There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Michael Tomlinson explains how TEQSA came up with its proposed fees. The way for providers set to be slugged to keep the costs down, he suggests is to ensure everything is squeaky-clean. “Quality should not only be done, it should be seen to be done, viewed from the perspective of the external observer (TEQSA.


Jo Caldwell-Neilson (Deakin U) on eight essential elements of digital literacy. “Ultimately, it needs to be fit-for-purpose … it is a mind-set and an attitude, not just a skill set,” she argues. It’s Contributing Editor Sally’s Kift’s new selection for her CMM series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

Donald Wlodkowic (RMIT) on teaching in virtual labs. Simulation technology make it possible to teach students advanced techniques, “too dangerous or too expensive to implement on campus.”


 It’s enterprise bargaining time!  Elizabeth Baré, Ian Marshman, Teresa Tjia and Janet Beard (Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Educationpresent six ways new agreements can make universities better places to work and learn.

Savings search not done at Uni Melbourne

The 2020 annual report tells staff what they already knew – hard times aren’t over

As previously announced the university made an $9m operating surplus last year on $2.4bn in revenue, down 4.2 per cent on 2019. (CMM March 25).

Teaching income was down 21 per cent, with international enrolments  3 per cent lower, to 41 per cent.

The university clawed its way into the black (ex tied-income) by making $360m in staff and other savings.

Full-time equivalent academic staff declined by 81 (to 4754). And FTE professional staff numbers fell by 244 to 4435.

But FTEs aren’t individuals and total employees fell from 12 214 in December 2019 to 11 376 a year later.

The search for savings is not over yet. “the recurrent revenue challenge remains significant and is expected to continue in the coming years,” the university states.


Claire Field not overwhelmed by the private provider help-package

The government is to be commended for offering support to international education providers

The funding will not go far

 Last week Minister Tudge announced

* $26.1 million for an extra 5,000 independent higher education short course places

* $9.4 million in innovation grants up to $150,000 for independent providers to grow off-shore and on-line delivery

* $17.7 million in on-going regulatory fee relief, and

* on-going VET Student Loans and FEE-HELP loan administration fee exemptions.

The focus is on the 1,200 independent providers the government states have Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students approval,*  however all providers including universities and TAFE institutes will receive regulatory fee relief and TAFE students will also benefit from the loan fee exemptions.

While the headline figure looks good it will not go far, nor help those most in need, notably ELICOS providers. Few of them have VSL approval or higher education registration (and hence the ability to offer short courses).

The innovation grants are excellent but if each successful applicant receives the full $150,000 then only 60 providers will benefit. There is also little overlap between VSL-approved providers and those with CRICOS approval – only 86 independent CRICOS providers offer VSL loans.

It is a slightly rosier picture for CRICOS-approved independent higher education providers which get the above concessions plus a share of the 5,000 short course places, although they enrolled 81,000 international students in 2019.

The minister’s statement identifies an extra “$7.1 million in administrative savings for the sector, with providers no longer required to report the receipt of fees each month.” To which, I ask how much does it cost to press a button to upload a report to government (given providers still have to keep these records)?

Further, it is likely that providers with the most to hide will receive the greatest benefit. The sector is openly discussing the providers acting unconscionably as the impact of the pandemic bites – this initiative hinders regulators ASQA and TEQSA from understanding what is taking place in the sector and in taking action.

* By my count there are fewer than 1,000 independent CRICOS providers but no regular data is published on the number or profile of CRICOS-approved providers.

Claire Field is an advisor to the tertiary education sector

The high cost of restructuring at RMIT

Overall revenues were down $61m last year on earnings of $1.4bn and the RMIT group was in profit before “net restructuring costs”

The university reports expenditure was down $109m but there was a $20m profit, before restructure costs of $76m.

“The combined effort of every staff member, across every campus, has made a significant difference and allowed us to look forward again as we start to frame our future strategy,” VC Martin Bean and CFO Kate Koch told staff in a message yesterday.

But there was no mention of the people who left RMIT as part of the restructuring. While the university is quiet on total departures, 355 VRS were approved by last September. A further 250 jobs to go was said to be possible then (CMM September 2018).

Revenue losses in 2020 were driven by a 12 per cent decline in income from on-shore international students. RMIT reports domestic enrolments “were essentially flat.” Student numbers in ELICOS and foundation studies were also down, due to international border closures and “challenges of remote learning for these groups.”

However, there was growth. FTE student enrolments in RMIT Vietnam were up 9 per cent on 2019 and RMIT On-line revenue was up 42 per cent.

Professor Bean and Ms Koch tell staff, “while we are currently tracking well to our 2021 plan, we need to ensure the costs we’ve worked so hard to reduce don’t creep back.”

Dirk Mulder explains international student growth – it’s all in VET and it’s all from India


February 2021 YTD international student data is out (CMM yesterday) and it is very interesting indeed

February figures are for an important month – a year on from the last full month before the Morrison Government closed the borders, (although arrivals from China ceased on 1 February.)

At the top level: Overall education commencements were down 37.9 per cent on Feb 2020 while enrolments were down 16.6 per cent

Higher Ed commencements were down 36.5 per cent with enrolments down 13 per cent.

VET commencements were down 8.8 per cent with enrolments up 0.3 per cent.

Schools commencements were down 51.1 per cent with enrolments down 29.4 per cent.

ELICOS (Visa) commencements are down 68.6 per cent with enrolments down 66.6 per cent.

