Olympian ire

Griffith Uni reports its students on the Olympic Games squad will now “hit the books” while they wait out the delay. One way to take out their frustration.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Chie Adachi (Deakin U) on staying connected while social distancing  – she has a MOOC on how to do it. It’s a new essay in Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series, on what’s needed now in teaching and learning.

Kevin Bell wraps his series on on-line learning and teaching in crisis-time.

Merlin Crossley’s lab is working from home, here’s how it is going.

Uni financials: the good look better than they are  

The 2018 uni financial figures from the fed government are an indication of the shape of institutions going into the coming cash crisis

The bad news is for universities who were in weak positions when times were good – yes some improved their positions last year but that won’t be long enough to create a cushion for revenue falls this.

The system average margin was 4.3 per cent. Institutions which ran net operating deficits in ’18 included, Charles Darwin U (-8.3 per cent), UNE (-7 per cent), Swinburne U (-1.3 per cent), and Uni Adelaide (-0.4 per cent). Some barely breaking even were Southern Cross U, Charles Sturt U and UNSW.

The big margins were at ANU (nearly 17 per cent), U Tas (nearly 16 per cent), U Western Sydney (nearly 10 per cent).

As to the top five income earners – while the cash came in, a dangerously high per centage of it came from international students;

Some $879m of Uni Melbourne’s $2.5bn in revenue came from international student fees. The figures for the other four are, Uni Sydney $2.5bn and 17 per cent, Monash U $2.4bn, 25 per cent, UNSW $2.1bn and 18 per cent and Uni Queensland, $1.9bn and 21 per cent.

What students want, when they want it is now

Uni Adelaide SRC calls for census date to be delayed

It’s already occurred (March 25) but the ask is for an extension to the fee deadline.

Students are suddenly faced with courses that have been completely modified, delayed and transferred to an on-line space that many have found themselves comprehensively unprepared for.” Management did not do this, but announced changed assessments, late yesterday.

Curtin U Student Guild wants easing-up on assessments

Specifically, opt-in pass/fail grades and ending penalties for late assessments

Uni Sydney SRC calls for new considerations in marking and exams

Including a weighted average mark on graduation which excludes first semester 2020


Uni Adelaide extends concessions on student grades

DVC Pascale Quester details the “no student disadvantaged” rule

On Tuesday Professor Quester announced grades would not be affected by the change to on-line teaching. Yesterday she set out specifics;

* students can see results and then elect to have a passing grade converted to a non-graded pass which will not count for their grade point average

* fails will become withdrawals – again not included in GPA calculations

* results pending can be used when components of courses are postponed to subsequent teaching period.

Indefatigable UAC

Just fill in the bloody form

In NSW, the Universities Admission Centre advises 2021 uni applications are open. “While many Year 12 students are worried about the impact COVID-19 will have on going to uni, it’s important that they continue with their studies and their plans for next year.”

VCs and union in united-front talks on saving jobs

University leaders are in crisis talks with the National Tertiary Education Union, as the system confronts a collective loss this year which could reach $15bn

 Who’s in: Charles Sturt U vice chancellor Andrew Vann is leading a group of VCs now in discussions with the union. He is joined by Margaret Gardner (Monash U), John Dewar (La Trobe U), and Jane den Hollander (UWA). Stuart Andrews, head of uni managements’ IR lobby, the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association is also there.

Professor Vann warned CSU staff yesterday that the chance of no job losses in the present crisis is “extremely unlikely,” and that there are now discussions with the NTEU at a “national level” to “support job retention.” He added he hoped for “clarity” on protecting staff by end June.

What this means: Observers suggest the timing and membership of this informal leadership group demonstrates the dimensions of the disaster they are charged with minimising. The vice chancellors involved are all pragmatists, well-connected to the government but also comfortable working with the NTEU leadership. That the union is said to be talking demonstrates an equally pragmatic approach. Federal officials will have their own internal critics who will argue hard against any concessions on jobs and conditions spelt out in enterprise agreements.

Why they are talking: Because both sides need to. There are no all-uni numbers, but yesterday system-watchers put the COVID-19 cost for all-unis this year in a $5bn-$15bn range, with job losses of 5000 to 15 000. Institutions need to be doing something before asking for government support.

Who will listen to them: Education Minister Dan Tehan is listening to a lot of lobbies just now, but an informal group that can speak for university leaders and workers and which place outcomes above ideology should have a particular appeal.

Who’s missing: The VCs are representative of most of the uni lobbies, the Group of Eight, Innovative Research Unis and the regionals but peak body Universities Australia isn’t there.

UWA leads with virus savings

Senior staff received a message from management yesterday – it wasn’t good news

The university wants savings on salaries at university-executive and staff will need take leave to reduce its financial liability.

“”The University of Western Australia, like every other institution and business around the world, is considering savings where possible, in line with responsible business practice, to ensure future sustainability throughout and beyond the current COVID-19 pandemic,” Vice Chancellor Jane den Hollander said last night.

The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union suggests the VC’s plan could be the “least worst”.

“Our first priority is to save jobs. … While some of the university’s measures have a sting to them, we are pleased that the university has been receptive to some of our members’ concerns, for example expenditure on external consultants and contractors. Announcing a salary cut for the VC and senior executive is also a great start, and we hope that this decision to ‘lead from the front’ sets a benchmark for executives of other universities, “ president Sanna Peden says.

Grant back to CSU

Stan Grant has a chair at Charles Sturt U, no, a new one

The ex ABC journalist is appointed to the Vice Chancellor’s Chair of Australian Indigenous Belonging.

He has also been professor of global affairs at Griffith U (CMM October 26 2018) and before that held Charles Sturt U’s chair of indigenous affairs (CMM June 9 2016).

 Students accepting digital delivery: what QILT reveals

Universities have moved teaching from the middle ages to the new millennium in a month – who knows what students will think

In the long past days of distance education, the wisdom was that older students handled solitary study via the post better than young persons, yet to collect their self-discipline ration. But who knows now, with 18 year olds said to prefer monastic solitude with digital devices to hanging out in the hood (which in any COVID-19 case is illegal).

We will get an idea from delayed student census figures and when the next QILT comes out.

But the current Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching already offer an indication.

A Learned Reader says the data indicates that exclusively-external students are generally more positive about their course. Perhaps this could be, as in times past, because they are older. It probably is also why they think they are more prepared for study.

However, among commencing students, which surely applies to the mass of students now studying on-line for the first-time, QILT ’19 reveals remote delivery is not as popular.

For skills-development the split is 81 per cent positive for on-campus and multi-mode commencers and 77 per cent for external-mode commencers. The gap is much bigger for learner engagement, 63 per cent on-campus and 20 per cent externals. But then again, it is much narrower for teaching quality, with internals at 83 per cent and externals 86 per cent.

Dawn Gilmore’s on-line learning tip of the day

Your content is online, what’s next? 

Tip Seven: Build feedback loops into your online teaching practice

Provide regular and ongoing feedback to students, not just on assessments. Feedback is where you can have the most impact on a student’s learning experience. Help your students learn by making your online feedback explicit.

Here’s how.

Dolt of the day

Is CMM. Stephen Weller (yesterday’s email edition) is Australian Catholic U’s COO not provost.