End of Year 2017

So here we are at the end of the year. With the completion of 22 graduation ceremonies across CSU this week, we will see out the academic year.

A couple of graduation photos from the recent ceremonies, first one of graduates from the Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage including Uncle Stan and Aunty Flo Grant


and second one from the Port Macquarie graduation today featuring Policing graduates:


2017 has proved to be a big year for the University with many great achievements as detailed in our 2017 EOYW_FINAL.  Not least it is great to see that on the recently released 2016 figures we are still leading in terms of undergraduate and postgraduate online load, as well as leading on Indigenous enrolments and completions.  We are also leading in terms of graduate employment outcomes.

Based on the strategic foresighting work we did in 2016, we have worked long and hard throughout the year to develop the detail of the strategic direction of the University. That has challenged us to be more market-oriented – to think about how well we are serving our students, our communities and our industries – in order to live up to our ethos. As a result of this work, we finish 2017 with a clear picture of our students so we can confidently progress the strategic plan.

We have also taken the opportunity in the second half of the year to strengthen change management at CSU.  This was picked up in feedback in the Your Voice survey and we are using the key strategy projects to develop our in-house change management framework. Through this we will support all managers to manage and communicate change better.

From discussions with staff across the University, it is clear that we have significant talent, intelligence and resources at CSU. I have every confidence that what we can work with and by our communities to deliver positive change and future-proof our regions.  We saw just a taste of what is to come in this space with the launch of the Royal Far West partnership earlier this month.

If you are a member of CSU staff, you can read more about where we are up to with the strategy in the documents from the Vice-Chancellor’s Forum here.

Our students have achieved great things this year, and helped to fill the trophy cabinet yet again. They have also raised funds for many great community organisations. This is testament not only to the focus and determination of our students, but also the support and culture we have built here at CSU.

I am immensely proud of our entire CSU community and the successes we have had this year in our teaching, research and administration. We have won awards for individuals who have excelled in teaching, celebrated the architectural brilliance of our facilities and stayed in the headlines with our research efforts.

I would like to note with great sadness that the CSU community also suffered the loss of many good friends and too many students this year with the passing of Wal Fife, Joe Schipp OAM, Richard Wise, Maddie Clarke, Alexandra Henderson, Emma Philip, Uncle Bill Allan Senior, Emeritus Professor Bruce Mansfield, and Professor David Biles OAM. I will be thinking of the friends and families of all of these great people over the Christmas period.

This week we have seen announcements regarding higher education in 2018 as part of the MYEFO headlines. While we don’t understand the full impact of these measures, we are seeing funding capped at 2017 levels. We will need to work to understand the impacts of this fully, but given this is in many ways worse than the reforms rejected by the Federal Senate, I would expect significant community backlash to this. Certainly, while it was unfortunately not unexpected, this has not been a great start to my Christmas! In the New Year we will ensure we continue lobbying for the higher education sector and are able retain essential funding for our regional students and our communities.

Next year we will also continue to focus on the priority areas highlighted in the Your Voice staff survey. Respect and recognition was one of these areas and I have released a What’s New message on that this week for staff. A renewed approach to ensure we have impact on cross-unit collaboration will be a joint effort from all members of staff in 2018 – so I invite you all to come up with innovative ways to work together and communicate the great work you are doing.

From a leadership perspective, and with the retirement of Professor Ken Dillon, we welcomed Jenny Roberts to the CSU family as DVC Students. Next year we will farewell Professor Julia Coyle and Professor Toni Downes.

2018 will, I am sure, be a big and exciting year. I am going to enjoy some down time over the Christmas and New Year period. After that, I am very much looking forward to the challenges and projects we will see developed as part of our strategic direction. I know that staff will continue to deliver for our students and our regions on a daily basis. I also hope that we can settle on an Enterprise Agreement soon, to support our employees through the next phase of the Charles Sturt University journey.

On a (hopefully) fun note, this year I have tried to merge my love of the humble banjo with a Christmas carol (and save my staff the embarrassment of live carolling on campus!). You can see the outcome of this in a video message here.


