Still standing, getting moving

More big ideas at ReMaking HE

Join Brian Schmidt (VC ANU) Ashley Farley (Gates Foundation) and Lucy Montgomery (Curtin U OA expert) as they talk about the future for research funding and where open access fits in. Another session at Remaking HE: ideas for the post (or perhaps continuing) pandemic university. Dates and details for the on-line conference, here.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Coursera and Google, “have taken industry-integrated education to a new level”. Beverley Oliver explains what it’s about

The pandemic creates new risk management and critical incident reporting requirements for HE providers. Michael Tomlinson and Jane Fernandez set out what to do.

Juliana Ryan and Nadine Zacharias make the case for income support for equity students.

David Kellermann (UNSW) on creating a serious solution for on-line lecturing. Curated content from Microsoft.

La Trobe U restructure rolls on

Speed to pick up the pace for regional campuses

VC John Dewar tells staff that Provost Rob Pike’s work is done in creating the university transformation plan and it is time for CFO Mark Smith to take over as Chief Transformation Officer, to oversee business plans and track progress on savings, through to June.

Natalie MacDonald (VP strategy) and Richard Speed (DVC International) also pick up new responsibilities.

Ms MacDonald takes over digital transformation.

Professor Speed picks up a former brief for regional campuses, plus responsibility for international and domestic student recruitment. This move “reflects the important role of our regional campuses” plus … “our ambition to attract more international students” to them

All politics is local for Charles Sturt U

For regional unis the challenge is to keep your friends close and local MPs closer

The member for the seat of Wagga Wagga in the NSW Parliament wonders what CSU is up to; “here is a question in our community: has the university wandered from its purpose for regional New South Wales? Once a source of regional pride, there is now concern the university has become just another second-tier corporate education provider,” Joe McGirr told the Legislative Assembly last week.

Dr McGirr is concerned by CSU’s proposed savings but also its suggestion to a Legislative Council inquiry that perhaps its act could be amended to end an obligation to have campuses in specified places, which, “can limit universities’ capacity to respond to financial changes, demographic changes, shifts in demand or other circumstances. Without a more flexible approach there is a risk for some universities that they could be left with a choice between breaching their legislated obligations or taking on an unacceptable financial risk.”

This is an Appleby of an idea, courageous but not particularly politic. As Dr McGirr, who has a CSU campus in his community, told the Legislative Assembly, “no wonder there are concerns about the future of regional campuses.”

He joins the federal minister for regional education, Andrew Gee (Nats-NSW) in expressing concerns. Mr Gee also has a CSU campus in his seat and has questioned CSU’s savings strategy (CMM August 7).

Todd Walker’s Scottish play

He’s moving somewhere with even colder winters than UNE

The University of New England provost is in-coming VC of the University of the Highlands and Islands in Scotland. It looks like a good fit for Professor Walker who has become a specialist in regionally networked higher education. Before UNE he was DVC Engagement at Federation U, where he led an expansion of campuses and international partnerships. Highlands and Islands is even more diverse, “a distinctive partnership of 13 independent colleges and research institution.”

Walker is not the only Australian import at a Scottish university– Jonathan Powles (ex UNE PVC Academic Innovation) has just arrived at University of the West of Scotland.

Ways of the day to improve ERA

Science and Technology Australia responds to the Australian Research Council’s metrics review

The lobby proposes, in part;

* merging Excellence for Research in Australia and the new Engagement and Impact. “By keeping the EI and ERA measures separate, an unnecessary false divide is created in how we measure pure research and applied research.”

* publishing metrics every five years, not three

* using OECD members rather than all-world research to benchmark quality

* “use an auditing system to randomly check and ensure Australia’s research is truly above world standard”

* accrediting researchers only to institutions where they spend half or more their time

The Group of Eight wants ARC metrics to report “excellence at scale … which demonstrates consistent capability within specific fields of research and across fields of research”

Other recommendations include;

* stream-line data collection. ERA submissions can cost a Go8 university $1m

* ERA and EI move from three to five year rounds

* use socio-economic objective codes so that engagement and impact achievements are more apparent to government and people than in the first EI.

