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New VET Panel chair attracts attention for wrong reasonsRestaurant & Catering

20 August 2014    |    Commonwealth industry minister Ian Macfarlane has announced the appointment of a five-member Vocational Education and Training Advisory Board, charged in particular with ensuring that will provide feedback to the Government as it continues reforms to the sector. John Hart, the chair of the panel heads Restaurant and Catering Australia, whose RTO was initially refused re-registration last year. That decision was reversed nine months later after the training company Restaurant and Catering NSW came to an agreement following an appeals process with the national regulator in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Macfarlane said the Australian Government is focussed on” ensuring industry has a stronger voice in the VET system”, so that it “is efficient and effective in delivering the job-ready workers that industry needs”…..[ MORE ]…..

TDA urges passage of funding reforms

Go8 Equity scales17 August 2014    |    Labor and the Greens will be shown as” hypocrites” if they throw low-income students undertaking higher education at vocational colleges ”into the dustbin” by denying them government support, according to TAFE Directors Australia (TDA). TDA chief Martin Riordan says it would be a ”tragedy” if the Senate blocks the expansion of Commonwealth subsidies to students in sub-bachelor degrees – a budget measure experts say will bring fees down and reduce university drop-out rates.  But the proposal is seemingly at risk  following a rancorous debate about increased university fees and the declared opposition to fee deregulation of Labor, the Greens and most of the cross bench , including the Palmer United Party.  This would probably doom the reform package in the Senate, including the extension of Commonwealth subsidies to non-university higher education programs……[ MORE ]…..

Apprenticeship slump continues

Apprentices

15 August 2014    |    The collapse in apprentice and trainee commencements has continued, according to early estimates from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).  Seasonally adjusted trade commencements fell 1,200 to 21,700 in the June quarter, representing three consecutive quarters of decline since the September quarter 2013.   Seasonally adjusted non-trade commencements fell 2,300 to 28,800 in the June quarter, representing four quarters of decline and the lowest in at least ten years…..[ MORE ]…..

Melbourne cracks the top 50

Jiao Tong15 August 2014    |     Four Australian Universities have been placed in the top 100 of the 2014 Academic Ranking of World Universities (the Shanghai Jiao Tong rankings).  Melbourne University has cracked the top 50 coming in at 44, up 10 places from last year. ANU was placed at 74 (66 in 2013) , University of Queensland 85 (85), University of Western Australia 88 (91). Sydney, ranked 97 last year, dropped out of the top 100.  Nineteen Australian universities were placed in the top 500.  Melbourne vice-chancellor Glyn Davis says that for any Australian universities to be achieving top 100 status is a significant achievement and to have four in the top 100 “is a very important achievement and a testament to the overall quality of the Australian higher education system”.  Nevertheless, the overall rankings indicate that other nations, like China, are producing institutions that are surging ahead as Australia stands still…..[ MORE ]…..

Opposition to uni reforms hardens bill shorten2

12 August 2014    |    The Labor Party has confirmed its opposition to the ¬Abbott government’s proposed university funding cuts and fee deregulation, launching a campaign with the National Union of Students (NUS) to ramp up protests against the plan. Opposition leader Bill Shorten visited the University of Melbourne on 11 August to step up Labor’s campaign against the higher education changes. Shorten said universities must be “accessible to all” and called for rallies on campuses across the country “to send a very clear message to the Abbott government and to the Senate: hands off our education system”. He said the decision to cut funding, deregulate fees and increase interest rates on student loans represented “a trifecta of shame which will destroy the dreams of ordinary Australians to send their kids to university”…..[ MORE ]…..

Qld slashes subsidised courses

12 August 2014    |    The Queensland government has drastically slashed the range of vocational qualifications it supports, removing more than 200 mostly high-level Budget cutscourses from its subsidised list. Some 170 of the state’s certificate IV, diploma and advanced ¬diploma courses no longer attract teaching subsidies, in areas from the arts, retail and business to health, community services and public safety. The government has also removed funding for more than 30 lower-level qualifications, from pest management and conservation earthworks to shearing, firefighting and concreting. The deleted list includes about 20 courses that train people for Queensland’s four economic “pillars” of tourism, agriculture, construction and resources, which the government is entrusting to lead the state to a new period of economic prosperity. The changes mean that about two-thirds of TAFE Queensland’s 800-odd programs no longer ¬attract government subsidies, although some of these courses have been superseded…..[ MORE ]…..

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Comment & analysis

Ridiculous research…?

