Where personality is not a plus

Hugh Durrant-Whyte is holding the poison chalice at the NSW Net Zero Emissions and Clean Economy Board

The state’s chief scientist and engineer is acting chair, following the dumping of Malcolm Turnbull, who was the state government’s nominee for the job, until he wasn’t.

Energy and Environment Minister Matt Keane’s lame explanation why – “the focus should not be on personality,” – may mean Professor Durrant-Whyte is in the job for a while, until Mr Keane finds somebody with a personality acceptably absent.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

David Eckstein (Swinburne U) on the way university staff see disabilities as career blocks for students and what can be done to end them. This week’s addition to Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series, Needed Now in Teaching and Learning.

Macquarie U plans a July return to large groups in teaching spaces (CMM yesterday). In Features Sean Brawley explains how the university adjusted to the pandemic and is adapting to teaching students who want all/some/no classes on-campus, live on-line and/or asynchronous.

PG courses that rely on internationals to exist won’t

In Features this morning Frank Larkins crunches the gloomy numbers for on-campus postgrad courses that depend (really depend) on international students

Overseas students accounted for 71 per cent of students enrolled in management and commerce courses in 2019, he reports.

And overseas PG students accounted for 87 per cent of enrolments in Information Technology and 78 per cent in Engineering and Related Technologies.

“The expected continuing loss of overseas student enrolments in 2021 and 2022 will undermine the sustainability of several on-campus postgraduate course offerings in most Australian universities,” Professor Larkins warns.

He predicts “decreased course offerings in several universities” and that “further staff losses are to be expected.”

This adds to his analysis of the problem faced by universities where international students make up 60 per cent plus of postgrads (CMM February 12).

A bully pulpit

In-coming Uni Wollongong VC Patricia Davidson co-authors a paper with Michelle Patch (Johns Hopkins U) on nursing post COVID-19*

“COVID-19 has created additional need for nursing leaders who can advocate for patients and their staff,” they write.

Professor Davidson, previously dean of nursing at Johns Hopkins U, is about to get the chance to do just that.

* International Journal of Nursing Science, in-press

Good news, bad news (and what to do about it) at Uni Adelaide

VC Peter Høj tells staff domestic enrolments are up but there will be fewer internationals in the future

Professor Høj reports domestic UG and PG enrolments are 8 per cent higher than YTD 2020. International enrolments are also up 8 per cent, with “previously enrolled students returning to us to complete their studies.”

But first semester international commencers are down 15 per cent, with a projected 32 per cent loss across the full year. “We expect a further drop next year, even if the borders are opened and international students are allowed to return,” the VC adds.

This means, “it is crucial that we prepare for leaner times through prudent management of 2021 revenues.” Plus, “we must look for new ways of delivering our services to a wider audience. “

“This includes further innovation in on-line teaching and learning, and delivering more of our postgraduate courses on-line.” This reaffirms Professor Høj’s February call for Uni Adelaide to “engage a greater cohort of knowledge seekers irrespective of their geography and border closures,” (CMM February 18).

Finally says Dirk Mulder, international education is on the agenda


There has been a week of announcements and headlines talking up International education, which makes a nice change

The NSW Government has come out again in favour of bringing back internationals outside of quarantine caps while Minister Tudge, yes he lives, has started to discuss the big topic of the future of international education in Australia.

But what does it mean and is there any hope for movement any time soon?

Firstly, the NSW Government announcement. The new talk stems from an expression of interest (tender) that went live on the state Treasury website on March 31, closing April 12. The expression of interest states “The return of international students as soon as possible is vital for retaining jobs in our education sector, and for the economy more broadly. International education is our second largest export, generating $14.6bn in exports annually before the pandemic and supporting nearly 100,000 jobs in NSW. We estimate in 2021 we have already lost one third of our international student base.”

This is a good sign for the international education sector as the feds have said for some time that the states, which are responsible for quarantine arrangements, need to drive the return.

However, an expression of interest is only that, without the full support of the NSW Chief Health Officer and CMM has no idea what Kerry Chant thinks about this EOI. Remember, it was the NSW Government that last year announced international students were a priority only to backtrack a week later (CMM 23 Nov 2020).

Secondly, Minister Tudge has been out and about, discussing the future of International Education via the launch of consultations for the “Australian Strategy for International Education 2021-2030”.

Studying the implications of the bureaucratic bumf, the key messages appear to be;

* welcoming students back as soon as the COVID-19 situation allows

It’s a very good point and one that has attracted much speculation. The sector has been crying out for government certainty as to when this may in the future plans but thus far its pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

 * promoting diversity in International student populations

CMM takes this to mean “don’t rely on China.” While diversity is seen as key to sustainability, this is a case where a bird in the hand is really worth two in the bush. To expect institutions after a decade of diminishing government funding to give up on enrolments to satisfy diversity objectives may not be feasible. CMM is interested to see how this plays out.

 * targeting international student enrolments towards future skills needs

CMM wonders if this is preparatory to linking higher education and migration, like the Kiwi’s and Canadians do (CMM 11 March 2021). It makes sense that international students who have invested in needed skills are given priority to use them in Australia. But tell that to the plethora of accounting qualified taxi drivers. The issue here isn’t at the front end, recruiting and educating students, it’s ensuring they are moving into the requisite skilled areas. Something federal and state sponsorship programmes have not done well.

 * developing new delivery models

The traditional “on-shore” only model is going to get a shakeup. For institutions that already operate off-shore and on-line it will come as no surprise that diversifying and risk-managing resulting income streams should be a priority. While those dependant on largely on-shore students alone will now get a shock, not all is lost.  This space provides opportunity according to the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education (CMM 4 Feb 2021) but it needs to be done well and there are still hurdles to address.

So, while the NSW government is publicly stating international students are important, there is no apparent implementation date. This, combined with Minister Tehan’s consultation process, means the road to recovery and certainty remain some way away.

It is, however, refreshing to see governments talking up international education and it is importance to our country and communities.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent


First in, best parked at Uni Sydney

A petition complains staff are losing their spots to students

Uni Sydney is very pleased indeed with the new, $35m Susan Wakil Health Building, which “brings together health and medical disciplines together on the Camperdown/Darlington Campus.”

It also brings together plenty of people who want to park there, so many people that the Community and Public Sector Union has a petition  for staff complaining about students “using the already under-sized parking facility” at Susan Wakil “as a 24-hours-a-day garage.”

The problem, the CSPSU suggests is a management decision, which “has recently opened up parking at the university to students, and at a cost lower than that for staff, which means there are potentially tens of thousands of students now competing for the spots where you used to park.”

Not you understand that the union is “anti-student,” “however, the university must reverse this decision and ensure that all future decisions regarding staff parking are made only in full consultation with staff.”

The CPSU says it has “asked many questions of the university” about staff parking but “to date we have had no response.”

So CMM asked Uni Sydney if the complaint about competition for places is correct on Tuesday afternoon, and late yesterday was referred to a price schedule. Students can buy an “all-times” main campus permit for $412 (presumably per annum) and staff get the same for $542.