I wish you all a peaceful, restful, safe and happy break and look forward to seeing you in 2018.


CSU Institutional Support for Marriage Equality

As is plain from the debate in the media, the issue of Marriage Equality has been a difficult one for us as a nation. Clearly there are many people in favour of Marriage Equality. I recognise that there are also many of those within our community who are opposed. There are a further category of people who feel uncomfortable about this issue because even if they are personally supportive or undecided, they are concerned about others being forced to deal with the question.

Speaking personally, the decision to support Marriage Equality is straightforward for me. I know many same-sex couples in long-term relationships, some of whom are parents. Personally, I cannot see how it can be right to deny them the opportunity to have their commitment to each other legally recognised by society. I have already ticked ‘yes’ on the ABS survey form.

But that is my personal decision. Unlike most people, as the Vice-Chancellor of this institution, I have additional responsibilities on behalf of the whole University community. In an organisation of nearly 5000 staff and 40,000 students, this is a more complicated decision to make while being respectful of the different positions I outlined above.

I have had representations from staff members individually, from the ALLY program members and from the Online Student Representative Council all of whom have asked me to pledge institutional support.

I have sought the advice of a number of people including my Leadership Team and the Chancellor. From this advice it is evident that ultimately, as with the broader society, there is not a unanimous and perhaps not even a consensus view on this. There are a good number of people who think the University should not take a position except to encourage people to participate in the national vote.

However, from my discussions and the representations that have been made to me, I do not believe we can sit on the fence. This would be celebrated by some and seen as an abdication of responsibility by others so it is not a neutral choice. Given the lack of clear consensus, it is also clear to me that this is a decision that ultimately I have to, and must, make myself in my role as Vice-Chancellor of the organisation.

I do not want to stifle debate. As a University, we should be a space in which difficult issues can be discussed. That is the academic mission of the University and I fully support that and the right of people to exercise free speech within it. As Vice-Chancellor I cannot tell anyone in the University what to think.

However, the University also exists as a corporate body, as an employer of staff and a community of students, and it is in that light that I consider the question of the institutional position. When I consider our key Value of ‘Inclusive’, I believe the right decision is that we should support Marriage Equality before the law and that is the decision I have taken.

As patron of CSU’s ALLY program, a program dedicated to supporting and empowering the LGBTQI+ community, I stand by the LBGTQI+ community and I cannot see how to do that without supporting Marriage Equality before the law.

To the numerous staff who have emailed me personally asking for organisational support, to the Online Student Representative Committee who called for me to make a stand on this issue, and to RivColl, the Riverina Student Representative Committee and your leadership who have taken a stand, the University stands with you in supporting the right of all to have equality before the law.

I have no doubt this decision will be met with criticism by some individuals, and I accept this. I can only do what I think is right and I know that I would regret it later if I do not do that. I also accept and celebrate everyone’s democratic right to take a position in the Marriage Equality debate and I encourage all of you who are entitled to vote to do so in line with your own views and conscience.

Given our Value of Inclusive, CSU is stronger together and we will accept and support all members of the CSU community and recognise their equality before the law. I trust that whatever the outcome of the vote and whatever process follows, we will retain respect for and continue to support each other.

Thank you for taking the time to engage in this important debate in Australia’s history.



Support is available: If you need support or feel distressed during the same-sex marriage debate, please contact a Student Counsellor, the Employee Assistance Program or an ALLY trained representative on your Campus.

Professor Andrew Vann

Charles Sturt University


Higher Education Policy Reforms

As you may well have read or heard in the media, the Federal Government has released its long-awaited proposed higher education policy. While we are still analysing the package to determine what it means for CSU, I wanted to share some initial thoughts with you.

As Minister Birmingham indicated, this package has been designed to “spread the pain,” with students set to pay more, universities to receive less funding and the Government achieving smaller savings than it originally intended.  I think it has been quite cleverly constructed to do this, to address some long-standing issues as well as provide some sweeteners to go with the cuts.

