New year, new challenges

The pandemic may pass but its impact will continue and universities now need to focus on new challenges in what they teach, how they recruit students, what they stand for and how they explain it to a mass of audiences

Join experts addressing their pick of the issues at the last Twig Marketing-CMM event for the year.

Speakers include a learned of VCs, Patricia Davidson (Uni Wollongong), Carolyn Evans (Griffith U), Nick Klomp (CQU), David Lloyd (Uni SA), Paddy Nixon (Uni Canberra), Pascale Quester (Swinburne U), Zlatko Skrbis (Australian Catholic U) and Colin Stirling (Flinders U).

Sign-up here

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Nicholas Fisk and Daniel Owens (UNSW) on their new Aggregate Ranking of Top Universities (not all the results are what you might expect).

James Guthrie (Macquarie U) reports on QUT’s finances.

Michael Sankey (Charles Darwin U) and Chris Campbell (Griffith U) on live-lectures and tech in teaching – what students want is what works. It’s a response to Robert Vanderburg and Michael Cowling, in CMM here.

Suzy Syme and Liz Goode (Southern Cross U) on a prep programme for Y12s uncertain about study, new in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

A med-school move in Darwin

Charles Darwin U VC Scott Bowman does not muck around – launching in October the campaign for a med school by 2023

Now CDU and the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin combine to create a school of medicine, starting first semester next year and teaching PG courses in health emergency preparedness and response.

Dianne Stephens is seconded from the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre to be inaugural dean.

CDU adds a steering group will be appointed to oversee the school and “to seek Australian Government support for government-supported places for medical students in the Territory.”


Chief Scientist eyes a distant open access prize

Open science is the ultimate aspiration

Critics of Chief Scientist Cathy Foley’s idea for an Australian Model of research access make obvious but way too often ignored points. Dr Foley suggests a model that rolls open access and article processing charges into subscription fees (CMM yesterday). But this does not address the foundation of for-profit publishing – not paying authors and reviewers of articles based on publicly funded research.

Such criticism is correct  – but it is not going to create green open access. The models to create such free to read, free to publish research exist but the academic will can be lacking. The National Health and Medical Research Council has delayed (no word until when) its proposal to extend OA for publication of research it funds, (CMM April 16, November 2). It was supposed to start in January but while the NHMRC is not expansive on reasons for the delay, there appears ambivalence among researchers.

But the problem of publisher power is way-bigger than research articles and that may explain Dr Foley’s thinking.  The new big thing for research publishers is monetising access and analysis of the science data in their files. As UNESCO’s new Open Science Recommendation puts it, “some major publishers are evolving into monopolistic technology companies with the potential to privatise access to knowledge.”

The Chief Scientist points to, “the bigger and more transformative shift, including open access to research data, open code, open research infrastructure and other resources. This has a great deal to offer science … It will speed research, and it will provide the data stream to enable the full benefits of artificial intelligence and machine learning.” But she acknowledges “open science” is a “bigger and more complex step” than OA for published papers which can come first.  And if it does, it means publishers are engaging in a process towards expanding access.

The path ahead at Southern Cross U

Enterprise bargaining is beginning with management announcing its “guiding principles”

They include an agreement that is “fair and affordable” and “promotes innovation, change and efficiency.” In contrast the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union has a log of claims with 60 specifics. This might take time.

Universities ok with new foreign interference guidelines

They “are proportionate and carefully tailored” says UA president

The guidelines, announced this morning, follow the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security’s inquiry into national security risks on campus. They update guidelines from 2019. 

The PJIS heard extensive evidence on research-espionage in the sector.  However, in March, there was a  hair-raising briefing from independent monitor Human Rights Watch on harassment of Chinese students by agents/supporters of the PRC, followed by a report from the group in June (CMM March 12 and July 1).

And now the new guidelines require,

* universities raise awareness of staff and students by providing access to information about how foreign interference can occur on campus and how to raise concerns within the university or with appropriate authorities

* universities promote to all staff and students ways to report within their university concerns of foreign interference, intimidation and harassment that can lead to self-censorship, contrary to academic freedom and freedom of speech

The Guidelines also specify that university managements are accountable, with “a senior executive or executive body, responsible and accountable for the security of people, information and assets to counter foreign interference.”

