There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Kim Carr calls for a back to basics in research. Senator Carr suggests ministers “do not understand the history of science, and of scholarship more broadly.”

 John H Howard on what was wrong with the international student boom, “rather than disrupting the Australian higher education system, (it) has contributed to its distortion – away from the needs and requirements of Australian students, industry and the community,” @ here. Part two in a CMM series.

Judie Kay and Sonia Ferns on why we need a national approach to Work Integrated Learning. Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s selection this week for her series, Needed now in Teaching and Learning.”

Marnie Hughes-Warrington (Uni SA) and friends on the PhD as start-up, the doctorate is just starting to hit its stride.

 Carolyn Evans (Griffith U VC) and Adrienne Stone, with Jade Roberts (both Uni Melbourne), address the big free speech issues on campus in their new book Open Minds. There’s an extract here.

Research translation: it will take two to tango (have you ever seen bureaucrats dance)

The feds have ideas about how industry-uni cooperation on translational research can work – question is, will they keep them simple (CMM yesterday)

The augurs are not auspicious if there are any in a now being implemented plan to get bizoids and academics together. The National Priorities and Industry Linkage Fund is intended to “allocate block grants to universities to support enhanced engagement with universities and industry to produce job-ready graduates.”

And to work out how to do the allocating the government appointed a group of VCs, who came up with a proposal based on metricsmany, many metrics, including five principles applied to three indicators, each of which with three performance measures (CMM October 2).

So, how’s implementation going, CMM asked? “The department has been working closely with the sector to develop detailed administrative guidelines including requirements for universities,” the ever-informative Department of Education, Skills and Employment responds.

Good-o, but it takes two two to tango and NIPFL won’t work if industry partners decide it’s all too hard.

Joe’s the go for US international education


Prospective students like the look of the United States now the president has changed

 IDP Connect asked more than 900 prospective international students across 40 countries interested in studying in the US how they felt after the election. It reports 76 per cent have improved perceptions of the country since the presidential election and 67 per cent are now more likely to study there.

Among survey participants with a self-declared “high-awareness” of US politics, 86 per cent reported a more favourable perception of the US since the last first Tuesday in November.

With a 75 per cent positive among Indians, the largest group undertaking the survey, this is a red white and blue warning flag for Australian providers. Given the volatility of the Chinese market, India is the only possible source of big growth. (CMM 15 Feb).

Other destinations also rated in the survey. Canada, widely reported to be doing the best of the big five anglophone destinations (CMM 1 Feb), had a 50 per cent approval rating, while the UK was at 41 per cent.

But only 28 per cent of the survey sample, are considering Australia as an alternative. This will not improve while the border is closed and all that providers can offer is on-line study in students’ home countries.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent

Aint afraid of no ghosts! DVC Es should be

Bret Stephenson warns of new consequences for students who enrol but never appear

“Non-participating enrolment” may contribute to people being ineligible for the Commonwealth’s Job-Ready Graduates Package, he warns in new research for the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education.

“Ghosting behaviours place an academic and financial burden on students; universities see a reduction in their publicised ‘success rates’; and governments see little return for the allocation of Commonwealth Supported Place funding,” Dr Stephenson (La Trobe U) suggests.

Why students ghost, staying enrolled, but attending no classes and submitting no work, puzzles Dr Stephenson, “given the consequences for students are rather severe; a student is guaranteed to incur a record of academic failure and amass wholly negative student debt,” (CMM November 4 2019).

He now argues, “improved identification and support is required for ‘ghost students’, particularly Indigenous students who are at a high risk of ghosting behaviours.”

China is a country of “nuance and complexity” and that applies to study choices


The views of Chinese parents and students aren’t identical to their governments

International education is adapting to a new reality whereby for the first semester students will not arrive here in large numbers, where there is an ongoing tension in Australia’s relationship with China, and where there is no clarity on any “post-JobKeeper” support for the sector.