One significant part of the package is the impact on students and graduates.  The ratio of student to Commonwealth payments for degrees will shift, with students to pay on average 46% (up from 42%) of the cost of their degree. This is probably not as bad as we had feared.  In addition, HECS-HELP repayment will now begin at $42,000 at 1% repayments which on the other hand is lower than we had expected.  Acknowledging these, I believe investment in higher education represents good value, particularly for a university like CSU which has very strong graduate employment outcomes.

Another significant part is the imposition of two 2.5% efficiency dividends on Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP) funding to the sector in 2018 and 2019 which the Department of Education estimates will overall have a 2.8% impact on CSU teaching and learning funding.

On the Minister’s figures, combining both measures, the Federal Government will achieve a cumulative saving of approximately 10% in expenditure which is less than their original intention of saving 20% of Commonwealth expenditure.

You will see the Government justifying these cuts by stating that universities have more money than they need to deliver teaching and learning.  This is based on a report commissioned from Deloitte which shows that Universities only spend about 85% of their funding on teaching and learning.  Previously, there has been an acceptance that teaching money supports somewhere between 15-30% research and community engagement.  If we accept this metric, universities are at best close to breakeven or actually underfunded by about 15% which is consistent with previous studies.

The Government also claims that the Deloitte study shows that university funding has risen faster than costs based when compared to previous findings of the Lomax-Smith Review (2011).  In my view, these two studies can’t be directly compared.  They were conducted using different samples and methodology so you can’t draw clear conclusions by comparing the two.

Overall, while the package is less severe than we feared, I of course do not welcome yet another round of cuts to university funding.  I am very concerned that these cuts will again challenge our mission of extending a university education to Australians who have previously been excluded from higher education.

Over recent years, we rightly sought to improve our efficiency, and best use the public money provided to us.  University staff have worked hard for this and should be proud of their achievements.

We will therefore be strongly communicating that further squeezing budgets can only have a negative impact on our ability to serve our regions.  As we all acknowledge, universities are a critical part of driving innovation and we need to help rural and regional Australia expand and grow our economy.

A portion of our funding, 7.5%, will now be contingent on reaching performance measures. In 2018 these relate to providing teaching and research data, as well as compliance with the new admissions transparency requirements. In 2019 however, we understand these measures may reference retention and employment outcomes amongst others. This will require extensive discussion with the Government to ensure it really does support universities to do better work.  I also note that one of the cuts that has already been applied to the sector is the removal of additional performance funding.

In positive news for the University, the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) will now be moved into the Higher Education Support Act (HESA) legislation, guaranteeing the fund moving forward. As we all know, HEPPP has played an important role assisting us to extend a university education across our communities, and I am pleased this wonderful work by many dedicated CSU staff may continue and have certainty.

Sub-bachelor degrees will now be part of the demand-driven system, as long as they meet industry needs, which is a great outcome. Likewise, the current clinical loading for medicine will be extended to dentistry and veterinary science programs. This will provide an additional $1394 per student. CSU has advocated strongly for this outcome, and we are pleased to see it included in the policy package.

Finally, we are still working to understand how a number of other measures will impact universities and CSU in particular. Postgraduate Commonwealth Supported Places will initially be cut and then be moved to be student-centred on merit, with the scholarship tied to the individual student and applicable at any institution. We will need to understand how ‘merit’ is defined to appreciate what this will mean for students – for example teachers in regional NSW studying Masters degrees.

The Federal Government is also to provide seed funding for eight new regional study hubs, based on the Geraldton and Cooma models where they support many students.  We have had experience with both of these so look forward to getting more details on this.

Lastly, a new Work Integrated Learning program is to be developed, with work experience able to be counted towards degree programs and with better support from Commonwealth funds.  CSU has a strong track record in work integrated learning, and if this helps to better support students on placement that would be a really good thing.

Obviously this is a significant package of policy measures and changes. We are committed to considering each fully, and advocating strongly to ensure the best results for our institution, staff and students.

You can see our initial media release and response here:

20170502 Higher Education Policy Media Release

As always, if you have any thoughts I am happy to hear from you.  I look forward to providing more detail and analysis as it becomes available.

