Not up to date on ANU

Looking for information on the Australian National University? The annual report is the place, as long as you want to know the state of things in 2018. That’s the most recent available. The university cannot release the 2019 report until it is tabled in federal parliament. There is no date when it will.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Lynette Vernon (Curtin and Edith Curtin universities) on  why STEM will go nowhere without more maths in senior schools. Another ** case-made in Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series on what we need now in teaching and learning.

Angel Calderon on the Australian ARWU achievement – look outside the global top 100 for the big local heroes.

How far could funding for research fall? Larkins and Marshman estimate the drop in international student fees from 2018 to ’24 will cost research $7.23bn That’s 4600 FTE researcher jobs.

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on why independent funding protects free speech on campus.

Garry Carnegie (RMIT) and James Guthrie (Macquarie U) on the ten unis with the biggest per centage of operating income from international student fees .

Great and powerful research partner

In Features this morning, Lucy Montgomery (Curtin U) reports more research articles written in Australia acknowledge funding from China than from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Uni Adelaide staff accept savings pain

A management-union proposal passes with nearly 60 per cent of voters in favour

After making all the less painful cuts the university expects to be down $60m next year. Back in July acting VC Mike Brooks told staff that one way to find some of the money would be to cut 400 FTE positions. However, this could be halved if the workforce agreed to temporary reductions in conditions and deferring an agreed pay-rise. In return he committed to finding the 200 positions that have to go without forced redundancies or major restructures (CMM July 23).

To which staff have agreed with 58 per cent of the poll voting in favour of the necessary changes to the enterprise agreement.

This is a good result for Uni Adelaide management, saving the bloody bitterness that accompanies forced redundancies, particularly if the union goes hard in opposition.

And it is a pragmatic outcome for staff who clearly believe the vice chancellor that no full-time staffer will be forced out (the fate of casuals is probably bleaker).  That the agreement also includes independent oversight (including a union representative) of the university’s finances may have helped. Thus Professor Brooks told staff last night, “I will continue to communicate often and openly on our evolving financial position.”

It is also another win for the national and campus leadership of the National Tertiary Education Union. This deal was done according to the terms of the job protection framework, created by the union and four VCs, which is adamantly opposed by many vice chancellors, and vocal groups of NTEU members at campuses across the country. But now Uni Adelaide joins the seven universities where staff have voted for the framework, (or local variants) – none have voted no.

New faculties at Uni Newcastle

As promised, (CMM July 30) Uni Newcastle is consolidating five faculties into three

Vice Chancellor Alex Zelinsky announced the new model yesterday.

The new organisations, and leaders, are;

* Business & Law and Education & Arts (PVC John Fischetti)

* Engineering & Built Environment and Science (PVC Lee Smith)

* PVC Health and Medicine (PVC (acting) Liz Sullivan)

All five PVCs of present faculties will work on, “design principles that will underpin our new structures.” Professor Zelinsky says there will be, “more uniform structures with clear and consistent responsibilities between schools and faculties.”

Macquarie U announces jobs will go (just not how many)

It all could be worse this year – it will be next

The university is on-track to be down $40m-$60m in teaching revenue as management predicted (CMM May 29) and $80m all-up this year.  But as for ’21, Vice Chancellor S Bruce Dowton warns of a “shortfall” in “international teaching revenue” of $150m on 2020 budget, plus down another $20m.

And so, “this negative financial impact will flow through to impact our workforce necessitating an overall reduction in our staffing profile,” the vice chancellor says.

The university will accordingly offer voluntary redundancies, but if “insufficient staff” take them, “we would then move to consider a range of workplace change processes over the next 6-12 months.”  As to how many make an “insufficient” the VC is silent. The university community should have an idea how many staff are for the sack, when the VR process ends on October 30.

Perhaps to ensure nobody missed what this means Professor Dowton adds, “as a university community, we are facing some quite difficult times over the next six to 12 months. The situation that we are in means we will be saying goodbye to colleagues we have valued for their contributions and collegiality.”

The university does not have a lot of choice to cutting staff, as per the enterprise agreement. In May management knocked back the job protection accord established by four vice chancellors and the National Tertiary Education Union. This can involve staff accepting temporary cuts to conditions and a freeze on pay rises in return for commitments to protect specified numbers of jobs.

The power of one over uni funding

Despite the denounceathon of the Government’s higher education funding bill it has not Norwegian Blue-ed, at least not yet

For a start, Education Minister Dan Tehan has room to move on the details. He certainly could fine-tune the cost-bands subjects sit in, an all but-universal demand from HE lobbies. While it’s not in the bill, the proposed regional student study subsidy could be valid at more institutions, Uni Tasmania comes to mind.

But even if government calms down the lobbies and accepts amendments to make the legislation if not loved then at least not loathed by all in HE it still has to survive the Senate.

The coalition has 36 votes there and the other coalition, of Labor and the Greens, 35. As to the five on the crossbench, who knows? CMM is even more clueless than usual.

But observers who can count to 39 suggest Queensland senators Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts will line up with the government.

The two South Australians on the crossbench, Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff are way too wily to declare a position this early but if they are agin it will come down to Tasmanian independent Jacqui Lambie.

Senator Lambie is considered a strong supporter of education for Tasmanians and suspicious of what Canberra created change might mean for it.  She was certainly solid against Christopher Pyne’s plan to deregulate degree costs.

But that does not mean she looks favourably on all of HE.  Back in July Group of Eight chair Margaret Gardner (Monash U) gave evidence to the Senate Select Committee on COVID-19, of which Senator Lambie is a member.  She asked what sort of risk-assessment universities undertook – and she wasn’t impressed with Professor Gardner’s reply;

“You are the Group of Eight. You are a university. You are supposed to be up there with the very best, but you didn’t see an issue with your over-reliance on international students. You have been relying on them for years and years and years. You did not see a problem with that: your over-reliance on the money that comes through from that. Did you see that in a risk assessment, or did you see nothing on that? You did not see a problem with that, or did you just turn a blind eye to it?” Senator Lambie asked.*

A different issue to be sure, but the senator may not be inclined to do follow peak lobbies’ lead on Mr Tehan’s bill.

As for Uni Tasmania, it’s not a member of the Go8.

* The hearing transcript attributes the questions to Professor Gardner. CMM was listening to the hearing, they’re Senator Lambie’s word).

Industry and education close connections  


The question of ‘who speaks for whom’ is one I have been pondering recently

When the Business Council of Australia offers their views on tertiary education they do so on behalf of “Australia’s top companies”.

Amongst these top “companies,” you might be surprised to learn (I was), there is one public university and three public university business schools. In addition, through their members, the BCA also represents one dual-sector private provider, 12 enterprise RTOs (one of which is government-funded), and one of the Skills Service Organisations, which may potentially be adversely impacted by the government’s implementation of the Joyce Review’s reforms of VET.

The Australian Industry Group not only advocates on behalf of its members, it also offers them apprenticeship support through its group training organisation and has a small government-funded RTO (which they are understood to be in the process of closing). I also understand that their membership includes a number of higher education and VET providers and related entities.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry includes amongst its members private higher education providers, government-funded RTOs and community colleges, and government-funded apprenticeship services providers.

The views of the three key business peaks have never been more important as Australia grapples with the impact of COVID-19, the changing world of work, and the need for workers to re-skill and up-skill. Their commitment to the tertiary education sector is to be applauded.

While the details of their members and their interests in the tertiary education sector are all publicly available if you know where to look – none of their recent submissions to the Productivity Commission’s review of VET funding included these details. It would be good to see them made explicit in future public statements and submissions.

Claire Field is an advisor to the tertiary education sector. Her affiliations are included in her public submissions and available on her website.

Appointment, achievements

CQU announces Pierre Viljoen becomes associate VP for North Queensland campuses.

The SA Scientists of the Year shortlists include;

Scientist of the year: Emily Hilder (Uni SA). Timothy Hughes (South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute). Sharad Kumar (Uni SA). Colin Raston (Flinders U).

PhD researcher: Samuel Costelli (Uni Adelaide). Erinn Fagan-Jeffries (Uni Adelaide). Melissa Middeldorp (Uni Adelaide).

STEM educator (uni or RTO): Wayne Boardman,(Uni Adelaide). Maurizio Costabile (Uni SA). Kerry Wilkinson (Uni Adelaide).

Science – industry collaboration: Great Australian Bight research programme (BP, CSIRO, SA RDI, Uni Adelaide, Uni Flinders).  Medical Device Partnering Programme (Flinders U). “Out of the smoke” (Australian Wine Research Institute).