Just in at the “you don’t say!” desk

“Integrating VET and HE qualifications is no easy task,” the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education and Research, announces a new report.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Universities that chase rankings replace their missions with KPIs. Garry Carnegie and Lee Parker (both RMIT) make the case why rankings are not relevant to the purpose of universities.

Frank Larkins and Ian Marshman (Melbourne Centre for the Study of HE) on the states where HE was hit hardest in the pandemic year.

Tim Winkler makes the case for uni brands and why they must be way more than marketing “A brand is far more than a visual identity and slogan – they should just be a postscript on the real thing. A brand is the sum of the spirit of an institution; the commitment; the impact on lives; the selfless contribution to knowledge and the determination to reward ignorance with insight, rather than shame,” he writes.

It’s an issue for his (with a little help from CMM) conference next week, on key issues in HE marketing, recruitment and identity.

Sign-up here.

In case education academics missed the first message

The minister warns teacher education academics, again

Alan Tudge is unhappy that 27 of 31 universities use a constructivist approach to maths in initial teacher education courses, according to a new report from the Centre for Independent Studies. This, he says, is “despite clear evidence on explicit instruction being the most effective teaching approach.”

“If necessary, the Government will use the full leverage of the $760 million it provides to education faculties to insist that evidence-based practices are taught,” Mr Tudge said yesterday.

Which are the exact words he used last month (CMM October 25), suggesting he means it.

A minister intervening in university curricula would be quite a sight.


Redefining value for universities: including the return of internationals

Big ideas on three days at the last CMM-Twig event for the year

There’s a new session on what opening the borders to international students will mean for the new year. Followed by;

Day one: What makes a university brand and matching graduates to jobs

Day two: New directions in marketing and the end for open days

Day three: all over for the ATAR plus courses in demand (and not)

Check out the experts addressing the issues here.

Government has no thoughts on intellectual property

The feds’ new trailblazer uni programme (CMM yesterday) requires participants to have “innovative” IP arrangement – which seems remarkably relaxed

Back in July the federal government convened an expert-group to create an IP framework for universities and industry to use.

What the government wanted was a way of “transferring publicly funded research results into breakthrough products and new businesses (which) will ensure our researchers and universities are appropriately rewarded for their discoveries and their engagement with business, and our businesses have certainty to back their investment.” (CMM July 5, September 22)

But the consultation plan experts assembled was greeted with hard noes from peak applied research representatives, the Australian Technology Network, the Group of Eight and Science and Technology Australia (CMM October 20).

And now instead of a mandatory IP framework the government’s first major research translation programme requires “innovative IP arrangements”.


RMIT to stump up back pay for academic casual staff

The university has settled its dispute with the National Tertiary Education Union over payments to casual academics over seven years

The issue was what rate people should be paid for marking – the “standard payment” or the higher one, for work that requires “academic judgement.”

The union referred the matter to the Fair Work Commission and RMIT proposed $10m in payments (wages owed plus interest and super) without admitting liability, stating that “to verify that every payment of the ‘standard rate’ was correct in every instance would be an enormous and very time-consuming exercise.”

RMIT follows universities including UNSW, Uni Sydney, Uni Melbourne and Monash U which have acknowledged underpayment of casual academic and/or professional staff. In October, Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said there were investigations into 14 universities over pay rates (CMM October 11).

Elected, but alas

Erik Eklund’s election as staff rep on the Federation U council last week was announced last week

And now the professor of history is declared redundant, presumably a casualty of a restructure in Humanities and Social Sciences, underway before this week’s announcement of university-wide voluntary redundancies.

So, what happens re Eklund’s election, CMM asked the university which replied that a staffer must be employed .5 FTE or more to be a council member.

So that’s that for a popular professor trusted by staff to act in the university’s best interests.

Turnitin not overturned

The anti-plagiarism software provider can buy a competitor in the Australian market

Turnitin wants to buy much smaller (at least in Australia) competitor Ouriginal – which excited the interest of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. The ACCC has an interest in the concentration of market power in education publishing and asked consumers and competitors for advice on the impact of a takeover (CMM July 7 and September 13).

The ACCC now decides that Ourriginal is not big enough in Australia “to provide a particularly significant competitive constraint on Turnitin.”

The Australian market probably was not top of Turnitin’s mind in the global plan – Ouriginal has but few clients here. However, an overall arrangement will extend Turnitin’s vast resources and related market power. There are 1.4bn student papers and 82m scholarly articles in its plagiarism-detection databases.

Academic language and learning support at risk


Student numbers are up but staffing is a problem in any language

There are grim prospects for the provision of academic language and learning services in higher education.

Student enrolments in general, have increased by 33 per cent over the past ten years and the number of international students has grown by 60 per cent.  However, academic language and learning staff declined 17 per cent in the decade.

So, the academic language and learning staff to student ratio has increased from an average 1:2400 ten years ago to 1:3900. Ten universities now have a ratio of more than 1:6600.

Restructures and redundancies have resulted in numerous academic language support staff (52 per cent in 2010) being reclassified as professional staff or “converted” to casual staff, with only 18 per cent retaining their academic status.

It is highly doubtful that universities will be able to recruit qualified academic language staff once international students, most needing language support, start returning to Australia.

Alex Barthel is a higher education consultant in academic language and learning. He spoke earlier this month at the 15th biennial conference of the Association for Academic Language and Learning


Uni Adelaide not a business

The university wants to keep confidential what it pays its top 50 people. The SA Ombudsman does not agree

Uni Melbourne researcher Mike Zyphur FOI’d the information but the university said no, that it was private, not in the public interest and would have an adverse effect on the university’s business.

