Industrial relations

Melbourne confirms 540 jobs to go

ABC News | 5 June 2014


The University of Melbourne plans to cut 540 administrative jobs (15% of the non-academic workforce) by January 2016 as part of a $70 million savings program. The job cuts do not include academic staff.


uni melb logoThe university delivered the news to staff members at meeting earlier today. The university’s vice chancellor, Professor Glyn Davis, issued a statement after the meeting:

It was not an easy message to deliver, or receive, that the university has to undertake this reduction in the total number of professional staff.  We are hopeful we can minimise the impact on staff through natural attrition as the university had a turnover of 635 professional staff last year, and 580 the previous year.

We will focus on reducing the total number of casual and fixed term staff where we can and offer minimal redundancies.

Davis has ascribed the need for the cuts in part to the previous government’s funding cuts, which cost the university $40 million a year, as well as a blowout in the bureaucracy because of his 2010 strategy to shift more administrative responsibility down to the faculties. He defended the strategy but said in hindsight the university should have acted earlier to improve efficiency.

Davis has warned has warned the university will lose up to $70 million a year more in Abbott government cuts, forcing a hike in student fees of an average of $1730 per student simply to cover those cuts .

The structural changes are a part of the university’s Business Improvement Program.

As part of the cuts some academic support services will be either centralised or automated.

The university says it plans to dedicate 80% of the $70 million in planned savings to teaching, learning and research.  It has also flagged plans to hire up to 300 academic staff because of the changes.

Old and new cuts put uni jobs at risk, says Melbourne University VC Glyn Davis
Melbourne University staff to protest against up to 500 job cuts

VU to cut 300 more jobs

5 May 2014


Victoria University seeks to reposition itself as the “university of opportunity”  as it cuts 300 jobs – 13% of its workforce- in an effort to cut costs by $50 million by 2016.


VU 2

The university’s vice-chancellor Peter Dawkins said about 200  professional staff  and 100 academic staff would be cut.

VU has struggled since student places were uncapped in 2012 and its traditional Western Melbourne student cohort were offered places at the more prestigious institutions, such as Melbourne and RMIT.

Dawkins says the university needs to brace itself for further competition, with the federal government looking likely to deregulate the higher education sector and allow private colleges to access government subsidies for undergraduate students.

The university council has endorsed a “refreshed strategic plan”, designating itself  as the “university of opportunity”, so as to better position it for the “new competitive tertiary marketplace”.

A key part of the strategy is to create what are being dubbed “career start” degrees in business, sports management and health sciences that build in extra teaching support for the pool of lower-ATAR students or second language students that VU is increasingly offering places to. At the same time it is seeking to attract stronger academic students into “flagship” courses in finance, science, psychology and bioscience. It is also want to make it easier for students to transfer credit between different qualifications such as diplomas and degrees.

A plan to become Australia’s sports university is a “major confirmation” of the university’s direction, Dawkins said.

We are convinced that we are already on the right track, having the largest number of students enrolled in sports-related higher education courses in Australia and having a strong focus on industry partnerships and work-integrated learning in our critical industry sectors.

Dawkins said the university is aiming for a “sustainable future” through a range of measures, including minimising red tape and reducing staff numbers. He said the university needed to find $40 million to $50 million of “recurrent savings” by 2016.


La Trobe facing strike amid job cuts

NTEU News   |   14 March 2014

The Australian    |    15 March 2014


NTEU members at La Trobe University have voted to strike on 26 and 27 March across the university’s campuses as the university’s plan to cut 350 jobs inflamed stalled pay negotiations. …………………………………………………………………………………………………

nteu-logoThe union says the job cuts are unnecessary and has demanded management agree to a pay increases of around 3% a year.  Management have offered an 11 per cent pay rise over four years — an average 2.75% annual increase.

NTEU Victorian secretary Colin Long says the cost cutting agenda isn’t an excuse to offer a below-sector pay rise because it was driven by management’s spending plans rather than by a financial crisis.

The NTEU also claims the university intends to increase the number of students studying at the university at the same time as sacking hundreds of staff.  Student numbers have increased by 1,300 in this year alone.

NTEU La Trobe Branch President Virginia Mansel Lees asked how can it be an improvement to the university to have more students and less staff ?

A La Trobe spokesman said the union has been made well aware of the need for productivity improvements.La-Trobe_Logo_x2

He said the staff cuts are necessary and integral to efforts to cut costs by up to $65 million so money can be redirected to boosting the university’s research performance.