Get the word out

The ARC plans to release submissions to the research metrics review after it is out, which seems a bit late for a debate. So, CMM will report and/or link to, as many submissions as it can – send them in people.

Claire Field points to six coming changes in VET and tertiary teaching


The way people will learn will be different – whatever government does

With only 10 weeks left until 2020 draws to a close there is significant work underway in both the higher education and VET sectors in response to major funding and regulatory reforms introduced by government this year.

Universities are preparing to implement the government’s Job-Ready Graduates Package and discussions continue on a “sustainable research funding pipeline” through the Research Sustainability Working Group.

In the VET sector, the Commonwealth, state and territory governments’ $1bn in extra funding is being rolled out. The Australian Skills Quality Authority is progressing a new self-assurance regulatory model, and the sector awaits the final advice of the Productivity Commission on the next National Skills Agreement.

In the face of these changes it can be difficult to find the time to think through the likely long-lasting impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. There are a number of changes which have either resulted from the pandemic or been accelerated by it and which higher education and VET providers need to understand.

Specifically, I think the new “post-COVID normal” for the Australian tertiary education sector will include;

* changes to who we educate (in terms of both domestic and international student profiles)

* more flexible working arrangements and more online delivery (with a resultant shift in investment away from bricks and mortar and into improved technology)

* greater use of on-line programme management partnerships to deliver degrees and VET courses,

* increased use of virtual and augmented reality

* changes to who teaches our students in the form of much greater use of international experts and through disruptive partnerships

And on that note, I think we will continue to see growing competition from outside the formal sector.

I have teased these thoughts out further in a briefing note,  here .

Claire Field is an adviser to the tertiary education sector

Swinburne U to sack staff ahead of a tough 2021

VC Pascale Quester sets a 150 ceiling on compulsory redundancies

“This is a difficult reality to share, but I want to assure you that every effort has been made to keep the number of colleagues that will leave us as low as possible,” she told staff yesterday.

Professor Quester tells staff revenue is down $75m and the university will have a $45m deficit this year, after savings including a voluntary redundancies round.

But now, “reviews are being conducted in each portfolio to ensure we are operating in the most efficient way, including reducing duplication, improving processes and streamlining delivery. Inevitably some redundancies will be proposed as part of the process,” she says. Between 125-150 forced departures “will become necessary over the next few months.”

The VC also points to a tough new year, with the Commonwealth new funding for STEM undergraduate places meaning, “there will be less total funding per student.”

And competition will “reach unprecedented levels,” “as all other Victorian universities turn their focus on the domestic student market.


Carol Grech (UniSA) becomes a life member of the Australian College of Critical Care Nurses.

Karen Sutherland (Uni Sunshine Coast) is social media educator of the year in 2020 Social Media Marketing Awards. She was runner-up last year.

UWA to abolish faculties

Amit Chakma told staff UWA needed a new structure – he meant it

University Senate has adopted the new VCs change proposal (CMM Monday and September 28).

Key decisions include;

* abolish faculties to “give academic schools increased autonomy and agility to deliver the innovations we need”

* IT moves to the VC’s portfolio, “in recognition of the strategic imperative of improvements in this area to the university’s future”

* development and alumni relations “to report directly to the VC”

* arts and culture units in Global Partnerships moved to “more natural homes”

* a raft of changes to executive reporting lines 

” The observation has been made that the university does not have a strong history of delivering change well or sustainably at the scale of what is now required. Having heeded the lessons learned from previous large scale organisational changes, we will ensure that leadership has full transparency, are aligned to a common set of collective goals and that focus on a sustainable university remains our target, whilst we make necessary adjustments to our operating model, ” Professor Chakma states.

Dirk Mulder crunches the numbers: down, down internationals are down


Commonwealth data on international student numbers is out, comparing August 2020 to 2019

It’s the now usual bad news – except for VET, due to students from India and Nepal.

