Death, the final stage of tax avoidance

It’s as certain in life as paying taxes death and dying will affect all of us,” Flinders U promoting palliative care research, via Twitter.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning, Geoffrey Crisp (Uni Canberra) on overhauling assessment – this week’s essay in CMM’s series of Australian Learning and Teaching Fellows writing on what is needed now in teaching and learning


A deal done at Uni Canberra

Staff have approved an enterprise agreement

There is an enterprise agreement at the University of Canberra, with 77 per cent of staff voting approving the deal jointly proposed by management and campus unions. Just on half of eligible voters turned out.

This ends a long and often unhappy negotiation, that a quarter of the poll were opposed, demonstrates the after-effects of disputes on a range of issues, notably workloads and including the not universally popular assistant professor scheme, now subject to a review (CMM January 14). In November management offered staff a deal without union agreement, which did not win workforce confidence – it went down three to one with 59 per cent of staff voting (CMM November 13 2018).

Murdoch U union members call for an inquiry

At Murdoch U union members back staff who spoke up on international student entry standards. They have another idea management may not like

Last week the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union backed the academics who appeared on the Four Corners programme, “and pledges to support them in the event of any actions being taken against them as a result of their whistle-blowing.” Vice Chancellor Eeva Leinonen responded by not responding, saying in a staff message Wednesday, “it is not appropriate for the university to comment publicly on employment matters relating to individual staff members,” ( CMM May 16

The unionists also renewed previous calls for management to establish “a full, open, independent and transparent inquiry” into international student entry standards, pointing out that the University of Tasmania has commissioned an independent review of international admissions. (U Tas announced the inquiry before the Four Corners programme aired,(CMM May 7).  But that isn’t the only investigation the union advocates. NTEU members are calling for a parliamentary inquiry or for the Visitor of the University to get involved (a largely ceremonial role held by the state governor, now Kim Beazley).

Research priorities in place

With the political flummery finished the deep state can get back to governing

Back in February the government commissioned a review of how the nine national research priorities are covered by research funding (CMM February 20). The priorities were adopted, in 2015 reported by CMM here.

In April, the Australian Research Council helpfully published a paper on the issues submissions to the review should address (CMM April 2).

Which the learned Innovative Research Universities may, or may not, have read in producing its, as usual, policy astute response.   The IRU advocates:

* not allocating specific research funds to priorities: “disadvantaging research outside the priority areas clearly contradicts the principle of funding the highest quality projects”.

* funding for priority areas is “appropriate”: the 70 per cent of national competitive grant programme funding that goes to priority areas; “reflects the responsiveness and contribution our universities make towards areas of critical needs and importance. It also reflects the important signalling effects of priorities in a very competitive system, where many high- quality projects are not funded.”

* a role for HASS: while the priorities are inter/cross-disciplinary, “limited reference is made to how HASS and other enabling disciplines can contribute.” The priorities could include projects’ potential impact, IRU suggests.

The Deep end at Uni Canberra

With 2 years plus to go VC Deep Saini is giving it away

Professor Saini announced Friday that he will leave in December, to move to Halifax in Nova Scotia where he will become president of Dalhousie U.

While lamentations were loud on campus Friday, they were not universal. Certainly Professor Saini’s 2017 plan to make UoC a university embedded in the life of the city was well regarded CMM October 22 2017).  However,  not all staff were convinced by all his ideas on containing staff costs ( CMM February 21 2018). There was some scepticism at the announcement of a plan to amalgamate research institutes with faculties,  ( CMM March 9 2018) and a group of senior academics outright opposed his plan to lift research performance by hiring up to 50 assistant professors on a deliver or depart track (CMM October 19 2018).

Campus controversy aside however, he has done well enough to impress Dalhousie, which is a similar student size but rates higher on research. Dalhousie U is 347 in the world on this week’s headline Leiden ranking, while Uni Canberra did not make the cut. Both are in the 251-300 bracket in the Times Higher ranking.

He will certainly have big expectations to meet there – predecessor Richard Florizone left after five years of increasing student numbers and research growth to run a quantum computing lab.

“When we said, what we meant …” what’s on the HE agenda now

There is plenty of policy on the government’s agenda

While few if any VCs and HE lobbies endorsed Labor in the election, dozens of them supported the party’s system-wide initiatives, notably a return to demand driven funding of undergraduate places, and funding for campus-specific developments. Some will be hoping the coalition appreciates the difference.

But there is a worse result for the higher education community than ministers deciding the sector is against them – that they do not care.

Despite Tanya Plibersek and Kim Carr’s hard work to make post-school education and research policy an election issue the government’s less low than subterranean profile does not appear to have hurt it nationally. Even worse, it could well have helped in regional electorates where universities pitch themselves as community assets and the government handed-out cash for campuses.

So, the post compulsory community needs to work hard to get net new ministers to talk to it – because there is policy business to be done.

For higher education providers there is Peter Coaldrake’s review of category standards, which will consider whether universities must be institutions that both research and teach.

As for training; everybody who dismissed the

Joyce Review, quietly released on budget day, should have another read.  The national skills commission it proposed is already on the books and there are mass of ideas that will appeal to conservatives who do not think shovelling money into TAFE is the way to fix VET.

And then there is the big one; the review of the Australian Qualifications Framework, chaired by Peter Noonan. This looks like it could include micro-courses offered by higher and VE providers, in cooperation with corporate suppliers from outside the accredited spaces.

Queensland unis on the money

The state auditor says they are in ok shape, for now

Queensland universities face a reduction in student fee revenue of $239m, due to the federal government cap on grants last year and this, and a drop in student fee revenue in 2020-2023 caused by splitting the school starting class of 2007 in two, one half under the old system, the other under the new one, which added an extra school year.

The state’s Audit Office reports universities have plans to make up the shortfall, including increasing international enrolments, but warns, “the concentration of students from a limited number of countries increases the risks associated with overseas competition.”

Overall the auditor finds universities revenues dropped last year while employees expenses grew however all universities are “financially sustainable”.  The Audit Office does point to James Cook U and CQU, which, “have a higher reliance on grant funding.”

In contrast, TAFE’s student numbers and resulting revenue are declining, without an equivalent reduction in expenses.  The audit reports, the system needs “ongoing” state government support, “to remain financially sustainable”.

ECU sets achievable span

The new advertising campaign substantiates its sell

Edith Cowan U launched a new brand campaign on the weekend, presenting the university as a bridge to connect where people are now and where want to go. “Bridges can be technology, knowledge, connections, ECU is the bridge between your world and the whole world.”

The 30 second spot features, well bridges, as in world-famous ones. There are 15 second ones that substantiate the claim, with examples of ECU research building bridges, in one case, via a blood test, connecting “this world and a healthier world.” CMM hopes the university is spending big on the research spots, without them the campaign could come from the university of anywhere.


The University of Tasmania announces Terry Bailey is the new executive director of the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies. Mr Bailey is a career bureaucrat in environment and national park management.