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Top-cited academics honoured (but where’s the humanity?)

30 May 2012

Twelve academics received awards as the most prolific and most-cited researchers in fields deemed to be strong areas for Australian research. However, the prestigious Thomson Reuters Australia Citation and Innovation Awards has raised the eyebrows of education and humanities academics who argue that the system used to calculate those fields and their best and brightest scholars is – like the Federal Government’s National Research Priorities – skewed to the sciences.

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Call for Commonwealth takeover of TAFE/VET

30 May 2012

RMIT vice-chancellor Margaret Gardner has called for what would amount to a federal takeover of vocational education, warning it is senseless to continue to split tertiary education between the commonwealth and the states. The policy divide in vocational education has been put into stark relief by the fight between the federal and Victorian governments over the state’s cuts to TAFE and training subsidies. Her concerns have been backed up by a yet-to-be released federally funded report on the future of dual-sector universities. It recommends the funding of VET and higher education be integrated more closely.

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Vic TAFE losses may be bigger than expected

 30 May 2012

Budget cuts to Victorian TAFEs appear set to exceed the $290 million predicted by their association, as the axe begins to fall on staff.

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Outcome of TAFE “crisis” meeting a letdown

29 May 2012

CEOs expecting the outline of a positive vision for the TAFE sector – or indeed to be told anything positive at all  - at a meeting  between TAFE CEOs and Victorian government officials, must have been disappointed, having been reportedly told that officials  don’t know whether or not the market will bear the fees TAFEs will need to charge for those courses for which funding has been slashed.

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New CEO of Australian Research Council

29 May 2012

Professor Aidan Byrne has been appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Research Council (ARC).   Professor Byrne is a distinguished leader in research and research management at the Australian National Universityand has been for 20 years.

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Jobs go ahead of TAFE “vision” meeting

29 May 2012

With TAFE CEOs meeting with the Victorian education department on 29 May, CEO of Warrnambool-based South West Institute Joe Piper said one of the problems facing the state’s TAFEs was that they don’t know what role the government envisages for them.

At the moment that vision isn’t forthcoming.  We’re running in the dark because all we’ve got is cuts. No-one’s really saying, this is the job we want you to do.  We’re hoping that picture can be framed very quickly.

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Aust unis feature in rankings of new generation universities

 29 May 2012

A global index of newer universities has 10 Australian institutions in the world’s top 50, the most of any country.  Britain has the second highest concentration in the top 50 with seven, but it is the Asian universities that dominate the highest echelon, with six in the top 10.

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Private RTOs join criticism of VET funding cuts

 28 May 2012

The body that represents private tertiary colleges and vocational trainers has joined the criticism of state government TAFE cuts saying the private sector could be even more badly damaged than traditional TAFE institutions.

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Australia & New Zealand share SKA with South Africa

Australia and New Zealand will remain at the forefront of global radio astronomy after it was announced that the hosting rights for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope will be split between Australia-New Zealand and South  Africa, says Commonwealth minister Chris Evans.   A majority of member countries of the SKA Organisation agreed on 25 May that both sites are excellent for radio astronomy and capitalising on the strengths of each location was the best result, scientifically and financially, for the SKA project.

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Victoria’s training cuts a warning for higher education as value put on employment, economy

  27 May 2012

Victoria’s cuts in subsidies to most vocational training courses means the state government is putting little value on courses that don’t fill the specific skill needs of the economy and is a potential warning signal for the future of higher education funding, University of Ballarat vice-chancellor David Battersby says.

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Minister lashes rorting

26 May 2012

Tertiary institutes have been offering prospective students free iPads, cash bribes and ”instant” diplomas in a bid to boost enrolments and obtain more taxpayer-funded subsidies.   Weeks after announcing huge cuts to vocational education, the state government has lashed out at organisations conducting ”suspicious” schemes to lure people into courses.

Do not jump to conclusions … that it is only the privates that are offering suspicious or questionable programs.

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Lessons to be learned

25 May 2012

Rorts and scams that resulted from attempts to privatise parts of the TAFE system now threaten its future, writes Geoff Strong in The Age.

Brian MacDonald, who retired as CEO of NMIT  in January, says he has no problem with well-run private colleges that offer quality education. ”But there are these fly-by-night outfits offering all sorts of deals like certificate courses which a TAFE might do over three months, they would do in three weeks.

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SA & Qld reject Vic reform model

25 May 2012

South Australia will limit places rather than prices to avoid runaway growth in its forthcoming training market, as it strives to avoid the problems that have plagued Victoria.   Queensland has begun its own reform process with a view to “not do what the Victorians did”.

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TAFE cuts end Kangan’s AUSLAN diploma

23 May 2012

The only Victorian TAFE to offer sign language diplomas will stop teaching the course because of state government funding cuts.  Kangan Institute told students this week its Australian Sign Language (Auslan) course was ”unviable” and will close by the end of the year.

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VET providers discount ahead of funding cuts

  23 May 2012

Victorian VET providers are slashing fees to beat state government funding cuts commencing on 1 July.  Stott’s Colleges have offered a double business and management diploma, which normally costs $8000, for just $187 to students who start by  30 June.

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Market must be “servant, not master”

23 May 2012

 John Stuart Mill once observed that under conditions of competition standards are set by the morally least reputable agent.  This is the dynamic that is working its way through the Victorian vocational education and training system, writes John Buchanan (Workplace Research Centre, University of Sydney).

While levels of training in Victoria have increased, this is price driven by entrepreneurs devising attractive propositions for poorly informed customers (students) [and often of doubtful quality].

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Vic govt on collision course with feds

 23 May 2012

The Gillard government is on a collision course with Victoria over the state’s cuts to TAFEs after Commonwealth Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans called an emergency meeting with TAFE directors in Melbourne.  Evans said the Baillieu Coalition government had failed to allay his concerns that the cuts breached Victoria’s commitments under a COAG training agreement in which the state is receiving $435 million in Commonwealth money.

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Commonwealth minister to meet Victorian TAFE CEOs

22 May 2012

Commonwealth skills minister Chris Evans is to meet with Victorian TAFE CEOs on Wednesday 23 May to discuss the impact of recent Victorian government funding cuts to the public TAFE system. The Victorian TAFE Association is likely to press Evans to enforce the conditions of the recently agreed National Partnership Agreement, which would provide Victoria with $434.8 million over 4 years.

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Looming debate on uni fees

  22 May 2012

An apparently internal discussion paper distributed at a recent Universities Australia meeting in Adelaide canvasses a range of contentious issues including setting minimum entry limits on certain degrees and some degree of fee deregulation.  Public comments of vice-chancellors indicate mixed support for fee deregulation.

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ANU & Melbourne to test research impact metrics

21/05/2012

The University of Melbourne and Australian National University will perform a “stocktake” of all scientific research projects at the two institutions from the electronic era in an effort to map their social and commercial returns.

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Vic TAFE unions announce regional protest rallies

   21 May 2012
The National Tertiary Education Union and the Australian Education Union have announced a  series of regional protest rallies as part of a campaign   to reverse the Victorian government’s plan to slash nearly $300 million off grants to Victoria’s 18 TAFE institutes.

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Russia to fund overseas scholarships

 15 May 2012
In an effort to grow its scientific workforce and to stimulate international research collaborations, the Russian government is set to pay for thousands of Russian students to attend top universities around the world. But to benefit from the generous scholarships, the students must agree to apply their new-found skills back home.
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Newcastle big winner from boost to enabling funds

21/05/2012
Newcastle University is set to be the biggest winner from the Commonwealth budget boost for enabling programs and plans to use some of the extra money to create a “hub concept” for enabling students to enhance peer support.

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Australia & New Zealand share SKA with South Africa

26 May  2012

Australia and New Zealand will remain at the forefront of global radio astronomy after it was announced that the hosting rights for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope will be split between Australia-New Zealand and South  Africa, says Commonwealth minister Chris Evans.   A majority of member countries of the SKA Organisation agreed on 25 May that both sites are excellent for radio astronomy and capitalising on the strengths of each location was the best result, scientifically and financially, for the SKA project. The SKA is a $1.9 billion (€1.5 billion) radio telescope which, when complete, will allow astronomers to survey tens of millions of distant galaxies and collect vast quantities of new data about the universe – providing answers to age old questions concerning the very beginnings of the universe and the nature of dark matter. A significant amount of funding has already been invested into developing first class research facilities like the CSIRO Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) inWestern Australia, in which the Commonwealth and Western Australian governments have jointly invested $400 million. In phase one, Australia will build 60 dishes equipped with Australia’s innovative phased array feed technology, which will work in conjunction with ASKAP, as well as an array of low frequency antennas, which will allow researchers to look further back in time than ever before.

WHAT IS THE SKA?

The Age   26 May 2012

It has been called the experiment of the century. The Square Kilometre Array will be a radio telescope made up of 3000 antennas spread over more than 3000 kilometres. It will operate as one radio telescope on varying wavelengths.

WHAT DOES IT DO?

The data collected will enable scientists to shed light on the cosmic dark ages. The SKA could answer some of the biggest questions; including how our universe formed, whether Albert Einstein’s predictions about gravity were right and if there is life beyond Earth.

WHY IS LOCATION IMPORTANT?

Radio astronomy demands telescopes be placed in ”radio quiet” locations to protect the telescope from interference from technology including engines and telephones.

LOOK AHEAD:

Set to begin construction in 2016, the SKA will cost $2.5 billion to build and $25 billion to maintain over 50 years, paid for by a consortium of 20 countries. Data is due to begin streaming in 2020. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Lessons to be learned

 25 May 2012

Rorts and scams that resulted from attempts to privatise parts of the TAFE system now threaten its future, writes Geoff Strong in The Age.

Brian MacDonald, who retired as CEO of NMIT  in January, blames the Brumby government for starting the strife in the sector.  It had sought to shake up the industry in 2008 by dramatically boosting funding to private colleges and training establishments to almost the level of the government TAFE institutes. He says the idea was to try to make TAFE more efficient by opening it to private competition, with the grandly named Skills for Victoria Program.  MacDonald believes this scheme – which the government thought would save it money – bled TAFE funding dry and left the present government with little choice but to try to rein in costs.

 They had an agenda to privatise TAFE by stealth, something this conservative government has taken up with a vengeance.  What happened after this funding change was a flood of private education providers coming onto the market. They multiplied like crazy; it was a bit like the federal government’s failed home insulation scheme. Easy government money can attract unscrupulous or incompetent operators.

MacDonald says he has no problem with well-run private colleges that offer quality education. ”But there are these fly-by-night outfits offering all sorts of deals like certificate courses which a TAFE might do over three months, they would do in three weeks.” John Maddock, head of Box Hill TAFE , is equally alarmed by the proliferation of what he describes as ”quick, cheap qualifications” aimed at gullible young people.

What they don’t realise when they sign up for these courses is that by doing them they have often blown their chances of getting a proper education that will get them a job, because once they undertake them they no longer qualify for the government subsidy for a course at that level, and if they want a proper qualification in future they have to pay full fees.

ACPET CEO Claire Field agrees with many of the criticisms of the government by TAFE leaders and feels reputable private colleges will be hit just as hard by the cutbacks as government institutions.  She agrees that initially the Brumby government – and now the Baillieu government – made it too easy for operators to get accreditation as education providers inVictoriawhen they did not have expertise in the areas in which they were going to teach.

Also, the VRQA did not have the ability to regulate the industry; they didn’t have a good handle on what was going on. In South Australia you can’t get government funding unless you have three years experience teaching in the subject you plan to teach.

