Tick from ACCC (it might be useful later)

The ever-vigilant Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has approved NSW universities collaborating to bring international students back to Australia. So that’s one less excuse for the Commonwealth not approving the plan.   As if one is needed while Sydney confronts a new COVID-19 outbreak.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) crunches the QS numbers to find Australian universities are efficient and effective. “Over the last two decades as our universities expanded and took advantage of ‘economies of scale,’ remarkably, student satisfaction steadily increased!”


Danielle Stevens with Sarah Hattam and Anthea Fudge (both Uni SA) on why the prime minister must commit to keeping Enabling education. This week’s addition to Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

What “world class research” means: its really going to matter

The Go8 was alone among the lobbies in commenting on the Australian Research Council’s plans to improve its research performance metrics (CMM yesterday)

 The Eight likes what it sees: First up the Go8 took the opportunity to remind us that its members are “the nation’s heavy lifters when it comes to quality research with impact” but went on to support proposals to reduce administration and increase transparency.

“This is particularly important, given the recent introduction of enhanced research performance requirements in the Threshold Standards for universities and the need to benchmark rigorously against these standards. Only in this way can we ensure that Australia’s university sector remains world-leading,” CEO Vicki Thomson said.

What this is about: The requirement Ms Thomson refers to is in the new HE Standards Framework legislation. It is for a university to undertake research in at least three, or 50 per cent of fields it teaches, which is “ ‘world standard’ measured using best practice indicators.”  The Tertiary Education Quality  and Standards Agency, which enforces the standards, previously stated it liked using “results from Excellence in Research for Australia or any comparable evaluation in Australia, and from comparable national and international research assessment exercises,” (CMM April 15).

But “world standard” is not so great: As used in the ARC’s Excellence in Research for Australia, research output rating world standard means average. And that’s compared against global discipline output rather than just the real competitive set – Canada, China, the EU, UK and US.

So, the definition is going to change:  The ARC proposes that experts revise the rating scale, citation and peer review benchmarks, plus “the definition and appropriateness of ‘world standard’ “.

No problem for the Go8: But it could be for universities without broad research bases, including institutions that otherwise meet criteria to acquire, and keep, university accreditation.

Nor for the minister: Alan Tudge told the Universities Australia conference (CMM June 4) that 39 comprehensive universities “may not be an optimal model for the quality of teaching or research … we need to start a conversation about how we can support greater differentiation and specialisation.”

That’s teaching ornot teaching and research.

How the ARC defines “world standard” is going to be very important.

Working in lockdown

ANU is quarantining “a small group” of what DVC Students Ian Anderson calls “returning Australian travellers”

But they aren’t your actual average Aussies – they are mandarins and media back from the G7 Meeting.  So how will they entertain themselves in student accom seclusion?

CMM predicts the text of a free trade agreement between the ACT and Queanbeyan will be announced on Monday, after being leaked to the weekend papers.

Times change at Uni Wollongong

The university is pleased indeed that alumnus Misha Zelinsky is awarded a Fulbright Professional Scholarship, congratulating him via Twitter, yesterday

“Whether open and free societies prevail against closed and autocratic regimes will be the defining challenge of our lifetimes,” Mr Zelinsky says in an UoW magazine .

It makes a contrast to 2014 when he and the university were not as one on the importance of speaking –up.

Back then Mr Zelinsky was a member of the university council and was quoted in the local Illawarra Mercury criticising then VC Paul Wellings for supporting Christopher Pyne’s deregulation plan (CMM June 30 2014), To which the university replied that Mr Zelinsky, “has obligations to the university council and that as a council member he is not in a position to speak for other council members as per the University of Wollongong Act and the Council Code of Conduct. He has been reminded of this by email via the council secretariat” (CMM July 4 2014).

Early thaw for QUT pay-rise freeze

Last year QUT staff backed a joint management-campus unions COVID-19 savings plan, by a thumping majority of staff voting (CMM August 3). One of the terms was a freeze on the next 2 per cent Enterprise Agreement payrise due December last, by 12 months (CMM August 20).

But Christmas has come early with the university announcing that finances now permitted it being paid end June.

“Quantify then rectify” La Trobe U responds to casual pay failings

La Trobe U got its casual pay ducks in a row at the end of the year. Despite no claims from people saying they had been underpaid, it asked people who thought they might have been to get in touch, (CMM December 11)

By February nine claims were received and the university confirmed it was cooperating with the Fair Work Ombudsman, “on their request around the self-reporting of potential underpayments,” (CMM March 12.

