Uni Wollongong works with what it’s got

Which is desirable real estate

The university wants to build a community health clinic and a childhood education centre on its Innovation Campus. And to complete the cradle to grave service, it and partner Lendlease also proposes “seniors’ residential living facilities.”

And a nice place for aged accommodation it is too, across the road from the beach and a short walk from the city’s famous “Blue Mile”.

What the university has not got is spare cash. Last month it announced 2020 revenue was down $90m, with a $40m loss (CMM January 21).

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

There’s a way for universities to understand the challenges regional and remote students face, listen to them. Janine Delahunty sets out why motivation and determination to succeed at study aren’t always enough. It’s this week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.

PlusTom Smith and James Guthrie (both Macquarie U) on the way casual staff are lost in university statistics and why we need to count people not accounting abstracts

And tomorrow, Merlin Crossley (UNSW) wonders whether he should compete less.

Funding signs in the budget skies

Alan Tudge speaks up for research

The Education Minister was up in the Reps yesterday, speaking for an education bill which includes a routine increase in caps on ARC grant funding – which he thinks is a very good thing indeed, citing specific projects related to COVID-19 the council funds.

“This bill ensures the continuing support of many thousands of jobs in Australia’s research sector, as well as many more jobs in the industries that rely on our home-grown research expertise to stay ahead of the curve. Australia’s ability to respond to the challenges of the future relies in a large part on the knowledge built from the research strength of our universities. It is in order to support and grow that strength that we bring this bill to the parliament,” the minister added.

But not so much on uni funding

However, on Sky News Mr Tudge responded to Universities Australia’s statement that its members “shed” 17 300 jobs in 2020, saying he was surprised, “because it’s a much higher number than the aggregate of what each of the universities themselves published last year which was more in the vicinity of 5000.” This, the minister was quick to add is, “still a very significant number,” but he went on to mention that universities had “significant surpluses” in previous years, greater than “what they say their loss is in 2020.”

“So, let’s put this into perspective. We keep a close eye on this, we are concerned if there’s job losses, but we also have to understand that they have had operating surpluses for many years before that,” Mr Tudge said.

Good lord, is the budget soon?

Soon enough – and the minister’s remarks struck CMM as an indication of what might be in it for HE and research. Additional funding for the latter, to make up some of the increasing loss of international student fees but nothing beyond cash for short course students and more EFTs for university managements.

The agency that refreshes

The Australian Skills Quality Authority announces “a brand refresh,” including a “new-look”  https://www.asqa.gov.au/  website layout.

There is also a survey starting this month, in collaboration with the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research, “to garner further input from providers.” Perhaps it will include a question on how refreshing the refresh is.

Macklin skills report: by a Victorian, for Victorians

As L P Hartley once did not write about federalism, “the states may as well be different countries they all do things differently there”

The Victorian Government has released the final report of the Macklin Review on skills development in the state. That’s Jenny Macklin the former federal Labor minister.

The “cornerstone recommendation’ is for a new independent body, FutureSkills Victoria, “a new platform to drive system reform and promote a new way for all parts of the system to work together, building on the collaborative spirit forged through COVID-19.”

While accountable to the minister FutureSkills, would be a, “a leader, steward and champion of the Victorian VET system,” and “coordinate collaboration across the VET system” plus “support a clear anchor role for the TAFE network.”

The report also calls on the national government to establish a system of life-long learning accounts, with contributions by workers and employers so that people can “regularly maintain and upgrade their skills.”

But while there is a great deal more on cooperation with the Commonwealth, this is a report for Victoria; “the review recommends that Victoria pursue a distinctive skills and industry policy where governments are not well aligned. For instance, the Commonwealth’s narrow focus on mining reflects its refusal to support a net zero emissions target to guide investment into the clean economy. Economists have long recognised the importance of distinctive state and regional approaches within national economies. This becomes particularly important when the policy ambitions of State and Federal governments are not well aligned.”

Training, Skills and HE minister, Gayle Tierney responded yesterday, “This is a significant body of work and the report will play a critical role shaping our efforts to ensure the education and training system delivers the skills Victoria needs.”

Ah, federalism, ain’t it grand!

A james of deans for Macquarie U

Since the pandemic hit Macquarie U has announced restructures of admin, academic workloads and courses – now there’s a new middle management model

It’s in a green paper on “academic leadership and structures” and sponsors Nicole Gower (VP People) and Patrick McNeil (DVC Medicine and Health) want to know what staff think of the plan, “to provide greater balance between how we organise academic units for efficient operations with maintaining a sense of academic and disciplinary identity.”

They propose a dean per faculty, with two deputies (“education and employability”) and research/innovation. There would also be an associate dean for coursework and “pathways” and one for research training, plus up to three more to do whatever needs doing.

What’s the collective noun for a bunch of deans, a learned reader wonders.

It’s got to be “a james”.

On-line and off-shore: making it a new export market

If internationals students can’t come to campuses here, providers can take courses to them – but only if they do a bunch of work first. A team from the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education sets out the opportunities and how to access them

The MCHE reports what they heard from 39 Australian trans-national education providers in a paper for the feds.*

There’s a mass of detail on how to establish a physical campus and why things can go wrong but in the present crisis the analysis of the on-line option will interest providers who fear international students will not soon return to Australia at scale.

The paper acknowledges the opportunity; “it has key benefits in terms of promoting Australia’s higher education sector and also allowing students in overseas partner countries to access high quality education without leaving their own country.

But it sets out what existing providers warn; “even when online courses were recognised, they were still perceived in-country by students and potential employers as being of lesser quality compared to courses delivered face-to-face. Consultees also drew attention to the challenge of implementing innovative pedagogies for wholly on-line courses, particularly when some trans-national education markets prefer a more traditional, classroom approach.

And it suggests a way-forward: “while there remain issues surrounding effective price points and adequate resourcing, online delivery of TNE still presents many opportunities. If effective pricing can be implemented at scale, it would allow students with more limited financial resources to access the Australian market. However, a balance needs to be struck between effective pricing and adequate student support if success is to be achieved. In this context, it has been suggested that micro-credentials … represent an opportunity for Australian on-line TNE providers.”

* Gwilym Croucher, Kristine Elliott, William Locke and Edward Yencken, Australia’s higher education delivery offshore and on-line – trends barriers and opportunities

Appointments achievements

Anna Florin (Uni Wollongong) wins the University of Tübingen Early Prehistory & Quaternary Ecology award for her Uni Queensland PhD thesis on 65,000 years of plant food use at Madjedbebe, in Arnhem Land.

Michelle Ryan will be inaugural director of ANU’s Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, starting in July. She will join from the University of Exeter. The GWIL was founded, and is chaired by Julia Gillard.

Noordin Shehabuddeen is the new PVC VET at Charles Darwin U. He was previously dean engagement at Murdoch U’s College of Arts, Business, Law and Social Science.