Break a leg!

Good luck to Osteoporosis Australia with its name change, Healthy Bones Australia.


Adelaide local hero (first in a series)

Last week new Uni Adelaide VC Peter Høj was all over the city’s media, now Uni SA’s David Lloyd gets a go

The coverage of Professor Høj’s appointment included his support for merging Uni Adelaide and Uni SA when he was VC of the latter (CMM February 3).

This week Uni SA’s present boss is in The Advertiser, as seventh of the paper’s pick of 21 SA agenda setters. The story explaining why is a chorus-line of free kicks, with Professor Lloyd setting out opportunities for the state and how Uni SA can help.

He’s one of the two on the paper’s pick announced so far – the full list is on Friday, when readers get a chance to rank them.

With Professor Høj just back it might be too early for him to get a guernsey, but surely Flinders U VC Colin Stirling will be on the list.

Whatever happens, university-watchers will interpret who ranks where in the context of the never-ending debate on university-mergers.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

James Guthrie and Tom Smith (Macquarie U) respond to Deakin U VC Iain Martin, (he called their analysis of his university’s financials “superficial).

Michael Healy (Uni Southern Queensland) argues that although student employment and career development are different in both research and service they need to work together. This week’s essay in Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series on what we need now in teaching and learning.

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on competition – there are times to apply the changing the bike tyre test.

On-line work and learning: what technology can do now

IT networking provider Cisco and telco Optus set out how the permanent switch to virtual learning and remote working creates opportunities for staff and students

“The rapid (and permanent) shift to virtual learning and remote teaching and administration has completely changed the education landscape and pose opportunities to reimagine what the work and learning experience looks like for staff and students alike.” The paper is here.

Universities “the ramparts of democracy” says ANU VC

“Extreme forms of populism, at times and in places approaching fascism, have gained a dangerous foothold in our world,” Brian Schmidt warns

Professor Schmidt’s “state of the university” address today will warn that democracy is threatened by “extreme forms of populism” and that the standing of its defenders in the public service, press and “political class,” “has been weakened.”  “They all are trying to grapple with the effects of profound social and technological change. And failing.”

The Vice Chancellor will add that, “of the great institutions that have traditionally comprised the ramparts of Australian democracy, only the universities have retained the public’s trust,” which “gives us a special responsibility to show leadership.”

Professor Schmidt will argue that universities “are needed like never before” because “they exist to establish what is true” while “the Enlightenment belief in the primacy of the truth,” is being undermined.

But he is also expected to add that the research-response to COVID-19 has asserted both the role of universities and the primacy of science.

“In fighting the pandemic, academics have not only enhanced the reputation of universities, they have enhanced the reputation of science – the crucial discipline that needs to retain, and in some places regain, the world’s trust if we are to succeed in tackling, for example, climate change.”

Uni Melbourne to announce staff “reset” out of jobs

Outcomes of the professional services redesign expected today

It’s been a long and painful process for people who first started fearing for their jobs back in August, when senior executives Mark Considine and James McCluskey told staff there would be a “re-set” of “transactional and advisory services,” (CMM August 28).

Staff whose jobs will be abolished are expected to leave in April.

But it could be worse. At least that’s what management of one school appears to think, promising to keep everybody informed of redesign outcomes and adding staff should “take pity” on managers “who will spend much of the month locked in meetings.”


Every little bit ….

The ACT Budget includes a payroll tax deferral for universities – saving them $228 000 across the forward estimates.

There is also $4.164m this financial year and next for a Future Jobs Fund to “protect or create new jobs in universities and the private sector.”

Look where medical research has got us, urges lobby

But Australia needs to prepare for future pandemics

“Decades of investment in medical research has guided Australia’s response to Covid-19, averting the public health catastrophes that have occurred in most other countries,” the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes states in its federal budget submission.

And on that basis, AAMRI asks for 300 additional National Health and Medical Research Council, Investigator Grants, to go to early and mid-career researchers.

AAMRI suggests funding them from new money for the NHMRC and from the Medical Research Future Fund’s existing resources.

“It will be our future investment in medical research that will help guard against future pandemics and other health challenges,” the association suggests.

