Universities in crisis -

 
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Things have been looking very crook for the Australian tertiary education sector since the start of the year: We've had reports of Monash University losing $350,000,000 in international student revenue, UNSW around $600,000,000 - all on account of not being able to get their usual cash cow international students back on-shore in time for the academic new year. There's also talk that some smaller and regional universities might not be able to survive given we have a total of 38 for a country of 25 million.

Now this pretty amazing scandal which has been the talk of the town here in South Australia today - ABC;

South Australia's Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC) has confirmed he is investigating allegations of improper conduct by the vice-chancellor of the University of Adelaide.

The investigation relates to potential misconduct or maladministration, not corruption.

Vice-chancellor Professor Peter Rathjen took special leave earlier this week, hours after the university's chancellor, Kevin Scarce, resigned.

The university had refused to comment on the reasons for the departures of its key figureheads.

Wow, I'm so relieved it was just misconduct and not corruption! That makes such a huge difference.

The announcement today clears up a mystery with both the VC and the Chancellor quitting their respective positions on Monday with no real reason given for the departure of both University of Adelaide heads at that time.

Peter Rathjen was quite aggressive in increasing international student revenue when he was Vice Chancellor at the University of Tasmania; he also sold the Sandy Point campus of the university to a property developer for a tidy sum. You have to wonder where all this corporatist ideology has got universities given they're all in varying degrees of trouble right now - it'll be interesting to hear exactly what form the misconduct that (former) Vice Chancellor Rathjen was engaged in as it comes out...

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  SinickleBird Assistant Commissioner

Location: Qantas Club at Mudgee International Airport
Acting VC (Prof Mike Brooks) posted on LinkedIn yesterday, to the effect that “it’s business as usual - nothing to see here”.

Universities used to be places of higher learning and research. Entry standards were maintained, research and teaching were world-class. There were originally fees, but the Whitlam Government instituted a free education policy (of which I was a beneficiary).

With funding now coming from the bottomless pit of Canberra, all you needed to was get more students - meaning invent new degrees (Paul Keating used to joke about degrees in basket-weaving) and lower entry standards. Both of these were done successfully.

Before long, the technical colleges and teachers’ colleges lobbied to become universities so they could have both the status and funding. Meanwhile, standards fell and the amateur political classes started to play games.

More recently, eyes have turned to other sources of money - foreign students who pay big fees, often for business degrees (after all, academics make great business people) supported by “Asian Studies” or “Chinese studies”.

What we now have is an excess number of (largely mediocre) universities, heavily dependent on (mainly) Chinese students, and preaching ideology to suit the funding base rather than conducting research and teaching. I make exception to the medical and science faculties, which seem to have been able to remain true to their origins and reputations.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Interesting times for the universities really when you consider that 50% (I heard on ABC) of international students who finish their studies here in Australia apply for working visa.  if this is not going to be able to be accommodated moving forward then will this also impact the number of applications from overseas students

Things have been looking very crook for the Australian tertiary education sector since the start of the year: We've had reports of Monash University losing $350,000,000 in international student revenue, UNSW around $600,000,000 - all on account of not being able to get their usual cash cow international students back on-shore in time for the academic new year. There's also talk that some smaller and regional universities might not be able to survive given we have a total of 38 for a country of 25 million.
Somebody

I for one find it hard to believe UNSW would be loosing $600m in revenue?  I refer to the link https://www.universityrankings.com.au/international-student-numbers.html which shows the rankings of Australian Universities and the number of overseas students by number and also a percentage of total students.

RMIT University is in first place with 26k of students and UNSW has 1/2 of that number.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Interesting times for the universities really when you consider that 50% (I heard on ABC) of international students who finish their studies here in Australia apply for working visa.  if this is not going to be able to be accommodated moving forward then will this also impact the number of applications from overseas students
bevans

The figure that concerns me is the fact that after those international students graduate and obtain residency 96% are NOT working in their graduate field - they generally fill low-skill low-pay jobs and compete with Australians for that work. So really there is no actual demand for the international education services that the universities are providing to Australia - not if the graduate continues to reside here.