Non-Award commencements were down 80.6 per cent with enrolments down 65.9 per cent.

 Extraordinary VET enrolments: anomaly or expected? With borders being closed going on 12 months (to the date of this data) surely all sectors would have felt the pain of the pandemic – not so. VET enrolments continued to grow. Albeit they were up by 0.3 per cent but ELICOS and HE would have loved it

So what’s going on? Commencements first. The 8.8 per cent decline seems consistent with other sectors, although not nearly as bad. The next lowest decline being 36.5 per cent.

The countries with the greatest losses (net students declines in commencers) are: Nepal -677 (17.2 per cent drop), Brazil -548 (20.8 per cent drop), Indonesia -431 (27.9 per cent drop), South Korea -420 (21.1 per cent drop), and Philippines -359 (15.7 per cent drop).

At the other end of the spectrum commencements from countries which were up include: India 1,015 (14.3 per cent up), Pakistan 209 (20.9 per cent up), Colombia 172 (8 per cent up), Bangladesh 55 (30.2 per cent up), and Argentina 54 (37.5 per cent up).

VET enrolments were the highlight: Overall they were up 0.3 per cent  – phenomenal in any language.

Student numbers from countries that have declines in overall participation are: China -1755 (13.3 per cent down), South Korea -1,618 (18.6 per cent down), Brazil -1,340 (10.6 per cent down), Philippines – 1,300 (10.5 per cent down), and Nepal -1,286 (6.4 per cent down).

The big contributors to the current student body include: India 9,657 (29.7 per cent up), Colombia 2,008 (24.4 per cent up), Pakistan 1,421 (36.1 per cent up), Sri Lanka 482 (16.4 per cent up) and Bangladesh 325 (42.4 per cent up).

Victoria is the place to be for Indian students in VET: Victoria again fuels the growth in VET from India with state totals being: NSW – Up 2,160 (33 per cent), VIC – Up 4,867 (31.6 per cent), QLD – Up 712 (17.7 per cent), SA – Up 981 (40.5 per cent), WA – Up 540 (24.1 per cent), Taps – Down 54 (-4.8 per cent),  NT – Up 72 (44.7 per cent) and the ACT – Up 379 (68.8 per cent)

Indians move to VET from Higher Ed:  CMM first reported the trend of Indian HE students holding up the VET sector in the middle of last year (CMM June 15) and it continues today. While 2021 pathway data is not yet available the 2020 figures indicate that 11,206 Indian students studied a higher ed program prior to commencing a VET program in 2020, up from 9,003 in 2019 (24.5 per cent).

The February HE data also shows that India enrolments are down from 66,347 in 2020 to 49,239 (-25.7 per cent). CMM believes the movement is still very much occurring with existing students seeking cheaper courses and to stay in Australia, while new visa holders offshore are electing to move from UG to VET qualifying programs that will gain credit.

As a learned reader puts it “why pay $25k to $30k and beyond to study on-line when you can spend $10k and get the same outcome”.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent

Big budget ideas from Unis Aus

The peak body predicts “probable” job losses and a $2bn decline in member revenues tbis year but there is more in its budget submission than a cri de cash

UA’s budget submission, dated January and released today, asks for funding increases to support research and teaching, plus help to bring back international students.

However, there’s more than the usual asks this year, with UA demonstrating that it knows the game has changed and that government wants universities on-board with its research plans.

On teaching: UA proposes extending the higher education loan programme to cover non-award micro-credentials “offered by Australian universities”.

“Changes in Australia’s economic conditions and advances in science and technology will continue to reshape how Australians work and the role they play in Australia’s labour market. The extent to which Australians, businesses and the nation can benefit from these changes depends significantly on the readiness of Australia’s education and training systems to help individuals build and maintain relevant knowledge and skills over their working careers.”

On research: UA makes the standard call for stronger and longer funding but also engages with the government’s fascination with research translation, proposing direct funding for industry to invest in research and development, separate to the R&D tax incentive.

Other proposals in an appendix are big on policy options for funding research and development including,

* research vouchers for small and medium enterprises to use with universities

* “government facilitated” technology transfer from universities to SMEs

* mission-driven grants, “promoting both cross-sector collaboration and further innovation, alongside possessing the potential to increase national capabilities and speed-to-market in identified areas of national strategic advantage,” and

* industry PhD training programmes

Appointments, achievements

David ‘Tarnda’ Copley becomes Indigenous Academic Advisor at La Trobe U’s Rural Health School. He joins from Flinders U,

 Andrew Garnett (Uni Queensland) wine the inaugural Industry Legacy Award at the Surat Basin Energy Awards.

Peter Liesch (Uni Queensland) is inducted as a fellow of the Academy of International Business

Andy Marks is the new CEO of the NUW Alliance (unis of Newcastle, New South Wales, Wollongong and Western Sydney U). He keeps his existing roles at Western Sydney U (Assistant VC and Director of the Centre for Western Sydney).

At Monash U Andrew MacIntyre becomes PVC and President (Indonesia). He joined M U from RMIT in 2019. The university has a long-term investment in Indonesia, expecting to start enrolling PG students at its local campus in October (CMM April 6).

The NSW Government appoints Roberta Ryan (Uni Newcastle, professor of local government) Independent Community Commissioner, “to help address the concerns of landowners in the Western Sydney Aerotropolis.” (It’s where the new airport will be).