the agency’s concern at the problem (CMM October 11 2021). In  April the agency set out its expectations for university management, including;

a “comprehensive review of payroll, time and record-keeping practices”

* “clear steps in place to mitigate and manage identified risks”

* “embedding on-going monitoring to ensure continued compliance with workplace laws and reporting to the audit and risk committee”

Productivity Commission has ideas for an education dividend

“a key question for the future is how to lift the productivity of the education sector itself”

The switch to a services economy, relying on people rather than capital investment, makes productivity growth harder and so the previous government commissioned the Productivity Commission to advise on what could be done.

In an interim report released yesterday, the PC acknowledges “the importance of education in driving productivity growth through increasing human capital and creating settings conducive to technological breakthroughs and adoption.”

But it adds, “a key question for the future is how to lift the productivity of the education sector itself.”

The PC suggests,

* while high performing teachers are important, “a bigger question could be whether school systems are well configured to support existing teachers to deliver their best”

* “a strong focus on quality teaching in universities could also yield significant future productivity gains,” and

* technology could deliver a “higher quality outcome rather than more output, ” (it) “is likely to offer considerable opportunities for augmenting high quality instruction, assisting and guiding assessment and allowing students to undertake tasks previously not thought possible. This would be consistent with the past path of productivity growth in other sectors, with capital and new technology augmenting labour input,” the PC states.

Appointments, achievement

John Chalmers becomes CEO of the Australian Institute of Music. He moves from marketing head at UTS.

Katherine Kenny (Uni Sydney) is announced as editor in chief 2023-26 of Health Sociology Review, from the Australian Sociological Association.

Sharon Lewin (Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity) will be the next president of the International AIDS society.

Andrew Zammit-Mangion (Uni Wollongong) wins an Early Investigator award from the environment stats section of the American Statistical Association.

Geoff Purcell (James Cook U) is appointed secretary to the executive committee of the Council of Australasian University Directors of IT.