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SA & Qld reject Vic VET ‘reform’ model

25  May 2012 South Australia will limit places rather than prices to avoid runaway growth in its forthcoming training market, as it strives to avoid the problems that have plagued Victoria.  Elaine Bensted, chief executive of TAFE South Australia, said she’d been “horrified” by the funding rates provided by the Victorian government and that SA’s rates would be far more generous. SA will limit the number of providers with access to the funding through an “onerous” application process. Victoria has 536 colleges approved to teach government-funded courses, after the number of private providers snowballed from 200 to 430 in three years.  Ms Bensted said SA had received 200 applications but had so far approved just six providers, six weeks out from launching its own training market in July.  And she said SA would cap publicly funded enrolments in disciplines showing signs of outlandish growth, such as the 20-fold increase in fitness instructor enrolments in Victoria. Queensland has begun its own reform process with a view to “not do what the Victorians did”.  Training and Tertiary Education Queensland head Deb Daly said her state is likely to guarantee publicly funded training places only to certificate III.  Victoria and SA are guaranteeing places up to advanced diploma level.  Ms Daly said Queensland wants to avoid cost blowouts that necessitated rapid changes, unlike Victoria which has overhauled its skills system three times since September.  We’re going to do it slowly she  said. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Student survey shapes training

24 May 2012 More than 100 000 students nationally will be asked in the coming weeks about their recent experience at a TAFE institute, private training provider, or adult and community education provider.  Managed by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), the annual Student Outcomes Survey, provides information on vocational education and training (VET) students’ employment outcomes and satisfaction with their training. Copies of the 2011 survey results are available from www.ncver.edu.au/publications/2442.html For further information on the survey visit www.ncver.edu.au/so/faq.html____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Bid to develop bushfire management system

22 May 2012

The University of Tasmania is hosting Bushfires, Biodiversity and Climate Change workshop. The workshop will bring together a variety of participants hoping to develop a bushfire management system that will allowAustralia to cope with a changing climate that will almost certainly bring more bushfires.

Professor David Bowman, UTAS School of Plant Science fire ecologist, will present at the workshop.   Climate change is likely to increase fire activity globally and south-eastern Australia is thought to be particularly vulnerable, as the 2009Victoria bushfire tragically underscored.   Professor  Bowman said this vulnerability raised issues about future management of bushfires, including controlled burning and the maintenance of biodiversity and ecosystem processes.

 The focus of this workshop is to explore an adaptive management framework to develop ecologically sustainable fire management programs in Australia.

A range of researchers and land managers will be brought together to design this framework. Basically land managers are facing up to some very tough choices associated with managing fire, protecting people and property and sustaining biodiversity values. The event is funded by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Business lifeline to School of Music?

18 May 2012 A decision to halve the amount of one-on-one tuition to School of Music students has been emphatically reversed by Australian National University vice-chancellor Ian Young,  as ANU and the ACT and Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry  announce discussions to build a new consortium that would address the funding and resource issues faced by ANU, and build a more resilient music culture in the ACT. The early aims of the new consortium would be to increase funding for the benefit of music in the ACT and region, including the wide range of music groups in the ACT and the ANU School of Music. Chamber chief Chris Peters said he had received very clear indications that a number of committed local philanthropists would be prepared to underwrite the ”continued excellence” of the school and he was forming a consortium which would also seek federal funding for the Canberra Symphony Orchestra to become a full-time orchestra.  Young said:

While I always knew this was going to be an emotive issue, the broad community reaction and passion was greater than I expected.

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Training boost at CDU’s Katherine campus

18 May 2012 A purpose-built facility on Charles Darwin University’s Katherine rural campus will provide a much needed boost to community and health training for remote students in the Territory.  CDU General Manager of VET Business Improvement Dr Steve Shanahan said the facility housed equipment to meet various training requirements in the critical areas of health and community services.

Those in the Katherine region wishing to pursue a career in community and health services can now undertake programs in community services work, disability services, youth work, aged care, and oral preventative health at the Katherine campus.

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Science struggles for media relevance

17 May  2012 Scientists should stop worrying so much about the ABC and instead focus on commercial TV and the tabloid newspapers to get their science messages across, the CSIRO chairman Simon McKeon has told  an Adelaide conference.  McKeon said society had lost respect for science and important messages were not cutting through by just using the ABC. For CSIRO a story can be run on the ABC most days and the net result of that is that CSIRO is preaching to the converted.  Accordingly, CSIRO has recently revamped its media approach to focus on tabloid and commercial news outlets, such as Australia’s biggest selling papers, the Herald Sun and the Daily Telegraph. McKeon says science is fighting a battle for credibility in the nation’s media.

We live in a world where anyone can post an opinion, or unsubstantiated fact, and it jockeys for space with peer-reviewed science.  Our best scientists… are typically outgunned by a celebrity who has discovered the medium of Twitter.

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Govt “must listen” to insecure work report

16 May 2012 The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has welcomed the report of the Independent Inquiry into Insecure Work, Lives on Hold, released at Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress in Sydney on 16 May.  NTEU president Jeannie Rae said the report shows that  the key divide in our workforce is no longer between blue-collar and white collar workers, but between those who have secure work with full entitlements and those on the ‘periphery’ of the workforce who are employed in casual and contract positions.”

 As an academic, I have watched the gradual casualisation of my profession over the last decade with growing alarm.  As many as 77,000 out of a total university workforce of approximately 180,000 are now casually employed. More than half the undergraduate teaching in Australian universities is carried out by casual academics employed by the teaching hour.

She says strategies are required on different levels to regulate and reverse the growth in insecure work, including better funding and support for life-long education and training. See

ANU beats retreat on School of Music

15 May 2012

ANU management has backed down over its plans to “spill’’ the positions of 32 of its tenured and permanent academic and administrative staff at the School of Music, bowing to union pressure to use formal redundancy provisions instead.  While this does not change its plans to eliminate 10 of the 32 positions, it gives staff a greater chance to fight for their jobs or a chance at redeployment -  as well as access to full redundancy provisions.  The National Tertiary Education Union has been notified the ANU would withdraw its “Change Management Proposal” after the union issued a notice of dispute over management’s “spill and fill” plans for long-serving and specialised staff – many of whom are musicians of world renown.

One thousand music-lovers crowded into the Australian National University’s Union Court on Monday 14 May to protest the cuts in one of the biggest and loudest rallies in the university’s history.  The protest took the form of a massive roving concert with various musical acts dotted around campus joining for a midday jam session in the central court.

The university would not comment on speculation that the University of Canberra could step in and offer a financial life-line to the beleaguered school.

The Australian reports that the head of the School of Music has taken a new job as the head of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.

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“Survival stall” for Swinburne casuals

14 May 2012

National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) members at Swinburne University have launched a ‘Survival Stall’ for casual academics working at the institution and are asking staff to donate goods to be made into survival hampers for their casual colleagues who continue to be paid late.   Casual academics at Swinburne are only now being paid for work done in the first semester and this finishes at the end of May, according to the NTEU.

 Despite constant encouragement from NTEU’s Swinburne Branch, the University has again failed to commit to pay hundreds of casual academics on time in second semester, which starts late July.

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MBS & AGSM in world top 50

14 May 2012

Melbourne Business School at Mt Eliza and the Australian Graduate School of Management are in the top 50 in the world according to the prestigious Financial Times executive education 2012 ranking.  MBS, Mt Eliza, part owned by the University of Melbourne, is ranked at 40 and the University of NSW’s AGSM at 41 in the overall rankings, which take account of both open enrolment and customised programs.

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VU’s change project puts knowledge to the fore

13 May 2012

In discussing Victoria University’s institutional change project, vice-chancellor Pert Dawkins says education that improves productivity is based on the problem solving skills that are acquired in studying for degrees rather than in training for diplomas, “which don’t emphasise problem solving enough.”:

This is why students don’t get job outcomes with diplomas, they need a degree. Degrees are the premium product.

Dawkins is careful to point out that VU diplomas already deliver what he sees as essential, “on the one hand they have a strong applied focus but on the other they develop analytical skills to prepare students for degrees.”

Dawkins has a curriculum commission working on course content, connections, and outcomes across VU.  People who see post school training and education filling different functions should accept they are not going to like its conclusions.  Neither will old guard academics who hate the idea of applied degrees teaching problem solving skills rather than focusing exclusively on content knowledge.

Dawkins says he is not about diminishing the university idea of underpinned by research and scholarship and that universities need to be at the forefront of “knowledge” and what he means by “knowledge” can be about teaching skills:

A significant proportion of academics will need to focus on teaching, including the scholarship of teaching practice.

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Research of to flying start

12 May 2012

Using bumblebee aerodynamics to enhance flying robots and research to improve aircraft engine reliability has won two PhD students from UNSW Canberra Amelia Earhart Fellowships.   Priyanka Dhopade and Sheila Tobing, from the School of Engineering and Information Technology, have both received $10,000 from the fellowship, which helps women pursuing advanced studies in aerospace-related sciences and engineering achieve their research goals.  Tobing’s research is taking cues from the flying abilities of bumblebees and hoverflies, to further enhance Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs), which are machines capable of performing surveillance, reconnaissance and other tasks in situations deemed to be hostile to humans.

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Evans seeks assurances on Vic TAFE cuts

12 May 2012

Victoria could miss out on $435 million in Commonwealth funding for the TAFE sector if the state government’s changes threaten national skills reforms.  Federal Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans has called on his state counterpart, Peter Hall, to provide urgent assurances about Victoria’s TAFE cuts and whether they are a threat to training standards.  The announcement of cuts estimated at up to $300 milion came just weeks after the states and territories signed up to a Council of Australian Government agreement on TAFE reforms that will deliver $1.75 billion in extra funding over four years, including $434.8 million for Victoria.  The funding arrangements are contingent on the states and territories meeting nationally agreed aims, including developing strategies to help public TAFEs operate effectively in a competitive market.  Evans has told the Victorian government:

The rapid introduction of these reforms will limit the ability of TAFE authorities to adjust their business models to effectively deal with these changes, particularly in regional areas…I am seeking your urgent advice on the Victorian government’s strategy and its implementation plan, including details about how public providers will be able to operate effectively in the new environment and fulfil their functions.

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VET: little gain, no pain

9 May 2012

Vocational training groups are broadly happy with a budget that offers few initiatives, but inflicts little pain.  TAFE Directors Australia CEO Martin Riordan said the “give and take” budget would do little to relieve state and territory funding pressures and he contrasted the 1.89% indexation rate for vocational training funding with the 3.8% rate now enjoyed in higher education.  But he said several smaller “carrots” might help the sector.  They include $30m for a Manufacturing Technology Innovation Centre and $18m for skills excellence centres in manufacturing, sustainability and National Broadband Network-related skills.  The government will also spend an extra $35 million on training schemes for mature workers, $9m to support visa protection and application processes, and $50m to tighten national vocational training regulation.

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Uncapped system “can’t last”

9  May 2012

University and college chiefs don’t believe the uncapped higher education system can last and are making the most of it while it’s still here, according Box Hill Institute chief executive John Maddock.  This year the Commonwealth government removed limits on higher education funding, allowing universities to enrol as many undergraduates as they could attract.  Victoria removed caps on vocational enrolments and opened government funds to full private competition from 2009, sparking a massive 44 per cent increase in subsidised training. He said the government would rethink its approach following this blowout in Victoria’s demand-driven vocational training system.

I don’t think anybody believes that uncapped commonwealth-supported places will be there in five years.

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2012 Budget prelude

7 May 2012

Ahead of the 2012 budget, the theme in  the higher education sector is that no one expects good news, according to Simon Marginson (University of Melbourne - CSHE). The question is just how bad the news will be?

This year’s budget, falling as it does, “at the end of a reform mini-cycle”, poses two political questions:

  1. will the reform principles hold amid the relentless pressure to secure a budget surplus?
  2. with the Gillard government facing defeat at the next election, what will Labor’s legacy be?

The demand-driven system that came into operation on 1 January has an obvious budget busting potential.  Well, it’s more than potential: at 22% since 2009, growth in university enrolments has far exceeded Commonwealth estimates.  The government probably understands that opening up the system is likely a vote winner.  But, if the demand driven system has been preserved, at what cost elsewhere in higher education?

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Swinnie students scoop film awards

3 May 2012

Swinburne’s School of Film and Television has earned a remarkable 15 awards at the 45th Annual Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival.  Film and television student, Romilly Spiers, took out the festival’s top award for her short film Ten Quintillion, winning a Grand Remi for Experimental Film and Video.    “This is a formidable achievement, since only eight Grand Remis were awarded across the entire festival,” said Swinburne University of Technology Film and Television lecturer Dr Jeffrey Bird.   Known for discovering such enigmatic talent as Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Ridley Scott, the Coen brothers, Oliver Stone, Peter Weir, Spike Lee and David Lynch, the WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival is the oldest independent film and video festival in the world.  The festival is highly competitive, regularly attracting around 4500 entries from across the globe each year. The awards recognise and honour outstanding creative excellence in film and video.

