News – Campus Review The latest in higher education news Mon, 18 Sep 2023 02:05:34 +0000 en-AU hourly 1 Uni and VET courses key to employment: Labour market report breakdown Mon, 18 Sep 2023 01:06:43 +0000 The latest quarterly Labour Market Update was released last Tuesday by Jobs and Skills Australia. In the year to May 2023, it found that 91 per cent of total employment growth was in occupations that require post-school qualifications.

It reports that nine of the top 10 jobs with the largest increases in employment require a post-school qualification (skill level one to four) or equivalent, with five of those requiring a bachelor's degree (skill level one) or equivalent.

An equivalent to each skill level can be replaced by the number of years of relevant experience that a person has working in that occupation. For instance, skill level one equivalence is five years working in a related role.

Although more jobs need higher qualifications, the report also said that employers value experience over qualifications, with 60 per cent of employers identifying relevant experience as their top priority, and less than 50 per cent reporting qualifications as paramount.

Andrew Norton, professor in the practice of higher education policy at the Australian National University, told Campus Review that most employers actually want both, and this has a negative effect on the pipeline from higher education to the workforce, as it leaves higher-skill level jobs vacant.

"Even if there are strong demands for a profession, sometimes graduates still struggle to find work simply because they don't have any experience," he explained.

The University of New England is attempting to combat this through a fast-tracked two-year bachelor's degree that considers experience in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) as up to 66 per cent of the qualification requirements needed to graduate.

According to the report, in the last year 72 per cent of employers said they had difficulty recruiting for higher skilled occupations (level one to three), compared to only 55 per cent who said it was difficult to recruit for lower-skilled occupations (level four to five).

"Often [higher skill level jobs] are more interesting work, less repetitive and more scope for independent judgement," Professor Norton said.

"On the other hand, some people don't do well in the education system, and there is still a need for jobs that don't require any post-school qualification."

Professor Norton said many recent reports also show universities aren't enrolling enough full-time students to meet demand, with many choosing to study part-time or, especially among the mature-aged cohort, go straight into the workforce.

The report revealed over half of total employment growth over the year was in skill level two to four occupations, where vocational education and training (VET) qualifications are the primary pathway.

VET courses have commonly been thought of as a 'second option' to university degrees, even though increasingly graduates from both can obtain the same jobs, but with university graduates often left with more debt.

Government initiatives rolled out this year, such as fee-free TAFE, $330m to ADF technical trade skills and Queensland's Trade to Teach internships , are attempting to ameliorate both the vocational education and high-skills shortages.

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Accord targets equal access, calls to make unis ‘better employers’ Sun, 23 Jul 2023 23:51:31 +0000 Australia’s university sector lacks the institutional resilience to “prepare our nation for the future” and needs to enrol more people from lower socioeconomic and rural backgrounds to secure the future labour force, according to a landmark report.

The Australian Universities Accord Interim report identified five immediate actions to give First Nations students greater access to university and undo the "damaging" effects of the Jobs-Ready graduates scheme.

Education minister Jason Clare delivered the recommendations last week during a speech at the National Press Club.

“Only 15 per cent of people from poor families have a university degree today, and it’s even lower if you are Indigenous,” Mr Clare said.

“If you’re a young Indigenous bloke today, you’re more likely to go to jail than university.

“We all pay a price for this.”

The report's panel, chaired by Professor Mary O'Kane, recommended the government uncap places for Indigenous students living in metropolitan areas, which it has accepted.

Currently, only Indigenous students living in regional and remote areas are currently guaranteed a paid university place despite an estimated 75 per cent residing in metropolitan cities,  

The government committed to building 34 new regional university hubs to encourage potential students living in regional areas to pursue tertiary study.

Job-Ready: causing "entrenched damage"

One of the most pressing actions put forward by the report was to scrap the 50 per cent "pass rule" introduced under the Morrison government’s Jobs-Ready graduates scheme.

The rule, which came into effect in 2021, denies students access to Commonwealth tuition funding if they fail more than half of their study units.

The report said the policy had "disproportionately (disadvantaged) students from equity backgrounds" and should be replaced with an increased focus on student progress.

Scrapping the rule as soon as possible could help more students from diverse backgrounds finish their university degrees, the report said.

“While the review believes other aspects of the JRG package need reform, this change should proceed at the first possible opportunity,” it read.

The review panel delayed pushing any further changes to the scheme, including reversing fee-hikes on humanities degrees, until its final report in December.

