Betteridge’s Law and the dodo

Have you heard of the exquisite Jagiellonian arrases in Poland?” Uni Melbourne leads a promotional tweet, yesterday. Betteridge holds that the headline of any story ending with a question mark can be answered “no”. Perhaps anticipating this Uni Melbourne explains why we should know about them – they include what may be the first depiction in art of the dodo.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this Morning

Andrew Harvey and Lisa Andrewartha (both La Trobe U) on welcoming defence forces veterans into high education. They bring unique strengths and perspectives that benefit the learning of all students. It’s this week’s essay in Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series, needed know in teaching and learning.

Merlin Crossley on why rare isn’t always so special in science, education and film franchises.

Garry Carnegie and James Guthrie on why universities will worry about a better deal for casuals.

Now for the easier part at Uni Adelaide

Union members have backed the proposed accord negotiated by National Tertiary Education Union campus leaders and university management

The variation to the Uni Adelaide enterprise agreement which is at the heart of the deal will now go to all staff for approval.

The proposal includes staff deferring a pay rise due in March until next July and a 3.5 per cent paycut (kicking in at $30 000) from fourth quarter to the start of the next financial year and a 15-day leave-purchase.

Acting Vice Chancellor Mike Brooks commits the university to saving the further $30m it will still need through an early retirement scheme, natural staff turn-over and voluntary redundancies. He ruled out forced redundancies and “significant restructuring,” to reduce the workforce by 200 positions (CMM July 23).

This is a big win for Professor Brooks and local and national NTEU leaders. There was a fear that opposition to the deal was stronger among union members than the university community as a whole (CMM August 4).

Vann’s the (absent) man

But Charles Sturt U is still promoting the VC

Charles Sturt U’s official Twitter account yesterday pointed to a positive interview with Vice Chancellor Andrew Vann in The CEO Magazine .  This may lead to more questions on campus as to why Professor Vann is on sabbatical and why his job has already been advertised, when his present term has over a year to run.

International student arrivals indefinitely delayed

Both South Australia and the Northern Territory have pilot scheme to bring in international students ready to go. They aren’t going to fly this semester

On Friday, Prime Minister Morrison stated National Cabinet had decided, “international travel constraints on inbound arrivals to Australia should be continued in their current form. We look forward to, at some point, that that might be able to be altered. But at this point, we are not going to put any further strain on the quarantine arrangements around the country and they will remain in place now for some months.”

Another merger idea in South Australia

It’s way bigger than the hardy perennial of Uni SA and Uni A combining and it isn’t imminent either

Uni SA VC David Lloyd is reported in The Advertiser as favouring merging two of the state’s three universities into two – it’s an idea he is long liked. “’I am an advocate of a duopoly in a market the size of SA – with two strong, differentiated institutions affording choice to students and partners,” he told CMM informally months back.

But to best serve the state it would need to be a comprehensive post-school restructureincluding TAFE and not just sticking two unis together.

It sounds like an extension of Professor Lloyd’s four principles for universities which includes, “We must move towards the provision of education on demand, towards tailored education on demand which is decoupled from the confines of strict disciplinary shackles, education which isn’t only linked to bounded degree parchments, but rather is linked to the validated competencies of the successful learner,” (CMM August 14 2018).

But SA education observers say nothing is about to happen.

Hard times for international students

Alan Morris (UTS), with colleagues from there and Macquarie U surveyed international students in Sydney and Melbourne in the private rental market on accommodation and living experiences before COVID-19 and again in June-July

Where students are now:

job losses are “dramatic”: 59 per cent of students surveyed were working before the pandemic but 61 per cent of them lost their jobs

rent is harder to make: a third go without food “quite often” to pay for accommodation. 21 per cent fear becoming homeless

paying for study and staying here is a worry: 44 per cent fear they will not be able to pay for tuition and 35 per cent worry they will have to leave Australia before completing their course

help at hand: 62 per cent say their institution offers financial assistance. But only 13 per cent of providers had reduced fees and 5 per cent had waived them

as for government: “The general feeling was that support from government and relief-providing organisations had not been strong. Fewer than 20 per cent of students felt that the support offered by the Victorian and NSW government was good or excellent, and even less—just 13 per cent—described support from the Federal government as good or excellent. By contrast, around three in ten students (29 per cent) agreed that the support from their country of origin community within Australia was good or excellent.”