Watch the Ten Quintillion trailer.

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Discordant note as ANU spills Music School

3 May 2012

ANU has announced a major restructuring of its Bachelor of Music program from the start of 2013, which will see 10 of the school’s 23 jobs cut.

The university says that, under the proposed new model, students can, for the first time, receive academic credit for contributions to musical activities in Canberra and beyond.   ANU will build on the already significant technological advances that connect students with master classes, other students and innovations at world-class music schools, across Australia and overseas.

The revitalised program will strengthen opportunities for students to develop the skills needed across a range of music jobs. Other unique features are proposed as well:

  •  a Professional Development Allowance (PDA) that will be allocated to students, allowing them to choose between specialist one-to-one tuition, attending a summer course, master class or conference, or learning a new piece of music software, and
  •  real-time, video-linked lessons and sessions with the support of the Manhattan School of Music.

“The new program acknowledges the fact that successful 21st century music professionals engage in a broad range of activities as they build their careers. They need to be highly-skilled creative artists, who are business and technology savvy, with entrepreneurial skills and a good basis in teaching practice.

However, the university observes that the review of base funding  confirmed that government funding does not cover the costs of one-to-one music tuition, let alone buying instruments or providing appropriate teaching rooms, and that the proposed model is one that is “financially sustainable”.

As a  smaller group of staff will be required to run the new offerings, to achieve the necessary reduction:

….all academic and general staff positions in the School of Music will be declared vacant  and applications invited for the new positions.

Ten of the school’s 23 academic positions are to be cut, according to The Canberra Times.  It is not yet clear how the restructure will affect the nine full-time general staff, nor how it will affect the 40 part-time specialist staff and tutors.

The objective is to wipe out $1.3 million of the school’s annual $2.7m deficit, but is separate to the broader $40m cost cuts planned at the university (The Australian 4 May).

The school has 260 students. Current students have been guaranteed they can  complete the course they started at the university. Students enrolling from next year will begin a new course under the revised curriculum.

This could prove interesting –  see the Victorian College of the Arts Dust-up 2010.  

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Casuals lodge claim on Swinburne

1 May 2012

Over 50 casual academics have joined a National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) claim on Victoria’s Swinburne University for 3 hours extra pay to cover the time spent following up wages which are up to 8 weeks late.  “Many casual academics have been living off credit cards and had difficulty paying bills on time,” said Josh Cullinan, NTEU Industrial Officer at Swinburne University.  “They have racked up interest and administration fees on overdue payments, and are failing to make rent and mortgage payments.”  Maria Picyk, a casual lecturer at the institution says:

I’ve been working here for three years and senior management continue to treat us like rubbish and have made it abundantly clear that fixing this completely broken pay system is at the very bottom of their to-do list.  It’s like we’re ghosts.

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Still pretty hard to get into biomed

30 April 2012

Entry standards for elite courses are plummeting as universities juggle status with government-imposed equity and growth agendas, according to The Australian.  This year, 62% of students accepted into Deakin University’s law degree, with an advertised Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) cut-off of 94.4, achieved a score below that.  At La Trobe University, 70% of admitted students scored less than the 94.1 cut-off for the double science degree, while 60% ofMonashUniversity’s environment engineering intake scored less than the 90 cut-off.  Even Melbourne University’s elite biomedicine program, a traditional pathway into its medical degree, enrolled 56% of this year’s intake with ATARs less than the 99 cut-off.

This is not quite right.

There is undoubtedly a cut-off   for each of these courses and generally that would be the last applicant with the lowest ATAR offered a place in one of these courses.

The published figure to which this article refers is actually what’s known as the clearly-in ATAR.  The clearly in it does not represent the minimum ATAR required for the course or the  applicant with lowest ATAR to receive an offer.  It is simply the point at which every applicant with that ATAR or higher received an offer, without exception.  Many applicants with a lower ATAR are also offered on the basis of other factors. This has always been the case.

While the level of an applicant’s ATAR is an important factor in selection it is not the only factor.  Other factors might include:

  • performance in specific studies including those that may be listed as pre-requisites
  • General aptitude test results, at some institutions
  • special consideration for disadvantage affecting Year 12 performance, or for specific equity groups.

For any course, there are two selection principles are applied to any applicant for a course – eligibility and merit:

  • Eligibility meaning the entrance and academic requirements for the course have been met.
  • Merit whereby applicants are ranked in order of merit according to all selection criteria.  How far down the rank order offers are made depends on the number of places available, so long as the applicant meets all the eligibility requirements.

The number of places available is of course a relevant consideration.  If there are 100 places available in Melbourne biomed and there are 44 applicants with an ATAR of 99 plus, with a clearly-in of 99, these 44 applicants get an offer, simply on the basis of their ATAR and there are still 56 places to fill.  The university could just offer on the basis of ATAR which means that the clearly-in is actually something less than 99 and is in effect a cut-off.  Or the university could apply other selection criteria and create an order of merit in which ATAR is relatively important but not absolutely important.

In the case of biomed at Melbourne, applicants with ATARs of, say, 95 or 96 might get an offer.  This is hardly indicative of “plummeting” standards.

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Undergraduate applications & offers 2012

30 April 2012

The Age   30 April 2012

The Commonwealth has released a report - The Demand Driven System: Undergraduate Applications and Offers - which shows that this year some 221,765 offers for a university place were made, an increase of 5.5% compared with the same time in 2011.  The largest growth in university offers were in health (10.2%), engineering (7.8%) and natural and physical sciences (7.0%).

Offers to applicants from low socioeconomic backgrounds have shown the largest increase (5.8%) compared with offers to applicants from medium socioeconomic backgrounds (5.7%) and high socioeconomic backgrounds (4.9%).  Victoria led the way, recording an 11.1% rise in offers to  students of low SES background compared to last year – well above the national average of 5.8%.

Australian Catholic University has increased its low-socio-economic-background enrolments by 63.5% since 2009 across campuses in New South Wales, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory and Queensland.

”It’s much more fundamental than [numbers],” vice-chancellor Greg Craven said. ”We see ourselves as a social justice institution.”

“The Gillard Government’s record investment in universities and our decision to remove the cap on university places to fund any student that has the desire and ability to get an undergraduate degree is driving this growth,” Commonwealth minister Chris Evans said.

See:

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Underlying Victorian TAFE results

Institute

2011 ($ mill)

2010 ($ mill)

% change

Gordon

14.8

22.3

(42.3)

Central Gippsland

-1.04

-1.03

0.8

Kangan Batman

-3.17

-2.12

(49.1)

Sunraysia

-1.9

-1.9

Goulburn & Ovens

-5.7

-2.4

(138.9)

Holmesglen

5.4

9.3

(42.3)

East Gippsland

-1.65

-0.6

(175.3)

Wodonga

-0.92

-1.9

51.1

NMIT

3.3

-0.56

695.5

South West

-2.31

-3.01

23.2

Chisholm

-1.07

-2.9

137.2

BRIT

-5.07

-2.5

(100.4)

Box Hill

11.5

-0.13

8801.5

William Angliss

-2.06

0.23

(990.1)

TOTAL

12.24

12.83

(4.6)

 30 April 2012

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Vic to take razor to VET funding

29 April 2012

…perhaps not.

Victorian TAFEs will be stripped of preferential funding arrangements and government support for many courses will be slashed to less than $2 an hour, under an overhaul of the open training market to be announced as part of the state budget on 1 May.

The Australian reports that funding rates will rise for about 20% of courses, including apprenticeships and other high-cost training, which will assist TAFEs which dominate such training.

The government will also introduce a 5%t loading for regional training, scrap maximum and minimum caps on tuition fees and halve the funding most providers get for merely assessing students.

TAFEs will be outraged over the removal of an additional base funding allowance of up to 22%, which was designed to help them provide a full range of training services.

This change is in line with last year’s Essential Services Commission recommendation that the different base funding rates be phased out. But it ignores a separate ESC recommendation to consider alternative means of funding TAFEs’ community service obligations.

The new funding regime leaves them with no funds to pay for their extra responsibilities as government providers – particularly in staff costs, reporting requirements and full service provision obligations – making it harder than ever for them to compete with private colleges.

However private colleges argue that they’re disadvantaged because they have to pay for their own infrastructure. And many will see their business models torpedoed, with funding rates slashed from between $6.50 and $8.00 to – in many cases – less than $2.00 an hour per student.

Courses in areas including business, hospitality, retail, customer contact, process manufacturing, events, fitness and sport – ranging from certificate I to diploma level – will attract less than $2.00 an hour. Enrolments in some of these courses have grown by over 4000 per cent since 2008.

But high-demand courses in high-cost areas such as roof tiling, aeroskills and mechanical trades will attract between $11.00 and $12.50 an hour. Funding rates for these courses will rise by around $1.00 an hour for TAFEs and $2.50 for private colleges.

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Peter Hoj appointed v-c at Queensland

University of Queensland News    26 April 2012

The University of Queensland has appointed Professor Peter Høj as its new Vice-Chancellor and President, succeeding Paul Greenfield.   Professor Høj is currently the Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of South Australia and his previous roles include Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Research Council and Managing Director of the Australian Wine Research Institute.

Professor Høj has a Master of Science, PhD and Honorary Doctorate from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.   He has served on the Prime Minister’s Science and Engineering Innovation Council, and his many awards include the Boehringer-Mannheim Medal from the Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.   In addition to his Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, he was recently appointed as a Foreign Member (Natural Sciences Class) of The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters.

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Lower entry standards raises quality concerns 

Australian Financial Review   23 April 2012

The Australian   23 April 2012

Analysis by ACER of university admission data  (you have to subscribe to access this report) – has created excitement that standards are slipping.  The report says that Australian Tertiary Admission Rank entry scores on average are declining.  “The main issue relating to ATAR points is identifying the extent to which a decline in scores is likely to compromise quality,” the report says.

It reveals that 96% of university applicants in NSW and the ACT were offered a place to study this year.  That was followed by Western Australia at 87.8%,Victoria at 84%, and South Australia and the Northern Territory at 78.4%.  The national average for being offered a place increased from 83.7% in 2009 to 88.4% this year.

Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans told the Australian Financial Review that entry standards are a matter for universities.  “Universities have taken the decision to lower their required ATARs in the full knowledge of the candidates that they will be accepting.  These are decisions for universities, not decisions forced on them by government.”

I think universities are doing a good job at opening up to new students and I don’t accept in any way that one can’t increase access to low socio—economic or rural and regional students without maintaining quality.

Simon Marginson (University of Melbourne) says that if the government continues to drive such an influx of students, unless more money is provided for teaching and learning, quality will suffer “as surely as night follows day”.

See

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Uni surpluses not enough to meet future needs

Australian Financial Review   23 April 2012

Despite posting a combined surplus of $185.5m, on the back of increases in Commonwealth grants, The University of Melbourne ($88.9m) and Monash University ($96.6m) say that the the government’s contribution is still inadequate.  Monash’s chief financial officer David point’s out that Monash’s operating margin of 6% (Melbourne’s margin was about 5%) is “conservative by any industry standard.  Every cent gets ploughed back into infrastructure, and that’s still not enough”.

It’s a pretty strong point.

The Medical School Building at Melbourne is approaching the end of its economic life and it’s estimated that the cost of a new building will be in excess of $500m.  That’s a pretty lumpy investment and just one of a number that the university has to consider to maintain the quality of its provision.  Monash faces the same challenge – as do all universities.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Undergraduate applications & offers 2012

30 April 2012

The Age   30 April 2012

The Commonwealth has released a report - The Demand Driven System: Undergraduate Applications and Offers - which shows that this year some 221,765 offers for a university place were made, an increase of 5.5% compared with the same time in 2011.  The largest growth in university offers were in health (10.2%), engineering (7.8%) and natural and physical sciences (7.0%).

Offers to applicants from low socioeconomic backgrounds have shown the largest increase (5.8%) compared with offers to applicants from medium socioeconomic backgrounds (5.7%) and high socioeconomic backgrounds (4.9%).  Victoria led the way, recording an 11.1% rise in offers to  students of low SES background compared to last year – well above the national average of 5.8%.

