Just the fact

“It’s time for fun fact Friday” UQ news tweeted the other day. This was followed by advice the university has a research and education facility on the Great Barrier Reef. Well, it was a fact.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Rachel Sheffield and Dale Pinto (Curtin U) on the need for university teachers to be part of a community and how their university works to create one. Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s new selection for her celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

Plus, the Research and Development Tax Incentive is indestructible. Kirsty Abbott (CQU) considers what it does and ways it could be better.

With, Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on relationships between academics and professional staff (M*A*S*H is a good model).


On your marks

And get set for the Regional Universities Network conference. The starter’s gun is noon, Thursday

RUN unis are the heart of their communities, pumping job-generating money into cities, circulating ideas that improve lives and industry and energising the next generation of leaders they educate. How they do it and what they need to do more of it is on their conference agenda.

Uni Melbourne ways to get the word out

News of the cheque is in the mail

VC Duncan Maskell’s apology to underpaid casual academic staff (CMM Friday) was not heard by all of them. Learned readers were quick to point out that as former staffers they have no current Uni Melbourne email and first heard about the apology and repayment from the media. Others, they suggest, may not have heard at all.

So CMM asked what Uni Melb is doing to reach people owed at least the apology and the university replied that it had already taken “extensive steps” to contact past casuals via email and post, plus the VC’s statement is on the website. “When and how we communicate to current and past staff on employment issues arising from the casual academic underpayments remains a matter of constant review and action by the university.”


ACCC looking at Turnitin

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has “preliminary concerns” about plagiarism detector Turnitin’s proposed takeover of competitor Ouriginal

Preliminary but substantial. The ACCC is “concerned that the proposed acquisition will substantially lessen competition in an already highly concentrated market and may lead to higher prices or reduced service levels.”

“Barriers to entry appear to be high in this market, with strong network effects and economies of scale being enjoyed by Turnitin. What we are focussing on here, is whether Turnitin is buying out its most promising competitive threat to protect its market position,” ACC commissioner Stephen Ridgway says.

Turnitin already dominates the Australian market, with Ouriginal citing only Murdoch U and Uni Canberra as university clients. LMS provider Blackboard also has Safe Assign which is used by at least four universities.

The ACCC’s statement of issues is here. The Commission invites submissions by September 27.

It’s an offer worth taking up. Turnitin resources are vast – it claims 1.4bn student papers in its database and 82m scholarly articles. It’s a resource so expensive to ever equal that competing with Turnitin could become too hard, giving it an effective monopoly.

A possibility universities should surely have a view n.

“Go away!” of the day, from Australian Catholic U

The university is not talking about casuals’ conversion

Casual-employed academics all-over are receiving “no continuing jobs for you” letters. Including people at Australian Catholic U who thought they would meet the new Fair Work Act test, (a year on the payroll and six months in a consistent employment pattern).

CMM asked ACU how many casuals will get job offers and how many won’t and was told, “the conversion process is underway in advance of the end of September deadline. At this time, a report will be provided to the ACU Staff Consultative Committee.”

What Monash U plans to do

There’s a bunch of detail about the impacts Monash U wants to make in its 2030 strategic plan – but no numbers that measure them

The “challenges of the age” Monash U will address are, climate change, geopolitical security and helping with “imagining and creating better futures for all.”

Ways to do it include:

* education: student retention “and success” and graduate employability

* research: field-weighted citation impact and internationally-recognised systems of peer review (CMM thinks the latter means ranking)

* international engagement: staff-student diversification and mobility

* access and success of socio-economically disadvantaged groups; and “access, success and employment” of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

Plus operational goals deep in the detail

* student participation in industry, including start-up creations; and industry research and education revenue

And goals for staff

* “teams that span internal and external organisational boundaries”

* “alignment of recognition and reward policies and practices to support collaboration and inclusivity”

* “new structures to support cross-campus action, large multi-party programmes and projects, and major infrastructure or system changes”

To pay for it

* an operating surplus, “sufficient to ensure the quality of education, research and services”

* diversifying revenue to reduce dependence on government research funding

* “increasing the range of nations and teaching modes from which education income is derived”

So how will people know how things are going?
They won’t, as is the way of university strategic plans, there are no numbers to measure achievements

First international arrivals

Trade Minister Dan Tehan told Sky News yesterday that the government has developed a QR-code based vaccination certificate to link to passports, which could be used for international arrivals

Mr Tehan said that it was being sent to Australian posts overseas to be trialled as of this week. Good news for international education?