No-speaks start to Victoria U savings talks

Management wants to talk to the union about a joint-approach . Not all NTEU members there want to talk back

A member meeting Friday voted decisively against any union-management agreement that would reduce wages and conditions.

Last week VU VC Peter Dawkins told staff the university would, as previously predicted, be $50m under-budget this year and with international student numbers not expected to bounce back, down a further $20m next.

Professor Dawkins has accordingly opened discussions with National Tertiary Education Union leaders on varying VU’s enterprise agreement to temporarily cut staff conditions and freeze pay rises in return for a commitment to protect jobs.

There is no deal to vote on yet, but Friday’s outcome could be bad for Professor Dawkins and the NTEU national leaderships if it leads to a rank and file member no vote on any savings agreement. The majority of VU staff who are not union members following the local NTEU lead on local issues. In 2018-19 university management put two enterprise agreement proposals to staff which were both opposed by the union.  The yes vote on the first was 23 per cent and 33 per cent on the second, (CMM September 25 2018, February 20 2019).

Unite on invigilation

In CMM Friday Michael Sankey asked whether invigilated exams are always required for professional accreditation. Now he suggests an all of university approach to what’s invigilated


The recent COVID-19 Exam Software Survey 2020, revealed almost half ANZ public universities did not run invigilated exams. Which may mean some accrediting bodies did not require an invigilation requirement at all institutions.  If so, it appears unfair, especially for students.

It also suggests a sector coordination role is needed to liaise between universities and the many professional bodies that have previously required that extra level of scrutiny.

If we are looking to save a bit of effort across the sector (as we all will be next year), so that each individual institution doesn’t have to seek these approvals from each professional body, boy, have we got an idea for you.

Perhaps the body best placed to do something like this would be Universities Australia, or one of its committees.

Unless anybody else has a better idea, how about it UA, are you up for it?

Professor Sankey is Director, Learning Transformations Griffith University

And President of the Australasian Council on Open Distance and eLearning

Tehan starves unis of issues oxygen

By establishing a review of  their progress in implementing the Robert French free speech code the minister keeps the focus off funding

On Friday Education Minister Dan Tehan appointed former Deakin U VC Sally Walker to inquire into universities progress in implementing Mr French’s code of campus free speech.

This is smart politics by the minister: It means Mr Tehan can demonstrate to Coalition MPs and their friends that he is on the free-speech case.

There is a long-held assumption among some Liberal and National Parties MPs that universities freeze out opinions that are unpopular on campus and/or do not suit management interests. Three recent issues can add to that argument.

First there is the foollishness of somebody at UNSW deleting a tweet on its official account pointing to critical commentary on human rights in Hong Kong.  Vice Chancellor Ian Jacobs disavowed the action but that hardly undid all the perception damage.

Second, James Cook U successfully sacking Peter Ridd who is an outspoken critic of climate science there, has also upset conservatives. That the Federal Court found the university was within its rights has not quietened critics.

And Uni Queensland has suspended student Drew Pavlou, a fierce critic of the PRC’s human rights record and of the university’s links with China’s government. The university is adamant that Mr Pavlou’s penalties are unrelated to his political views. However, Uni Queensland now holds what CMM guesses is a record, being critically covered by TV’s 60 Minutes two weeks in a row, for its treatment of Mr Pavlou.

Supporters of requiring universities to enact Mr French’s code can also argue that universities and allies may need encouragement.

On Friday Universities Australia responded to Professor Walker’s appointment, stating “freedom of expression and academic freedom are part of the DNA of Australian universities. This is why Mr French’s proposed model code has been given careful attention by our universities to ensure the robustness of their frameworks for free speech and academic freedom.

““Last year universities agreed to adopt, adapt or ensure the principles of the French Model Code were reflected in the broad suite of policies that cover freedom of speech and expression at universities.”

Which may not be enough to convince critics that universities will now completely follow Mr French’s code.

It may also be why Professor Walker’s brief includes; “provide advice to the Minister for Education on the overall alignment of universities policies with the principles of the Model Code and, if warranted, any suggestions on how the alignment could be further improved.”