April Blog Post

Global Politics

In the last blog post I mentioned that I had been mulling over the implications of political events and an era which sometimes seems to be ‘post-truth’.  It seems (unsurprisingly) I was not the only one and I would recommend anyone to watch two speeches from the Universities Australia Conference, firstly former Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich’s keynote address:


and secondly UA Chair Barney Glover’s address to the National Press Club:


They said what I wanted to say, but much better.

Royal Far West Ride For Country Kids

It’s now three weeks since the Royal Far West Ride For Country Kids in which we had nine CSU staff riding.  This was definitely a challenge – I was relieved to see Daniel Gibson, from Channel 7 who looks supremely fit, describe the first day as one of the toughest rides he’d ever done.  We had temperatures in the high thirties and a strong headwind that was like riding into a hairdryer.  When you reached for a water bottle, it was hotter than you were.  Every peloton had someone who just couldn’t continue about 15kms outside of Cootamundra.  I’m pleased to say all the CSU riders made it in under their own steam (no pun intended).  The second day was wet and cold, and on the third day we hit strong and gusty headwinds about the same time we hit the big hills on the way in to Orange.  I think we earned the sponsorship money.  Having started at CSU Wagga, we finished at the CSU Orange Campus and our Physiotherapy students were on hand to deal with knotted and aching muscles.

Between the two CSU teams, we raised over $30,000 and the event raised over $600,000 in total, which is a great result.  A big thank you to all the riders, to everyone who provided sponsorship and to all those who attended the barbecue campus events at Port Macquarie, Bathurst and Wagga Wagga which raised more than $2000 out of the total.  Six out of the nine of us – before we started riding, but after Jonathan had had his head shaved – are in the picture below.


On the cycling theme, I also wanted to thank our Paramedics students for assisting in the Blayney to Bathurst Ride last Sunday – and in particular to Ash and Callum for helping my cycling buddy out with a cramp problem at the bottom of Rockley Mount – much appreciated!

Strategy Progress

Last week we had Vice-Chancellor’s Forum (VCF) in Bathurst which was the largest we have had (I’m tempted to say ‘period’) as we invited all the Heads of School.  At this, we worked through the first cut of the sub-plans for the 2017-22 Strategy document approved by University Council at the end of last year.  The aim was to expose the thinking about how to take the strategy forward, think about prioritisation as well as possible overlaps and conflicts.  My sense was that there was a really good spirit around this and we certainly got a lot of useful feedback from the participants.  Further information on this, included the documentation presented at VCF, will be posted on Yammer in the next week or so.  The aim of this is to expose it further and gather feedback from across the university – I encourage everyone to get involved in this process.  We want to be sure the strategy is as good as it can possibly be.

Support for Regional Innovation

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve had launches of our support for entrepreneurship.  In Bathurst we launched CenWest Innovate which is a program led by Professor Mark Morrison to support innovation and entrepreneurship in Small-to-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) by providing masterclasses and linkages to University staff.

Another arm of this is work led by Associate Professor Michelle Evans to support Indigenous entrepreneurship.  This is the Walan Mayinygu Program which is running ‘Pop Up’ events in various communities across our footprint and includes advice from successful Indigenous entrepreneurs.  We are also investing in The Agri Business Park in Wagga to encourage Agri Business start-ups and this is being led by Professor John Mawson.  Through all of these programs the aim is to support economic growth and jobs in regional NSW and this work has been supported through the NSW Dept of Industry Boosting Business Innovation Program.

Road Shows

My office is once again planning out Road Shows across the University starting this week through to the end of the year (it’s a big place!). I am trying to make the briefings at team level via campus – so please get in touch if you have a team session already planned for later in the year to see if we can combine the two. Email vc@csu.edu.au

Will sign off for now, more to come.

Start of 2017 Academic Year

Welcome to the start of the 2017 Academic year.  I have to confess that I got blocked in writing the first blog post of the year by events in world politics and wondering about the role of universities is in a ‘post-truth’ era.  But I’ll come back to that in a subsequent post.

