The who and how of back to campus

As universities open up will students return? Samantha Hall has ideas on how to encourage them, in Features this morning.  It’s a new contribution to Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated series, Needed nw in teaching and learning.

There will be more from Dr Hall at CMM, Sally Kift and Twig Marketing’s Reimagining the lives of the lectured conference, next week. Sign-up here.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on the power of youth in life, and university administration.


Garry Carnegie (RMIT) on rankings. “What we value is what we are, what we measure is what we become.”

TEQSA wins against cheating website

The Federal Court has ordered internet service providers to block access to an academic cheating website which it found advertised to students in Australia

Not that any of the ISPs argued against blocking “assignmenthelpforyou.”

It’s the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency’s first use of new powers legislated this year and TEQSA had to use them, if only to demonstrate it is on the case. But it won’t be the last for as long students can be conned into paying essay mills and assignment forges – which will be forever.  And while international students are studying in home countries where their ISPs may well neither know nor care what the Federal Court rules.

Science leaders call on ARC to prevent repeat of pre-press mess

Excluding physical science applicants from funding rounds “appear to go against the tenet of equity that features heavily in ARC deliberation”

Four science learned societies have intervened in the controversy created by the Australian Research Council excluding research applications that included references to pre-prints. This breached a new, and apparently not clearly communicated ARC Rule (umpteen CMM stories from August 20).

The ARC excluded 30 apps, for Future Fellowships and Discovery Early Career grants, all from researchers in the physical sciences.

“This appears to go against the tenet of equity that features heavily in ARC deliberations. The removal from consideration of some of these grants must call into question the overall excellence of this funding round for these schemes, the presidents of the Australian Institute of Physics, Royal Australian Chemical Institute, Astronomical Society of Australia and Australian Mathematical Society warn ARC chief executive Sue Thomas.  They hope the formal appeals process “will lead to a swift and fair resolution.” The four also say the next Australian National Audit Office review of the ARC, “should reflect on this critical issue.”  Greens senator, Mehreen Faruqi has called on the ANAO to specifically investigate the ARC over the pre-press citation ban (CMM September 30).

While the learned societies acknowledge the ARC has responded quickly, “ultimately aligning the handling of pre-prints with modern publication standards and research methods,” they warn the ARC must not use the ban on pre-print citations for the next Discovery Grants round.

The four also call on the research council o set up a “formal process for involving learned societies in the development of new AC rules and procedures.

Blue sky for Cloud training

How’s this for a scary announcement for IT trainers. “Learn Google Cloud for Free”

It’s from Coursera which is offering, free access to any standalone course, Specialisation or Professional Certificate from Google on using its cloud. … No limit per learner.

There a bunch of courses in a range of languages. No, its formally accredited voced but this may not discourage people who think Google skills will make them more employable and who like the price.

Tudge asserts authority in international education


“My hope is that we can quickly get to unlimited numbers so that demand is the driver of numbers of incoming students, not the supply of available places,” Alan Tudge says

the good news: Mr Tudge says in the provided text of a Friday speech is that he believes “very significant numbers” of international students will return next year. “I cannot put a figure on that just yet, but my hope would be that tens of thousands can return, he told the Australian International Education Conference.

The minister reinforced his optimistic remarks at the English Australia conference last month (CMM September 20) and pointed to four factors that will make it possible for students to return;

* arrivals commencing when Australia has a 70 per cent vaccination rate, increasing at 80 per cent

* a coming system to interpret foreign vax certificates

* approval of foreign vaccines, which is critical for international students, especially from China and India

* home based quarantine, “potentially for a matter of days, not weeks.” “This is critical because, if successful, it can break the hotel quarantine bottleneck,” Mr Tudge said.

The minister also pointed to the NSW programme to welcome back 500 students. He added the Commonwealth is in discussions with South Australia and had received a Victorian proposal.

why it is so: reinforcing his support for the broad benefits of international education Mr Tudge added, “I cannot be clearer about our desire to get international students back into the country.

