Distance E from the OECD

Mathias Cormann joins UWA’s business school as an adjunct professor, to guest at MBA masterclasses, lecture and “offer support” to academics. Presumably many via ZOOM if the former finance minister wins the OECD job.

There’s more in the Mail

Andrea Simpson and Kim Alley (both La Trobe U) warn that cultural safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island students can be over-looked in the rush to take education on-line. It’s the first 2021 contribution to Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s long-running series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.

Leo Goedegebuure and Lynn Meek (both Uni Melbourne) have edited a special edition of Studies in Higher Education, on the impact of the pandemic on universities around the world. An edited version of their introduction is in CMM this morning.

Stats not speculation on international student numbers

by Dirk Mulder

Chinese students have not lost their appetite for Australian education

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment has released international student commencement data for July-October, 2020, demonstrating off-shore starts.

The research snapshot matches commencement data with student visa figures to demonstrate at least 22 per cent and as much as 33 per cent of starts were made by students outside Australia.

Of the 22 per cent (28,615) that could be confirmed as outside Australia, the majority were from China (22,468). While Australia’s broader relationship with China may be strained, China’s appetite for Australian education powers ahead.

DESE does warn, “commencements are difficult to accurately match to student visa data, hence the location of 11 per cent in this period could not be confirmed,” still, this is a significant figure.

Analysis of the pivot table indicates two categories: “new commencements”; and “not new commencements”.  The former is students with no record of a previous enrolment in Australia.

Of the new commencements, the total was 25,184 and China again dominates with a 51 per cent share, followed by India (11 per cent), Nepal (4 per cent) and South Korea (2.5 per cent). Indonesia (2 per cent) rounds out the top 5.

The total in the not new commencement category was 106,133 with China once again topping out with 23.4 per cent, followed by India (17 per cent), Nepal (9 per cent), Colombia (6 per cent), and Brazil (5.3 percent).

Returning Student Enrolments – A data driven view

Data from DESE last month also provides an indication of what may occur this year, based on numbers of international students likely to continue Australian study. The information comes from the government’s Provider Registration and International Student Management System.

This new research snapshot uses data from PRISMS’ reporting item “proposed” or “actual” study end dates, to predict, or identify, the number of 2020 student enrolments scheduled to continue into 2021.

Specifically, it looks at international student enrolments in the last quarter of 2020 (as of October 2020) which represent an opportunity to shape enrolment trends.

Enrolments as of October 15 are broken down by education sector and include the proportional change in enrolments compared to that date in 2019. This shows:

* Higher education accounted for 62 per cent of total international enrolments, down 13 per cent on 2019.

* VET had 32 per cent, up 3 per cent.

* Schools made up 3 per cent, down 11 per cent

* ELICOS was at 2 per cent down 66 per cent on 2019.

* Non-award had also taken a big hit, with 1 per cent of the enrolments, 56 per cent lower.

What happens this year will depend on the ability for institutions to keep attracting students into on-line study, and when borders open- which does not appear imminent.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s International Education Correspondent

Details, details, bothering with details

CQU to hold week-long information sessions on TAFE courses,” (via Twitter), which seems rather a while to brief on any programme. Still, the dual sector university is nothing but thorough. Won’t TEQSA be pleased!

Another chance to complain about the Medical Research Future Fund

There’s an audit into the Health Department’s admin

In particular, the Australian National Audit Office wants to know whether governance is “effective,” has the MRFF legislation, governance, strategies and priorities, “guided selection of medical research initiatives” and is Health effectively monitoring performance.

The ANAO could ask whether the font used for the annual report is nice and researchers critical of the fund would respond in the same way – that decisions on who gets how much for what projects should be made by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Uni lobbies tell intel committee they have national security covered

They need, really need their case to convince

At an October Senate committee hearing on how state government agencies (including universities) managed relations with foreign powers Senators Abetz and Fierravanti-Wells (both Liberal) and Kitching (Labor) got stuck into university lobby groups over member links with China’s government and agencies (CMM October 14).

It was tough stuff, but nowhere near as important to universities anxious to defend their reputations as the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security inquiry into national security risks in universities and research agencies.

This shows in the approach and detail of peak body submissions to the Intel committee inquiry.

The Group of Eight committed its considerable resources to demonstrating its members have policies in place to protect the national interest while continuing research and teaching ties (the latter mainly meaning Confucius Centres).

