Election 2013

Not quite what you said yesterday, digger

Half flipPolitiFact  fact checks  Christopher Pyne on so-called “student unionism” and his review of the demand driven system and rates his post election comments a “half flip” on his pre-election commitments. 

There are some things that are just never settled in the education wars.

Compulsory student unionism is one of them. It was abolished in 2006 by John Howard’s Coalition government, and then returned “by the back door” (in the words of Christopher Pyne) when Labor introduced as the Student Services and Amenities Fee in 2011. Now the Coalition is planning to abolish that.

As a quick digression, it’s worth noting that the SSAF isn’t compulsory student unionism at all. It’s a fee ($273 in 2013) that universities are allowed to charge if they want, payable to the university. It must go toward funding student services and amenities, including sports, recreation and entertainment programs as well as counselling and academic assistance.

Many universities pass on large chunks of the SSAF pool to the student union, but a lot of the money ends up with other bodies – for example, see the 2013 breakdown of the SSAF distribution at the University of Sydney (USU denotes the student union):


Pyne has now signalled a wide ranging review of the higher education system which, in addition to abolishing the SSAF, would canvass international students, red tape and the “demand-driven system”.

This term denotes the system introduced when Labor abolished a cap on the number Commonwealth-supported places at universities. The government makes a substantial financial contribution to these places and now does so for as many students as the universities will enrol.

In 2011-12, student enrolments rose by four per cent, but there was a bigger increase for low-income, Indigenous and disabled students, and those from a non-English speaking background. The previous government said it was good to see a higher number of disadvantaged students going to university, and this was the result of scrapping the cap.

But the policy has its critics, including the more prestigious Group of Eight universities such as Sydney and Melbourne, who say it lowers standards.

And now Pyne is accused of joining them, despite previously ruling out a return to the cap. But does that stack up?

On August 26, 2012, the Coalition issued a press release stating the following:

The Coalition has no plans to increase university fees or cap places, said the [then] Shadow Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne today.

“Reports that this is being considered are wrong. In fact the Coalition strongly supported the uncapping of university places and many other elements of the Bradley Review,” Mr Pyne said.

The term “no plans” is a classic deployment of the sort of weasel words politicians live by. Granted, the plans of an opposition can and do change in government in response to circumstances. But often this is used to avoid revealing those intentions before an election. Terms like “no plans” provide a safe cover that’s technically not falsifiable.

Although, in this case the headline of the press release makes it a little more emphatic than perhaps the Coalition intended. “Coalition will not cap places or raise HECS,” it reads.

Pyne repeated the line about having “no plans to restore the cap” in a report appearing on the ABC’s 730 program on July 17, 2013. He added: “We do need to address concerns in the industry that there is a diminution of quality.”

But here’s the clincher. Page 41 of the Liberal Party’s “Our Plan – Real Solutions for all Australians” handbook, under the heading “Strengthening higher education”, lists the policy: “We will ensure the continuation of the current arrangements of university funding.”

This is the policy booklet which Tony Abbott launched in January, telling Australians it “explains the direction, values and policy priorities of the next Coalition Government”.

Fast forward to today. A report in the Australian newspaper quotes Pyne saying that an increase to HECS is “not even being considered”, but that the cap is on the table. There will be a review into the demand-drive system.

“Some people in the higher education sector believe we’re already at saturation point with the number of people that can and want to go to university,” Pyne said today. “I need to get good advice about all of that.”

And he told ABC radio in Adelaide today: “There is certainly a lot of evidence that the number of students being enrolled has grown exponentially and whether they have grown in the courses that have a career path is one of the things that we need to carefully consider.

“It would be wrong of the universities and the Commonwealth Government to simply be training people for careers that don’t exist.”

Calls were made to Pyne’s office today but have so far not been returned.

Our ruling

The Coalition hasn’t announced an intention to reinstate the cap, just that it will be considered as part of a broad review into higher education.

Previously Christopher Pyne has said there were “no plans” to restore the cap. He also said reports that the idea was being considered were false.

Clearly it is now being considered. That stands in contrast to the policy in the Liberal Party’s policy handbook, which states they will leave the current funding arrangements in place.

We shouldn’t jump the gun – a policy has not been announced and we don’t know what will happen. But the sentiment and the messaging has changed. Something that was once off the table is now on it.

We rate this a Half Flip.

The Scan | #139 | 27 September 2013


Pyne sends mixed messageagenda

27 September   2013   |   In his first interview as education minister, Christopher Pyne says his priorities are to “repair” international education, reduce red tape and review the demand-driven system.  Pyne said that international education issues would be tackled “sooner rather than later”, given the economic impact of a 20% to 25% decline in Australia’s biggest non-mining export industry. he nominated reducing universities’ regulatory load as the other high priority, guided by the recommendations of the recent review of university regulation.  Pyne said he would not be bound by the former government’s higher education policies, including its targets for attainment and inclusion and that  quality would be the prime consideration in the review of the demand-driven system…..[ READ MORE ]….

Abbott hoses down amenities fee furore

ABBOTT226 September 2013 | Prime Minister Tony Abbott has moved to calm concerns the Commonwealth Government is planning to scrap the university student amenities fee, saying there are “no plans for change in this area” as the government has a big agenda and higher priorities…..[ READ MORE ]….

