It is hard to believe we have Easter behind us and after a series of long weekends – which I for one could get used to – we are now entering the second half of semester one.

The big ticket item to report on today is the announcement, in the last 24 hours, of the Higher Education Reform Package. There is good news and bad news. The threat of a 20% budget cut has been removed; this has been on the books since the ill-fated Pyne plans for the reform of the sector. The bad news is that the cuts to universities remain significant, with $2.8bn of savings taken out of the budget. This will bite strongly in 2018 and 2019 when there will be cuts in the Commonwealth Grant Scheme (CGS) of 2.5% in each year.

If the package passes into legislation, it will have an impact on students and families in two major ways: first, the balance of the contribution is shifting from the taxpayer to students and their families (with the reduction in taxpayer contribution to fees down from 58% to 54%); second, students will start paying back their loans at a lower income level.

A significant issue for UQ and HASS relates to the 7.5% of CGS funding that will be initially withheld and then released in relation to performance metrics around admissions, retention, and success (which will be derived from certain measurements of the student experience). We know very little at this point about how this will work and what kind of metrics will be used.

Outside of the raft of policy initiatives announced by Minister Birmingham, staff and students in HASS have been busy getting on with delivering great courses and impactful research.  Here are some of the monthly highlights.

A number of our journalism students spent their mid-term break in Indonesia gaining hands-on experience as foreign correspondents. The work they have produced is fantastic and if you haven’t had a chance to look, please do check out the JAC Digital website. This is the first of three years of funding for UQ in Indonesia under the New Columbo Plan. Funding for the UQ in India project finishes this year with the final trip to Delhi for our journalism students planned for the mid Semester break in September.

Another international linkage for the journalism team is training journalists from Mongolia. Working with UQ’s International Development and the Sustainable Minerals Institute, Bruce Woolley has visited Mongolia three times to work on specialist reporting in the resources industry. A group of Mongolian journalists are currently visiting UQ for two weeks in the final stage of the project. The group will be visiting coal mining operations on the Darling Downs as well as media outlets like the Toowoomba Chronicle and ABC Southern Queensland during their visit.

Congratulations to the team in the ARC Science of Learning Research Centre who have developed and delivered the UQ Extend MOOC – Deep Learning through Transformative Pedagogy. The MOOC went live in early March and the verified students have just completed the course and associated assessments. You can read further details in this month’s e-news Spotlight.

Triple Grammy award winner – Tim Munro returns to UQ this month to take up a residency in the School of Music as the Paula and Tony Kinnane Musician in Residence. Tim will be working with students for two weeks and will also deliver a public lecture on Friday 26 May and perform in the Vice-Chancellor’s Concert at QPAC on 28 May. Full details of Tim’s events are on the website if you would like to find out more.

The Faculty hosted an outstanding UQ Global Leadership Series event on 20 April, called ‘Trump Talks’. This turned out to be a great opportunity to showcase research related to aspects of the American Presidency.

Thank you to all the participants Professor Karen Hussey, Associate Professor Sarah Percy, Professor Alastair Blanshard, Dr Nicholas Carah, Associate Professor Andrew Phillips, and to Professor Joanne Wright, Deputy-Vice Chancellor (Academic) for being the Master of Ceremonies. I would also like to acknowledge the role played by Weston Bruner (Director of Advancement) in developing the concept for the event and for opening up a number of philanthropic possibilities on the night.

Finally the 2017 Brisbane Writer’s Festival is creeping up on us and the preliminary panel list was sent through to your School’s engagement chair / events person this week. As you know UQ is the main partner in BWF so it would be great to see a strong UQ presence on the panels. If you see a topic that interests you and would like to take part, please contact Gillian Ievers as soon as possible.