It takes a bunch of people to make an FTE

At UNSW, some 741 FTE positions are occupied by 5 846 individual casual staff members

And VC Ian Jacobs wants to celebrate them all.

“Whilst I recognise the challenges of employment that not everyone can always rely on I also think that this is a great way of making sure that our universities are really well linked into the workplace, and a way of allowing our PHD students to supplement their income.

“We should celebrate the opportunity for our universities to reach out into the workplace, into professional roles, and get the input from those people into the education that we provide,”the VC  told a NSW Legislative Council committee last week.

Employment “that not everyone can rely on” rather reduces the celebration.


There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Tim Winkler went to 17 virtual open days. He found much not to love and three ways recruiters can make them better, way better.

Sally Varnham (UTS) makes the case for a dedicated body to deal with student-university disputes. It’s a new idea in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series, “Need now in teaching and learning.”

James Guthrie (Macquarie U), Jane Andrew and Max Baker (both Uni Sydney) explain the pea and thimble accounting trick in the government’s higher education plan

 Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on universities as towers of babel and why we need to keep building them.

No surrender from uni lobbies on the student-place funding bill

The Group of Eight joins other university lobbies in suggesting the Senate pass the government’s student place funding bill – as long as it is amended in ways they approve  of

The Go8 calls for;

* adding indexation of more funding categories to the bill

* modifying funding so that university funding per place is not reduced for disciplines where student contributions are increased

* making the existing maximum student contribution the ceiling for UG payments

* dropping the (said to be unnecessary) student protection measures

The Innovative Research Universities extends its position

The IRU has presented multiple analyses of the government’s plan since Minister Tehan’s June announcement but while it “supports the need for the package overall” (CMM August 18) it has consistently called for changes (CMM August 26). The group notably wants Commonwealth funding for more students, but with a cap on student fees set at the existing maximum. It also calls for removing new regulatory requirements which argues are not needed for universities.

The IRU adds a new argument against the foundation of the billreducing the overall Commonwealth contribution to the funding of student places. IRU warns this will make it harder for universities to do what the government requires – teach, research and engage with the community.

The bill as it stands, “would continue the decade long trend to transform the major Commonwealth funding programme from one that uses student numbers as the guide to estimate the proportion of available funding each university should receive, to tying funding allocated directly to its use for student education,” the IRU warns.

“The alignment of funding driven by student numbers to funding expended on students may look sensible. However, it ignores how universities are to achieve the three-part goal Government has set.”

The IRU accordingly recommends the Commonwealth keep the existing level of its funding per student place, while keeping a cap on the maximum charged students.

This isn’t a surrender

These proposed amendments are broadly in-line with those from other university groups and are presented around the traps as peak bodies giving in to the government.

They aren’t.

Certainly, universities want the student growth funding in the bill but they still oppose three of its core purposes; making law/business/humanities students pay more for their degree, making providers teach STEM for less per place and introducing regulations designed for voced providers.

This isn’t a surrender – it’s an offer of terms that universities can live with. Certainly, the position of university groups is better for the government than demands the bill be rejected by the Senate. But it is now down to cross bench senators to decide how much the government should give up for them to pass the bill and if they do for Minister Tehan to determine how much of the savings the bill was designed to deliver he is willing to lose.

JCU VC commits to a 30 per cent remuneration reduction

Sandra Harding told staff Friday the 38-strong senior executive will also take a 9 per cent reduction

While there is no mention of a time-limit, the promises are made in the context of a management campaign for staff to accept temporary reductions in conditions to make savings

The university is asking staff to vote for an enterprise agreement variation which includes; delaying a scheduled pay rise, longer Christmas close-downs in 2020 and ’21 and a voluntary leave purchase scheme.  Management is putting the proposal to staff without union agreement after talks failed on a joint proposal (CMM September 9 and 10).

Professor Harding’s announcement also included details on the university proposal including; * “a minimum” 70 jobs to be saved “that would otherwise be lost, * no forced redundancies or stand-downs during the variation period, * “provisions” for fixed-term and casual staff.

Staff will vote Thursday and Friday. The proposal is opposed by the National Tertiary Education Union in part because, “it doesn’t deliver the job security that has been achieved in similar variations at other universities.”


La Trobe U help at hand

The Health and Wellbeing team there has timing as bad as CMM dancing

In a staff update they remind the LT U community of programmes “to support staff with their physical and mental health.” It’s followed by an HR reminder of the October 2 date for round two voluntary retrenchment applications.

