Just in from the you’re not wrong Narelle, desk

“Anyone who’s ever tried to measure a whale will know how difficult that is,” Southern Cross U promotes research, yesterday.  The solution is to use one’s drone to photograph them from above.

There’s more in the Mail

New in Features

Frank Larkins (Uni Melbourne) on the COVID-19 triple hit for HE finances.

Dominique ParrishAllan Christie and Chris Campbell set-out the eight things students want from open-learning

Alex Maritz (La Trobe U) and colleagues: @  research shows Aussie entrepreneurship can kick-start the economy

Unis faces $4.6bn hit – peak body calls for government support

“It is crucial universities remain viable today so they are able maximise their contribution to Australia’s economic recovery tomorrow,” chief executive Catriona Jackson says

Ms Jackson warns, ““now it is clear that there will be a significant decline in second semester international student enrolments due to the virus, government support is more important than ever.”  She puts the “revenue decline that will hit the sector” at $3bn to $4.6bn.

UA calls;

* for government to support local and international students who have lost their jobs

* for universities to qualify for the JobKeeper wage subsidy, which the government has extended to registered charities which suffer a 15 per cent drop in revenue. “We seek urgent confirmation from government that, as registered charities, universities are also able to access this support.”

UA makes no other specific requests, stating, “this will enable universities to maintain their core functions of educating the next generation of skilled graduates and undertaking research, including research which may lead to new treatments or a vaccine for COVID-19.”

However last night the government made it clear that universities do not qualify for the 15 per cent threshold JobKeeper payment, and will have to meet the 30 per cent income drop (turn-over up to $1bn) and 50 per cent (above).


Cash to keep research rolling

Medical research institutes want better access to JobKeeper funds 

The Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes argues that the 15 per cent drop in income for charities to qualify should apply to its fundraising income and exclude tied grants from government.

“In some cases, we are already seeing more than a 30 per cent drop off in fundraising in our institutes, which is a lifeline to many of us. Without the gap funding and our support staff the wheels fall off and our day to day research can’t function,” warns AAMRI president Jonathan Carapetis.

Great achievement, shame about the timing at Uni SA   

Transition to the new academic structure starts this week  

A year back Vice Chancellor David Lloyd launched a proposal to restructure the university, moving academics out of discipline-based units and into communities, related to the courses they teach, (CMM January 21 and February 7 2019).

Lloyd did not impose the idea, he sold it and while the shock of the new inflicted plenty of pain for academic and professional staff, he brought enough of the community with him for the transition to the new structure to start this week, without the ager and anguish that restructures are prone to.

Big achievement, terrible timing. “The first day of our transition phase isn’t exactly how we had envisioned it,” Professor Lloyd told staff yesterday.

“As soon as we are able, we will ensure we hold some staff celebrations to mark the start of our new future at UniSA.”

The new model is scheduled to be in-place on June 30, which might be too-soon for a party.

No waiting-pain

UWA’s medical centre is open and inoculating staff and students with this year’s flu shot. With just about everybody working and studying from home the queue should not be long.

More fresher than refresher

The minister says unis can keep entry-standards up

Education Minister Dan Tehan was on Melbourne radio with Neil Mitchell yesterday, talking about 2021 university entry and keeping entry-standards up among Y12.

“All universities have the ability to put short courses in place, which will enable students to catch up in areas where they might not have been able to get that knowledge that they will require for a course like medicine. So, we have got the ability to look at all these things, be flexible, be innovative, and just say to students, ‘Look, you might be required to do this eight-week short course at the start of your medicine degree, so that you get that knowledge.’ “

Helping internationals: its self-interest innit

Jeff Borland (Uni Melbourne) suggests a national self-interest case for helping international students

The hugely respected labour market economist suggests excluding them from income support, ignores, “the impact on their well‐being from the loss of income they had been earning (as well as the potential long‐term reputational effects on Australia as a location to undertake higher education studies).”

“To my mind, this is a case where we should think of how we would like our own citizens to be treated if they were in the same situation in another country.”


IRU to government: help internationals

The seven Innovative Research Universities all have student support packages, available to locals and internationals. It wants the feds to do the same

IRU argues, ““The government has a responsibility to support all students suffering financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, domestic and international. We need a fallback program that enables anyone legally in Australia to make a claim to in extreme circumstances.”

Director Conor King adds, “providing (international students) with last resort financial hardship payments would enable many to continue studying in Australia. This in turn would protect Australia’s reputation as a reliable and fair country in which to study.”

More time for research applications (just not much)

The NHMRC led grant agencies in adapting to virus-time reality. It’s done it again

The National Health and Medical Research Council is extending application deadlines for two COVID-19, Medical Research Future Fund grants, for respiratory treatment and anti-virals.

The NHMRC says the extension, “is following receipt of a number of grant extension requests.” It’s in-line with the council’s understanding of the pressures people are working under (CMM March 30).

Not that the NHMRC is all that relaxed on timing. Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the funding for the two new grants on March 21. Applications have to be in the council’s system by this morning and complete today week.

Adapting agreements to hard times

The Fair Work Commission includes the Higher Education Awards on a list it proposes to vary due to the COVID-19 crisis

“We encourage the industrial parties in these sectors to enter into discussions about measures to respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic (if they have not already done so). We will expedite any consent application to vary these awards,” FWC’s president, Justice Ross, and colleagues, state.

The Commission intends to act itself and vary awards to cover variations to existing conditions on leave, to suit the times.

It also, “encourage(s) the industrial parties to continue (or enter into) discussions directed towards consent applications to vary modern awards. The Commission is available to assist in facilitating those discussions on request.’

With sessional staff jobs at risk on campuses across the country the FWC’s suggestion is one that university management groups and unions will surely want to agree on.

COVID-19 wrap

Monash U flexes up

HR Chief Bridgid Connors advises staff whose areas are quiet or who cannot work from home to register for Flex@Monash, “to temporarily perform different duties, within their skill level.” HR will “actively match staff” to areas which need them.  But as for hiring in – forget it. There is a two-stage approval for using agencies and the CFO must approve contractor/consultant hires.

Griffith U eases up on assessments

The university, “recognises the extraordinary circumstances our students are currently experiencing” and announces “special considerations” for assessment, including; no record of semester one fail grades and increased extensions for assessments.

Charles Sturt U announces a $200 000 pool for research on COVID-19

The money is for projects investigating impacts, resilience and rebuilding. All disciplines and deliverables qualify.

Federation U student assistance “may” include

* “up to” $300 a week for five weeks, IT support and “student tuition fee due-date extensions”

Charles Darwin U has a food-bank functioning as part of its student assistance programmes

“We are trying to ease the burden on students experiencing hardship … many … have lost their part-time jobs as a result of COVID-19,” says VC Simon Maddocks.

Appointments, achievements

Helen Brown (ex ABC) joins the Australia-Indonesia Centre as head of comms and outreach.

Eric Reynolds (Uni Melbourne dental school) is awarded the European Organisation for Caries Research annual award. (caries is the profession’s term for cavities).

Barbara Pini (Griffith U) and Nicole Moore (UNSW) are appointed visiting professors for 2020-21 and ’21-’22 respectively at Uni Tokyo’s Centre for Pacific and American Studies.