Something he said?

“Sectoral disruption of higher education in Australia through policy instruments has been trickling down from Canberra for eight or nine years now – ironically almost coincident with my arrival in Australia,”

Uni SA’s David Lloyd, speech in Adelaide yesterday. (Scroll down for a report).

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on what to do when there is not enough good data. “When you really don’t know, it is better to be like Socrates, and admit you don’t know. Then in shared ignorance you make a good faith agreement rather than a decision. The group agrees which way to go, rather than the leader insisting that they are Moses and can lead everyone out of the wilderness.”

David Eckstein (Swinburne U) on the way university staff see disabilities as career blocks for students and what can be done to end them. This week’s contribution to Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series, Needed Now in Teaching and Learning.

Macquarie U plans a July return to large groups in teaching spaces (CMM April 6).  Sean Brawley explains how the university adjusted to the pandemic and is adapting to teaching students who want all/some/no classes on-campus, live on-line and/or asynchronous.

Plus, Frank Larkins on the postgrad courses that rely (really rely) on international students. “The expected continuing loss of overseas student enrolments in 2021 and 2022 will undermine the sustainability of several on-campus postgraduate course offerings in most Australian universities,” he warns.

Unhappy in Adelaide: the city’s VCs speak-up

Uni SA has so-far escaped COVID-19 all but unscathed, no thanks to the Morrison Government, suggests its VC

In an Adelaide speech, yesterday David Lloyd outlined what universities had done for the national government, notably paying way-more of their way by enrolling international students, while HE dropped from first to third in national education spending over a decade. It was an achievement ministers used to praise.

But then the political winds changed, “by July 2020, that same once-proud Federal Government was now publicly decrying the flawed model of Australian universities and their ‘over-reliance’ on international students,” he said.

“Our nation’s independent medical research institutes, were allowed into the Job Keeper programme, recognising the value of their activities for wider society, but their parent organisations, the universities, who deliver the majority of all health and medical research and training in this country, were not,” Lloyd lamented.

And then the government had another go, changing the funding base so that in aggregate it pays less and students more. “Universities are required to teach more students to receive the same amount of base funding,” he said.

Professor Lloyd ended with characteristic optimism, “ours is not a broken business model … whatever gets thrown at us, we have shown ourselves to be pretty much unstoppable.”

No thanks, it appears, to the Morrison Government.

Colin Stirling has a message for the Government, “words actually matter”

The Flinders U VC spoke at the same event, pointing to government rhetoric, “around China, around trade-wars, around COVID – around international students, frankly – and the risks and the threats and the financial impost they have created for universities and the challenges associated with them.” That rhetoric does nothing to temper racism in the community, Professor Stirling said.

“We need a higher calibre debate around China. Chinese Australians did not cause COVID-19, they did not influence the trade war with China. It’s incumbent on our government to deliver that because words actually matter.”

Professor Stirling added that international students who return home with life-long affection for Australia  are “qn immensely valuable asset and we diminish it at our absolute peril.”

And Uni Adelaide’s Peter Høj wants less focus on narrow politics and more community interest

Professor Høj joined his VC friends, and spoke on the importance of international students  both in funding research and to the broader SA economy.

“People should be outraged by everything being seen through a narrow political lens rather than what is in their broader interests” he said.

An unwinnable argument

News Limited papers hopped into Queensland VCs over what they were paid last year – which upset CQU’s Nick Klomp who tells staff where they were wrong about his

“I am certainly conscious of my relative financial privilege in this climate, however the reality is that all CQ University executives, including me, were paid less in 2020 than in 2019 – and that is as it should be,” he added.

Good-o but it’s an argument he cannot win, whatever he was paid critics would complain it was too much. As The Australian (April 17 2015) reported then Uni Melbourne VC Glyn Davis saying when his pay came up in 2015, “only a mug defends their salary.”

Uni Melbourne announces its provost

Nicola Phillips will start in September, joining from King’s College London

Professor Phillips is vice president and vice principal education at KGL, where she is also professor of political economy. She joined from the University of Sheffield in 2017.

She replaces Mark Considine who stepped down at year end, having delayed his departure to work on Uni Melbourne’s COVID-19 response (CMM November 13).

Professor Phillips will not want for familiar faces. Dean of Arts Russell Goulbourne tweeted last night that he is, “very excited about working again with my former KGL colleague and welcoming her to Uni Melbourne.”

How to commercialise research

The government knows what it wants to do – question is, what will it cost

Today is the deadline for submissions to the feds’ University Research Commercialisation paper, (and well-done the officials who will undoubtedly ensure they are all available on-line first thing Saturday).

But whatever submissions suggest, it appears the government has pretty much made up its mind on what universities should stop doing, “an innovation culture has not been fostered within Australian universities, with performance management and rewards focused on quality of academic output and citations.” And it also knows what they should do, “to encourage and accelerate university commercialisation outcomes the existing paradigm will need to shift, whilst also maintaining our investment in research excellence and basic research.”

