Another look at the ARC

The Education Department is reviewing the Australian Research Council’s performance, “in assessing foreign interference and national security risks in the context of grant decisions.”

It is part of the Albanese Government’s response, published yesterday, to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security’s report on foreign interference and national security risks in higher education and research, tabled before last year’s election (CMM March 28 2022). Scroll down for more.

There’s more in the Mail

In Expert Opinion

Tim Cahill (Research Strategies Australia) on the extraordinary ways AI is changing research HERE

and in Features

Tim Winkler (HEJobs ) on how to make working life better for the ageing academic workforce, plus the people waiting for their jobs, HERE

with; The skills musicians need include coping in the gig economy and being future-ready for the opportunities and otherwise that turn up. Diana Tolmie (Griffith U) reports on preparing students for the challenges of this most precarious of professions, and for jobs in general. “Don’t call it a career plan – our post-normal world does not work that way anymore,” she writes in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s new selection for her celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning. HERE

plus Merlin Crossley (UNSW) reminds us technologies are nothing without great teachers

Local derby away game

In Montreal, McGill U’s International Portfolio Challenge asked UG teams to present asset management plans for global net zero carbon emissions by 2050

A Uni Sydney team was joint winner (with Chinese U of HK). One of the finalists it beat is from UNSW.

More science, faster

Research analytics provider Clarivate adds a PrePrint Citation Index to its Web of Science database

This immediately includes two million preprint papers, from STEM platforms, including arXiv. There are holdings from 12 more to come this year.

Clarivate is quick to make clear that papers from the new index are identified as preprints and are not included in citation counts or for the journal impact factor.

The pace of preprints accelerated, for good and ill, when the pandemic created a need for speed that the journal review process could not meet.

As Merlin Crossley put it (CMM November 10 2022), “the two big problems with modern peer review are: the slow successive “desk rejections” as the manuscript descends a connoisseur’s ladder of prestige, and the mountains of extra experiments required to prove the work is worthy of increasingly competitive top journals – and as science expands globally it is increasingly competitive.”

“It could drive a person crazy”

Linda Corrin (Deakin U) asked Chatbot GPT to write an introduction for a course on learning sciences in HE in Stephen Sondheim style (via Twitter).

Which, CMM thinks, apart from a phantom rhyme at the start, it failed to do. The worry is the AI will get better as it listens to more of the master.

Unis that did well with offshore enrolments  2019-‘21


some did really well

Last week’s excellent International Education Association of Australia Global Competitiveness and Growth Symposium canvassed a range of issues as the sector welcomes international students back to campuses here in Australia and reflects on its current levels of offshore delivery and if/how to expand them.

The message from Melissa Banks, Head of International Education at Austrade, was clear – the trade minister’s number one priority is trade diversification including international education. Examples of successful offshore delivery models were shared and included both institutions with an established physical presence, e.g. RMIT Vietnam, and those exploring new offshore models such as the Uni SA –  Accenture partnership, and the work the Gordon Institute is doing in India.

The 2021 Higher Education Student Statistics provide interesting insights into how universities and other higher education institutes adapted their international education activities during COVID. Comparing 2019 activity with 2021 shows, for example, that in terms of onshore international students:

* there was an overall 36 per cent decline

* all institutions experienced a decline, except Charles Darwin (up 4 per cent))

* for 11 universities the drop in on-shore international students was greater than 50 per cent: Charles Sturt U (-71 per cent), Bond U (-70 per cent), CQU (-69 per cent), Federation U (-57 per cent), Uni Sydney (-57 per cent), Uni Sunshine Coast (-57 per cent ) La Trobe Uni (-55 per cent), James Cook U (-54 per cent), ANU (-53 per cent ), Southern Cross Uni (-51 per cent ), Uni Wollongong (-51 per cent)

* non-university higher education providers in Queensland (-68 per cent) and WA (-53 per cent) also experienced larger than average declines.

There were also very significant institutional differences in offshore international student enrolments between 2019 and 2021.

Across the whole sector, offshore students increased by 56 per cent and many providers with established offshore campuses were able to increase the share of their international students they educated overseas (e.g. Uni Wollongong, RMIT, James Cook U, etc).

Others which prior to COVID had very little offshore delivery were able to rapidly pivot. For example Uni Sydney lifted the number of international students they had studying offshore from just 503 students in 2019 to 22 437 at the end of 2021.