 20 August 2014
While some contentious budget savings measures that require separate legislation are still in play in the Senate, such as university fee deregulation, the passage of CSIRO2the appropriation bills in late June means that the great bulk of savings measures are already in place. This includes cuts of at least $420 million to science and research funding.  These cuts are already seeing research being cutback or ceased altogether.  According to the CSIRO Staff Association, the cuts to CSIRO’s budgets will mean the curtailment of research programs into virology and infectious diseases – including Ebola virus.  Research into bowel or colorectal cancer – the second largest cause of cancer deaths in Australia – will cease completely. CSIRO work in the neurosciences – including critical research into Alzheimer’s, dementia and other diseases set to beset the growing numbers of Australia’s ageing population – will be shut down entirely.

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The science of science

14 August 2014

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Research2In delivering the Jack Beale Lecture on the Global Environment, Australia’s chief scientist Ian Chubb has lamented the lack of a national science strategy at a time when comparable nations are investing in a strategic science and technology pipeline that starts with education and ends with high end research. This is at a time when the Australian government is actually cutting back investment in key areas of research. Australia is now the only OECD country that does not have a contemporary national science and technology, or innovation strategy. For the first time since 1931, Australia does not have a science minister. He says that a complacent attitude of “presuming that she’ll be right because it most often has been is no longer an option – surely.” It’s not so much a case of Australia will be left behind: we are being left behind in the science that underpins the security of our national future. Science, Chubb points out, is a long haul: “it is not something that can be turned on or off when we feel like it”. Chubb released a position paper more than a year ago outlining the case for a national strategy for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. He’s now in the final stages of preparing a national strategy for government to consider.
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 19 August 2014

Research funding in Australia

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The Group of Eight has recently published this useful “Backgrounder” on research funding in Australia.

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In 2011-12 about $31.6 billion was spent on research in Australia by Government research organisations, universities, business and private non-profit organisations of which 28% was performed in the higher education sector.

Research by sector

Australian universities reported $3.4 billion in research income in 2012 from Commonwealth grants and contracts, other government grants and contracts, industry grants and contracts, private non-profit grants and contracts, international grants and contracts and donations and Bequests.  In 2012 48% of research income reported came from Australian Competitive Grants.

University research2

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Crowd funding research

  

 19 August 2014

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Crowdfunding has recently became a popular method of funding new tech or entertainment products or artistic projects. It allows people to ask for many small donations from individuals who support the proposed work, rather than a large amount from a single source. Now researchers are  turning to crowdfunding, too.

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Academic researchers are one of the few types professionals who have to spend a large amount of time throughout their entire career cajoling for money just to keep their job.

It’s hard to get grants. It’s a lot of work to apply for them, and many are not awarded.  Apparently, of the roughly 10,000 research ideas submitted to government research funding schemes, such as those run by the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Research Council, only about 20% are funded.

Researchers who don’t get the funding they apply for may have to switch projects, or even close down their project. Even when there is money to keep the lab afloat, money is tight, and many side projects fall by the wayside.

Crowd funding through websites such as Pozible and Thinkable is proving an alternative source of funding for smaller research projects.

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LH Martin logo

Dr Charles Goldman and Fintan Donohue OBE are both keynote speakers at the TDA conference 31 August – 3 September.   The LH Martin Institute, in conjunction with TDA, has engaged both speakers to present symposiums in the week prior to the conference.

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TDA Conf

The 2014 TDA National Conference will be held in Sydney at the Sheraton on the Park from 31 August – 2 September. register______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Life & stuff

19 August 2014

The happiness equation 

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It has long been known that happiness depends on many different life circumstances. Now scientists have developed a mathematical equation that can predict momentary delight.

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Happiness1

They found that participants were happiest when they performed better than expected during a risk-reward task.

Brain scans also revealed that happiness scores correlated with areas known to be important for well-being.

The team says the equation, published in PNAS Journal, could be used to look at mood disorders and happiness on a mass scale. It could also help the UK government analyse statistics on well-being, which they have collected since 2010.

Happiness equation

The equation looks at expectations, rewards and past outcomes

“We can look at past decisions and outcomes and predict exactly how happy you will say you are at any point in time,” said lead author Dr Robb Rutledge from University College London.

“The brain is trying to figure out what you should be doing in the world to get rewards, so all the decisions, expectations and the outcomes are information it’s using to make sure you make good decisions in the future. All of the recent expectations and rewards combine to determine your current state of happiness.

Meanwhile, The Conversation reports that survey data shows there’s a surprisingly weak relationship between money and happiness. As national incomes rise, happiness does not increase.

Consider this: happiness in the United States has been stable for the past 50 years, although at the same time living standards have doubled. The same holds true for the United Kingdom and Japan.

Money does make a difference to happiness in poorer countries though. If you don’t have enough for some degree of reasonable comfort, you can expect to be pretty stressed and unhappy.

But once people reach a certain threshold (once they don’t have to worry about a roof over their heads or having enough to eat), extra money makes very little difference. (Of course, even in wealthy countries, there are some people who don’t have these basics.)

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