A frog called Allen

Uni SA advises biodiversity in southern Australia is at risk from incursions by the “AlienWA carnivorous spotted-thighed frog. There is not just one of the bastards, although it is a mistake easily made. In Uni SA’s chosen typeface “Alien” looks rather like “Allen.”

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

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

Frank Larkins and Ian Marshman set out the financial future for universities – even the ones in the best shape are in terrible trouble. They warn the crisis could mean the end of the unified national system.

Sophie Arkoudis (Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education) argues student comms skills are not always explicitly assessed. They need to be. It’s Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s selection this week for her series on what’s needed now in teaching and learning.

Happy, (if not glorious)

Monday is HM the Queen’s Birthday holiday in NSW and CMM is taking the day off. Back Tuesday

Time TEQSA takes in assessing Murdoch U

The regulator’s “compliance assessment” of the university’s international student performance is delayed, again

In May 2019 ABC TV’s Four Corners included allegations about student standards at Murdoch U in a programme about international education in Australia. The university strenuously rejected them but regulator Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency undertook a “compliance assessment.”

The university responded to TEQSA’s inquiries and in October the agency told CMM it was considering that.

Which is where things sat, and sat. In December, the agency was still considering the university’s response but expected the matter would conclude in the first quarter of 2020 (CMM December 11 2019). By January the expectation was a report would go to the TEQSA commissioners in mid-February (CMM January 20).

If it did, whatever they thought about it is unknown – and will stay that way for a while.

“Due to TEQSA’s wide-ranging response to support the higher education sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, this compliance assessment has been delayed. We now anticipate this concluding in the third quarter of 2020. Any publications by TEQSA at the conclusion of the compliance assessment will be informed by the findings, in line with our policies,” the agency tells CMM.

Separately, Murdoch U is up for renewal of its registration by TEQSA. It’s existing seven years runs to July 18. But this is flexible, TEQSA says that according to its act, “the provider’s registration is taken to continue until TEQSA decides whether to renew the provider’s registration.”


Union calls on Deakin U Council to intervene

Vice Chancellor Iain Martin told staff last week “it will be impossible to avoid redundancies.” (CMM June 3) The process is underway now, really underway

Last week the university proposed job losses in 12 administration teams involving 15 per cent of positions. On Wednesday academic units were added, with reductions ranging from 3 per cent in Health to 8 per cent in Business and Law.

Yesterday, the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union responded, calling on supporters to lobby university council to intervene. Public universities are not for profit, so spend reserves before cutting the quality of education,” the union argues.

Southern Cross U in strife

The finances have been not-great for years

At Southern Cross U management predicts it will be short $58m this year and next. To cover the loss the university proposes dropping the enterprise agreement pay rise of 1.4 per cent, due on July 1, as well as the same amount, plus $500, next year.

It also wants staff to accept the new academic model the university wants to introduce.

Vice Chancellor Adam Shoemaker was down to meet the campus unions yesterday but has already said the proposal will go to the all-staff vote required to vary the enterprise agreement.

“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 tells staff.

Back in 2014 the NSW Auditor General warned the university’s operating margin was negative two-years in a row, (CMM June 4 2014) and things are not great now.

Policy mavens Frank Larkins and Ian Marshman estimate SCU is one of the seven in–strife universities which do not have reserves to cover predicted shortfalls in overseas student revenues and which will have to, “undertake drastic cost-savings measures and develop new revenue raising initiatives,” (CMM May 31).

Dolt of the day

Is CMM, who turned Uni Adelaide acting VC Mike Brooks into Mike Ellis. How did that happen, you ask. Stupidity CMM replies.

Uni Wollongong gives staff three choices   

The university “is not in a sustainable financial position” – here’s what Vice Chancellor Paul Wellings wants to do about it

The problem is: International student revenue will be down around 20 per cent this year on last, to $130m at best. Due to international travel restrictions, it will still be down 13 per cent on 2019 figures in 2022. And $330m in investments aren’t raidable, only equalling borrowing and staff leave liabilities.

The solution is: cut costs, draw down cash and reduce wages

How pay-cuts will help: There are three options;

* 5 per cent, 7.5 per cent and 10 per cent pay cuts, stepped by pay-grade for 18 months, will mean 150 jobs go

* 7.5 per cent, 10 per cent and 15 per cent pay cuts, stepped by pay-grade for 12 months, will mean 200 jobs are lost

Working hours required would drop by the salary fraction given up and casuals would be exempt

* the third option is, do nothing, which means, “job losses will be substantial.” But even the two salary cut options won’t necessarily save all staff who want to stay. “The university cannot guarantee that there will not be any forced redundancies if options one or two are successful; but there will be significantly fewer forced redundancies than would be the case if there are no variations to the current agreements,” Professor Wellings briefing paper states.

What people think: Management wants to know and will survey staff for their preference, next Wednesday.

What happens next: If there is a majority for either of the two pay-cut options it would then be put to the all-staff vote required to vary the enterprise agreement.

What won’t:  A vote by union members before an all-staff ballot. Management is not obliged to do this, but the IR wisdom is that in most cases an enterprise agreement change proposed at a university which has union support is more likely to succeed in an all-staff vote. The majority of workers may not want to be in the union but they pay attention to what it says on pay and conditions.

The university states it will, “will consult with the unions about changes to the enterprise agreements and the financial situation of the university.” But with yesterday’s announcement of the survey it rather looks like management’s mind is made up.

UoW thinks people should pick either option one or two: “Our assessment at this stage is that job losses will be more than double what we are likely to experience if we can proceed with variations to our enterprise agreements. Job losses of this scale will impact all faculties and divisions in the institution and will compromise the fabric of UOW’s activities.”

The NTEU doesn’t:  National Tertiary Education Union branch president Georgine Clarsen says all three survey options, “are really the same.” “All involve job losses but none of them provide any enforceable certainty about their size. … We will mount a ‘vote no to everything and come back with something better’ campaign”.

Old VET problems new Productivity Commission proposals

In news that was old-news 30 years ago, the Productivity Commission reports, VET “is underperforming, excessively complicated and suffers from ad hoc policy approaches.”  The PC has ideas to do something about it

In November, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg commissioned the PC to review the national agreement for skills and workforce development. The commission’s interim report, released this morning sets-out more options than draft recommendations, including proposals for;

* a single national regulator

* expanding student loans instead of additional subsidies

* a “nationally-consistent set of course subsidies, based on the efficient cost of delivery,” (which sounds rather like what the prime minister was talking about at the National Press Club last week)

* student vouchers instead of subsidies to Registered Training Organisations, “to facilitate user choice”

* states and territories using common methods to measure costs and determine loadings

* clear, contestable” community service obligations

* “better curated information” for students and employers on course quality, prices and provider performance

Uni Queensland Senate meets on Pavlou (without Pavlou)

Late last Friday Peter Varghese convened a special Uni Queensland council meeting to consider Drew Pavlou’s case – it meets late today

Mr Pavlou is an UG activist, vocally opposed to the university’s links with the Chinese government. Last Friday a university disciplinary committee penalised him with a two-year exclusion. Following which Chancellor Varghese intervened, “there are aspects of the findings and the severity of the penalty which personally concern me.”

What concerns Mr Pavlou is he says he is barred from the meeting, although he is an elected member of Senate.

Last night the university stated, “it would be inconsistent with standard conflict of interest procedures if Mr Pavlou or Senate members directly involved in the appeal process were to attend. The vice chancellor will also not attend.”

We should know tonight what Senate decides.