More to Monash U than Melbourne

In May Monash VC Margaret Gardner told a Victorian parliament committee, “it is difficult to see international students entering the country before 2021”

Entering Victoria for second semester is certainly looking way less likely this morning. Which makes it way wise of Monash U to  already be working with what it can, where it can. The university has a joint graduate school with Southeast University in Suzhou, in China’s Jiangsu Province and in November will accept 300 students into the first semester of Monash masters of business and masters of banking and finance.

Monash U academics in Melbourne will lecture via ZOOM, with in-person tutes on campus.

After first semester in Suzhou, students will continue studies in Melbourne, “subject to border openings and visa approvals.”

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

There are five big assumptions in the government’s UG funding package, some have exercised policy analysts since HECS was createdIan Marshman (Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education), asks the questions, including the big one; “can the cost of university teaching really be determined?”  here.

Michael Tomlinson suggests asking TEQSA to police enrolments is a step too far, plus the government’s plan has too many layers addressing too many dimensions.

Frank Larkins and Ian Marshman suggest how universities can profitably “modify” their student load, demonstrating what switching engineering places to arts could deliver.

 Merlin Crossley argues the ARC and NHMRC should double fellowships for young researchers

The Tehan package: perverse outcomes and cash for the quick

The University of Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education asked experts, “what the Tehan changes mean for students and universities.”  An on-line seminar yesterday heard of perverse outcomes but $1bn in the Commonwealth’s kitty to spend, on research if it chooses.

Frank Larkins (MCSHE) expanded on his and Ian Marshman’s analysis of what the Tehan changes will mean for what undergraduates study and where.

Lower guaranteed base funding for nationally important undergraduate domestic degrees is an incentive to pursue perverse outcomes,” Professor Larkins warns.

He concludes:

* the package “is cleverly constructed” to support regional and outer metro unis but asks whether there will be sufficient student demand

* the current domestic student market could be “significantly disrupted” with STEM places declining and universities shifting-load to more profitable disciplines, “to the detriment of national workforce disciplines”

* nimble universities with a strong brand, a sound knowledge of course delivery costs and flexible workplace relations practices are likely to profit most at a cost to other universities.

And he warns the overall objective of the package; to incentivise teaching, nursing and STEM study is undermined by its implementation; “there is no compelling evidence that HECS fee changes linked to income-contingent loans change student subject selection behaviour.”

Mark Warburton looked at where the money goes under the new funding model and finds:

* student load at the new CSP funding rates means $500m less for universities under the existing arrangements. “To earn all of that revenue, universities will have to provide around 11,700 more student places than in 2018.

* overall public revenue for teaching will be around 94 per cent of former value

* annual growth in general student places in 2024 will be less than would have existed but for the 2018-21 impact of the Birmingham cap on places

* “Over the period, from December 2017 to when the Job-ready Graduates package is fully implemented, the government will have delivered itself an annual saving of around $988 million.”

Which gives the government money to work with, quite a lot of money. Mr Warburton suggests, “the government will save around $1 billion dollars over the period which it could use to support research, if it chose to do so.”

Unions at Southern Cross U split over savings plan

This is good for the university’s proposal

The National Tertiary Education Union is urging members to vote against a management proposal to end and then delay pay-rises to make COVID-19 savings, arguing a no would force the university to commit to job security.

However, the Community and Public Sector Union says management has agreed to a voluntary redundancy process, “in an effort to match organisational changes with employee preferences (to) save as many jobs as possible.”

“There is no question our university faces a genuine financial crisis that requires everyone in the university community to step-up and respond with pragmatic, but difficult, decisions,” the CPSU, which represents professional staff, tells the SCU community.

This is a positive for management’s plan. Universities which put proposals to staff that unions oppose generally lose ballots – workers who are not members often follow union leads on industrial issues.

But a rare split between unions changes prospects.

Back in 2013 Charles Sturt U put a proposed enterprise agreement to staff, which the CPSU supported and the NTEU opposed (CMM September 10 2013).  Vice Chancellor Andrew Vann went to a vote and with 1850 of 2200 staff turning-out it was adopted with a 60 per cent majority (CMM September 22 2013).

Where there’s WIL there are ways

 Gallahs in policy pet shops (props to P J Keating) are talking Work Integrated Learning, so what do the experts want  

The Australian Collaborative Education Network asked member institutions. Responses include.

priorities: getting organisational structures right, establishing quality practices, enhancing industry engagement, student employability and graduate outcomes

enablers: flexible delivery, accrediting bodies understanding WIL practice, authentic learning models and curriculum design, pre-placement prep

challenges: more and different placement opportunities and equitable access to them, support from university leaderships.

