The cheque’s not in the mail

At RMIT, Denise Cuthbert (Associate DVC Research Training) explains why stipends can’t be paid to research candidate who have started their work off-shore. Among other reasons, Australian bank accounts are “highly regulated and therefore are a more trusted place for money to be transacted.” Perhaps the RMIT Blockchain Innovation Hub (scroll down) could help.

Research rankings: what’s to come may not be that bad

Ranking season is imminent – two early indexes indicate Australia had an ok 2020

In Features this morning Angel Calderon (RMIT) examines the Nature Index and Scopus indexed publications and reports good results for Australian universities.

Of course, this was before the impact of the pandemic cuts kick in, “we may be one to two years away from seeing an impact of these in global rankings,” he warns.

But it may not be all bad, while Australian universities will likely take a hit in reputation-surveys and income scores, recent research output increases might keep bibliometrics positive.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

There’s a bunch that can be done to support students’ mental health. Nicole Crawford (National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education) and Sheridan Emery (U Tas) explain in Features this morning.

Dr Crawford is a panellist on student mental health at the Needed Now in Teaching and Learning conference, Thursday May 27, 11.30-12.30 AEST. Book a ZOOM spot, here.

Plus Merlin Crossley (UNSW) asks “where are the clones?” but concludes “there (don’t) have to be clones.”

Needed Now about to begin

Did CMM mention Needed Now in Learning and Teaching: the conference starts today?

There’s a conference preview at 11.30 followed by a session on how students fared in the pandemic year and what needs be done to improve their learning experience now.

Adam Shoemaker (VC, Victoria U) is in conversation with, Christopher Hall (NUS), Sadie Heckenberg (Research Fellow at Swinburne U’s Moondani Toombadool Centre), Bell W X Lim (Council of International Students Australia), Errol Phuah (CAPA) and Rachelle Towart (MD, Pipeline Talent).

And at 1pm, John Dewar (VC La Trobe U), Kerri-Lee Krause (Provost, Avondale University College) Leslie Loble, (Australian Education Research Organisation) and Craig Robertson (TAFE Directors Australia) discuss new frontiers for learning and teaching.

You can still ZOOM in, if you are quick.

School curriculum exports: the only way is up

The school sector has shared the international education pandemic pain but it has one product which should be immune to closed borders (it isn’t)

Curriculum export already happens just not much, as Peter Burgess (EdBiz Pty Ltd) and Christopher Ziguras (RMIT)  report in a new paper for the International Education Association of Australia.

Some 5500 students at 103 schools in 19 countries study an Australian curriculum – which is good, except that they estimate the global market is 5.8m students at 11 451 schools.  Overall, Australia is a net curriculum importer, with 167 schools here using the International Baccalaureate.

Part of the problem is federalism with states and territories running their own curriculum shows. But that should not be beyond solution. Burgess and Ziguras point out Canada, where provinces run schools, is a big competitor.

“A step-change is required in order to grow market share. A national strategy that promotes a coordinated and cooperative approach is needed,” they write.

What’s hard about the new blow to Victorian uni budgets

This one comes from the state government, which includes them in a levy on businesses paying $10m or more in wages, to fund mental health. VCs are not happy

The levy is 0.5 per cent per dollar on wage bills above $10m, with a further 0.5 per cent liable above $100m.

To which Victorian VCs Committee chair Duncan Maskell (Uni Melbourne) responds,

“Victorian vice chancellors were surprised to learn that the payroll tax levy will apply to local universities given our charitable status and given we already spend a great deal of money doing so much work in mental health.”

The VVCC wants a meeting with government – which might be a waste of time – if universities are exempt other industries would want to follow.

What’s worse for vice chancellors than what it will cost is the state government’s apparent calculation that there is no widespread electoral anxiety about to the financial condition of universities. Other state and territory treasurers will take note of what the federal government had long ago concluded.

The Victorian Government might also take some small pleasure in the levy, given Uni Melbourne beat it in a land tax case last month in the Victorian Supreme Court (CMM April 7).

VET completers took a COVID-19 jobs hit

As of end May last year the proportion of 2019 VET completers employed was down 5 per cent on the previous year’s figure for the class of ’18

 Ian White reports the pandemic’s impact in a new study from the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research.

Nationally, 6.7 per cent of 2019 completers were stood down by May ’20 due to COVID-19 and 34 per cent had hours reduced.

It was worst in Victoria, with 8.2 per cent of the ’19 class who were working stood down, 41 per cent were working fewer hours.

Industries across the country where VET completers took the hardest hits were arts and recreation (31 per cent of 2019 completers stood down by end May 20) and accommodation and food services (19 per cent).

Mr White points out this “fairly bleak picture” is a snapshot “when national restrictions … were only just beginning to be eased.”

Good-o but that was also before restrictions tightened in Victoria.

Applied research: RMIT shows the blockchain way

Way before bellhops got into Bitcoin RMIT researchers were researching and developing the transformative power of the blockchain

Melbourne firm AEM launched accounting software for crypto-currency the other day and thanked the RMIT Blockchain Innovation Hub for “access to research and academics, providing internships and industry experience for students and ultimately employment for a number of students.”

This has to score points for RMIT with the National Priorities and Industry Linkage Fund (insofar as anybody is across how it works, (CMM October 2).

But there is way more to what RMIT has achieved. The Blockchain Hub demonstrates how basic research works with industry – the government’s core objective for university links with business.

RMIT economist Jason Potts, with colleagues from RMIT and Curtin U, recognised five years back how research published on a blockchain can could replace journals (CMM April 26 2016).

With Chris Berg and Sinclair Davidson (also RMIT) he scaled-up the suggestion in 2017, arguing the blockchain could go aways to reduce the role of government, now needed for “record keeping, validation and verification of transactions in property rights,” (CMM October 30 2017).

The trio pulled their big ideas together in their book, Understanding the Blockchain Economy: an introduction to institutional crypto economics (CMM September 6 2019).

The research rolls on and so does teaching and industry partnerships. Nothing crypto about the intellectual currency of this work.

TEQSA pain for private providers a step closer

Cost recovery legislation is back in the Reps tomorrow

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency has listed its proposed full-cost recovery fees, which struck some as steep but the agency met with peak bodies and is accepting submissions until June 3 (CMM May 3 and 6). So why is the bill in parliament ahead of that? Because the fees will be imposed by regulation and not included in the legislation.  Providers can grumble all they want but when TEQSA completes consulting it can do whatever it decides it must to meet the government’s cost recovery requirement.

Which will involve some hefty hikes, according to the Independent Higher Education Association. TEQSA proposes increasing the fee for a substantive assessment for registration of higher education providers from $16 500 to $134 000, (the same activity for universities goes up from $60 000 to $134 000). “It is simply unbelievable that at a time when providers are battling their hardest to continue to deliver quality Australian education and with international student returns not expected for some time, that massive increases in regulatory imposts will be applied from the end of this year,” IHEA chief executive CEO Simon Finn says.

IHEA estimates 19 fees will increase, six will drop and seven will be unchanged.

(Michael Tomlinson explained in CMM what TEQSA is doing, here

Appointments and achievements

Joe Berry (Uni Melbourne) wins the Barry Inglis Medal from the National Measurement Institute.

France’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs has awarded the medal celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Madrid Protocol on protecting the Antarctic environment to Steven Chown (Monash U). Professor Chown has just become a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Nicolas H. Völcker (Monash U) wins the AvH Stiftung Research Award from the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research.