Pyne hoses down caps debate

christopher-pyne26 September 2013  | Education minister Christopher Pyne is trying to hose down concerns he is planning to renege on a promise not to restore limits on university places, but says he has ordered a review because he says evidence suggests “quality is suffering to achieve quantity”. And he says there are concerns that students are not doing the right courses…..[ READ MORE ]….

Research returned to education

research225 September 2013   |   Responsibility for research policy and infrastructure will move to the education portfolio after its fleeting assignment to industry.  Education minister Christopher Pyne says this means “vice-chancellors will be able to work with one minister and one department on the crucial interaction between research excellence and teaching quality”……[ READ MORE ]….

Holmesglen & Healthscope partner for new private hospitalHolmesglen

25 September 2013  | Holmesglen Institute and private health company Healthscope are proposing to build a new private hospital at Holmesglen’s Moorabbin campus in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs. The project will convert an existing conference centre into a health and education precinct, providing clinical training for Holmesglen’s health science students, as well as health care for local residents……[ READ MORE ]….

Coalition plans a “drastic overhaul”

shattered pillar25 September 2013 | The Coalition promised stability as one of its “seven pillars” of higher education policy.  According to media reports of comments by education minister Christopher Pyne, this was a non-core commitment , if a commitment at all. Pyne’s comments are a direct contradiction of his unequivocal statement that while the Coalition welcomes “debate over the quality and standards in our universities, we have no plans to increase fees or cap places”. …….[ READ MORE]….

Industrial action over stalled EBA negotiationsnteu-logo

24 September 2013 | National Tertiary Education Union members at the University of Melbourne will begin a 24-hour strike from noon Wednesday 25 September, to noon Thursday 26 September while staff at James Cook University reject “monstrous double standards” over 3% pay offer…..[ READ MORE]….

Pay deals and benchmarks

Budget 224 September 2013 | Deakin University and the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) have provisionally agreed on terms for a new enterprise agreement. The new agreement will include a 3% annual salary increase, and a $1200 initial increase to all salary bands (pro rata for non full-time staff)….[ READ MORE ]….


The cone of silence descends

The incomparable David Rowe makes a point in the Australian Financial Review
The incomparable David Rowe makes a point in the Australian Financial Review

The difference between being in government and opposition, Tony Blair once famously said,  is that in government a minister wakes up and thinks, “what will I  do today”.  In opposition, the spokesperson wakes up and thinks, “what will I say today?”  New education minister Christopher Pyne possibly began to appreciate this difference  when his public musings  about “quantity” versus “quality” (i.e. the pros and cons of the demand driven system), which sparked the most public attention of the nascent government’s term (except for deciding not automatically announcing new boat arrivals).   It certainly inspired the likes of  cartoonist David Rowe (above) and an enormous amount of media commentary and analysis.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has cracked down and directed that ministerial media commentary needs to be “co-ordinated” through his office – and nothing wrong with that either:  government policy does need to be subject to an approval process.  At the moment, government policy is that the demand driven system will be retained and that fees will not be increased.


 Young Australians overqualified and underemployed

FYA_HYPAF13_Web_Banner_640x340Only around one-third of VET graduates are employed in the same occupation as their field of training, according to a report by the Foundation for Young Australians.  The report shows a misalignment between the skills many young people have and the jobs that are available to them: firstly, that many young Australians are overqualified for their jobs; and secondly, that those without qualifications are finding it much harder to get a good job


ATN logoATN In Profile September 2013

Action, not Titles, will be crucial in new Abbott Ministry – ATN Universities Enjoy Further Success in World Rankings – ATN Forms Historic Asian Partnership – Business on the Agenda for Coalition Government and Universities – Recap of Coalition’s Colombo plan – ATN Achievements



2013 Eureka Awards

Eureka1The University of Melbourne together with Monash University  won this year’s University of New South Wales Eureka Prize for Scientific Research for an accidental discovery that revealed the purpose of ‘mystery’ immune cells in the gut. The study shows how our immune system interacts with the complex bacteria ecology in our gut, and opens new paths for drug discovery that could revolutionise the design of modern vaccines, improve outcomes for people suffering inflammatory bowel disease and infection and deliver new drugs to patients more safely .



Comment & analysis

TIck a box on climate  science

Tick3As Ross Gittins observed in Fairfax Media (including Pravda on  the Yarra, which proved its independence by being one of only two newspapers in the known universe to endorse the return of the Labor government – the other, strangely enough was the Economist), the Abbott government has had a disconcerting starting “to do list”:

…..sack econocrats guilty of having worked with the enemy, pass an edict against climate change and discourage all discussion of it, stop publicising boat arrivals, build more motorways, move to a cut-price national broadband network and take science for granted.

The disbanding of the Climate Commission has excited lots of comment but its sacked members have reconstituted as the Australian Climate Council, and with the support of community funding, and will volunteer their time to interpret climate science from around the globe.

There are other strong, independent and credible sources of advice and information about climate change issues, such as the Centre of ClimateExcellence for Climate System Science, which was established in 2011 with extensive investment from the Australian Research Council and comprises  the University of New South WalesMonash University, the Australian National University, The University of Melbourne, and the University of Tasmania.   It seeks to build on and improve existing understanding of the modeling of regional climates to enable enhanced adaptation to and management of climate change, particularly in the Australian region.  We can’t be absolutely sure but we don’t think even Jamie Briggs would label this “ridiculous research”.

