Regulator to the rescue

As unis scramble to get courses on-line TEQSA promises “guidance”

The Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency advises it, “is engaging with the sector and across the whole of government to address the challenges of COVID-19.   TEQSA is currently developing further guidance to support the sector at this time.”

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning;

Cathy Stone (Uni Newcastle) and Nicole Crawford (Curtin U), on the three-essentials to engage students in the move on-line, a new essay in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series, “Needed Know in Teaching and Learning.”

Tim Winkler explains why 2021 domestic student recruitment planning needs to start now. If it doesn’t, stand by for a record number of deferrals, transfers and withdrawals in early 2021 as students realise they are not getting what they thought they signed up for.

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on the sink in the science kitchen being thrown at COVID-19.

Yes but, no but, yes but at Uni Sunshine Coast

First some classes were going on-line, then campuses were staying open and now everything is off for the week

Last Monday Social Sciences told students it would move as many classes on-line as possible.  Head of School Ken Greenwood told students, “we have been preparing for this for several weeks now” because, “the scientific evidence clearly indicates that the best way to protect us all is to minimise contact between people.”

Good-o, at least until Wednesday, when academic dean Steve Wilcox responded that the Prime Minister wanted universities and schools to stay open and that was USC policy. Which was followed 15 minutes later by Professor Greenwood telling staff to cancel his previous message, “I have been instructed to retract the email and to instruct you to return to the delivery modes we were using last week.”

CMM hopes everybody involved kept their files, because late Friday acting VC Robert Elliot announced classes are suspended this week, “to redesign face-to-face teaching and assessments to modes that do not require students’ personal attendance on campus.”

Uni Wollongong students to try on-line courses before they buy

The university announces a range of measures to assist students, including;

*waiving the student service fee for 1H 2020. * extending enrolment deadlines * ensuring Autumn session assessments in “remote mode” or with social-distancing when not.

The most important one is the university deferring census date, when people become liable for HECS-HELP loans, from March 31 to April 16. “This will give students an opportunity to experience UOW’s remote study offerings before they are financially committed to their chosen subjects.”

Smart move. In all the airily ambitious talk of degrees on-line there are few mentions of the students – who will be the judge of what works and doesn’t. Uni Wollongong is appropriately, admirably, given theirs the chance to try before the buy.

But it will be enough?

Universities in general will likely need to do something to address student concerns at the quality of what they will get on-line.

Social media lit-up after yesterday’s announcements of new welfare payments with suggestions students should bail before census date because universities may end up closing (and other allowances pay better than Austudy).

And complaints are starting about the quality of courses quickly transferred on-line.

Big cash injection for Uni Queensland virus research

Paul Ramsay Foundation announces “first tranche” of COVID-19 research funding

Yes, it’s money from the estate of that Paul Ramsay. No, it’s separate to the fund responsible for the western civilisation degrees.

PR Foundation CEO Glyn Davis (yes, the ex Uni Melbourne VC) says it is “incumbent on the Foundation to support efforts to control and contain the virus.” The big cash components are $3.5m to Uni Queensland for vaccine trial and production, $2m to the Peter Doherty Institute for short-term anti-body passive immunisation.  The 13-member Australasian Partnership for Preparedness Research on Infectious Disease Emergencies has $2m for responses in “high-risk populations.”

And there’s more money for Uni Queensland

As well as Ramsay, the state government announces $10m and the Commonwealth $3m for vaccine research at the university.

VCs thank staff: right time, right message

Vice chancellors ended a bad week with gratitude to the people who stopped it being worse, including

Carolyn Evans (Griffith U) thanked staff, all staff; “no team in the University has been untouched by this extraordinary situation, and all our staff have stepped up to support each other, our students and our partners. This includes all the work to transition to online learning, keep our students, staff, partners and campuses operating safely and maintain our research mission.”

As recognition, she says the university is closed on the Thursday before Easter, with everybody getting an extra paid day off (time in lieu later for essential services). Professor Evans adds she wants everybody to leave each other alone about over Easter; “we could all do with a bit of time to rest and be with our families or friends after all the hard work of the trimester so far.”

The Vice Chancellor also announced she and her executive group colleagues were taking a pay freeze for 2020; “try to ensure that resources are focused on the staff and students who are the backbone of Griffith.”

Margaret Gardner (Monash U) had messages for key constituencies, including:

Students: “the delivery style of your learning may be different but our attention to the quality of your education is unwavering.”