But now the ducks must be passing out on parade because six months later, and after an independent audit the university still does not know, “the scale of any potential underpayment.”

However, VC John Dewar tells staff the audit, “has identified some issues with our current systems and processes which may have led to underpayment of some casual staff.”

The university will now run “a deep analysis” “to quantify, then rectify, any underpayments that may have occurred” in the last six years.

Problems LT U is addressing include.

* unclear Enterprise Agreement terminology on hours worked

* formulas used to calculate hours for marking

* Schools not providing management-approved casual staff contracts

* admin issues in the payroll system

* PhD-qualified casuals not being paid the rate that applies  

Professor Dewar says sorting all out will take time, but “correcting any underpayments is our priority and will be completed as soon as possible.”

We’re smarter than appears

People in the workforce have more quals than may appear

Michelle Hall and John Stanwick analysed 2018-19 labour force data for the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research.  They looked for individuals’ total qualifications, (up to five), rather than, as is the norm, their highest.  And they found 15.4m were held by 10.2m people in the workforce. The sector split was 7.8m VET and 6.9m HE qualifications.

The quals figure is 34 per cent higher overall (35 per cent for VET) than that if only an individual’s highest qual is counted.

This data is important because an awareness of the stock of qualifications is an indication to the availability of skills, which, the NCVER suggests, “informs supply- and demand-side issues, such as skills utilisation and skills gaps.”


Appointments, achievements

Of the day

Iain Murray and Reza Nejabati are appointed interim co-chairs of the Curtin U – Cisco Centre for Networks. Murray is a Curtin U distinguished professor and Nejabati a visiting professor there.

Ambassador Thomas Dougherty is leaving the Australian-American Fulbright Commission where he is ED. He is moving to Boston to take up a chair in international relations at Simmons University.

The Victorian Government wants an mRNA vaccine manufacturing in the state and has asked for expert advice from; * Amanda Caples (Victoria’s Lead Scientist) * Sharon Lewin (Doherty Institute) * Barney Graham (US National Institutes of Health) * William Charman (Monash U) * Brendan Crabb (Burnet Institute) * Doug Hilton (the MRI formerly known as Walter and Eliza Hall) * Terry Nolan (Uni Melbourne) John Carroll (Monash U) * Andrew Steer (Murdoch Children’s Research Institute)

Of the week

At Edith Cowan U exercise scientist Chris Abbiss is confirmed as Graduate Research Dean. He has acted in the role since November.

The Australian Space Awards are announced, including,

Academic, Sascha Schediwy, UWA. Graduate, Clint Therakam, UNSW. Researcher, Saied Nahavandi, Deakin U. Scientist, Graziella Caprarelli, Uni Southern Queensland. Engineer, Andrin Tomaschett, UNSW. Woman leader, Anna Moore, ANU. Rising Star, Christopher Capon, UNSW. Excellence, Sascha Schediwy, UWA.

Jonathan Carapetis (Telecom Kids Institute) is WA 2021 Australian of the Year in the Professions Category.

Andrea Carson (La Trobe U) becomes a research fellow of the Women’s Leadership Institute Australia.

Bronwyn Fox is CSIRO’s new chief scientist. She will move from Swinburne U where she DVC Research and Enterprise

 Alexis Kallio becomes Deputy Director R at the Queensland Conservatorium, (Griffith U).

Stacey Mills will join Uni Adelaide as Chief Financial Officer, moving from the same role at UNSW.

There are two Australian based researchers among pharma company Johnson and Johnson’s six Women in Stem for 2021; Gayathri Naidu (UTS) and Shayanti Mukherjee (Hudson Institute of Medical Research).  They each have $150 000 in research funding from J&J.

The National Health and Medical Research Council has announced its awards, which were in CMM for Thursday,here.

At Murdoch UKylie Readman becomes DVC Education and Equity and Grant O’NeillDVC Colleges. Both move-up from the PVC positions covering the same portfolios that were abolished last month (CMM May 13).

The one AC and AO’s awarded to members of the HE and research communities in the Queen’s Birthday Honours were in CMM on Tuesday, here.

Mike Ryan becomes interim PVC R at Monash U. He moves from Deputy Dean (Research & Research Infrastructure) in the Faculty of Medicine.

Wendy Wright is Federation U’s new Dean of Graduate Studies. She steps up from Associate Dean, Research Training.