On 27 September  2013 the 5th Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will be released.  Here, the Centre’s director, Professor Andy Pitman, previews the report, one part of which will address the so-called “warming hiatus”:

This is the argument that warming has stopped, with the further assertion in some quarters that we therefore have nothing to worry about in the future.

It is a fact, based on observations of air temperature, that the rate of global warming measured as surface air temperature has slowed over the past 15 years. The last decade is still the warmest in the past 150 years.

If you measure global heat content then global warming has not slowed. If you measure other indices including sea level rise or ocean temperatures or sea ice cover global warming has not slowed.

However, the warming trend in air temperatures has slowed over the last 15 years. There is a great deal of interest in this “hiatus” in the sense of whether it points to some fundamental error in climate science.



Life & stuff

A gardening tip

Plant tomatoes on Grand Final Day, not Cup Day


Ever since anyone can remember, Melbourne Cup Day – the first Tuesday in November – has been the day for gardeners to start planting tomatoes in Melbourne, when warmer overnight temperatures are more reliable.  But University of Melbourne “urban horticulturalist” Dr Chris Williams says due to climate change, AFL Grand Final Day, the last Saturday in September, should replace the time-honoured planting signpost in gardening folklore.  He says that overnight temperatures through winter into early spring have warmed over the past ten years to make Grand Final Day the new seasonal signpost for tomato planting.



Learning @work

11-13 November 2013 | Australian Technology Park, Sydney



Is there something interesting near where you live and/or work? Got an interesting story? Got an event coming up? Tell us about it!


It’s free….no hidden costs… absolutely gratis



The cone of silence descends

27 September 2013

The incomparable David Rowe makes a point in the Australian Financial Review
The incomparable David Rowe makes a point in the Australian Financial Review

The difference between being in government and opposition, Tony Blair once famously said, is that in government a minister wakes up and thinks, “what will I do today”. In opposition, the spokesperson wakes up and thinks, “what will I say today?” New education minister Christopher Pyne possibly began to appreciate this difference when his public musings about “quantity” versus “quality” (i.e. the pros and cons of the demand driven system),  sparked the most public attention of the nascent government’s term (except for deciding not automatically announcing new boat arrivals).  People think that what he says may reflect what he’s going to do.

It certainly inspired the likes of cartoonist David Rowe (above) and an enormous amount of media commentary and analysis.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has cracked down and directed that ministerial media commentary needs to be “co-ordinated” through his office – and there’s  nothing wrong with that either: government policy does need to be subject to an approval process.  At the moment, government policy is that the demand driven system will be retained and that fees will not be increased.  Even a newly minted minister can’t unilaterally rewrite the policy, particularly when the leader (now prime minister) has articulated “seven pillars” which seemingly rule these changes out.

As The Scan  archives on caps and fees show, both these issues have been the subject of contention for some time.  There’s a great divide in the university community, with the more established universities in favour of caps  and greater fee deregulation.  And then there’s the “other” universities which favour neither.

We cover all sides but, as a general rule, The Scan is with the “others”  – and  that’s not the way the tide seems to be  flowing.

It was certainly a garbled set of messages: Pyner says he’s in favour of “quality” over “quantity” and he’s reviewing the demand driven system.  But that doesn’t mean reimposing caps or a “minimum ATAR” to qualify for university entry or fiddling with fees – at least that’s what the Prime Minister has told him it doesn’t mean – for now, at least.

The Abbott government is to establish a “commission of audit’ of the Commonwealth budget, which is to report by the end of 2013, so as to inform the 2014 budget.

So we expect that’s where the action is – May 2014.

And what will the action be?

The government probably won’t formally re-impose caps – but it will come up with something to “maintain standards”.   While Christopher Pyne eschews “targets”, a minimum ATAR of 60 for year 12 students sort of matches the 40% attainment target  (although in his public musings, Pyne has ruled out resorting to minimum university entry scores).

And they will quite possibly do some variation of  what the UK’s Conservative / Liberal government did : double or triple fees,  and cut or remove altogether the government subsidy  for degrees like arts, business – indeed, anything outside the STEM courses….?

In a recent editorial, the Australian Financial Review captured the sentiment:

…Christopher Pyne is right to question whether Labor’s equity push is sustainable.  But simply going back to the Howard government’s cap on enrolments is not the right answer.

Rather than crude quotas on the number of Australians allowed into universities, he needs liberate the price universities can charge for their services.  That would send a better signal to universities about what courses to supply while better revealing what courses students value.

edXpress issue #011 September 2013


Holding the new government to account

With the Federal election now over, the NTEU, along with others in the higher education sector, is watching and assessing the first actions of the new Abbott Coalition Government. NTEU National …Read More

Thousands protest over the future of higher education

On 20 August thousands of university staff and students across Australia took part in the National Day of Action aimed at pushing higher education further up the political agenda for the federal …Read More

Masterly inactivity or ‘unmasterly activity’ on academic freedom?

The NTEU has condemned Tony Abbott’s proposed Commission of Audit which will “re-prioritise” about $900 million in annual Australian Research Council (ARC) grants and not …Read More

Election 2013 is a left-of-centre wipe-out

The 2013 election has been a disaster for the Labor Party and, as a consequence, for the Greens as well. Dr Nick EconomouedXpress’s own political commentator for the seemingly never-ending …Read More

What’s in a ranking?

