Disadvantage is good news

“UAC is pleased to announce that two new disadvantages have been added to Educational Access Schemes,” NSW Universities Admission Centre, announcement Friday

What because low SES people need more character-forming obstacles to overcome? No, UAC means young people can now  qualify for EAS entry to uni because of COVID-19 caused family disadvantage,


There’s more in the Mail

 In Features this morning;

How Flinders U uses  Microsoft platforms to keep its community informed on COVID-19

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) explains (really explains) viruses and why they kill us.

Tim Winker’s five ways to overcome the crisis and expand enrolments.

Andrew Harvey makes a case for helping disadvantaged students deal with COVID-19. This week’s essay in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series on what is needed now in teaching and learning

Nothing to spare in teaching grants

University costs are growing faster than federal funding – it’s bad news for research

“The actual level of funding provided debunks the long-held assertion that the quantum of government funding for teaching and scholarship includes a component for research,” Frank Larkins and Ian Marshman warn in a new analysis of 2019 university funding.

In CMM this morning they report that all university costs account for 91.6 per cent to 94.6 per cent of federal funding for bachelor places. Outlays will increase further for this year when COVID-19 costs of online course development and delivery and international student assistance are included.

Their full analysis is here.

Nowhere near yet: international arrivals will take time

Optimists are hoping international students could be back this year – don’t hold your breath

On Friday, the prime minister suggested international student arrivals could be on the agenda under stage three of his recovery plan, come July.  “We would be working with institutions to see how that could be achieved,” Mr Morrison said,

The Group of Eight is on to it. “Next for decision on the Go8 Board agenda has been, as the government has requested, how best to consider the logistical and safety measures of an stress-test secure corridor back into Australia for tranches of International students. Such a secure corridor of entry for those students early in 2021 could be used as a precursor to the safe and successful opening-up of the nation’s international borders more widely,” CEO Vicki Thomson says.

Note the date.

Postgrad funding: longer scholarships, fewer students

The government is allowing universities to extend research scholarships – problem is there’s no more money

The government is allowing universities to extend Research Training Programme scholarships by six months, “for students whose research activities have been materially adversely impacted by coronavirus restrictions.”

Problem is, there is no more money and officials indicate universities can roll-over Research Training Programme funds from this year to the next.

This appears to assume that universities will have money to roll-over, which will depend on fewer HDR research students working this year and/or research offices being particularly parsimonious.

The Group of Eight, the members of which enrol half the country’s research postgraduates, warns, “there are limits” to what can be done with RTP funding . “This means either stretching more thinly the financial support available across more students; or reducing the number of new HDR students in 2021.”

And while the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations “welcomes” the extension, it warns that “finite funds” mean universities still “face the stark choice” of funding current students or “sustaining future enrolments.”

Uni Melbourne plans for a decade

In less a low-profile than subterranean release Uni Melbourne announced its ten year strategy, 3.50 on Friday afternoon

“At a time when many institutions are suffering a loss of public trust and the nature of knowledge itself is under question, a university can serve society well through renewing its focus on engaging with its communities.  … We must strengthen our compact with society, and remain true to our purpose to fulfil our mission as a public-spirited institution,” Vice Chancellor Duncan Maskell says.

The strategy sets five goals and 19 priorities to reach them, including; “intensify our commitment to an exceptional student experience that continues beyond graduation,” and “become a hub of knowledge and research for the Asia Pacific region.” There are no specifics on how the university will know it has achieved them.

Who’s teaching whom where at Murdoch U

Students can be off-campus for on-campus classes

“As the current health threat from COVID-19 recedes, the university is actively planning for the delivery of on-campus learning and teaching in semester two,” Murdoch U provost, Romy Lawson tells staff.

But planning does not necessarily lead to happening. Professor Lawson added; “no lectures will occur in face-to-face mode for the whole of semester two in any venue unless it is scheduled in a specialised space.”

And, “no on-campus tutorials will take place until the distancing requirements are relaxed,” however, “classes with a single tutorial will have an on-campus class only with accommodations made for students who cannot attend in person.”

Pragmatism and principle in defending jobs

Union leaders negotiating with management  does not appeal to all members
The National Tertiary Education Union leadership is making the case for federal crisis-funding to support members’ jobs. But it is also negotiating concessions on employment conditions with vice chancellors, to protect uni staff from retrenchments.

The first is not enough to save federal leaders from rank and file wrath over the second. There are campus insurgencies, notably at unis Melbourne and Sydney. And there is on-line activism, the National Higher Education Network, newly exists, “to plan and coordinate actions in defence of fully-funded, democratic public higher education.”

It seems the union’s federal executive has the support it needs at state branches and campuses across the country.  But the longer a deal with university leaders takes, the more anguish will emerge over what staff may be asked to sacrifice. Especially if university managements acting independently of the small group of VCs talking to the union, cruel the national negotiations by going hard on their own retrenchments.


Véronique Ambrosini (Monash U.) is appointed a Fellow of the Australia and New Zealand Academy of Management.

 Margaret Gardner becomes interim chair of the Group of Eight. The Monash U VC takes over from Uni Adelaide vice chancellor, Peter Rathjen who is on leave during an investigation by South Australia’s Independent Commissioner Against Corruption.

Emma Hardy from consultants PwC takes up a six-month secondment as La Trobe U HR director. She replaces long-serving Fiona Reed who left Friday.

Nicola Yelland (Uni Melbourne) receives the distinguished career contribution award from the American Educational Research Association.