Universities must be “better employers”

The report called on the national cabinet to immediately engage with state governments and universities to address workforce issues around insecure employment, staff underpayment and safety.

Reports of psychosocial stress in higher education workplaces and high rates of workforce casualisation have undermined Australia’s education system and threatened its output of quality research, the report said.

“Among academic staff, women are overrepresented in casual roles, with significant gender equity impacts,” the expert panel said.

“Recent instances of staff underpayment in the sector, particularly of casual and sessional academic staff, are also patently unacceptable, especially for a sector funded largely by the public.”

Nearly 16 per cent of Australia's university workforce are employed on a casual basis, with the number of casual staff in universities growing in the thousands since 2010.

It's also estimated that between 50 to 80 per cent of undergraduate teaching in universities is delivered by sessional staff.

The report called for improved governance structures and a greater number of people with higher education expertise on university councils.

The expert panel will deliver its final report in December 2023.

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Survey reports low student satisfaction at sandstone universities Mon, 10 Jul 2023 04:07:53 +0000 Three Australian universities ranking in the top 20 academic institutions globally fell flat in a recent student satisfaction survey.

The QS World University rankings released in June feature 1,500 institutions across 104 locations.

The University of Melbourne ranked 14th place with an impressive climb from 33rd in 2023.

Sydney University and UNSW tied in 19th place rising 22 and 26 places respectively.

Despite success in the latest QS rankings, the most recent Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT) survey revealed students at highly-ranked universities were less than satisfied with their academic experience.

The federal government-backed Student Experience Survey (SES) interviewed 244,000 undergraduates and postgraduates across Australian universities in 2022.

Students rated their university of choice on skills development, learner engagement, teaching quality, student support and learning resources.

The survey recently expanded to include non-university higher education institutions (NUHEIs), which fared better than their university counterparts.

Of the 42 Australian universities included in the survey, Unimelb, USyd and UNSW placed among the bottom five.

"Student ratings at NUHEIs were 8.3 percentage points higher than university student ratings," survey results showed.

Health, stress and work, and inadequate study/life balance were cited as major factors impacting students not satisfied with their academic experience.  

Around 76 per cent of students were generally satisfied with the quality of their education experience, up from 73 per cent in 2021, the survey showed.

International student satisfaction with learning engagement increased from 48 per cent in 2021 to 61 per cent in 2022.

Student satisfaction with skills development increased to 80 per cent in 2022 from 79 per cent in 2021.

Universities Australia chief Catriona Jackson said the broad results showed that “these results are testament to the adaptability, perseverance, innovation and hard work of both students and their universities."

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Universities told to overhaul teaching degrees Mon, 10 Jul 2023 01:37:15 +0000 Universities will have until 2025 to roll out major changes in their teaching degrees as part of a major shake-up of teacher education in Australia.

Last week, education ministers signed off “in principle” on 14 recommendations from experts tasked to address falling graduation rates and nationwide teacher shortages. 

In its final report the ITE expert panel, led by University of Sydney's vice-chancellor Mark Scott, called for universities to mandate four key content areas to better prepare pre-service teachers for the classroom.

This includes a focus on classroom management, effective reading and writing instruction, and ways to effectively teach students from diverse backgrounds.

“We want to make sure that all beginning teachers learn and can apply the teaching practices which work best,” Dr Scott said.

"The recommendations will make a crucial contribution to addressing workforce shortages."

Statistics show that 50 per cent of students in Australia fail to finish teaching degrees, while 20 per cent of graduates exit the profession within three years.

Upon the release of the panel's report federal education minister Jason Clare said that many teachers enter classrooms feeling unequipped and ill-prepared.

“We’ve got a teacher shortage crisis in this country at the moment,” Clare said.

“If we make reforms to the way we do teacher training and we provide teaching students with better practical experience, [..] more will complete their degree, and more will stay on for years and provide invaluable education to children right across the country.”

Universities will now have two years to overhaul their teaching course content or risk losing their accreditation.

Universities will be eligible to receive grants of up to $5m to strengthen the quality of their teaching degrees and up to $2.5m if they report back strong student outcomes.

The expert panel also recommended attracting potential mid-career students to postgraduate courses with shorter degrees, paid employment opportunities and part-time study options.

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Unis at war over plan to tax $10bn worth of foreign student fees Wed, 05 Jul 2023 04:46:11 +0000 A tax on nearly $10bn a year of foreign student fees is being actively considered by experts drawing up Labor’s once-in-a-generation overhaul of the nation’s universities, sparking a war between the vice-chancellors who gain and lose from the plan.

