Same tale of two Sydneys

Western Sydney U staff will vote mid-month on taking protected industrial action in support of enterprise bargaining objectives on workloads, a pay rise and job security. At the other, eastern Sydney University staff voted last week on stop-works in support of bargaining claims including over-work “a fair pay rise” and gender affirmation leave.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

The ranking season is soon to start so Angel Calderon (RMIT) explains what’s in the big ones and suggests how Aus unis will do this year. Love them or loathe them, unis use rankings for selling and strategising and the astute Angel delivers the detail to make sense of the spin.

plus Paulomi Burey (Uni Southern Queensland) on the case for HASSing STEM. “Perhaps there is value in a renaissance approach to learning, where development of wider interests and expertise are encouraged,” she suggest. Hers is this week’s contribution in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

Queensland unis 2021 financials: some saved by the feds

University annual reports are tabled in state parliament

Central Queensland U: COVID caused cuts defined the university’s 2021, with international enrolments down from 8594 in 2019, to 5738 in 2020, to 2724 last year. CSP and domestic full fee numbers were down a couple of hundred, to 17 300. Commensurate job losses are not clear, the report refers to 22 positions “effected by staffing changes” and “contract roles not being renewed.” The employee report  does not compare 2020 and ’21 and states “data does not include casual staff. After exit payments, CQU reduced staff costs by $19m.

All up consolidated revenue was down $46m, to $404m and expenses down $65m on 2020 for an operating loss of $21.7m The big decline was in fee income, which nearly halved – from $159m in 2020 to $83m in 2021. It would have been worse without the feds – Commonwealth grants rose from $143m to $185m.

After staff exit payments CQU reduced staff costs by $19m.

Griffith U: Revenue from continuing operations was $1.04bn, up from $967m in 2020. The increase corresponds with a $44m increase in Australian Government grants. Income from fees and charges was down $12m to $227m which may reflect a drop in international student income

Total enrolments were marginally lower last year to just under 50 000, with a 1300 drop in international students, to 7148, down from 9019 in 2019.

James Cook U: The university wants readers to know that ’21 was tough. Describing it as “a challenging year” in the financials and pointing to “the restrictions on international student mobility and the pipeline effect of lower student enrolments.”  As to how much lower, who knows – the university only provides a 2021 figure, 14 038 EFTS, “aided by higher commencing intakes at the Singapore campus, coupled with stronger student retention across the university.”  All up JCU’s  net result was $23.8m on $559m in income. Commonwealth grants, provided $19m more.  The university reports a 9 per cent “permanent separation rate” for staff, which it attributes in part to funding, restructuring and “continuous improvement.”

QUT: The university describes continuing COVID savings and a restructure that cut 337 net professional staff positions as “rectitude” which allowed payment of a postponed pay rise. But continuing student growth can’t have hurt. On preliminary numbers, 2021 was the fifth straight year of growth, rising from 49 847  in 2017 total enrolments to 53 255 last year. However international student income last year was down $45m.

Total revenue increased from $1.05bn in 2020 to $1.163bn last year  – growth in Commonwealth grants accounted for $50m of this, and “other revenue” an extra $110m.

Uni Queensland: On early stats, last year’s enrolments were up on 2020 – and up on pre-pandemic 2019. Totals were 55,305 in ’19, 54 950 in ’20 and 56 278 last year (heads not EFTS). However there were fewer staff, with academic FTE down 90 or so from 2020, to 2957. The decline in professional FTE was higher, down 198 to 4251. All up, revenue, increased $265m, to $2.385bn. The increase was due to a thumping lift in investment income, from $86m to $217m and the university’s share of the Commonwealth’s emergency increase in research funding – an extra $100m in block grants.

Uni Southern Queensland: Enrolments continued in a slow decline, underway long before the pandemic, from 28 680 in 2015 to 25 281 last year. Investment Income was up $76m, to $84m – largely due to the university accounting for proceeds from the sale of its share of IDP Education. A $9m drop in fee-charges income, to $49m was more than an offset by a $22m increase in Commonwealth grants, to $188m.

Uni Sunshine Coast: Total students were up marginally on 2020, from 18 150 to 18 264, despite international numbers declining by around a third, to 1668. Total FTE staff were down 80, to 1064, with professional FTE accounting for most of the loss. Operating revenue rose from $321m to $334m and expenditure was down $6m to $298m.Increased Commonwealth grants (up $37m to $188m) offset a $15m decline in income from fees and charges.

More women in jazz

Now here’s a coltrane of a question, high school jazz bands are largely gender-balanced, so why do women account for 10 per cent of uni students?

No, the answer is not, they have better things to do than listen to 27 minute versions of My Favourite Things.

If Uni Sydney knows why it is not telling – but it is starting on doing something about it, with its Conservatorium of Music announcing a scholarship and mentoring programme. Equity in Jazz, “seeks to provide educators and role models for young women who may want to consider a career in jazz.”

