Students in China heed their government’s warnings against studying in Australia – less than half plan to come back



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Marina Yue Zhang, Swinburne University of Technology

Only 40% of students in China who previously intended to study overseas still plan to, while just under 50% of those who had studied overseas plan to return to their study after the borders reopen.

These are results from our unpublished survey of 1,012 students we conducted in China between June 5 and 15. We asked them whether they would continue with their plan to study abroad post COVID-19.

These findings are not surprising. Due to growing tensions between China and the West – even before COVID-19 – middle-class parents in China had become increasingly concerned about the safety of, and possible discrimination against, their children abroad, including in the US and Australia.

The pandemic seems to have accelerated this trend.

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What students say about studying in Australia

Of the 1,012 students we surveyed, 404 had registered to study abroad in the next three years (in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Singapore) and 608 had been studying overseas (including in Australia, US, UK, Canada, New Zealand and Japan) before COVID-19 .

In the questionnaire, we presented interviewees with considerations and asked them to nominate which ones would influence their decision about whether to study in Australia after COVID-19, as well as in other countries.




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‘I love Australia’: 3 things international students want Australians to know


The first group (group A) includes 304 students who had studied in Australia but who were not able to return due to travel restrictions.

Of these, 50% were undergraduates, 42% graduates, 5% doctoral students, and 3% vocational education or high school students.

The second group (group B) includes students who had never studied abroad before but had registered their intention to in the next three years, including in Australia, before COVID-19.

The second group also answered Australia-specific questions.



Not many students in either group considered issues such as more expensive air travel, less freedom in China and online lectures as critical factors influencing their decision to study in Australia.

But the two groups reacted to some factors quite differently. The students who had studied in Australia before considered the following factors as more critical to their decision:

  • returnees with Australian degrees are not more competitive in China’s job market compared to graduates from top-tier universities in China

  • life is more convenient, safe and easier at home and I don’t want to go abroad to endure the hardship as a foreign student

  • improved political stability and economic prospects in China

  • less of a chance of landing a good job with an Australian degree in China

  • no need to go abroad if lectures are delivered online.

The group of students who hadn’t yet studied in Australia but planned to, considered the following factors as critical:

  • media reported cases of Chinese being “discriminated against” or “abused” in Australia

  • deterioration in Sino-Australia relations

  • not many outstanding returnees from Australia are visible in the media to represent the success of Australian education

  • Australian universities lowered the entry standard for foreign students due to COVID-19

  • Australian degrees are perceived to be less valuable compared to degrees from other English-speaking countries, especially the US and the UK, by HR personnel in China.

What the students said

Not surprisingly, both groups considered the Chinese government’s warnings against visiting, or studying in, Australia important. A decision to study and live abroad is often made by the whole family in China. Official voices weigh significantly in such decisions.

A student who had done some of her master degree in a Melbourne university said:

After the Chinese New Year, Australian borders were closed to Chinese students due to COVID-19. Direct travel was not allowed. So I travelled to Thailand and spent 14 days in a small hotel in Bangkok before I landed in Melbourne. I had to be self-quarantined for 14 days in my rented room.

Then I found all lectures were moved online and the situation of COVID-19 became serious in Melbourne. The PM urged international students to go home. My parents were so worried. They paid for an over-priced air ticket and a quarantine-hotel in Shanghai for me for 14 days before I could go back to my hometown.

When the [Chinese] government announced the travel and study warnings, I couldn’t convince my parents that things aren’t that bad in Australia. They listened to the government and believed the ‘official voices’ rather than their own daughter.

There have been cases (though isolated ones) of Asians or Chinese people being bullied in Australia due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, social media in China often distorts such cases and amplifies the (mis)perceptions. And the tensions between China and Australia have enhanced these negative perceptions.

Sending their children abroad was once a privilege for elites with intellectual, economic or political power in China. But this is now quite common among middle-class Chinese families.

Chinese families spend a large amount of money on their children’s education. Better opportunities (either in the host country or on returning home) after study abroad is an underlining reason Chinese families invest in their children.




