Favourite sons

Speaking at Griffith U yesterday shadow finance minister Jim Chalmers mentioned that both he and shadow treasurer Chris Bowen had Griffith degrees. CMM hopes this does not lead to a new league table of universities with the most present frontbenchers in state and federal parliaments.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features today, David Myton talks to QUT’s DVC learning and teaching, Suzi Derbyshire about what the future holds for higher education and the students it graduates

Upset staff at unis Melbourne and Monash

Monash U management’s plan to make night lecturing compulsory when there are classes at Clayton is on hold, but not for long. The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union took the university to the Fair Work Commission, complaining that the plan was being imposed on staff without consultation, (CMM April 19).

A new teaching timetable is now postponed for a fortnight and management will write to staff providing information and inviting comment as the dimension of the proposed lecturing change is revealed. This could provide the union with enough information to dispute the move as a workload issue.

As widely anticipated (CMM April 30) NTEU members at the University of Melbourne have voted to strike next Wednesday. Unionists will  go out for four hours. The union says industrial action is due to “the intransigence of the university in continuing to push claims entirely unacceptable to members.” These include, separate enterprise agreements for professional and academic staff and “removal of existing commitments to intellectual freedom,” (which the union flatly rejects).

Bunyips bigger news than bandicoots

Deakin U researchers find the endangered brown bandicoot is thriving in areas on the southeast fringe of Melbourne, around Koo Wee Rup and Bunyip. Sadly there is no news on sightings of your actual bunyip.

Monash U’s inspired idea

The Monash Commission, charged with “fuelling national discussion and policy reform” (CMM yesterday)  on post-secondary education has honourable antecedents. A learned readers points to the Warwick Commission, established by that university in 2007, to undertake independent analysis and provide practical recommendations on policy problems.  The Warwick U version was set up while Nigel Thrift (now a member of the Monash Commission) was VC. Richard Higgott, then at Warwick took the idea  to Murdoch U when he became VC there. The  two Murdoch Commission’s addressed WA’s role in its international region and food security.

TAFE, its Labor for training

For Labor, TAFE is a synonym for training, demonstrated by the Victorian budget. The state government commits $270m over the forward estimates to provide free TAFE courses in “priority areas.”  Apart from nursing and aged care they are all in traditional trades areas.


Vicki Chen is the new executive dean of  the faculty of engineering, architecture and information technology at the University of Queensland. Professor Chen joins from UNSW, where she is head of the school of chemical engineering.

Not so united front at Charles Sturt U

Management at Charles Sturt U yesterday reported a split in the union united front on enterprise bargaining. The National Tertiary Education Union advised management of a planned two hour stop-work. However, HR chief Adam Brown told colleagues the other two unions with members on campus were not participating.

That the NTEU is signalling it is game to go it alone intrigues CSU observers. It seems to show the union is not bothered by management promoting its promised pay rise direct to staff. The NTEU says this is no basis for a bargain and important issues are outstanding. But in 2013 when the NTEU and the other unions split over bargaining staff backed a management offer.

It doesn’t exist but it should: terms of reference for a VET FEE HELP royal commission

The financial services royal commission is revealing exploitation of innocent Australians. It’s success points to the a case for a similar investigation of  the VET FEE HELP scheme, which saddled thousands of young people, many without their knowledge, with debts for substandard courses. It also cost taxpayers $2.2bn.  The Australian National Audit Office  detailed the dimensions of the disaster but a royal commission would identify how it happened, so it can never happen again.

Given how  busy is the government, learned readers have helped by suggesting hypothetical terms of reference for “An Inquiry into the VET FEE HELP Debacle.”

WHEREAS Australia has one of the strongest and most stable tertiary education sectors in the world, which performs a critical role in underpinning the Australian economy.

AND most Australians need to work to earn an income which requires them to acquire skills for labour market participation.

AND all Australians have the right to be treated honestly and fairly in their dealings with education providers. The highest standards of conduct are critical to the good governance and corporate culture of those providers.

An inquiry into the following matters is required:

  • whether any conduct by VET providers (including by directors, officers or employees of, or by anyone acting on behalf of, those entities), since 2012 might have amounted to misconduct and, if so,
    • whether the question of criminal or other legal proceedings should be referred to the relevant commonwealth, state or territory agency;
    • whether any conduct, practices, behaviour or business activities by VET providers fall below community standards and expectations;
  • whether any findings in respect of the matters mentioned in paragraphs (a) are attributable to:
    • the particular culture and governance practices of a VET provider;
    • broader cultural or governance practices in the relevant industry or relevant subsector;
    • the inadequate design of the student loans schemes;
    • the inadequate administration of those schemes;

in respect of any conduct or activity which is the subject of a finding under paragraph (a), whether any actions by officers of the Department of Education and Training, the Australian Skills Quality Authority, or the Australian Taxation Office:

  • prolonged the duration of, the conduct or activity;
  • obscured or concealed from the public or parliament the conduct or activity or the extent of such conduct or activity;
  • obscured or concealed from the public or parliament the legal mechanisms available to stop the conduct or activity or provide redress to the victims of such conduct or activity;
  • failed to give due regard to the circumstances of any person or persons adversely affected by the conduct or activity;
  • constituted negligence in the performance of the person’s duties
  • the effectiveness of mechanisms of redress for people who have suffered detriment as a result of the misconduct by VET providers or the inadequate actions of Commonwealth officers and agents;
  • the adequacy of:
    • existing laws and policies of the Commonwealth relating to the provision of income contingent loans to tertiary education students; and
    • the administration of those loan schemes;

to ensure their integrity, including proper accountability for Commonwealth expenditure and the recovery of loan amounts, to protect students from exploitation by education providers and to meet community standards and expectations;

  • the effectiveness and ability of regulators of tertiary education providers to identify and address misconduct by those providers;
  • whether any changes to any of the following are necessary to minimise the likelihood of misconduct by tertiary education providers or exploitation of students in future:
  • the legal framework;
  • practices within Commonwealth Departments and agencies;
  • any matter reasonably incidental to a matter mentioned in paragraphs(a) to (h) “

Looks a good start to CMM.