Hard jobs but somebody’s got to do them

“I run unmanageable organisations full of people who never want to be managed,” former ABC MD and now Uni Sydney VC Mark Scott, Group of Eight podcast this morning. Scroll down for how he hopes to work with government.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Garry Carnegie (RMIT) on the damage global rankings can do to university reputations.

plus Adrian Cardinali on student silence in the election and why they have been denied a voice for too long.

with Stephen Parker (Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education) on the Shakespearean future for universities.

and Sarah Lambert (Deakin U) on the why and how of replacing dated, print textbooks. This week’s selection in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated series, Needed know in teaching and learning.

What universities need: money isn’t everything

It’s governance that needs fixing

The Public Universities Australia group says the most urgent universities issue the new minister should address is “outdated and out-of-touch governance arrangements” which are at the root of almost all universities problems, such as (deep breath), “as declining academic freedom, persecution of whistle-blowers, grotesque senior management salaries, falling academic standards, and growing casualisation of academic staff).”

Of course funding matters, “but providing more money to our universities alone will not solve the problems they face,” PUA asserts.

The lobby has to be a sure thing for an invitation, if the government convenes meetings on its proposed universities accord, if only to annoy vice chancellors.

NSW regional unis: two of three had a good 2021

There were rumours last year Charles Sturt U was in financial strife – it wasn’t

CSU states income of $651.6m for 2021, up on $575m in 2020. Expenses were down, $560.8m in 2020 and $507.9 in 2021.

All up the ‘21 net result was a thumping $130m better, (’20: $14.87m, ’21: $143.7m).

Staff cuts accounted for $24m in savings, with FTE down a little over 10 per cent from 2019, to 1893.

The result is largely due to a $100m lift in investment income, to $122m, $83m of which is a one-off resulting from the university, as with many others, selling out of international education services company IDP.

Southern Cross U declares its $10.6m operating profit on $274.3m in revenue for 2021, “an excellent result,” “in the context of the health, economic, and organisational risk posed

Income was down by $18m, driven by a decline in international education earnings, “fees and charges” to $64m. Staff costs were $24m lower, presumably due to 2020 cuts.

Uni New England had a strong ’21

Income was up, 2020: $368.8m, 2021: $459.6m and expenses were down, 2020: $385m, 2021: $356.9m. The $102m net result was way better than the $16m loss in 2020.  Lower staff costs $196m, down from $239m and a $78m rise in investment income helped. As with many other universities, this appears due to Uni New England selling a share of the IDP education business.

Other NSW uni results were in CMM for Monday and yesterday

The time PhDs take

After nine years around a third of “domestic” PhD by research students are still studying or have given it away, according to Commonwealth completion data. (Thanks to the learned Andrew Norton for the pointer)

But more internationals stick at it, with completion rates nine years from starting ranging from 77 per cent to 84 per cent.

The figures are for 2007 to 2012 starts.

Group of Eight universities collectively improved over time, from 81 per cent completions for 2007 starters through to 88 per cent for those beginning in 2012.

The ATN group results were stable – ranging from 77 per cent in 2008 to 84 per cent for 2011 starters.

The Innovative Research Universities improved from 70 per cent for 2007 starts through to 77 per cent – 78 per cent from 2009.

The Regional Universities Network also improved from 53 per cent in 2007 to 67-68 per cent across the four most recent years.

STEM students consistently completed at a higher rate (middle 80 per cents) than HASS – 67 per cent to 77 per cent.

Scott of Sydney: unis must be in the “solutions business”

The VC sets out how universities can get on with the new government

The election is a “re-set” in politics, which creates opportunities for universities, Uni Sydney VC Mark Scott says in a Group of Eight podcast this morning.

But just asking for more money is not going to work – “we are part of a long queue,” “we have to be seen to be leaning-in and helping government with the pressing issues it faces.”

“Part of our challenge is to be there in the solutions business, to think very carefully about problems the government is trying to solve … to bring the deep disciplinary expertise and capabilities of our research universities to bear.”

Professor Scott nominates climate, aged care and mental health as major policy issues for the new government.

“I hope we can get around the table and problem-solve together,” he says.

“The starting point will be a frank and open and respectful dialogue. That is where the sector is going to want to start and that is fully what I expect from the prime minister and the senior leadership team that he will put in place. In conversations that I have had over the last year or two that is what they have signalled they want to bring and that is what I expect we will see.”


Phil McManus (Uni Sydney) is elected VP of the International Geographical Union.

Anne Sherry is appointed chancellor of QUT. The businesswoman is a graduate of the university. Her five year term starts mid-August.


Calma elected to Australian Academy of Science

Uni Canberra chancellor Tom Calma is a 2022 Australian Academy of Science Fellow, elected for “for championing the improvement of Indigenous peoples’ health, education and justice for over 45 years.” The Academy state Professor Calma, is “the first Fellow elected to the Academy who identifies as an Aboriginal person.”

Uni Adelaide VC Peter Høj is also elected.

Other 2022 Fellows are

* Matthew Bailes (Swinburne U) – astrophysicist * Katherine Belov (Uni Sydney) – biologist * Marcela Bilek (Uni Sydney) – physicist * Stuart Bunn (Griffith U) – freshwater ecologist

* John Cannon (Uni Sydney) – pure maths * Jonathan Carapetis (Telethon Kids Institute) – Paediatric physician

* Elizabeth Fulton (CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere) – ecosystem modeller * Catherine Greenhill (UNSW) – pure maths * Naomi McClure-Griffiths (ANU) – astronomer

* Michelle Haber (UNSW) – childhood cancer scientist * Timothy Hughes (South Australian HMRI) – haematologist

* Emma Johnston (UNSW, incoming Uni Sydney) – marine ecologist * Peter Langridge (Uni Adelaide) – agriculture * Janice Lough (Australian Institute of Marine Science) – climate scientist

* Sarah Medland (QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute) – statistical geneticist * Kate Smith-Miles (Uni Melbourne) – applied mathematician

* Ute Roessner (ANU) – plant scientist * Craig Simmons (Flinders U) – groundwater scientist

* Huijun Zhao (Griffith U) – chemist * Albert Zomaya (Uni Sydney) – computer scientist