“They have been an incredible source of revenue for our institutions and other businesses, they generate important linkages across our neighbouring countries and many students have gone on to become outstanding citizens of our nation.”

“For the vast majority of students who return to their home country, they bring skills back and, in most cases, a fondness for our nation.”

ways to make it better: among the positives, the minister also mentioned improvements, warning, “we need to do things differently to make the sector more sustainable and to create new opportunities for growth.”

Thus, Mr Tudge called for less dependence on major country markets.

And he urged the industry to diversify what international students study, citing 50 per cent of enrolments being in commerce while areas such as IT, engineering, maths, health and other sciences are underrepresented.

He also repeated his previous call to grow the industry by “expanding our high-quality education offerings to offshore markets.”

“This could be in different delivery modes at different price points.”

And he again made it clear that while he welcomed institutions addressing these issues, the government could get involved, through the imminent 2030 international education strategy.

comment: Mr Tudge gets international education, including the vast soft power it provides Australia in the Asia-Pacific.

But he also recognises what the government might have to do if institutions will not. Too high a concentration of students from limited source countries puts institutions at financial risk and diminishes the overall student experience, for locals and internationals.

And he is right to warn against commerce accounting for half international enrolments, notably among international students who want to stay in Australia. They need skills that reflect the national need so they can first work in industries based on, for example, IT, engineering, maths, health and other sciences, whatever they do in the long-run.

Mr Tudge also grasps there is a bigger market – among students who want an Australian qualification but cannot afford to come here to study.

And he makes clear that he understands that there is more to the industry than billion dollar universities, that it is the shorter programme providers who have had an especially tough time.  That Mr Tudge mentioned some universities have increased international enrolments (albeit offshore) during the pandemic may have been a remark made in passing (but probably wasn’t).

This is a speech that will appeal to people who want a single ministerial portfolio covering all education, export and immigration aspects of the industry.

Dirk Mulder advises education and business clients on trends in international education. He writes regularly for CMM


Appointments, achievements

International Education Association of Australia announces board elections, Bronwyn Bartsch (CQU), Tim Field (Uni Sydney), Tanveer Shaheed (Macquarie U) and Kelly Smith (Murdoch U).

Willy Susilo (Uni Wollongong) is elected a Fellow of the Asia-Pacific Artificial Intelligence Association

Andrew Timing becomes deputy dean Research and Innovation in RMIT’s management school.

Ted Whitten starts this week as dean of James Cook U’s College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences. He moves from Uni Melbourne.


Regulator to HE: obey the law on staff pay

The Fair Work Ombudsman is investigating14 universities

“I make no apology that we expect Australian universities to invest in governance frameworks and practises that will ensure compliance with workplace laws,” Ombudsman Sandra Parker told a Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency on-line seminar, Friday.

It follows universities variously admitting and investigating under-paying staff by breaching wages rates set in enterprise agreements.

Last month Uni Melbourne acknowledged 1000 casual staff had been owed $9.5m, with VC Duncan Maskell stating there had been, “a systemic failure of respect from this institution for those valued, indeed vital employees,” (CMM September 10).

Speaking to TEQSA’s audience, Ms Parker acknowledged cooperation from HE providers, but warned, “we will take a firm approach with those who do not cooperate with us. We are investigating in technology and data analytics to assess compliance on a large scale. We can and will undertake independent validation or recalculations.”

TEQSA Chief Commissioner Peter Coaldrake added that underpayment of staff could constitute a breach of the threshold standards, which providers must meet for registration.

Ms Parker set out key issues her office has raised with university leaderships, including;

* “likely” breaches of enterprise agreements, “arising from poor governance and management oversight practises”

* human resources and pay issues “mainly dealt with by academic managers of faculties and schools with little input from the central administrative area”

* “custom and practise of applying piece rate style performance benchmarks” governed by local operating rules which can breach enterprise agreements, notably in payment for marking, lecture attendance and student consultation

* misclassification, reclassification –of staff, leading to lower pay.

“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,” Professor Coaldrake added.