EBAs: Monash settle – Swinburne, Macquarie and UQ unsettled

10 March 2014


nteu-logoThe National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and Monash University have reached in-principle agreement on a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) , following strike action on 3 March, while NTEU and Swinburne appear headed to court. Staff are striking at Macquarie and Queensland over pay and workload issues.


The deal provides for  a salary increase going forward of 13% for the life of the new agreement, in addition to the 2% administrative pay rise which Monash University staff received last year making a total salary increase of 15% to be delivered by 30 June 2017.

Meanwhile, the NTEU is proposing to challenge in Fair Work Commission the narrow vote  by staff in favour (1031 to 974) of  Swinburne management’s proposed EBA, which the union had opposed in a ballot of all staff.  The NTEU has told staff:

In our investigations we have already identified hundreds of ex-staff who were given a ballot. There are many other discrepancies and issues which must be considered by the Fair Work Commission.

NTEU members at Macquarie University and the University of Queensland are striking on Tuesday 11 March for more permanent and early career academic staff to address casualisation and ensure fairer workloads.

The Scan

1 March 2014


Job cuts at La Trobe

La-Trobe_Logo_x228 February 2014 | La Trobe University has confirmed it is cutting 350 jobs as part of a restructure. University management told staff at a meeting this afternoon. It is understood the redundancies are compulsory, and will affect the university’s Bundoora campus in Melbourne’s north west as well as its regional Victorian campuses….[ MORE ]….

TEQSA shake upcut red tape

28 February 2014 | The government has introduced a bill to radically restructure the national higher education regulatory agency.The bill provides for a spill of the positions of the five commissioners who run the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency TEQSA. The position of chief commissioner and chief executive, held by Carol Nicoll, will be split in two and Nicoll’s position as chief commissioner terminated 21 days after the law coming into effect. The other 4 commissioner positions will terminate in three months, during which time the positions will be advertised….[ MORE ]….

Big six dominate

QS226 February 2014 | Melbourne was Australia’s best performing university in the QS World University Ranking by Subject being placed first nationally in 12 of the 30 disciplines. Melbourne was particularly strong in education, science, maths and technology subjects, ranking first nationally in eight of the 16 subject areas. Conversely, the Australian National University, dominated in the arts and humanities, ranking first nationally and in the top 20 globally in five of the six subject areas. But the dominance of Melbourne and ANU, along with Sydney, Monash, the University of Queensland and the University of NSW, left little room for other institutions that excel in their fields….[ MORE ]….

Giddy quitsAndy Giddy

26 February 2014 | Just weeks after the launch of NMIT’s joint venture Melbourne Polytechnic at the former Prahran campus of Swinburne, NMIT CEO Andrew (Andy) Giddy has suddenly resigned. There’s speculation that NMIT is in a parlous financial situation due to polytechnic project and declining enrolments. A media statement from NMIT merely confirms that Giddy and NMIT have parted ways….[ MORE ]….

RMIT dumps the TAFE brand

RMIT24 February 2014 | RMIT vice-chancellor Margaret Gardner has announced that RMIT is availing itself of recent changes in Victorian government legislation to dump its standing as an institute of technical and further education – a public TAFE. It will continue to provide vocational education, linked to its aim to be a “a global university of technology and design”….[ MORE ]….

Hall to retire<a href=””>peter-hall-6288497

24 February 2014 | After more than a quarter of a century in parliament as Nationals MLC for Eastern Victoria , Victorian skills and higher education minister Peter Hall is to call it quits and won’t contest the next state election, at the end of November…..[ MORE ]….

Melbourne Polytechnic launched

Melb Poly320 February 2014 | Melbourne Polytechnic, a new educational institution operated by Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT), has opened at the former Prahran campus of Swinburne University in Melbourne. It currently has around 80 programs on offer ranging from vocational certificates, diplomas and advanced diplomas and a growing selection of higher education programs ….[ MORE ]….

Teacher education needs a “lick of paint” – CravenLick of paint

20 February 2014 | Minister for education Christopher Pyne has appointed Australian Catholic University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Greg Craven, to chair an eight-member Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group. Reporting later this year, the group will undertake extensive public and stakeholder consultation focusing on three key areas: pedagogical approaches; subject content; and professional experience ….[ MORE ]….


