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Big blow to IDP - loses lucrative Botswana contract

THE Botswana Government will sever links with IDP Education Australia in a body blow to the universities' troubled international marketing and recruitment arm.

After weeks of speculation that one of IDP's most lucrative contracts was under threat, the company yesterday confirmed that at the end of March the Botswana Government would not renew it.

The Botswana High Commission will take over the $19million student fellowship scheme under which 500 of its students are placed and supported in Australian universities.

A Botswana Ministry of Education spokesman said yesterday his government had had a good working relationship with IDP for more than 10 years. But it would now use itsown officers to administer students abroad.

It began taking over the management of its students in December. The latest move will complete that process.

Botswana pays IDP about $6million every three months under the fellowship scheme.

While the biggest slice of that is passed on to Australian universities for tuition fees and other allowances, IDP retains about $1.5 million a year in management fees.

From the end of March that $6 million will pass directly from the Botswana Government to Australian universities, with the Botswana High Commission managing the program instead of IDP.

It comes at a crucial time for IDP as it pares back its operations and turns to its core business of student recruitment in Asia.

Late last year its critical cash-flow problems triggered the closure of seven overseas offices and 60 staff redundancies. A steady stream of resignations continues to exacerbate the not-for-profit company's woes.

The group blames its crisis on a drop in international student numbers due to external factors beyond its control.

Three days before Christmas universities mounted a rescue bid, pledging $7 million in interest-free loans over two years.

At the same time $6 million in fees from the Botswana contract came to IDP, giving it a temporary reprieve.

IDP president and vice-chancellor of Curtin University of Technology Lance Twomey said then that if the Botswana contract had not come through "IDP would have found it difficult to meet commitments".

Professor Twomey refused to discuss the Botswana contract with the HES after a board meeting on Monday.

In a statement issued yesterday he said: "While students from Botswana were a sizeable segment of IDP's fellowship management in the past, student numbers from other countries have increased, particularly in the Middle East, where IDP has contracts with government and private companies."

In the same statement chief executive Lindy Hyam said: "It has been a privilege to be part of this contract, with IDPand Australian institutions contributing to the human resource development of Botswana."

No one at IDP would speak to the HES about the developments yesterday.

Reported in The Australian
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DISCLAIMER : Media releases are provided as is by the source mentioned and have not been edited or checked for accuracy. Any queries should be directed to the source of the article itself.

Change to CPA Australia's postgraduate strategy ensures diverse offering for MBA studies

Pathways towards members obtaining a masters degree will be streamlined under a postgraduate strategy change by CPA Australia. This change in strategy builds on the strength and reputation of the CPA Program in the marketplace and will enable member access into a broad range of MBAs.

Current MBA credit arrangements with Charles Sturt University, Curtin University and Deakin University and a wide range of other universities around Australia will continue.

Intakes into the three CPA MBA programs - Charles Sturt University, Curtin University and Deakin University - will cease at the end of 2006, however, students enrolled at that time will be unaffected as they will be able to complete their CPA MBA studies and obtain the qualification.

The rationale for this change is to ensure that a diverse offering of postgraduate opportunities is available to all members of CPA Australia and that credit arrangements (recognition of the completion of the CPA Program segments by universities) be pursued to the maximum extent to assist members in completing these programs in the shortest possible timeframe and at less expense.

CPA Australia will continue to encourage and support our members to choose the best MBA for their career progression. While the CPA MBA will be discontinued from January 2007, members currently completing the CPA MBA will continue to be supported.

The MBA programs on offer include both on campus and distance learning study options.

Members based outside of Australia will continue to have access to MBAs through off-shore programs from Australian universities as well as through distance learning.

For further information regarding MBA credit arrangements or the CPA MBA transition arrangements, contact Michelle Webb, education development executive, by email at or by phone on +61 3 9606 9603.

DISCLAIMER : Media releases are provided as is by the source mentioned and have not been edited or checked for accuracy. Any queries should be directed to the source of the article itself.


UNSW sets its sights on India

THE University of NSW is boosting its profile in India, a nation with significant research strengths "largely neglected" by Australia's higher education sector.

UNSW deputy vice-chancellor (international and development) John Ingleson said India's rapid economic growth would see its better universities evolve into powerful institutions within 10 years, but it remained "off the radar" in Australia.

In the past four years UNSW has signed 12 memoranda of understanding with Indian universities and institutes and developed special funding for student and staff fellowship programs there.