The 2013 Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings (http://www.topuniversities.com/qs-world-university-rankings) released on 10 September raise an important question, according to Paul …Read More

Staff and student opposition to tutorial cuts at the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences

Calling the announcement to replace tutorials by ‘teaching forums’ at ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences a ‘teaching innovation’ is simply window-dressing for budget cuts, says NTEU ACT Division …Read More

Conga line protest outside Melbourne’s Centre for Adult Education

Staff at Melbourne’s Centre for Adult Education (CAE) formed a conga line weaving in and around their building for 30 minutes on 5 September, over management’s threat to remove the right …Read More

Equal Pay Day: Universities must close the gap, NTEU says

Victorian and Western Australian universities are amongst the worst employers when it comes to the gender pay gap for general staff, according to 2012 figures released by NTEU President Jeannie Rea …Read More

Student debt clock ticking: Will a university degree cost a second mortgage under Abbott?

A student debt clock on a website set up by the NTEU shows just how fast student debt in Australia is growing – an estimated $500,000 an hour or $12 million a day. Click here to view….Read More

NTEU slams Victorian Government outsourcing its Apprentice and Traineeship Regulatory Field Services

The NTEU has slammed a decision of the Victorian Government to outsource its Apprentice and Traineeship Regulatory Field Services (ATFS) to a Queensland company that has no previous presence or …Read More

Union successful in settling disability discrimination case at the Equal Opportunity Commission

Swinburne University of Technology agreed on 11 September to settle a discrimination claim made to the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission by Joanne Waldron, an administrator …Read More

(Nano-) diamonds are a boy’s best friend: Professor Lloyd Hollenberg and his Eureka Prize

NTEU member, Professor Lloyd Hollenberg, and the team at the University of Melbourne won the Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research on 23 August for their breakthrough …Read More

“Not feelin’ the love” – JCU staff member tells it like it is

The stalled negotiations at James Cook University (JCU) have occasioned lots of all staff emails from management. …Read More

Word of the month: ‘entitlement’

A few months back, a friend told me the company her husband had worked for had gone bust and that he’d ‘lost’ his entitlements, …Read More

Dreaming of your next big trip?

Whether you’re trekking through Borneo or planning a romantic Whitsundays getaway, there are lots of ways you can save on travel when you use your NTEU benefits. Travel benefits include:Read More

XFiles – edXpress 11, Sept 2013


edXpress did a double-take on 2 September when we opened the paper to read this critique of then Prime Minister Rudd’s plans for TAFE by Julie Hare:  “What seemed like a good …Read More

Pyne hoses down caps debate

ABC News    |   25 September 2013

Education minister Christopher Pyne is trying to hose down concerns he is planning to renege on a promise not to restore limits on university places, but says he has ordered a review because he says evidence suggests “quality is suffering to achieve quantity”.

Labor abolished the cap on university places in 2007 to boost access to higher education, especially for people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

But Pyne says the change has led to an “exponential” growth in student numbers and consequent concerns about quality in the sector.

You must be living in a bubble … if you think that there is not an issue in universities about whether there are quality issues about the extraordinary number of students being enrolled.   I’ve said that we will put quality in tertiary education as our number one priority, and that means we need to review the demand-driven system of university places because there is some evidence … that quality is suffering to achieve quantity.

University enrolments have increased by about 25% (190,000) since 2007.

And he says there are concerns that students are not doing the right courses.

There’s certainly a lot of evidence that the number of students enrolled has grown exponentially, and whether they have grown in the courses that have a career path is one of the things that we need to carefully consider.   It would be wrong of the universities and the Commonwealth Government to simply be training people for careers that don’t exist.

Pyne confirms plans to overhaul higher education

ABC News    |      25 September 2013

UNIVERSITY STOCKEducation Minister Christopher Pyne is planning an overhaul of the higher education system, including the reintroduction of caps on university places and the removal of compulsory student service fees.

Mr Pyne has confirmed he is considering reintroducing caps on university places due to concerns that the current demand-driven system is undermining quality, despite assurances in July that the Coalition had no such plans.

Labor abolished the cap on places in 2007 to give more people access to higher education and to get more people from disadvantaged backgrounds into university.

In an interview with the ABC’s 7.30 in July, Mr Pyne said the Coalition had “no plans to restore the cap“.

“We do believe that the more students who are doing university the better,” he added.

In a media release in August 2012, in response to policy speculation, Mr Pyne said the Coalition strongly supported the uncapping of university places.

“Reports that this (capping places) is being considered are wrong. In fact the Coalition strongly supported the uncapping of university places and many other elements of the Bradley Review,” Mr Pyne said.

Released in 2008, the Badley Review into higher education gave recommendations for reform in the sector, including more deregulation and for funding to follow students across institutions.

Mr Pyne said on ABC radio today that his focus is on ensuring quality in the university sector and he is concerned some courses do not lead to a job.

“There is certainly a lot of evidence that the number of students being enrolled has grown exponentially and whether they have grown in the courses that have a career path is one of the things that we need to carefully consider,” he said.

quote marks

We have no plans to restore the cap. We do believe that the more students who are doing university, the better. But we do need to address concerns in the industry that there is a diminution of quality.

