Efficiency dividends come and go but performance based funding could go on forever

Monash honours two 50 year, yes 50 year, veterans

ACU’s new self-aware, student-centric, brand campaign

Victoria U invests in India


Who shares the wealth

The government’s proposal to make 7.5 per cent of Commonwealth Grant Scheme funding dependent on university performance is in the new Bill , at s337iiib. But where a learned reader wonders is the iron-clad undertaking that money taken from one university will go to others and not to the Commonwealth’s coffers? The explanatory memorandum to the bill assures; “any unused funds will be redistributed among the remaining recipients, meaning funding to the sector will not be reduced” For now, anyway.

ACU new brand strategy

Australian Catholic University has a new brand campaign, reflecting core values and featuring students focused on contributing to communities, in credible ways.

The university says the branding is about “impact through empathy” and designed to appeal to the realistic idealism of its students who want to make a difference in ways they know they can. ACU will roll out creative featuring real students in real-world settings. And it has developed distinct brand statements for its 13 disciplines.

A campaign based on belief

Brands that know what they exist to do are easy to advertise – which is what makes the new ACU campaign stand-out from the generality of interchangeable university campaigns. ACU’s new strategy features students who are students, not models, with achievable aspirations not the travel-the world-curing-diseases-and-becoming-secretary-general-of-the-UN-way positioning that turns up in some campaigns. Having a mission based in faith makes brand building easier but so does the university’s grasp of what it does well and focus on the students it exists to serve.

What unis like least

The government’s higher education budget bill is expected to go through the House of Representatives in the next sitting fortnight but there’s no rush given the Senate will not consider it until a committee reports on August 9. Universities now have two months to decide what they want deleted the most, because they will not get everything out.

For some VC’s the efficiency dividend and its inevitable aftershocks  on the base that growth in funding is calculated on in years to come is top of the list. But not all Senate cross benchers are inclined to accept warnings of financial doom. They have heard it all before, says one Senate watcher, and universities announcing deals with football teams and paying munificent executive salaries do not sit well with predictions of penury.

The possibility of cuts does not alarm some universities as much as the government’s proposed performance measures. For a start, what they will measure and how they will work is not spelt out in the detail university managers like to see when planning budgets. Given the proposed legislation ties 7.5 per cent of university Commonwealth Grant Scheme funding to student-centric performance metrics this is understandable, it’s a serious amount of money, far more than the two years of efficiency dividends and their flow-on effect.

So if crucial senators seem inclined to accept the government’s argument that universities can accommodate the cuts university lobbying will likely switch to at least delaying the performance measure to give universities a chance to work through the detail with officials – and to kill them in the process.


But once again cross benchers may take a dim view of universities upset about having funding tied to student attrition, completion and satisfaction, which makes what budget measure to fight and how hard a tough call.

As to the increase in student payments – while Labor and the Greens are not for budging, apart from Senator Jacqui Lambie, the rest of the cross bench is keeping quiet.  “$100 000 degrees,” a la the Pyne package, a hike in HECs isn’t. And father of income contingent loans Bruce Chapman says the lower repayment threshold will not have a “discernible effects on university applications or choices about discipline,” (Campus Morning Mail May 18).  If anybody loses from the government’s bill it will be students.

The consensus of observers is that there will be a deal, the question is what will sway which senators. A sense of what the Higher Education community likes least will emerge with submissions to the Senate committee inquiry into the bill.

With senators Leyonhjelm, Bernardi and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation expected to support the government there are 35 votes for the bill. Labor, the Greens and Jacqui Lambie  make up 36 against. With 39 votes needed to pass the bill the government needs the Nick Xenophon team’s three votes plus one of independents Derryn Hinch and Lucy Gichuhi.


Victoria U picks up the pace

VU does not disguise it is in strife, making losses in four of the last five years and expecting a “shortfall” of $30m this year (CMM May 24). It can’t go on and so Vice Chancellor Peter Dawkins is doing something about it.

