In the beginning

Deakin U announces its new “Genesis Simulator.” It’s an “immersive experience” for driving –  not creating a world or a band.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on why universities should shoot for the stars. “Aiming high is a better idea than setting low bars, like insisting that all staff are research active and publish two papers per year. That is the road to mediocrity.”

plus Adrian Barnett on how to save science research from bureaucracy and delay, HERE.

and in Expert Opinion

Kelly Matthews (Uni Queensland) talks about the AI challenge. “I hope the way forward is that people are going to be looking at how do we experiment with this, how do we learn, how do we ask all the questions that we need to be asking?” she says.

Uni Melbourne in the hole for $100m

The university reports a $104m operating deficit for 2022 but it could have been worse, actually, the net deficit was

The result follows a 2021 net surplus of $584m – the university’s preferred measure, the underlying operating result, for ’21 was $147m, (CMM June 22 2022).

Uni Melbourne puts the ’22 loss down to increased pandemic assistance for students, “increased spending” incurred by the return to campus and the “cumulative effects of reduced student enrolments in previous years.”

A “smaller” deficit for ’23 is anticipated but the university remains “mindful” of “rising inflation and increases in the costs of non-discretionary items. Uni Melbourne is now negotiating a new enterprise agreement for staff.

The university statement also refers to a net deficit of $203m, which is the operating loss and “unrealised losses due to a downturn in financial markets.”

Vice Chancellor Duncan Maskell states “the most difficult days are behind us” and that the university, “will continue to invest in its core teaching, learning and research.”

At the start of the week Monash U reported a headline loss of $113m for 2022 (CMM March 27)

Delay to pay at ANU

People weren’t paid when they expected on Wednesday

Management was on to it quick smart and told CMM yesterday the fortnight pay run was processed and that it apologised for “inconvenience and concern.”

So how did that happen? “The delay to pay happened as a result of an unfortunate manual processing error.”

University of Notre Dame Australia had a pay-delay earlier this month, when somebody entered the wrong date in a system (CMM March 6)

WA universities tough ‘22

Annual reports tabled in state parliament reveal worse financial returns than in 2021

 Overall, the WA public unis suffered from the end of one-off Covid relief payments and no repeat of the 2021 income hike from the sale of the formerly uni system owned IDP international student recruitment business

Curtin U: net operating loss of $36m down from a $113m surplus in ‘21

Income from government HELP payments and student fees was unchanged on 2021 but Commonwealth grants dropped by $20m, presumably caused by the absence of one-off Covid support payments.

Overall revenue was down by $80m to $914m, due in apparent part to investment moving from $89m in’21 to a $20m loss in ‘22.

International student commencements in early ’22 were up 45 per cent on ’21.

Spending was controlled, with staff costs up $200 000, to $543.4m.

Edith Cowan U: net result of $36m on $477m, down from $78.8m on $533m in ‘21

Income from the Commonwealth and student fees was largely unchanged but the university took a $30m hit on investment income and $35m in lower state and local government assistance. These account for the overall income decline from $533m in ’21 to $477m in ’22.

The drop in state government support is due to a one-off $40m land transfer in ’21, for ECU’s new Perth CBD campus.

Outlays were down $15m, mainly due to a $20m decline in employee expenses, to $261m.

Murdoch U: net operating loss of $37m last year down from a surplus of $14.6m in ’21

Revenue dropped from $392m in ’21 to $365m in ’22 and expenses increased from $377m in ’21 to $402m last year. A large part of the loss is from a decline in investment revenue, from $23m to $4.7m and a $26m increase in the consolidated accounts for “other expenses” notably “other student teaching and related expenditure” (up $6m to $13.4m) and “people development training and travel” (rising from $8.2m to $14.8m)

The university also reports that commencing student numbers fell for the fourth straight year, down from 10 834 in 2018 to 7574 in ’22.

UWA was in surplus, just -with consolidated income of $1.071bn it had a $20m net result

Overall income was down $100m with investment revenue and income down from $163m to $78m. The university also lists $99m in “investment losses” for ’22. The other big loss was a $40m drop in Commonwealth grants – likely caused by no replacement for the one-off 2021 Covid-emergency research payment. Employee costs were down $20m to $538m.

UWA states it prefers to use operating margin, based on earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation which excludes investment income.  On this basis UWA states it , “is marginally above its 2021 performance and exceeded its 2022 target.

Lobbies are doing it for themselves

The University Accord is accepting submissions but interest groups are stepping up to ensure their ideas are not lost in the pile

Peak university groups are pitching the case for research (CMM yesterday) and UTS is organising a presence for the equity-community.

The university hosted an equity practitioners strategy session a couple of weeks back, where Verity Firth set out what reads like talking points for campaigners. Higher Education is “showing signs of socio-economic segregation,” she said in a paper (CMM March 21).

Now UTS has an e-survey on equity-issues the Accord will likely address,here.



Uni Queensland takes a $300m hit

Ahead of the annual report being tabled in state parliament VC Deborah Terry reports a $310m headline deficit

However Professor Terry tells staff the university prefers to use earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation which represents“ additional monies available to invest in strategic initiatives”.

Full marks for frankness. EBITDA last year was $34.3m, way down on an underlying $355.3m, in 2021.

Professor Terry reports this was due to, an unrealised investment loss of $209.3m, due to stockmarket falls and 2022 spending of $60m, which was income received by the university in 2021, as part of the Commonwealth’s pandemic emergency research support.

“Other contributing factors included the increased cost of electricity, staff salary increases and a small decline in tuition revenue.

“Anticipating the reduced EBITDA, the university made operational savings through a series of initiatives, including the rescheduling of capital projects, reducing operational budgets in non-essential areas, and embedding saving targets into 2023 budgets.”

Appointments, achievements

National Health and Medical Research Council reports awards

Biennial awards: Caleb Dawson (Walter and Eliza Hall) Doug Hilton (Walter and Eliza Hall), Kevin McGovern (St Cecilia’s Church) Queensland Aphasia Research Centre  (Uni Queensland)

Research excellence awards: * Susan Davis (Monash U) * Louisa Degenhardt (UNSW)

* Greg Fox (Uni Sydney) * Graham Gee (Murdoch U) * Eddie Holmes (Uni Sydney)

* Caroline Holmer (Burnet Institute) * Vaughan Macefield (Monash U) * Tafi Marukutira (Burnet Institute) * Jose Polo (Uni Adelaide) * Alistair Stewart (Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute) * Wai-Hong Tham (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute) * Doug Tjandra (Monash U)

 At the University of Adelaide, Grayson Rotumah and Dylan Crismani are appointed joint leaders of the Centre of Aboriginal Studies in Music.

Phillip Vaughan is appointed Chief Human Resources Officer at Uni Queensland. He returns after seven years in HR at Monash U.

 Steven Weller moves from Uni Newcastle to be ED for engineering and information sciences at the Australian Research Council.