Australian Catholic University has increased its low-socio-economic-background enrolments by 63.5% since 2009 across campuses in New South Wales, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory and Queensland.

”It’s much more fundamental than [numbers],” vice-chancellor Greg Craven said. ”We see ourselves as a social justice institution.”

“The Gillard Government’s record investment in universities and our decision to remove the cap on university places to fund any student that has the desire and ability to get an undergraduate degree is driving this growth,” Commonwealth minister Chris Evans said.

See:

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Vic to take razor to VET funding

…perhaps not

29 April 2012

Victorian TAFEs will be stripped of preferential funding arrangements and government support for many courses will be slashed to less than $2 an hour, under an overhaul of the open training market to be announced as part of the state budget on 1 May.

The Australian reports that funding rates will rise for about 20% of courses, including apprenticeships and other high-cost training, which will assist TAFEs which dominate such training.

The government will also introduce a 5%t loading for regional training, scrap maximum and minimum caps on tuition fees and halve the funding most providers get for merely assessing students.

TAFEs will be outraged over the removal of an additional base funding allowance of up to 22%, which was designed to help them provide a full range of training services.

This change is in line with last year’s Essential Services Commission recommendation that the different base funding rates be phased out. But it ignores a separate ESC recommendation to consider alternative means of funding TAFEs’ community service obligations.

The new funding regime leaves them with no funds to pay for their extra responsibilities as government providers – particularly in staff costs, reporting requirements and full service provision obligations – making it harder than ever for them to compete with private colleges.

However private colleges argue that they’re disadvantaged because they have to pay for their own infrastructure. And many will see their business models torpedoed, with funding rates slashed from between $6.50 and $8.00 to – in many cases – less than $2.00 an hour per student.

Courses in areas including business, hospitality, retail, customer contact, process manufacturing, events, fitness and sport – ranging from certificate I to diploma level – will attract less than $2.00 an hour. Enrolments in some of these courses have grown by over 4000 per cent since 2008.

But high-demand courses in high-cost areas such as roof tiling, aeroskills and mechanical trades will attract between $11.00 and $12.50 an hour. Funding rates for these courses will rise by around $1.00 an hour for TAFEs and $2.50 for private colleges.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Peter Hoj appointed v-c at Queensland

University of Queensland News    26 April 2012

The University of Queensland has appointed Professor Peter Høj as its new Vice-Chancellor and President, succeeding Paul Greenfield.   Professor Høj is currently the Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of South Australia and his previous roles include Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Research Council and Managing Director of the Australian Wine Research Institute.

Professor Høj has a Master of Science, PhD and Honorary Doctorate from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.   He has served on the Prime Minister’s Science and Engineering Innovation Council, and his many awards include the Boehringer-Mannheim Medal from the Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.   In addition to his Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, he was recently appointed as a Foreign Member (Natural Sciences Class) of The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters.

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Lower entry standards raises quality concerns 

Australian Financial Review   23 April 2012

The Australian   23 April 2012

Analysis by ACER of university admission data  (you have to subscribe to access this report) – has created excitement that standards are slipping.  The report says that Australian Tertiary Admission Rank entry scores on average are declining.  “The main issue relating to ATAR points is identifying the extent to which a decline in scores is likely to compromise quality,” the report says.

It reveals that 96% of university applicants in NSW and the ACT were offered a place to study this year.  That was followed by Western Australia at 87.8%,Victoria at 84%, and South Australia and the Northern Territory at 78.4%.  The national average for being offered a place increased from 83.7% in 2009 to 88.4% this year.

Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans told the Australian Financial Review that entry standards are a matter for universities.  “Universities have taken the decision to lower their required ATARs in the full knowledge of the candidates that they will be accepting.  These are decisions for universities, not decisions forced on them by government.”

I think universities are doing a good job at opening up to new students and I don’t accept in any way that one can’t increase access to low socio—economic or rural and regional students without maintaining quality.

Simon Marginson (University of Melbourne) says that if the government continues to drive such an influx of students, unless more money is provided for teaching and learning, quality will suffer “as surely as night follows day”.

See

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Uni surpluses not enough to meet future needs

Australian Financial Review   23 April 2012

Despite posting a combined surplus of $185.5m, on the back of increases in Commonwealth grants, The University of Melbourne ($88.9m) and Monash University ($96.6m) say that the the government’s contribution is still inadequate.  Monash’s chief financial officer David point’s out that Monash’s operating margin of 6% (Melbourne’s margin was about 5%) is “conservative by any industry standard.  Every cent gets ploughed back into infrastructure, and that’s still not enough”.

It’s a pretty strong point.

The Medical School Building at Melbourne is approaching the end of its economic life and it’s estimated that the cost of a new building will be in excess of $500m.  That’s a pretty lumpy investment and just one of a number that the university has to consider to maintain the quality of its provision.  Monash faces the same challenge – as do all universities.

Monash to set up grad school in China

Monash University News   23 April 2012

Monash University will soon begin enrolling students at its purpose-built graduate school in Suzhou, near Shanghai, after becoming the first Australian university to be granted a licence to operate in China.  The landmark program in partnership with China’s Southeast University (SEU) will accept 350 masters students and 150 PhD candidates each year, building to a capacity of more than 1400 by 2017. The Graduate School will feature postgraduate courses in a range of disciplines including nanotechnology, biomedicine, environmental science, transportation, industrial design, economics, thermal and mechanical engineering, and software.  Students will graduate with degrees from both SEU and Monash.

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More disadvantaged go to unis

The Canberra Times   23 April 2012

Record numbers of students from low socio-economic backgrounds entered Australian universities this year, many of them the first in their families to take up tertiary education.  The number of university places offered to students from low SES backgrounds has leapt by 18.9% since 2009, with 40,203 low socio-economic status students offered places this year. Australian Catholic University has led the charge, increasing its low SES enrolments by 63.5% since 2009 across campuses in NSW,Victoria, the ACT and Queensland.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) welcomed this growth in enrolments of students from low socio economic backgrounds attending university, but cautioned that more academic staff are needed to ensure they receive a quality education.  It pointed out that the number of full time equivalent academic staff rose from 38,964 to 41,091 between 2009 and 2011, an increase of only 5.25%   While teaching only academics have increased 91.6%, the vast majority of these academics are casual staff.  The NTEU says “casual academics do not get the support or resources from their institutions to deliver high-quality of teaching, especially for students who may need more help to get up to speed academically.”

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CQU cements its presence in Cairns

CQU News   23 April 2012

CQ University will open a state-of-the-art centre in Cairns, for more than 350 Far Northern students.  The $500,000 hub will open in July and allow students to form study groups, access e-library and internet resources, sit exams, lodge assignments, participate in live lectures broadcast via high-speed internet, and make academic enquiries.

Local Cairns-based staff will operate the centre and provide an on-the-ground point of contact for students and prospective students alike, while ‘hot desks’ will  be in place to allow CQUniversity’s pool of academic and research talent to operate out of the centre while working in Cairns

“The new centre will give CQUniversity a bricks-and-mortar presence in a city where we have been operating for many years as one ofAustralia’s leading providers of distance education,” says v-c Scott Bowman.

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No role for TEQSA in UQ scandal

The Australian  23 April 2012

An investigation by regulators into last year’s University of Queensland admission scandal is unlikely to achieve anything but added bureaucracy and red tape, according to Richard Henry, deputy vice-chancellor at UNSW. “To an outsider it looks like the UQ governing body dealt with a very difficult matter and the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency is interfering well after the event without any prospect of adding value,” said Professor Henry, “I am at a loss to understand what value TEQSA has to add to a properly functioning governing body at UQ.”

So are we:

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Vic TAFEs slide $100m

The Australian    20 April 2012

Annual reports tabled in Parliament show that Victoria’s struggling TAFEs lost ground in 2011, with the combined surplus of the 14 standalone TAFEs almost halving from $192m in 2010 to $98m.  Just three of the 14 TAFEs ended up in better financial shape last year, after 11 suffered net operating losses averaging $6m each.  While much of the shortfall in the combined surplus was due to declining government capital grants, which fell by almost $70m, the 14 TAFEs also lost more than $40m from their operations.

The state budget is due to be handed down on 1 May, with the government flagging new measures to reinforce quality in government-funded training.  Sources also predict funding cuts and moves to rein in growth by imposing new restrictions on the providers eligible to receive government training funds.

In the open VET market in Victoria, enrolments have soared 44% over the past three years but the growth has been monopolised by private colleges where enrolments have more than quadrupled since 2008, rocketing 112% last year alone.

TAFEs’ market share has shrunk from 66% to 48%t, after slow enrolment growth in 2009 and 2010 disappeared completely last year. Institutes were unable to fill the gap with fee-for-service activities, which declined 4 per cent last year.

The annual reports suggest Bendigo TAFE was the worst performing of the standalone institutes last year, suffering a net operating loss of over $15m.

The standout performers were eastern Melbourne-based Box Hill Institute, which recorded a net operating gain of almost $16m despite a relatively small increase in capital funding, and Geelong-based Gordon Institute whose net result improved by $7m even though its capital funding had fallen by over $6m.

Victorian Minister Peter Hall says the state’s TAFEs are in “good financial shape” and have adapted well to the open market.

University of Melbourne tertiary education exert Leesa Wheelahan says the government is gilding the lily and trying to justify an “extraordinary increase in funding towards private providers…If this is being in good shape, I’d hate to see what being in bad shape is.”

See:

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UC stands by “unfair” pass marks

Canberra Times   20 April 2012

The University of Canberra has defended itself against claims it unfairly awarded pass marks for assignments by two overseas journalism students, despite their tutor’s objections.  Journalism lecturer, and former Canberra Times editor, Crispin Hull was accused this week of telling a tutor in an email exchange to overlook the poor English of two exchange students from China in 2010 and pass their assignments.  In a statement on 19 April, the university said it will appoint an independent, external officer to investigate the claims, but the issue in question related to just one component of an assignment for the subject the students were studying.

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VET funding agreement shifts costs to students

The Australian    18 April 2012

The Council of Australian Governments agreement on 13 April to guarantee training up to certificate III, the typical level of apprenticeship qualifications, and to introduce HECS-style loans for government-supported diplomas provides a smokescreen for states to jack up their fees, according to the Australian Education Union.

“The new agreement will lock future generations of Australian students into debt and oversight a wholesale [funding] shift away from governments and onto individuals,” says the AEU’s Pat Forward.

The Commonwealth government says the loans will help students avoid upfront fees that could exceed $3000 a year.  But the only jurisdiction that currently charges around $3000 isVictoria, where diploma fees tripled to $2500 after loans were introduced in mid-2009.  Fees for some Victorian advanced diplomas have since risen above $5000 after the government abolished maximum fees last October.

Elsewhere government-subsidised advanced diploma fees cost much less – $990 a year inTasmania, $1212 inWestern Australia, $1350 in the ACT and $1570 in NSW.

Under the COAG agreement, the “weighted average loan value” this year will be $4000, rising to $5000 from mid-2013.  Forward says governments are likely to raise fees to these limits.

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Report on deferring students

The Australian    18 April 2012

More than a quarter of Victorian students who defer from university don’t return to study or further education or training, new research says.  The 2011 Deferring a University Offer in Victoria report shows 61% students who deferred in 2010 were attending university in 2011.  A further 11.8% had entered vocational education and training, 4.3 % were in apprenticeships or traineeships, 20% were working, 1.9% were jobless and 1% were classified as “inactive”.  In regionalVictoria, the rate of deferral rose from 9.9% in 2004 to 15.6% in 2011.  Regional students are also four times more likely to not take up their studies because they are waiting to qualify for youth allowance.  The research found financial factors are the most prominent reasons for deferring study. The report is based on longitudinal research originally commissioned by the Victorian Government in 2009 and building on separate surveys initiated in 2006.  The current study allows a comparison of metropolitan and non-metropolitan deferrers’ outcomes.  It presents the 2011 results from a longitudinal survey of school completers from the 2009 Year 12 cohort, who, when contacted as part of the Victorian On Track survey of school leavers in 2010, had deferred a place at university.

