plus Deakin signals woe for Warrnambool and Uni Melb rockets up big business ranking

Fun-loving uni seeks marketing whiz …

Western Sydney U’s new marketing director, Glenis Carroll starts this morning and she is, according to Vice Chancellor Barney Glover, just the woman the university needs. “Glenis has experience across all aspects of brand and digital marketing, executing leading marketing strategy and building a high performing marketing organisational capacity.” She joins the university from what was once the Fairfax media empire, now more a manor, where she most recently ran RSVP. Yes that RSVP, the dating site,


HELP hike in budget

Most university students will pay an extra 10 per cent towards the cost of their course in an election-budget measure. This will bring university student debt under the income contingent HELP scheme to an average 50 per cent of the cost of a degree, with the taxpayer’s share reduced from its present 60 per cent.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham will pitch the increase as part of a pro-student support package, to include comprehensive comparative information on individual university performance and penalties for institutions with high attrition rates.

Senator Birmingham has previously guaranteed Australian Research Council funding and committed the government to continuing the demand driven system however he  told CMM in January that “there are pressures across the budget and the education portfolio cannot be viewed in isolation. … The sustainability of the student loan system is one thing being considered.”

To contain costs, private higher education providers will also remain excluded from the full HELP scheme.

According to higher education observers familiar with the minister’s thinking he intends to defuse claims that the government remains committed to “$100k degrees” while placating Liberal party-room supporters of Christopher Pyne’s deregulation package. The ten per cent increase in student debt is seen as politically sellable and it appears Labor’s higher education spokesman Kim Carr is expecting it, telling Universities Australia last week that the present 60:40 state-student balance, “is about right.” The move to provide students with detailed performance data on all universities via national student surveys is also seen as a market-friendly move by government members.

However university leaders say support for Senator Birmingham’s plan will depend on funding cuts put in place by former minister Pyne being removed from the forward estimates.

Woe for Warrnambool

The future of Deakin University’s Warrnambool campus is in doubt with Vice Chancellor Jane den Hollander telling staff “there is a growing gap between what Deakin offers (undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses) and the particular needs of the region’s students, businesses and the broader community where the desire is mostly for certificate and diploma qualifications at the sub degree level.”

Professor den Hollander said enrolments at the southwest Victorian campus were down from 1342 in 2011 to a projected 872 this year.

However the vice chancellor did not mention changing the range of courses Deakin offers, saying the university is talking to “a range of people and organisations” “as we work to find a better higher education solution for Warrnambool.

Sounds to CMM like a job for dual sector regional Victorian network Fed U.

Protests are already underway, with student Mikayla Ryan-Pinch petitioning Professor den Hollander “to raise enrolments through new marketing techniques, and increased and complete course offering, rather than abandon our campus and community.”

“By choosing to study rurally we are given the advantage of smaller class sizes enabling us to excel within our chosen area of study, and interact not only with our peers but also our lecturers, who are willing to go above and beyond for their students. At Warrnambool campus, we are not simply enrolment statistics but human beings,” she writes.


Blue Notes for Blue Lake

While Deakin is breaking up the band at Warrnambool (above) across the border at Mount Gambier the University of South Australia is punching up the volume. CMM suspected UniSA would struggle to form a small ensemble when it set up the James Morrison Academy there last year CMM October 24 2014). Yes, Mr Morrison is one of the great jazz performers of this or any age but few jazz cats get rich and it’s a bit of a step from Mount Gambier to Birdland in New York (or even its sister club in Melbourne, where he headlines next month). But the university has enrolled enough students to form multiple big bands. CMM hears there are 58 enrolled in the Bachelor of Music, which started this year.

Inflating expectations

As the Australian Research Council works on ways to incorporate engagement with industry and social impact into research performance models UK researchers say Australian academics inflate expectations in research application.

According to new research by Jennifer Chubb and Richard Watermeyer, the hyper-competitiveness of research grant applications is resulting in “impact sensationalism and the corruption of academics as custodians of truth”. Apparently the problem is with what funding agencies expect. “We consider how academics sacrifice scholarly integrity when selling their research ideas, or more specifically, the non-academic impact of these, to research funders,” the authors announce.

Complaints of this kind are going to be a big deal as the implications of the government’s applied research agenda sink in. Australian Research Council chair Aidan Byrne was certainly quick to defend the probity of ARC processes on Friday when the story surfaced on ABC’s AM. “It is not in a researcher’s best interests to make outlandish claims within their grant application … this will likely lead to our expert reviewers rejecting the grant proposal, as they look at the proposal not only based on the impact statement, but the budget, research environment, staffing etc.”

Michael Crichton from the Australian Academy of Science sat in on an ARC grant selection meeting last year and described a process which he called “highly transparent, open and fair.”

With success rates south of 20 per cent plenty of people will tell you it isn’t fair, but this is going to be less of an argument than claims that “impact” is corrupting research.


Wandering scholars

The OECD reports 10 per cent of masters students at member country universities are internationals. At PhD level its 25 per cent. Of the students 53 per cent are Asian, 23 per cent from China.

With 37 per cent of masters students from other countries Australia is second to Luxembourg (67 per cent). Overall the US hosts 21 per cent of all international students at masters level, followed by the UK (16 per cent) France and Germany (11 per cent each) and Australia (8 per cent). At PhD level, the US share is over 10 per cent higher with the rest of the leader group correspondingly lower, Australia’s being 5 per cent. The OECD suggests international students are attracted to countries which spend up on research and development, although CMM suspects societies that are safe, free and tolerant might have something to do with which ones appeal.

TINA time at UWA

The University of Western Australia Senate meets this morning for a planning day, where it will consider Vice Chancellor Paul Johnson’s proposal to cut 300 jobs and restructure administration and faculties.

Perhaps Professor Johnson is keen to restructure the administration because senior management is making a mess of existing arrangements. CMM hears a new timetable system is not so much suffering teething problems as toothless in dealing with subject clashes. In one large course students were told to go on-line for lectures, despite physical attendance being mandatory. To get the job done as best as they could people building timetables stuck to the old system.

Whatever the reason, the VC is not budging on the reasons for the restructure. In a letter last week to the Academic Staff Association he held the line on the financial necessity and academic importance of the proposed model, invoking the TINA principal, (there is no alternative). “Extensive staff engagement … has not produced any alternative proposals that meet the university’s savings and efficiency objectives. … “There has, however, been significant support for immediately moving ahead with the renewal proposals in order to provide clarity and certainty to staff,” he said. The National Tertiary Education Union, which disputes the plan in great detail, may not agree with that (CMM March 8) but Professor Johnson is making it clear that once the consultation period required by the university’s enterprise agreement expires the proposal will become a plan.

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Uni Melbourne in the money

Business analyst IBIS has ranked the top 1000 companies in Australia and found 34 universities make the cut, (although five of them are in New Zealand). The institutions are ranked by revenue, as at the end of 2014.

The University of Melbourne led at 177th, up 31 places on $2.2bn turnover. It was the only institution to crack $2bn but the next six, all earned over $1bn. Monash was second at 204 in the country followed by Uni Sydney (218), UoQ (235), UNSW (242), RMIT (377) and ANU with turnover of $1.017bn, placing it 393 in the country. The University of Auckland, at just under $1bn was at 413, ahead of UWA (414) QUT (435) and Uni Adelaide in 440th spot with $905m in earnings. Last on the list was CQU at 979 with $321m.

After Auckland, the other NZ institutions were Canterbury, Otago, Massey and Victoria University of Wellington.