Other initiatives include the establishment of the Indian Advisory Council, whose members include Indian academics, bureaucrats and business representatives; the hosting of joint conferences; and joint research projects. UNSW also funds staff and student exchange programs.

Professor Ingleson said the Australian higher education sector had concentrated its attention on South-East Asia and as a result had little presence and a low profile in India.

"My reasoning for India is that it has been off the radar screen for Australia and it will be a very important country in the region," Professor Ingleson said.

"We haven't [engaged with India] in the past 20-30 years and we should."

He said a common legal system, the presence of an English-speaking elite and a growing economy made India a natural partner for Australia in education.

India has been identified as the "sleeping giant" of the international student market, but Professor Ingleson said student recruitment was not the university's primary goal.

"The fit was good in terms of our research needs ... it isn't about recruiting students but more about institution to institution links.

"It has to be mutually beneficial not just about ripping out students."

Part of boosting Australia's profile in India was sending staff to key Indian conferences, encouraging research collaborations and financing student exchanges.

UNSW also developed the International Assessments for Indian Schools, launched in India last year by NSW Premier Bob Carr. The tests provide an international benchmark for academic achievement in a range of subjects from Years three to 12. So far, more than 100,000 students have sat the tests in English, science and maths.

"In 10 years' time, if India's economy keeps growing at this rate, its better institutions will have more money and they will be powerful universities," Professor Ingleson said.

"We want to be there and to be a part of it. The US and the UK have invested much more in India than Australia has."

He said there was "tremendous research" being conducted in India. "Some of the basic sciences are very strong and complement our work."

The university is spending $150,000 a year on its Indian connection.

Reported in The Australian
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DISCLAIMER : Media releases are provided as is by the source mentioned and have not been edited or checked for accuracy. Any queries should be directed to the source of the article itself.


47 Malaysian Illegal Workers Removed From Australia

Forty-seven Malaysians located working illegally mainly in regional Victoria have been flown home, Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Senator Amanda Vanstone, announced today.

‘My department’s compliance staff located these people over the past six to eight weeks, the majority of them were found working on farms in the Goulburn Valley,’ Minister Vanstone said.

‘The group of 34 men and 13 women had been detained while arrangements were made for their departure as required by law.

‘The group was removed on a charter flight to Kuala Lumpur, avoiding the necessity of prolonged detention while commercial seats were sought.

‘Given the large number, charter removal was a cost-effective option.

‘The success of operations such as this should send a strong message that the Government does not tolerate people living and working illegally in this country.’

In the 2003-04 financial year the department located over 20,000 people who had overstayed their visas or breached their visa conditions.

The Minister reminded people working in Australia without permission that if they were here illegally, it is not a matter of if, but when they would be caught.

People with information on illegal workers or visa overstayers should call the Immigration Dob-In Line on 1800 009 623.

Source - DIMIA Media Release

DISCLAIMER : Media releases are provided as is by the source mentioned and have not been edited or checked for accuracy. Any queries should be directed to the source of the article itself.

Full speed ahead for an IT recovery

It has been a difficult few years for Australia's university IT faculties, but as the 2000 tech wreck's IT winter shows the first signs of thaw, educators feel optimistic about the future.

Despite IT enrolments continuing to decline, by as much as 25 per cent a year at some universities, educators are hopeful that news of growth in the industry will restore student confidence in an IT career.

Last year, Victoria's Monash University reduced its University Admissions Index score for entry to its computer science courses by five points. It didn't want to do so again this year, so cut places instead.

The University of Technology Sydney reduced its computer science requirements by two points, as did the Queensland University of Technology and Deakin University in Melbourne. Lower scores are the best indicator of lower student demand.

Yet all signs indicate that there is, or soon will be, a new IT skills shortage. The cost-cutting of recent years - a natural reaction to the irrational exuberance of the tech boom - has left IT departments with minimal inhouse skills, particularly in many newer areas of technology such as internet security, wireless and Voice over IP.

Just a few years ago, to be "in computers" was something special but since Y2K and the dotcom bust, the computer industry has fallen to earth. Job prospects are bleak, salaries falling, enrolments down and work moving offshore.

At least that is the perception.

IT has lost its shine, but this is likely to be temporary. Fewer people entering the industry, and the retirement of many older workers, means IT workers are again in demand.