The first four participants are Freyja Garbett, Jess Green, Tamara Murphy and Gian Slater.

Tudge still the minister

CMM wondered why Alan Tudge is named as Minister for Education and Youth on some budget papers and not on others

Apparently it’s because he is still the minister – although he stood down on December 3 and remains that way.

In Senate Estimates Friday duty minister Linda Reynolds  explained Mr Tudge’s situation  – “This is incredibly clear, the minister is still a minister,” she said.

“We have a minister of the crown, he has an acting arrangement for another minister which is entirely in accordance with the standard processes … His office is in place, it is working to deal with portfolio matters but instead of actually sending the material to Minister Tudge, Minister Robert is dealing with those matters”

Good-o, because staffers could not send material to Mr Tudge, even if they wanted to – a Department of Education, Skills and Employment officer advised the minister (for such he is) does not have a DESE email.

Universities Australia goes the oliver

The peak body combines with the University Chancellors Council to ask for more

The pair present a “policy guide” also badged a policy platform,  for the university sector “to play its fullest role in helping solve the nation’s biggest challenges and secure Australia’s future.”

The case is made with multipliers, a dollar spent on research and development grows the economy by $5, graduates deliver $891 000, “in benefits to the broader economy over their lifetime”, 500 000 new jobs will require a bachelor degree over the next five years. And to assist them to make it all happen all UA and their eminences ask for more, including;

* more fully-funded student places

* more research investment – to match the OECD average of 2.4 per cent of GDP then “grow commensurately”

* more FEE HELP – expanded to micro-credentials and shorter courses, “to ensure that Australians can up-skill and re-skill

Plus, it seems, more regulation. “Regulation should support our universities to build Australia’s productivity through innovation and safeguard our global reputation for high-quality education and research. Together, universities and government can strike a balance of regulation that will reenergise Australia’s productivity.”

Now that’s a twist for new times after the election.


Quick smart skills growth

The National Skills Commission’s list of classifications has nearly doubled in just 12 months

There were 600 when it started a year back and now there are over 1100. Sadly there is no list of the fab 500, but National Skills Commissioner Adam Boykin does mention, “skills of emerging occupations,” – digital marketing analyst, respiratory scientist and “DevOps Engineer” as well as “specialist roles that are growing in importance,”  – solar installer and wind turbine technician.


Green for growth at Uni Super

The fund is pitching to new members

“We want to inspire Australia’s thinkers, creators, and investigators to change their world and create a brighter tomorrow worth retiring for,” may read like another student recruitment campaign from a  university that doesn’t want to market on courses and student outcomes.

But it is actually a recruitment campaign from Uni Super. Now that funds don’t have to recruit only from their industries, Uni Super is pitching to environmentally conscious savers.

“Look forward with Australia’s largest sustainable investor and see a future that won’t cost the earth,” is the sell.

Maybe “thinkers, creators, and investigators” are less attentive to advertising that promotes investment returns and member service

TEQSA to unis: take staff underpayment seriously

The regulator warns some aren’t

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency reports “some universities have been proactive” in addressing underpayment of casual academic staff.

But, and it is a very big but indeed, “a number of universities either do not appear to recognise the seriousness of the issue or are not responding in the way TEQSA would expect of a well governed and well managed quality higher education provider.”

The assessment is in the regulator’s 2021 Compliance Report, released Friday.

Chief Commissioner Peter Coaldrake told HE to get it together last year, “the issue has been around long enough now that we are quite concerned at the unevenness that has been demonstrated across the sector by institutions and by organisations,” (CMM October 11).

Yet “unevenness” apparently remains. And so TEQSA tells HE again. In particular, it requires;

* “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”

* full cooperation with Fair Work Ombudsman investigations

And then there is one that should not be happening given the outrage has been around for years

*  “rectified any instances of underpayments and demonstrated how underlying issues will be addressed.”

Appointments, achievements

The Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology announces its 2022 honours. Medals: Michael Lazarou (the IMR formerly known as Walter and Eliza Hall and Monash U), Leann Tilley (Uni Melbourne). Awards: Wael Awad (Monash U), Saw Hoon Lim (Uni Melbourne). Fellowships: Jacinta Conroy (Uni Queensland), Chris Horne (also Walter and Eliza Hall), Tess Malcolm (Uni Melbourne), Yanxiang Meng (the IMR formerly known as Walter and Eliza Hall).

 Bob Cowan (Uni Melbourne) wins the lifetime achievement award from Cooperative Research Australia (the CRC Association as was). The hearing researcher and audiologist led the HEARing CRC, 1992-2019.

Alan Gamlen (social scientist specialising in human migration) joins ANU’s School of Regulation and Global Governance. He moves from Uni Oxford.

The 2023-24 Whitlam-Fraser professors of Australian Studies at Harvard U are Brenda Croft (ANU) and Katie Holmes (La Trobe U).