Next question

TEQSA quiz: What proposed changes do CRICOS providers need to seek approval from TEQSA for?”, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency yesterday, via Twitter. Three possible answers are provided, but wouldn’t be easier for the regulator just to tell direct institutions teaching international students?

There’s more in the Mail

In Features today David Myton reports that England’s vice-chancellors are restraining themselves from chasing bigger salaries.

Victoria U loses second staff vote on work agreement

Victoria University staff have decisively rejected management’s offer for a new enterprise agreement. The proposal included improvements on the deal staff knocked back in September .

The best management could make of yesterday’s announcement was that this loss wasn’t as large as the first one, with 33 per cent of staff voting, approving the deal, compared to 23 per cent supporting the first offer (CMM September 25 2018). The university is also pleased that nearly 70 per cent of staff voted this time (up from around 55 per cent last year), which “shows a larger number of you taking an active interest in your future Enterprise Agreement.”

Good, but way not good enough. This is a big defeat, signalling to management that a long period of disruption caused by financial woes and restructure plans has had an  impact. In essence when the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union and management talk about pay and conditions, more staff believe the comrades.

There were suggestions last night of the union taking industrial action – but it is hard to see why it would. Victoria U does not have much alternative to going back to bargaining – where the union will likely see no need to make concessions on the pay-rise it wants and workplace conditions it is determined to keep.

Sure, there is an apparent alternative for the university, problem is, it isn’t real.  Management could do what Murdoch U talked of doing with an expired enterprise agreement (but didn’t) – revert to the generally worse pay and conditions under the industry award.  Except VU can’t. Back in 2017 Vice Chancellor Peter Dawkins, said, “as is standard practice, the existing agreement will continue to operate after its expiry date, until it is replaced by a new agreement,” (CMM October 31 2017).

(Nearly) everybody gets the new UNSW timetable

UNSW started building a new teaching timetable two years back, (CMM October 28 2016 ) and it is being rolled out now. A comms push appears to have got the message out to students that things have changed – but not to all staff. A big education subject had a Monday meeting which students attended in mass but not the academic. The university advises an apology is issued and the class rescheduled. Otherwise management says the week is going well for 60,000 students starting 8,000 classes using the new timetable.

Minister attacks Academy of Science

The Academy of Science “seems to have done the Labor Party’s bidding,” in a report on Darling River fish deaths, (CMM January 24) according to Agriculture Minister David Littleproud in a media release, Monday.The Academy of Science accepted an invitation from Labor leader Bill Shorten to advise on the Darling River fish-kills and reported the other day. According to the minister some of its findings and recommendations are “sensible” and some not-so.

But while he addressed the state of the river Mr Littleproud wanted it known that the Academy’s CEO, is a former Labor staffer.

And so Anna-Maria Arabia is, she was a principal adviser to Bill Shorten before moving to the Academy in 2016. So what! People move between politics and policy all the time. And what, pray, does this have to do with the considered scientific judgement of the scientists who worked on the report? Not a damn thing, is the only answer.

It is a bad day for science when a minister attacks the work of its learned academy.

New payables planning for Uni Sydney

The University of Sydney estimates it buys $500m worth of stuff and services, paying 80 000 invoices to 15 000 suppliers annually. But it isn’t especially efficient, rating low on satisfaction and high on cost for a range of administration functions, including finance, according to a survey management cites in a change plan.

The university has a new purchasing technology supplier and CMM hears the final draft of a proposed new structure was adopted on Friday. Some 15 roles are set to go, with numerous others having changed reporting lines and roles.

UoQ opponents get in early (again) to oppose Ramsay Civ Centre on campus

Opponents of a Ramsay Centre for Western Civ degree at the University of Queensland are upping the argument, lest management moves fast.

Last week University of Wollongong opponents of a Ramsay degree there copped a coup de main, with management announcing process was complete and the course would start next year. Now the UoQ branch of the National Tertiary Education Union is getting out in front, announcing a protest for next Monday’s university senate meeting.

The union warns the Ramsay Centre and its donors will have opportunities to intervene in any course offered but it is also adopting the argument now being used by UniWollongong opponents of Ramsay – that it is company UoQ cannot afford to keep.

“The cultural chauvinism and whitewashing of colonialism evident in the proposed curriculum and public statements of proponents of the Ramsay Centre” plus that it is “incompatible with UQ’s commitments to reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” mean “a Ramsay Centre relationship “risks long-term reputational damage to UQ.”

Panel to ponder ARC prioritising research priorities

The government has asked learned persons, lucky devils that they are, to check how the national science and research priorities apply to the Australian Research Council’s competitive grants.

The what? you ask. The Department of Education and Training did not name them yesterday but CMM recalls in April 2015, the then National Science Council agreed to then Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane and Chief Scientist Ian Chubb’s proposal for eight research priority areas. In a win for somebody or other in some long-forgotten policy battle, the council also added an extra. The nine announced were; food, soil and watertransportcyber securityenergy, resourcesmanufacturing, environmental change and health.

The review panel is below, in appointments.

IRU lobby sets out the problems with system-wide performance measures

The government has set out the performance basis on which it wants to allocate undergraduate growth places from 2020 (CMM January 14).

The Innovative Research Universities suggests the approach is ill-founded and urges a return to demand driven funding saying the, “government should re-set the higher education funding framework announced at the end of 2017 so that universities can provide needed education outcomes (and) remove the cap on Commonwealth Grant Scheme funding for each university.”

The IRU’s submission to the performance funding discussion paper is, as ever, polite and precise but pulls no punches.

The lobby suggests the government wants “direct revenue rewards and punishments to really drive the best results.

“On this approach, the performance information should drive funding which should lead to some universities being better resourced than others. It would mean that students will have more or less resources targeted at them now according to the past actions of their preferred university and of past students’ choices about their future actions and assessment of their teaching. The IRU opposes this outcome.”

The lobby analyses in detail the government’s suggested system-performance measures and suggests that sector-wide benchmarks miss the mark, “due to the differences in student cohorts and the impact of variations in economic conditions for graduate outcomes.”

An alternative, IRU suggests for most quality measures, (is) “a demonstrated minimum acceptable level of performance, (which) is simple to administer and offers greater predictability for universities. It would not have much incentive impact on the basis that most universities would already be above the minimum.”

The lobby also suggests that whatever the government does, “the Act should be amended to set out how the Government intends long-term to set funding.”

Assuming that whoever is education minister after the election continues with the approach inherent in the review.


Ian Martinus will lead Edith Cowan U’s “industry engagement efforts in cyber security.”  He has doctorate in information systems from ECU.

Members of the panel reviewing how the ARC applies the national research priorities are drawn from ARC’s advisory council; Sue Thomas, ARC. Deborah Terry, Curtin U. David Lloyd, Uni South Australia. Kevin Hall, Uni Newcastle, Duncan Ivison, Uni Sydney. Lynley Marshall, Museums Victoria. Mark McKenzie, Council of Small Business Australia. Cindy Shannon, QUT.

Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, NHMRC chair Anne Kelso and DET secretary Michele Bruniges are additional expert members.