For years the Australian Government and many in the IT industry talked up the lack of IT capability. This continued during the recent downturn, leading to a significant oversupply of programmers, business analysts, database administrators.

That oversupply became a political issue in the US, and hard data from the Australian Computer Society (ACS) and other sources, indicates that unemployment in the IT industry has been above average for the past few years.

Add to that the export of many IT jobs to other countries, most notably India, and it is little wonder that the computer industry no longer beckons our best and brightest. The computer industry is now just another profession competing on the jobs market.

A recent survey by the Australian Association of Graduate Employers found that the number of graduates employed in Australia this year will grow by 16.6 per cent, but growth in the IT industry will be marginal.

Now IT spending is picking up again and there is a concern that we face a severe shortage of skilled practitioners. Fewer school leavers entering training means fewer graduates in a few years, just when their skills are likely to be needed most."

The combined impact of falling student numbers and the impending retirement of thousands of baby-boomer professionals will significantly reduce the pool of IT workers in coming years," says Australian Computer Society president Edward Mandla. "Students continue to abandon IT as a career, with recent research showing they have little understanding of the various IT roles available and where IT can take them."

Mandla says the problem is compounded by the lack of a training culture in the IT departments of many big organisations.

"We have a corporate culture that often requires professionals to work long hours focused on a particular technology over a number of years, while giving little priority to retraining workers in new skills," he says.

Those new skills will be very different than those needed in the past. Gartner Executive Programs research director Andy Rowsell-Jones sees signs that Australian companies are starting to invest in IT infrastructure again, but in a different kind of infrastructure than they have in the past. Key areas are business process efficiency, security and customer-management.

"IT is being seen again by Australian companies as part of the solution, where it used to be seen as part of the cost problem," Rowsell-Jones says. "The whole industry is ageing and the popularity of IT jobs among those of university age is certainly not as high in Australia as it is in other places.

"There will be judicious sourcing - if you can't get your talent in-house, you'll get it from someone else. If you can't get it in the country, you'll import it," he says.

The problems and changes we are witnessing in the IT skills market are symptomatic of much larger changes in technology, and in the way that technology affects our jobs and lives.

The IT job market is not dead. It is not even sick. Nor is it what it was, or will it ever be again. - with Adam Turner, and Ben Haywood

Business cycles favour job-seekers

Australia's chief information officers agree that economic conditions rather than any new-found faith in IT will drive increased investment this year. They also agree with educators and recruiters that an IT skills shortage is either looming or already here.

Yet they still worry about picking the right technology for the long term, especially after recent high-profile mergers.

For Nigel Smyth, CIO of Macquarie Bank, business confidence is vital. He says IT cycles follow business cycles and it has been a strong year or two for business, including the financial sector. "Business is expanding on the back of strong markets," Smyth says, "and people are wanting to invest after a period of consolidation."

Martin Cassidy, IT director of NSW Lotteries Corporation, says every company is driven by its own investment requirements, but in his case these are steady. Economic confidence also is improving.

"There's a general feeling the ship is steady," says Cassidy, who believes a fall in IT undergraduate numbers will have little effect.

Hemant Kogekar, pictured, Brisbane-based group executive of IT for Suncorp, disagrees about the long-term effects.

"Australia is not leading in sending jobs offshore and there is still demand here," he says. "Over a three- to four-year cycle you may see a shortage emerging. What happens is if there is a shortage, the cost (of staff) will go up, and that may drive people to look for alternatives, such as sending work offshore."

He says some big projects, such as the customer relations management development at Commonwealth Bank, are soaking up many people. In Brisbane there are candidates available, he says, but they find jobs faster.

Cassidy agrees: "It's hard to get good people at any level. I was hiring for a couple of positions and didn't get the depth or range of people coming through for either technical or managerial positions."

Macquarie Bank's Smyth, who sometimes works with the University of Technology Sydney, is finding it harder to secure contractors and skills, agreeing with Kogekar that any shortage can be expected to drive up wage costs. "Costs in London and New York are starting to come up again and we don't think we're far behind here." - Rob O'Neill

Graduates back in the hot seat

Skills in demand include experience in systems such as customer-relationship management and enterprise resource planning - and new voice and data communications technology. Experienced networking engineers are also in short supply.

Demand for entry-level positions is also rising, but new ICT graduates are in short supply.