Claire Field on a VET review which HE people need to read


In November 2019, the Victorian Government commissioned a review of their post-secondary education and training system (the Macklin Review). Yes… another review and yes, despite the post-secondary focus, VET issues understandably dominate the final report released last week. But the higher education sector should not ignore it.

The report includes important modelling (by economic consultants, AlphaBeta) highlighting that “relative to other advanced economies, Australia lacks skills depth in occupations at each of the elementary, semi-skilled and skilled levels”, i.e. we need to lift the number of VET and higher education graduates.

Based on AlphaBeta’s modelling, Macklin recommends the Victorian government focus on four key strategic sectors:

* green economy

* health tech

* digital, and

* advanced manufacturing.

The report notes that digital and the green economy in particular have the potential to create an extra 271,000 jobs in Victoria by 2030 – and that advanced research and development capabilities (amongst other factors) will be required across all four sectors.

Macklin also fully engages with changing teaching practices and argues for the “scale up” of innovation in digitally-supported learning, including through the co-design (with industry, providers and online learning experts) of on-line work-integrated learning models that “combine frontier digital practices in industry with cutting-edge learning”, and an examination of “best practice in ensuring equity in the use of technology in online and blended learning environments.”

And of course, there are also recommendations for more/better pathways between VET and higher education and reduced regulatory overlap for dual-sector providers.  So definitely worth a read by higher education leaders.

Finally, on a different note, I wanted to acknowledge the TAFE CEOs whose Institutes made submissions to the review arguing for improvements to state VET funding arrangements. With TAFE’s relative lack of autonomy, it takes courage to make a public case for changes to government policy. Pleasingly Macklin recommends significant VET funding reform and greater autonomy for TAFE Institutes.

Claire Field is an adviser to the tertiary education sector.

Making more of HASS and creative industries at Uni Newcastle

They face threats a merger could prevent

Last year Uni Newcastle management announced the end of the five faculties, replacing them with three colleges. But the make-up of their constituent schools is not settled, with consultation to start next month.

John Fischetti, PVC of the new college, Human and Social Futures, with colleagues, Paul Egglestone (Creative Industries) and Catharine Coleborne (HASS) propose merging those schools, which as they stand, are at risk from government funding changes and international and domestic student “enrolment patterns.”

They suggest a new school would “advance the university’s Life-Ready Graduates agenda, “improve community understanding and appreciation for the vital contribution these disciplines make, “allow us to weather the current storm of fee changes and funding caps” and “reset our cost base to achieve long-term financial sustainability”

This may sound familiar to Uni Newcastle staffers who remember the humanities cuts announced in 2017, when stand-alone philosophy courses went and classics and ancient history were reduced as part of a new BA. Back then the university told CMM (October 30 2017), “our research shows that students are seeking degrees with applied aspects and with a focus on careers in social assistance, human services and social impact and innovation.”

Mostest MOOCss

Uni Queensland makes the world top ten on the MOOC Lab ranking

As with most rankings there is not much movement in the top 100. Uni Queensland rates 10th (12th on the July ’20) list, Deakin U is 12th, Curtin U is 45th, Monash U is 46th, Macquarie U is 52nd, Uni Adelaide is 54th, Uni Melbourne is 58th, Uni Sydney is 67th, ANU is 82nd, and UNSW is 91st – all largely in-line with the previous lists (CMM July 7 and November 27 2019).

The ranking covers MOOCs on edX, Coursera and Future Learn and scores for multi-MOOC programmes, for-credit and degree and a mean, averaged from QS, ARWU and Times Higher rankings.

Appointments. achievements

Damian Bates becomes acting CEO of BioCurate, a medical/pharma commercialisation JV between Monash U and Uni Melbourne. Founding CEO C Glenn Begley moves to an advisory role.

Gillian Harvey joins Flinders U as a research lead at the Caring Futures Institute. She moves from Uni Adelaide.

CQU VC Nick Klomp is the new chair of the Regional Universities Network. He takes over from Uni Sunshine Coast’s Helen Bartlett.

 Martina Stenzel (UNSW) is one of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry’s 2021 distinguished women in chemistry/chemical engineering.