The reality of mass-migration via our 'education' system is discussed in detail in a 2016 report published by the Productivity Commission (and largely buried and ignored by government but you can find it here). They also address the problem of not charging enough for elderly parent visas as those visas cost the Australian taxpayer around $420,000 each in Centrelink and Medicare benefits over the lifetime of the visa applicant but we only charge a token amount for them.

I for one find it hard to believe UNSW would be loosing $600m in revenue?  I refer to the link https://www.universityrankings.com.au/international-student-numbers.html which shows the rankings of Australian Universities and the number of overseas students by number and also a percentage of total students.

RMIT University is in first place with 26k of students and UNSW has 1/2 of that number.
bevans
I can't find the original article sorry but there's another Fairfax/Nine article that says the same thing - about halfway down UNSW is losing $260,000,000 a 'trimester' by not having their usual intake of international students. Based on those figures you'd think RMIT would stand to lose quite a bit.

The new VC at the University of Adelaide also made a statement after he got the job saying that they stood to lose $100,000,000 this year - so the pain is spread all over the nation, pretty much every public university has an international recruitment branch don't they.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Acting VC (Prof Mike Brooks) posted on LinkedIn yesterday, to the effect that “it’s business as usual - nothing to see here”.

Universities used to be places of higher learning and research. Entry standards were maintained, research and teaching were world-class. There were originally fees, but the Whitlam Government instituted a free education policy (of which I was a beneficiary).

With funding now coming from the bottomless pit of Canberra, all you needed to was get more students - meaning invent new degrees (Paul Keating used to joke about degrees in basket-weaving) and lower entry standards. Both of these were done successfully.

Before long, the technical colleges and teachers’ colleges lobbied to become universities so they could have both the status and funding. Meanwhile, standards fell and the amateur political classes started to play games.

More recently, eyes have turned to other sources of money - foreign students who pay big fees, often for business degrees (after all, academics make great business people) supported by “Asian Studies” or “Chinese studies”.

What we now have is an excess number of (largely mediocre) universities, heavily dependent on (mainly) Chinese students, and preaching ideology to suit the funding base rather than conducting research and teaching. I make exception to the medical and science faculties, which seem to have been able to remain true to their origins and reputations.
SinickleBird
Interesting post thank-you.

The Dawkins Report under Hawke/Keating foresaw the advantages of selling international education, hence the merger of the technical and teaching colleges into the general university system so they could have a large enough institution to do the marketing and recruiting. And you're right, it accorded more status to formerly tech-type courses but then they did the same thing in the UK so we were just slavishly following the British model of privatising every public institution weren't we.

I for one am unhappy with some of the results of this mass-migration on the universities themselves, it's resulted in a whole lot of perverse outcomes and influences because of the money flowing in. Witness the very pro-Chinese Communist Party VC and board at the University of Queensland trying to expel students protesting against the CCP recently, Menzies would be rolling in his grave if he knew how far a foreign communist government had infiltrated our public institutions.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
I've been looking for clues as to what (former) University of Adelaide Vice Chancellor Peter Rathjen might have been doing to have to resign suddenly given we still have no public information about his supposed 'misconduct'.

Then I came across this crawling and frankly inappropriate message that he sent the university students stuck in China and unable to commence in March:



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0BphbEAoP0

"My love for China is matched by my university's love for China...", and "Stay strong, China!".

It's got a slight whiff of desperation about it !
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

Self-suspended, not "former"
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Self-suspended, not "former"
justapassenger
How likely is he to return to his job though -
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

The SA ICAC is quite weak (the current Liberal government has slashed its funding) so I'd say there's a fair chance.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
The SA ICAC is quite weak (the current Liberal government has slashed its funding) so I'd say there's a fair chance.
justapassenger
We still don't know officially what the investigation is regarding or what the allegation is against Peter Rathjen so who knows. Until that's made public (presumably it won't be an 'in camera' trial?) then its anyone's guess what might happen.