The chief executive officer of national IT recruiter Diversiti, Deborah Howard, says there was a sharp rise in demand for skilled IT people in the first few weeks of 2005.

"It is becoming difficult to get quality candidates," Howard says. "Whereas before, when you put an ad out you would get heaps of applications, you don't necessarily get that now. There has been an upturn in demand for people with skills in CRM tools, such as Siebel, and specific modules of SAP."

She says there is demand for IT workers skilled in mining and resources, banking and finance industries.

Jane Bianchini, pictured, technology division director at listed recruiter Ambition Recruitment & Contracting, says this will continue through the year.

"Given the changes to the immigration points system, non-resident graduates who have completed their studies are required to either go (to) regional (areas), continue to study or are forced to return to their country of origin," Bianchini.

"The lure of working overseas, being attracted to higher salaries and the opportunity to work on bigger (global) projects will also see many of our highly skilled ICT professionals lost to other countries," Bianchini says.

She tips that utility computing - in which computing power is delivered as it is needed, much like switching on a light or turning a water tap - wireless networking, Linux and upgrades to existing enterprise systems will "prove more difficult to source throughout the year".

Project managers with business acumen are also in demand, says Peter Acheson, chief executive of recruiting company Ambit.

"As organisations invest capital in IT projects in 2005, we will see increased skills shortages in specific areas," Acheson says. "In the past, the market has been happy with project managers with a strong technical orientation. Now the market wants the strong technical skills but also good people-management skills and financial literacy."

Acheson says there is also strong demand for skills in systems that manage customers such as Siebel and Oracle/PeopleSoft.

"Up until about 12 months ago, organisations had stopped investing in (customer-relationship management), but now they have started up again and there is a real shortage of good people," he says. "In the communications area, the emergence of technologies like 3G (mobile phones) has led to a situation where it is hard to find a network engineer."

Some recruiters tell clients to look outside Australia in the quest for talent. "Overseas is an option," Acheson says. "We certainly do a lot of overseas recruitment of engineering people, but by the second half of this year we expect to be doing more in IT."

He adds that organisations with a need for skills should tap into the graduate market, "but there are not enough graduates out there", he says, adding this year's university-leavers will find it easy to get jobs, especially in banks, insurance companies and telecommunications carriers.

Diversiti's Howard says the ICT recruitment industry should look at demand for skills over the next two to five years, lobbying the Commonwealth to grant access to offshore sources of scarce skills. "We should involve DIMIA (Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs) in that discussion, so that we can encourage them to put it back on the hot skills list again." - Stan Beer

Schools promote IT - just for fun

IT jobs are boring - that's the perception of high school students, according to a survey by Multimedia Victoria last year.

Up to 41 per cent of students have some interest in studying IT at a tertiary level, but a lack of knowledge about the types of jobs available was the main inhibitor to an interest in an IT career, the survey found.

These findings have been a particularly strong influence on Monash University's approach to attracting IT students.

"It's just as important to present IT jobs as being interesting, interactive, creative, and as inherently satisfying, as it is to promote an awareness of labour market conditions," says Titian De Colle, IT faculty marketing manager at Monash.

The university plans to markedly increase its activity - including visits - in schools this year.

Across the border, in addition to school visits, the University of Sydney runs a computer science summer camp for year 12 students to promote the merits of careers in IT.

"I don't think any of the things we are doing are trying to shift students who are not interested in IT into being interested," says Associate Professor Alan Fekete, pictured, acting head of the school of IT at the University of Sydney.

"It is more trying to convince those who are interested that there is a place for them in IT," he says.

The University of Sydney and the Queensland University of Technology are also adjusting their courses to make them more appealing to school leavers.

Both universities have noticed a trend towards double degrees and subject combinations that pair IT with another study area.

At the Queensland University of Technology there are already indications that better double degrees are stabilising enrolments.

"Last year our enrolments dropped in both single degree and double degrees. But while single-degree numbers have fallen off again this year, our double-degree numbers have stayed flat," says Professor Simon Kaplan, dean of the faculty of information technology at QUT.

De Colle says: "All sorts of indicators are pointing to a stronger labour market in IT and ... that will make its way into schools, and careers teachers will again encourage students to apply for IT programs. It just takes time." - Ben Haywood

Reported in Sydney Morning Herald
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DISCLAIMER : Media releases are provided as is by the source mentioned and have not been edited or checked for accuracy. Any queries should be directed to the source of the article itself.