A new model for starting students

Victoria U has launched its first year model, “an innovative platform that is flexible, immersive, and more importantly, inclusive.” The model is designed to help students adapt to higher education study by taking one unit at a time, with access to dedicated academic support. It is a core part of the university’s plan to improve its appeal to prospective students.

However, the plan comes at a cost, with some academics who do not move to teaching-only roles in the new programme, facing the sack. As such, it is bitterly opposed by the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union and supporters in the western Melbourne community. The union went to the Fair Work Commission asking for a stay on redundancies and on management hiring staff for the new first year programme. The commission knocked the NTEU back, lest delaying the college’s creation made the university’s financial problems worse

VU goes for international growth  

Victoria U is expanding in India, last night announcing a joint venture with private Ganpat University and VU’s Sydney partner, Education Centre of Australia.

Ganpat teaches IT, engineering, management, pharmacy and biosciences. VU will initially offer masters in project management, business and analytics and enterprise resource planning at its campus. It expects to offer masters in engineering, IT and business in “the near future.” “VU India will offer the same quality-assured VU curricula and exceptional student experience as our onshore qualifications,” VC Peter Dawkins says.

ECA’s higher education brand, Asia Pacific International College states its courses are accredited by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency. However last July TEQSA shortened the period of registration, to January 2018 because APIC had not met threshold standards in quality assurance, student support and electronic infrastructure.

VU says the deal offers Indians the opportunity to earn an Australian masters, “at a fraction of the cost of studying in Australia.”

So, what is in it for VU, given India does not like universities taking profits out of the country? CMM asked VU and was told, “this is a strategic initiative to further deepen our engagement with India, which over time, will bring multiple benefits to VU and our students as it develops.”

Dolt of the day

The state and federal ministers training meeting is on today, not yesterday as CMM reported in the last issue. That explains why things were so quiet.

Heads Up

Achievers of the working week


Monash is honouring its first 50 year veterans, both emeritus professors and both from the School of Chemistry, Glen Deacon and Keith Murray. “They are the fabric of the School of Chemistry and play a huge part in our success,” says interim dean of science, Cristina Varsavsk.

The federal government’s Financial Reporting Council has appointed Stephen Taylor from UTS to the Australian Accounting Standards Board. A senior accounting researcher he is also a member of the Capital Markets CRC board.

ANU’s Asmi Wood is a new principal fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy. This is the HEA’s highest award and Aspro Wood is one of five at ANU and a 1000 worldwide to hold it.

NewSouth is Australia’s small publisher of the year, named at the Australian Book Industry Awards. It’s a subsidiary of UNSW Press, run by Kathy Bail.

Mark MacMillan is RMIT’s inaugural DVC indigenous education and engagement.  The former human rights lawyer is tasked with “supporting the university’s aspirations to achieve reconciliation between Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people.”

Eric Sidoti is retiring as CEO of the Whitlam Institute at the University of Western Sydney.

The Australasian Association of Philosophers has announced the short-list for this year’s Annette Bair Prize, for a paper or book chapter by a woman working as a philosopher in an ANZ university. Candidates are Miriam Bankovsky (LaTrobe U), Tracy Llanera (Macquarie U), Talia Morag (Deakin U), Dalia Nassar (University of Sydney), Anik Waldow (University of Sydney).

 Peter Rathjen is the incoming vice chancellor of the University of Adelaide, replacing Warren Bebbington who left last month. The genetics scientist will leave the University of Tasmania, where he has served as VC for close to seven years to take over at Adelaide early next year.

David Bellwood from James Cook University has won the Bleeker Award, for his contribution to Indo-Pacific fish ecology.

Shaun Ewen is appointed PVC (Indigenous) at the University of MelbourneProfessor Ewen will also continue as director of the university’s Poche Centre for Indigenous Health.

Macquarie U’s research director Louise Fleck has joined the CRC Association Board.