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Diploma pay-off queried

The Australian    18 April 2012

In a follow up to an NCVER research report on overskilling, The Australian comments that VET diploma graduates are “being sucked into a vortex of unsatisfying and unrewarding jobs, as creeping credentialism makes degrees the entry benchmark for more jobs”.  And diploma graduates trapped in this “overskilling” phenomenon pay a high financial penalty, losing over a quarter of the income they could have expected if their skills had been fully utilised.

While intuitively you would expect that to be the case, the report itself isn’t quite so definitive.  It concludes:

…that there is an educational divide in relation to the impact of overskilling mismatch.   University graduates are the least likely to experience overskilling, overskilling persistence and overskilling self-persistence. At the same time, among all overskilled workers, it is university graduates who are the most likely to sustain self-persistent overskilling wage losses. By contrast, VET graduates show high persistence but low wage losses. In this sense it could be argued that VET is less susceptible to persistent undesirable wage losses, but this advantage would have to be seen in the context of VET wages being the lowest among all workers with post-school qualifications.

The authors also warn that for diploma holders, “the results must be viewed with caution because of the relatively small sample  size.

The Australian suggests that the findings in the report raise questions over the likely benefits of the recent national agreement to introduce HECS-style loans for diploma and advanced diploma students.  They also question the rationale behind the COAG target of doubling diploma completions between 2009 and 2020. Even if this target is realised, which appears increasingly improbable, the benefits for the economy and individual graduates could be muted.

See also:

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COAG rubber stamps skills reform

The Commonwealth’s proposed skills reforms package, with an additional $1.75 billion in funding to the states over the next four years, sailed through the Council of Australian Governments meeting on 13 April 2012 without much difficulty, despite state complaints that the Commonwealth government’s new funding deal leaves them “hundreds of millions of dollars” out of pocket.  Key reforms include:

  • introduction of a national training entitlement for a government-subsidised training place to at least the first Certificate III qualification;
  • provision of income-contingent loans for government-subsidised Diploma and Advanced Diploma students;
  • developing and piloting independent validation of training provider assessments and implementing strategies which enable TAFEs to operate effectively in an environment of greater competition;
  • improving access to information about training options, training providers and provider quality on a new My Skills website, so students and employers can make better choices about the training they need; and
  • supporting around 375,000 additional students over five years to complete their qualifications, and improving training enrolments and completions in high-level skills and among key groups of disadvantaged students, including Indigenous Australians.
See:

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Streamlined visas fast tracked for non-unis

The Australian    16 April 2012

Selected private colleges and TAFEs will soon benefit from streamlined student visa processing arrangements already enjoyed by universities, under immigration reforms signed off by COAG on 13 April 2012.  The new approach means international students seeking visas to study at colleges deemed low-risk will be treated as coming from ‘level 1 risk assessment’ countries.  This vastly reduces their waiting time for visas, and scales back onerous requirements to prove that they have plenty of money to cover their expenses inAustralia.  Some ofAustralia’s top markets for international education, includingIndia andChina, are treated as high-risk level 3 or 4 countries, making it much harder for their students to obtain visas – particularly Indians, whose rejection rates are up to 60%.

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UWS jobs plan

Daily Telegraph    16 April 2012

The University of Western is seeking the backing of Penrith City Council  for a consortium between the University of Western Sydney and the Penrith Business Alliance to create 400 jobs under a $28 million development in Sydney’s west.  The project would create jobs in the research, education, health, wellbeing and digital communication sectors in a 7000sq m building on university land at Werrington.  UWS would commit $14 million in funding for this $28 million development and is seeking $14 million in funding from the Commonwealth suburban jobs program.  More than 60%of Penrith’s resident workforce travel outside the suburb to work

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UNSW students win cyber challenge

UNSW News Room   12April 2012

A team of undergraduates from the University of New South Wales has won Australia’s inaugural Cyber Defence University Challenge.  The 24-hour competition was an endurance event in computer hacking, where 15 teams from universities across Australia were required to identify IT vulnerabilities in a fictitious business.  The teams were given access to a fake company’s website, and were required to search for vulnerabilities in the web applications that might allow them to embed foreign code or extract information from their website’s database and server.    The team from UNSW will now travel to a Black Hat security conference inLas Vegas in July 2012, paid for by partner organiser Telstra.

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New “Kennedy School” like institute at ANU 

ANU News 12 April 2012

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Young has announced that a renamed and expanded Crawford School of Public Policy willbecome the ANU ‘gateway’ to public policy, on the same model as Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

Former Treasury Secretary Dr Ken Henry will be appointed as part time Executive Chair of the associated Institute of Public Policy, which will bring together, under the new Crawford School banner, a number of new and existing programs designed not only to advance the University’s traditional research, teaching and outreach roles, but to significantly enhance the professional development of the Australian Public Service and public sector more generally.

Building works now under way will bring together in a single physical precinct the former Crawford School of Economics and Government; the recently established National Security College, HC Coombs Policy Forum and Sir Roland Wilson Foundation; ANZSOG at ANU; and a major new Public Policy Fellows Program drawing on wider ANU and public sector expertise. The Australian Centre onChinain the World now commencing construction will also be part of the new public policy structure.

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The Australian   7 April 2012

Quelle surprise:

Wealth key to school success

Family and money are the most influential factors in a child’s success at school, with elite independent and government schools serving students from well-off and well-educated backgrounds dominating the list of the nation’s highest achievers.  An analysis of the national literacy and numeracy tests, known as NAPLAN, prepared by The Weekend Australian underscores the social divide in the education system.  The analysis shows that the top 100 primary and secondary schools – whether government or private – are without exception teaching students from well-heeled postcodes.  The analysis shows that the leading comprehensive – or non-selective – school in the nation is the independent Fintona Girls’ Grammar in Melbourne, which had the highest score among non-selective primary and secondary schools.  The 50 highest scores of comprehensive government secondary schools are lower than the 50 highest scores of their private counterparts.  Only four Catholic schools are in the top-performing non-government comprehensive schools and most leading schools are in NSW and Victoria, with only a handful of schools from other states and the ACT appearing.  Director of the Centre for Research on Education Systems at Melbourne University Richard Teese said the results revealed a concentration of advantage, based on geographical location and social segregation in schools.

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Go8 unis strike Brazil deal

The Australian    7 April 2012

The Group of Eight universities have struck an agreement with the agencies responsible for Brazil’s $2 billion “Science without borders” scholarship program.  With a rapidly developing economy, Brazil plans to send students abroad for a year of their program as part of an effort to boost numbers in fields such as engineering, technology and the life and health sciences.  A Go8 delegation, led by Sydney University chief Michael Spence, signed agreements last month with the two key Brazilian agencies, the Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education and the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development.

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UK: unis to raise bar on entry 

University World News    4 April  2012

The UK Government is to hand universities the leading role in the design and development of A-level qualifications in a major rolling back of government control over the key qualifications driving university admissions. The education secretary Michael Gove says he is increasingly concerned that current A-levels – “though they have much to commend them” – fall short of commanding the level of confidence “we would want to see.”  Gove said: “Leading academics tell me that A-levels do not prepare students well enough for the demands of an undergraduate degree. I would therefore like to see universities having a far greater involvement in the design and development of A-level qualifications than they do at present.”

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Protestors occupy office over proposed cuts

The Australian   5 April 2012

Students and staff at the University of Sydney occupied an office in the arts faculty on 4 April, in protest over proposed academic job cuts.  According to organisers, about 1000 protestors marched to the main quadrangle at lunchtime and occupied the office for several hours.  Sydney vice-chancellor Michael Spence was not on the campus.  “(The) rally was an important part of the campaign against the proposed job cuts,”   Michael Thomson, president of the National Tertiary Education Union, University of Sydney branch, said.  “The anger against the vice-chancellor was clearly visible across the rally.”

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International slump not as bad as thought – but still crook

The Australian   5 April 2012

The collapse in international education revenue isn’t as bad as feared, with revised Australian Bureau of Statistics data showing the industry is $1 billion better off than previously thought.  International trade figures released on 4 April 2012 show that the industry earned $15.1 billion last year, as opposed to the $13.9bn suggested by balance of payments data in early March.  The updated statistics mean the industry lost $2.3bn last year, not the $3.3bn reported a month ago.  ABS said the figures had been revised to reflect new information on fees from the federal Education Department, and new student number estimates from the Immigration Department.

But the peak group representing English-language colleges says that after 24 months of continuous decline, 30% of jobs in the sector have disappeared.  English Australia’s head Sue Blundell says the number of English language students had fallen 30% to 2007 levels, which roughly equates to a 30% loss in jobs.  Navitas CEO Rod Jones says his group has also seen job losses of the order of 30%.” Jones says it’s not just so-called rogue-operators that have borne the brunt of government rule changes.  “The rules, rather than being focused on the areas where the problems were occurring, impacted on everybody,” according to Jones.

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 SA unis must merge: V-C

Adelaide Advertiser   5 April 2012

At least two of South Australia’s three major universities must merge if they want to continue to compete internationally, the University of South Australia’s vice-chancellor believes.  Peter Hoj says the budgets of the local universities are dwarfed by some of those in the eastern states and overseas and consolidation makes sense.  ‘‘We have to lift our sights to competing nationally and internationally, rather than having three universities incessantly trying to slice up a fixed cake,’’ Professor Hoj said.  ‘‘The catchline is ‘ how do we transfer the mindset from being state-focused in competitiveness terms to being national and global?’ ’’  In terms of resources, a merger of the two universities would create a university with annual revenue of around $1.3 billion (vs $1.7 billion for The University of Melbourne in 2010).  A spokeswoman for Premier Jay Weatherill said he is “not necessarily opposed” to a merger but there is not yet a proposal on the table.

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ANU pirate proves  - & survives – super rogue wave 

ANU News Room     4 April 2012

Scientists have used a Lego pirate floating in a fishtank to demonstrate for the first time that so-called ‘super rogue waves’ can come from nowhere in apparently calm seas and engulf ships.  The research team, led by Professor Nail Akhmediev of the Research School of Physics and Engineering at ANU, working with colleagues from Hamburg University of Technology and the University of Turin have been conducting experiments in nonlinear dynamics, to try and explain so-called rogue or killer waves. These high-impact ‘monsters of the deep’, can appear in otherwise tranquil oceans causing danger, and even sinking ships.  Using a scientific fish tank, a wave generator and a Lego man on a ship floating on the water surface, the scientists were able to demonstrate that rogue waves much bigger than previously thought can occur. The team have labelled these ‘super rogue waves’, as they can be up to five times bigger than the other waves around them.   “This is an extraordinary fact that could explain some mysterious observations of rogue waves in calm sea states,” Akhmediev says.

(takes a little while to download)

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Science grads struggle for jobs in science

4 April 2012

Conventional wisdom is that science education in Australia is in something of the doldrums, to the detriment of the long term future of the nation.  Chief Scientist Ian Chubb recently stated that “We need a growing pool of science graduates to ensure Australia will be able to continue to compete on the international stage and develop scientific solutions to problems facing our nation,”   And the  Australian Mathematical Science Institutechampioned by Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt, constantly points to a need to reverse alarming “shortages in maths, statistics and engineering enrolments at universities.”   But it turns out that there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of scientists at all, let alone an alarming one.  In fact, along with creative arts graduates, scientists are least likely to find work in their field of study, a report into graduate outcomes has found.   Accordingly, science graduates return to study at a greater rate than any other discipline, both in enrolling in a second undergraduate degree or postgraduate qualification.  There are several conclusions you might draw from this.  Andrew Norton observes that with so many science graduates finding employment where a science degree is not required “hardly suggests general shortages of science qualifications.”   Similarly, Phil Lewis, director of the Centre for Labour Market Research at the University of Canberra, says there just aren’t  many  jobs for scientists:  “Calls for more people to study science come from vested interest groups.  If you want to be successful as a scientist, you would go to the US where there is huge demand.”  One of the “vested interest groups” is, of course, the Chief Scientist, who counters that he’s not arguing for “a huge expansion in science graduates”:

I’m arguing for a change in the way we prepare people for university study, with an increased interest in the science subjects so they will have a range of options available to them when they go to university.  You can have a great career with a science education – you can stay in science but there is a host of people who are senior players in Australia’s corporate world who actually started with a science degree.

Chubby should know, having had a rather glittering career as a university leader and administrator.  And it gives the country a few more options, as well, to have embedded scientific education capacity and a stream of graduates to meet possible future needs.