24 February 2014

Turning back the news when it’s safe to do so


The inimitable Clarke and Dawe on the growing assault on the ABC


Day after day, The Australian leads the assault, with its editorial pen dipped in vitriol and its reporting none too balanced. It doesn’t think much of vice-chancellors and universities either, as shown in this recent editorial (National broadcaster has lost the plot and prestige). Of course The Australian isn’t disinterested: references to “spread to thin” and “multiple platforms, across the vast terrestrial plain and in the digital ether” is code for the ABC should get out of its 24 TV news service, which competes head-on with Sky News, of which The Australian’s parent (News Australia) is a major shareholder.



Join Together for Better Care

1 person in 20 is affected by a rare disease.
Over 6000 different rare diseases affect children and adults.
Most are genetic, chronic and debilitating.
But above all they isolate patients and their families.
International Rare Disease Day is 28 February 2014.
This year Rare Disease Day encourages us to continue finding ways to work together to provide the different kinds of care that people living with a rare disease need.


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Job cuts at La Trobe

ABC Online    |     28 February 2014


La Trobe University has confirmed it is cutting 350 jobs as part of a restructure.


La-Trobe_Logo_x2University management told staff at a meeting this afternoon.

It is understood the redundancies are compulsory, and will affect the university’s Bundoora campus in Melbourne’s north west as well as its regional Victorian campuses.

Virginia Mansel-Lees of the National Tertiary Education Union says it is not known what faculties will be targeted.

“Staff are outraged and also worried about their jobs and job security, wondering whether their area will be targeted, if so how that will happen,” she said.

But she says the mass redundancies have not come as a surprise.

“We thought it would be anywhere between three and 400 so it’s probably about mid-point.

“But it’s a lot of jobs across the university, and it will mean particular areas may no longer be undertaken and we don’t know the detail of that as yet and probably won’t know that until April,” she said.

In a statement, the university said the “changes” would be felt right across La Trobe University.

John DewarVice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar said the university would “retain and strengthen what is most important.”

“La Trobe University is on track to implement a series of efficiency and quality-driven reforms that will position the university for a stronger future,” he said.

“But we must change the way we work and how we structure ourselves to become a more efficient, effective and agile organisation,” Prof. Dewar said.

“The vast bulk of the 2,666 FTE (full-time employee) continuing staff – more than 85 per cent – would take up positions under a proposed new structure, but there would be approximately 350 FTE less positions required,” he said.

The Scan’s most viewed posts 2013

15 December 2013

This is a brickwall
This is a brickwall

In 2013, over 700 items were posted on The Scan (down from about 900 in 2012).   There were some surprises.   The short obituary on Peter Redlich attracted a surprising number of views because he died suddenly (although he’d been ill for some time), being Jewish, he was buried within 24 hours and a full obituary wasn’t published for some weeks, so as word spread, people ended up at The Scan via search engines.  An increasing amount of traffic comes to The Scan by way of search engines:  The Scan “archive” of items is now approaching 2000 (it totals more than posts of over 1600 because a post may contain several items).   The Scan of 22 March 2012  is a perennial favourite by virtue of carrying a graphic: people google “brick wall” and end up at that edition (ditto the post Much ado about the sounds of silence, because of its association with “nothing”). 

There are a number of ways of accessing archived items:

  1. Enter a key word or term in the search box at the the top right the page
  2. Clicking a word/term in the tag cloud in the right sidebar
  3. Checking the monthly archive or the calendar of posts in the right sidebar.

The continuing ructions in the VET sector featured heavily in 2013 (Once was TAFE , a leading post in 2012, wasn’t too far off the pace in 2013, either), as did regulatory issues in both the VET and higher education sectors. You would have expected in an election year that politics and policy would rate highly: but it was the paucity of new policy, for either VET or higher education, that was notable BEFORE the election, although Christopher Pyne has had a bit to say since.   With both a national commission of audit  and a formal review of the higher education  demand driven system  to report in early 2014, next year’s budget (probably delivered on Tuesday 13 May 2014) should be full of interest.    Following are the most viewed items on The Scan in 2013 .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

ASQA’s one in ten strike rate

Regulatory jigsaw 214 June 2013    |     A Senate estimates committee has been told that the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), the national vocational training regulator, has deregistered or refused to re-register 127 providers since it commenced operations almost two years ago.   This comprises about 8% of the 1600 Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) audited so far. Another 1000 RTOs are currently being assessed or have been “earmarked for audit”, chief commissioner Chris Robinson told the Senate Economics Legislation Committee….[ READ MORE ]…..

