The Week that Was (12 July)

If the TEQSA team ever feels sorry for itself they should consider what training regulator ASQA announces it is up against (new regulatory risk priorities). “Serious and organised criminals operating through the sector create unfair competition for legitimate VET businesses and industries, exploit vulnerable people, and increase pressure on the economy through undermining immigration systems, and enable unqualified people entry into critical roles putting themselves, workplaces and the community at risk.”


As of the year to April, there were 780 000 international students in the country, 16 per cent up on pre-Covid April 2019. Commencements were a record 259 000. HE enrolments were up 9 per cent with VET 46 per cent higher. Which raises two questions, one is why is the government focusing the reasons for caps on HE when growth is in VET? The other is does anybody seriously think ministers would gift the Opposition the chance to make this an issue during a housing shortage?


The Department of Defence’s Advanced Strategic Capabilities Accelerator picks up the pace on translating technologies to “take Defence further, faster” with a first pitch day, competing for $750 000 six-month contracts. Remember to switch the death star off. 


The Australian Bureau of Stats compiles current data across its collection to report 49 000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were in post-school education in 2021. Close to 43 per cent were in HE, nearly 10 per cent up on 2001 and  43 per in training down from 56 per cent. (Sorry, no idea where the others are).  The gender split for higher education is 67 per cent, 33 per cent men.

But not all the good news is that great.  While Certificate III completers more than doubled over twenty years, to 24 per cent, people with PG degrees increased from 0.4 per cent of the total population, to 1.5 per cent in 2021.

The ABS does not include comparative data for other Australians.  


Across the ditch, the NZ Employment Court finds University of Auckland breached express and implied contractual obligations to protect microbiologist Siouxie Wiles’ health and safety. Aspro Wiles was a prominent media commentator during the pandemic who was subjected to (hair-raising on FC’s reading) public harassment.

And university management was not exactly solid in supporting her public service as a scientist. “The university now accepts that the commentary undertaken by Associate Professor Wiles was part of her work for the university.  Simply telling her and her colleagues they should stop doing it was not reasonable.  Again, the university should have been putting in place a proper strategy so that the affected academic staff were sufficiently supported to continue with their public activities on the pandemic,” the court finds.


The Productivity Commission will make Jason Clare’s day, with a set of stats on degrees driving social mobility. A new PC report states an undergraduate degree or higher delivers 23 per cent more life-time pay than an HSC, 35 per cent more than people who only make it to Y11, or below. Australians whose education stops at Y12 are twice as likely as graduates to be in the bottom 20 per cent of income ten years later. “Education provides people from all backgrounds with the means to improve their earning potential: in the context of having a ‘fair go’, accessible education provides significant opportunities to transform an individual’s economic wellbeing,” is the message. But Brendan O’Connor may not be as pleased, “training” appears only in the bibliography. 


The Australian National Audit will run its unforgiving eyes over two Department of Education functions. One is administration of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy. The other is administration of HE funding, “including gaining assurance that funding is spent in accordance with legislation, and measuring the impact of funding.”


Uni Sydney has a new policy on campus protests, including requiring 72 hours-notice and specifics on what is not permitted. It follows last month’s camp by opponents of Israel’s attacks against Hamas in Gaza and is widely condemned as a restriction on free speech.  “We are astounded that Sydney University would join with state governments and large corporations in Australia who seek to encroach on the right of public assembly and to shut down free speech,” the NSW Council of Civil Liberties states.

Before the policy was adopted there was strong criticism of Vice Chancellor Mark Scott over the university’s handling of the Gaza protests, notably by coalition education shadow minister, Sarah Henderson. And so the new Uni Sydney policy might have been germane if Professor Scott was called to give evidence to the Senate committee considering a private members bill from Senator Henderson. She proposed legislation for an inquiry, “with essentially identical powers” to those of a Royal Commission, into antisemitism at Australian universities.

It is referred to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee but on Tuesday the prime mister rather pre-empted any findings.  “You don’t need an inquiry to know that there’s been a rise of antisemitism at some of the universities,” he said.


Calls to change La Trobe U’s name to something that does not honour a colonial settler must give student recruiters alpha irrits, what with the wat doing so would waste decades of decades of brand-recognition investment (FC July 5).

Smart universities already have a solution. It seems that so far Macquarie U has escaped demands that it change its name, honouring a British governor of NSW (1810-21) which is surely as peak settler-colonist as can be. Perhaps this is because university management in 2022 named its main campus Wallumattagal, to recognise the First Nations people who originally lived there. James Cook U has done something similar – naming the Townsville campus Bebegu Yumba, (place of learning in the Birri-Gubba language).



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