Christopher Pyne July 2012

“It would be wrong of the universities and the Commonwealth Government to simply be training people for careers that don’t exist.”

Mr Pyne also confirmed that he plans to once again scrap compulsory fees collected by universities to pay for student services and amenities on campus.

Compulsory student union fees were scrapped under the Howard government in 2005 but brought back in a different form under Labor.

The Gillard government passed legislation to allow universities to charge student service fees of up to $250, which began at the start of 2012.

The Australian Higher Education Supplement 25 September 2013

High wiredThis is The Australian‘s own summary of lead items in its online edition. As this is a subscription service, you or your organisation will need to have a subscription to The Australian to view the full article.

Pyne vows to fix uni system
John Ross THE Coalition has nominated international education as its highest priority for the sector.
Visa test for study-abroad plan
Bernard Lane WELL over a half-million Australians head off on holiday to Bali every year.
It’s quality not quantity for Pyne
John Ross CHRISTOPHER Pyne says he will bring “a deep and abiding passion in higher education” into his new role.
Research policy sits with uni portfolio
Bernard Lane THE bulk of responsibility for research will be picked up by Education Minister Christopher Pyne.
Efficiency dividend puts lid on pay
Kylar Loussikian THE Gillard government’s funding cuts are to blame for the failure of university staff to secure higher pay rises.

Click here for all headlines

Better ways to share campus cake
Phil Burcham IN many respects, Asian universities are models of the modern research institution.
Apocalypse too soon
Judith Shulevitz NOVELISTS often come closest to guessing the truth about humans of the future.
More Opinion
 Grinston to be general counsel at UNSW
Glover gets the nod for Western Sydney
 Former UWA academic to lead UCD

 No pressure applied: UNSW
 Immigration officials blind to TAFE
Better health outcomes ignores cause
Time to burst the uni-centric bubble

Pyne to review uni targets and caps

The Australian   |     25 September 2013

The target of 40% of 25 to 34-year-olds to have a university degree by 2025 may be abandoned, with new education minister Christopher Pyne declaring he is “obsessed” with quality rather than targets.

The targets also require 20% of university students to be from the most disadvantaged quarter of the population by 2020.

Pyne also said he would revisit the demand-driven higher education system established by the  former Labor government.

My aspiration is to get as many people doing university education as want to do it and can do it effectively to maintain quality. I’m not going to get caught up with Labor’s targets and goals or five-year great leap forwards.

Government quotas on domestic undergraduate places were relaxed in 2010 and 2011, and removed last year, prompting a 21% surge in new student numbers.

However, concerns were raised at the ability of the new entrants, with many places going to students with university entrance scores below 50.

Recently, interest in university has waned, with just 0.6% more places offered this year, compared with a 5% jump last year.

Pyne said he would examine whether the system had reached “saturation point”, compromising quality in the process.

Pyne rejected speculation that the new government intends to raise university fees, saying changes to the HECS system were “not even being considered”.

He signalled possible changes in other areas, saying he was “not bound at all by the previous government’s policies” on higher education.

Pyne indicated that the Coalition would go further than Labor in reducing red tape for universities, and refused to rule in or out the winding back of recent funding cuts to the sector.

He might also consider extending beyond universities the right to work after graduating as well as more generous visa processing arrangements for international students.

The government has also decided to hand responsibility for research to Pyne, overturning last week’s decision to place it in the portfolio of Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane.

The decision, revealed in an administrative arrangements order last Wednesday, prompted concerns that research would be neglected.

TDA Weekly Newsletter 23 September 2013

TDA banner_02

In this edition

Tertiary education split in new administrative arrangements

Technical and vocational education and training has been split between two departments under the new administrative arrangements issued by the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

Skills, vocational education policy regulation and programs, and training, including apprenticeships will all preside under the Department of Industry, under the new Minister for Industry, Ian MacFarlane and Parliamentary Secretary, Bob Baldwin.

The Department also has a new Secretary, Glenys Beauchamp, replacing Don Russell.

International education and regulation of technical and vocational under ASQA, and higher education under TEQSA, will remain in the Department of Education.

See the Administrative Arrangements Order.

See an article in The Australian.

Victorian training reforms detailed by Victorian Minister Peter Hall

One year on from reforms to the Victorian training system, there is a significantly higher correlation between employment and training delivery, according to the Minister for Higher Education and Skills Peter Hall.

“In just 12 months, there has been a very notable increase from 49 to 69 per cent of government funded enrolments in courses of a higher public value and areas of skills shortages, such as motor mechanics, enrolled nurses and aged care workers.”

The Victorian Training Market Quarterly Report Q2 2013 showed more government subsidised enrolments in areas of higher public value and skills shortage.

While the figure of 399,000 enrolments in 2013 is slightly down when compared to 2012, it has increased by 320,400 enrolments or 25 per cent on 2011, the Minister says.

See the Minister’s media release.

See the Training Market Quarterly Report.

Training and job opportunities in Adelaide

Some 400 young people in Adelaide’s north will have the chance to boost their skills and improve their job prospects, through a new jobs and training package.

Employment Minister Grace Portolesi said four targeted projects will train young people for jobs in rail, transport, warehousing, community services and horticulture. These projects will specifically target young people in northern Adelaide who are finding difficulty accessing employment.

See more.

Young Australians over qualified and underemployed

Only around one-third of VET graduates are employed in the same occupation as their field of training, according to a report by the Foundation for Young Australians.