International arrivals in Adelaide: they aren’t imminent


All of a sudden welcomes for international students are looking less likely

South Australia’s government is a keen advocate of a pilot programme in Adelaide but works with what it’s got.

A state gov spokesperson told CMM yesterday “recent developments have seen South Australia receive more international citizen repatriations that were originally bound for other states. Therefore, one of the considerations is our capacity to receive international students at a time we are receiving more Australians returning home via Adelaide.”

“While the state government wants to ensure a safe return as students as soon as practicable. The situation is evolving and there is no specific timetable.”

As to WA, Premier McGowan’s office has not responded to a request for comment on plans for Perth to welcome international students.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent

VET reform depends on funding certainty


The Victorian Government requires the TAFE Institute directors to work miracles as it performs a smoke and mirror trick with the dollars

The Victorian Auditor-General’s new report exposes the challenges facing the TAFE sector.

Collectively Victorian TAFEs reported a $43.8 million deficit in 2019. This was a significant deterioration from the $67.7 million surplus achieved in 2018.

The ability of TAFE CEOs to sustainably grow their Institutes and deliver quality training has been hampered by the Victorian Government’s decisions.

In 2019 TAFE Institutes earned $78 million more in contestable funding than in 2018 – mainly through the introduction of the “free TAFE” initiative. This was offset by a reduction of $85.1 million in TAFE operating grants.

Institutes might have been able to cover this funding gap but employee expenses also increased – up $76.9 million following the government’s 2018 decision to raise TAFE teacher salaries.

And then came COVID-19.

The Auditor-General was only able to have confidence that TAFEs’ financial statements could be prepared on a “going concern” basis after the government issued letters of financial support to all Institutes with an undertaking to “provide adequate cash flow to TAFEs, should the need arise, until April 2021.”

“Free TAFE” is now being expanded with $163 million for 10,000 more places. Will TAFE operating grants quietly be cut again…?

These funding challenges are not uniquely Victorian – they are simply less visible in other jurisdictions because of the structure of their TAFE systems. And of course, funding instability impacts all VET providers and students – more money for TAFE usually means less for other providers and vice versa.

The Productivity Commission is reviewing the Commonwealth-states VET funding agreement. They see merit in greater contestability, student vouchers, and the removal of price controls.

The Auditor-General’s report reminds us that there will need to be some funding certainty underpinning any future changes.

Otherwise TAFEs and other VET providers will struggle, and confidence in the system will be further tarnished.

Claire Field is an adviser to the tertiary education sector

On campus or out: US Government will expel international students

The US  is ending the COVID-19 exemption on the requirement that international students take classes on campus.

Next semester they must take classes in person, or leave the country. Those at colleges using a mix of in-person or on-line courses can only take three-credit hours via distance.

Seems mean-spirited, unless it is Machiavellian. Jenny Lee (professor of HE, Uni Arizona) was quick to suggest (via Twitter) the move “has little to do with immigration but rather strong-arm universities to fully open.”

Which hasn’t worked with Harvard U, which announces it will teach all classes on-line in the new academic year, even to the first-years who will be allowed to live on campus


Umberto Ansaldo will be head of Curtin U’s School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry, as of February. He will replace Steve Mickler.

The Australian Skills Quality Authority has appointed a 17-member stakeholder liaison group; Kerri Buttery (VETNexus), Andrew Cameron, (St Mark’s National Theological Centre), Margie Fixter (TAFE SA), Julie Healy (TAFE, Qld), Jo Kwai (Shafston House College), Linda Manning (Karen Sheldon Group), Serryn O’Regan (Evolve College), Karen Plowman (McDonald’s Australia), Christine Robertson (Open Colleges), Belinda Russon (Tranby National Indigenous Adult Education and Training), Alex Schroder (VETPrep Australia), Cara Schultz (NSW Rural Fire Service), Andrea Shea (Builders Academy Australia), Michelle Simpson (Tamworth Community College), Matthew Trott (Training Services), Sue Watts (Catholic Schools Office, Lismore), Simon Wiggins (Avidity Training)

Peter Tregear will be founding director of Uni Melbourne’s new hall of residence, Little Hall. He will move from dean of St Marks College, in Adelaide to start in December.

Peter Visscher (Uni Queensland)  is elected an associate member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation. Professor Visscher was a 2018 Laurate Fellow.