Another strange case that doesn't seem to have progressed very far is the six charges of dishonesty and twenty charges of theft leveled against current serving SA Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell. He was first charged over that in 2018 and yet the trial wasn't due to start until July this year - haven't heard anything about the reason the trial has been delayed so long but surely justice delayed is justice not served?
  Madjikthise Deputy Commissioner

Out of curiosity, just what does a university spend $600,000,000 on? (Or more as this is just the claimed loss for this year).
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Out of curiosity, just what does a university spend $600,000,000 on? (Or more as this is just the claimed loss for this year).
Madjikthise
Staff, mostly. There's 130,000 direct employees in Australia - interesting breakdown of the economics and size of the Aussie university sector here but bear in mind that it is published by the university lobby itself (yes, there is one!).
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

The SA ICAC is quite weak (the current Liberal government has slashed its funding) so I'd say there's a fair chance.
We still don't know officially what the investigation is regarding or what the allegation is against Peter Rathjen so who knows. Until that's made public (presumably it won't be an 'in camera' trial?) then its anyone's guess what might happen.
don_dunstan
Based on what we know so far - that it's only an investigation by the neutered ICAC and nothing with any legal effect - then my assessment of the situation as it stands that there's a fair chance he'll be back at work. As we know more, our expectations can be updated.

Rathjen is quite well connected with the SA Liberals and can count on the government's support to keep things under wraps - which is probably why Commissioner Lander went public quickly before anyone could stop him.

Another strange case that doesn't seem to have progressed very far is the six charges of dishonesty and twenty charges of theft leveled against current serving SA Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell. He was first charged over that in 2018 and yet the trial wasn't due to start until July this year - haven't heard anything about the reason the trial has been delayed so long but surely justice delayed is justice not served?
don_dunstan
The reasons for the delay have revolved around the back-and-forth of having District Court circuit hearings at the Mount Gambier court, and then the legal process needed to shift the trial to Adelaide.

The prosecutor argued that the Mount Gambier Magistrates Court was ill-equipped to host a circuited District Court jury trial of that level of complexity (it is expected to take at least three months as there had been no agreement on any of the evidence) and applied for it to be transferred to Adelaide.

Bell opposed the transfer application, as he was entitled to. His opposition to the transfer was treated fairly, as anyone interested in seeing justice served would hope it was to avoid any conviction being thrown out for an unfair trial process.

The judge eventually ruled in favour of the prosecution's application to transfer it to Adelaide, on the basis that having it in Mount Gambier would cause unfair delays to many other proceedings that would be due to be heard in Mount Gambier. But if the expected duration is shortened (i.e. if the prosecution and defence agree on some of the evidence) then it will be shifted back to Mount Gambier.

So it's not a case of justice not served, but that justice is on track to be served and that steps have been taken to ensure it can be served fairly without opening the way for a potential conviction to be thrown out on appeal.
  Aaron The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: University of Adelaide SA
The 600 million figure comes from NSW doesn’t it?

That figure isn’t a ‘loss’ as such, it’s just the a deficit between expenses and income, they don’t have the foreign student income, and most of that ‘expense’ I would wager is asset depreciation. It’s not like they’re going to run out of funding.
  Aaron The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: University of Adelaide SA
I just read that to cover the 600 million deficit at UNSW staff had been asked to volunteer for a pay cut - coincidentally, I read a paper last year from UNSW and got the distinct impression the authors deserved a pay cut.
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

The 600 million figure comes from NSW doesn’t it?

That figure isn’t a ‘loss’ as such, it’s just the a deficit between expenses and income, they don’t have the foreign student income, and most of that ‘expense’ I would wager is asset depreciation. It’s not like they’re going to run out of funding.
Aaron
Yes, UNSW.

