La Trobe U’s $100m difference

The “make the difference” fundraising campaign launched in  2017, with a $50m target for 2020 which was reached in 2018

It was doubled for delivery in 2022, now achieved. Some 40 per cent of the total comes from one donation, for autism research.

L:T U reports staff contributions of $840 000 – to a scholarship scheme.

VC John Dewar and then chancellor Richard Larkins were among first donors, contributing $100 000n each (CMM March 17 2017).

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

James Guthrie on what Uni Wollongong’s annual report reveals about the businesses it is in.

plus, Understand reporting requirements for equity funding? Oh that it was so. There are new rules for evaluating the impact of initiatives. But fortunately, there are ways to find out what you need to know. Sonal Singh (UTS) and Nadine Zacharias (Swinburne U) explain in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated series, Needed now in learning and teaching.

with  Dirk Mulder considers why India will be important, really import, to international education, HERE.

and in Expert Opinion HERE

The university teacher of the year awards are on again (thanks Universities Australia) which is good – but Australia’s great learning and teaching culture deserves more.  Liz Johnson (Deakin U) and Sally Kift (president, Australian Learning and Teaching Fellows) talk about what could be done and what should be done to foster learning and teaching research and achievements.

Tim Winkler (Twig Marketing) has been to a bunch of open-days to find that they present what managements like to see,  which isn’t necessarily what prospective students want to learn. In CMM, Tim talks about where open days are and where they need to be.

A touch of the Turnbull in the NSW budget

The previous prime minister was keen on the life-improving, economy-expanding potential of science and innovation (CMM December 5 2015)– which NSW’s Premier Dominic Perrottet seems to share

Back in May the state’s chief scientist issued a 20 year R&D roadmap, there were  pre-budget budget announcements for medical research and translation and in the budget itself yesterday there was $142m over four years for R&D and “innovation growth and advance collaboration” with CSIRO, universities and the private sector. Plus $342m (also four years) to commercialise products and services and support research institutions, start-ups, scale-ups and SMEs.

Uni Melbourne says 2021 headline result not as good as it looks

The university’s mysteriously delayed annual report (CMM May 4 ) for 2021 can’t have been held up for want of good news, with some results better than pre pandemic

The university discounts its net surplus of  $584m – $406m better than 2020, stating that it includes endowment and investment income, including $252m in unrealised investment gain which accounting rules require to be included in income. However  the “underlying operating result” it wants to attract attention is still  $147m.

Operating income was up nearly 10 per cent on 2020, to $2.7bn and student EFTS grew by 4.3 per cent, although International EFTS (21 839) were down 2000 on 2019.

Overall operating expenditure was $2.5bn (up 3.9 per cent) with non-staff outlays 9.9 per cent higher at $1bn.  At $1.5bn employee costs were “in-line with 2020,” with “salary increases offset by cost reduction measures.”  Presumably there were costs attached to 210 staff taking voluntary redundancy, 168 involuntarily being made redundant and 45 senior academics leaving under an “enhanced retirement scheme.”

The annual report shows the operating result* was the highest in five years and $129m ahead of pre-pandemic 2019. The operating margin was 5.5 per cent, 4 per cent higher than in 2019.  * defined as (accounting surplus less net discretionary financing income and expenditure, infrastructure grants and endowment philanthropic income

However Vice Chancellor Duncan Maskell warns, “we anticipate a large operating deficit” in 2022 and that “the university must continue its careful and prudent approach to financial management.”

Murdoch U cancels Perth “vertical campus”

The  university’s has bailed on its $250m downtown development, announced In 2020

The plan included an eSports facility and a “STEM focused” international college, with 10 000 staff and students.

The project was originally planned to open 2023-24, with the university committing $250m and the state government a further $50m.

But the university says a building to “accommodate” 60 per cent of teaching requirements is under construction on its existing city-adjacent campus and is its priority.

“While the CBD campus had merit, the impact of COVID on the university’s finances required us to review our priorities,” the university states.

The major university participation in the Commonwealth and WA government “Perth City Deal” continues, albeit at escalating cost. Edith Cowan U’s city project was originally costed at $545m for construction but is now expected to cost $835m. The university is in for $360m.


The right to learning includes micro-credentials


Fortunately Australia is further advanced on this than we sometimes imagine

Last week UNESCO’s seventh International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA) was hosted by the government of Morocco. I was honoured to be part of an on-line panel organised by the European Commission, which comprised government representatives from Singapore, the Netherlands, France and a representative from the European Training Foundation.

The panel’s focus was “Responding to the Skills Revolution – development of skills through innovative instruments” and despite the differences between the countries represented on the panel – the commonality of the issues being faced and some of the tools being used was noticeable.

Individual learning accounts have been in operation in Singapore since 2015 (through Skills Future) and are also a priority of the European Commission as a means of underpinning the principle of learning as an individual right.

A version of this funding approach, conceived as an entitlement to learning, was of course deployed in Australia in the VET system more than a decade ago. Regrettably, as a consequence of poor programme design, poor oversight and the fraudulent motives of some providers, these efforts were subsequently wound back. However as other high-income countries look to meet the upskilling and reskilling needs of their citizens (as jobs transform due to technological change and new jobs emerge, e.g. in the green economy) it seems likely that Australia too will need to re-look at funding models to support learning as an individual right, and in doing so that funding for upskilling and reskilling will increasingly be spent on microcredentials rather than full qualifications.

Fortunately Australia is further advanced on this than we sometimes imagine. Although we have only just formalised our national micro-credential framework, in VET at least we have been delivering and assessing shorter chunks of learning for decades.

Currently one-quarter of all enrolments in VET each year are in sub-qualification programs (i.e. defined as micro-credentials in the new framework). And, since COVID, some state and territory governments have deployed substantial funding to shorter courses – in New South Wales in the first nine months of 2021, 20 per cent of government-funded students were enrolled in skillsets, followed by Western Australia (12 per cent), Tasmania and the ACT (8 per cent). Although by contrast only 1 per cent of government-funded students in Victoria enrolled in skillsets.

Against this backdrop it will be interesting to see what position the new Commonwealth government takes on funding for micro-credentials in the next National Skills Agreement.

Claire Field wishes to thank Emeritus Professor Beverley Oliver, Professor Sally Kift and the European Commission for the opportunity to address the conference


Appointments, achievements

The Asia-Pacific Artificial Intelligence Association announces its Women Committee, “to promote their greater roles in all areas.” Members include Branka Vucetic (Uni Sydney).

Cheryl Saunders (Uni Melbourne) receives the Taiwan based Tang Prize  for contributions to the rule of law.

Anne Summers is appointed a professor in the UTS business school.

Susanne Williamson is confirmed as Monash U’s chief philanthropy officer. It’s an internal appointment.