Stats in the spot-light

Thanks to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, needed numbers on employment are always out there but it’s not always easy to line the data ducks up

And so, Flinders U’s Australian Industrial Transformation Unit has created an interactive data set mapping employment by the state, national and industry employment situation. All the bad news is here.

Jobkeeper works for private providers

It’s rare for independent education to have Commonwealth support denied to universities

Industry association IHEA was delighted with yesterday’s announcement that the JobKeeper programme will run to March. As people wintering on Mars may have missed, the Government has excluded universities from the job support scheme.

JobKeeper is currently supporting 5,038 jobs across IHEA’s membership of independent higher education providers.  Today’s announcement will support the ongoing employment of these staff,” CEO Simon Finn says.

Continuing the programme, “will enable providers to maintain their operations and continue to educate domestic students, while international student travel pilots implement COVIDSafe testing to inform a full resumption of the industry next year.”

Scroll down for Claire Field’s take on what JobKeeper has delivered.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

 Fernando Padró, Megan Yih Chyn A. Kek and Henk Huijser  on supporting students as consumers and learners. It is this week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift, in her series, on what we need now in teaching and learning.

Michael Baron argues unis need to keep industry practitioners in the classroom.

Merlin Crossley explains why researchers should stick to their knitting. “The grand challenges facing our world today are so complex that they will only be solved if academics work with people across society to translate new knowledge and implement solutions!”

Vin Massaro critically considers the report underpinning the new UG funding rates. “That such major and far-reaching decisions should have been made on such a narrow information base raises serious concerns about their sustainability.

Edith Cowan U to exit east coast

Courses on offer in Sydney and Melbourne will be taught-out

ECU partners in both cities with Victorian Institute of Technology to provide masters in project management and cyber security. But the arrangement will end next June, with current students, “supported to complete their courses as planned.

“At this stage, ECU is still considering how some of its course offerings may be made available interstate in the future,” the university advises.

TEQSA has just renewed VIT’s registration, with four conditions relating to academic policy, governance and student numbers

Working from home a new normal

While some universities retrench to restructure, planning to be leaner versions of what they are now, others are deciding to be different

Just 3 per cent of UNSW staff surveyed want to be on campus for a full working week post pandemic

The survey also found 68 per cent wanted to spend two or three days a week on campus. A university planning paper states they should be accommodated.

“Having demonstrated our ability to work flexibly and productively, we want to continue to offer a ‘flex-first’ approach for all staff who wish to work in this way.”

The university will accordingly introduce, “in a planned and phased way,” greater flexibility across location, hours, full-time equivalents, schedules and job-sharing.

Benefits will include;

* greater workforce participation for people “with caring responsibilities

* increased employee satisfaction and engagement

* creating campus space which can be used “for higher priority needs” and “income generation”

* more productive and less-stressed staff

Macquarie U wants a new campus normal – which includes not being on it

Vice Chancellor S Bruce Dowton says the “mass-scale experiment in remote and virtual working” demonstrates, “the enormous potential of these modes.”

But not everybody wants the same thing.

“While our staff have enjoyed the opportunity to work from home, students have found it challenging, our students prefer on campus experiences and face to face interactions with academic and professional staff as a part of a blended learning environment,” he says.

“Our challenge is to find the right balance.”

Professor Dowton’s key principles for the search include;

* students first: “we must provide a vibrant campus life and meet their needs for face to face interactions and experiences”

* thinking “outside the box”: “our exploration should be about more than the number of days working from home. The use of virtual technologies has enabled new ways of communicating, interacting, and working”

* inclusive approaches: adding working from home/flexible working opportunities for all staff

* aligning work practices: “around performance and productivity”

International education visas: students need certainty, institutions need clarity

The good news is not as great as it looked Monday


What’s happened: On Monday, the federal government announced five changes in the way visas for international students are applied, to help those caught by COVID-19 restrictions.  A return to issuing visas from Australian posts off-shore is included.

Joy was unconfined across the industry, with the government applauded for setting the industry up to be internationally competitive when students are allowed to enter Australia.