Report recommends reducing regulatory & reporting burdencut red tape

5 August 2013    |    On the cusp of going into caretaker mode, pending the election outcome, the Commonwealth government has released the report of a review examining how red tape can be reduced for universities while also supporting the quality and excellence of Australia’s world class university system.  Releasing the report by professors Kwong Lee Dow and Valerie Braithwaite –  Review of Higher Education Regulation: Report-  minister for higher education Kim Carr noted that while the report supports the continuing role of the national regulator  – the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) – it  also finds that the burden of higher education regulation on universities can be reduced without compromising quality standards..[ READ MORE ]…..

Queensland’s blueprint for skills reform: the government’s response

qld-tafe1 December 2012    |     In its response to the Skills and Training Taskforce Report, the Queensland government says it will avoid a “massive cost blowout” by rejecting a Victorian-style free-for-all in its open training market. The government has accepted, in full or in principle, all 40 recommendations of contentious report but watered down a proposal to close 38 of the state’s 82 TAFE campuses.  Queensland Training and Employment Minister John-Paul Langbroek said the government will rationalise campuses but had not settled on a number. He said 12 would be given to a university-TAFE merger in central Queensland and 13 would be sold, but additional closures were on hold.[ READ MORE ]……

Employers losing faith in training systemtafe-quals

12 August  2013    |    A  Victorian government-commissioned survey has found that employers are losing faith in the quality of training qualifications, adding more ammunition to ongoing criticism of the state’s open market for training subsidies that has led to a proliferation of private providers.  The report from Queensland-based consultants Ithaca Group, and obtained by the HES, surveyed about 140 Victorian employers as part of an effort to assess their training information needs, but it found many would rather buy qualifications than trust the training system to improve staff skills....[ READ MORE ]……

A collage of Coalition policies

Seven pillars28 September 2013       |    This wasn’t an election in which education was a key issue and tertiary education hardly figured at all.  Here’s a collage of Scan articles over the past year or so touching on the Coalition’s approach to tertiary education, which provides a sort of compass to the horizon.   The 7 pillars of Coalition HE policy.

....[ READ MORE ]……

Sacked TAFE chairs slam funding cuts

16 April 2013    |     The outgoing chairs of a number of the boards heads of Victorian TAFEs have been highly critical of the State holmesglen-002government in their 2012 annual reports tabled in Parliament on 18 April.  The former chair of Holmesglen TAFE, Jonathan Forster, wrote in his report that last year’s funding cuts to TAFEs placed “considerable strain” on the institute and that the funding changes were implemented with “undue haste” and will result in a “significant increase” in fees and uncertainty for the sector.   Other TAFE heads described the cuts in their annual reports, as causing “a significant amount of turbulence and disruption” and a “challenging and unsettling period.”....[ READ MORE ]……

Circle of silence’ protests over removal of Institute of Koori Education directorwendy brabham

24 July 2013    |     Deakin University Institute of Koorie Education (IKE) staff are staging daily silent protests after the removal of their director, Professor Wendy Brabham, on 15 July.  Brabham a nationally-respected Indigenous academic was suspended by her supervisor in the presence of security guards but was not furnished with an explanation until 23 July, eight days after her suspension.   Each lunchtime staff gather in a circle of silence for up to ten minutes around a tree trunk cut from Professor Brabham’s homeland near Mildura.....[ READ MORE ]……

Open Universities launches MOOC platformOpen2Study

21 March 2013     |    Australia’s leading online higher education provider, Open Universities Australia (OUA),  has unveiled its own free online education venture, Open2Study.  OUA describes  Open2Study as “a new dimension in online learning, … is designed with the online student in mind.”   Launched with 10 subjects, including Financial Planning and Introduction to Nursing there’s a pipeline of a couple of hundred and OUA expects to offer 40 to 50 subjects by the end of 2013.....[ READ MORE ]……

Victoria changes TAFE funding rules

$ sign9 August 2013    |    Victoria has changed funding arrangements for foundation skills courses following the latest reported rorts of training subsidies.   It’s the latest in a string of modifications to the state’s four year-old open training market.  They include cuts and some increases to course funding rates, changes to eligibility rules and a stop-start approach to dedicated funding streams – including the scrapping of TAFEs’ $170 million “community service obligation” funding…..[ READ MORE ]….

