Shining bright in the sunshine state

Last week QUT announced it will source 50 per cent of its energy from a solar site. And Griffith U will too, – from the same provider, Columboola Solar Farm. CQU is also be a buyer.

The trio follow Uni Queensland, which manages its own solar generator (CMM June 7 2018).

Uni Sydney redundancies mean a restructure says union

Last week VC Michael Spence proposed a voluntary redundancy round. The union thinks it is unnecessary and avoidable

The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union say the proposed staff cuts are “part of a long-term process of restructuring the university workforce,” which, “would see permanent jobs replaced with fixed-term and casual jobs that can come and go at management’s whim.”

The union responds to an announcement last week by Vice Chancellor Michael Spence that the university would be in surplus on a its COVID-19 impacted revised budget. However, Dr Spence called for voluntary redundancies to end the need for three to four years of “unsustainable savings.”

“The hiring freeze, no investment in infrastructure or equipment, restrictions on travel and other measures are already having an impact on many parts of the university … it is essential that we ease some of these restrictions in key areas,” he said, (CMM September 18).

However, the union responds management can draw on reserves or borrow money, if there is an actual need.

“There is no rationale for downsizing the workforce when international enrolments are subject to so much uncertainty, previous projections have proven to be major underestimates, and we are seeing an unanticipated increase in domestic enrolments.”

According to the union, Senior DVC Stephen Garton says management wants a minimum 100 jobs gone, hopefully more. But a university representative responds that, “we are not working to a preferred figure” and Professor Garton used the number when talking to the union as a “an example only… not to be taken literally.”

Uni Melbourne is hiring, that’s h-i-r-i-n-g

Thanks to philanthropists who are stumping up $5m

The university is in the market for a continuing chair in economic history. The brief includes “revitalising and leading research and teaching in economic history” and “contributing to external debate on the relevance of economic history to better understand and respond to current economic conditions.”

The chair is funded by a gift from the Peter Griffin and Terry Swan Foundation, which already supports expanding the university’s economic history curriculum.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Leanne Bell (Queensland TAFE) on the power of VET for Indigenous Australians. A new contribution to a series by Indigenous academics and policy people from Contributing Editor Claire Field

Shelley Kinash (Uni Southern Queensland) on helping new graduates get jobs. COVID-19 is making the hunt harder. Universities need to do more. New in Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series, “Needed now in teaching and learning”.

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on airlines and universities: they take us where we need to be

Marnie Hughes-Warrington (Uni SA) on why we need just one ERA, but effectively have two.

 What students don’t need to start maths science based degrees

Few pre-reqs means undergrads can enrol without studying them at school

Chief Scientist Alan Finkel argues students should start maths-based degrees with the discipline basics studied at school – which universities do not always, or even often, require (CMM July 12 2019).

A new paper from his office, in cooperation with the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, sets out how universities require, but mainly don’t, relevant pre-reqs for courses in eight disciplines.

architecture: 13 per cent of courses require any maths

economics/commerce: 83 per cent have no maths prereqs

health/medical science: 78 per cent require no maths, 28 per cent do require science subjects from school Y11 and Y12

engineering: 38 per cent specify no maths for entry

computer science: maths is not required for 73 per cent of computer science courses and where it is, 80 per cent accept intermediate maths

science: 68 per cent of courses do not require school maths and 15 per cent require science. “This,” the authors suggest, “is striking. It stands to reason that a student wishing to study physics, for example, would be better prepared for that course having studied physics in secondary school.”

primary education: 63 per cent of courses do not require Y11/Y12 maths. However, in Queensland, school English, maths and science are required to enter a teaching course at university.

secondary education:  42 per cent of secondary education courses at university require maths. But science is specified for only 7 per cent.

How this happened and why it’s a problem: “Today, many universities instead advise that applicants should have ‘assumed knowledge’ of Year 11 and 12 subjects. Assumed knowledge recommendations differ from prerequisites in that students without the assumed knowledge are not prevented from enrolling. Instead, there has been an increase in the number of ‘bridging courses’ or ‘foundation studies’ offered to prospective students. Such types of remedial courses have mixed levels of success, mainly due to the length of study time and the support given by the university to students,” the authors warn.

A lost cause students need to understand: “While returning to prerequisites may not be compatible with Australia’s current higher education landscape, students still need authoritative advice about which subjects to study in Years 11 and 12 so that they can be as prepared as possible for university study without relying on catch-up or bridging courses.

MOOCs of the morning

Class Central aggregates reviews to create lists of “best on-line courses”

In its new 2020 list Uni Tasmania rates five-stars, for its perennial successes, Preventing Dementia, Understanding Dementia and Understanding MS. As does Monash U’s “Mindfulness for well-being and peak performance” and “Maintaining a mindful life.” Uni Sydney’s “Positive psychiatry and mental health is also five-star.

Uni Queensland scores four and half stars for, “The science of everyday thinking.” As does Deakin U‘s course digital design for learning and service and Monash U for a MOOC on psychology of service and one on “food as medicine.”

CMM accepts criticism is accepted by anybody who quotes league tables that include self-selectors completing surveys.


Claire File on all the HE that isn’t at uni


With recent media attention on New York University receiving JobKeeper funding, and one in ten students choosing a private university or non-university higher education provider (NUHEP), it is timely to consider these institutions

Firstly, a note that “public” and “private” are shorthand terms when describing the higher education landscape. Australian Catholic University’s undergraduate students are all government-funded and hence it is included in most discussions as a “public” university despite being a private, not-for-profit, entity.

By contrast, many undergraduate students at the private, not-for-profit, University of Notre Dame Australia are not eligible for a Commonwealth Supported Place. And just to add to the confusion, governments own some NUHEPs (for example, the National Art School) and some receive CSP funding for their undergraduates.

To be clear then – ACU is excluded from this quick analysis; the other private universities are included along with all of the non-university HEPs.

The sector is centred on New South Wales with almost half (44 per cent) of all institutions reporting student data in 2019 based there.

The largest is Torrens University with 17,892 students (larger than Charles Darwin University, the University of Canberra and the University of the Sunshine Coast), followed by UNDA (11,727 students) and Holmes Institute (11,124).

They tend to fall into one of six categories (albeit with some overlap):

  • pathways provider (e.g. Monash College)
  • specialist provider (e.g. International College of Hotel Management)
  • theological college (e.g. Alphacrucis College)
  • International students (e.g. Holmes Institute)
  • professional associations (e.g. The College of Law), or
  • TAFE Institute (e.g. TAFE NSW).

As a group, they educate as many postgraduate students as undergraduates. Growth in the last 12 months has been in domestic postgraduate students (up 9.5 per cent), with many enrolling in professional associations and specialist business schools.

And NYU?

Its study abroad offerings in Sydney sit outside of TEQSA’s legislative purview and hence it is not included in data on the Australian higher education sector.

Claire is an advisor to the tertiary education sector. In a recent episode of the ‘What now? What next?’ podcast she spoke with Dr Laura Hougaz on entrepreneurism and innovation in the independent higher education sector.


Timothy Ottaway (RMIT) wins the 2020 James Dyson design award for current/recent design engineering students. Mr Ottaway designed push-bike lighting which illuminates a rider’s moving legs so people on the road see a person, not a red light.

 Geoff Page wins the Australian Catholic University poetry prize – again. He won first prize in 2017 and second last year.