The Week that Was (12 April)

Was it entirely wise for the Regional Education Commission annual report cover art to be  a shot of sheep grazing behind a sign reading “school bus route” ?


The QS subject rankings are out, which please university marketers mightily, giving them something to sell to prospective students. Of course QS data has limitations, like basing results, in part, on results from a survey of university reputation, distributed to academics and employers. RMIT’s strategy expert Angel Calderon dives into all the details and what they mean for Australia’s future rankings in Future Campus today.


In news that will surprise no-one in international student recruitment, the Australian Government’s new ranking of institutions by the risk of their students breaching visa conditions is being used in agent marketing. What is surprising, is that it appears to have taken this long – the ratings were visible in December. This will undoubtedly add to university ire over the delays in visa issue and what appears to some as capricious decisions by officials.

They should shut up, lest it encourage the government to go harder. Fewer students with a high-risk of visa breaches may be the policy goal, but the political intent is demonstrating the government is reducing international arrivals who will compete for accommodation in tight rental markets. 


The Australian National Audit Office potential audits for 2024-25 include the Department of Education’s “administration of higher education funding” and how it handles the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme.  There is a variation of the Law of Media Watch (“you love it until you are on it”) that applies to ANAO, “people dismiss its audits as no big deal only until they are audited.”


Adrian Barnett (QUT) and Paul Glasziou (Bond U) have a novel idea about how to improve research funding – ask researchers and anybody else interested, what they want to know about the way the system works. You can add your questions here. Barnett and colleagues also write about researching how grant scheme work, covered in Future Campus, this week.  


Back in 2020 two academic casuals in Uni Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education complained they were required to work more hours than the number in their contract and their supervisor replied if they claimed for the extra they should not expect work the next year – which was what happened to one of them.  The Fair Work Ombudsman took the university to court over action it says, “impacted on fundamental employee rights.” In the Federal Court Justice Craig Dowling agreed, “they were entitled to complain or inquire about their ability to perform their work within the ‘anticipated hours’ contained in their contracts of employment. Those complaints should have been free of consequence,” he said.

The court slugged the university with $74,950 in fines, “It is important that the penalty is sufficient to deter the University from any repetition of the contravening conduct,” Justice Dowling said.

There could be more to come. In February 2023 the FWO filed a separate litigation alleging underpayment of Uni Melbourne Arts casuals. It remains before the court. 


The Australian Research Council’s new two-stage selection process for Discovery Project Grants is underway. Applicants were advised Tuesday if they made cut for the second round. Full applications are due beginning June. The arrangement is designed to save applicants time by not requiring everybody to make a full bid. ARC Chief Research Officer Christina Twomey describes stage one as a “pitch.”  Just 27% of the 4,147 of stage one “expression of interest” applicants made the cut.


Academic cheating providers are more precisely targeting previous and potential purchasers, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency warns. There is “a substantial reduction” in traffic to websites offering cheating services, a product targeted by TEQSA but an increase in reports of targets contacted direct by email and class groups being targeted by messaging apps or social media platforms. And cheating services are targeting users for identity theft and blackmail – including access to provider email and learning management systems. This, TEQSA warns, is “a cyber security risk that institutions need to be aware of and mitigate.”


Jobs and Skills Australia reports the top ten jobs where workers are in short supply. Registered nurses, primary and secondary teachers are all in the “long training gap” category, where there are few qualified applicants and where it takes time to qualify.

There is a “suitability gap” for software programmers caused by enough qualified applicants but without “employability skills” and work experience. However JSA adds without explanation, “another factor which may be in play is unconscious bias of employers.”

“The solution is to enhance the attributes of qualified applicants through investing in their employability skills and work experience.”


The Regional Education Commission annual report includes “ideas for consideration” some line-up with the Universities Accord, (of which Commissioner Fiona Nash was a member). Others are in line with existing-anticipated government policy.

  • Resource schools to offer career advice, “recognising that VET and higher education offer parallel pathways to success”
  • Financial support for compulsory course placements, “to improve higher education attainments in the regions”
  • Establish regional university study hubs on TAFE campuses
  • Significant increases of CSP places for “regionally-based, end-to-end medical schools”
  • HELP fee relief for early career veterinarians in rural areas and changes to course admissions “to ensure places for students with a commitment to regional and remote practice
  • Allowing unis with regional HQs to apply for funding from the Growing Regions Program
  • Regional linkages to connect schools, VET universities, Study Hubs, business, industry and community, “to build student aspiration and address access, attainment and workforce issues”

It does not suggest providing all regional university chancellors a red bike and a pony, perhaps the Commission thought they were in the Accord.

***, (“on-line news and analysis service”) announces 2024 awards for green and sustainability based loans and bonds. Macquarie U wins for “sustainability-linked loan of the year.” 


Uni Tasmania is selling two Hobart hotels it bought pre-pandemic to meet demand for student accommodation until new rooms of its own came online. Which has now happened – U Tas has 1,500 beds and a 78% occupancy rate.  Earnings from the sale will fund STEM.  It’s a change from prior to the pandemic, when there were 150 people on the university housing list and no private rentals to be had in Hobart.



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