The plan is championed by two vice-chancellors, Andrew Parfitt of the University of Technology Sydney and Alex Zelinsky of the University of Newcastle, who say revenue earned from a levy on international student fees should be redistributed to benefit all universities.

At the moment about half the money earned by universities from international students goes to the big five – the universities of Sydney, Melbourne, NSW and Queensland, plus Monash University – which dominate the market.

The University of Sydney is the major earner, banking $1.4bn from foreign students last year.

Prof Parfitt said that in the tight fiscal environment, an international student levy was a way for universities to make a contribution to the higher education sector’s needs.

“You can’t keep saying to the government, ‘Give us more money’,” he said.

Prof Zelinsky said that, at the moment, the benefits from educating international students were not fairly distributed between big city and regional universities and the levy would help even up resources.

“I think it's a great idea. I would welcome consideration of the levy,” he said.

Charles Sturt University vice-chancellor Renee Leon said her university was open to exploring a levy because regional universities face challenges in attracting international students, but its impact needed to be properly assessed.

It should not be considered in isolation, she added.

However, the Group of Eight universities – which represents the big five international student earners, as well as ANU and the universities of Adelaide and WA – condemned the plan as a “new tax on high-achieving universities”.

Go8 CEO Vicki Thomson said that universities were not-for-profit organisations and the proposal “runs the risk of undermining the quality and international performance of Australia’s university sector”.

Ms Thomson said the tax was the wrong approach to reforming university funding. “The existing funding model is broken – the government does not fund the full cost of research and we need to look at fixing the funding model, and not simply rob Peter to pay Paul,” she said.

The government’s university review panel, chaired by former NSW chief scientist Mary O’Kane, has spent time considering the pros and cons of the international student levy, and is likely to include it in its first report due to be released by Education Minister Jason Clare on July 19.

Mr Clare asked for “bold and innovative thinking” in the review, which he calls a Universities Accord, and next month’s interim report is expected to canvas a range of ideas which will be refined for the review’s final report at the end of the year.

The proposed levy has not been designed in detail, but the University of Technology Sydney’s submission to the review suggested it should apply when a university’s international student fee revenue reached a certain threshold.

Options for the levy include a proportional tax on fees, a set payment per student, or a per student tax on the difference between the domestic student fee and the much higher international student fee for a particular course.

Prof Parfitt urged the government to commit to giving universities extra funding to match the amount raised by the levy.

He said that, as well as meeting direct university needs, the levy plus matching government funding could be invested in a future fund to offset risks, such as another pandemic or a loss of international students.

Prof Zelinsky said he did not believe the levy would not harm the international student market.

“Every other export industry in Australia is taxed,” he said.

Universities are sharply divided on the levy.

The NSW Vice-Chancellors Committee – representing 15 universities – supported the levy in the first draft of its submission to the government’s review, but it was dropped from the final version.

Luke Sheehy, executive director of the ATN Universities group that represents both the University of Technology Sydney and the University of Newcastle, urged universities to pause discussion for the moment.

“We should not be afraid of big reform ideas but let’s not jump the gun,” he said.

“Let’s wait and see what is actually in the interim report and then we should have an appropriate debate.”

Phil Honeywood, CEO of the International Education Association of Australia, said any proposal for a levy needed much more investigation.

“Potential issues which need to be factored in include equitable distribution, whether it would merely replace existing government funding, and potential harm to Australia’s competitive advantage (in international education),” he said.

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SA universities formalise plans to merge in 2026 Wed, 05 Jul 2023 04:21:38 +0000 The University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia have formalised plans to merge into the state’s largest higher education institution by 2026.

Last week, the South Australian government announced it would invest $450 million to establish the new Adelaide University.

State premier Peter Malinauskas said the “once-in-a-generation opportunity” would help to create 1,2000 additional jobs and educate more than 70,000 students by 2034.

He said the new university would be the largest educator of domestic students in Australia and have "the scale and resources to be sustainably positioned in the top 100 in the world."

The state government has invested $300 million towards establishing two perpetual funds enshrined in the new legislation.

It will also allocate $200 million towards research initiatives and $100 million to support the enrolment of students from low socio-economic backgrounds.

The government will now introduce The Adelaide University Act 2023 to parliament, which will require the support of the state’s upper house to pass through.

Speaking on Wednesday, opposition education spokesman John Gardner said he supported a parliamentary inquiry into the merger “to be clear about how much money this is going to cost” and “what taxpayers are going to get for their money.”

