Degrees of cute

Deakin U is handing out small stuffed-toy koalas at grad ceremonies – koalifications. Quite. It can only be a matter of time until ANU describes Etta, the rubber duck it gives to new grads, as a duckploma.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Everybody talks about teaching university teaching – but on the Q.T. there’s a practical way to do it with, “self-reflection, course and assessment design, peer review of teaching and the work of communities of practice.” Sally Patmore (Uni Newcastle) and colleagues, explain HERE. New in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning

plus It’s Open Access week, with climate research the theme. Ginny Barbour, Fiona Bradley and Clare Thorpe make the case for, “openly sharing research findings in order to drive rapid responses and solutions to the climate crisis,” HERE.

and Maree Meredith (Poche SA+NT) on why universities need more Indigenous leaders HERE.


Get ready Australia

As the nation debates the merits of a Voice to Parliament, a new conference asks whether the sector is ready for First Nations voices in HE

Are you ready Australia?, an on-line conference, 10-11 November, is by organised by Poche SA+NT in partnership with Twig Marketing, to provide an opportunity for all staff to engage in fresh perspectives into the role and relevance of Australian universities in future.

New and emerging Indigenous leaders will join panels alongside sector leaders, students and community members, promising fresh insights.

Tickets are available at

Southern Cross U splits unions on bargaining offer

The CPSU settles on terms for a new enterprise agreement

The Community and Public Sector Union and management have agreed on improved conditions and four pay rises across January 23- ‘25, plus salary scale uplifts and a signing bonus which management says combine to a compound pay increase of 9 per cent to 10.5 per cent.

“We believe it is a fair increase, given the university is obliged to balance its own challenging financial situation while recognising the increased cost of living in the regions that we live and work,” the CPSU tells members, among the university’s professional staff.

However the National Tertiary Education Union, with members across the university workforce, responds the pay rise is “inferior” to that agreed by the union at Western Sydney Union and removes/reduces a range of working conditions. Plus, the academic workload model stays as is – SCU switched to block teaching in 2021, which the union says expands workloads beyond “allotted hours” (CMM September 2).

The union urges “all SCU staff to reject the deal and force SCU managers back to the negotiating table to work on an agreement that is fair for everyone.”

The NTEU and CPSU are not always in accord at Southern Cross U. During Covid they split over a management savings plan (CMM July 8 2020).

If management decides CPSU support means it has the numbers, staff will likely soon get their chance to yea or nay the proposal in a Fair Work Commission vote.

Which it might well win. Union opposed agreement offers rarely get up – but it does happen, notably when the CPSU and NTEU are divided. Back in 2013 an enterprise agreement offer supported by the former and opposed by the latter at Charles Sturt U was approved by a vote of all staff (CMM September 22 2013).

International students exposed in Medibank record breach

Medibank Private has been concise in reporting what it describes as “our current cyber incident”. However every now and again new information appears, such as, some customers’ stolen records are from its international student system and include medical service codes “relating to their diagnosis and procedures.”

Which may alarm students from countries where government makes a habit of cyber stickybeaking into citizens’ lives.

Ways to go in international education

On Thursday the government announced a parly inquiry into international education with ”on-line innovations in education delivery” part of the terms of reference

And on Friday, Education Minister Jason Clare told an industry conference, “if we are serious about diversification, we have to diversify what we offer. On-line and off-shore. Degrees going to students, not the other way around.”

Now why didn’t the previous government think of that? It did.

“Growth is driven by students around the world who are unable to afford a premium in-country experience and looking for more affordable and flexible options. The rise of digital and online education, micro-credentials and transnational education (TNE) allows students to tailor their education experiences to their preferred location and style of learning,” last year’s  Australian Strategy for International Education 2020-30 states.

Working on this could have been a job for the Council for International Education, created by the previous government and apparently  continuing under this, which, “oversees Australia’s role in international education and training.”

It might still be, but for now it appears the government wants to hear direct from providers, via the fail-safe form of a parly committee report. The government can adopt or ignore whatever ends up in the committee report – but the industry won’t be able to complain it wasn’t asked.