“A great display of the university’s declared cultural qualities of being accountable and caring,” a Learned Reader laments.

It follows a gem in July when staff were asked “is now the time to make-life changing decisions?”, (CMM July 16) which must have cheered up the 239 staff who were set to leave under round one VR.

Terry assures staff: Uni Queensland in a healthy position, “compared to most”

Uni Queensland staff will receive the 2 per cent pay rise scheduled for January, despite a $100m budget shortfall

New VC Deborah Terry told staff Friday the university had offset the COVID-19 caused revenue decline by “taking decisive action” including cutting expenses and deferring $220m in capex. Second semester student numbers, including internationals studying from overseas, are also up 2 per cent on last year.

However, Professor Terry warnednewly recruitedinternational students are down 30 per cent and a further fall is expected for first semester ’21, which will impact revenue “over the next few years.” (The university is not bullish about a return to on-campus teaching next year, CMM August 28).

The VC accordingly announces, “modest, but prudent cost containment measures,” specifically; * ending the three additional leave days between Christmas and New Year and asking staff to use their own leave, * a voluntary separation scheme, details in a fortnight.

Compared to most other Australian universities, Uni Queensland is in a healthy position. I am confident that by working together we will weather this storm and emerge as a stronger university,” Professor Terry said.

VET international numbers bucking the trend


International student enrolment trends are increasingly hard to understand and interpret since COVID-19 started. Especially VET numbers, which keep growing

The national border closed on March 20, but there was surprising growth in international VET student numbers over the next three months  – and no, it was not from people studying off-shore. With 9 per cent in this category VET has the lowest figure across all of the post-school system.

The details:   June commencements were: HE down 13.4 percent; schools down 5.3 percent; ELICOS (with visa) down 24 percent; non-award down 12.1 perc cent. But VET was up 9.2 percent.

Pathways pre-VET data for 2020 shows those choosing a VET programme who previously studied in Australia had been in the following: schools, 1 percent, non-award 1 per cent, HE 28 per cent, ELICOS 34 percent. Fresh starters from abroad accounted for 35 per cent.

In comparison, the 2019 figures were schools and non-award 1 per cent each, HE was 21 per cent, ELICOS 27 per cent and fresh starters 49 percent.  It’s the movement from HE sector to VET that is driving much of the growth.

Where it’s happening:  NSW is up 2 per cent, VIC 14.8 per cent, QLD 2.2 per cent, SA 38 per cent, WA 19.3 per cent, TAS 8.8 per cent, NT up 122 per cent and ACT up 23 per cent.

The two big increases are in Victoria where the 14.8 percent increase represents an additional 3,879 Students. There are an additional 1020 students in South Australia.

What’s going on in Victoria: Internationals in Victoria are studying (using commencement figures): business management 6087, cookery 4797, hospitality management 1776, vehicle mechanics 1407, automotive engineering and technology 1130.

The ratio between government and non-government providers in Victoria in commencements is 94.7 non-government to 5.3 government. When it comes to all enrolments the ratio is 95.1 non-government v 4.9 government.

Countries commencement growth in Victoria is largely driven by India; 9893 students, then daylight to China 2245, Nepal 2050, Colombia 1871 and Philippines 1565 rounding out the top 5.

Commencements by level of study are: advance diplomas, up by 18 percent, certificate one, down 57 per cent, certificate two, up 40 per cent, certificate three, up 4.7 per cent, certificate four, up 23 percent and diploma, up 10 per cent.

The large growth in certificate two commencements was fuelled predominantly by a growth in security services narrow field of study, with 281 commencements (total growth for overall certificate two study was 353).

What to watch for: Is what happens in private colleges as these students complete over the next nine months.  To keep the doors open they will need to be able to welcome new students.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent

Appointments, achievement

Carol McGregor wins the 2020 John Mulvaney Fellowship from the Australian Academy of the Humanities. The Fellowship is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early career researchers and PhD students in the humanities. Dr McGregor, “revives the traditional possum skin cloak as a contemporary art form.”

Meredith Makeham joins Uni Sydney as Associate Dean (Community and Primary Healthcare Practice in the Faculty of Medicine and Health.

Julien O’Connell becomes acting chancellor of Australian Catholic U following the death on Saturday of long-serving chancellor John Fahey.