It has happened here

Maastricht University in the Netherlands is reported to have paid $US290 0000 to stop hackers destroying its IT system. Something similar happened here in early 2017, when staff at a peak lobby group arrived at work one Monday to find their files locked (CMM May 17 2017).  On expert advice, they paid the (far more) modest ransom the hackers demanded.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning; Merlin Crossley on the art and science of the conference poster.

Teaching on-line into China: easier said than done

With no normal first semester start likely universities are working out how they will teach students in China


With TEQSA announcing a relaxation of face to face teaching requirements, online engagement is gathering momentum.

Universities spoken to in the last 24 hours are all on the “on-line” and “additional support” strategy band wagon.

But while on-line engagement for orientation and mainstream courses is a forward step it is one that will work for weeks, until the end of the semester at best.

Group-work and assessments, taking the form of assignments, can be picked up via changes in pedagogy and enhancing tools, such as Blackboard.

However, DVCs Academic must be tearing their hair out over how to manage examinations and control standards.

And what will work for mainstream courses will not cover face to face or practical requirements for either starters or returning students.

These would need a course by course response and not all programs will have the same flexibility.

Folks close to the epicentre of emergency on-line course development also say tech staff across institutions are madly foreshadowing what students in China may be able to access, given the large firewall and data movement restraints.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent 

Ideas on what makes us Australia

The Senate committee considering “nationhood, national identity and democracy” conducts a hearing in Canberra today

The Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee is chaired by Labor’s Kim Carr.  It will hear from academics, independent commentators, and organisation heads, including, Karena Menzie-Ballantyne (CQU),  Sarah Cameron (Uni Sydney), Ian Chubb (Australian Academy of Science), Anthea Hancocks (Scanlon Foundation), Daryl Karp (Museum of Australian Democracy) and Greg Melleuish (Uni Wollongong).

Julie Bishop wants ANU to “lead the way”

ANU postponed installing Julie Bishop as chancellor until the community recovers from its terrible run of fire and hail and smoke. But her words of hope are circulating on campus

“I came to know ANU exceedingly well, first as education minister and secondly as foreign minister and I believe ANU can, and does, play an important role, providing policy makers with a range of avenues to solving problems, and ensuring the best course of action is adopted,” she says.

“It is important for policy-makers and the public service to have access to such resources beyond government. When I was preparing the 2017 foreign policy white paper I relied on intellectual input from ANU.

“Universities are microcosms of the broader community and they play a role in leading the national debates. Universities have to foster a culture of tolerance of other views, challenge the status quo and continue the search for new information.

They must avoid intellectual straitjackets, and ANU, as the national university, should be leading the way.

Virus crisis-unis aren’t panicking, yet

The NSW Vice Chancellors Committee will look to the state government for support if the corona virus crisis continues

It’s a sign of what is prudence, not panic, at least not yet, as university managements contemplate their cash-flows if the present ban on students arriving from China runs for weeks, or months.

Even before the corona virus was news, Macquarie U had announced it was closing a faculty to save money in the face of a feared drop in student demand.

And universities with transformative reform programmes set to run for years, like UNSW, and big capital building programmes, like Uni Sydney, will be wondering whether income projections set in current budgets are now achievable.

The problem for universities this morning, is that they do not know how big a hit they will take or what they can do about it.

For a start, nobody knows how long the ban on travel from China will stay in place. And while universities know the number of their students who are still in China they do not yet have the details they need, like years to complete and courses, to model how much they will lose.

And then there is the feasibility, in some cases possibility, of reducing the impact by offering courses on-line.

There was talk this week of students being able to study from home in China, and regulator TEQSA, announced it would bend rules to make this possible. But translating classroom-based courses, and assessment of them, into effective on-line education takes money, a great deal of money, plus time and expertise – a great of both. (Dirk Mulder writes on this, above).

The quickest solution to what could become a financial crisis for universities is for the federal government to lift the ban on students arriving from China – but peak university lobbies are not going to get ahead of medical advice in asking for that.

What they will more likely do is call on Canberra to provide extra funding for activities that international student fees support – notably research.

As to what the NSW government can do to help the state’s universities if asked– it could fund trade missions down the track to win Chinese students from Great Britain and Canada, which were not as quick to close their borders.

Appointments, achievements

Of the day

The Australian Academy of Science announces the J G Russell Awards, which top up funding for Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Research Awards; Blanca del Rosal Rabe (Swinburne U), Annie Colebatch (ANU), Laura Grogan (Griffith U), James Baker (Uni Sydney). The academy also announces similar funding, from the Douglas and Lola Douglas Awards, for National Health and Medical Research Council scholarship winners Roxanne Jones (ANU) and Emily Papadimos (Menzies School of Health Research).

Christy Collis joins USQ as associate director for academic development. She moves from QUT.

 Larry Forbes (U Tas) wins the ANZ Institute for Industrial and Applied Mathematics 2020 Medal. for Matt Simpson (QUT) wins the mid career, E O Tuck Medal.  Jennifer Flegg (Uni Melbourne) receives the new researcher J H Michell Medal and Rose Crocker (Uni Adelaide) the T M Cherry student prize.

Alistair Stark (Uni Queensland) wins the American Political Science Association’s Lasswell prize for a dissertation in public policy.

 Of the week

Peta Ashworth is appointed inaugural director of Uni Queensland’s Andrew N Liveris Academy for Innovation and Leadership.

 Kade Brown becomes strategy director at RMIT Online. He moves from consultants Strategic Project Partners.

Leon de Bruin joins the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music as a lecturer. He moves from Monash U.

Terry Hughes, (James Cook U) is joint-winner of a BBVA Foundation award for coral reef studies. BBVA is a Spanish bank.

Griffith U appoints artist Carol McGregor to oversee its Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art programme.

Grady Venville steps up to be DVC A at ANU. She was acting in the job last year and had been PVC Education since April ’18. “Grady has dealt effectively with numerous ‘wicked’ problems, and she is always a calm, reasoned and effective voice during even the toughest of situations, including those we are facing presently,” VC Brian Schmidt said yesterday.

Joanne Wallis will leave ANU’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre mid-year, to become professor of international security at Uni Adelaide.