The report, ‘How Young People are Faring 2013’, is an annual series that provides point-in-time and trend information on the education, employment and transitions of young Australians.

The report has shown a misalignment between the skills many young people have and the jobs that are available to them: firstly, that many young Australians are overqualified for their jobs; and secondly, that those without qualifications are finding it much harder to get a good job.

A total of 26 per cent of Australian higher education graduates are underutilised immediately after course completion and 15 per cent are still underutilised three years later.

Read more.

Gender imbalance and discrimination rife in ICT sector

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has released the findings of its 2013 Employment Survey which show an alarming level of discrimination and a continued gender imbalance.

No position surveyed showed higher than a 30% female participation rate, with the positions of ICT Business Analyst and ICT Academic having the greatest female representation at 28.9% and 26.7% respectively.

Of the 34% of respondents who indicated that they had been the subject of some discrimination, 42% were females who indicated they had experienced discrimination based on their gender. The ACS says this is an “alarmingly high number given that only 15% of respondents to the survey were female.”

See more.

Connecting with Asia breakfast seminar

The evolving dynamics of doing business in Asia will be the focus of a breakfast seminar being hosted by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA), in Sydney, Friday 18 October.

The breakfast will feature Dr Geoff Raby, a former Australian ambassador to China, and now a Beijing-based business consultant.

Dr Raby will share his insights and experience in a forum moderated by journalist, Kerry O’Brien. Industry CEOs and executives will discuss how they are tackling the challenges and how to prepare for the future in the Asian century. Discussion topics will include:

• What does change in Asia mean for Australia’s economy and society?

• What are the emerging key issues for executives and companies working across the Asian region?

• What are the key skills and capabilities Australian companies need to develop when striving to build, maintain and expand businesses in the Asian region, including in China?

Cost is $50 per person. To register, please contact Paula Bucic on paula.bucic@awpa.gov.au or 02 9246 0489 by Friday 4th October 2013.

Read more.

Time to reform apprenticeships – Holmesglen

Retiring Holmesglen Chief Executive and former TDA Chair, Bruce Mackenzie has proposed a re-think of the traditional model of apprenticeships to better utliise and develop skills among young people.

In an interview with Campus Review, Mackenzie says TAFE and group training organisations could work together to develop an alternative training model that does not rely on an indenture.

“There has been no reform in the core business of VET, that is, in the curriculum and the mechanisms that are used to deliver that curriculum,” he says.

“Apprenticeships have been totally resistant to change. We have little knowledge as to what attracts students to skills training, why retention rates appear to be so poor, where apprentices go if they drop out, why employers take on apprentices, and so forth.

“This proposal would lead to systemic change in curriculums, the role of the teacher, links with employers, and the means for bringing together group training companies and institutions. It would almost certainly improve retention rates and VET’s status.”

Read more.

Transport and logistics E-scan seeking input

The Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council (TLISC) is seeking input into the development of the 2014 Transport and Logistics Environmental Scan (E-Scan).

The 2013 E-Scan can be viewed here.

Submissions are due no later than Friday 18 October.

See how to make a submission.

TDA study mission to Germany and UK

TAFE Directors Australia is joining with the LH Martin Institute for Tertiary Education Leadership and Management at the University of Melbourne, to lead a provider and industry study mission on critical issues affecting the Australian technical and vocational education system.

The mission will review innovation in delivery, with insights into the student experience, employer participation and alternate pathways for apprenticeships.

The 10-day study mission will visit Germany and the United Kingdom, from 11– 21 November. It will conclude with attendance at the UK Association of Colleges 2013 Annual Conference in Birmingham.

See more.

Best practice in using scores from standardised English proficiency tests

A new tool to review English language score requirements for academic programs is being offered by Educational Testing Service (ETS) TOEFL.

Cath Moore, TOEFL iBT English Language Consultant, is offering sessions for individuals or institutions in early December 2013 and in 2014.

Contact Cath Moore at cmoore@etsglobal.org

Read more.

Diary Dates

AWPA Business Breakfast Building next generation Asian connections DATE: 18 October, 7.30 am LOCATION: Sheraton on the Park, 161 Elizabeth St, Sydney DETAILS: Click here for further information.

Knowledge management – use it or lose it Queensland VET Development Centre DATE: 23 October DETAILS: Click here for further information.

2013 Webinar series Queensland VET Development Centre DATE: August – November DETAILS: Click here for further information.

Love Apptually webinar series Queensland VET Development Centre DATE: 21August – 2 October DETAILS: Click here for further information.

Australian Council for Adult Literacy Conference DATE: 30 September – 2 October LOCATION: University of Technology, Sydney DETAILS: Click here for further information.

Australian International Education Conference AEIC DATE: 8-11 October LOCATION: National Convention Centre, Canberra DETAILS: Click here for further information.

2013 AUSTAFE National Conference AUSTAFE DATE: 9-11 October LOCATION: Gold Coast Convention Centre, Queensland DETAILS: Click here for more information.

5th National Student Engagement Forum: Creating an engaged student experience LH Martin Institute and the Australian Council for Educational Research DATE: 21, 23 & 25 October LOCATION: Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane. DETAILS: Click here for more information.

