Two tales of the ATAR

“It is the best of ranks it is the worst of ranks”

“Those with high capability but who come from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds, particularly low SES, Indigenous and regional, rural and remote students, are less likely to achieve high ATARs, not because they are not talented but because the ATAR is not a fair measure of their talent and capacity to success at university,” Eileen Baldry, DVC Inclusion, UNSW yesterday.

“The ATAR is the best available predictor of university success, as measured by students’ first-year grade-point-average … even though it is only one number, it is actually a broad summation of a student’s achievements from senior secondary schooling, Kim Paino, GM Marketing, (NSW) Universities Admission Centre, Wednesday.

Dan Tehan given a win on research

Sometimes research funding announcements (below) are scoffed at by an MP saying they will do nothing for their constituents within the week. There are two reasons why this won’t happen today

One is that Education Minister Dan Tehan is positioning himself as a supporter of research, perhaps because he believes it, perhaps because it gets vocal lobbies off his case, perhaps both. In the Reps last month, he spoke up for Australian Research Council, “funding for research, which is in the national, and international interest.”

“Researchers in universities around the country carry out research every day on different matters affecting the everyday lives of us all, not only in Australia but also right around the world. Cutting edge research is changing our world dramatically, but the incremental progress of long-term research programs is also vital for many industries, where commercial success comes from being just a cut above the rest,” he said (CMM ).

The other is that the government will want attention focused on Labor voting to abolish the $4bn Education Investment Fund in return for $50m for TAFE infrastructure (also below). That the $4bn (less $50m) will go to a disaster relief emergency fund might strike Labor tacticians as appealing to voters who don’t care about research.

But it won’t do much for Labor’s standing with generally rusted-on supporters in the research community.

SCU looking to Japan

Southern Cross U is implementing its new international student strategy – smart move

SCU hosts 22 Japanese officials and uni representatives on the Gold Coast campus today. It’s part of VC Adam Shoemaker’s plan to change the international recruitment mix and expand Japanese full degree students at SCU.

“SCU has adjusted its international recruitment processes during 2019 in response to an increased risk profile in South Asia, identified late last year. This is consistent with the changing source country status for students from India, Pakistan and Nepal applying for study in Australia,” the university has told CMM (October 2).

Numbers now add up for Macquarie U maths casuals

Casual staff in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Macquarie U believed they were not being paid the rate they should be for “small group teaching activities”

According to the University; “there was a dispute concerning the characterisation of casual work in the department. The Fair Work Commission was involved in early discussions. In subsequent discussions, the parties agreed to resolve the dispute by payments to some staff. The payments totalled $50,000.”

Macquarie U observers say management and the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union are now expected to review teaching activities against industrially agreed payment structures across the university.

Labor votes to end Education Investment Fund

As expected (CMM October 15) the EIF is no more – and it only cost the government $50m! 

The Senate sent amendments to legislation ending the EIF back to the Reps yesterday, where they were passed quicker than a finance minister can say, “whacko! that’s $4bn into the kitty.”

There is $50m for TAFE, (not VET, just TAFE) which was enough to win Labor’s support for the government legislation abolishing the fund. This is despite the party’s education shadow Tanya Plibersek calling on the education community to lobby a Senate committee to protect the EIF. “Labor will continue to fight for fair funding and proper investment in education,” Ms Plibersek said last month (CMM September 20). Perhaps she used “education” as a synonym for “TAFE.”

If anybody heard a distant rumble lunch-time yesterday, it may have been Kim Carr, in London, responding to the news. Senator Carr fought to save the EIF, from the first Abbott Government move to close it down in 2014, to the last – at the start of the week his friends were still suggesting it was not dead yet. It is now.

Where new ARC funding  goes

The good news is 100 new Future Fellows will share $87.8m for research. The bad news is they account for just 17 per cent of applications

The 2019 Australian Research Council Future Fellows were announced yesterday, with researchers at 23 universities successful. Uni Melbourne led, with 15 awards, ahead of Monash U and UNSW (13 each) and Uni Queensland (8).

All up Group of Eight institutions will administer 64 projects. ATN members account for a further 12. Of universities winning more than five, UNSW had the highest success rate, 25 per cent (13 approvals from 51 applications). Uni Adelaide, did well with 30 per cent (seven from 23), as did Monash U, 21 per cent, (13 from 61) Macquarie U, 22 per cent (six from 27) and Uni Melbourne, 20 per cent, (15 from 76).


ANZ open-access journal deal

The Council of Australian University Librarians (which manages university-journal relations) reports an open access deal with the (UK) Microbiology Society.

The agreement is for ANZ university libraries so inclined to pay a single fee that allows staff to publish in and all to read the society’s six journals. It includes “unlimited access” to all content behind paywalls, back to 1947, for reading, and text-data mining.

CAUL chair Jill Benn (UWA Librarian) calls it, “a significant step towards achieving full and immediate open access to research in the region. It is CAUL’s first transformative/transitional agreement with a publisher and we are thrilled it is with a not-for-profit organisation committed to open science.”

Back in August CAUL announced “transformative read and publish agreement(s)” were being negotiated with “three-learned society” publishers and “a significant medium-sized university press.” (CMM August 21). One down, three to go.