Margaret Gardner gets it right

Flags were half-mast at Monash, Clayton Friday

In all-staff message Friday the Monash U VC marked the anniversary of a Clayton campus shooting in 2002 in which two students were murdered and four, with an academic, wounded.

In tone and content Professor Gardner got it right – remembering what should not be forgotten


Training regulator loses new role before it started

ASQA was pleased indeed when the previous government’s plan was for it to take over approving training packages from January – was

In March Australian Skills Quality Authority CEO Saxon Rice assured everybody, ASQA would “leverage our deep understanding of Australia’s national training system and draw on our extensive regulatory skill set and capability,” (CMM March 24) to do the job

Alas, we will never know. On Friday ASQA announced the Commonwealth had decided not to give it the job. Until a replacement is decided, the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations will do the approving.

So what got into the feds?

TAFE Directors’ Jenny Dodd saw an issue back in March. “The regulator approving the products that it will then regulate is an interesting decision,” But she added, “there was little alternative other than ASQA for an independent approval body, (CMM March 29).

Which is probably why DEWR will do the work, until somebody has a new idea who should.

Same money, different spending

In an admirably economic budget announcement the government promises critical minerals research and development funding by “re-purposing” previous commitments

It’s for the Australian Critical Minerals Research and Development Hub which will have $50.5m in the budget. It will draw together expertise in CSIRO, ANSTO and GeoScience Australia.

Presumably the Hub will be included in consultations for the “refresh” of the National Critical Minerals Strategy, which the coalition government launched in March. Consultation run to December.

Universities Australia calls for a united front on new deal with government

“If we speak in a unified and coordinated way, individual voices will not drown us out,” says UA chief, Catriona Jackson

The Universities Accord negotiation, which starts next month is the first opportunity since the Bradley Review of 2008 for universities “to work with government to shape our future.” “We have in front of us a clean slate,” Ms Jackson will tell the Australian Council of Deans of Science this morning.

Her speech signals that UA is keen indeed to work with Education Minister Jason Clare. And Ms Jackson makes clear UA understands that discord among the HE community will not serve its interests.

“Universities are unique in nature. What works in metropolitan areas isn’t necessarily what’s best in the regions. … Through this process we may find that compromises need to be made for the greater good of our sector and out nation,” her prepared text states.

In an apparent attempt to reduce criticism of what is expected to be little new money for HE in tomorrow’s budget, the text of Ms Jackson’s speech makes clear the Accord is the main game.

“If Australia is to reach its full potential, we must harness the full power of universities and we can only do that if we have the right policy settings. We can – and must – do this through the Accord.”

Ms Jackson also sets out what appear UA’s preferred ground for Accord discussions.

* funding for university research and development

* visa changes to allow more international students to work in Australia after graduating

* “a funding model that ensures Australia can adapt to growing and changing education and skills needs”

* an end to the previous government’s Job Ready Graduates fee model, “equity and accessibility are hallmarks of Australia’s university system. These values should be reflected in the way that we fund higher education.”

Mr Clare says the terms of reference for the accord and the “eminent Australians” to oversee the process will announced next month (CMM October 14).

Appointments, achievements

Australian and New Zealand Society of Nephrology award winners include * Georgina Irish – young investigator, clinical (ANZ Data Registry) * Jennifer Li – young investigator, basic science (Westmead Institute for Medical Research * Sih Min Tan – basic science (Monash U) * Thiveya Theivendran– clinical trainee (Concord Hospital), *Anita Van Zwieten clinical science (Uni Sydney)

Rachelle Buchbinder (Monash U) receives the Royal Society of Victoria’s Medal for Excellence, for research leadership in biomedical and health sciences.

Saskia Loer Hansen will join RMIT in January as DVC International and Engagement. She was recently at Aston U in the UK, and has previously worked at RMIT.

 Virginia Lovett joins Uni Melbourne as Director, Performing Arts. She moves from Melbourne Theatre Company.

Dave Peebles becomes director of the Australia Pacific Security College at ANU. He moves from DFAT’s Office of the Pacific.

At Uni Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience Denise Doolan becomes research director. She moves from James Cook U. Waldemar Vollmer also joins, as group leader, coming from Newcastle (as in the UK) U.