Yesterday I went along with other staff to greet new students and parents arriving in the residences at Bathurst.  We are holding similar events across our campuses.  It was really great to see the new faces and to welcome everyone back to campus – it always seems very quiet without the students around.  A week ago, I and other members of the Senior Executive met with the Resident Assistants (RAs) as part of the training they receive before taking on the role.  This is a wonderful way to start the year as the RAs are a very impressive and motivated group of people. It’s also a great opportunity to hear first hand how they are finding the University.  They do a terrific job of setting the tone and culture in our residences and we are very proud of them for this and the support they provide their fellow students.

I mentioned in the last post that we will be rolling out the new 2017-22 University Strategy over the first half of the year.  At this point, our Director of Strategy, Planning and Information, David Bedwell and his team are working with various areas to fully scope and define the content of the strategic goals.  Stay tuned for more updates on this as the work progresses however, at this stage I am really happy to see the direction progressing with our communities, students and our staff in mind.

As a final note, last year we had four staff taking part in the Royal Far West Ride For Country Kids and this year myself and eight other CSU staff from across our campuses are taking part.  We have been working with Royal Far West on a number of fronts given our shared interest in promoting rural and regional health and we hope to do more in the future.  This year the route is 420km over three days starting from the CSU Wagga Wagga Campus and finishing at CSU Orange Campus.  The teams are made up of Executive Deans Tracey Green and Tim Wess, academics Greg Linsdell and Johnathan Hewis, Gethin Thomas and Elizabeth Dunlop from the Research Office, Liz Smith from Office for Students and Nicole Rogers from Student Admin as well as a friend of Nicole’s, Andrea Anthony.  Everyone has been training hard for this and I have been relieved to find that, despite a slack period over last winter, I don’t feel as exhausted as I was last year after the 100km+ rides on the weekends.

Last year overall the ride raised $650,000 to support Royal Far West’s work to improve the health of disadvantaged rural and regional kids and their families.  The fundraising pages for the two teams are here:


Any support gratefully received!

This Thursday 23 February, I will be cooking a BBQ (proudly supported by Cheers) to raise money for the ride on the Library Lawn of the Bathurst Campus.  It will run from 12 – 2pm. If you’re in Bathurst, please come along and say ‘hi’ to welcome in our first term of 2017 during O Week and help raise some funds for this great cause!  Hoping to see as many of you there as possible.

Enjoy 2017.


2016 Close

The main graduation week is now done with only Port Macquarie to go, and that means it’s very close to the end of the year.  This has been a very big year for us and now we’re at the end of it, I think it’s important to reflect on the achievements of staff and students and their contributions to our communities.
I know that the transition to three faculties and the common support model has been challenging and that we are still bedding down some of the processes and practices.  I met with the Heads of School a few weeks back and they commented that having helped others through the change process they were now feeling it themselves.  As we have mentioned before, this has been one of the biggest change processes the university has done and I am very proud of the effort and commitment that staff have put into making it successful.  I do appreciate we still have a way to go on this.
Hopefully, staff have seen the videos and information to promote the revised values framework.  Built from our ethos of yindyamarra winhanganha, “the wisdom of respectfully knowing how to live well in a world worth living in”, the four values of insightful, inclusive, impactful and inspiring seem to have resonated very well.  Given that they were created from consultative workshops with staff this is not surprising, but I have been pleased to see how people are using them to guide the thinking within the various areas of the university.  Many staff have been taking part in the Values Ambassador programs to help continue to spread them and I look forward to the continuation of that work in 2017.

As I mentioned, it has been a year of great achievement and perhaps sometimes it can be hard to see the big picture across the University from our individual areas. This year, we have put together just a small selection of statistics and facts about exactly what we have acheived this year. I would urge you all to take a look – it is a snapshot so it doesn’t have everything in there, but it is a very impressive reminder of the scale and achievements of staff and students in a very busy year:  2016 Achievements

At the last meeting of Council, the new Strategic Direction document for 2017-2022 was approved.  This has been built on the back of the strategic foresight exercise that was carried out, and the four possible scenarios for 2030 created as part of this were posted on Yammer.  The new strategy will be worked through, planned and explained in more detail next year, but the three big areas are engaging with our communities to help them build their future, transforming our learning and teaching and finally to underpin all of this, building our internal capability.