Times Higher Education ranks computer science

The University of Melbourne leads as ever, but the list is not the Group of Eight then daylight

UTS rates third in Australia and =79 in the world, with QUT at fifth and =86.  They are both level pegging with Go8 institutions. That Victoria U and Monash U are rated in the same group may please the former more than the latter.

THE says these rankings use the same methodology as the group’s all of university league tables –which will be interpreted differently depending on how an institution feels about its result

The full list is

Uni Melbourne one in Australia and =56 (in the world). ANU two and =69. UTS =third and =79. UNSW =third and =79. QUT =fourth and =86. Uni Sydney =fourth and = 86. Uni Adelaide fifth and 96.

Universities outside the top 100 are ranked alphabetically by band;

101-125: Uni Queensland, Uni SA

126-150: Griffith U

201-250: Monash U, Victoria U, UWA, Uni Wollongong

251-300: Deakin U, Macquarie U, Uni Newcastle, RMIT, Swinburne U

301-400: Curtin U, La Trobe U

401-500: U Tasmania, Western Sydney U

Claire Field on TEQSA re-registration

It’s good to see TEQSA re-register Uni Tas – but there are bunch of institutions to come


It was good to see TEQSA re-register the University of Tasmania for seven years. I was pleased because the decision appears to recognise, amongst other things, the seriousness of their response to the ABC’s allegations of English language ‘waivers’ for international students. You will recall Uni Tas commissioned an independent review, published the report and implemented changes.

It was also pleasing as it had been on my watch-list of providers (now only nine – two universities and seven non-university higher education providers) with registration “pending renewal” because TEQSA is yet to finalise their audits.

It is likely the situation will get worse before it gets better. The registration of another six non-university higher education providers is due to expire before the end of the year.

From the provider’s perspective, a delay in finalising re-registration is nothing more than an inconvenience. But there can be circumstances where the implications are more serious – for students and the sector.

The NUHEP whose registration has been “pending renewal” the longest amongst the nine providers, that is 22 months and counting, also had its registration period explicitly shortened by TEQSA. It is concerning that TEQSA does not appear to have made it a priority to finalise the audit of a provider which in the agency’s own words “failed to meet a number of provisions of the Threshold Standards”.

And if you’re also interested in VET regulation then you’ll want to listen to the latest episode of ‘What now? What next?’ in your favourite podcast app or via the website.

Claire Field advises on VET, international education and private higher education

Appointments, achievements

Of the day


The 2019 Prime Minister’s prizes for science:

PM Prize: Cheryl Praeger, (UWA)

Innovation: Peter Czabotar, David Huang, Guillaume Lessene, Andrew Roberts (Walter and Eliza Hall)

Life scientist: Laura Mackay (Uni Melbourne)

Physical scientist: Elizabeth New (Uni Sydney)

New Innovators: Luke Campbell (Nura)

Primary school teaching: Sarah Finney (Stirling East Primary, SA)

Secondary school teaching: Samantha Moyle (Brighton Secondary, SA)

Australian Catholic U announces its staff excellence awards

Mission: Refugee Law Project, Catherine Renshaw, Dominic Cudmore

Service: HR Business Partners, Liza Rainbird, Grace Porter, Leisa Waters, Kim O’Brien, Julie Crawford

Student Experience: Pro Bono law student placement, Diane Barker, Dominic Cudmore, Caroline Ryan, Kathryn Williams. Separately, Maxine Bradshaw for student support in Faculty of Law and Business

Research and Research Partnership: Acute stroke care programme,  Sandy Middleton, Simeon Dale, Elizabeth McInnes, Kelly Coughlan, Cintia Martinez, Tara Doyle, Joylynn Israel, Patty Zenonos, Benjamin McElduff

Community Engagement:  Daniel van den Hoek, Jye West 


Of the week

Adriana Verges is UNSW’s inaugural Emerging Thought Leader.

Monash U has appointed two new Sir John Monash Distinguished ProfessorsKim Cornish (Psychological Sciences) and Doug MacFarlane (ARC Centre for Electro-materials Science). Also at Monash U, the Vice Chancellor’s staff and student Diversity and Inclusion awards are announced. Staff honoured are; Nick McGuiganAlessandro GhioSudha Mani, Lisa Powell (Monash Business School) and Vivienne Mak (Pharmacy)

At UNSW, Mike Archer (UNSW) wins the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology​’s Romer-Simpson Medal for lifetime achievement and DVC Enterprise Brian Boyle becomes a professor emeritus

Uni Wollongong senior management moves

Vice Chancellor Paul Wellings takes on leadership of Advancement, “to improve the depth and range of relationships with alumni and stakeholders.”

Joe Chicharo moves from DVC A to the new Senior DVC role. He continues responsible for students, mcomms, planning and academic quality and standards and will have “particular responsibility” for the new strategic plan.

Theo Farrell takes up the new DVC E portfolio, “to focus on innovation of the curriculum to align with future workforce needs.” He moves from Executive Dean, law humanities and arts. Colin Picker, now dean of law takes up Farrell’s present role.

Damien Israel, now chief financial officer becomes inaugural chief operating officer