Quiet achiever

Chief Scientist Alan Finkel has been a bit quiet probably, CMM thought, working on another speech about  the way the 17th century Swedish navy did not get scientific method, (CMM March 3 2016).

But he was out yesterday, about local manufacture of ventilators for COVID-19 treatment, which is now happening. It’s an example of Australian manufacturing continuing to “innovate and advance” he tweeted.

What he didn’t mention was his role in getting it going. Health Minister Greg Hunt did, back in March announcing Dr Finkel was leading work (CMM March 25).

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Andrew Taggart (Murdoch U) argues low ATAR is better than no ATAR and doing one or two ATAR courses is better than no ATAR.

 Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on the pleasure and pride of routine lab work done well.

Lucy Montgomery (Curtin U) – why open access is the new publishing normal and what it means.

Announcement imminent at Victoria U    

Staff worried about cuts will soon know if they have anything to worry about

There is speculation management is considering alternatives, voluntary, at least at first, redundancies, and/or variations to the enterprise agreement to reduce staff costs and thereby reduce the number of jobs at risk of being abolished.

CMM asked the university what it has in mind and was told, “we are not in a position to comment.” However, Vice Chancellor Peter Dawkins is expected to make an announcement to staff about jobs today.

Needed: a VET focus on the needs of First Nations people


Submissions to the recent Productivity Commission report were largely silent on this critical issue

In reading about the new Closing the Gap targets (including for tertiary education) I was struck by the differing views of First Nations people. Those who have had input into the measures believe they are significant and achievable. Others have expressed concerns that they are too long-term and worry, as I do, about the apparent lack of targeted funding.

I was surprised in reading the 76 submissions to the Productivity Commission’s Interim Report on VET funding that only nine submissions argued changes are needed to improve outcomes for First Nations learners – and one of those submissions was mine. A few others included a reference to First Nations people but the overwhelming majority were silent on what should be a critical issue for the sector (including some of the government submissions).

That might be in part because the Commission’s  interim report makes only two mentions of First Nations people in its 322 page. Even more disappointing, the draft COAG VET Reform Roadmap is entirely silent on the role of VET in improving outcomes for First Nations people. The roadmap contains senior officials’ VET reform proposals and is one of three key documents “in play” on VET reform  – that is: the Productivity Commission’s advice, the ‘Joyce Review’ and the roadmap.

It is important that the government’s university funding reforms  include measures to support regional and remote First Nations learners. But disappointingly the government has completely ignored the recommendations Steven Joyce’s review made last year to explicitly support First Nations VET students.

We have so much more to do.

The Closing the Gap targets are a start but the government’s university funding reforms need to go further, and in VET there needs to be a specific focus on outcomes for First Nations people.

Claire Field is an adviser to the tertiary education sector

Search for savings at James Cook U

Management wants to find up to $20m

Vice Chancellor Sandra Harding told staff yesterday the university faces an expected deficit between $30m and $40m this year, which she wants to reduce to $20m.

She pointed to savings already underway – including reduced capex, managing excess leave – and suggested new ones, such as, staff choosing to reduce hours and/or buying additional leave and voluntary early retirement. But the one that got people’s attention was “foregoing” the 2020 salary increase due at end September.

This would require staff to approve a variation to the university’s enterprise agreement. If agreed, the university could undertake not to stand-down staff or go to forced redundancies, for an agreed period.

The university estimates that all staff concessions on conditions plus varying the EA would save $6m and protect 115 jobs.


Nothing new out of India

Hopes for a new HE market will remain that

Universities have long invested resources and patience in expanding into India and for years Indian governments have talked of allowing international universities to set up shop.

It’s happening again with a new policy from the Ministry of Human Resource Development. It states, “high performing Indian universities will be encouraged to set up campuses in other countries, and similarly, select universities (e.g., those from among the top 1000 universities in the world) will be permitted to operate in India.”

There will be, “dispensation regarding regulatory, governance, and content norms on par with other autonomous institutions of India” and “credits acquired in foreign universities” will count for degrees.

Good-o but there is no word on whether the top 100 would be able, to say, take earnings out of the country.

Surging CQU

A month back the university was reporting term two UG offers were up 18 per cent (CMM July 6)

Now the news is “a surge” of 52 per cent in domestic UG and PG commencers for second term. Plus, total term two enrolments are 12 per cent higher than last year. “Hah!” you harrumph, “this is because CQU is running a bunch of short courses to up-skill people during the pandemic” Unlikely – CQU has only three of these.