But deputy SA Ombudsman Steven Strelan does not agree, for a bunch of reasons, including, the” agency” is not a business.

Rather, he stated, “the agency is a publicly funded educational and research institution. While acknowledging that the agency receives supplementary funding from sources that are commercial in nature, and that the agency may carry out research that has commercial purposes, I would hesitate to describe the agency overall as an institution which engages in activities of a for-profit nature.”

And, “the information relates to the remuneration of the highest paid staff members of the agency, who would be in receipt of public funding, and receive such public funding for the purpose of the agency’s educational and research functions. I do not consider the information in issue is for-profit in nature”

CMM asked the university for comment, which it did not provide by deadline last night.

Incentives for internationals

After opening the borders the Commonwealth now extends post-study incentives for international students

People with temporary graduate 485 visas which expired while they were caught offshore during COVID can apply for new (full-period) ones. And coursework masters grads will qualify for a three-year visa, a year longer than now, which matches the duration of research masters. Plus, VET grads can apply to stay for two years.

The existing COVID emergency arrangement whereby students studying with an Australian institution while in their home countries have that time counted towards a post-study visa continues.  With 164 000 visa holders ex Aus it probably is going to take time for them to all return to these fair shores.

Plus, there’s (a bit) more help for private providers

There’s a waiver on fees and charges attached to the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students and the Tuition Protection Services Levy. Perhaps these are extensions on the CRICOS assistance due to expire on New Year’s Eve.

There is also $9.4m added to the support fund for ELICOS providers to diversify delivery –help colleges which are still hanging on In a sector which has taken a terrible hit. As of end June commencing students on ELICOS visas were down 60 per cent on 2020 and 70 per cent on’19. Overall enrolment falls were similar (CMM August 24).

Appointments, achievements

Of the day

 Uni Adelaide announces winners of the Stephen Cole awards for learning and teaching. * Joanne Bowen (Biomedicine) and Natalie Edwards (Humanities) both HDR supervision * Kayoko Enomoto (Social Sciences) for leadership in teaching practice * Thomas Wanner (Social Sciences) for teaching and support for learning

Kathryn North (Murdoch Children’s Research Institute) is the new president of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes.

Of the week

At Griffith U Dawn Adams will become director of the Autism Centre of Excellence. She steps up from deputy director, replacing Jacqueline Roberts who will retire at year end.

Peter Ashman (Uni Adelaide) is the new chair of the ANZ Federation of Chemical Engineers.

The Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training wins educational site of the year at the Australian Access Awards.

Australian Catholic U announces the Vice Chancellor’s Medal for Excellence goes to the “Credit where credit is due” project team, for “their work to develop a ground-breaking framework to map military training to tertiary credits.” Eduardo AlmeidaAaron CornwallWendy JamesNick Linnell and Liz Moon.

 ANU announces the VC’s education awards. * Teaching: Leslie BarnesDavid ChengChristina ClarkeAlex Maier *Supervision: Benjamin PennyZhengdao Ye * Tutoring/demonstrating: Anna Buckley * Enhance learning: College Education Innovation and Support Team.

ANU also announces the Chancellor and VC awards. * Peter Baume award: John Braithwaite * Distinguished contribution: Ken Baldwin, Amanda Barnard * Outstanding service: Tracy Smart, Patricia Teh * Service: Belinda FarrellyNicki Middleton and COVID Ops team * Early career academics: Xiaolin WangKinley Wangdi * Research: Tegan CruwysKatie SteeleCéline d’Orgeville * Impact, engagement: Blair WilliamsMatthew Gray and Nicholas Biddle and the COVID-19 Impact Monitoring team * Education: Alexander Maier * Health and safety: Jeremy Lepisto and the Art-Design Tech Services Team * Equity, diversity: Amy King

Bruce Campbell (Melbourne Brain Centre) wins the Leading Light Award from the Australian Society for Medical Research for his “stunning work in the stroke space.”

Curtin U announces its research and engagement awards. * Research leadership: Debbie Silvester-Dean * Early career researchers: Kefyalew AleneCrystal AbidinJoanna Moullin * Early career researcher-creative practice: Michael Gray *STEM early career research: Kefyalew Alene * Research team: Binar-1 Space Programme * Research news story: Phil Bland and the SSTC Binar-1 Team * Scholarship:  to PhD candidate Callan Wood * Business, society, communities: Rachel Ong ViforJ * Creative practises: Susan Bradley Smith * STEM: Debbie Silvester-Dean

Chennupati Jagadish (ANU) is the in-coming president of the Australian Academy of Science.

L’Oreal-UNESCO Women in Science awards for 2021 go to, Pip Karoly (Uni Melbourne). Jiawen Li (Uni Adelaide), Kirsty Nash (Uni Tas), Mahdokht Shaibani (Monash U).

Sharynne McLeod (Charles Sturt U) receives the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association honours award.

Colleen Nelson (QUT) wins the Life Sciences Queensland – QIMR Berghofer Woman of Influence award.

Science and Technology Australia has new leadership. Mark Hutchinson (Uni Adelaide) – president.  Anita Goh (Uni Melbourne) – VP. Mark Stickells (Pawsey Supercomputing Centre) – treasurer. Chris Matthews (UTS) – executive member.

Chris Turney will join UTS in January as PVC R. He is now at UNSW.

Kristen Lyons is elected academic staff member of Uni Queensland’s SenateDino Willox is the professional staff elected member.