Casual and sessional staff: “we are committed to ensuring you have access to isolation leave should you need it as do all our fixed term and continuing staff … and we are giving priority to the employment of our current casual sessional cohort. “

Teaching academics: if they need help with additional workloads, to move courses on-line they should ask.

Researchers: Facilities will continue.

Professional staff: “We intend to maintain an as close to business as usual environment as is safe and reasonable to do.”

Professor Gardner thanked, “the many, many staff who continue to go above and beyond in managing what is a very difficult situation. Your efforts, commitment and dedication are noticed.”

Peter Hoj (Uni Queensland) acknowledged people have lives. “I am also mindful of the impact and pressure this is having on our lives outside of work – children’s sport cancelled, greater concern about the welfare of vulnerable family members and friends, or simply not being able to find what we want on supermarket shelves. I want to sincerely thank each of you for the many hours worked and your continued commitment to take on these challenges and find innovative solutions. We are a great team and together we will get through this.

Linda Kristjanson (Swinburne U) thanked all staff categories: Many of us are feeling unsettled and unsure as the global situation evolves each day. Yet, you have continued to support each other and the university’s mission in extraordinary ways. … thank you for your unwavering commitment.”

Appointment, achievements

Ian Anderson is to join ANU as DVC (student and university experience). He moves from the Commonwealth, where he was previously with PM and C and now the National Indigenous Australians Agency. His prior higher education appointment was at the University of Melbourne (CMM February 24 2017).

 The State Library of NSW announces the short-list for the $40 000 Douglas Stewart non- prize. Nominees are space archaeologist Alice Gorman (Flinders U) for Dr Space Junk v the universe, Fiona Wright (UTS) for a collection of personal essays The World was whole, Patrick Mullins(Uni Canberra) for a biography of prime minister Bill McMahon, Samia Khatun (Uni of London) for Australianama, (“the south Asian odyssey in Australia”, Tim Bonyhady’s (ANU) “rodent history Australia”, The enchantment of the Long-haired Rat and Michelle Arrow (Macquarie U), The Seventies, (that decade in Australia).

COVID-19 wrap: HE rolls-out new responses

TEQSA is trialling remote-working today

But if do want to talk to somebody who can explain what you are doing wrong case-managers are still working

Deakin U advises T1 assessment “will most likely be on-line” and exam dates aren’t changed but June graduations are off

Ceremonies will be back, “once the university can resume normal business.”

“We are in what is undoubtedly the most uncertain and challenging time that Deakin has experienced over its history. … We are working hard to ensure you have the best educational experience possible in the circumstances,” Vice Chancellor Iain Martin assures students.

NZ unis shut-down this week

University of Auckland has suspended classes. The break is for staff to complete preparations “for remote teaching,” “in the event of a partial campus closure.” This will “allow for an orderly transition to on-line delivery, if this is to be at scale for any length of time.” All student services, accommodation and retail stay open.  The same applies at Auckland University of Technology. At Massey U “most courses are already moving on-line.” “For those classes that must be taught face-to face, physical distancing measures are being introduced.”

The University of Melbourne had a second COVID-19 case confirmed Thursday

That night it asked staff based in the two buildings where the recent arrival from the UK had been, to work from home on Friday.

Uni Notre Dame Australia stays open (with exceptions)

UNDA says if you are “unwell” take sick-leave. If you are waiting for a COVID-19 test, or have a positive one self-isolate if you are caring for somebody self-isolated stay with them and if you are at risk work from home. If the university is, “required to restrict access to campus,” “staff will be expected to transition to working from home.” There are more circumstances, but you get the idea.

However, for everybody else; “it is paramount that we ensure that the transition to on-line learning occurs professionally, provides the best possible reflection of Notre Dame, and ensures that staff are supported with resources available on campus. As such, staff are expected to attend campus as normal until further notice,” (subject to public health requirements).

Swinburne gets with the strength on paid leave

Friday afternoon the university confirmed leave for permanent/fixed term staff with COVID-19 or who have to self-isolate. The university is also providing casuals with up to 14 days leave, “to cover their scheduled hours.” The provision is in in-place to April 30.

University of the Sunshine Coast cancels courses on short-notice

On Friday, the university announced a “pause” this week to get classes on-line. It took the university a while to work out what to do last week. (the story is above).

Forward planning at Monash U

The university promises, “a new intensive study period” for labs, pracs and studios disrupted this semester, it will run November 30 – January 18 next.