The polytec movement gathers pacepolytec

6 March 2013    |     Encouraged by remarks by the Commonwealth minister that he’s looking afresh at tertiary “inter-connectedness”, five tertiary institutions* are proposing a national network that brings together the strengths of TAFE and higher education traditions, enabling degrees to be studied initially at TAFE institute campuses in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.  Students would  be able to study degrees in face-to-face, online or blended modes, with extra support depending on their needs and requirements of the course….[ READ MORE]….

Ballarat to take over Monash Churchill

FED UNI LOGO INSET (2)22 February 2013    |    Monash University and the University of Ballarat are proposing to “join forces” at the Monash Churchill campus in Gippsland.  The proposal involves Ballarat taking over the campus, with Monash retaining a presence through its medical school.  Monash will  “teach-out” its existing courses and retain an active research presence on the campus.   The new arrangements would see the range of courses being offered by the University of Ballarat and the Gippsland campus to be expanded by “drawing on the knowledge and expertise residing within them”, according to the universities…..[ READ MORE ]….

Coalition to target ridiculous researchresearch infrastructure - ABC

6 September 2013    |    A Coalition proposal to take $103 million from “ridiculous” projects in the humanities and redirect the money to medical research, has raised the ire of the research community.  Catriona Jackson, chief executive of the science and technology peak group STA, asked whether Australians want politicians picking and choosing which grant proposals deserve funding.  She said that  “scientists and research funding agencies understand that governments set priorities for research and that this is entirely valid given we do not have the resources to fund everything.  Priority setting is very different from political picking and choosing. Only a quarter of research grant bids that go to the ARC each year are successful. Only the best of the very best get through the very careful peer review, expert-driven process.”  ….[ READ MORE ]….

UNSW launches a MOOC program

moocs115 October 2012   |    The University of NSW has become the first university in Australia to have a massive open online course, or MOOC, available free on the internet, ahead of the universities of Melbourne, Western Australia and Queensland, whose MOOC programs are still being developed.  A UNSW introductory computing course will be made available from 15 October.   While the course’s intellectual property is owned by the university, the course will be delivered through Open Learning – an online education start-up company that Associate Professor Richard Buckland founded with UNSW graduate Adam Brimo, and which now employs a team of UNSW alumni…..[ READ MORE ]…..

Vale Peter RedlichPeter Redlich

5 January 2013    |    Peter Redlich passed away on 3 January 2013.   Among his many contributions to the Victorian community, Peter was a member of the Council of Monash University from 2005 to 2009.  Peter created, developed and for many years led the [progressive] legal firm of Holding Redlich, pursuing his vision of  it becoming a legal resource available to all.  This was based on his unflinching belief in social justice and the need to defend and protect fundamental human rights whenever they were in danger….[ READ MORE ]…..

Why institutions matter – why TAFE MATTERS

Leesa25 October  2013    |     The insightful Leesa Wheelahan will soon be decamping the LH Martin Institute to take up the William G Davis Chair of Community College Leadership at the University of Toronto.  Here she reflects on the challenges facing the TAFE sector as a result of “VET reform”, which she suggests can only result in a greatly diminished role for TAFE, at great community and social cost.  It’s not an uncommon view: recently retired Holmesglen Institute director Bruce Mackenzie says TAFEs might  disappear entirely from some states in less than a decade due to “state government meddling and federal government indifference “.  He does suggest that “re-invention” involving TAFEs in effective collaborations and partnerships will be the key to survival.…..[ READ MORE ]…..

ACPET lashes “gold plated regulation”Claire Field

30 August 2013      |      Claire Field, chief executive of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET) has launched a scathing attack on the National Skills Standards Council (NSSC), the agency responsible for setting training standards, saying armchair experts are wrecking the sector.   Speaking at ACPET’s national conference, she said  that non-practitioners with a “predominantly classroom-based” view of training were setting unreasonable and unworkable standards.…..[ READ MORE ]…..

Holmesglen & Healthscope partner for new private hospital

Holmesglen26 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.  Holmesglen will contribute $20 million to the project , presumably in the form of the site,  and Healthscope will spend $100 million.  The hospital is expected to create 500 construction jobs and 750 healthcare roles……[ READ MORE ]…..