The risk, the Eight argues, is that government might muck things up by sticking too many interfering bibs into complex issues. Thus, the Go8, “urges the committee to consider recommending that it is in the national interest, to provide clarity as to how the various pieces of legislation intersect and operate aa a cohesive whole.

“Failure to do so could risk the effectiveness of Australia’s foreign interference response, by leaving potential loopholes or gaps that can be exploited by adverse actors.”

And it suggests the in-place Defence Trade Controls Amendment Act is “an excellent model for good process.”

The Australian Technology Network, with its pal Uni Newcastle, also argues national security is covered by existing arrangements, pointing to the University Foreign Interference Taskforce. “The existing and incoming legislative and regulatory framework governing the operation of universities is significant, rigorous and effective … it is made more effective when it has been developed in close partnership between government, security agencies and the sector.”

This may not be enough to silence Coalition sceptics and their pals in the press who believe universities are too keen to take Beijing’s shilling.

Independent federal MP Bob Katter (Queensland) for one is a fierce critic of the University of Queensland for disciplining student and human rights activist Drew Pavlou, who denounces the university for its links with the Chinese Government.

In his submission to the committee’s inquiry Mr Katter urges the committee to “examine the influence exerted by private companies that facilitate and or are involved in the establishment of agreements between Australian universities and Chinese Communist Party entities,” and “analyse the extent to which China’s People’s Liberation Army seeks to exploit Australia’s universities to further its strategic interests.”

This is a big deal for universities. The intelligence and security committee is as grown-up as parliamentary oversight gets and its members will make up their own minds. If they accept the argument that existing processes have national security covered the higher education lobbies will go on as they are. But if the committee finds a need for more oversight the implicit (probably explicit) criticism of university behaviour will be very bad indeed.

In case you missed James Cook U’s news

On December 23 JCU announced the chancellor and council members would be paid. From January 1 Chancellor Bill Tweddell is to receive $75 000 pa, Deputy Chancellor Peter Phillips $37 500 and council members a base rate of $25 000.

JCU’s enthusiasm for getting the news out is commendable but CMM wonders if people focused on the holidays heard about it. So, ICYMI.

Career counselling

The National Careers Institute awards its first 13 grants, to “deliver innovative career advisory products and services” 

Post-school education providers and services in the money are,

* Graduate Careers Australia ($135 000): promoting, supporting, and evaluating careers registration in tertiary institutions

* TAFE Queensland ($700 000): training and career solutions for Australian Defence Force people moving to civilian employment

* National Association of Australian Apprenticeships Centres ($328 000): “establish an ecosystem of iterative ethical signposting” to guide school students’ “career-choice thinking”

* Federation U ($151 000): career paths in retail, hospitality and allied industries

* Uni Melbourne ($148 000): develop a portfolio assessment tool for school/VET teachers to assess young people’s employability skills and develop support materials

* Uni Adelaide ($497 000): an “interactive virtual experience” simulating work environments in “key industry sectors, including ship building, aerospace and big data

* Curtin U ($411 000): career development learning hub “for students with disability”.

Appointments, achievements of the summer

Janine Deakin is promoted to executive dean for Science and Technology at Uni Canberra. She moves up from deputy dean.

TEQSA welcomes Helen Gniel as director of the new Higher Education Integrity Unit.

Sandra Harding (James Cook U) VC announces she will leave in December.

Sean Henriques is appointed programme director for the Edith Cowan U city campus project. He moves from EGM at Development WA.

Jonathan Hill is appointed principal of Murdoch U’s School of Veterinary Medicine. He moves from Uni Queensland.

Lori Lockyer becomes executive dean of QUT’s Faculty of Creative Industries, Education and Social Justice, she moves from UTS. Ana Deletic (ex UNSW) is the new ED for engineering.

Uni Melbourne DVC Student Life Kerri-Lee Krause leaves in March. She will move to Avondale UC to become provost.

Darshi Ganeson-Oats is new MD for WA’s South Regional TAFE. She moves up from ED Strategic Partnerships there.

Anthony Pages is interim CEO of ANU Enterprises. He steps up from deputy CEO.

Sarah Pearce is acting CSIRO Chief Scientist during the search to replace Cathy Foley, who is the new national Chief Scientist.

Zoe Ranganathan (ANU) is the new president of the National Union of Students.

Uni Newcastle’s Nick Talley is one of six Mayo Clinic 2020 distinguished alumni.

Uni Newcastle VC Alex Zelinsky becomes chair of the NUW Alliance (his university plus UNSW and Uni Wollongong).