Not cleared for landing

Education Minister Alan Tudge calls the SA proposal to quarantine international students at Adelaide’s Parafield airport “promising.” Not to the local council it isn’t. Scroll down for that story and Mr Tudge’s no-punches-pulled speech to Universities Australia.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

There are lessons in pandemic drug-development for higher education innovation. Dawn Gilmore (RMIT) and Chin Nguyen (Curio) look at the different ways Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Uni Queensland worked and how their approaches apply in teaching and learning development.


James Guthrie (Macquarie U) and Brendan O’Connell report searching Victorian universities documents for the number of people, people, not accounting abstractions, who lost their jobs last year. They found changes in accounting practises and calculating headcounts make final figures hard to find. They set out their data here.

And on Friday

Angel Calderon’s (RMIT) analysis of last night’s CWTS Leiden research ranking. Merlin Crossley (UNSW) considers quality, quantity (and Antiques Roadshow).

What Tudge wants: the minister’s four messages for universities

The education minister will set out his four big policy direction at today’s Universities Australia conference

Top priority is research commercialisation

The minister’s text states the government’s goal is to “fundamentally shift the dial” so that in a decade Australia resembles Israel, the UK and California “in terms of how our universities interact with business and generate new ideas, new jobs, and new sources of wealth for Australia.”

The speech also repeats Mr Tudge’s concern that research is driven by the incentive for academics to publish rather than, “translating research down the commercialisation path.”

Mr Tudge is expected to mention responses to the discussion paper on research translation, including

* wide support for “stage-gate funding” particularly as used in the US, (CMM March 2).

* industry engagement “to bridge the valley of death between pure research and commercial outcomes”

* a culture of collaboration between universities and industry “as the bedrock for innovation and commercialisation”

And if anybody is looking for an example of what works, Mr Tudge’s speech nominates (the medical research institute formerly known as) the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, “one place I visited where the incentives were strongly aligned towards both pure research and commercialisation.

Mr Tudge will also set a goal for international education in a decade

10 million people studying for Australian qualifications, on-line, in-country and/or hybrid models. “The government wants to support you in these endeavours, where you have real impact and also create new revenue streams.”

And he wants a focus on local students

“In the past several months, I have had almost every vice chancellor talk to me about research and international students, but not many talk to me about their ambitions for Australian students,” his text states.

It calls for “a return to the previous face to face learning where COVID rules allow.”

“I am still hearing from too many students or their parents who tell me that their usual student experience has still not returned.”

Adopt free speech code-or else

While 33 universities are “fully or mostly aligned” to the Robert French free speech code, Mr Tudge will tell the others to get on with it. And if any don’t he will “examine all options available to the Government to enforce it – which may include legislation.”

The minister also wants universities to include statements in annual reports on how they are addressing free speech issues. A template is being developed by the University Chancellors Council, led by Stephen Gerlach of Flinders U.


Who’s minding Murdoch U

Provost Romy Lawson is named interim VC, “until a newly-appointed VC commences”

“Professor Lawson has enthusiastically agreed to guide the university as we transition to new leadership (she) has both my confidence and that of the university senate to take us through this transition period,” Chancellor Gary Smith tells staff.

Mr Smith also announces the VC selection committee, which includes staff elected member Gerd Schröeder-Turk.

The panel also includes former Curtin U and present Uni Queensland VC Deborah Terry.

Plibersek points to the uni-light on the hill

Labor’s education spokesperson says universities were key to reconstruction after WWII and must be post pandemic

Tanya Plibersek’s speech to the Universities Australia conference today will point to the “central role that universities played” in Labor prime minster Ben Chifley’s national reconstruction programme and call for them to be able to do the same post CoVID-19.

“What we’ve learned in this pandemic isn’t that different to what we learned in World War II. At every stage of the crisis, we’ve relied on universities and their graduates – on experts and their research,” her speech text states.

Ms Plibersek also will claim applied research as a Labor issue.

“When universities succeed, their success touches everyone. From graduating classes of highly trained citizens, to greater productivity, to research and invention, to new products and techniques, to new companies and new exports. That’s the pipeline.  And when it works, it creates good local jobs.”

And she also presents Labor as the party of the higher education community.

“I promise you that a Labor Government will restore universities to their rightful place. You will be respected again. You will have a partner in government once more. And you will be given the support you need to do what you do best: world class teaching and world class research.”

As much Gough as Ben, thinks CMM.

UNSW casuals still owed money

The university has struggled to work out how much it has underpaid casual staff

Its 2019 annual report mentioned provisions for $23.7m in 2018 and $25.6 for ’19, which include “an estimated potential liability to the casual academic workforce,” (CMM February 22).

But it seemed back then there might be more to come, with the university telling CMM, “the review of potential underpayments to casual academics covering the whole university continues … Remediation payments will be made to affected staff as soon as possible and will continue as the review progresses.” (CMM February 22).

As to how much in remediation, the university’s 2020 annual report includes $39m in provisions, expected to be settled within 12 months, “which includes an estimated potential liability to the casual academic workforce.”

Job-ready course-work  

Education Minister Alan Tudge will commission advice on uni-industry collaboration in teaching and learning to “further ensure future graduates are work-ready”

Former Victoria U vice chancellor Peter Dawkins and imminently-ex RMIT head Martin Bean will have charge of the project, expected to be announced by Mr Tudge at the Universities Australia conference today.

Their brief will include ways undergraduates who acquire industry-experience can earn course credits.

The review will “build on” the NSW VET review by Peter Shergold and David Gonski which included a proposal for employers to have “a more influential role” in planning and designing courses. (They also proposed an income contingent loan for Certificates III and IV study “in priority skills areas” but this may not be the bit Mr Tudge has in mind, CMM March 9).

But isn’t this part of what the National Priorities and Industry Linkage Fund is supposed to do? One of its three tasks is to, “increase the number of internships, practicums, and other innovative approaches to work-integrated learning.”

Not in their backyard

The proposal to quarantine international students at Adelaide’s Parafield airport (CMM May 31) is opposed by the local council

City of Salisbury mayor Gillian Aldrige says council was not consulted on the proposal, wants a briefing and is unhappy with what it says is the state government prioritising international students “over the rights of Australian students and permanent residents returning home.”

Council calls on the state and federal governments to construct “purpose-built quarantine facilities …. outside of residential areas and suburbs.”

However, the City of Salisbury did not complain about noise from the facility or traffic problems.

Let joy be unconfined!

Education and skills is on in Senate Estimates

Sparkling wits from the HE, Research and International and Skills groups of the Department of Education, Skills and Employment are on this afternoon.

And brace for a big Friday, when agencies appear – ASQA and the ARC, TEQSA and the estimable NCVER. Want to know what the National Skills Commission actually does? Perhaps senators will ask its officers, who appear at 3pm.

Appointment, achievement

Jacqueline Huggins joins ANU as an honorary professor in history. The university describes Dr Huggins ia Bidjara/ Birri Gubba Juru woman who the university describes as “among the first First Nations historians in Australia.”

 Roberto Sabatini (leadership) and Nicolle Connelly (outstanding contribution), both from RMIT receive awards from industry association Aviation/Aerospace Australia.