The cone of silence descends

26 September 2013     |     The difference between being in government and opposition, Tony Blair once famously said, is that in Pyne2government 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…..[ READ MORE ]…..

Qld opens TAFE assets to private RTOs

qld-tafe11 June 2013     |      The Queensland government has released a “reform action plan”, its detailed response to the report of the Queensland Skills and Training Taskforce.   Great skills. Real opportunities confirms that full contestability of public funding will be phased in from 1 July 2013, to come into full operation from 1 July 2014.   It also takes the concept of “competitive neutrality” to another level in Australia: the ownership of what are now TAFE facilities are to transferred to a new, yet to be determined entity, which will provide access to public training facilities for private providers as well as the public TAFE institutes.   This will leave TAFEs to focus on training while the separate entity manages their “ageing, under-utilised, ill-suited infrastructure”, according to the statement.…[ READ MORE ]…..

Vice-chancellor remuneration

12 August 2013    |       An analysis  by the National Tertiary Education Union of the 2012 Annual reports of Australia’s 37 public dollarsuniversities shows that their vice -chancellors (VCs) were well financially rewarded for their efforts. In total the VCs received remuneration packages worth close to $30m.   The data  show that total remuneration ranged from $1.2m for the VC of Macquarie University (who for the bulk of 2012 was Prof Steven Schwartz) to a little over $300,000 for Prof Andrew Vann at Charles Sturt University (CSU).  The data also clearly indicates that Prof Vann’s remuneration package is very much an outlier with the next lowest package being almost double his package at close $550,000….[ READ MORE ]…..

Concern for courses as ANU redundancies fall short

Photo : Penny McLintock, ABC

ABC News     |     12 November 2013
The National Tertiary Education Union staff fears the Australian National University (ANU) may start forcing staff redundancies and cut courses to meet its budget shortfall.

The university says 147 professional staff have accepted voluntary redundancies, short of the 230 jobs it plans to cut in a bid to save more than $50 million in lost government funding.

A further 50 academic staff have accepted an early retirement as part of the ANU’s academic renewal program.

The university says it will use the savings to re-invest in new academic positions.

An ANU spokesperson says there are no plans to start forcing staff redundancies and that the university never expected the voluntary scheme to achieve the required staff cuts.

A recruitment freeze will continue, as will work on reducing duplication in administration and other roles.Vice-chancellor Ian Young remains optimistic that natural attrition will meet the target within the set two-year timeframe.

But the NTEU also fears courses could be cut to help meet budget targets. NTEU’s Steve Darwin says:

We are receiving reports of certain parts of the university considering closing programs based on retirements. That’s not an educational reason, that’s a budget reason.

The ANU branded the union’s claims as “utterly false”:

The ANU offers around 4,000 courses and each year the university refreshes its curricula.  Hundreds of courses are reviewed each year and via that process some are reaccredited, some are changed, some are cancelled and replaced.

The Scan | #142 | 1 November 2013


The state of Australian education

A report  by the Council of Australian Governments Reform Council shows mixed progress on education.COAG

Participation in preschool is high and school outcomes in the early years are improving. Nationally, average scores improved in Years 3 and 5 in reading and in Year 5 in numeracy, but there were no improvements in Years 7 and 9.  Australia is also performing behind top countries in these key areas. Year 12 attainment has increased, particularly for Indigenous students. More than a quarter of young people are not fully engaged in work or study after leaving school and this has worsened over five years……[ READ MORE ]…

UNSW seeks to refocus refugee debate

Australia’s first centre specialising in international refugee law has been launched

UNSW Logo2The centre’s founding director Professor Janice McAdam said one of its  priorities will be to provide “thought leadership to re-orient the approach to asylum law and policy in this country”.  She said we need  to “move beyond the sound bites and slogans that dumb down public policy, and will open up a space for questions, debate, and informed opinion-making”…..[ READ MORE ]…

ANU considers its future

A smaller institution, more focussed on post graduate and research training

The vice-chancellor of the Australian National University, Ian Young, has confirmed that the university is contemplating changes after a ANUrecent speech by Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt, which argued that the university should cut undergraduate numbers to ”about 8000” (from around 12,000).  Schmidt proposed a reduction in tenured jobs and the introduction of interviews for potential students.  He also called for the introduction of classes offering students ”life skills”….[ READ MORE ]

Redundancies at Brisbane TAFE

50 staff set to lose their jobs at Brisbane North Institute of TAFE.