Both the University of Adelaide and UniSA are expected to hold staff town hall meetings this week to discuss the move.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) said staff from both universities have been vocal about a lack of consultation and wanted “concrete evidence” to support the establishment of a mega institution.

In a letter to the state premier, NTEU branch secretary Dr Andrew Miller said if it went about the wrong way a merger could have “catastrophic” results.

“There is no turning back once this decision is made. We must get it right,” Dr Miller wrote.

“Staff, students, and community stakeholders must be ‘co-creators’ and joint decision-makers in the merger process.

“It is crucial for the government to guarantee university councils will adopt a process that is evidence-based, fully transparent and has complete public oversight.”

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UOW deputy VC to head La Trobe Mon, 03 Jul 2023 05:44:32 +0000 University of Wollongong deputy vice-chancellor Professor Leo Farrell has been announced as the new head of Victoria's La Trobe University.

Professor Farrell, an internationally recognised war scholar, said he looked forward to realising a "bold and exciting" future for the institution.

“I see huge opportunities for La Trobe University to grow and have even more impact in Melbourne’s north, across regional Victoria, and nationally,” he said.

Professor Farrell joined UOW in 2017 after moving from the UK, where he previously acted as a strategic advisor during Britain's campaign in Southern Afghanistan between 2001 to 2002.

His book, Unwinnable: Britain’s War in Afghanistan, was shortlisted for three national book awards and selected book of the year by The Sunday Times.

Professor Farrell was also previously head of the Department of War Studies at King’s College London.

La Trobe chancellor John Brumby AO announced the news last week and said Professor Farrell will take over from acting vice-chancellor Professor John Dewar AO in early January 2024.

Professor Dewar has served as vice-chancellor of La Trobe since January 2012, making him one of the longest-serving leaders at an Australian university.

"John has provided strong leadership and management to the community over the past 12 years and has done a tremendous job in working through the challenges of the recent few years," Mr Brumby wrote in a statement.

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New audit reveals QLD unis lost $1.3bn in 2022 Wed, 28 Jun 2023 02:01:03 +0000 Cash-strapped universities have been instructed to find new ways to make money to offset tumbling enrolments, as more school leavers choose work over study.

Soaring living costs, especially rent, food and electricity, are forcing more Australian students to defer or drop university studies, the Queensland Audit Office reveals in a new report that augurs ill for tertiary institutions nationally.

The audit detected 60 cyber security “weaknesses’’ in the state’s seven public universities and called for “greater urgency’’ in dealing with online security threats.

It found that most universities are spending beyond their means, with the seven Queensland universities collectively losing $1.3 billion last year.

Expenses soared 8.5 per cent during the year while revenue grew only 1.4 per cent.

The University of the Sunshine Coast was the only one to make a surplus, of $35 million.

The prestigious University of Queensland lost the most money – $311 million – followed by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) with a $131 million loss.

“A decline in domestic enrolments has proved to be challenging,’’ the report, tabled in the Queensland Parliament on Monday, states.

“More students are deferring or reducing their studies to enter the workforce and manage cost-of-living pressures.

“The easing of Australia’s border restrictions in 2022 saw a small increase in revenue from international students, but revenue remains below pre-pandemic levels.

“The challenging conditions are expected to continue in the short term, with most of the universities budgeting for a loss again in 2023.’’

The audit shows that federal government funding to Queensland’s universities fell by $216 million last year, due to the phasing out of emergency funding to compensate for the loss of foreign students during the pandemic.

It warns of further cuts this year when the federal government is due to abolish a three-year funding guarantee introduced in 2021.

“This means universities will have their Commonwealth Grants Scheme payments, linked to student enrolments, reduced if they do not have enough domestic students enrolled,’’ the audit report states.

“This is a risk for some universities that are expecting student enrolments to continue decreasing.

“They will need to have strategies in place to attract and retain domestic students.’’

The audit calls on universities to “innovate’’ to stem the financial bleeding from declining enrolments, investment income and taxpayer funding.

“With Australian Government funding guarantees ending in 2023, universities will need to innovate, and diversity their services,’’ it states.

“They will need to create revenue from various non-traditional sources to remain competitive in research and in student recruitment.

“There is a competitive market for domestic students, with enrolments declining due to a high employment environment and cost-of-living pressures.’’

The audit also chides universities for failing to keep on top of cyber security threats, noting it had identified 60 “weaknesses’’ in universities’ systems.

It warns that attacks are not a matter of “if’’, but of “when’’.