Institutions must have policies and procedures that set out,

* responsibilities, obligations and expected conduct, and consequences if these are not met

* how universities address foreign interference–related issues such as harassment and intimidation that can lead to self-censorship

* who is responsible for tracking responses, and how these responses to foreign interference-related reports or incidents are managed

*  the method and frequency for assessing the effectiveness of security strategy, policies and procedures related to foreign interference,

The “refresh” of the guidelines, comes from the University Foreign Interference Taskforce, which included university representatives

The guidelines are good for universities in that they do not specify a single set of universal requirements, are “intended to be applied proportionate to the risk at each institution.”

But institutions are not entirely out of the surveillance frame. “The government may also seek assurance from universities that their approach to counter foreign interference aligns with these Guidelines and is proportionate to their risks,” the UFIT update states.

Which peak body Universities Australia wants known is ok.

“The guidelines are an important step forward in effectively countering foreign interference on our campuses, and balancing that work with the essential openness of any strong research system,” UA chair and La Trobe U VC John Dewar says.

“Importantly, the guidelines are proportionate and carefully tailored to universities with varying exposure and risk levels.”

Spending money on water

Deputy Nats leader David Littleproud yesterday announced a new partnership “to champion water security in Northern Australia”

It’s between the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia and Charles Darwin U, CQU and James Cook U. The CRC nominates areas of interest including governance for water allocations, trading and service delivery in agriculture.

While no money is mentioned, the announcement adds to a September announcement of $2m for hydrogen applications in regional industries at CQU and $4.1m for Charles Darwin U’s Research Institute for Northern Agriculture and Drought Resilience (CMM September 8). James Cook U and partners also have $8m over four years for a drought resilience hub.

There couldn’t be an election coming, could there?

Claire Field’s reasons to be cheerful on international students  


If COVID-19 has taught us anything it might be to remind us that predictions are incredibly hard to get right in unusual circumstances and that we need a wide range of data to take good decisions

I say that because of my optimism about the rebound of Australia’s international education sector – with the obvious caveat for Western Australia.

My positivity has me out-of-step with some others in the sector who are predicting slow, difficult times ahead. It is also a shift from my concerns last year when I worried that the closed international border and some of the public comments aimed at international students would have a long-lasting impact.

In fact, education providers have overwhelmingly offered their students the support they needed with their studies – both on, or off-shore.

It has not been perfect but in the middle of a once-in-a-century global pandemic – staff across many of our institutions have done exceptional work in supporting their students.

And now our competitors are simultaneously welcoming the fact we are re-opening but also (sensibly) expressing concerns about Australia’s reputation for being aggressive in our international education recruitment. James Pitman, Study Group’s UK/Europe Managing Director recalled recently, as I do first-hand, how bad Australia’s last student crisis was and how quickly we rebounded (when visa and policy settings were not as favourable to the sector).

One of the challenges institutions face as they look to “aggressively” rebound – is how to do so while at the same time diversifying their student cohort. Especially after the very welcome (but not entirely surprising) news that Chinese students remain favourably disposed to Australia.

Diversification was a topic I discussed with Neil Pearson at IDP recently. It is clear that as EdTech continues to enhance international student recruitment, it can also play a part in helping institutions with their student mix.

And a hat tip to Austrade for the upcoming Global Agent Week which will provide agents with all the facts on border re-openings, quarantine requirements, etc in each jurisdiction.

Claire Field is the host of the What now? What next? podcast. She was joined by Neil Pearson from IDP on the latest episode.

Appointments, achievements

Anna-Maria Arabia (Australian Academy of Science) becomes a Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy. The award coincides with Ms Arabia’s reappointment as chief executive of the Academy for a further five years.

Ian Hickie (Uni Sydney) and writer/podcaster Honor Eastly are joint winners of UNSW’s Australian Mental Health Prize.

Siok Tey (QIMR Berghofer MRI) and Penyi Yang (Uni Sydney) win the Metcalf Prizes from the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia.

Veena Sahajwalla  (UNSW’s Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology) is the NSW 2022 Australian of the Year.

Universities Australia announces its journalism awards – to Conor Duffy (ABC) and a team from The Conversation website

Sotiris Vardoulakis (ANU) leads the 30-institution Healthy Environments and Lives Network, funded via the NHMRC.

Alex Zelinsky has a second term as VC of Uni Newcastle, through to 2026. He was appointed in 2018.