It's not even that, it's just the projected difference in revenue compared to last year. Certain expenditure will surely be reduced as well, meaning that the actual difference will be much less than $600M (but that's a minor detail to leave out when writing a begging letter via the media).

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/unsw-asks-staff-to-take-pay-cut-to-stop-job-losses-from-600m-hit-20200415-p54k1u.html
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Interesting article from Drew Pavlou, the 4th year University of Queensland student engaged in a prolonged legal battle with his own university over his student activism against the Chinese Communist Party - Foreign Policy;

After being an outspoken campus critic of Chinese state human rights abuses, I now face expulsion from the University of Queensland (UQ), where I am a fourth-year philosophy student, on the grounds that I “prejudiced” the university’s reputation by using my position as an elected student representative to express support for Hong Kong’s democratic protesters.
I am being threatened with this unprecedented move because of UQ’s particularly close relationship with the Chinese party-state; UQ enjoys perhaps the closest relationship of any university with the Chinese government in the Anglosphere. In addition to funding and controlling a Confucius Institute on campus, the Chinese government funds that present a party-approved version of Chinese history to students, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, and mainland China...

It is ultimately a cold, hard, brutal economic calculation, of a kind that many Australian and other Western institutions have made. With nearly 10,000 students at UQ hailing from mainland China, the Chinese market is worth at least $150 million to the university in student fees each year. That market remains open only so long as UQ’s administration is willing to prostrate itself before Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials. In a February 2020 meeting of the UQ Senate, where I serve as an elected student representative, the board approved paying Hoj a confidential six-figure bonus on top of his already eye-watering $1.2 million salary package. When I queried this, I was told he had met all his key performance indicators, one of which involved facilitating “engagement with China.”

What about domestic students - or don't they count any more!
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
UNSW has reported a budgetary shortfall of $750,000,000 and they're going to sack 493 staff as a result (and that's only the beginning).

Universities have lots of assets they can liquidate though - not sure why none of them have been having a sale. For example, the University of Melbourne has $366,000,000 worth of fine art.
  davesvline Chief Commissioner

Location: 1983-1998
Interesting article from Drew Pavlou, the 4th year University of Queensland student engaged in a prolonged legal battle with his own university over his student activism against the Chinese Communist Party - Foreign Policy;

After being an outspoken campus critic of Chinese state human rights abuses, I now face expulsion from the University of Queensland (UQ), where I am a fourth-year philosophy student, on the grounds that I “prejudiced” the university’s reputation by using my position as an elected student representative to express support for Hong Kong’s democratic protesters.
I am being threatened with this unprecedented move because of UQ’s particularly close relationship with the Chinese party-state; UQ enjoys perhaps the closest relationship of any university with the Chinese government in the Anglosphere. In addition to funding and controlling a Confucius Institute on campus, the Chinese government funds that present a party-approved version of Chinese history to students, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, and mainland China...

It is ultimately a cold, hard, brutal economic calculation, of a kind that many Australian and other Western institutions have made. With nearly 10,000 students at UQ hailing from mainland China, the Chinese market is worth at least $150 million to the university in student fees each year. That market remains open only so long as UQ’s administration is willing to prostrate itself before Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials. In a February 2020 meeting of the UQ Senate, where I serve as an elected student representative, the board approved paying Hoj a confidential six-figure bonus on top of his already eye-watering $1.2 million salary package. When I queried this, I was told he had met all his key performance indicators, one of which involved facilitating “engagement with China.”

What about domestic students - or don't they count any more!
don_dunstan
Nope.
You've identified it's a user pays system, and the user has bought all the spots.

I cant wait (in this Aus vs China tit for tat thing) for China to disqualify students from their country with qualifications from us getting jobs back home. That makes an Aussie qualification over there worthless, and the golden goose here dead.

Only then will a local get a qualification in our Uni's. Unless (like at a real estate auction where Chinese are bidding) you manage to out bid them to get a spot.