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Australia has attracted many Chinese students in recent decades. But if Chinese students with Australian degrees are less appreciated or less competitive compared to those who study in other countries or in local universities, families will look for other options.

A Chinese student who had been studying at a Sydney university told us:

We are the clients and the degrees are a commodity; we pay for our degrees. What if the commodity loses its value? The clients will surely walk away.

COVID-19 has had a negative impact on the number of Chinese students likely to study in Australia. But the downward trend started way before the pandemic.

Australian universities need to adjust their strategies for a future that will not only deliver value for Chinese students, but also strengthen a positive perception about this value.The Conversation

Marina Yue Zhang, Associate Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Swinburne University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coronavirus and university reforms put at risk Australia’s research gains of the last 15 years



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Andrew Norton, Australian National University

Education minister Dan Tehan will be meeting with university vice-chancellors to devise a new way of funding university research. They will have plenty to talk about.

Australia’s universities have been remarkably successful in building their research output. But there are cracks in the funding foundations of that success, which are being exposed by the revenue shock of COVID-19 and the minister’s reforms announced this month, which would pay for new student places with money currently spent on research.

I estimate the gap in funding that needs to be filled to maintain our current research output at around $4.7 billion.

The funding foundations crumble

The timing of Dan Tehan’s higher education reform package could not have been worse for the university research sector.

The vulnerability created by universities’ reliance on international students has been brutally revealed this year. Travel bans prevent international students arriving in Australia and the COVID-19 recession undermines their capacity to pay tuition fees.




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Profits from domestic and international students are the only way universities can finance research on the current scale, with more than A$12 billion spent in 2018.

Based on a Deloitte Access Economics analysis of teaching costs, universities make a surplus of about A$1.3 billion on domestic students. Universities use much of this surplus to fund research.

Tehan’s reform package seeks to align the total teaching funding rates for each Commonwealth supported student – the combined tuition subsidy and student contribution – with the teaching and scholarship costs identified in the Deloitte analysis.

On 2018 enrolment numbers, revenue losses for universities for Commonwealth supported students would total around $750 million with this realignment. With only teaching costs funded, universities will have little or no surplus from their teaching to spend on research.




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International student profits are larger than domestic – at around $4 billion. Much of this money is spent on research too, and much of this is at risk. The recession will also reduce how much industry partners and philanthropists can contribute to university research.

Australia’s Chief Scientist estimates 7,700 research jobs are at risk from COVID-19 factors alone. Unless the Commonwealth intervenes with a new research funding policy, its recent announcements will trigger further significant research job losses.

Combined teaching and research academic jobs will decline

Although less research employment will be available, the additional domestic students financed by redirecting research funding will generate teaching work.

More students is a good thing in itself, as the COVID-19 recession will generate more demand for higher education.

But this reallocation between research and teaching will exacerbate a major structural problem in the academic labour market. Although most academics want teaching and research, or research-only roles, over the last 30 years Commonwealth teaching and research funding has separated.

After the latest Tehan reforms, funding for the two activities will be based on entirely different criteria and put on very different growth trajectories.

An academic employment model that assumes the same people teach and research was kept alive by funding surpluses on domestic, and especially international, students. With both these surpluses being hit hard, the funding logic is that a trend towards more specialised academic staff will have to accelerate.

We can expect academic morale to fall and industrial action to rise as university workforces resist this change.




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The funding squeeze will also undermine the current system of Commonwealth research funding. This funding is allocated in two main ways. In part, it comes from competitive project grant funding, largely from the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Research Council.

Academic prestige is attached to winning these grants, but the money allocated does not cover the project’s costs. Typically, universities pay the salaries of the lead researchers and general costs, such as laboratories and libraries.

Universities are partly compensated for those expenses through research block grants, which are awarded based on previous academic performance, including in winning competitive grants. But because block grants do not cover all competitive project grant costs, the system has relied on discretionary revenue, much of it from students, to work. It will need a major rethink if teaching becomes much less profitable.

The stakes are high

University spending on research (which was over $12 billion in 2018), has nearly tripled since 2000 in real terms.

Direct government spending on research increased this century, but not by nearly enough to finance this huge expansion in outlays. In 2018, the Commonwealth government’s main research funding programs contributed A$3.7 billion.

