Double dose of good cheer

Flinders U staff with both COVID-19 jabs will get two extra leave days

Vice Chancellor Colin Stirling says a good time to take them will be after the formal Christmas closedown, with the uni to run on a skeleton staff for an extra three days. This will mean staff taking 7.5 days of rec leave for a three-week break – or 5.5 days for the double jabbed.

And yes, Professor Stirling and all eligible members his family, are vaccinated. “The signs are obvious that we will soon move to a new normal in which COVID-19 is endemic across Australia … our best protection is vaccination, “ he says.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Mahsood Shah (Swinburne U) sets out students’ nine expectations to improve teaching. This week’s contribution to Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

plus, Corey Bradshaw (Flinders U) and colleagues wanted a fairer way to compare researchers  at different career stages and across disciplines, so they created a way to do it.

and Garry Carnegie (RMIT) on rankings and how they create competition when cooperation between universities is needed.

WA Chief Scientist propose one big public uni

Problem now is that universities in Perth “feel competition is local not global”

The state’s chief scientist Peter Klinken put the idea to the Legislative Assembly’s Education and Health Standing Committee, and last week it was raised in the chamber.

“There are universities here in WA that are really struggling. For the good of our society, I think we need to make sure that this sector remains viable. I think the best option is to combine all of them into one,” Professor Klinken said.

He added that “preliminary analysis that I have seen” indicated a state-wide university would be in the world top 50 and “it would take us close to being the highest ranked university in the country and it would provide serious scale.”

“If you have good rankings, students come to you. That covers your research, therefore you get better rankings and therefore you get more students; it is a virtuous circle going forward. If you cut the students, you have less money to go into research, your research rankings go down, your international rankings go down, students are less likely to come and see you, therefore you have less money, you do less research and you go through a death spiral.”

Professor Linken added that it would take leadership to start the needed serious conversation. “I think the universities here in Perth have been so focused on internecine warfare that they feel the competition is local, not global. We are playing in a global field; we should not be squabbling amongst ourselves and wasting our energy.”

Committee chair Chris Tallentire raised Professor Klinken’s ideas in the chamber on Thursday.


SURFS up in Toowoomba, Ipswich and Bendigo

The federal government’s Strategic University Reform Fund provides Uni Southern Queensland with $2m to research micro-processing “for converting challenging waste streams into novel products.”

SURF also allocates $2m to La Trobe U for a manufacturing and innovation hub in Bendigo. Apparently, it will provide “specialist advice and practical support” for businesses that want to  develop digital capacity.

Dirk Mulder calls it: international education is on the way back

Education Minister Alan Tudge says there is a lot of hope on the horizon


Remember the date: Monday, September 13, 2021.

It was on this day English Australia opened its annual conference, with Minister for Education and Youth, Alan Tudge making the opening remarks to the online forum.

Participants at the conference had front row seats at the watershed in Australia’s outlook when it comes to international students in the context of the pandemic.

The proverbial can wasn’t kicked down the road. The message wasn’t that it was too hard. Mr Tudge did not try to complicate the return with complex quarantining negotiations or even pass the buck to the states.

The message, and mark this date in the calendar for the record, was optimism about opening borders and a return of international students.

It was a clear change in outlook and policy for the government.

The optimism rests firmly on the back of increasing vaccination rates domestically and alternate quarantine measures that are currently being investigated in an attempt to open up capacity for entry.

These initiatives, including vaccination certificates being connected to passports, provide certainty for the government in knowing who is coming into the country and their vaccination status.

Mr Tudge said, “we are getting close to hitting the key vaccination targets of 70 per cent and 80 per cent and that is when the economy opens, and international borders can be more open including for international students which are specifically mentioned in the national plan”.

He went on to say, “there is a lot of hope on the horizon”.

However, the best bit was left for last…. and it’s something all members of the international education community have asked for since the pandemic began: leaders; teachers; and students a-like.

The minster stated international students and international education was important to the national interest.

His words were “international education is a really key part of our society educating people who come into this country, building up their skills for further study and many of those go on and become great Australians”.

With international diplomacy proving difficult for the government in recent times – thinking the China relationship and last week’s handling of the French submarine contract it is certainly a step in the right direction in stating what so many have been asking for so long: positive messaging. Furthermore, it underscores what all in the sector believe to be the foundation stone of the Australian offer –making student welcome.

Minister, well done.

