We see what you did there

“Navigating the future: the promise of autonomous boats,” UNSW headlines a research story on applying law to maritime autonomous vehicles.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Australian Disability Clearinghouse for Education and Training sets out three things providers can do to improve inclusion, right now. New in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series Needed now in learning and teaching.

plus There’s a bunch of good results for Aus unis in the QS Subject Rankings – but there’s also warning. Angel Calderon (RMIT) presents all the important data HERE  

and Frank Larkins and Ian Marshman on the pandemic finance hit that didn’t happen, HERE

Slower start for entrepreneur student scheme

The bill to set up the new student entrepreneur Start Up Year via HELP is off to the Senate’s Education and Employment Legislation Committee for review

The Opposition was supportive of the bill’s intent but raised a bunch of operational issues in the House last week which Education Minister Jason Clare did not agree with. But he did accept shadow minister Sarah Henderson’s suggestion for a Senate inquiry. “I think that that would be a wise and prudent thing for us to do. It will give a further opportunity for us to pressure test this bill and see what further amendments might be recommended or suggested to the parliament that could improve this bill,” he said.

Which will now happen. Mr Clare hopes the committee can consider and report in time for the bill to return to the parliament in the budget session and be passed, for a July start.

The committee says submissions are due on April 14, which is not as tight as it looks. People with an established view can adapt and amend what they stated in responses to a Department of Education consultation paper on the bill last year, there were 38 submissions, mainly from HE organisations, plus a student/grad survey.

Avondale VC exits

The legislation formally confirming Avondale U as a university is in the parliament (last year’s election delayed the process) –alas the vice chancellor will not be there to share the celebration for long

“It has become apparent that the vision I have for Avondale is different to the vision Council share,” Kevin Petrie tells staff, thanking them for their “support, enthusiasm and commitment” through “changes that have occurred as (a) result of our fiscally challenging  circumstances.”

The most recent annual report states Avondale had a $2.3m net surplus in 2021 on revenue of $29m however it took a presumably pandemic-related hit on enrolment revenue, with income from student fees and charges down from $5.9m to $5.2m. Total HELP revenue was also lower, $5.54m in 2020 and $4.8m in ’21.

Professor Petrie says he will go this semester.

Workers divided at Uni Sydney

The comrades are split on when to display disdain for management’s last enterprise bargaining offer

Late last week the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union split over timing. One option was to strike Wednesday, the day before the next bargaining meeting with management and for good measure go out again on Friday. The other was to cancel Wednesday, perhaps to see what management might come up with, but keep Friday scheduled.

A member mass meeting is said to have divided equally (300 each way) on the options and the branch committee was split. However the committee decided to postpone Wednesday’s strike for a week.

This is the way it can get at Uni Sydney. In the last enterprise bargaining round the branch leadership split over accepting a management offer,  which in the end was endorsed by members. (CMM September 20, 22 2017).

One isn’t the loneliest number

Angel Calderon’s comprehensive analysis of the new QS subject rankings (CMM HERE) states that Monash U was the first Australian institution to be a world number one (pharmacy). He should have added, “without sharing the top spot” – a learned reader responds that in 2017 Uni Sydney was equal first with Loughborough U for “sports-related” subject.

Rivers of gold run dry at Monash U

VC Margaret Gardner tell staff the university made a $113m loss last year

It’s not so bad when subsidiaries are added ($78m), however it is still a shocker compared to the $305m (university) and $410m (group) surplus in ’21 and a $259 operating surplus in 2020.

But the shocker should not be shocking  – Professor Gardner long ago warned of estimates of a $149m deficit in 2022 and a further 73m in ‘23, “as lower numbers of students in 2020 and 2021 work through the system,” (CMM February 8 2021).

“We did not escape the impact on staff, students, education, research and our financial health from the years 2020 through 2022, when COVID restricted what we could do and the number of students from around the world who came to our campuses,” she told staff Friday.

The VC added that, “the announcement of deficits is not and will not be the precursor to the university undertaking planned reduction in staff numbers” and that earlier surpluses would continue to be spent, “in particular, we will provide increases to staff salaries and gradually increase staff numbers, including improving security of employment.”

But she warned, “we must be able to move from deficit to surplus by the end of this year or the future quality of the university will suffer,” – which may be a message sent in the context of enterprise bargaining, a vote by union members on industrial action ends today.

Go8 make the case for research as a national resource

The Eight has a series of policy papers underway, which it may hope Mary O’Kane and her University Accord colleagues read (CMM March 9)

There’s a new one today, which shouts out the importance of university research and  the need for a national strategy for, “advancing Australia’s economic sovereignty.” This appears tightly targeted to the political sell for the government’s National Reconstruction Fund, described by Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic, as “to ensure Australian-made discoveries can be commercialised and scaled in Australia.”

The Eight’s paper makes a case for research as a national resource, “not simply by a portfolio by portfolio target and initiatives approach but a coherent, long-term bipartisan strategy” including,

* “enhance” funding of university research

* “further collaboration” between universities and industry, for research and development, “scope and scale”

* more PhD training support plus migration settings “to attract and retain world-leading university researchers and educators”

And the Eight make a point that its members rate but which can get lost in the manufacturing as patriotism rhetoric.

A research strategy should be “discipline agnostic, “basic or foundational research … may not have an immediate commercial application – but this misses the point that basic research expands the knowledge base needed for breakthrough scientific progress.”