Needed now in teaching and learning: the conference

Sally Kift has invited policy makers and opinion shapers to talk about what is to be done in the world COVID-19 made, where the old ways won’t always work

It extends her long-running CMM series, Needed now in teaching and learning and will be a whole-lot-of on-line conference for not much time or money.

But don’t take CMM’s word for it – check it out here.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this week

Changes to the Fair Work Act can mean secure employment for casual academics. Jim Hackett  explains how .

Tracy Creagh on the big role for open access in expanding access to teaching and learning research and communities. This week’s contribution in Sally Kift‘s celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

In universities policies for equity, diversity and inclusion can build communities. And strategic planning helpsMerlin Crossley makes the case.

Parallel universes of the R&D Tax Incentive

The research community has long wanted funding via the Research and Development Tax Incentive

But there is an altogether alternative argument over what it should fund in the parallel universe of the Senate Select Committee on Australia as a technology and financial centre.

The first recommendation of its second interim report recommends amending the TI to use different incentives and to make quarterly payments – which does not sound like using it to fund uni-industry collaborative research.

Six ways to make universities better places to work and learn

Enterprise bargaining is about to begin: it can make big differences

Universities are moving from responding to COVID-19 to rebuilding after initial impact, which means dealing with a, “perverse combination of scarcity of resources and the imperative of technological change.”

Elizabeth Baré, Ian Marshman, Teresa Tjia and Janet Beard (all Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education) propose six ways managements and unions could use bargaining to improve conditions for staff and make universities more adaptable.

In particular, they propose, addressing the changed nature of casual teaching, which has made, “historic methods of pay calculation outmoded or excessively complex.” They make the case in Features this morning.

A tick for TEQSA from peak lobby

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency asked providers what they think of proposed research measurement thresholds (CMM April 15)

Submissions closed last night, and the Innovative Research Universities got in early with a positive response. The IRU supports using existing metrics reported to government, notably Excellence for Research in Australia and Engagement and Impact, for universities to demonstrate research performance. For other institutions that want to become unis and existing ones with a marginal case, IRU suggests adding citations held in the big global research data bases.

IRU queries the clarity of some of TEQSA’s terms – ““relationship” and “engagement” between individual researchers and the regulated entity,” but overall accepts the proposal.

This is good news for HE providers who want to become universities – a peak lobby is reconciled to the possibility of new unis. Now aspirants just have to meet the thresholds.

Uni Newcastle in the (not quite as much) money

The university spent reserves last year – good thing it had plenty

It managed a statutory surplus of $5.8m last year, down from $67m in 2019. When committed funds and unrealised investment gains are excluded there was an $18.7m operating deficit.

The university also liquidated assets and spent cash to “absorb some of the impacts of the COVID-19 emergency.”

Even so, if the university forgets its wallet and needs to borrow a tenner UoN should be good for it.

Ratings agency Standard and Poor’s reports the university’s cash and financial assets in 2019 could cover debt just shy of 50 times, (three time or greater is “particularly sturdy”).

This rampagingly robust result is explained in the 2019 annual report -back then the university had no, as in none, external borrowings and $534m in investments.

The university’s annual report will be tabled in NSW state parliament next month but is unlikely to have burned all its reserves.

Which may be why Vice Chancellor Alex Zelinsky is so keen to focus on operating income when making the case for savings. “Efforts over recent years to bring costs down have not been sufficient to curb the widening gap between revenue and expenses. The university is at risk of not being financially sustainable if we continue to operate in this way,” he told staff

Dirk Mulder on where international students are seeking to study


It’s where they are welcome and can take classes in-person – which isn’t here

IDP’s Crossroads IV survey of approximately 6000 prospective international students finds 75 per cent expect to commence studies as planned.

Which is good news for Canada, the UK and other countries where they are welcome, thanks to open borders.

Overall, 10 per cent are willing to study fully on-line, a further 31 per cent say they will defer until face-to face is available, while another 43 per cent of students are willing to commence online if they can later transfer to face-to-face.

Spot the problem for Australian institutions – there isn’t a date set when this will occur and so students are looking elsewhere.

Specifically, about Australia, IDP found;

* 7 per cent of students will continue with their study plans, even if programmes/courses are fully on-line, compared to 13 percent for Canada and 11 percent for the UK

* 38 per cent of students will continue with their study plans, even if programmes/courses start on-line, as long as they transition to face-to-face when the situation allows. The comparable figures are 51 per cent in Canada and 50 per cent in the UK

* 43 percent will defer until they can study face-to-face, compared to 24 per cent for Canada and 27 per cent for the UK, (where they do not need to).

The take-out is that students looking to study in Canada and the UK are much more likely to commence on-line and transition to face-to-face, while those interested in studying in Australia are much more likely to defer until face-to-face becomes available.

But the longer this lasts the harder it will be to hang on.

This lean to Canada and the UK is echoed in the Navitas Agent Perceptions Report (March 21), in which countries that remained open to international students fare much better than those that didn’t.

Canada and the UK are top of the pops for interest. This makes sense. It has been both Canada and the UK that have maintained their willingness to keep borders open and welcome students when times were tough.

At the bottom of the pile are Australia and New Zealand which shut the door and are keeping it closed. While New Zealand has announced some plans to return continuing students there is no clear political or public health pathway here to bringing internationals back.

Navitas reports the largest jump in interest is for the United States. With President Trump gone, vaccinations happening, COVID-19 numbers seemingly under control and generally a move to a more open society, this makes sense.

The interesting, and most concerning part of the report for Australian and NZ providers is the countries in the middle.

Singapore, Netherlands, Germany and the UAE (Dubai) all posted significant increases interest. We have known the ambitions of Singapore and Dubai in creating knowledge attraction centres for some time but they have largely been overshadowed by the major Anglophone destinations. With some destinations still deciding what to do, this could be their chance.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent


Reem Joukhadar wins a 2021 Women in Triticum (which is wheat) award. She is a research scientist at the Victorian state government and La Trobe U JV, AgriBio.

The US National Academy of Science announces new members, including; Elizabeth Dennis (CSIRO), Lisa Kewley (ANU)