Perhaps. Mr Tehan said, “the focus is making sure that it will work with Pacific Islands, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, the UK, the US, “, making no mention of the two biggest education markets.

More time to consider Deakin U departures

Management has extended consultation by a week

There was uproar at Deakin U when VC Iain Martin announced another job-shedding restructure a fortnight back. Last year’s cut 300 positions and now the university proposes a further 180-220 to go (CMM September 1).

There are staff who are especially upset that management allocated 14 days for consultation and so on Friday Professor Martin announced a university wide extension from this Friday to next.  The VC was keen to assure the DU community that “consultation continues to be at a university-wide level … nothing has been finalised and there are opportunities to contribute to the final decision.”

This might be a move to avoid a repeat of last year, when the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union went to the Fair Work Commission, disputing management’s preference for consulting by operating unit, rather than at a whole of university level. The FWC ordered all of university talks and management agreed, although it complained this would slow the process (CMM July 6 2020).  But in the end the university still did it pretty much what it had proposed in the first place, just later (CMM September 7 2020).  Avoiding another such delay might be what it has in mind now.

Preparing for the worst

“Coming together to defend against CBRN threats” the Defence Science and Technology assures us.  Relax, the national capital is not under attack

DST refers to CBRN as “chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear environments” and it announces a new council of expert-agencies on threat response. Organisations involved are, ANSTO, Explosive Protective Equipment, (defence consultants) Leidos Australia, Queensland Fire and Rescue, QUT, Uni Adelaide, Uni Melbourne, Uni Queensland,

Government funding more students –  there’s a wait

It will take years to make up the cost of previous cuts

Mark Warburton explains what the Job Ready Graduates involves, in a new paper for Uni Melbourne’s Centre for the Study of Higher Education.

Announcing the JRG funding model last June then education minister Dan Tehan said the it would provide 39 000 additional places by 2023 and 100 000 by 2030 (CMM June 19 2020).

Back then attention was focused on the increase in CSP funding for courses the government approves of (science for example) and reductions for those it doesn’t (humanities and business). But Mr Warburton ventured deep into the policy weeds to identify  a bigger issue, the government is not providing enough money to deliver the promised places, at least not in the short and medium terms.

The shortfall flows flows from the 2018-19 funding freeze and a below inflation 2020 increase for places. And people enrolled in degrees prior to 2021 which cost more under the new model, will keep paying the old rate.

Mr Warburton argues in great detail that the impact of funding changes since 2018 has under-delivered by the funding equivalent of 39 000 places this year and there is no funding for the 27 000 additional places promised under JRG. He estimates that the subsidy shortfall will decline over time but that in 2024 there still will be 14 000 fewer places than promised. He also estimates how long it will take for government funding for student places to reach the 2014-17 benchmark (2023) and to support its promised new places (2026).

“If the Government was genuinely concerned to ensure that universities were able to support Australia’s economic recovery, it could have put in place a policy that was both more effective and simpler than JRG. As a first step, it could have ensured that it provided the subsidies to support the student load already in the system in 2019,” he argues.

Mr Warburton also looks at the impact of specific targeted funding, including.

Universities trading Commonwealth Supported Places: “It is quite extra-ordinary for a government to put in place a policy that allows a government subsidy being provided for the benefit of a person to be arbitraged by a service provider.”

Short course: “The extent to which there is a serious policy agenda underlying short course funding is unclear,” Mr Warburton suggests, pointing to graduate certificates which may be “little more than excisions from PG qualifications.” He warns that most short courses will cease, for want of funding.



Linda Colley moves from CQU to the Queensland Public Service Commission to become special commissioner for equity and diversity.

 At UTS Mark Evans moves from head of the School of Communications to PVC Enterprise Learning. Tony Macris will act in the comms school role pending the results of an external recruitment campaign.

Fiona Foley (Griffith U) wins the Queensland Premier’s Award for a work of state significance for her book, Biting the Clouds: A Badtjala perspective on the Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act, 1897 (UQP).

Denise Goldsworthy is the in-coming chancellor of Edith Cowan U. She will replace Kerry Sanderson in January. Ms Goldsworthy joined council in 2013 and is now deputy chancellor.

The Victorian opposition frontbench is announced.  Melina Bath is the assistant shadow for education. David Hodgett is the education shadow. Bridget Vallence is the new shadow minister for innovation, digital economy and medical research

Johanna Weaver becomes inaugural head of ANU’s new Tech Policy Design Centre. Ms Weaver is a former head of DFAT’s cyber affairs branch.