The feds also seem pretty clear on how to make the shifting happen (CMM March 2).

But there is one question that isn’t addressed – how much the government will have to kick-in to make it all happen.

The VET course cost of federalism

There’s more than curiosity behind the Commonwealth wanting to know what the states charge  

Learned readers are puzzled by the National Skills Commission report on VET course prices, which uses a mammoth of math to demonstrate differences between what the states and territories charge for the same subjects (CMM April 7).

But just because the NSC has built a comparative price model does not mean states and territories will want to give up the power to set their own prices in favour of national ones. “They just refuse to discuss the elephant in the room in the belief everyone will come together and agree,” a LR says.

And why is the NSC doing its own digging another LR asks – is that not why Hephaestus, Greek god of trades, created the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research?

CMM asked an expert who knows the way in and out of the VET policy weeds who says the NCVER has never held data on individual courses, probably because the state and federal minco that owns it has never told it to.

But it still could have done the job the NSC pulled in consultant Deloitte to work on – the NCVER has systems that collect data from all Registered Training Organisations, which could be expanded to cover course costs.

So why not use the experts in-place? Perhaps because the feds want their own intel independent of the states and territories, which the Commonwealth solely controlled National Skills Commission can provide.

Handy when it comes to negotiating VET funding with the states and territories.

An elephant named “Federalism” – who would have thought!

Alan Tudge’s Spotify moment

There was yet another story yesterday about unis with a plan to fly in international students, if only (insert choice of state or federal minister here) would act

There are understandable reasons why state and federal governments keep passing the ball. Bringing in international students when vocal Australians are still trapped overseas would not be popular and imagine the outrage if a state was lock-downed because of an outbreak traced to international students.

There’s another problem with plans to start bring international education back to the way it was.

What happens if COVID-19 isn’t temporary but a transformation and fewer internationals want to pay top whack for a study-experience in Australia?

What happens if the growth markets for Australian providers aren’t on campuses here but in students’ own countries, or on-line.

And what happens if the big area of new demand will be for accredited competencies, not traditional degrees.

Education Minister Alan Tudge appears to get this. As he said last week, “the global on-line e-learning market is forecast to grow from $130 bn to more than $470 bn by 2026. This growth is driven by students around the world seeking lower-cost education, as well as greater flexibility in how and where they learn,” (CMM March 31).

Of course, this may not matter. Perhaps international students will come back in the numbers they used to and the big challenge is to make things the way they were.

Just like the recorded music industry tried to do 20 years ago.


Appointments, achievements

Of the day

Google announces recipients for its 2021 research scholar programme (up to $US 60 000), including,

Kelly Blincoe (Uni Auckland):  Towards more inclusive software engineering practices to retain women in software engineering

Chitchanok Chuengsatiansup and Markus Wagner (Uni Adelaide): Automatic post-quantum cryptographic code generation and optimisation

Mojtaba Golzan, (UTS) and, Jack Phu (UNSW): Autonomous grading of dynamic blood vessel markers in the eye using deep learning

Xin Yu and Linchao Zhu (UTS): Sign language translation in the wild (it’s in machine perception category)

Of the week

 Merlin Crossley (UNSW) wins the Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s Lemberg Medal. Erinna Lee (La Trobe U and Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Centre) receives the Shimadzu Research Medal. Awards go to, Lahhiru Gangoda (the research organisation formally known as the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute), Lois Balmer (Edith Cowan U) and Anton Calabrese (University of Leeds).

Sammy Bedoui (Un Melbourne) is appointed research director for its School of Biomedical Sciences.

CSIRO’s Data61, with the Victorian Department of Land, Water and Planning win the environment and sustainability category in the 2020 Asia Pacific Spatial Excellence Awards. They modelled climate change impact on Port Phillip Bay coastline. Allison Kealy (RMIT) wins the eminence award.

Rifaat Ebied (emeritus professor Uni Sydney) wins the All Graduates Interpreting and Translating Language Services award at the NSW Premier’s Multicultural Community Award.

 Melinta Grant (UTS) receives a 2021Dunlop Fellowship, from the AsiaLink Leaders Programme, “given annually to Australians committed to making a lasting contribution to Australia-Asia relations.” The other fellowship goes to Melissa DeLaney, CEO of ANAT (art+science+technology).

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt is awarded the 2020 McKinnon Prize in political leadership. His House of Reps colleague Anne Aly (Labor-WA) is named McKinnon emerging political leader. The prize is a collaboration between the Susan McKinnon Foundation and Uni Melbourne (CMM November 28 2017).

Griffith U reports Niru Nirthanan (Deputy Head of School, Health Group) is a fellow of the American Society for Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics.

Microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles is New Zealander of the Year for her science communication of COVID-19. Dr Wiles is a microbiologist at Uni Auckland.