The Scan Main Edition 4 October 2012


Aust unis feature strongly in rankings

Increased research investment and improved collaboration with Asia is driving Australian universities’ strong performance in the latest global league table published today, according to commentators.  The University of Melbourne confirmed its elite status, topping the local league table and moving into the world’s top 30.  It is up nine places from last year, to number 28, moving clear of its nearest rival, the Australian National University on 37.  The University of NSW and Monash University moved into the top 100, bringing Australia’s tally there to six.  National representation in the top 200 has been boosted to eight with the addition of the University of Adelaide.

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Students have too much choice 

In what may well be a harbinger of  change to tighten up university student recruitment, tertiary education Minister Chris Evans says the government’s student-demand-driven system of allocating places, introduced this year, is not working because students have too much choice.   Evans says  universities are too focused on meeting student demand rather than meeting the needs of employers.  The Commonwealth minister can impose caps and take other measures to moderate demand, so that looks to be on the cards.

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….and free online delivery is a “game changer”

Evans has also questioned whether the government should keep funding universities’ building programs as higher education rapidly moves online.  He says that moves by top United States universities to make courses available for free online – massive open online courses (MOOCs) –   are “game changing” and will have a big impact on Australian universities.

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Craven argues for price elasticity

In a speech to the National Press Club Australian Catholic University vice-chancellor Greg Craven  has expressed his “in bit” support for uncapped university fees, including full fees if they can be introduced in a principled way.

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Public  VET  $s  pouring  into  private  provision

3 October    |    Governments have almost tripled their funding of private training since 2007 from about $410 million in 2007 to $1.4 billion last year. catapulting TAFEs towards minority provider status, a new NCVER report reveals….[Continue reading]…

States  likely  to  reject  intern  funding  deal

2 October     |      The Coalition states appear unlikely to accept an 11th-hour deal to resolve a shortage in medical intern places, despite the federal government’s offer to fund most of the shortfall….[Continue reading]…

Latest  estimate  of  Vic  TAFE  job  losses

2 October     |       The Australian Education Union has estimated that announced job losses as a result of cuts to Victorian TAFE funding of $311.2m in a full year  now total 2034 positions….[Continue reading]…





China market dips, India on the up

4 October   |   The number of new undergraduates from overseas fell 12.8% in the year to August, latest figures show. Post-graduate commencements by overseas students rose slightly, compared with the same period last year.  Higher education starts in total were down by 6.7% to 82,825 in the year to August.  New university students from China, by far the biggest market, declined by 7.6% to 34,949 in the year to August, Australian Education International reported.

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International regulation requires “nuance”

4 October   |   The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) needs to ensure it has the expertise to understand “nuances” in international education as it applies its new standards framework, Flinders University’s deputy Dean Forbes has warned, pointing out that it is a big and highly complex part of the university sector. The people managing the standards framework must have a capacity to understand the nuances that come from a deeper understanding of what happens in international education.

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Cuts impact most heavily in Melbourne’s west

Analysis by Lead West, a regional development and advocacy organisation, shows that TAFE funding cuts will impact most heavily in the western region of Melbourne, which has generally lower education and training attainments than the rest of Melbourne and significant pockets of  social and economic disadvantage.  The report concludes that the long term ramifications of the funding cuts are an increased likelihood of declining levels of employability due to lack of skills and qualifications (with associated health and mental health costs to government and the community).

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Schooling federalism

This has been a significant year for Australian federalism and intergovernmental relations, particularly in schooling.  In this conference paper,  Bronwyn Hinze and Brian Galligan of  The University of Melbourne analyse the landmark Gonski Review of School Funding and the Williams High Court case on the Commonwealth’s school chaplains programs and the extent to which two landmark events – one judicial, one political – could represent a turning point or relatively minor setbacks in the Commonwealth government’s five-decade march into the education portfolio, with broader implications for other tied grant programs.

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What rankings do – and don’t – tell us 

4 October 2012    |    

The challenge of rankings, writes Gwilym Croucher (University of Melbourne) is recognising their value without using them in perverse ways.

Despite the limitations in what any ranking can tell us, they still have an important story to tell.  It is not what individual institutions have done in the past or how their peers view them, but rather that the Australian system is doing well, and in this way we “punch above our weight”.  Like any imperfect proxy, the rankings of individual institutions hint at the health of the system overall, even if there are inevitable instances where we can do better.  As the Times press release reflects, Australia does well on the average movement of our top 200 institutions, with our universities from this top group raising an average of 15 places.

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