Blooming early

Uni Queensland has the first jacaranda blooms story for 2020. Commendable productivity – it’s nearly a month ahead of last year’s announcement (CMM October 15 2019). It’s an easy win over campuses to the south but it’s still ahead of even more northerly James Cook U.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Leanne Bell (Queensland TAFE) on the power of VET for Indigenous Australians. A new contribution to a series by Indigenous academics and policy people from Contributing Editor Claire Field

Shelley Kinash (Uni Southern Queensland) on helping new graduates get jobs. COVID-19 is making the hunt harder. Universities need to do more. New in Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series, “Needed now in teaching and learning”.

Marnie Hughes-Warrington (Uni SA) on why we need just one ERA, but effectively have two.

How we are governed

Senator Louise Pratt (Labor WA) wants to know how the Education Minister’s student funding bill will impact institutions and states

So, she asked the Department of Education, Skills and Employment a question on notice, suggesting they could provide the information without identifying individual institutions.

To which the department wrote back that its submission to the Senate inquiry on the bill; “contains an estimate of the total impact of the Job-ready Graduates package on the higher education sector. Further disaggregation at this time is not possible as details are still being settled with providers.” Settled enough to be used for the submission.

A friend for the Tehan bill 

The Regional Universities Network is the best friend the government has got for its plan to change funding for undergraduate places

If adopted the new model “will have a positive impact in the regions through funding for more places and regional research, and … help grow regional economies,” RUN chair Helen Bartlett (Uni Sunshine Coast ) says.

Regional universities do best of all HE lobbies from the bill, even having amendments adopted, with the help of regional education minister and Nationals MP Andrew Gee, (CMM August 26).

Professor Bartlett also announces a new paper, demonstrating the good RUN does for its members’ communities and how more funding will make everything even better.

Dollars for Murdoch U casuals

MU pitches its proposal to cancel a pay-rise

The university is asking staff to vote for an enterprise agreement variation which includes dropping the October pay rise (1 per cent, plus a one-off $500 added to base).

But management’s proposal also includes “a one-off payment of $500 for casuals and low-income fixed-term and continuing staff.”

The promise is in an email to staff setting out the content of the proposed EAV which urges casuals to read what’s involved. It’s the $500 which leads.

La Trobe U dials down its aspirations

The university’s last plan was bold, times have changed

The present strategy is supposed to run to 2022 but VC John Dewar says COVID-19, “requires us to urgently re-think our future” with a new plan for ten years.

And that means smaller; with fewer staff and students ,but stronger, in a smaller number of teaching and research areas.

Specific university performance targets include; in the top-12 for student experience in the QILT survey, a 50 per cent rise by 2025 in medical research funding from the two major public providers, an “increase” in student numbers studying at or supported by regional campuses and a 20 per cent staff productivity improvement.

It’s way different to the last, five-year, plan, which confidently spelt-out big objectives and ambitious targets, including $1.1bn in turnover by 2022, (CMM November 17 2017). There is no mention of money in the new plan but the statement announcing it does state, “La Trobe may lose up to 25 per cent of revenue by the end of 2021, and a full recovery could take three to five years.”

Sydney ready for international students in 2021 (maybe earlier)

The minister responsible for Sydney’s hotel quarantine is keen to get going

Stuart Ayres told the Australian Technology Network’s international education conference yesterday that NSW could bring international students back, before borders open to visitors.

As minister for jobs and tourism Minister Ayres has charge of the state’s hotel quarantine programme for Australians returning from overseas, which has housed 60 000 people.

“There’s lots of lessons that we have learnt from that quarantine experience that we have been sharing with vice chancellors that we think will allow us to re-open our international student markets sooner rather than later,” he told the Australian Technology Network’s international education conference yesterday.

A 14 day quarantine for international students “is quite manageable,” Mr Ayres said, adding they could return to study in Australia, “perhaps sooner than people had imagined.”

“There’s no reason why Australia can’t be welcoming … I foreshadow that we will be open to borders to international students through a quarantine regime much earlier than we will be able to open borders to tourists.”

Mr Ayres a date “is being worked through now” but suggested he is working towards, “the start of 2021.”

But if the state could safely open-up earlier, “I don’t want to rule that out,” he added.

Now all he has to do is convince the PM and Premier, who will need to convince the voters.

Dolt of the day

Is CMM. In Claire Field’s story yesterday Alphacrucis College was less misspelt than mangled. Ms Field had it right, the error was introduced when CMM did not notice what spellcheck was up to.

There’s bad news for VET

Probably to be followed by worse news

The estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research reports apprentice and trainee numbers were down in the March quarter. Starts were 145 000 –14 per cent lower than the 170 000 in the March quarter of 2016.

By employer category the only growth was in government, up 1.2 per cent on 2019, with the private sector down 7.7 per cent and group training schemes down 12 per cent. Construction took the biggest hit by industry, down 14.3 per cent on 2019.

And the grimness will get grimmer; “it won’t be until the June quarter that we get a true sense of the pandemic’s effect on apprenticeship and traineeship activity,” NCVER’s managing director Simon Walker says.



Sharon Lewin (Peter Doherty Institute) receives the Global Virus Network’s Gallo Award for excellence in medical virology.