An additional $600 million came from other Commonwealth sources such as government department contracts for specific pieces of research.

In addition to this Commonwealth money, universities received another $1.9 billion in earmarked research funding from state, territory and other (national) governments, donations, and industry.

These research-specific sources still leave billions of dollars in research spending without a clear source of finance. Universities have investment earnings, profits on commercial operations and other revenue sources they can invest in research.

But these cannot possibly cover the estimated $4.7 billion gap between research revenue and spending.

With lower profits on teaching, this gap cannot be filled. Research spending will have to be reduced by billions of dollars.

We are at a turning point in Australian higher education. The research gains of the last fifteen years are at risk of being reversed. The minister’s meeting with vice-chancellors has very high stakes.The Conversation

Andrew Norton, Professor in the Practice of Higher Education Policy, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Yes, we’ve seen schools close. But the evidence still shows kids are unlikely to catch or spread coronavirus


Allen Cheng, Monash University

Brunswick East Primary School and Keilor Views Primary School in Melbourne have temporarily shut down after children from both schools tested positive to COVID-19, while a confirmed case in a year 2 student led to the closure of Sydney’s Lane Cove West Public School. A childcare centre in the Melbourne suburb of Essendon has also closed for cleaning after a child tested positive.

These cases, and others in young children, follow a handful of positive cases in teenage students in Sydney and Melbourne and may be prompting some to wonder whether it’s time to rethink reopening schools after lockdown.

The short answer is: no. The research still suggests that while children can be infected with COVID-19, it is uncommon. They also don’t seem to pass the disease on as efficiently as adults do, and cases of child-to-child infection are uncommon. And when children do get infected, they don’t seem to get very sick.

The temporary closure of schools (and at least one childcare centre) is evidence the system is working as it should — cases are being identified, contact tracing and deep cleans are underway and every effort is made to limit the spread.




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What we know about children and coronavirus

We still don’t know exactly why COVID-19 is much more common in adults than children. The COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) infects people by attaching itself to a receptor called the ACE2 enzyme, and differences in this receptor in children may be one reason why children are less susceptible.

A lot of the thinking around schools and COVID-19 in Australia is based on follow up of school cases by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS). It was released in April but still reflects what is currently known about the virus and how it interacts with children and school settings.

The report found:

In NSW, from March to mid-April 2020, 18 individuals (9 students and 9 staff) from 15 schools were confirmed as COVID-19 cases; all of these individuals had an opportunity to transmit the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) to others in their schools.

  • 735 students and 128 staff were close contacts of these initial 18 cases
  • no teacher or staff member contracted COVID-19 from any of the initial school cases
  • one child from a primary school and one child from a high school may have contracted COVID-19 from the initial cases at their schools.

Data from the Netherlands also found “children play a minor role in the spread of the novel coronavirus”.

In younger children, a rare but severe complication called PIMS-TS has been described. However, these cases have occurred in areas where there is extremely high transmission of COVID-19 in the community.

A bigger concern around schools is how adults congregate. Schools now have some version of physical distancing in the staff room and on school grounds to limit the risk of transmission between adults. Parents are asked not to enter school grounds or congregate in close quarters at the school gate, although the fact that this is outdoors and not a long period of contact also helps reduce the risk.

What about COVID-19 and high school students?

There have been several reports of cases in high schools both in Australia and abroad.

Older children in high school start to have similar risk to adults, although the risk of complications is still substantially lower than in the elderly. Importantly, kids in this age group are more able to physically distance and adhere to personal hygiene measures than primary school-aged kids.

At least one instance of a high school outbreak in Auckland was related to an event outside the classroom at which many adults were present. So it was less about transmission in the classroom and more related to a particular event.




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The system is working

It’s important that schools remain open. But precautions are still required: teaching children to maintain personal hygiene, enhanced cleaning, and making sure adults (teachers and parents) are appropriately distanced from each other.

The latest school cases are not unexpected, and don’t mean that school closures across the board are required. They show the system is working as it should — we are spotting cases early and intervening quickly to limit the spread.