Remember where the money is coming from with these people. The amount they spend is a secondary consideration to winning. These people are the beneficiaries of China's one child policy. They're loaded because they have no siblings, and their source is the parents who are the beneficiaries of a middle class boom. Their work ethic and desire to get ahead has most lazy locals at a distinct disadvantage.

The protester at the uni rocking the boat decided he was going to wrestle with a pig in the mud. The pig says game on and has fun. The protester just ended up getting dirty.

Don't expect the uni to fill paces for cheaper prices from locals. You mark my words - they're all hedging their bets this Covid thing blows over and we can re import their salvation

Regards
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Nope.
You've identified it's a user pays system, and the user has bought all the spots.

I cant wait (in this Aus vs China tit for tat thing) for China to disqualify students from their country with qualifications from us getting jobs back home. That makes an Aussie qualification over there worthless, and the golden goose here dead.

Only then will a local get a qualification in our Uni's. Unless (like at a real estate auction where Chinese are bidding) you manage to out bid them to get a spot.
davesvline
Universities are a tapped-out market, they couldn't possibly attract any more locals into their courses after Gillard un-capped places but they could certainly keep marketing the gateway to permanent residency to foreigners after the completion of a degree.

The additional problem now is that the attractiveness of the sales pitch has now diminished because of the COVID thing combined with higher unemployment - there was media footage today of foreign students in Adelaide queuing for food relief because they can't find service-industry work to support themselves with while they 'study' here. So the paradigm is broken because of the lack of work.
Remember where the money is coming from with these people. The amount they spend is a secondary consideration to winning. These people are the beneficiaries of China's one child policy. They're loaded because they have no siblings, and their source is the parents who are the beneficiaries of a middle class boom. Their work ethic and desire to get ahead has most lazy locals at a distinct disadvantage. The protester at the uni rocking the boat decided he was going to wrestle with a pig in the mud. The pig says game on and has fun. The protester just ended up getting dirty. Don't expect the uni to fill paces for cheaper prices from locals. You mark my words - they're all hedging their bets this Covid thing blows over and we can re import their salvation Regards
davesvline
We'll see - the Chinese government has told their own people not to come here for study any longer and Chinese people were (generally) the most wealthy and best able to afford to study here without having to be reliant on service industry jobs to support themselves with. My theory is that its all downhill from here for the big foreign-visa sellers like Monash, the University of Melbourne and UNSW.
  Carnot Minister for Railways

It had become a Ponzi scheme. Let the Universities deal with reality instead if being propped up.

Incidentally, have you heard how much endowment $$$ Harvard is sitting on?

USD$40.9 billion at last count ...
  Madjikthise Deputy Commissioner

Reported today something like 60-70% of all staff at universities is on some form of casual employment.

"The rush towards insecure work has been led by the University of Melbourne, Australia's richest tertiary institution, which listed reserves of $4.43 billion while employing 72.9 per cent of staff on insecure terms."

"Universities Australia declined to comment on the casualisation of the workforce, instead directing the ABC to the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association which defended not publishing staff data in states other than Victoria.
Universities supply information to the Federal Department but there is a 12-month delay in publishing the casual stats."


The only defence they have for not publishing data in other states is that it's not compulsory there.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Adelaide University Vice-Chancellor Peter Rathjen has formally resigned his position due to ill-health but the ICAC investigation into his activities as VC will go on - ABC;

Mr Rathjen took an indefinite leave of absence, without public explanation from the university, on May 5. Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC) Bruce Lander released a statement later that week confirming he had launched "an investigation in respect of allegations of improper conduct" by Mr Rathjen and the way in which the university dealt with those allegations.
Catherine Branson, who officially replaced former chancellor Kevin Scarce last week, wrote to university staff and students this morning, announcing Mr Rathjen's resignation.
"I am writing to inform you that the university's council has accepted the resignation of vice-chancellor Professor Peter Rathjen AO, due to ill health," her email reads.
"The university extends its appreciation for the contribution Professor Rathjen has made since taking up the role in 2018.

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