Brisbane North LogoQueensland Teacher’s Union president Kevin Bates said it was the latest hit to the sector still reeling from hundreds of job losses in the past 18 months.  Figures released in July showed 349 redundancies had been accepted by TAFE staff around the state between March 2012 and June 30 this year. But Kaylene Harth, director TAFE reform for Brisbane Metropolitan Region, says its just normal business practice for TAFEs to review their operations, including  staffing levels in line with student demand.….[ READ MORE ] 

Court rules Swinburne breached work laws

Failure to consult on campuses closures draws apology and financial contributions to community educationnteu-logo

The Federal Court of Australia has found that Swinburne University of Technology was guilty of four breaches of the Fair Work Act in that it failed to consult with staff and the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) over its decision last July to shut its Lilydale campus and relocate the design faculty from the Prahran campus in the wake of the Victorian Coalition Government’s $290 million cuts to TAFE..….[ READ MORE ]


This week’s headlines

Government loosens student visa restrictions

30 October 2013    |    The Abbott government has moved to loosen visa restrictions to attract international students….[ READ MORE ]…

Why privatising HECS might not make much sense

29 October 2013    |   Privatising HECS is kind of bananas, writes economist Leith van Onselen. …[ READ MORE ]…

Pyne rules in privatising HECS debt

29 October 2013     |   Education Minister Christopher Pyne says he is keeping an open mind about the idea of selling off the debt the government is owed under the Higher Education Contribution Scheme.  .[ READ MORE ]….

Probe into Vic TAFE contracts

28 October 2013    |     The Ombudsman is to investigate a contentious decision by Victoria’s top education bureaucrat to pay a former colleague’s company $1 million to oversee TAFE reforms without putting the contract to a competitive tender.…..[ READ MORE ]….

TEQSA call for submissions on red tape

Red tape 227 October 2013     |    The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) has issued a call for submissions on future directions for TEQSA’s regulatory processes and its regulatory risk framework.…[ READ MORE]…

Victoria to provide limited transport concessions flags1

26 October 2013    |    Victorian premier Denis Napthine has announced Victoria’s latest international education strategy, at a cost of $17.5 million over the four years, including a trial of limited public transport concessions.…[ READ MORE]….



Fighting cancer by the numbers

Terry Speed1 November 2013    |    For his contribution to making sense of genomics and related technologies, the head of Bioinformatics at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Emeritus Professor Terry Speed has been awarded the 2013 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.  A mathematician and statistician, he has written elegant theoretical papers that almost no-one reads.  he has also testified in court, helped farmers and diamond miners, and given biologists statistical tools to help them cope with the genetic revolution…..[ READ MORE ]….

Beating child gastro

1 November 2013    |    The 2013 Florey Medal for significant achievements in biomedical science has been awarded to  Professor Ruth Ruth BishopBishop for her work on understanding the rotavirus and the creation of a vaccine. This vaccine has saved countless children and around the world from the debilitating and possibly deadly effects of gastronenteritis at an early age.  Ruth and her team are now working to develop a vaccine that can be administered to babies to help further protect children in developing countries…..[ READ MORE]….

NMIT’s millionth student

Millionth Student Photos 28thOct 002After 101 years of operation NMIT (Northern Metropolitan Institute of TAFE) is celebrating its one millionth enrolment: Gina Fasanella who has enrolled in NMIT’s Diploma of Business at the Preston campus.  After completing the short course “How to Start a Successful Business” at NMIT, Gina decided to enrol at NMIT full-time.….[ READ MORE]….


Comment & analysis

Is securitisation an ugly word?


With the 25th anniversary of the Dawkins higher education reforms being commemorated, maybe the funding structure – notably the HECS scheme – introduced by those reforms is about to undergo fundamental change.  Education minister Christopher Pyne has put “securitisation” of HECS  firmly on the agenda of the government’s commission of audit.  Some commentators think the idea of securitisation is “bananas“.  Others are somewhat more sanguine: Bruce Chapman – the architect of HECS – says it doesn’t really matter who owns the debt, so long as the essential characteristics are maintained (particularly recovery through the tax system).  In these two articles, usefully published in tandem on The Conversation,  we get alternative (though not diametrically opposed) views.  Andrew Norton (Grattan Institute) argues that the current HECS system should be retained but with significant reforms to make the scheme more economical – such as a real interest rate.    Rodney Maddock (Monash University) is of the “it doesn’t matter who owns the debt” school but enthuses that securitisation would be a great new investment vehicle for the super industry.   The word “student” doesn’t make an appearance.  Securitisation is just one of the issues before the commission of audit: headed as it is is by the current chair of the Business Council of Australia (BCA),  with the commission’s secretariat headed by the BCA’s chief policy wallah, it’s worth looking at the BCA’s own agenda to divine the possible future. Who knows where this might all end up?  