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My University website goes live

Canberra Times   3 April 2012

A website which compares institutions on how satisfied students are, their staff numbers, dropout rates, graduate employment and even carparking goes live today (Tuesday 3 April).  The $1.5 million My University site is designed to ensure accountability in the new, student demand-driven system.  However there are concerns that blunt measures of student-staff ratios and attrition are misleading as measures of quality, and risk unfairly damaging university reputations, especially in the increasingly competitive international market.  Several senior educators have privately condemned the website as part of Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s ”obsession with league tables”.  Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans last month acknowledged that there were problems with some indicators but said the quality of the information would be enhanced in the future.  “We know some of the information is not quite right, but we are going to publish as planned and fix it up as we go along,” he said.  The Australian Technology Network of universities said reputations would be hit in the meantime. “(We have) alerted the government to the potential risks to the reputation of the sector internationally and these seem to have been discounted in the process of getting the website up and improving the data later,” said Vicki Thomson, executive director of the ATN, which represents Curtin, QUT, RMIT, UTS and the University of South Australia.

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Protest over Brazilian students taser death

New Matilda    3 April 2012

Around 150 people gathered in front of the Australian Consulate in Sao Paulo on the weekend to express their anger and sorrow about the death of Roberto Laudisio.  The young Brazilian student died after being tasered by the police in Sydney on 18 March.  He was accused of stealing a packet of biscuits.   The protesters, who were mostly students, put packets of biscuits in front of the Australian Consulate.  They dressed in white T-shirts printed with Roberto’s face and “#betãoprasempre,” meaning “Roberto forever.”

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Govt lifeline for troubled TAFE

The Australian 3 April 2012

The Victorian government has advanced funds to a TAFE to help it through financial difficulties, as the state’s TAFEs come under unprecedented pressure from an open training market on one side and an uncapped higher education system on the other.  Skills Minister Peter Hall told parliament the government had brought forward payments to an unnamed regional institute “to assist it to meet its current financial obligations”.  Mr Hall told The Australian that it was “just a matter of timing …It wasn’t a handout by any means – it was just bringing forward payments due to them in due course, to assist them with their balance.”  Although Hall declined to identify the institute , the CEO of Bendigo Regional Institute of TAFE, Maria Simpson, recently concededBendigo had been “struggling with the contestable environment”, while dismissing suggestions that it had received additional funding in order to pay its staff.  “We are completing the process of reviewing course delivery with the intent of being more innovative and ensuring we meet the needs of the market,” Ms Simpson said.  She saidBendigo was “looking at restructuring the business”, but not before Easter.

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Interdisciplinary research “not working” 

2 April 2012

A  report by Professor Gabrielle Bammer, Director of the ANU National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, shines a light on the flaws in the nation’s interdisciplinary research efforts.   Bammer says the real challenges of interdisciplinary research are not recognised and measures to address the problems are ineffectual.  According to Bammer, even though the value of bringing together insights from multiple disciplines and practitioners is accepted, the measures needed to really embed interdisciplinary research in the academic mainstream are not.  “There are two essential problems. First, interdisciplinary research is treated as if it is one entity, when in fact there are very different types of interdisciplinary studies. Second, the methods are never adequately documented,” Bammer states.

Her report proposes “three bold initiatives”:

  • One is to develop a classification to distinguish the major kinds of interdisciplinary research. This will allow us to gain a better understanding of what research is being conducted
  • Second is to develop an agreed framework for reporting on interdisciplinary research, which identifies the key elements for different kinds of studies.
  • Third is to document the different methods and processes used and to make them available as toolkits of options.

Until these things are done, we cannot assess the quality of research being conducted or be sure about the best way to educate the next generations of researchers, she concludes.

Strengthening Interdisciplinary Research: What it is, what it does, how it does it and how it is supported – available 3 April 2012

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Cyber defence uni challenge

2 April 2012

The 2012 Cyber Defence University Challenge, Australia’s first national cyber security competition, takes place over 24 hours on 3-4 April, with 18 university teams testing their cyber warfare skills and vying for a place at the 2012 Black Hat Conference in Las Vegas.  The challenge aims to help raise public awareness of cyber issues in Australia and highlight career opportunities to encourage the development of Australian graduates in Information, Communications and Technology fields and particularly cyber security. A team from Swinburne University of Technology  has been in training for several months for the competition, completing IT Security units which introduce techniques and technologies related to hacking, malware, forensics and computer and network security.   A project room called the ‘Haxor Lab’ has been created, where the team has been configuring their own vulnerable network and remotely accessing the faculty’s specially made cyber defence target network to practice on in preparation for the competition.

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Fundamental “rethink” of war on drugs needed: report

2 April 2012

A high profile group of Australians, including former Premiers, Health Ministers, a former police commissioner and a Director of Public Prosecutions and a number of academics, say in a report that the war on drugs has failed, overseas and in Australia.  Produced by Australia21, out of a roundtable earlier this year, the report calls for a fundamental rethink of the current policies, and an end to the tough on drugs approach.   Howard Government Health Minister Michael Wooldridge say in the report: “The key message is that we have 40 years of experience of a law and order approach to drugs and it has failed.”

  • A coalition of legal experts, drug researchers and health professionals based at the University of New South Wales has backed the call by to overhaul of Australia’s approach to illicit drugs.

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The Australian   7 April 2012

Quelle surprise:

Wealth key to school success

Family and money are the most influential factors in a child’s success at school, with elite independent and government schools serving students from well-off and well-educated backgrounds dominating the list of the nation’s highest achievers.  An analysis of the national literacy and numeracy tests, known as NAPLAN, prepared by The Weekend Australian underscores the social divide in the education system.  The analysis shows that the top 100 primary and secondary schools – whether government or private – are without exception teaching students from well-heeled postcodes.  The analysis shows that the leading comprehensive – or non-selective – school in the nation is the independent Fintona Girls’ Grammar in Melbourne, which had the highest score among non-selective primary and secondary schools.  The 50 highest scores of comprehensive government secondary schools are lower than the 50 highest scores of their private counterparts.  Only four Catholic schools are in the top-performing non-government comprehensive schools and most leading schools are in NSW and Victoria, with only a handful of schools from other states and the ACT appearing.  Director of the Centre for Research on Education Systems at Melbourne University Richard Teese said the results revealed a concentration of advantage, based on geographical location and social segregation in schools.

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Go8 unis strike Brazil deal

The Australian    7 April 2012

The Group of Eight universities have struck an agreement with the agencies responsible for Brazil’s $2 billion “Science without borders” scholarship program.  With a rapidly developing economy, Brazil plans to send students abroad for a year of their program as part of an effort to boost numbers in fields such as engineering, technology and the life and health sciences.  A Go8 delegation, led by Sydney University chief Michael Spence, signed agreements last month with the two key Brazilian agencies, the Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education and the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

UK: unis to raise bar on entry 

University World News    4 April  2012

The UK Government is to hand universities the leading role in the design and development of A-level qualifications in a major rolling back of government control over the key qualifications driving university admissions. The education secretary Michael Gove says he is increasingly concerned that current A-levels – “though they have much to commend them” – fall short of commanding the level of confidence “we would want to see.”  Gove said: “Leading academics tell me that A-levels do not prepare students well enough for the demands of an undergraduate degree. I would therefore like to see universities having a far greater involvement in the design and development of A-level qualifications than they do at present.”

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Protestors occupy office over proposed cuts

The Australian   5 April 2012

Students and staff at the University of Sydney occupied an office in the arts faculty on 4 April, in protest over proposed academic job cuts.  According to organisers, about 1000 protestors marched to the main quadrangle at lunchtime and occupied the office for several hours.  Sydney vice-chancellor Michael Spence was not on the campus.  “(The) rally was an important part of the campaign against the proposed job cuts,”   Michael Thomson, president of the National Tertiary Education Union, University of Sydney branch, said.  “The anger against the vice-chancellor was clearly visible across the rally.”

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

International slump not as bad as thought – but still crook

The Australian   5 April 2012

The collapse in international education revenue isn’t as bad as feared, with revised Australian Bureau of Statistics data showing the industry is $1 billion better off than previously thought.  International trade figures released on 4 April 2012 show that the industry earned $15.1 billion last year, as opposed to the $13.9bn suggested by balance of payments data in early March.  The updated statistics mean the industry lost $2.3bn last year, not the $3.3bn reported a month ago.  ABS said the figures had been revised to reflect new information on fees from the federal Education Department, and new student number estimates from the Immigration Department.

But the peak group representing English-language colleges says that after 24 months of continuous decline, 30% of jobs in the sector have disappeared.  English Australia’s head Sue Blundell says the number of English language students had fallen 30% to 2007 levels, which roughly equates to a 30% loss in jobs.  Navitas CEO Rod Jones says his group has also seen job losses of the order of 30%.” Jones says it’s not just so-called rogue-operators that have borne the brunt of government rule changes.  “The rules, rather than being focused on the areas where the problems were occurring, impacted on everybody,” according to Jones.

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 SA unis must merge: V-C

Adelaide Advertiser   5 April 2012

At least two of South Australia’s three major universities must merge if they want to continue to compete internationally, the University of South Australia’s vice-chancellor believes.  Peter Hoj says the budgets of the local universities are dwarfed by some of those in the eastern states and overseas and consolidation makes sense.  ‘‘We have to lift our sights to competing nationally and internationally, rather than having three universities incessantly trying to slice up a fixed cake,’’ Professor Hoj said.  ‘‘The catchline is ‘ how do we transfer the mindset from being state-focused in competitiveness terms to being national and global?’ ’’  In terms of resources, a merger of the two universities would create a university with annual revenue of around $1.3 billion (vs $1.7 billion for The University of Melbourne in 2010).  A spokeswoman for Premier Jay Weatherill said he is “not necessarily opposed” to a merger but there is not yet a proposal on the table.

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ANU pirate proves  - & survives – super rogue wave 

ANU News Room     4 April 2012

Scientists have used a Lego pirate floating in a fishtank to demonstrate for the first time that so-called ‘super rogue waves’ can come from nowhere in apparently calm seas and engulf ships.  The research team, led by Professor Nail Akhmediev of the Research School of Physics and Engineering at ANU, working with colleagues from Hamburg University of Technology and the University of Turin have been conducting experiments in nonlinear dynamics, to try and explain so-called rogue or killer waves. These high-impact ‘monsters of the deep’, can appear in otherwise tranquil oceans causing danger, and even sinking ships.  Using a scientific fish tank, a wave generator and a Lego man on a ship floating on the water surface, the scientists were able to demonstrate that rogue waves much bigger than previously thought can occur. The team have labelled these ‘super rogue waves’, as they can be up to five times bigger than the other waves around them.   “This is an extraordinary fact that could explain some mysterious observations of rogue waves in calm sea states,” Akhmediev says.

(takes a little while to download)

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Science grads struggle for jobs in science

4 April 2012

How many is too many?

Conventional wisdom is that science education in Australia is in something of the doldrums, to the detriment of the long term future of the nation.  Chief Scientist Ian Chubb recently stated that “We need a growing pool of science graduates to ensure Australia will be able to continue to compete on the international stage and develop scientific solutions to problems facing our nation,”   And the  Australian Mathematical Science Institutechampioned by Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt, constantly points to a need to reverse alarming “shortages in maths, statistics and engineering enrolments at universities.”   But it turns out that there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of scientists at all, let alone an alarming one.  In fact, along with creative arts graduates, scientists are least likely to find work in their field of study, a report into graduate outcomes has found.   Accordingly, science graduates return to study at a greater rate than any other discipline, both in enrolling in a second undergraduate degree or postgraduate qualification.  There are several conclusions you might draw from this.  Andrew Norton observes that with so many science graduates finding employment where a science degree is not required “hardly suggests general shortages of science qualifications.”   Similarly, Phil Lewis, director of the Centre for Labour Market Research at the University of Canberra, says there just aren’t  many  jobs for scientists:  “Calls for more people to study science come from vested interest groups.  If you want to be successful as a scientist, you would go to the US where there is huge demand.”  One of the “vested interest groups” is, of course, the Chief Scientist, who counters that he’s not arguing for “a huge expansion in science graduates”:

I’m arguing for a change in the way we prepare people for university study, with an increased interest in the science subjects so they will have a range of options available to them when they go to university.  You can have a great career with a science education – you can stay in science but there is a host of people who are senior players in Australia’s corporate world who actually started with a science degree.

