A bunch of fun

Belinda Hutchinson is up for a third term of four years as Uni Sydney chancellor

With VC Michael Spence off to Uni College, London in January perhaps Ms Hutchinson decided continuity was needed. Unless chairing an institution with projected 2020 income down $470m is her idea of fun.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Kevin Ashford-Rowe (QUT)  on the digital transformation of education. Ignore it and become Kodak. It’s this week’s essay in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series on what’s needed now in teaching and learning).

Aidre Grant (SCU) says the best on-line teaching tool (it’s kindness).

Microsoft presents experts building on-line learning communities.

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on the way the world should work for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Unis kapowed, kaboomed, kaplooed

The government makes it clear, again-no wage subsidy for uni staff

Universities initially hoped they would qualify for the JobKeeper wage-support programme as charities (for which revenues have to decline by 15 per cent). The feds kapowed this by specifying that universities did not qualify (although they are indeed charities).

Optimistic VCs then hoped they could collect for staff because their GST-attracting revenue would be down by 30 per cent (the floor for organisations under $1bn), or even 50 per cent (for those over).

The government kaboomed that by announcing federal funding of universities counted for the income test. And yet universities with lumpy cash-flows dreamt on, hoping they could still qualify on the basis of months when income was especially appalling. Which the government kaplooeed on Friday, with what the learned Conor King calls the “key nasty” in the text of the new JobKeeper regulations, specifying turnover time for universities is January-June, before the second semester collection crunch for international students.

The learned Andrew Norton (ANU) suggests there are alternatives to JobKeeper the government could use to support universities. For example stumping up for research projects unis now subsidise from international student fees. But in the absence of such and with JobKeeper the big subsidy scheme Mr King (Innovative Research Universities) asks what he says is “the key question,” “does government want functioning universities from 2021.

Growing the China market

News just in from the future

University College Dublin will establish two new dual degree colleges in China.

UCD and Chang’an University (in Shaanxi Province) will establish the Chang’an, Dublin International College of Transportation, teaching dual-degree programmes in civil engineering infrastructure, automotive engineering, transport, city planning and environmental policy. Target for this year is 360 students, to a planned 1,440.

South China Agriculture University, in Guangdong is partnering with UCD in a college to teach horticulture, biological sciences and food safety-security. It also opens this year with a target enrolment of 780 by 2020.

They join UCD’s JV with Beijing University of Technology, offering joint-degrees in IT since 2012.

Major impact for micro courses

Tehan says they are a pivot for transformed economy

Education Minister Dan Tehan is pleased that universities are stepping-up to offer discounted price, HECS supported, six-month courses for people who want to use COVID-19 unemployment to upskill in “national priority areas” (health, IT, education and the like).

“These micro-credentials address immediate need to keep our workforce engaged and adding long-term career value,” Mr Tehan says.

As of Friday, there were 64 short courses from 11 universities. The largest offerings are from Southern Cross U (13), Uni Notre Dame Australia (11) and Western Sydney U (10).

There’s more reason for Mr Tehan being pleased with the courses and the universities offering them; “not only do these micro-credentials address immediate needs to keep our workforce engaged and adding long-term career value, they present the opportunity on the back of the pandemic for universities to lead globally with a pivot towards a new shape of higher education for a transformed economy.”

Gosh, is that a hint of things to come.

Uni Wollongong in for the long distance haul

The university commits to keeping courses live in distance mode for the rest of the year

“Although the university anticipates an easing of social distancing restrictions in the coming months, which would trigger a gradual return to some on-campus teaching, the pandemic remains a rapidly evolving situation.”

“UOW will extend its remote course delivery until the end of 2020 to provide certainty for students as it prepares for an anticipated phased return to on-campus education later this year,” DVC E Theo Farrell says.

“We know that any return to campus will not be immediate, and face-to-face skills-based practical and laboratory classes for programs that require these to meet strict accreditation requirements will need to be given priority as on-campus teaching resumes.”

Pricing to the market

UoW and Griffith reduce fees

Uni Wollongong offers domestic PGs and all international coursework students “studying remotely” a 10 per cent cut in tuition for the rest of the year.

 Griffith U also announces, “what amounts to” a 20 per cent cut in international student fees for Semester Two.

The university also increases the COVID 19 student bursary to $5m, with $2m already allocated. The increase is said to be funded in part by a 20 per cent pay cut taken for the next six months, taken by the university senior executive. Some 2200 domestic and international students have bursary funding, with a second round this month.

MOOC of the morning

Among the on-line pile-on MOOCs keep meeting needs

Curtin U (via edX) starts a six-week course preventing suicide by young people. Ben Milbourn, Craig Thompson and Sonya Girdler from Curtin U are joined by German psychiatrist Viktor Kacic.

An addition to the great Australian tradition of MOOC as community service. (huzzah for Curtin U’s “Living with Diabetes, Uni Newcastle’s on weight loss, and the excellent Wicking Institute at U Tas for their dementia MOOCs).

Where the doctors were ordered

As the health system prepared for COVID-19 there was a debate about medical students on placements, would they be in the way during a crisis or could they help in overwhelmed wards

In South Australia, Uni Adelaide suspended them indefinitely; “the health sector is under a great deal of pressure and we hope the removal of students will clear the way for health professionals to manage their own priorities,” the university stated. But Flinders U decided placements should continue (CMM March 19).

So how did that work out?  Julie HalbertAlison Jones (Flinders U) and Liam Ramsey (Flinders U Medical Students Society) report in a Medical Journal of Australia pre-print that so far, so good. No students withdrew and, “despite some disruption, students have benefited from witnessing the health systems approach to the challenge.”

“Our final year students are the future medical workforce and it is our job to ensure they are competent, undifferentiated, work-ready practitioners. Furthermore, the wider community has reasonable expectations that the newly graduated workforce will be prepared for pandemics in addition to the provision of routine care.”