Reforming student loans could bring in real savings

andrew_nortonThere are also many potential changes other than securitisation that are worth considering.  These include lowering the threshold at which HELP repayment starts, collecting from HELP debtors working overseas, charging real interest, and removing the death write-off of remaining HELP debt. Other countries with similar loan schemes already do the first three things on this list, and we could too if the public believed the savings would be well spent. A Grattan Institute project is looking into these options in more detail. Selling HELP debt to private investors could give the government billions of dollars in the short term, but reforming HELP could lead to billions more in repayments over the long run.


Selling off the HECS debt could be a super solutionRodney Maddock

The key attraction for the government is it could convert a stream of payments in the future into cash today. This may or may not be a good idea, it simply depends on whether the government can make better use of the money today rather than by waiting. The new government clearly feels constrained from making investments today (for example in infrastructure) by the amount of debt it currently has. Selling off some assets to reduce those constraints may let it invest more in other areas…It would be unfortunate if the debate about the extent of subsidisation of students was conflated with the issue of privatising the repayment flows…The HECS repayment flows could be a valuable new asset for Australian superannuation fund, adding to the suite of alternative assets they have available for investment.



Bastard Dawkins and his revolution

The recollections of a petty official

The Dawkins reforms of higher education in the late 1980s thoroughly transformed higher education, turning  “colleges into Trevor Cookuniversities, free education into HECS, elite education into mass education, local focuses into international outlooks, vice-chancellors into corporate leaders, teachers into teachers and researchers”.   A lot of people hated it and damned the reforms as “instrumentalism” (something nasty, one assumes).  Trevor Cook worked for John Dawkins in his personal office from October 1987 for about 3 years as variously a political adviser, an adviser on training policy, media relations and finally as chief of staff . In this article recalling the “Dawkins revolution”, Cook observes that working for Dawkins was a tough gig:  he could be a complete and utter bastard , and was sometimes referred to as “dirty Syd”.  But equally he could be charming and considerate.   He also had a most lateral way of thinking and could visualise paths to a goal not apparent to “ordinary” folk.   And he was a fighter.  Cook was at the recent launch of a book on the reforms – The Dawkins revolution: 25 years on.  This recollection is from Cook’s blog which is well  worth visiting – full of interesting stuff.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

John Dawkins, c.1988

The Dawkins revolution was not reform by consensus, it was not watered down to an extent that made it essentially meaningless, but broadly acceptable to all stakeholders.

Dawkins was in a fight that he could have easily lost but he took on his critics and sought to overwhelm them and out-manoeuvre them.

The demands of that fight put a lot of pressure on his staff and his departmental officers, as well as himself.

quote marksPolitical reform is not for the faint hearted.  It is not a parlour game.

Dawkins chose to play the game hard.  He was determined to win the argument and get the biggest changes he could.

He would never have been content with ‘canniness’.

Dawkins always knew, perhaps intuited, that big changes have the best chance of lasting the distance.  Too often reforms like these get captured by the internal stakeholders, those with most at stake in an immediate sense.

The Dawkins revolution was not about universities: it was about delivering economic and social benefits from a bigger higher education sector to the Australian community.

This approach helped Dawkins win the political argument, but it did not endear him to many people in the higher education sector.

But now it is 25 years later, and about 8 ministers from both sides of politics have succeeded Dawkins as higher education minister.

Despite some tinkering, the essential architecture of the Dawkins reforms are intact.




Life & stuff

The Juxtaposition

2013 Tafeclips Video Competition

Tafeclips, organised TAFE New England, by  is a competition is open to all TAFE NSW and TVET students.  This year’s winning entry was The Juxtaposition by Riley Cope , who is doing a Certificate IV in Live Production at Northern Sydney Institute of TAFE.  The storyline:

We follow a man on his way down the street. We see how one simple decision he makes can have an opposite effect on his future.


Learning @work

11-13 November 2013 | Australian Technology Park, Sydney



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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



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