Chubby should know, having had a rather glittering career as a university leader and administrator.  And it gives the country a few more options, as well, to have embedded scientific education capacity and a stream of graduates to meet possible future needs.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

My University website goes live

Canberra Times   3 April 2012

A website which compares institutions on how satisfied students are, their staff numbers, dropout rates, graduate employment and even carparking goes live today (Tuesday 3 April).  The $1.5 million My University site is designed to ensure accountability in the new, student demand-driven system.  However there are concerns that blunt measures of student-staff ratios and attrition are misleading as measures of quality, and risk unfairly damaging university reputations, especially in the increasingly competitive international market.  Several senior educators have privately condemned the website as part of Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s ”obsession with league tables”.  Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans last month acknowledged that there were problems with some indicators but said the quality of the information would be enhanced in the future.  “We know some of the information is not quite right, but we are going to publish as planned and fix it up as we go along,” he said.  The Australian Technology Network of universities said reputations would be hit in the meantime. “(We have) alerted the government to the potential risks to the reputation of the sector internationally and these seem to have been discounted in the process of getting the website up and improving the data later,” said Vicki Thomson, executive director of the ATN, which represents Curtin, QUT, RMIT, UTS and the University of South Australia.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Protest over Brazilian students taser death

New Matilda    3 April 2012

Around 150 people gathered in front of the Australian Consulate in Sao Paulo on the weekend to express their anger and sorrow about the death of Roberto Laudisio.  The young Brazilian student died after being tasered by the police in Sydney on 18 March.  He was accused of stealing a packet of biscuits.   The protesters, who were mostly students, put packets of biscuits in front of the Australian Consulate.  They dressed in white T-shirts printed with Roberto’s face and “#betãoprasempre,” meaning “Roberto forever.”

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Govt lifeline for troubled TAFE

The Australian 3 April 2012

The Victorian government has advanced funds to a TAFE to help it through financial difficulties, as the state’s TAFEs come under unprecedented pressure from an open training market on one side and an uncapped higher education system on the other.  Skills Minister Peter Hall told parliament the government had brought forward payments to an unnamed regional institute “to assist it to meet its current financial obligations”.  Mr Hall told The Australian that it was “just a matter of timing …It wasn’t a handout by any means – it was just bringing forward payments due to them in due course, to assist them with their balance.”  Although Hall declined to identify the institute , the CEO of Bendigo Regional Institute of TAFE, Maria Simpson, recently concededBendigo had been “struggling with the contestable environment”, while dismissing suggestions that it had received additional funding in order to pay its staff.  “We are completing the process of reviewing course delivery with the intent of being more innovative and ensuring we meet the needs of the market,” Ms Simpson said.  She saidBendigo was “looking at restructuring the business”, but not before Easter.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Interdisciplinary research “not working” 

2 April 2012

A  report by Professor Gabrielle Bammer, Director of the ANU National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, shines a light on the flaws in the nation’s interdisciplinary research efforts.   Bammer says the real challenges of interdisciplinary research are not recognised and measures to address the problems are ineffectual.  According to Bammer, even though the value of bringing together insights from multiple disciplines and practitioners is accepted, the measures needed to really embed interdisciplinary research in the academic mainstream are not.  “There are two essential problems. First, interdisciplinary research is treated as if it is one entity, when in fact there are very different types of interdisciplinary studies. Second, the methods are never adequately documented,” Bammer states.

Her report proposes “three bold initiatives”:

  • One is to develop a classification to distinguish the major kinds of interdisciplinary research. This will allow us to gain a better understanding of what research is being conducted
  • Second is to develop an agreed framework for reporting on interdisciplinary research, which identifies the key elements for different kinds of studies.
  • Third is to document the different methods and processes used and to make them available as toolkits of options.

Until these things are done, we cannot assess the quality of research being conducted or be sure about the best way to educate the next generations of researchers, she concludes.

Strengthening Interdisciplinary Research: What it is, what it does, how it does it and how it is supported – available 3 April 2012

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Cyber defence uni challenge

2 April 2012

The 2012 Cyber Defence University Challenge, Australia’s first national cyber security competition, takes place over 24 hours on 3-4 April, with 18 university teams testing their cyber warfare skills and vying for a place at the 2012 Black Hat Conference in Las Vegas.  The challenge aims to help raise public awareness of cyber issues in Australia and highlight career opportunities to encourage the development of Australian graduates in Information, Communications and Technology fields and particularly cyber security. A team from Swinburne University of Technology  has been in training for several months for the competition, completing IT Security units which introduce techniques and technologies related to hacking, malware, forensics and computer and network security.   A project room called the ‘Haxor Lab’ has been created, where the team has been configuring their own vulnerable network and remotely accessing the faculty’s specially made cyber defence target network to practice on in preparation for the competition.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Fundamental “rethink” of war on drugs needed: report

2 April 2012

A high profile group of Australians, including former Premiers, Health Ministers, a former police commissioner and a Director of Public Prosecutions and a number of academics, say in a report that the war on drugs has failed, overseas and in Australia.  Produced by Australia21, out of a roundtable earlier this year, the report calls for a fundamental rethink of the current policies, and an end to the tough on drugs approach.   Howard Government Health Minister Michael Wooldridge say in the report: “The key message is that we have 40 years of experience of a law and order approach to drugs and it has failed.”

  • A coalition of legal experts, drug researchers and health professionals based at the University of New South Wales has backed the call by to overhaul of Australia’s approach to illicit drugs.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Victoria kills funding for ITABs

The Australian 30 March 2012 & 2 April 2012

The Victorian Government has withdrawn funding from its 16 industry training advisory bodies (ITABs), amidst rumours that the state’s open training market has blown the education department’s budget by up to $300 million.  It has been estimated the move will save about $2.8 million a year.  While Skills Minister Peter Hall says the changes will make it easier for companies and industry to “articulate their training needs” to the government, “insiders” say the changes will undermine information about industry skill needs in what’s supposed to be an industry-driven training system.  Hall denies the move is a savings measure, pointing out that within a budget of $1.2 billion, $2.8 million is “minutely small.”  Hall acknowledges the growth in training has “exceeded all expectations”, but denies it had blown the budget, saying it is “impossible to budget a demand-driven system.”

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Scientists need to communicate better: Chubb

The Australian 29 March 2012

Scientists need to be more skilled in using the media to sell the message that what they do is relevant and vital, according to Australia’s Chief Scientist Ian Chubb. “Science is not doing itself any favours,” Chubb has told an information and communications seminar. “Despite a specialisation called ‘science communication’, communication between science and the media is patchy, science makes an uneven use of the media to get its message out.”  He endorsed the UK’s Science Media Centre philosophy that “the media will do science better when scientists do media better”.

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NEW ACT TERTIARY INSTITUTION PUT ON ICE

Canberra Times 29 March 2012

The proposed University Canberra Institute of Technology (UCIT) has been put on ice – and possibly off the agenda altogether – while the ACT Government negotiates future vocational and training reforms with the Commonwealth.  ACT Education Minister Chris Bourke says the Government will wait until the Council of Australian Governments meeting on 13 April to see what new Commonwealth funding will be available to the ACT before it commits to any formal links between the University of Canberra (UC) and the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT).

The proposed UCIT, announced by the ACT Government last December, was an 11th-hour compromise to create a new institution to offer associate degrees and diplomas after the CIT resisted a formal merger with the UC.  The move came after the Legislative Assembly passed a Greens motion to force the issue into the Education Standing Committee after long-running concerns by the Greens, ACT Liberals and education unions over the government’s lack of detailed information on, or planning around, the new venture.

University of Canberra vice-chancellor Stephen Parker has expressed dismay with the way the future of the UC and CIT had been handled since former ACT education minister Andrew Barr commissioned the Bradley Review of future collaboration between UC and CIT, which recommended a full blown merger to create a dual sector university.  Parker said that regardless of the ACT Government’s decision on whether to go ahead in linking UC with the CIT, the UC would be expanding, “…whether it is through (its own) polytechnic, the UCIT or through the UC College. “

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THE CONVERSATION TURNS ONE

28 March 2012

The Conversation, a website featuring the work of academics and researchers turned one.  Since then the site has had more than 2.5 million unique visitors, almost 4 million total visits, and 8 million page views.  Over 300 websites and newspapers have republished its content, which is free under a Creative Commons licence.  When The Conversation launched a year ago it had a simple stated goal: to improve the quality of public debate by getting more people with real knowledge and expertise to take part.  With 15 commissioning editors, The Conversation claims to have built the largest virtual newsroom in Australia.  More than 2,500 academic authors have registered as contributors to the site and it has become a well-known resource of ideas, contacts and new talent for the newspapers, TV and radio.  The Conversation also hosts a paid advertising Job Board, ”a place where smart organisations and clever people meet.”

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SYNCHNOTRON FUNDING DEAL

ABC News 28 March 2012

Melbourne’s synchrotron will be able to continue operating, under a joint funding agreement between the state and federal governments.  The facility was built after intense lobbying by the previous Labor government.  The Baillieu Government had been reluctant to allocate funding beyond the middle of this year.  Under a memorandum of understanding to be signed today, the Federal Government will contribute almost $70 million towards its operating costs over the next four years.  The State Government will provide an additional $26 million.  Commonwealth Minister for Science and Research Chris Evans says the synchrotron is a vital piece of scientific infrastructure for Australia.

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MELBOURNE’S BEBBINGTON APPOINTED ADELAIDE’S NEW V-C

Uni Adelaide website   26 March 2012

The University of Melbourne’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (University Affairs), Professor Warren Bebbington, has been appointed the Vice-Chancellor of The University of Adelaide, succeeding Professor James McWha AO, who retires after a decade as Vice-Chancellor and President..  Professor Bebbington will take up the post in July after taking leave from mid-May.  A Fulbright Scholar, Professor Bebbington studied at The University of Melbourne and in New York at Queens College,Columbia University, and the CUNY Graduate School, completing masters degrees in Arts, Music, and Philosophy, and a PhD.  Prior to his present role as a Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bebbington was Pro Vice-Chancellor (Global Relations) at Melbourne.  He also served as a Dean at Melbourne and at the University of Queensland, and before that taught at the Australian National University’s School of Music.

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RUN: MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE TO ADDRESS REGIONAL DISADVANTAGE

Regional Universities Network   26 March 2012

The Regional Universities Network (RUN) has welcomed the Australian Government’s response to the Senate inquiry into rural and regional access to secondary and tertiary education opportunities.  While acknowledging the government’s initiatives to improve access and participation in education, the Chair of RUN, Professor David Battersby, said that more needed to be done to lift Year 12 completions and participation in tertiary education in rural and regionalAustralia.  “While various initiatives have been put in place to assist students attend school, Year 12 completions in regionalAustralia are 20 per cent less than those in capital cities” Professor Battersby said.  “Increasing Year 12 completion rates is a long-term challenge and requires a multi-pronged approach.  It is key to increasing the participation of students at university.

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ANU ANNOUNCES “FINANCIAL REPOSITIONING”: $40 MILL TO BE CUT

ANU website  26 March 2012

The Australian National University has announced $40 million in cost-cutting, citing a projected drop in investment income of $30 million in 2012, increased depreciation costs and a wafer thin surplus of $14 million (1.4% of revenue vs sector average of 4.0%) that has necessitated “bold action”.  The university expects to achieve the $40 million figure by saving up to $25 million in staff expenses -100 to 150 jobs –  and up to $15 million in “improved business practices”.  V-C Ian Young said cost reductions will be “strategic, with clear decisions made as to activities that the University can no longer support.support”.  Such decisions will be difficult, but will ultimately result in a stronger institution, he said.