What this means: But turns out there are satanic imps in the implementation.

For a start, there is the availability of post study work rights for students who hold a visa but are now offshore.

Industry experts expected that this would extend to all people overseas studying with an Australian provider. But not so it seems.

In an email seen by CMM the NSW VCs Committee tells members it is briefed that the government’s intention is,

* students who are currently enrolled offshore but have not applied for a student visa will not have time spent studying on-line without a student visa count towards their PSW eligibility period

* those who have applied for a student visa and commenced studying on-line outside Australia are unlikely to be able to count that study period towards their PSW eligibility period

* all prospective students who apply for a student visa going forward and have it granted before commencing on-line studies offshore will have this period counted towards their PSW

 Outcomes: There is dismay in the industry over the first two points, with experts arguing people who have commenced studying offshore since the stop on issuing visas may not have been able to access a visa and shouldn’t be disadvantaged by not having study count toward their PSW.

A perception problem: Overall this demonstrates the government’s perception problem. It needs to emphasise safety at home but also wants to provide hope and help to international education providers.

For the moment, the former trumps the latter. As a learned reader points out, announcing improving international education access the day before a major announcement on job-support is a good way to ensure the student statement disappears in the news cycle.

But this is not the time for ambiguity. Students need certainty. Institutions need clarity.

And what CMM wants to know is how many people are in this situation.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent

Claire Field on JobKeeper’s education achievement  

JobKeeper and other stimulus is clearly making an important difference for private providers – public universities should also be eligible


With the extension of the Job Keeper scheme and signals the government is preparing for the return of international students, it is timely to consider the impact of government stimulus on independent education providers.

Prior to JobKeeper and other COVID-19 stimulus being announced, I worried most smaller private international education providers would close and I was concerned about fee-for-service domestic providers. I did expect additional funding for government-funded providers and hence was confident most of them would manage through the pandemic.

Four months on from the closure of Australia’s borders – only three CRICOS providers have so far exited the industry. We will not know the impact on domestic fee-for-service providers for some time because of a lack of data but some will bounce back, in part due to ASQA’s decision to allow providers to ‘hibernate’ their registration.

A recent ASX announcement makes clear the important role that government stimulus (combined with government-funding) is playing in the sector.

Very few education providers are ASX-listed. To my knowledge only one currently has to provide quarterly cash flow updates under Listing Rule 4.7B. Pre-pandemic this provider generated 51 per cent of its revenues from international students and 49 percent from government-funded VET students.

The provider’s most recent ASX-update shows that in the quarter ended 30 June 2020, 15 per cent of its income came from government stimulus (including payroll tax refunds, ATO cashflow boost, JobKeeper and a state government loan).

That still left earnings down 15 per cent on the previous quarter.

Despite this, their cash and cash equivalents are up on the previous quarter through a combination of continuing to teach their international students on-line, reducing expenditure, and continuing their government-funded domestic VET delivery.

JobKeeper and other stimulus is clearly making an important difference, and equally clearly public universities should also be eligible.

Claire Field is an adviser to the tertiary education sector

Restructure at UNE

No, not the one which previously upset people at the University of New England, a new one 

Vice Chancellor Brigid Heywood has had a big first year, joining the university during enterprise bargaining, conducted in part in the context of long-running disputes over workloads and conditions (CMM January 20).

And she starts her second year with more change to come– a restructure is said to be in the works, with an announcement this week.  “The mid-year budget forecasts also required no small sum of attention this week given the areas of concern created by a complex range of environmental factors,” she told staff Friday.

Professor Heywood is also looking beyond campus, inviting alumni to contribute to the 2020-25 university plan (CMM July 3)


At Uni Newcastle Natalie Dowling (Engineering and Built Environment) is elected to the university council.

Peter Leggat (James Cook U) is the new president of the Australasian College of Tropical Medicine

Stephen van Leeuwen takes Curtin U’s first Indigenous Chair in Biodiversity and Environmental Science.

John Thwaites (Monash U) is a member of The Lancet’s COVID-19 Commission.