When we do find COVID-19 cases in children, we don’t usually find cases of child-to-child transmission. But of course, we still need to go through the process of managing each case as it arises.

If there are ongoing cases in the community, it is likely that cases will continue to occur in students or teachers, and schools will need to have contingency plans for this.




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Parents need to make sure their children are well before sending them to school, and be prepared to get them tested and to keep them at home if they show any sign of illness. And of course, hammer home the message about hand washing.

Hand washing and physical distancing remain the very best things we can do to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading.The Conversation

Allen Cheng, Professor in Infectious Diseases Epidemiology, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘I love Australia’: 3 things international students want Australians to know



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Angela Lehmann, Australian National University

A recent statement from China’s education bureau warned Chinese students about studying in Australia due to “racist incidents” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Such statements, and further moves from China’s education agents threatening to redirect students towards international competitors such as the United Kingdom, can negatively affect Australia as a study destination. Australia’s universities are already reeling from the loss of international students due to COVID-19.

There have been reports some international students from China have defended Australia as a study destination. I have been conducting in-depth interviews with ten international students in Australia about their experiences and concerns throughout COVID-19.

They too have, mostly, positive things to say.

Here are three things they believe Australia should know as we plan our recovery.

1. Australians must be more welcoming

Negative experiences of international students are more dangerous to long-term recovery than border closures and flight restrictions. At a time of increased unemployment and pessimistic economic forecasts, we risk anti-foreigner sentiment growing.

Students I spoke with reported this was already happening. One student from Peru said he had “had quite racist comments like ‘go back to your country’”. Another, from India, spoke at length about part-time jobs now being “offered only to Australian citizens. I was told not to even bring in a CV”.




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On April 4, the prime minister called for temporary visa holders to “go home” if they couldn’t support themselves.

Each student I spoke with said this was the point in time when they went from feeling a part of their community, to feeling unwelcome.

One Indian student told me:

I have seen a rise in anti-Chinese sentiment and anti-Asian sentiment. I have seen my Japanese flatmate have abuse yelled at her on the street. Calling her a “filthy Asian” and things like this.

Another student spoke about Labor Senator Kristina Kenneally’s call to “reset” Australia’s temporary migration intake and give Australians a “fair go”.

She said:

Definitely, there is a growing anti-immigrant sentiment here. The talk from people in the Australian government that we should be “getting our jobs back for Australians” is constructed in a way to inherently disadvantage people like me, or immigrants. Because it is government policy it will infiltrate across the country and it’s hard to tackle that on an individual level.

Each student suggested Australia’s reputation as a welcoming, safe and diverse place was what was going to shape how parents and prospective students made decisions about where to study after the crisis.

2. International students are integrated in Australian society

The students I spoke with are looking to integrate in local communities as a central part of their overseas experience. They felt they contributed to various parts of Australian society – as tourists and volunteers.

International students want to be ingrained in Australian society.
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And many played an active role in promoting Australia and their city internationally.

Daniel, from Peru, is based at a regional Queensland university. He volunteers with a local men’s mental health organisation. He’s taken over the weekly Spanish language program on the local radio station and, until the shutdown, worked part time at a bar and volunteered with a research program measuring local water quality.

He said:

Something I have learned here is about a sense of community, about being kind to others. I love Australia and the people I have met so far. Once all this is over, I will go back to my home country and teach them about what I have learned here.

3. The government needs to signal its support through clear policy

International students want clear policy responses and acknowledgement of the valuable role they play in Australia.

Australia’s flattened curve undoubtably works in our favour, giving us an advantage over the United States and the UK.

However, the government’s support and welfare may shape how parents and prospective students make future decisions.

Clear policy responses matter now. They offer a signal to students – current and future – that Australia recognises the importance of international students, and they are a welcome and supported part of our communities.

An example is Australia’s reluctance to guarantee international students will not be penalised from being eligible for a Temporary Graduate Visa if studying online. This visa allows graduates of Australian universities to stay on and work, and is essential to attracting students. Currently students are restricted around the amount of offshore study they can do to be eligible.




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Canada made such an adjustment early on, announcing international students could complete 50% of their study online without it impacting their eligibility to eventually apply for a post-study work permit.

