The Week that Was (October 19)

Universities Australia Chief Executive, Catriona Jackson will leave at year end. “The decision to resign the leadership of Universities Australia was not an easy one to make,” she said last night. Ms Jackson stepped up from UA deputy in May 2018.
UA announces it will “soon commence an extensive search process for a new chief executive.”
The lobby’s incoming deputy chief executive Renee Hindmarsh is scheduled to start in October. Ms Hindmarsh is a former ED of the Australian Technology Network and previous South Australia Skills Commissioner. 

Adelaide Uni is (almost) a happening thing. The SA Legislative Council committee inquiring into merging Uni Adelaide and Uni SA has approved the proposal, See separate story for details.

The Government sticks its bib in (i)
“I have written to every Vice -Cancellor of every university this week asking them, ‘what are you doing to make sure that we are protecting students and what further steps are you planning to take here?’. Because every university is potentially affected by this and as I said, I fear that this will get worse before it gets better in the weeks ahead.”  Jason Clare on Sydney Radio 2GB on protests over attacks on Israel and Gaza

and II

“the provider’s processes for providing support by the provider’s academic staff in relation to a student’s unit of study, such as academic staff having regular contact with the student during the semester to check their progress in the unit of study, and, if those staff identify support is needed, providing students with flexibility in relation to assessments and connecting them to support services,” one of many requirements set out in draft guidelines for student support universities would be required to provide.

The Australian Skills Quality Authority warns there are Registered Training Organisations that are not properly enrolling, training and assessing students in real estate certs and a dip, nor providing sufficient information to students on legal and licensing requirements.  Future Campus refrains from obvious snarkery.

Jason Clare will open Deakin U and Uni Wollongong’s campuses in India next month – helpful they are both in the same place, the GIFT City precinct, at Ahmedabad in Gujurat.

The mind boggling physics of quantum computing is all very well but where will the quids come? The Department of Education has the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering on the case.  ATSE is running a survey open to all on quantum research commercialisation opportunities over the next decade.
The survey identifies three categories of quantum tech, computing, comms and cryptography and sensing. And it asks for opinions on a four point scale on national; infrastructure and regulatory readiness, available skills, industry ready to roll it out and Australia’s global competitive standing.
There are also open-ended opportunities for participants to report on matters the Feds should know about.

Oh joy, oh rapture, Senate (supplementary budget) Estimates Committee hearings are on next week. Education and Employment is on today week.

The National Tertiary Education Union has piled on pressure for Jason Clare to be seen to do more about sexual violence on campus. The union reports a new survey of members that found 76 per cent of responders had “a personal experience of sexual harassment” and of those who complained, 40 per cent plus were dissatisfied with the process/outcome. Just over half the sample report are being encouraged to drop it and just under half stated no action was taken.

In terms of broad patterns of behaviour, the union reports “little, if any improvement” on its first survey, in 2019.

The government is expected to commit to a student ombudsman, following scathing Senate Committee findings on how universities manage sexual harassment and assaults complaints by students. They won’t get an argument from the Opposition if they do; “we believe a fully resourced independent student ombudsman, with appropriate investigative, reporting and complaint resolution powers, has the potential to resolve student disputes with higher education providers including in relation to student safety,” Coalition senators state in their dissenting report on the Bill to introduce early Accord recommendations.

All of which will help the union if it asks for support for staff.

On Friday, Universities Australia announced Griffith U VC Carolyn Evans becomes Lead VC for Safety and Wellbeing, “a key step in our continued response to the serious societal issue of sexual harm” –  which may not be enough if Mr Clare is keen to keep the pressure on uni managements, as per the Universities Accord recommendation that they focus on “being good employers.”

It’s the 20th Anniversary of early OA adopter QUT’s research repository ePrints – and a good thing it was then and is now.

The Government has delivered on its promise to make skills taught by TAFE the centre of post-school vocational education and training everywhere in Australia – and the Feds have done it with State approval.
Headline figures ($30bn from all governments over five years) aside, there are three messages in the Prime Minister’s Tuesday announcement;

  • This is national policy based on a national approach to skills, “a framework for cooperation across State borders and across National and State and Territory priorities;” 
  • Training is fundamental to the national interest, to “ coordinate strategic investment in skills across the economy, and support delivery of skills needed in national priority areas;” and
  • TAFE is core, “the agreement places TAFE at the heart of the VET sector, with TAFEs to be supported by baseline funding commitment.”

Reaction: The announcement was not higher education lobbies time to shine but Universities Australia did its best to get into the act, ““focusing on skills development through vocational and university education is important … “Government has an opportunity through the Universities Accord to provide universities with the funding and policy certainty we need to continue doing our job for the nation. We can’t waste it.”

In contrast, the Australian Technology Network stuck with its MO, of not arguing with political reality, “any initiative which potentially brings us closer to a new national post-secondary education system, is a good thing.”

Wise, very wise – as the Australian Industry Group put it, “”we need to develop and deliver the skills our economy needs in a timely and future-focused way and this Agreement is a potential game-changer if implemented well and swiftly.”

The government has made training a signature issue and in the process has denied oxygen to university lobby complaints they need more money.

Education Minister Jason Clare reminded the international education industry last week of the government’s plan to stop corrupt agents, including, strengthening the “fit and proper” test in the Education Services for Overseas Students Act, to prevent cross ownership of providers and agents and prohibiting commissions on student transfers from one provider to another. “I want to work with you to make sure we get this right. To make sure that we achieve the intent of this reform and don’t open new loopholes of ‘marketing payments’ or ‘commission equivalent payments’ to related entities or individuals,” Mr Clare said.

And he added the possibility of using the ESOS Act to suspend providers. Mr Clare said Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil is now consulting on how that could work.   

Uni New England is pleased indeed that its six soil science units and Grad Cert in the subject make it the first university to be endorsed by Soil Science Australia.  For those of you who did not know (keep up, you lot!) there is now accreditation for soil scientists. Why is not entirely clear to TWTW, but the Commonwealth has made it so and it can be earned through courses or recognition for prior learning. Industry body Soil Sciences Australia does the accrediting, which ensures, “soil practitioners can implement fit for purpose soil sampling and interpretation to improve the quality of soil data, reduce soil input and management costs and improve soil productivity.”

The Bill to extend demand driven funding to Indigenous students in cities, end the 50 per cent pass rate to keep an UG place and extend universities’ support for students is recommended by a Senate committee, thus making its passage into law all but assured, unless the Opposition and Greens unite to oppose it. The two proposals are among the first five from the Universities Accord, as set out in its Interim Report (see separate story for details).

The government is also cracking on to enforce one of the Bill’s intents – publishing draft guidelines on to amend existing student support measures.



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