EYEQ2013 Conference Queensland VET Development Centre DATE: 24-25 October LOCATION: Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Queensland. DETAILS: Click here for more information

2013 AAIR National Forum Australasian Association for Institutional Research DATE: 13-15 November LOCATION: Perth, Western Australia DETAILS: Click here for more information.

Risk Management for Tertiary Education Sector Australian Institute of Company Directors and Association for Tertiary Education Management DATE: 15 November LOCATION: Sydney, NSW DETAILS: Click here for more information.

conVerge13 – E-learning Conference eWorks DATE: 21-22 November LOCATION: Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre DETAILS: Click here for more information.

Australian Training Awards Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education DATE: 22 November LOCATION: Perth DETAILS: Click here for further information.

AVETRA 17th Annual Conference Informing Changes in VET Policy and Practice: The Central Role of Research DATE: 22-24 April 2014 LOCATION: Outrigger, Surfers Paradise, Queensland DETAILS: Click here for further information.

The Scan | #138 | 20 September 2013


Education and training separatedIan McFarlane

There was speculation after the announcement of Tony Abbott’s ministry early in the week as to who would be handling VET matters within the education portfolio. The VET side of the tertiary sector has actually landed in the lap of former and once more industry minister Ian McFarlane, along with science and research. It’s a curious decision to separate the tertiary sector in that way, although not without precedent: VET was located in the business portfolio in Victoria in 2006 but reunited with  education by the incoming Baillieu government in 2010….[ READ MORE ]….

The strange case of the missing science minister

Click to enlarge

Does it matter that, for the first time, more of less, in over 80 years that Australia doesn’t have a specifically designated “minister for science”?    Probably not a lot: the highest profile science minister in that whole time was former quiz master Barry Jones who, despite his cleverness and celebrity,  had next to no clout in the Labor government of the 1980s/90s.  He is perhaps best remembered for the “cadastre” – a  spaghetti and meatballs depiction of the ”knowledge nation” he devised for Labor leader Kim Beazley in 1999, when Jones himself was no longer in Parliament.  Rod Lamberts and Will J Grant argue that science certainly needs a strong advocate in cabinet,  someone to stand up and argue in for long term strategic investment in our scientific capacity. Perhaps industry minister Ian McFarlane will prove such an advocate, perhaps he won’t.  But  we have to be careful of jumping to the conclusion that, just because there isn’t a minister with the word science in their title, science won’t be taken seriously … or will be taken any less seriously than it already was….[ READ MORE]….

Budget crunch – and job losses – loom at La TrobeBudget 2013

La Trobe vice-chancellor John Dewar has warned that the university is overdue for a “root-and-branch” crackdown on costs, having systematically avoided addressing  funding issues for the past 10-15 years.  La Trobe is behind its growth target by about 1200 full-time students, amounting to a revenue shortfall of up to $25m by 2015 and an overall deficit of $65 m.   There are fears that measures to address the deficit could cost upwards of 300 jobs….[ READ MORE ]….

Higher education growing in TAFE

holmesglen-002The number of Victorian students enrolling in bachelor degrees at TAFEs instead of universities has more than doubled, from a low base,  in the past five years,  going from 640 enrolments in 2008  to 1520 in 2012.  When associate degrees are counted, the figure more than doubles again to about 3500.  The increase is a mostly Victorian phenomenon, with 44 of the 53 bachelor qualifications being delivered at TAFEs around Australia,  being delivered in Victoria….[ READ MORE ]….

Lilydale grant to be scrutinisedLilydale campus

The Victorian Auditor-General is set to investigate a $100,000 payment to Yarra Ranges Council over a potential conflict of interest.  The government gave the money to the council so it could investigate and draw up a plan for the future use of the closed Swinburne University Lilydale campus…..[ READ MORE ]….

Gap year proves positive

Gap yearStudents who take gap years are generally more successful in their university studies than mature aged students or students who enter university straight from high school, according to a University of Sydney study.  The study tracked 904 Australian students, noting their high school achievements and whether or not they had deferred.    The study found that gap years can help students gain skills, better grades and did not slow down their academic momentum……[ READ MORE ]….

Footscray set to become “edgy university town”Footscray

Footscray would shed its battler image and transform into an edgy university town in a proposal from Victoria University (VU) and Maribyrnong City Council.  VU and the council have signed a memorandum of understanding to build student accommodation and establish arts and sports precincts as part of a scheme to rejuvenate the suburb. The council has a “land bank” of nine car parks that could be redeveloped for the project…..[ READ MORE ]….

UC puts campus up for development

uc-logoThe University of Canberra (UC) is opening up 40 hectares of its main campus in the Canberra suburb of Belconnen for development in the hope of generating $100 million in capital investment each year for the next decade.   UC vice-chancellor Stephen Parker said potential development could range from residential ”alumni” villages, to health research and development bodies wanting to be in close proximity to the new UC hospital, government agencies, commercial organisations, technology parks, arts and culture complexes, sporting facilities and business incubators…..[ READ MORE ]….

Queries on conflict of interest

Former treasurer John Dawkins has queried conflict of interest claims after it emerged he would chair Vocation, a new education john-dawkinscompany reported to be worth $300 million, due to be listed on the stock exchange later this year.  Dawkins, a treasurer and education minister in the Hawke and Keating governments, chairs the National Skills Standards Council (NSSC) and the Australian Qualifications Framework Council.  Dawkins says he has raised his possible involvement in the venture with the members of the NSSC so the council is aware of these developments.  Dawkins says he has raised his possible involvement in the venture with the members of the NSSC and will write to the new minister about the compatibility of such a role with his continued involvement with the NSSC…..[ READ MORE ]….