These numbers reflect the Commonwealth’s decision to allow starts from offshore due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions. As such an enrolment does not confirm that a student is currently in Australia.

 At the top level:  Overall new starts are down 17.9 per cent. HE across the country is down 22.2 per cent, schools are down 27.7 per cent, and ELICOS (for students with visas) is down 33 per cent, non-award is down 42.7 per cent.  However, VET is up 4.5 percent.

As predicted, enrolments are starting to tail off, down overall 3.5 per cent. HE is down 3.9 per cent, schools down 17.8 per cent, ELICOS (visas) down 22.8 per cent and non-award down 31.8 per cent. But total VET enrolments are up 13.5 per cent.

Commencements by state: NSW overall is down 16.3 per cent. HE down 16.1 per cent, VET just up by 0.04 percent, schools down 28.5 per cent, ELICOS (Visas) down 31.4 percent and non-award down 39.1 percent.

VIC overall is down 20 per cent. HE down 29.7 percent, VET up 9.5 percent, schools down 28.3 per cent, ELICOS (visas) down 35.5 per cent and non-award down 43.5 per cent.

QLD overall is down 20.9 per cent. HE down 21.1 per cent, VET down 1.8 per cent, schools down 28 per cent, ELICOS (visas) down 31.9 per cent and non-award down 47.6 per cent.

SA overall is down 9.8 per cent. HE down 9.4 per cent, VET is up 22.8 per cent, schools down 30.4 per cent, ELICOS (Visas) down 34.9 per cent and non-award down 39.3 percent.

WA overall is down 18.6 per cent. HE down 26.4 per cent, VET is up 8 per cent, schools down 17.2 per cent, ELICOS (Visas) down 29.4 per cent and non-award down 47.5 per cent.

TAS overall is down 14.6 per cent. HE down 22.1 per cent, VET is down 2.1 per cent, schools down 9.8 per cent, ELICOS (visas) down 53.6 per cent and non-award down 44.3 per cent.

NT overall is up 24.6 per cent. HE up 1.3 per cent, VET is up 65.7 per cent, schools up 6.7 per cent, ELICOS (visas) down 37.3 per cent and non-award down 17.5 per cent.

ACT overall is down 19.3 per cent. HE is down 24.3 per cent, VET is up 20.7 percent, schools down 26.5 per cent, ELICOS (Visas) down 54.3 per cent and non-award down 54.7 per cent.

Commencements from the big three

 China: Overall new starts from China are down 22.9 per cent. HE is down 13.3 per cent, VET is down 21.8 per cent, schools is down 30.4 per cent, ELICOS (visas) down 45 per cent, non-award is down 37.3 per cent.

 India:   Overall new starts from India are down 16.2 per cent. HE is down 45.5 per cent, VET is up 41.4 per cent, schools is down 16.9 per cent, ELICOS (visas) down 38.8 percent, non-award is down 32.8 per cent.

Nepal: Overall new starts from Nepal are down 8.2 per cent. HE is down 16.6 per cent, VET is up 2.1 per cent, schools is down 50 per cent, ELICOS (visas) down 12.2 percent, non-award is down 43.8 per cent.

 At the top level: The decline in total new starts, 17.9 per cent, is due to a relatively strong performance by VET. HE across the country is down 22.2 per cent, schools down 27.7 per cent, ELICOS (visas) down 33 per cent, non-award down 42.7 per cent. Vet continues to buck the trend being up 4.5 per cent.

Enrolments as predicted as now starting to tail off, down 3.5 per cent. HE is down 3.9 per cent, Schools down 17.8 per cent, ELICOS (visas) down 22.8 per cent and non-Award down 31.8 per cent. Total VET enrolments are up 13.5 percent.

 Overall commencements by states: NSW overall is down 16.3 percent, VIC overall is down 20 per cent. Queensland is down 20.9 per cent. SA overall is down 9.8 per cent. WA overall is down 18.6 per cent.  TAS overall is down 14.6 percent.  NT overall is up 24.6 percent.  ACT overall is down 19.3 percent.

 Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent