Invitations ready for internationals

Readers who can distinguish a visa from a vulture report Home Affairs is picking up the international student processing pace (CMM June 1)

Word is the paperwork is done on 3500 applications in China. Not because the borders are about to open (the states still want the feds to decide, the feds say they’re waiting on the states). Rather, when international students are allowed entry, officials do not want to be overwhelmed by applications, and universities complaining.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Liz Branigan (La Trobe U) argues on-line learning is core business when properly done. It’s this week’s selection by Contributing Editor Sally Kift for her series, on what we need now in teaching and learning.

Garry Carnegie (RMIT) and James Guthrie (Macquarie U) on the hard lesson in financial risk management taught universities by COVID 19.

And Merlin Crossley (UNSW) welcomes chips on shoulders (if they are the right type of chip).

Wins for cuts to save jobs deal

La Trobe U union members have backed a local version of the national deal for job protections, in exchange for temporary cuts to wages/conditions

LT U VC John Dewar was one of four VCs who negotiated the accord and has argued-hard for its adoption at LT U.

National Tertiary Education Union members voting were 73 per cent in favour. The proposal will amend the university’s enterprise agreement and still has to be adopted by all staff.  A union-member yes makes this more likely – proposals sponsored by managements and unions are generally adopted in university-wide ballots

 National Tertiary Education Union members at U Tasmania have voted for a local version of the national accord, including union oversight of university savings, a key union requirement, rejected by numerous vice chancellors.

With 64 per cent of NTEU members voting, the yes vote was carried 428 to 38.

The proposal, which would vary the university’s enterprise agreement now goes to an all-staff ballot.

With the university proposing a major academic programme restructure it appears union members saw the accord as providing extra protections (CMM March 11).

Charles Sturt U commits to sustainable futures (just not for all staff)

The proposed restructure is rolling out, Vice Chancellor Andrew Vann tells staff

While the newly released 2019 annual report shows a small financial surplus, “we are projecting a significant deficit and revenue loss in 2020, primarily as a result of the impacts of COVID-19 which has exacerbated previous issues,” he tells staff.

This is in-line with Professor Vann’s previous warnings that CSU needed to restructure courses and campus to be viable (CMM April 3 and May 5) – warnings that have not gone down well with state and federal members representing electorates in its central west NSW heartland (CMM, April 2, 3 and June 3).

But there is no time to muck-around the VC says, Charles Sturt U must have a balanced budget by the end of next year, which means rolling-out the job-reducing Sustainable Futures plan.

Professor Vann adds the university’s council “has confirmed” CSU cannot participate in the national job protection framework.

“The restrictions that the NTEU insisted on in relation to forced redundancies were seen to create uncertainty compared to the known mechanisms of our existing enterprise agreement. The time to finalise drafting also meant the university had moved forward with the Sustainable Futures program in defining immediate actions and a structured process to reviewing organisational structure and course profile.”

That the “proposed deal was complex and required compromise not acceptable to the university” can’t have helped either

Professor Vann led the four VCs who negotiated the national accord with the NTEU (CMM April 2).

The price of government backing for NSW unis

The state government offers to guarantee up to $750m in new borrowings by the state’s ten universities but there’s a governance price

The funds are on top of $100m worth of payroll tax deferrals.

And there is only one condition on accessing the guarantees. Treasurer Dominic Perrottet says universities applying, “will be asked to show how they intend to restructure their operations to make them more sustainable.”

But will they want to answer that?

Universities across the state rejected the proposed union-universities accord on temporary cuts to staff wages and conditions in return for job protections in part because the deal included a committee (including union representatives) to oversight savings measures. This was commonly considered by VCs as taking on a function of their councils.

Be interesting to see if the state government sticking its bib in is seen differently.

ANU union to vote on VC’s savings plan

ANU members of the National Tertiary Education Union meet tomorrow to decide its position on the university’s savings proposals

Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt proposes a VR scheme and for staff to give up the Enterprise Agreement pay-rise due next month. He says savings are needed because ANU will be down $100m this year and $150m next (CMM May 28).

However, the NTEU meeting will vote on motions to oppose wage freezes, course cuts and job reductions and for a no vote to any management plan to vary the enterprise agreement to accomplish such things.

UWA’s finances “extremely precarious”: den Hollander warns

After negotiating with the union on job protection and listening to staff, UWA has refined its COVID-19 savings plan (CMM April 2)

Vice Chancellor Jane den Hollander is careful to tell staff that no deal is done with the National Tertiary Education Union. Even so, she is optimistic enough to put terms to staff.

She proposes;

* postponing the early 2021 enterprise agreement per cent pay rise until July

* cancelling the December 2020 annual leave loading

* staff purchasing 19 days additional leave to be taken over additional shut-downs before semester two, at Christmas and in the semester one class break

“Saving money and protecting jobs” is the sell

If management and the NTEU settle on terms, a final version will go to staff for consideration before a vote.

Professor den Hollander pitches the proposal strong; saying; “some are suggesting that I might be overstating our financial position and that matters are not so dire. I wish it were so. I give you my word that I am confident that the financial situation is extremely precarious and cannot go on unchecked.”

And her word counts for a great deal. Professor den Hollander was hugely regarded as VC of Deakin U and she was barely into retirement from there, when UWA asked her to act as VC, until Amit Chakma arrives in July.

As to how many jobs might be saved– number-crunching suggests the proposal could translate to 235 positions

Southern Cross U re-sets comms course

SCU lost control of messaging last week, with frank admissions of long-term problems compounding COVID-19 income losses, dominating media coverage

Not surprising, given Vice Chancellor Adam Shoemaker’s admirable frankness; “we must also acknowledge that our strategic challenges are not just the product of COVID-19.  The virus has poured accelerant on a fire which has been burning at Southern Cross U for over a decade,” he told staff, in a statement which hacks soon heard (CMM Friday).

At week’s end the university moved to re-set the message, reporting Chancellor Nick Burton Taylor had convened an extraordinary meeting of Council which endorsed a “roadmap to drive a recovery and resurgence agenda.”

Mr Burton Taylor said there would be cuts and job losses this year and next and that it would be “improper and misleading” to say otherwise. But he promised, “an open and sensitive process over the coming months as the reforms are set in place.” And he committed the university to, “maintaining our current campus structure.”

“It would be easy, for instance, to close the smaller of our campuses but that would destroy our fundamental purpose as a regional university connected to its community,” the chancellor said.

Plain English case for JobKeeper

English language colleges and the 10 000 people who work in them are running out of time

 Closing the borders ended the flow of people from overseas coming to Australia to learn English.

Brett Blacker from English Australia says that while half a dozen colleges have closed, JobKeeper has helped keep most in business, teaching on-line to students in Australia, but when the current crop complete, that’s it.

It is why he has written to the prime minister calling for the programme to continue until March, so there are teachers ready to go when students return.

And return they will, when they are allowed. Mr Blacker says the key leading indicators, applications and inquiries are good.  The problem is that if colleges close and staff move on before the border re-opens the public providers remaining will struggle to meet demand for teachers and classrooms, there were 170 000 ELICOS students in 2019.

And ELICOS not being back in business will be very bad for the rest of the post-school sector. Some 70 per cent of English-learners across all visa categories were on a pathway to further study.

Another process for Pavlou appeal

A Uni Queensland senate committee will hear Drew Pavlou’s appeal. The university says it is the next step for a disputed disciplinary decision

Mr Pavlou is a Uni Queensland UG who is a vocal critic of the university’s links with the Chinese Government. At May end a disciplinary board excluded Mr Pavlou, who is near to completing his degree, for two years. This did not sit well with the chancellor, Peter Varghese, who convened an out-of-session meeting of Senate to discuss it.

That occurred Friday and referred Mr Pavlou’s appeal to the Senate’s disciplinary appeals committee. The committee can confirm, set-aside or vary the previous university decision.

COVID-19 energises research output

There are 42 000 journal articles on the pandemic

“In five months, a volume of work has been generated that even the most intensive of emergent fields, such as deep learning or nanotechnology, have taken years to create,” Simon Porter and Daniel Hook suggest in a new paper for Digital Science (owner of Altmetric).

By June there were 42 000 journal articles on the disease and 420 datasets, plus patents, policies and research grants.

“To give some context,” they write, deep learning in AI took seven plus years to progress from a few hundred papers annually to 11 000 plus. “In the case of COVID-19, the same volume has been reached in just four and a half months.”

They analyse the extraordinary growth in research on the disease, and what it may mean for research systems here.