Dirk Mulder advises education and business clients on trends in international education. He writes regularly for CMM

Uni Newcastle wants a deal for locals

Enterprise bargaining is beginning – management wants to keep things simple

Newly arrived DVC Global ,Kent Anderson says, “we want to reduce complexity in our employment framework without reducing entitlements to staff.”

It’s intriguing high-ground to occupy at the beginning of bargaining, not publicly engaging with the National Tertiary Education Union’s log of claims (notably a 12 per cent wage rise over the thee-year agreement) and calling for an agreement that suits local circumstances. Professor Anderson says he looks for agreements with the two unions (CPSU as well as NTEU) that are “closely aligned to the university’s values, employment policies, work unit plans and our strategic plan.”

One way to do this, he says is for the new academic and professional staff enterprise agreements not “to simply duplicate employee rights already enshrined in legislation.”

As to reducing complexity, perhaps Professor Anderson has an in mind an industrial dispute before he arrived at the university – over a failed management attempt to make professional staff take accrued leave as a savings measure (CMM November 26 and December 7 2020). Sorting out the industrial law implications ended up in the Fair Work Commission which found in passing that the NTEU and management, “had a high degree of difficulty” in working out how relevant causes in their own Enterprise Agreement apply, (CMM September 6).

Looking for reasons why undergrad certs should stay

Learned readers report the feds have commissioned consultants to report what the pandemic-response undergrad certificates accomplished  

They were created by former education minister Dan Tehan, to help people the pandemic put out of work to use the time to re and up skill and were originally intended as a crisis measure.

But in February UGCs were legislated by the Commonwealth, in the Provider Category Standards Act, subject to sign-off by state ministers at the end of the year (CMM February 22).

Which may be why advice on the achievements of UG certificates is being compiled, lest critics get in the ears of state training and HE ministers and complain that UG certificates, which can taught by private providers, mean less places for public ones to provide.

Business Council sets a course to RUN

“You are critical to the future of your communities, and their ability to prosper in a changing world,” Jennifer Westacott told the Regional Universities Network conference on Friday

The Business Council of Australia chief put RUN universities at the centre of the national skills and research debates and how they can combine.

On skills: One of the appealing things about regional universities is their focus on their students, on employment outcomes and on the needs of their communities,” Ms Westacott said, but she warned universities in general aren’t always good at, “supporting up-skilling and re skilling for people later in their careers who are looking to switch jobs, re-enter the workforce or upgrade their skills within a job.”

And she presented this as an opportunity for RUN members. “One of the essential ingredients for any place to thrive is an existing university that can work with a TAFE to provide the skills and training people need throughout their lives.  Regional skills models need to be part of a broader strategy to grow regional economies.

“The government will only treat universities with value if they can see value – and that’s where you come in. You are critical to the future of your communities, and their ability to prosper in a changing world. “

On research: “there is great potential for regional universities to have an outsized impact as research catalysts. They work better with strong connections with local industry, leveraging strengths and aligning with national priorities including in: agriculture, clean energy, and regional health.  …Physical proximity helps make connections and build trust, which is hard to do remotely. That’s why we are big supporters of innovation and investment precincts that bring universities together with businesses large and small.”

What RUN needs to do: Ms Westacott suggested regional universities need to do three things * rethink training and tailor it to industry, * rethink incentives to drive commercialisation and * “coordinate on an unprecedented scale.” … Australia is too small to have everyone being a centre for excellence in the same things.”

And she offered an alternative to cooperation, “you compete with each other, not to drive innovation, but to survive.”

Dolt of the day

Is CMM, which reported Friday that RMIT’s share of the Victorian government’s Higher Education Investment Fund is not yet announced. A learned reader points out it is, $44m for urban renewal at the CBD North campus. Even worse, CMM mentioned it (June 25).

Appointments, achievements

Jonathan Churchill starts at ANU as Chief Information Officer. He moved from James Cook U.

 Jane den Hollander (former VC of Deakin U and UWA) joins the board of WA Primary Health Alliance.

Livia Hool will lead WA’s first heart research centre, a partnership of Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, UWA and Wesfarmers.

 Lidia Morawska is one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2021. Professor Morawaska (QUT) is an air quality researcher who recognised airborne transmission of COVID-19 was the key in-door transmission issue.

Mike Ryan is confirmed as PVC R at Monash U. He has acted in the role since June.

Angus Taylor (Lib, NSW) is the acting minister for Industry, Science and Technology following Christian Porter’s resignation, yesterday. Mr Taylor’s substantive portfolio is Energy and Emissions Reduction.