One good TERN

No news is good news at the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network

Director Beryl Morris reports a review of the network’s governance model found, “nothing was broken,” with the advisory board and science advisory committee “highly regarded.” In part this means the existing arrangement continues, with Uni Queensland being lead agent and signatory to the funding agreement with the feds.

But there will be tweaks, with a new advisory group to “obtain more independent advice from end-users” and finding new members, including a chair, for the science advisory committee.

TERN is part of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy. It collects, manages and shares time-series datasets for terrestrial ecosystem research and natural resource management.

Another exit at UNDA

The University of Notre Dame Australia announces a DVC departure

Vice Chancellor Francis Campbell tells staff DVC Corporate Peter Tranter, “has decided to leave the university to seek further opportunities and challenges.”

There have been a few recent comings and goings at UNDA. Last month, departures by DVC A Margot Kearns and PVCs Peta Sanderson and Gregory Blatch were announced (CMM July 27). Pauline Nugent was appointed to the newly re-established role of provost (CMM July 29) and Michael Conry will become DVC Finance (CMM August 3).

The best advertisement for Australian education isn’t an advertisement


 We can lose sight of what international education is and why we are successful on the global stage

Scrolling through Linkedin as one does in a COVID-19 affected world, I was reading the usual stories of how international education is up the creek without a paddle for the foreseeable future and liking the odd work anniversary of former colleagues.

Then I stumbled on a story board posted by Ocean Cheung, a recent graduate student who came to Australia from Hong Kong in 2016.

The first photo was him arriving at Brisbane airport looking fresh faced, excited and anxious. The quote on the photo said “Tada! This is me four years ago (and my plush toy) When I first arrived in Australia. I was literally crying on the plane cause I knew I won’t see my family and friends for a long time.”

The story (and journey) continues, showing pictures and captioned along the way. How he met his first friends, emotions on his first semester and how tough it was, utilising student support services, signing up for an ambassador program which he says was “one of the best decisions of his life.” He learned from students in the programme who were older than him, is forthright about how he was rejected from his first application for internships and how volunteering provided him the first opportunity for professional employment. This opportunity brought new perspectives, more new friends and opportunities to be accepted to the Queensland Student Advisory Panel. This in turn allowed him to give-back and work to help other international students.

He then, via the University of Queensland, was able to spend a month in Israel alongside start-ups and investors. Graduation ensued and he is now working with educators, designers and engineers to deliver technologies in experiential learning in Brisbane.

Why is this important?

In all the talk of how much international education is worth to the country, in our current situation we can lose sight of what international education is and why we, as a nation, are successful on the global stage.

That is simply we are a land of opportunity and with a little work, dreams can and do come true. Ocean’s story board on Linkedin is personal, emotional and authentic. It reminds us all that international education isn’t merely a glossy graduation photo at the end of it but a journey that should focus on the student and their success throughout – without these foci we simply don’t have an industry.

To follow Ocean’s story simply search #austory on Linkedin. Here’s hoping it will start a grassroots campaign of student success stories which he is encouraging others to contribute to.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent

Appointments, achievements

Sandra Eades (dean of Curtin U’s medical school) joins the board of the Burnet Institute.

The Commonwealth’s Equity in Higher Education Panel is in place. It’s more portmanteau than panel, with 13 members; Rob Heferen, chair, Department of Education, Skills and Employment. Penny Jane Burke, Uni Newcastle. Daniel Edwards, Australian Council for Educational Research. Leanne Holt, Macquarie University. Denise Kirkpatrick, Western Sydney U. Nick Klomp, CQU. Simon Maddocks, Charles Darwin U. Adam Shoemaker, Southern Cross U. Guinever Threlkeld, La Trobe U. Denise Wood, Uni Sunshine Coast. Paul Denny, National Indigenous Australians Agency. Sarah O’Shea, Curtin University. Amanda Franzi, (executive officer), Department of Education, Skills and Employment

The shortlists for WA scientists of the year awards is announced. Nominees in lead categories are, Scientist of the Year: Steven Tingay (Curtin U), Wendy Erber (UWA), Ryan Lister (UWA), Eric May (UWA). Early Career Scientist”  Xihong Zhang (Curtin U), Chris Brennan-Jones (Telethon Kids Institute), Arman Siahvashi (UWA), Sam Buckberry (UWA).