“Entities in this sector hold personal information on their students and employees, as well as on intellectual property associated with their research,’’ the report states.

“All are targets for cyber attacks … (which) continue to increase in frequency and sophistication.’’

The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) suffered an attack on its information technology network last December, after hackers used a compromised account to infect the system with ransomware, accessing bank account numbers and some tax file numbers.

QUT managed to limit the impact, but its services were disrupted for a month.

The Queensland audit follows similar findings by the NSW Auditor-General, who reported in May that nine universities had bled $1 billion in revenue and warned of an over-reliance on Chinese students.

The University of Sydney was the only institution to make money in 2022.

University annual reports tabled in the Victorian parliament in May show that La Trobe University was the only one of eight institutions to record a surplus– thanks to a large philanthropic donation.

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QS 2024 World Rankings: UniMelb rises to the top Wed, 28 Jun 2023 01:56:18 +0000 The University of Melbourne has achieved its highest-ever place in this year’s global higher education rankings, with three Australian universities breaking into the world’s top 20. 

The annual QS World University Rankings ranked Melbourne University 14th globally and first in the country, leaping 19 places from 2023.

The University of Sydney and UNSW jumped 20 places to achieve a joint 19th place, entering the world’s top 20 for the first time. 

University of Sydney vice-chancellor Mark Scott said the tie with UNSW “affirms Sydney’s reputation as being a great global city for higher education”.

Canberra’s Australian National University ranked in 34th place, with Monash University and the University of Queensland ranking 42 and 43, respectively.

This year’s QS rankings implemented what the global higher education specialist called its “largest-ever methodological enhancement” to date. 

Less weight was allotted to traditional metrics like academic reputation and faculty-student ratio, with a greater emphasis on sustainability, employment outcomes and global research network. 

QS vice president Ben Sowter said the changes reflected the priorities of an increasingly socially conscious student body. 

“Now more than ever, our rankings provide universities with a distinctive perspective to evaluate and improve their performance in areas of critical significance,” he said.

“They must commit to sustainability, foster graduate employability, and intensify international collaboration to address the world’s pressing challenges.”

Overall, Australia had 38 universities ranked, making it the tenth most represented higher education system on this year’s list. 

Australia also achieved the highest average scores globally for international faculty and student ratio, despite most institutions falling in this measure.

Due to faculty cuts made during the pandemic, Australian university's performance in the faculty-to-student ratio indicator fell to its lowest average score in the list's history.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology placed first in the QS ranking, followed by Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard and Stanford.

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Plans to build Australia’s first lifestyle university in NSW Mon, 26 Jun 2023 05:23:55 +0000 A group of former senior university executives are working to establish Australia’s first “lifestyle university” on the NSW Central Coast.

The Chancellor Institute is chaired by former Sydney University deputy vice-chancellor Professor Emerita Ann Brewer and aims to raise $4.5M to deliver its first round of courses by 2025

A further $10M has been allocated to locate and build an inaugural campus near Gosford, according to founder and chief executive Phillip Cenere.

“There's been a desire for another university up here for a long time,” Mr Cenere said.

“We thought that students deserve to have choice and options, and there will be growing demand from both local and international students for more courses on the coast.”

If established, the institution will exist alongside TAFE and Newcastle University as the only few higher education service providers between Sydney and Newcastle.

Courses will initially focus on master’s programs in digital entrepreneurship and digital media, expanding to undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in IT, allied health, aged care and childcare.

Mr Cenere said the institute is positioned to set itself apart from traditional universities by emphasising a focus on pastoral care and student experience.

“We also deliberately want to stay small, and our goal is to grow to about 10 to 12,000 students,” he said.

Less than two-quarters of Australia's university students report having a sense of belonging to their institution, according to the latest Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching survey.

Studies also indicate that international students in Australia experience a far poorer sense of belonging and higher levels of loneliness than their domestic counterparts.

In addition to popular markets like China and India, the Institute plans to target North American, South American and European markets to recruit a more diverse student body.

"A huge risk that universities take is when they concentrate solely on one market," Mr Cenere said.

"I think the organisations that tend to flourish are the ones that diversify and have a good mix of students and ensure that there's good representation also from domestic students in courses."

The idea of establishing a "lifestyle" university, Mr Cenere said, was also born out of growing calls for greater engagement between university staff and management.

"If the CEO of a university is unapproachable, no one can get a meeting with them, and they live in an ivory tower, then that's also going to flow right down to the tutors.

"We want the opposite of that type of culture."

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