One Indian student told me:

I don’t think Indian students will be deterred from their goal to study abroad and to better their lives. But a lot of where they decide to do this depends on how the government reacts and responds. A lot of students are probably going to start looking at Europe and Canada as a better destination because of the policies they have. Canada has been doing a really great job at protecting its international student community.

International students value human connection and their expectations and contributions extend beyond the lecture hall. They are looking for responses and a recovery strategy that acknowledges this.The Conversation

Angela Lehmann, Honorary Lecturer, College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

7 tips to help kids feeling anxious about going back to school


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Mandie Shean, Edith Cowan University

As COVID-19 lockdown measures are lifted, some children may experience social anxiety about the prospect of returning to school.

People with social anxiety may fear embarrassment or the expectation to perform in social situations, or worry exceedingly about people judging you poorly.

In certain situations, people with anxiety may find their heart beats quicker as adrenalin is released into their blood stream, more oxygen flows to the blood and brain, and even digestion may slow down.




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These are helpful responses if you need to run away or fight danger. But social situations are generally not life threatening, and these physical symptoms can interfere with socialising.

People with social anxiety may fear looking silly, being judged, laughed at or being the focus of attention. For anyone, such experiences might be unwelcome but for those with social anxiety they pose an unacceptable threat.

Social anxiety in Australian children

One Australian report found that about 6.9% of children and adolescents surveyed have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, 4.3% experience separation anxiety and 2.3% a social phobia.

Social phobia (social anxiety) is more common in adolescents, whereas separation anxiety (intense anxiety over leaving caregivers, such as parents) is more prevalent in children.

These figures only account for those who have a diagnosis of anxiety. They do not include undiagnosed young people who experience high stress in social situations.

Not all children will be happy to be back in school.
Tom Wang/Shutterstock

Any recent prolonged absence from school may have increased social anxiety, as avoiding what you fear can make your fear become greater.

This is because you do not get to learn that the thing you fear is actually safe. Your beliefs about the threat go unchallenged.

Anxiety can also increase through what pyschologists call reduced tolerance. The more children withdraw from the situations that cause them fear, the less tolerance they have for those situations.

Anxiety can affect education

The educational cost for students with anxiety is considerable.

The research shows students with poor mental health can be between seven to 11 months behind in Year 3, and 1.5 – 2.8 years behind by Year 9.




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That’s because these students experience more absences from school, poorer connection to school, lower levels of belonging and less engagement with schoolwork.

7 strategies to help overcome social anxiety

So what can children do to overcome anxiety as they return to school? Here are some useful tips.

  1. deal with some of the physical symptoms. It is hard to think if your body is stressed. Use calming strategies like mindfulness or breathing exercises. Slowing your breathing can reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, anger and confusion. Useful apps to help you control your breathing include Smiling Mind (iOS and Android) or Breathing Bubbles (Android only).

  2. anxiety increases while using avoidance techniques such as avoiding eye contact, not raising your hand to answer a question, or not attending school. So the most effective way to deal with social anxiety might be to face it. Allow your child to have small experiences of social success – give their opinion to one person, start a conversation with someone they know – so they can learn to feel safe in these social situations.

  3. fear and anxiety are normal and benefit us by helping us to respond efficiently to danger. Rather than read your body as under threat, think about the changes as helpful. Your body is preparing you for action.

  4. while avoiding your fears is not the answer, being fully exposed to them is not the answer either. Providing overwhelming social experiences may lead to overwhelming fear and failure, and may make anxiety sufferers less likely to try again – or at all. Start small and build their courage.

  5. supportive listening and counselling are less effective than facing your fears because these approaches can accommodate the fears. While you want to support your child by providing them with comfort and encouragement – ensure you also encourage them to face the fears that cause the anxiety.

  6. you cannot promise negative things won’t happen. It is possible you will be embarrassed or be judged. Rather than try to avoid these events, try reframing them. Remember that that we all experience negative social feedback, and this does not make you silly or of less value. It makes you normal. Or, rather than see it as embarrassing, maybe it can be funny.