The responses to this new reality have been mixed and in some cases disappointing.

Firstly, there are some positives and these have been canvassed previously in CMM. They include some universities performing better than expected at the start of the pandemic and less than a handful of independent providers having so far closed down. The growing number of overseas study hubs being established, the growing professionalism of on-line delivery models, and a continuing focus on student welfare by some institutions are also positives.

The disappointing responses include the decision by some individuals and institutions to use the media to air stories which draw attention to the political tensions between Australia and China – as if the views of Chinese parents and students were identical to those of their government, and as if these debates have no impact on the growing racism many Asian Australians and international students have faced during COVID.

Having travelled extensively to Tier One, Two and Three cities in China, established an office there, visited a variety of universities from Tsinghua to Beijing Geely University, as well as a raft of vocational colleges, advanced manufacturing plants, and more recently leading tech companies including Tencent and NetEase – my experience of China and its people is one of a country of nuance and complexity. Institutions will succeed when they focus on the needs of their students and keep in mind that China is also in a tense geo-political relationship with each of our key international education competitors (the UK, US and Canada).

In the meantime while we engage in seemingly endless public debates about Chinese students, we run the risk of being surprised when interest in Australia as a study destination diminishes amongst students from South East Asia – see the results of the latest ‘State of Southeast Asia’ survey.

Claire Field is the host of the ‘What now? What next?’ podcast. In the next episode of the podcast (out next week) she will be discussing the state of international education with Professor Ly Tran from Deakin University.

Peak body suggests: less over-kill in cyber bill

The Department of Home Affairs wants to over-sight universities via its critical infrastructure bill, a move institutions and lobbies are far too polite to call a power-grab.

But many submissions to the review of the proposed law do suggest it is expensive and unnecessary in its present form (CMM February 15).

And now peak-body Science and Technology Australia warns it would do damage, “every dollar spent on regulatory compliance is a dollar not spent on world-class research” and industry partners who use research infrastructure “will also feel the pinch.”

But if the feds must, STA suggests two ways to reduce the impact.

While the government has agreed to work with the HE and research communities to design guidelines, they should be “targeted to any evolving potential risks not already covered by the comprehensive suite of other regulations.”

And STA proposes the government “make a solid commitment” to reviewing compliance costs and “providing support to publicly funded bodies to meet them” when the proposed rules are implemented.

“Such support might also mean that universities can handle compliance costs for their industry partners rather than shouldering business with the cost of this red tape,” STA suggests.

The good news is more grads

 But a new analysis of the interface between policy and employment finds grads can face long periods of un and under employment

Thirty years of HE policy reform have met objectives, with, “a significant rise in the number of people graduating with HE qualifications,” Lynlea Small, Ruth McPhail and Amie Shaw (all Griffith U) report in a new qualitative analysis, designed to provide a, “knowledge base for all stakeholders in the HE sector to draw from in terms of policy and planning, with the end goal to enhance the employment prospects and employability.” *

“Women, those seeking postgraduate qualifications and those considered socio-economically disadvantaged are all success stories,” they suggest.

But and it is a big one, “higher education graduates in Australia can face long periods to secure full-time jobs with many experiencing underemployment and unemployment.”

The argue past assumptions that demand for graduates would outstrip supply are not fulfilled, pointing to grads accounting for 17.3 per cent of the unemployed in 2016 and 18.9 per cent of a smaller jobless pool in 2019.

And while they accept that over 2014-19 full-time employment of UG completers increased over time and underemployment declined, they still point to a 2 per cent increase in grad unemployment across the period.

The stats and other evidence suggests, they argue “that universities, to some extent, have not been successful in preparing students for the workforce. “More needs to be done to create better outcomes for students, their families and the broader HE stakeholders, including employers, governments, and the communities they serve,” they conclude.

* Lynlea Small, Ruth McPhail and Amie Shaw, “Graduate employability: the higher education landscape in Australia,” Higher Education Research and Development