There is no doubt that the higher education sector is increasingly competitive and we can’t stand still.  Some of the new strategy will be a continuation of work done on the existing plan and some will be new.  I am ever mindful of the complaint that there are too many things happening and we have tried to make the new strategy structure as simple as possible while still hitting the major initiatives we need to pursue.  There will be devil in the detail as we work through it and we will have to make sure that we can resource and deliver the changes we are looking for.  There is significant budget protected for strategy and we have learned a lot through the Program Logic model being used for the current plans so I am confident that we can do this.  We expect that the strategy will be split into three two-year phases so that we have some shorter chunks of work to concentrate on.  I have just signed a renewed contract with the University Council for another five years and, given I don’t think you ought to keep a Vice-Chancellor for very much longer than 10 years, that should allow some transition time for the next incumbent.  But there’s a long way to go until we get to that.
Aside from beginning on the new strategy next year, we will also negotiate a new Enterprise Agreement, undertake an independent review of the three faculty common support model implementation, and will once again ask our staff how they are tracking in the Your Voice Survey.  Given the comments in the last Voice Survey around communication, we have tried some different approaches to communication this year.  I have done smaller more conversational roadshows focussed on particular work areas across the campuses (although the Faculty of Science ones  ended up being pretty big).  Toni Downes has done her regular communication around the Faculty changes.  We had the multi-media rollout of the new Values framework.  There have also been changes to the Staff web page in line with the overall revamp of the website.  The Staff Hub has been delayed a little because priority was put on the Online Course Brochures to assist with student recruitment.  The planning and pilot work has informed the Staff web page refresh and the new version is currently planned to go live in May.  Communication is something you can never do enough of, so we are always interested to hear ideas or feedback on what does and does not work.
As I mentioned at the start, we now have only Port Macquarie graduations to go to.  This year I wasn’t able to get to all campuses, sadly missing Dubbo and Orange, but in the last week I did officiate at ten ceremonies from Parramatta to Melbourne, Albury, Wagga Wagga and Bathurst.  It’s a huge week, but it is just wonderful to meet the graduating students and their families and be able to celebrate their success.  We had some amazing graduation (and graduate) speakers, and in a very emotional moment, Cheryl Honey accepted a posthumous Honorary Doctorate for her husband Geoff Honey who we tragically lost this year.  Geoff’s parents were also in attendance and it was fitting to be able to pay tribute to his work and life – he will continue to be greatly missed.
I want to thank you all for the work you have completed throughout 2016 and I wish you all a safe, happy and restful Christmas and New Year break.
See you in 2017!

June Update

It’s hard to believe we are nearly half way through the year and perhaps even harder to believe that in our perpetual higher education Groundhog Day, we still do not know what the future of higher education funding and policy will be. I will come back to this point.


The significant good news at the start of this year is that based on the good results from first semester we are predicting an increase in commencing load this year of about 5%. This is the result of increased marketing activity, increased focus on conversions and I am sure the excellent performance of the University in terms of graduate outcomes. It has not been the case for all universities and I want to thank all the University’s staff for the work they have done to achieve this result.

Workforce of the Future

One of my side jobs is to chair the Executive Committee of AHEIA, the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association. At the end of last year AHEIA commissioned PriceWaterhouse Coopers to look at the future of the workforce in higher education. Although it sometimes said that universities are slow to change, we have seen enormous growth and change in the sector over the last 20 years. On my reckoning, one of the most significant changes is the degree of specialisation and casualisation in the academic workforce. Both of these, I think, have been in pursuit of increased productivity and the second has been a risk management approach. University funding has become much less certain as a more market-oriented approach has been taken by government. Acknowledging the growth in higher education funding as the system has grown, governments of both sides have raided the higher education budget to pay for other things. Labor was going to use it to fund Gonski and the Coalition have attempted to meet overall budget strictures.

