Savings on both wheels

ANU advises e-bikes qualify for salary sacrifice leases 

This looks like a good deal. A base staff parking permit at the university costs $880 per annum all up but with motorbikes parked free surely e-bikes are too. Tax-effective electronic skateboards  can’t be far away?


There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning; Ian Solomonides and Trish McCluskey (Victoria U) on what the block model of teaching delivers. It’s a new essay in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.

Plus, Merlin Crossley (DVC, UNSW) on why we PhD programmes the way they are now. 

Two-week lock-out of students from China

Government imposes ban on arrivals

What’s happened: On Saturday night the Commonwealth placed a 14-day ban on people arriving from China (ex Aus citizens, residents, and aircrew).  While stating, “there is no basis for alarm,” the statement by the prime minister added, “the changing epidemiology of the coronavirus in China and the uncertainty that remains around its transmission and virulence, mean the utmost precaution is warranted.”

The announcement was immediately followed by a statement from Education Minister Dan Tehan that he would meet the board of Universities Australia today, “to discuss options to work with the sector to minimise the impacts of this decision on Australia’s international education providers.”

TEQSA was ready:  The regulator anticipated an arrivals ban late Friday, announcing it would waive requirements for in-person teaching of international students.

The federal government’s code of practise caps teaching international students on-line/by distance at a third of units. However, the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency assured the sector, it “will not take regulatory action,” in cases where, “providers determine that enrolment in a wholly on-line or distance learning mode of study is in the student’s best interest.”

Mr Tehan backed the move Saturday, saying that while the arrival ban was in-place, “the Government will work with the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency and the Australian Skills Quality Authority to ensure providers can offer on-line and remote alternatives.”

Reality endorsed: Universities Australia was quick to accept the Commonwealth’s decision.

“Universities will continue to adhere meticulously to the advice of health and immigration authorities, while managing the impact for our students,” CEO Catriona Jackson said Saturday night.

Ms Jackson added universities would extend offers of on-line study and deferred start date options.

“Our focus is on safeguarding the health and safety of everyone in university communities, and minimising any disruption to study, exams and assessment.”

The Group of Eight (with 63 per cent of Chinese students studying in Australia) followed Sunday morning, stating its members “must follow all direction provided by … Australia’s government and agencies” and were “absolutely committed to our students from China completing their studies with minimal disruption and as soon as possible.

“The Go8 understands and is sorry for the effect this will have on our community. We also regret the effect this virus outbreak is having on one of the world’s leading university systems.

“G08 universities look forward to being able to welcome our Chinese students currently unable to join us as planned and we are working to achieve this with the Australian Government.”

What happens next : The China arrivals ban saves universities from a difficult decision. On Friday, Monash U announced semester would start seven days late, on March 9, for almost all programmes.  The first week of classes will be taught on-line.

Monash U said this was so the entire Monash staff and student body begins the semester together.

Prior to the government’s decision, Deakin U, La Trobe, RMIT and Uni Melbourne were all planning to start the academic year for all students, on schedule. This seems unlikely to change now

Below: what could happen if the travel-ban extends

Great timing

David Stacey announced his departure as UWA media chief on Thursday, the day he had arranged. It was terrific timing

It saved the ever-serene spokesperson having to respond to journalists requesting comment on the university’s performance in the new survey of employer satisfaction with graduates (from the people who bring us the excellent Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching).

In the survey, published Friday, UWA scored 79.4 per cent for overall satisfaction, the third lowest in the country.

Tech unis smart budget-ask

There aren’t any hard numbers in the Australian Technology Network’s budget submission but there is astute politics

The ATN lobby (UTS, RMIT, Uni SA and Curtin U) does not mention money in the first released statement from the HE sector. But it does present policy proposals, which appear carefully crafted to appeal to the government.

ATN calls include;

* specific funding for HE places in areas with low participation rates and support for RRR students, “to study where they choose.” Both of these should appeal to Education Minister Dan Tehan, who holds a regional seat and is keen to increase access for country kids. The same applies to the proposal of legislating the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme.

* flexible life-long learning and VET-HE pathways – ideas on the government’s agenda

* “a premium rate of R&D tax incentive for business collaborating with universities. It isn’t in the research and development tax legislation now before parliament – but if that fails in the Senate there will have been no harm in asking

Budget bids can be adversarially expressed demands for money the government has other ideas for. The ATN’s approach is to make its case for a higher seat at the policy table.

Nothing to read here

The first Medical Research Future Fund not especially newsy newsletter is out

It’s basically information on available grants and programme details already published around the federal traps.  Which rather means there are announcements that aren’t news.

Subic leaving Swinburne

DVC R Aleksandar Subic returns to RMIT, where he will become DVC for science, engineering and health and VP digital innovation

Professor Subic joined Swinburne U in 2015 from RMIT, where he was dean of engineering, (CMM April 10 2015.)

Subic started and continued with a big agenda. He made strategic hires in research management and teaching (CMM June 6 and June 30 2016). He was also instrumental in an early Australian alliance between the university and Siemens, which provided the university with $135m worth of software for teaching and research in a digital “factory of the future” (CMM August 15 2017). Last year he was appointed to lead a six-university Industry 4.0 pilot programme (January 16 2019).

Professor Subic’s departure appears to end speculation he was interested in Swinburne’s top-spot. VC Linda Kristjanson’s six-month extension of her second term concludes at year end.

Measuring community engagement

The Carnegie Foundation is closer to considering an Australian version of its Community Classification framework (CMM November 26 2018)

UTS and Charles Sturt U lead the local project, with eight others participating.  A bid is expected in May. The foundation for the outside US community engagement programme was in Ireland, in 2016.

Worst case cost of a lost semester of China enrolments

The impact of the freeze on student arrivals could be red-hot 



The Government’s weekend announcement that foreign nationals (excluding permanent residents) who are in mainland China from Saturday forward, will not be allowed to enter Australia for 14 days  is set to impact Australia’s International education industry.

How much? Treasurer Josh Frydenberg confirmed on ABC’s Insiders program yesterday that Treasury is looking at both low and high impact estimates.

CMM has run some broad-brush numbers looking at commencers in 2019 in February and March as a baseline. For now, the ban is two-weeks, but if it extended to the point where students now in China decided to write off first semester the top-end of losses are:

 Higher Ed is by far the worst with 35, 628 commencers in this period, CMM used $17k as an average semester fee with the total hit to higher ed being $606m.

 VET in 2019 had 2965 commencers, CMM used $10k as an average semester fee with the total hit to VET being $30m

 Schools in 2019 had 293 commencers, CMM used $12k as an average semester fee with the total hit to Schools being $3.5m

The ELICOS sector is harder to predict but with 4975 commencers in this period in 2019 and an indicative cost of $5k being applied, this sector could be set to lose $25m

The Non- award sector had 3583 commencements in this period but isn’t included.

All up, the overall-exposure of institutions via fee payment alone across all sectors could be up to $664m.

Then there is the additional spend that goes along-side fee payments to assist in local economies (rent, groceries, travel, tourism, entertainment).

If each student over a semester long period paid $10,520 (half of annual suggested rate of $21,041) which is a conservative figure, then local communities and service providers are set to lose out on a further $499m.

All in all, the impact could be as high as $1.2bn and this is for commencers alone. Returning students who may have already commenced their study pattern and who may have returned home for Chinese New Year will add to this. They now will also be caught up in this travel ban and perhaps will have to defer studies. It’s anyone’s guess how large this group may be.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent. Contact him @ [email protected]


Kade Brown becomes strategy director at RMIT Online. He moves from consultants Strategic Project Partners.