Good policy for all

Hopes that Glyn Davis will look kindly on higher education in his new job will be forlorn – they underestimate the man and the position

Still a learned reader, suggests there is one reform researchers would love him to encourage across all of government. At the Paul Ramsay Foundation he formalised practise in a “paying what it costs” policy. As of July PRF grants will include 30 per cent to cover indirect costs.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Samantha Hall reports a survey of PhD students on the space they need to thrive.

plus James Guthrie (Macquarie U) has a detailed look at the University of Sydney’s annual report and what management wants to do with the bucket of money it reveals.

with Jane Habner and Pablo Munguia on how Flinders U introduced an on-line enabling programme last year – which worked! This week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

and Conor King (Tertiary Education Analysis) on why changing HECs for some students isn’t easy (scroll down).


That kerfuffle you hear is ranking critics shouting “we told you so!”

The UK Government announces a new visa for “high potential individuals,” few graduates from Australia qualify

It’s for people with a degree from a university that is among the world top 50 on two of three rankings – Times Higher World Uni Rankings, the QS WUR and the Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Which means Uni Melbourne is the only Australian institution the Brits recognise on the 2021 list. An arbitrary outrage that ignores the quality of teaching and research at many Aus unis ! you say – it’s pretty much what critics of the methodology and purpose of league tables have said for years.

Science deans call for change to undergraduate fees and funding

They join their arts and social science colleagues in calling for change to the previous government’s Job Ready Graduate structure

The Australian Council of Deans of Science joins demands for changes to undergraduate course fees.

The deans state that while the previous government’s Job Ready Graduates policy reduced student fees for STEM degrees it also cut the Commonwealth’s contribution to teaching many of them,  “making these expensive programmes harder to deliver and maintain.”

“This ironically made it less attractive for universities to offer additional STEM places, compared to other disciplines, for which the overall margins are better.”

And they back the Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities who want an end to the JRG fees which make their courses (along with law and business) the most expensive, $14 600 a year, for students (CMM May 27) while universities receive $1109 per student place.

In consequence, the science deans deplore, many arts, social sciences and humanities degrees, “have been disincentivised at the demand side” while reduced margins “make it less attractive” for universities to teach STEM.  Student HECS payment for many STEM courses is $8021 and the Commonwealth’s contribution is $16 396.

In Features, Conor King argues changing JRG fees and funding would be more  complicated than may appear.

And read Vin Massaro’s analysis in CMM of the previous government’s basis for the JRG finding rates.

The nine new ministers HE and training people need to know

As widely unexpected Jason Clare is the new federal minister for education

Mr Clare got the job instead of long-serving education shadow minister Tanya Plibersek who has the environment and water portfolio.

Other ministers with portfolio interests in education, research and training are,

Richard Marles (Defence), Mark Butler (Health), Brendan O’Connor (Skills and Training), Murray Watt (Agriculture), Ed Husic (Industry and Science), Clare O’Neil (Cyber Security) junior ministers Anne Aly (childhood education) and assistant minister for education Anthony Chisholm.

Case for keeping fundamental research

Without it will the ideas to commercialise come from?

The previous government’s research commercialisation plan extended to incentivising universities via the research block grants programme. And so, the Department of Education Skills and Employment issued a paper on how the RBG cake should be sliced (CMM April 6).

Responses are in, including QUT’s which suggests the scheme is not a starter, because of, “the over-winding of the system away from fundamental discovery research upstream towards application, translation and commercialisation downstream. … Fundamental research is the feedstock of application research and development and without new discoveries coming down the pipeline our applied research outcomes will soon run dry.”

The submission sets out specific flaws with the proposal, not least that the implemented Watt Review (CMM December 7 2015) addressed the same issues as the present DESE prop and it is too early to know what Watt wrought.

But QUT does not sound optimistic – questioning assumptions that discovery research is optional, “in the hope we can freeload off other jurisdictions and simply rely on the fundamental discoveries they make – fails to take account of the empirical reality that industry overwhelmingly engages where the knowledge is found.”

Taking the long view

The Australia India Institute promotes a seminar tonight (via Twitter), “The Challenges of the Indo-Pacific: What Awaits the Next Australian Government?”

English language learning booming and busting


Learners aren’t enrolling

With the UK keeping its international border largely open during COVID it was very surprising to see the impact of the pandemic on English language enrolments there. At last week’s English UK conference the sector reported an 88 per cent decline in student numbers on pre-pandemic levels.

In the same week global market intelligence firm, HolonIQ, identified the “direct to consumer” language learning market is now worth US$60bn, and projected it will grow to $115bn by 2025.

The growth is powered by digital language learning and with more than 1.8bn people currently learning another language (and 1.4bn of them learning English) it is timely to examine the significant growth in the digital language learning market – much of which happens outside formal educational channels.

In recent months Pearson has continued its evolution from a publishing company offering English language testing to a significant EdTech player in a number of domains, with the acquisition of online language learning platform Mondly. Pearson is listed on the NYSE with a market cap of US$7.5bn. Mondly has 100 million learners and offers 41 languages.

Meanwhile, language apps like Duolingo are being accepted for English language entry purposes by a growing number of tertiary education institutions. Duolingo is listed on the NASDAQ and has a US$3.3bn market cap. It has 40 million active monthly users and offer 40 languages across 100 courses. They claim they can deliver five university semesters worth of learning in half the time (not to mention at a much cheaper cost).

And now comes a new development from Google which could transform or seriously disrupt language teaching – glasses that can automatically translate whatever anyone says, then display it as live captions. If the technology is half as good as it appears then language schools focussing on students looking for conversational or business level language skills would seem to be under some pressure.

At this stage, digital language learning apps like Duolingo and Mondly are not accepted for student visa purposes but it remains to be seen how long that continues.

Undoubtedly, there will always be international students who want an English language learning experience while living in Australia, but it also seems clear that significant digital competition is emerging to challenge traditional English language educational models.

Claire Field is a HolonIQ contributor and an advisor to the tertiary education sector


Appointment, achievements

Juliet Brown joins Uni Adelaide’s Council. She has been an external member of its risk committee since 2018. Ms Brown replaces Kathryn Presser who retires from the council.

Dame Jane Harding and her neo-natal glucose studies team at Uni Auckland wins the Prime Minister’s Science Prize

Emma Kowal (Deakin U) is appointed an Alfred Deakin Professor. DU states, “it is the most prestigious honour that the University can bestow on its staff.”