The new education ministers

16 September 2013 | As widely expected, Christopher Pyne, the Liberals’ education spokesperson in opposition, is to be appointed education minister in the incoming Coalition government and presumably will take carriage for higher education as well as schools education. Sussan Ley is to be appointed the assistant minister for education and  Scott Ryan is to be appointed parliamentary secretary to Pyne.




Bendigo TAFE  chief quits

Maria-SimpsonMaria Simpson has resigned after nearly two years as the chief executive of Bendigo TAFE, saying she plans to retire and spend time with her family.

She says there are still significant challenges facing the institution.

Last year, nearly 100 jobs were lost from the TAFE, courses were cut and the Kyneton campus was closed.

Ms Simpson says the shift to a more commercial focus still has some way to go and will be tough for the Bendigo TAFE board and her successor to manage.

I think the whole process of change will be one that has to occur relatively rapidly and will also be very challenging, and I don’t think that that will come to an end quickly.   The planning and the implementation of plans once decided will be the challenges that they face.

We had probably been slow to make the shift to the commercial orientation that was required and therefore we probably felt the change a lot harder than many because we had to run very hard to catch up.

It is always very difficult to make decisions about people’s lives.


Comment & analysis

The practical value of impractical research

Today’s eccentric can become tomorrow’s Nobel Prize winner

research infrastructure - ABCWith the Coalition government intending to redirect funding from so-called “ridiculous research“, it’s worth re-visiting this item from 30 April 2013 on the practical value of impractical research – and the contribution  to the wellbeing of communities of research in the humanities and social sciences.

In  one of its regular policy notes, the Group of Eight acknowledges the value of applied research, “the more tactical, short term research intended to realise already identified market and other opportunities”. It’s sometimes argued that, with pressures on public budgets, if governments invest specifically in research designed to produce immediately useful outcomes, it would ensure a higher return on government investment.

We witness the life enhancing outcomes of practically oriented research all the time (see Life changing research (1): Epilepsy and (2): Alzheimer’s). But such research often has its origins in “curiosity – led research”, extending over many years and which began with no specific outcome in view.

Moreover, the prospectivity of a research project to produce relatively short term applications can actually serve as an argument against substantial public funding for such a project.

… by definition, research is the process of discovering something we do not already know. The more definite we can be about the research outcome when we start the research, the more trivial the research and the weaker the arguments for government support. …it is not the role of government to fund or perform research that business needs for itself and which does not involve a significant risk.



50_solutions_web72dpi_rgbResearch is taking place in all Australian universities that has the power to save lives, boost economic development, create wealth, re-invent manufacturing and much, much more. Presented here are fifty examples of research outcomes generated by Australian Technology Network (ATN) member universities. They demonstrate the diversity of enquiry and the potential impact this work can have on both Australian society and indeed the world.



The 2013 Ig Nobel Prizes

Ig3The Ig Nobel Prizes honour achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honour the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology. This year’s recipients include researchers who won the psychology prize for confirming, by experiment, that people who think they are drunk also think they are attractive (in a published article Beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder).   The biology prize went to a team, including Australians, for discovering that when dung beetles get lost, they can navigate their way home by looking at the Milky Way.   The chemistry prize went to a Japanese team for discovering that the biochemical process by which onions make people cry is even more complicated than scientists previously realised.   And this year’s peace prize was awarded to Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus, for making it illegal to applaud in public, AND to the Belarus State Police, for arresting a one-armed man for applauding.



Innovating from the edges in South Australia

Open edcucationSouth Australia  has an interesting, sometimes paradoxical relationship with change.  One the one hand very conservative, at the same time South Australian attracts national interest for innovative, progressive initiatives.  The Thinkers in Residence Program (recently defunded) hosted Martin Seligman and Carla Rinaldi to challenge the state to reimagine and recreate their education system.

South Australia is now attracting attention with a grassroots movement that seeks to innovate from the edges of the education system.

CoCreate Education was founded by a group of educators and entrepreneurs on the premise that education is ripe for disruptive innovation.  They claim that technology, social and scientific advancement are opening up new avenues for education to be more effective and more accessible.



Life & stuff

Things that have more women in them than Tony Abbott’s cabinet

Women aren’t particularly well represented at the higher reaches of corporate governance in Australia, with just 16% of ASX listed companies being women.  Even to meet that low threshold, the Coalition cabinet would need three women members but could only rustle up one.  The Junkee website published a small list,  to put this in perspective:

The Afghan government cabinet (3 women ) –  Zoo Weekly‘s staff meeting (3) – The Augusta Golf Club (2) – The Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia’s National Board Meeting (2) – The Supreme Court of the United States (3) – The Saudi Arabia Olympics Team (2)Muammar Gaddafi’s personal guard (lots) – The Mad Men writers’ room (7) –  Facebook’s board 0f directors (2) – The Iranian government cabinet (2) – Tony Abbott’s immediate family (4).

The Abbott Family
The Abbott Family



Is there something interesting near where you live and/or work? Got an interesting story? Got an event coming up? Tell us about it!


It’s free….no hidden costs… absolutely gratis