  7. remember it is the “perception” that something is a threat – not the reality. Reasoning with your child to help them see your perspective may not change theirs. This reality only changes with positive real experiences.

Breathing Bubbles in action.

What we think is truth is often revealed as untrue when we face our fears. There is joy in social situations. Keep turning up to them.




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The Conversation


Mandie Shean, Lecturer, School of Education, Edith Cowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

No big packed lectures allowed if we’re to safely bring uni students back to campus



Flickr/Michael Coghlan, CC BY-SA

Geoff Hanmer, University of Adelaide

A return to face to face teaching at universities and technical colleges “where possible” is one of the goals of the Morrison government’s three step framework for a COVIDsafe Australia.

A look at the space available for teaching shows some return of students is possible.

But nearly all tiered lecture theatres will not comply with the social distancing rule of staying 1.5m apart, assuming they are seated at capacity. Those lectures will have to remain online or the rules around class sizes will need to change.

Back to the campus

Universities moved teaching operations off campus to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. Many lectures and tutorials are now done online.

The campuses have been quiet since teaching moved online.
Flickr/Gordon Wrigley, CC BY

Universities have the challenge of working out how to safely get staff, students (and researchers) back to campus.




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But the teaching space data from eight Australian universities reveals a number of problems in returning to campus while meeting social distancing rules. Some of these can be overcome, but others, including the key goal of increasing face to face teaching, will be much harder.

Until we reach Step 3, when up to 100 people may be permitted to gather in one space, opening up a campus is impractical. Under Steps 1 and 2 only 20 people are allowed in one space.

Come up to the lab

It should be possible to reestablish most laboratory based teaching and research to meet Step 3 guidelines without too many complications. The space data shows most laboratories provide about 4m² per person on average, although space between benches in some older labs may pose issues.

Where open plan offices are being used, they will have to meet social distancing rules.

Most university open plan offices have a density that is significantly lower than the 4m² average set by the guidelines, although achieving the 1.5m distancing rule may require some adaptations, such as additional screens.

Staff will be needed on campus as students return, but simple provisions similar to that used in retail shops, including floor signs and barriers, will be adequate to achieve the distancing guidelines. The continuing trend to move student services online will also help.

Cramped lecture rooms

Teaching space is much more problematic. The space data shows it is not possible to deliver conventional lectures in most existing tiered auditoriums during Step 3 restrictions. The absolute limit of 100 students in one space, narrow seat aisles and close seat spacing make them difficult to adapt.

Online lectures will still be necessary for the foreseeable future.

It is possible to deliver small group teaching, in groups of 19 to 100, but the space data we examined show only about one-third of non-lecture and non-laboratory teaching hours could be delivered on campus across a typical 50-hour week.

The smallest room that could accommodate a group of 19 students and an academic is 80m² under Step 3 guidelines. Only about 20% of campus teaching spaces are big enough although this percentage does vary from campus to campus.

Universities will need to move the furniture to keep students safely distanced apart.
Flickr/Dan Munnerley, CC BY-NC-ND

Successfully delivering small group teaching will probably require a lot of work on existing course structures and plenty of furniture relocation. But the opportunity to provide this type of teaching to the limit of capacity will be valuable in supporting retention and improving student experience.

Students love campus life

A campus is the largest capital investment a university makes and there are valid reasons why this is so. Attrition, retention and student experience data all suggest face to face teaching and other aspects of campus life are effective ways to attract, engage and retain undergraduate students.

A campus is also essential to deliver laboratory-based research. STEM research accounts for the majority of university research income and delivers many useful things, including perhaps a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.

The timing of Step 3 is in the hands of state governments. For example, Queensland says it will move to Step 3 on July 10 while Tasmania has chosen July 13.

By the start of Semester 2 in late July or early August, it is probable that most states will have moved to Step 3.

UNSW, which moved to a three term model last year, will commence Term 2 on June 1, too early for Step 3.

Getting to campus

Another challenge though for universities is that of getting staff and students to campus on time. The capacity of public transport has been severely reduced by social distancing rules under Step 3.




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In many cases it will not be practical to operate a campus with a full student or staff load.

