Many, many senators set to speak on deregulation

Desirable location

“Astounded (but not surprised) Melbourne named world’s 2nd best student city!” Deakin University comments on yesterday’s QS ranking. Perhaps they are astounded Paris, and not Geelong, is number one.

All in the timing

There is no sign of when the higher education deregulation debate will resume in the Senate, but when it does it may take time, quite a lot of time. For a start 15 senators intend to speak, Richard Di Natale (Greens, Vic), Sean Edwards (Liberal, SA), Anne Urqhart (Labor, Tas), Peter Wish-Wilson (Greens, Tas), Chris Back (Liberal, WA), Lisa Singh (Labor, Tasmania), Zed Seselja (Lib, ACT), Catryna Bilyk (Labor, Tas), Jacqui Lambie (Ind, Tas), Anne Ruston (Lib, SA), Carol Brown (Labor, Tas) Glenn Lazarus (PUP, Qld), Deborah O’Neill (Labor, NSW), Nick Xenophon (Ind, SA) and Marisse Payne (Lib, NSW).

And I doubt this is complete. For a start Senator Day (Family First, SA) has listed amendments to the legislation to cancel indexing HELP loans to the Commonwealth bond rate and I am guessing that he will want to say something about them. Given there are only six more Senate sitting days for the year Senator Xenophon may have stated the obvious on Monday when he said the bill’s fate might not be settled until February.


It is hard to tell whom this would suit – the longer debate drags on the more time Minister Pyne has to work on waverers. But this also makes it harder for Universities Australia to hold together the uncertain alliance of vice chancellors that supports deregulation. Last night, for example, University of Southern Queensland Vice Chancellor Jan Thomas issued a statement supporting the UA position. Yes, Professor Thomas backs fee deregulation but she added that changes to the loan scheme and less Commonwealth funding are not “reasonable or acceptable.”

“While Pyne has claimed support from the university sector for reform is unprecedented the message that most vice-chancellors are giving is that we support some aspects of the government’s proposed reforms but not others.” Fair enough, but the more VCs who speak out like this the easier it will be for senators who oppose deregulation to argue they are only acting to protect universities.

Tasmanians united

Notice how many of the senators who are lining up to speak against deregulation are Tasmanians? No less than five plus Senator Lambie. Perhaps Senator Wish-Wilson and the four Labor representatives don’t want to her feel lonely.

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ACCI steps up

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has urged the Senate to pass the deregulation legislation before year’s end. According to ACCI chief Kate Carnell “the university sector knows that these reforms are the best approach, and so does the business community. Those against the change are ignoring the evidence. They are also ignoring the need for the government to address the budgetary concerns. Australia cannot afford to keep funding all policies and systems in the same way they are now.” It’s nothing knew, but Minister Pyne needs all the support there is just now, which makes me wonder where the Business Council of Australia is. Certainly its submission to the Senate committee inquiry on the Pyne package was positive, (although the bit about the need for a government agency to oversight student fees was not an especially strong endorsement of the market at work). But that was at the end of September and the minister’s need is now.

ACPET’s option

The Senate has agreed to an inquiry into private provider VET, which could be a witch-hunt denouncing course mills fuelled by public money or a showcase of TAFE virtues compared to private sector greed, unless it is both. So what are private providers to do?

Try and change the subject is what Australian Council for Private Education and Training chief Rod Camm proposes. “The inquiry cannot just look at a narrow range of issues, but needs to consider the role of the states and territories and the design of the fund sources now in the sector. Nor should it fail to apply the same level of scrutiny to the quality and educational outcomes of the public system. All registered training organisations are responsible for the sector’s reputation.”

Good-o, but with Labor and the Greens Lee Rhiannon vying to demonstrate loyalty to TAFE’s public sector culture I’m guessing evidence will focus on private sector failure. To minimise the damage Mr Camm will need to show the industry is imposing its own quality control, on top of public registration.

Immortality the answer

“Worldwide, the scope for research outstrips the available funds … it is estimated there are twice as many good research proposals and researchers as there is money available to fund them,” ” the medical lobby Research Australia, argues. True enough, then again Canberra could spend the entire budget on medical research and there would still be diseases to work on.

Not alone

Guess, the discipline association conference where this was a common response to a question about the need to reach out to the community

“Our knowledge and skills are not understood or valued sufficiently, and the value/relevance of the discipline does not seem to be immediately obvious to either our colleagues in other disciplines, the media or the general public. Contributing to public debates helps maintain our relevance to the wider community; it demonstrates the relevance of political science to everyday life. A public profile for academics reminds the public of their importance in a time of shrinking funding.”Give up? It was the Australian Political Studies Association – but it could have been a bunch of others. Why is it academics still think they need “the media” to make their case when they can reach out to any audience they like? Of course Oliver and Young’s Law applies; “it ain’t what they say it’s the way that they say it, that’s what gets results.”

as the Research Whisperer explains

“You build support in the academy through the quality of your research. You build industry support through the impact of your research. You should think about building community support, too. In the research funding space, this means donations. Funding through donations is standard business in medical research and art practice, but not elsewhere. I don’t understand why not. I don’t care whether you are talking to your advancement office about attracting significant donors or crowdfunding aspects of your research to build grassroots support. Just think about it as a possibility. If you are attracting philanthropic funding, then you are doing the sort of work that can attract donations as well.” – RMIT’s Jonathan O’Donnell on the necessity of self-promotion for young researchers @ the research whisperer .


Cheap cut

There are rumblings at the University of Western Australia that staff are less than impressed with the voluntary early retirement scheme, which offers two weeks pay per year of service capped at six months. Especially given professional staff are unsettled by the size of the head count cut management is rumoured to be looking for.

Special offer

Federation University is selling study at its Gippsland campus hard, with a $1500 discount, (sorry “fee reduction”) for the first 100 commencing students applying for on-campus accommodation for 2015. Other offers include an after hours tutoring service and a $1000 interest-free loan for new students.

“There has been a lot of debate about the federal government’s proposed university reforms, but these are still being considered by the Senate. In the meantime, it is business as usual at FedUni with no increase in student fees for 2015, so it is an ideal time to commence university study at the Gippsland Campus,” says Vice Chancellor David Battersby.

Good on Professor Battersby for working with what he has to address the terrible participation rate in the region. According to federal member for Gippsland, Darren Chester (Hansard September 3) only 17 per cent of 17-22 year olds from the region are at university.


Perhaps positions vacant

“If the ABC‘s moves are a strong response to new digital technologies and changing audience needs – as ABC Managing Director Mark Scott says – then our students and graduates will be well placed to take advantage,” Charles Sturt U journalism lecturer Kay Nankervis yesterday.