What has been less talked about is the fact that over this period, full-time research and teaching academic positions have grown very little – about 8% between 1996 and 2014. I suspect that these staff members – particularly those at levels B, C and D – are still doing the bulk of the academic administration and management work for the now much bigger system. I therefore think that the complaints we hear about the pressures on academic staff have some justification. I believe it is time we rethought what we expect from academic staff and acknowledge that the academic management aspects are as important as teaching, research and engagement.   In the case of CSU, we revised our promotions policy in 2014 and we will be keeping an eye on this to ensure it is delivering the things we  want for staff and the University.

Federal Budget

In parallel with the Federal Budget, the Government released an options paper which, it seems, was meant to leave options on the table while also neutralising higher education policy as an election issue. Right up front I need to say that the Government’s budget shows that they still intend to cut 20% of government funding from higher education places. It is surprising to me that there is so far not very much commentary about this – which amounts to a $2bn cut across the forward estimates – but perhaps we have all got used to the idea. From the point of view of universities perhaps this is not so bad because – at first glance – it seems the revenue would be made up by increasing costs for students. Estimates vary on the impacts of this but currently students pay about 40% of the cost so we would be looking at an average increase of about 25% in costs to students.

The arguments that are usually advanced for doing this are:

  • the HELP system provides interest-free, indexed loans which means no-one has to pay upfront costs;
  • students bear an equal proportion of the cost because of the private benefits;
  • there is concern we are creating too many, or too many of the wrong sort of graduates and that increasing costs will help to make students think more carefully about choices; and
  • international and local evidence suggests it is quite difficult to deter people from studying because they understand how important higher education is to career advancement.

Arguments in the other direction are:

  • an awful lot of students are not school leavers and may in fact be making repayments because they are already working;
  • OECD studies show that the public returns to higher education in Australia already outweigh the private benefits;
  • one of the biggest costs of study is students’ time and they already have powerful incentives to take their choices seriously;
  • it’s difficult to deter students from studying, but loading the costs onto graduates alone is tantamount to increasing tax rates for them; and
  • there is legitimate concern about the impacts on equity as a result of increasing costs – acquiring a university degree does not reset your lifetime economic circumstances and there is a risk that this will have a disproportionate impact on lower-income earners.

I lean towards the second set of arguments, but I think we need a good debate about these issues. It was notable in the discussion about fee deregulation that the most enthusiastic advocates were those universities with students from the wealthiest backgrounds, I would be very worried if the higher education policy of either side of politics slipped through without scrutiny.

Murray Darling Medical School Bid

We have continued to push our medical school bid with the Federal Government and with other parties and candidates now that the election has been called. The proposal has been widely supported and government has acknowledged the value of it in addressing maldistribution of doctors in regional and rural areas. It is very frustrating that the Government has supported a new school in Perth at Curtin University and funding for a new node at Gosford for Newcastle University, both of which are in metropolitan locations and very close to existing schools. There is a strong suspicion now that the only thing that leads to a medical school being approved is electoral advantage as both of these announcements seemed to be linked to marginal seats. I trust that this is not the case, and that we will soon get an announcement on the Murray Darling Medical School. It is certainly not credible to argue that new medical schools cannot be approved and this reinforces the importance of continuing to fight for a solution for rural and regional people.

Strategy Development Process

We are currently going through a strategy foresight exercise to plan for our 2017 and beyond strategy. This has had involvement from a range people across the University, including Vice-Chancellor’s Forum. The process has developed a systems map of the external forces acting on the University and four particular scenarios are being developed which will be used to test our current strategic thinking and set the scene for the revised strategy. The aim of all this to deepen our understanding of our operations and environment so that we can face the future more confidently.

Three Faculty Structure

We are now approaching the cutover to the new three Faculty structure. Last week I met with the Heads of School and heard that, understandably, staff are feeling some apprehension as we approach it. This is a big change, and there is a lot of effort going into training staff and communicating the changes. As per the messages sent out to all staff by the DVC Academic, Toni Downes, the details will be communicated in the next couple of weeks as we run up to the change over. I want to thank all staff for their efforts to support this important restructure.