Because campus populations are likely to be considerably reduced for a significant period of time, the challenges currently faced by on campus shops, food outlets and recreational facilities will continue.

The faint silver lining to all of this could be a long-term shift towards small group teaching, supplemented by high quality online materials, rather than reverting to the large lecture as we knew it.The Conversation

Students will need to keep their distance at campus cafes and shops.
Flickr/Kaya, CC BY-NC-ND

Geoff Hanmer, Adjunct Professor of Architecture, University of Adelaide

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Recessions scar young people their entire lives, even into retirement



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Jenny Chesters, University of Melbourne

It is well-established that recessions hit young people the hardest.

We saw it in our early 1980s recession, our early 1990s recession, and in the one we are now entering.

The latest payroll data shows that for most age groups, employment fell 5% to 6% between mid-March and May. For workers in their 20s, it fell 10.7%

The most dramatic divergence in the fortunes of young and older Australians came in the mid 1970s recession when the unemployment rate for those aged 15-19 shot up from 4% to 10% in the space of one year. A year later it was 12%, and 15% a year after that.


Unemployment rates 1971-1977


ABS 6203.0

At the time, 15 to 19 years of age was when young people got jobs. Only one third completed Year 12.

What is less well known is how long the effects lasted. They seem to be present more than 40 years later.

The Australians who were 15 to 19 years old at the time of the mid-1970s recession were born in the early 1960s.

In almost every recent subjective well-being survey they have performed worse that those born before or after that period.




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Subjective well-being is determined by asking respondents how satisified they are with their lives on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is totally dissatisfied and 10 is totally satisfied.

Australia’s Household, Income and Labour Dynamics survey (HILDA) has been asking the question since 2001.

In order to fairly compare the life satisfaction of different generations it is necessary to adjust the findings to compensate for other things known to affect satisfaction including income, gender, marital status, education and employment status.

Doing that and selecting the 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016 surveys to examine how children born at the start of the 1960s have fared relative to those born earlier and later, shows that regardless of their age at the time of the survey, they are less satisfied than those born at other times.


Subjective wellbeing by birth cohort over four HILDA surveys

Subjective well-being on a scale of 0 to 10 where 0 is totally dissatisfied and 10 is totally satisfied.
Regressions available upon request

The consistency of lower levels of subjective well-being reported by the 1961-1965 birth cohort suggests something has had a lasting effect.

An obvious candidate is the dramatic increase in the rate of youth unemployment in at the time many of this age group were trying to get a job.

Over time, labour markets can recover but the scars of entering the labour market during a time of sudden high unemployment can be permanent.




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The next employment challenge from coronavirus: how to help the young


The impacts of the early 1980s and early 1990s recessions on young people were alleviated somewhat by the doubling of the Year 12 retention rate and later by the doubling of university enrolments.

But the education sector is maxed out and might not be able to perform the same trick for the third recession in a row.

Reinvigorating apprenticeships and providing cadetships for non-trade occupations might help. Otherwise the effects of the 2020 recession on an unlucky group of Australians might stay with us for a very long time.The Conversation

Jenny Chesters, Senior Lecturer/ Research Fellow, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Don’t want to send the kids back to school? Why not try unschooling at home?



bokan/Shutterstock

Rebecca English, Queensland University of Technology and Karleen Gribble, Western Sydney University

As schools resume for most Australian students, a new group of parents have emerged.

These parents have decided to give home education a longer term try, finding their children have improved academically and benefited from the calmer home learning environment.

This change may mean some families move to a more child-led way of learning. This approach can be described as unschooling – an informal way of learning that advocates student-chosen activities rather than teacher-directed lessons.




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Homeschooling is on the rise in Australia. Who is doing it and why?


Unschoolers learn through living and are in charge of their own education. Students have the freedom to learn through a variety of means including play, household tasks and personal interests, as well as work experience, travel, books, elective classes, mentors and social interactions.

A parent sent this to her child’s teacher during the lockdown to show how he had learnt fractions while cooking.
SOURCE? CREDIT?, Author provided

Sometimes the name unschooling leads people to believe children aren’t being educated or taught anything at all. But unschooling allows children to explore and learn in their own way. It’s a different form of education to that of schools, but it can work extremely well.

