There’s more in the Mail

In Features this week Matt Brett from Deakin U onreimagining higher education with transparency in policy, planning, actions and evaluation.”

Confucius Institutes: changes to stay

In CMM this morning Jeffrey Gil (Flinders U) writes on Confucius Institutes, where they come from, what they do and whether they should keep going in Australian universities. “Universities need to make changes to introduce more transparency and strengthen their control over CIs,” he writes.

Dr Gil is the author, of Soft Power and the Worldwide Promotion of Chinese Language Learning: The Confucius Institute Project.

Flinders University does not host a CI.

MOOCs empowering people

Another great community-service MOOC is back – there should be more like it

A new run of Clare Collins and Tracy Burrows’ (Uni Newcastle) MOOC, “The science of weight loss: dispelling diet myths” (via edX) starts September 4.  It’s another great example of the MOOC as public-good, potentially reaching vast numbers of people with information to help change behaviour. As CMM’s fans know, (morning Dad, hello Buzz Border Collie) he is perplexed why government is not commissioning university teachers and researchers to create community-service MOOCs.

MOOC aggregator Class Central makes the point, six Aus health and well-being MOOCs are in its all-time top 100, Uni Tasmania’s self-published Understanding Dementia, Understanding MS and Preventing Dementia, two Monash U’s MOOCs on mindfulness plus its Food as Medicine (FutureLearn).

(Other Aus achievers are Uni Adelaides’ Shakespeare Matters (edX) and Uni Queensland’s Science of Everyday Thinking (edX) ).

Nothing unknown in Uni Queensland advertising

Uni Queensland has a new branding statement for student recruitment and research promotion, “every known starts with an unknown.”

No, it won’t be confused with the wretched Donald Rumsfeld’s (forgotten him? – very wise), insight, “there are known unknowns.” The university’s target audience was barely born when he was making a hash of the US occupation of Iraq.

The Uni Queensland message extends its “own the unknown” recruitment campaign that started last year. The new TVC begins by warning “our future is full of unknowns”, and urges young people “to discover everything there is to know about them.” And, what do you know! Uni Queensland can help. “When you learn from the best teachers in the nation you will be prepared for your first job and beyond.”

Warning taxpayers at risk if China student boom busts

Australian unis must “wean themselves off their addiction to international students,” warns Salvatore Babones

And by “international” he mainly means students from China.

In a new paper for the Centre for Independent Studies, Associate Professor Babones (Uni Sydney) warns seven universities, “appear to be more dependent on fee-paying Chinese students than just about any other universities in the English-speaking world.”

The seven he sees as especially dependent on China as a source of fee-paying students are; the universities of Melbourne, Sydney, NSW, Adelaide, Queensland, plus ANU and UTS.

Aspro Babones argues at length why the existing system-wide situation is academically (entry via pathway programmes) and financially (budget-dependence on international fee income) at-risk. And he warns, “since international students are overwhelmingly concentrated in Australia’s public universities, this financial dependence constitutes a risk to Australian governments, and ultimately to taxpayers.”

He proposes measures for universities to reduce their exposure, including;

* “reducingreliance on international students to manageable levels, with targets set both for the university as a whole and for individual programs” and

* “reducing “the proportion of international students hailing from any one country to manageable levels, with targets set both for the university as a whole and for individual programs”

However, overall universities would be powerless to stop a major decline in demand;

“If the Chinese government, faced with a currency crisis, were to suspend the convertibility of the yuan for educational purposes, this could result in a severe decline in Chinese student numbers at Australian (and other international) universities. It seems unlikely the Chinese government would take such a precipitate action, but there are no practical limits on its power to do so,” he writes.

He suggests, universities can reduce their need for current numbers of international students by acting on, “obvious areas for fiscal improvement” which are in their power, such as

* “the reduction of deadweight administrative overheads

* increased use of technological multipliers,

* pursuing private philanthropy.

These are all areas “where the route to solvency runs primarily through domestic territory,” he argues.

But he is not optimistic. “Administrators have proved reluctant to cut bureaucracy, academics have proved reluctant to embrace technology, and philanthropists have proved reluctant to invest in universities that refuse to be held externally accountable.”

More research open access coming

The peak library body aims for a “future state of immediate and perpetual open access to content”

The big open access battles are being fought in Europe (for-profit publishers v Plan S nations) and the US (Elsevier v University of California) but all seems quiet on the Australian front.

Not quite. The Council of Australian University Librarians, which manages publisher agreements, says change is imminent.

A “transformative read and publish agreement” with “a significant medium-sized university press” is “in advanced negotiations.”  CAUL is also negotiating with “three smaller learned society publishers for transformative agreements.”

“The focus is on journal publishing with the aim of transforming the nature of the agreements from subscription-based access to content as the starting point, to service-based publishing and open access to content as the end point. The aim is a future state of immediate and perpetual open access to content.”

CAUL isn’t saying who it is talking to, but expects these deals to be announced next year.

And maybe this could be the start of something big. “Early planning and preliminary modelling is underway with a major publisher for a read & publish agreement to commence in 2021,” the council advises.


Uni Newcastle’s Cagri Emer and Graeme Jameson have won the Coalition for Eco-Efficient Comminution’s 2019 Technical Medal, (its about reducing solids, generally in mining). It’s yet another gong for the much-honoured Professor Jameson. He was NSW scientist of the year in 2013, was admitted to the International Mining Technology Hall of Fame in 2014, won the prime minister’s prize for science innovation in 2015, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Mineral Processing Congress in 2016 and they are just the ones CMM has reported.

Amanda Heffernan from Monash U wins the educational writing award from the Australian Council for Educational Leaders.

Three ways to protect the international education market

By Claire Field

Each year Australia is trusted to educate hundreds of thousands of students from across the globe. We can be rightly proud of our international education efforts. Student satisfaction data shows the significant positive impact our educational institutions are making.

Our success though doesn’t mean we can afford to be complacent. There remain a number of important issues we should be focussed on, including:

* why, despite the rhetoric, do our efforts at diversifying our international student cohort look like we’re merely paying lip service to the idea? (83 per cent of higher education enrolments and 71 per cent in VET come from just 10 countries.)

* agencies like the NSW Auditor General highlight the financial risk for universities in being so reliant on students from one source country (China). Yet commencements from Chinese students in both higher education and VET are increasing.

* the difference in the provider profile across the sectors – 84 per cent of international higher education enrolments are in public universities yet fewer than 6 per cent of international VET enrolments are in TAFEs

I have pulled the data from Austrade’s excellent Market Information Package. My analysis is here if you’re interested.

Claire Field advises on VET, international education and private higher education.