And it stops university lobbies of issues-oxygen: The Walker review does more than demonstrate to Mr Tehan’s friends that he wants to the French code in-place. Putting campus free speech on the agenda again also provides Coalition members and senators with an issue to take attention away from Mr Tehan’s new funding model for undergraduate places and the government excluding public universities from JobKeeper wage support.

Labor education shadow Tanya Plibersek recognises this. In an interview on Thursday she acknowledged campus free speech is an issue but focused on youth unemployment and the proposed increased costs to students of many degrees.

And Uni Queensland’s brand new (post Pavlou) VC, Deborah Terry, is clearly keen to find clear air for other issues. Professor Terry, who is also chair of UA, issued a weekend statement;

“Academic freedom and freedom of speech go to the absolute core of what defines Australian universities. We support the government’s review of the university’s progress in implementing the model code.
We acknowledge recent commentary may have caused some to question Uni Queensland’s commitment to freedom of speech and we welcome the opportunity to demonstrate otherwise.
It would be remiss of the university not to use this opportunity to validate that we are doing everything we should to demonstrate and encourage academic freedom and freedom of speech.”


Research grants from the National Centre for the Study of Equity in Higher Education are announced.

* Equity implications of non-ATAR pathways (UWA lead institution), Ian Li, David Carroll, Denise Jackson

* Uni student wellbeing in crisis disruption (Edith Cowan U), Lynette Vernon, Kathryn Modecki, Kylie Austin

* Supporting student parents (La Trobe U), Lisa Andrewartha, Andrea Simpson, Lizzie Knight, Hannah Beattie

* Relevance of mental health for the equity groups framework (Uni Queensland), Tomasz Zajac, Wojtek Tomaszewski and Francisco Perales

* Uni responses to enhancing equity post COVID-19 (UNSW), Mary Teague, Sally Baker, Katy Head, Sonal Singh, Christine Johnston, Carolina Morison, Jim Micsko

* Indigenous student completion rates (Uni Queensland) Bronwyn Fredericks, Tracey Bunda, Katelyn Barney, Kirsten Bonds, Anne Martin and Jacinta Elston

* COVID-19 learning among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Refugee and/or Migrant populations (UNSW) Sally Baker, Lisa Hartley, Loshini Naidoo, Rachel Burke, Tebeje Molla, Clemence Due, Joel Anderson, Teresa De Fazio, Carolina Morison, William Mude and Ravinder Sidhu

* Care leaver graduate outcomes: (La Trobe U), Andrew Harvey, Jacqueline Z. Wilson, Federation University, Naomi Tootell, Beni Cakitaki

* Non ATAR uni entrance (RMIT), Megan O’Connell, Ciannon Cazaly and Aarushi Singhania

* Assessment adjustment impact on inclusion (Deakin U), Joanna Tai, Rola Ajjawi, Margaret Bearman, Joanne Dargusch, Mary Dracup, Lois Harris

* Improving equity across fields of education (La Trobe U) Beni Cakitaki, Michael Luckman and Andrew Harvey

* COVID-19 equity student support: (Uni Sydney), Lucy Mercer-Mapstone, Pauline Ross, Susanna Scarparo, Jessica Vanderlelie, Tricia McLaughlin, Ian Zucker, Amanda Able, Phil Levy, Sarah Jane Gregory, Deborah West, Lisa Bricknell, Janelle Wheat, Abelardo Pardo, Florence Gabriel and Kasia Banas

* Inclusive analytics in HE (La Trobe U), Bret Stephenson, Andrew Harvey, Damminda Alahakoon Qing Huang

* Careers of LGBTQIA+ university students (Flinders U), Zhou Jiang, Ying Wang, Damien W. Riggs, Susan Mate

* WIL opportunities in east Gippsland small business (Gippsland East HE Study Hub), Andrew O’Loughlin and Damian Morgan

* HE course choice (Uni Newcastle), Felicia Jaremus, Elena Prieto, Leanne Fray, Jenny Gore, Sally Patfield

*  Student-support and Indigenous student progression (Murdoch U) Bep Uink, Braden Hill, Rebecca Bennett, Chanelle van den Berg, Tracey Taraia, Sian Bennett