Universities and NUHEPs which increased their offshore enrolments by 100 per cent or more during Covid included: Uni Sydney (+4361 per cent), Queensland NUHEPs (+3892 per cent), Uni Queensland (+2317 per cent), CQU (+1053 per cent), Uni Adelaide (+795 per cent), ANU (+384 per cent) Uni SA (+261 per cent), QUT (+167 per cent), Victorian NUHEPs (+157 per cent), Bond U  (+151 per cent), Deakin U (125 per cent), Torrens U (+121 per cent) and Uni of Melbourne (+109 per cent).

Surprisingly, some universities with relatively strong offshore international student numbers in 2019 saw offshore enrolment numbers drop during the pandemic.

Claire Field is an advisor to the tertiary education sector. Further analysis is available on her website

Monash U new digital ID

Monash U is hiking parking fees in-line with CPI. Will, learned readers ask, people be able to pay via the new “M-Pass” That’s the new digital ID for phones and Apple watches, replacing staff and student plastic cards.  Is this a first for an Aus uni, (the digital ID not the parking price, that is)?


Security review win for universities

Last night the Government released its response to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security’s report on foreign interference and national security risks in higher education and research, tabled before last year’s election (CMM March 28 2022).

What the Government likes

Of 27 recommendations in the comprehensive report the government supports 12, supports in principle nine and notes five.

Key government responses include,

* noting a recommendation for disclosure of funding and agreements governing Confucius Institute’s at universities and pointing to the foreign minister’s oversight authority

* supporting a recommendation for students (who fear surveillance by their home government) to be able to submit assignments anonymously

* supporting in principle investigating the adequacy of existing penalties for research institutions, “who are failing to detect or respond to any breaches” of Australian Research Council rules

* supporting a recommendation for universities to individually appoint “an accountable authority” responsible for managing foreign interference risk

* supporting creation of a working group on intimidation of students, but the government only noted a proposal for universities to publish annual reports of harassment, intimidation and censorship because, “it can be difficult to establish foreign interference as the motivating factor.”

Only one committee recommendation is “not supported,” a recommendation that ASIO’s annual report include information on threats to higher education and research.

And the Tertiary Education and Quality Standards Agency had a lucky escape from the committee’s recommendation that it create a national research integrity office to audit and publicly report on security issues. The government “notes” this saying such work is “being pursued “ but warns of possible “unintended and undue reputational impacts” by reporting.

And it’s thanks to UFIT

All up the government’s response is positive for universities, which should be grateful to former education minister Dan Tehan, who was instrumental in establishing the Universities Foreign Interference Taskforce, in 2019, (CMM November 15 2019).

The committee report acknowledged the work of UFIT as does the government.


Last night PJCIS chair during the report, Senator James Paterson (Lib- Victoria) welcomed the government’s response.

“Australia has made great progress in recent years hardening our systems and society against foreign interference and the higher education sector is now better equipped to protect our interests and safeguard our values.”

As did the Group of Eight, some members of which were closely scrutinised by the committee.

“Protecting our research from foreign interference is a shared responsibility and never a case of ‘job done’ and we support various compliance, reporting and transparency measures to ensure we protect that which must be protected,” Chief Executive Vicki Thomson said.

And the Australian Technology Network called the Government’s response to the report “measured and proportionate.”

“ATN will continue to help protect our important teaching, research and community engagement by working through UFIT and with the Government, Executive Director Luke Sheehy said.



Craig Johnson (Uni Tasmania) receives a lifetime achievement award from the International Temperate Reef Symposium.

At UWA, Jessica Meeuwig is appointed to the new Wen Family Chair in Conservation.

Uni Adelaide announces the board for it (and UNSW’s) Defence Trailblazer for Concept to Sovereign Capability (one of the previous government’s Trailblazer applied research programme). Christine Zeitz (Northrop Grumman Australia) chairs and members are, * Nicholas Fisk (UNSW) * Emily Hilder (Defence Science and Technology Group) * Harry Hubbert (Greenroom Robotics)  * Anton Middleberg (Uni Adelaide) * James Palmer (Silentium Defence) *  Kathryn Toohey AM (retired army officer).

Uni South Australia announces two new Bradley (named for former VC Denise Bradley) Professorships, Anthony Elliott (dean, external engagement) and Sharad Kumar (cancer biology)