During the coronavirus shutdown, schools were providing schoolwork for children to do at home. Some suggested they just focus on the basics, which left plenty of time spare.

Some families found online learning wasn’t working for their children and negotiated with teachers about alternate ways of meeting learning outcomes.

Many parents improvised their children’s education. And so they were unschooling, even if they didn’t know it by name.

Who invented unschooling?

Unschooling is an educational philosophy developed in the 1960s by theorists including John Holt and Ivan Illich.

Their ideas, particularly around children exercising the liberty to choose the direction of their learning, are becoming increasingly popular in educational research.

Illich and Holt said traditional schooling could confuse the creation of a product – such as a test result – with learning. They argued learning is a process, not an end point.

While such ideas may seem radical, Holt was building on a well recognised foundation of educational philosophy: that children learn best when the learning is meaningful and accessible to them.

A typical day unschooling

In unschooling, parents work with their children to meet their educational goals.

This means they support their children’s interests and associated learning. They recognise the learning inherent in life activities and may enrich it via conversation or direction to other sources.

At the heart of unschooling is a belief that, in a rich and stimulating environment, children cannot not learn.

There’s actually no typical unschooling day, as what happens depends on the family and child. In unschooling families, any interest may form the basis of learning.

For example, an interest in dinosaurs may trigger a series of activities, such as:

  • children read books and write stories about dinosaurs (Literacy)

  • they measure the size of lizards and compare them to dinosaurs (Numeracy)

  • they explore how dinosaurs died out (Science)

  • they consider how dinosaurs may have influenced our culture, such as with dragons (Humanities and Social Sciences)

  • they watch Jurassic Park to see how dinosaurs are represented in film (the Arts).

Children may talk with their peers about their love of dinosaurs and use this as an opportunity for socialisation. They may need a lot of assistance from a parent to do this or may explore on their own.




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Parents, you don’t always need to entertain your kids – boredom is good for them


Everyday activities such as cooking, cleaning, gardening and shopping can also be learning opportunities. Benign neglect, leading to boredom, provides an opportunity for children to discover new interests and activities (and for parents to get some of their own work done).

Cooking involves lessons in weights and measure.
Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock

How do students get assessed?

Unlike in school, unschooling assessment happens on a daily basis, through observing the children’s experiences. Parents may compile photographs or scrap books of their children’s learning experiences and keep them as records.

But many unschooolers will do formal assessment for careers that need certification. They may also do tests in line with university aspirants who do not come straight from school. Or they may go straight to TAFE or study via Open University, both of which don’t need formal test results for entry.

Unschooled students often do very well at university. For example, in the US, unschoolers are sought after by prestigious institutions including Brown, Cornell and Columbia.

One study of 75 unschooled adults found 83% had gone on to some form of formal education after school, and most were “gainfully employed and financially independent”.

Research suggests unschoolers’ success may come down to an intrinsic motivation to learn that’s been fostered through their unschooling experiences.

Evidence of unschooling in the lockdown

During the coronavirus crisis, if your children alternated their schoolwork with other study based on their needs and interests, they were unschooling.

If you went for a walk and identified plants or animals, and discussed them, that was unschooling. Cooking and decorating a sibling’s birthday cake was unschooling.

Discovering your children’s interest in Ancient Egypt and then watching documentaries about the subject was unschooling.




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Maths, reading and better nutrition: all the reasons to cook with your kids


If your child decided to read the whole Harry Potter series in a week, that was unschooling.

It’s entirely possible to unschool and still meet the government curriculum requirements.

In fact, the Singaporean education minister, Ong Ye Kung, effectively recommended unschooling when he said students should take advantage of their time away from school to “learn outside the syllabus, read widely, be curious, find your passions”.

Children following this advice may have benefited, rather than been disadvantaged, from their break from formal learning. For some, continuing home-based learning may be advantageous.

Each state and territory has a legislative framework which allows parents to home educate their children. Support is available from experienced home educators online and through home education support groups.The Conversation

Rebecca English, Lecturer in Education, Queensland University of Technology and Karleen Gribble, Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Western Sydney University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.