Same user-pays

Monash U has appointed a toll-road executive as CFO (appointments, below). He will fit right in, a Learned Reader suggests, what with freeways and higher education once being free for users as public goods, but no more.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

In universities policies for equity, diversity and inclusion can build communities. And strategic planning helps. Merlin Crossley makes the case.

Angel Calderon crunched the numbers on Australian universities performance in yesterday’s Times Higher Impact Rankings. Here’s what he found.

In the rush to on-line teaching it was easy to over-look research postgrads, many being even more isolated than usual.  Trina Myers, Wasana Bandara, Sharon Altena (all QUT)  and Rebecca Evans (JCU) suggest ways to help them. This week’s contribution to Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s long-running series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

Data delayed is data denied

The Commonwealth holds an el dorado of data on everything and everybody – it can be used for good

It’s a resource researchers use for public-good projects, when they can access it. Which isn’t always

Uni Sydney researchers Tim Payne and Adele Haythornthwaite told a Senate committee hearing that three-year research grants have expired without there being a decision on data access.

There is a bill before parliament that would help with that – the basis of a government plan for a consistent process to make privacy-protected data-sets available for “public-benefit” research.

Which would be good, if “public-benefit” was defined in the bill.

“If research ‘in the public benefit’ cannot be easily and consistently identified by data custodians, poor decisions to refuse data requests are likely. Such outcomes would not be consistent with the policy intent that underpins the legislation,” Uni Sydney warned in its submission to the Senate inquiry.


A cold shoulder in Hobart

Uni Tas announces an MOU for the Centre for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Technology, in partnership with the Australian Antarctic Division and CSIRO

Apparently, it will, “advance Australia’s interest in Antarctica by building Tasmania’s status as a global polar research hub.”

But where, you ask (oh, go on) is the Special Research Initiative in Excellence for Antarctic Science? This Monash U led consortium was announced last year, with $35m over seven years from the feds (CMM April 20 2020). Members are museums, public research institutions and 11 universitiesnone of which are in Tasmania.

“The MoU is a commitment to establishing a hub in Tasmania which is a vital gateway to the Antarctic. It is a reflection of the spirit of co-operation that runs through the Antarctic community here,” a U Tas representative says.

Uni Sydney financial result: “something to be celebrate”

So “temporary savings” are being eased for ‘21

Good looking back: The university had an underlying net loss of $2.2m last year. It results from $257m in savings and “stronger than expected” international enrolments.

Vice Chancellor Stephen Garton tells staff this is a “remarkable outcome in a challenging and highly unpredictable year.”

The university’s operating surplus is $106m, but this includes hypothecated grants and donations.

Better looking forward: The university forecasts 2021 full-year enrolments will be 9 per cent above budget, potentially meaning $202m more in revenue. International enrolments for first semester are up 18 per cent on 2020, “thanks to the efforts of colleagues across the university, and the willingness of our international cohort to study remotely.”

Domestic student numbers are 7 per cent higher year on year, “in part due to significant growth in postgraduate coursework enrolments for the first time in many years.”

The fuller figures mean an ease in spending restraint. Approvals for replacing existing staff and hiring for new positions will be easier to secure and there will be more project funding. “If we are to remain a world-class teaching and research university, we cannot live in austerity indefinitely,” Professor Garton said.

But, there’s a “but”: “We should not forget, however, that while revenue is higher than expected, our costs continue to rise and we remain short of our pre-COVID ambitions for 2021,” he added.

“A great deal of uncertainty surrounds the opening of international borders for Semester Two and thereafter, and the long-term effect this will have on Australia’s higher education sector.”

Among the fiscal fab four: Uni Sydney is the fourth Group of Eight university to report a way better than initially expected 2020 results. Uni Melbourne announced an $8m surplus, Uni Queensland had a $28m positive return. And in February Monash U announced a $259m operating surplus.

As to the other half of the Group of Eight; ANU’s result, said to be imminent, is not expected to be positive and there is much speculation about UNSW, caught by COVID-19 in the midst of a major expansion. At UWA Vice Chancellor Amit Chakma warned last year that the impact of the university’s major problem is a $70m structural deficit. And earlier this month Uni Adelaide VC Peter Høj  warned staff declining international enrolments means “it is crucial that we prepare for leaner times.”

Open Access – it’s only a matter of time

It could be from January, for medical research at least 

“UA anticipates that Australian research funding agencies will, in time, move to a requirement for open access of publicly funded research.” – Universities Australia submission to the Senate committe inquiry on the Data Availability and Transparency Bill (scroll up)

The time could be sooner not later.

The National Health and Medical Research Council is considering requiring research it funds to be open access (either by journals allowing author’s accepted manuscripts to be OA or by researchers depositing new articles in an institutional repository). The proposal is out for consultation but if adopted would apply from January, (CMM April 16).

And Chief Scientist Cathy Foley says she is “closely considering” an OA strategy.

But the Australian Research Council policy remains OA after 12 months, except where “this requirement cannot be met for any reason, including legal or contractual obligations.”

Appointments, achievements

Of the day

 Leigh Petschel will join Monash U in August, as CFO and senior VP. He moves from GM, finance and business services, for toll-road operator Transurban in Melbourne

Of the week

Biotech entrepreneur James Campbell joins the board of industry association AusBiotech.

 Sam Drake is appointed inaugural chair of Electromagnetic Systems and Security at Flinders U.  He will head a $5m Centre of Expertise for Electronic Warfare, jointly funded by the university and the commonwealth’s Defence Industry. It’s an internal Flinders appointment.

Troy Farrell is confirmed as executive dean of QUT’s science faculty, he has been acting for 12 months. Gavin Slade becomes deputy dean of Creative Industries, Education and Social Justice. Simone White moves from the new faculty to be a professor in the teacher education school.

Harlene Hayne starts as VC of Curtin U, her appointment was announced in October (CMM October 9). She moves from Uni Otago, where she was VC 2011-2020.

Tamara Martin becomes director of education and training at the Naval Shipbuilding College. She moves from UNSW where she was industry and innovation manager.

Deen Sanders (adjunct professor Deakin U) is inaugural chief professionalist for the Australian Council of the Professions. The council states he, “will engage with national leaders as well as the broader community to advocate for the purpose and value of the professions, professionals and professionalism.”

Simon Ville (Uni Wollongong, economic and business history) is the 2022-23 Whitlam-Fraser Visiting Professor in Australian Studies at Harvard U

Hilary Winchester is joining Charles Darwin U as University Secretary. The portfolio includes compliance, policy, audit and risk.