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STUDENT FEES: TO MARKET. TO MARKET

Grattan Institute (The Age)   23 March 2012

Higher education pricing needs to move along an evolutionary path to a more market-based system, writes Andrew Norton.  Though Gough Whitlam’s free higher education policy ended more than 20 years ago, his political ghost still haunts.  He took from states and universities the power to set the price per student universities receive, and no subsequent federal government has relinquished this power for Commonwealth-supported students.  Unfortunately, it is not a power that successive governments have exercised with care or diligence, he says.  The current government did commission a review of university costs, the first major study in 20 years. But now the minister says the government does not want to increase student charges and cannot afford to increase its own funding levels.   “A higher education pricing system that pays no attention to higher education costs cannot be good practice.”

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REPORT REVEALS STRONG GROWTH IN SKILLS TRAINING

Media release   23 March 2012

The Commonwealth Government’s “record $11.1 billion investment in vocational education and training between the 2008 and 2010 financial years is paying dividends with more students getting a training qualification and a ticket to a rewarding working future”,  according to Chris Evans (Minister for Tertiary Education and Skills).  The Annual National Report 2010 on Australia’s VET system confirms strong growth in the total number of VET students.  The Annual National Report of the Australian VET System, tabled in Parliament on 22 March, shows there were 1.8 million VET students in 2010, an increase of 5.4% on the previous year.  Evans said the increased investment has resulted in more Australians than ever before undertaking VET studies and, importantly, there has been an increase in people finishing their studies and getting the qualification and skills they need to enter the workforce.  Between 2007 and 2009, the report shows the number of VET students completing their qualifications increased by 23%from 321,000 to 394,000, with an additional 62,000 completions at Certificate III level or higher.   However, as pointed out in The Australianthe figures don’t tell the whole story because they exclude full-fee training by private colleges.  Consequently it’s not clear how much of the increase simply reflects privately funded training being shifted onto the public purse.

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CASUALISATION THREATENING QUALITY

The Australian   23 March 2012

The university sector’s over-dependence on casual academics who are paid by the hour and given little or no support is short changing students and threatening quality, a union inquiry into insecure work has been told by researcher Robyn May.  She said that about 60% of academic staff are now casuals, making the sector one of the most casualised in the country, and the trend is worsening.  Despite concerns that the chronic insecurity and hardship is forcing people out of academia and undermining the future workforce, she said nothing is being done to improve the situation.  But she said that university managers are increasingly concerned that it threatens quality and a blowout in drop out rates.  “Despite how motivated and keen a new casual academic maybe, they are generally not included in the regular collegial activities of their department, they are not supported, not trained and not developed, and this all works against their capacity to deliver quality teaching,” May said, drawing on research last year based on a survey of 3000 casual academics.  “It is no reflection on them but purely a function of the hourly-rate nature of their employment”.

See also

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WELCOME TO THE “PRECARIAT”: THE WORLD OF INSECURE WORK

The Age  21 March 2012

It’s a global phenomenon so widespread that a new name has been coined for it: the ”precariat”.  It describes the millions of people who live a precarious existence of social and economic uncertainty – who jump from one short-term contract or piece of casual work to the next.  James Searle hadn’t expected to join this group’s swelling ranks. But the information technology tutor at Swinburne University is a classic example of a worldwide trend in which Australia has taken an unenviable lead: job insecurity.  Searle has been a sessional teacher at Swinburne since the start of last year and finds out only at the start of each semester how long his services will be required, and for how many hours he will work.  Meanwhile hundreds of sessional academics at Swinburne University haven’t been paid since the start of semester (including Searle) and some are likely to have taught for six weeks before they receive any money.  Backed by the National Tertiary Education Union about 12 Swinburne staff staged a “vigil” outside the Melbourne Town Hall where the Australian Council of Trade Unions is holding its inquiry into insecure work.

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VET FUNDING WILL DROP: SKILLS QLD

The Australian  24 March 2012

Queensland’s workforce development advisory body, Skills Queensland, says the Commonwealth government is justified in claiming that it has increased overall funding for training.  But CEO Rod Camm also says Western Australia and Victoria are right to say the Commonwealth was providing less money to support regular state training activities.

“There is no question that the current [agreement], over the length of the partnership, offers less money to the states,” according to Camm. “That’s a problem, because the states are responsible for keeping up training effort. The concept of receiving less money is a really difficult position for a state to bear.”

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CAMPAIGN AGAINST REDUNDANCIES TO ROLL ON 

The Australian   24 March 2012

Despite proposed redundancies at Sydney University being placed on hold, National Tertiary Education Union president at the university, Michael Thomson, says it will proceed with a rally planned for 4 April as part of a rolling campaign of protest against the proposed sacking of 100 academics and redeployment of 64 others to teaching only positions.In an email to staff after the settlement Mr Thomson said: “While this gives members and the union more opportunities to argue that individuals on the targeted list are being treated unjustly, our broader campaign against the job cuts will continue so as to keep the pressure on university management to rescind their proposed job cuts.”

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JOB CUTS AT SYDNEY UNI “ON HOLD”

The Australian   22 March 2012

Job cuts at the University of Sydney have been put on old while the management holds more talks with targeted academics and their colleagues.  Following conciliation between the university and the National Tertiary Education Union at Fair Work Australia, the union claimed the change would mean fewer than the planned 100 academic jobs would be cut. Sydney deputy vice-chancellor Stephen Garton said the university was happy to comply with the request for what he called “one further step in the consultation process”.

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ADAPT TO DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGIES OR GET LEFT BEHIND

The Guardian   22 March 2012

Disruptive technologies in higher education: adapt or get left behind.  Although universities are currently adapting to many political, economic and social changes, they cannot afford to ignore technological transformations as well, says Matthew Draycott.

It’s not difficult to conceive of a world where the ‘top’ universities offer costed, automated online courses delivered through mobile platforms internationally, cutting out a whole range of providers. While these courses might not appeal to everyone, they could be of great interest to those struggling with the rising costs of higher education, international students or the growing sector of our society who want to create their own programmes tailored to their interests and don’t care if these come from traditional providers or other sources such as: Codecademy, Udemy or Academic Earth to name but a few.

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RIP OFF COLLEGE CORNERED MARKET

The Australian   22 March 2012

A now deregistered training college was the top provider of courses preparing people for education and training careers, according to an unpublished report on the performance of Victoria’s training market last year.  Vocational Training Group attracted over 1400 enrolments in education and training, even though it was under administration for much of the year.  It pipped the top-placed TAFE, Box Hill, which had 1275 education and training-related enrolments. And it almost quadrupled the enrolments with the next-placed private college, SELMAR Institute, which had just 365.  VTG was deregistered in February over financial viability issues. It had been investigated following revelations that financial kickbacks had been offered to encourage enrolments in a certificate IV in outdoor recreation course, which was to be taught in as little as 15 hours.

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SKILLS PACKAGE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR REGIONAL AUSTRALIA

21 March   2012

The Skills for Australians package announced by the Federal Government this week will provide important education and training opportunities for regional Australians, according to the Regional Universities Network (RUN).

The Chair of RUN, Professor David Battersby, said that in its report the government had recognised that education and training were key to regional development and productivity.  Improving vocational education and training (VET) will help regional Australians attain stable and well paying jobs, Professor Battersby said.

Compared to higher education, vocational education and training (VET) has almost double the proportion of students from low socio-economic backgrounds.  About 42% of VET students are studying in the regions and are disadvantaged.

The proposal to tie significant funding to agreed improvements in training outcomes, including in skills shortage occupations in the regions, will increase regional productivity and help meet regional industry needs.

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EXTERNAL VALIDATION GETS THUMBS UP

The Australian   21 March 2012

Training advocates have backed plans to deploy external ‘validators’ to check that vocational graduates can do what they’ve been trained for, under federal government proposal to stamp out rorts and improve training quality.Commentators say “external validation” is one of the few genuinely new proposals in the government’s 84-page skills statement, which it released on Monday. But the government has only agreed to trials, and the details remain hazy. The government’s statement says the expansion of private training has created more choice, but also concerns that providers operate with “their eye on the money and not education”. It says training rackets have the potential “to undermine public confidence in qualifications and providers”. External validation pilots will be conducted in qualifications identified “as being of most concern”, it says, with a national approach to be implemented from 2014–15 if the pilots prove successful. SkillsAustralia, which recommended the measure in last year’s ‘Skills for Prosperity’ roadmap, said it was delighted with the proposal. Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET) CEO Claire Field said the pilots should be modelled on ACPET’s voluntary pilot scheme. Victorian Skills Minister Peter Hall supported the external validation proposal as a “sensible measure to ensure [people] are being trained at a level suitable to the needs of industry”

WA SET TO REJECT SKILLS REFORM

The Australian   20 March 2012

Western Australia says it will reject proposed vocational training reforms, declaring the Commonwealth is reducing funds for the states and territories while forcing new conditions on them.  West Australian Training Minister Peter Collier has accused the the Commonwealth of “blackmail”, saying it is putting arduous conditions on a “manifestly inadequate” funding model which would “shortchange” WA by about $75 million over the next three years, compared with current funding arrangements.  However, the objection to “arduous conditions” is difficult to follow as most of the  proposals have been announced at least once before.  The income-contingent loans, national entitlement and My Skills website were all announced in the May 2010 budget and reannounced last October.  The $1.75bn incentive funding was announced in last year’s budget, while COAG agreed in principle to a unique student identifier in December 2009.  Only the “validation” system appears new, and the government has committed only to pilot it.  The Commonwealth has indicated if agreement isn’t reached at COAG, it may allocate additional funding through industry bodoies rather than through the states.

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SPIDER VENOM COULD BE BASIS FOR “ECO-FRIENDLY INSECTICIDES

The Australian  19 March 2012

Researchers at the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience have identified hundreds of small natural proteins in the venom of funnel-web, tarantula and orb spiders that could help kill insect pests on food crops.  There is also potential for these same substances — found only in the fangs of deadly spiders — to offer an even greater global benefit, if they can be utilised to wipe out mosquito colonies that carry the tropical malaria and dengue fever viruses.  According to UQ’s Glenn King, within five to seven years, the first sprays based on spider venom could be used by Australian farmers to kill pests such as locusts on wheat and barley crops, aphids on vegetables and a multitude of other bugs that attack cotton, canola, sorghum and fruit crops.  “This is a really exciting development; the best thing is that because these compounds occur naturally, they are both very eco-friendly and very effective in targeting just one type of insect pest, without killing beneficial bugs such as ladybirds that many farmers use now in integrated pest-management systems,” he says.

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SKILLS REFORM TO FOCUS ON QUALITY & INDUSTRY NEEDS

19 March 2012

With the Prime Minister set to announce a training reform package, which is said to include quality assurance measures, to take to the next Council of Australian Governments, the Victorian Government has announced its own measures to keep out so-called “dodgy” training providers.  A rapid investigation team and a new star rating for training providers are being set up to expose the rogue operators Higher Education and Skills Minister Peter Hall says are undermining the education industry.  The moves come amid concerns the state’s open-market training sector is fuelling a rise in useless diploma courses at private providers rorting government-funded enrolments.  The Australian reports that Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans has signalled that the states could be pushed to apply their funding exclusively to training in areas of industry demand.  He highlighted the recent deal with South Australia as a model to ensure states encouraged enrolments in the skills they needed. The SA approach, if adopted by other states, could discourage enrolment spikes in areas of dubious industry need – for example the recent 1000% increase in fitness instructor courses in Victoria. Courses for horticulture, agriculture, warehouse administration and delivery driving have also experienced blowouts in Victoria’s open training market. Senator Evans said the SA approach also required colleges “to demonstrate how they are responsive to the needs of industry” if they wanted to be able to provide government-supported training places or access to loans.

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SYDNEY ACADEMICS CHALLENGE REDUNDANCY CRITERIA

Lateline  16 March 2012

ABC TV report on Fair Work Australia hearing of case of 100 Sydney University academics who are facing the sack based on how many academic papers they have published.

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SKILLS REFORM TO FOCUS ON QUALITY & INDUSTRY NEEDS

19 March 2012

With the Prime Minister set to announce a training reform package, which is said to include quality assurance measures, to take to the next Council of Australian Governments, the Victorian Government has announced its own measures to keep out so-called “dodgy” training providers.  A rapid investigation team and a new star rating for training providers are being set up to expose the rogue operators Higher Education and Skills Minister Peter Hall says are undermining the education industry.  The moves come amid concerns the state’s open-market training sector is fuelling a rise in useless diploma courses at private providers rorting government-funded enrolments.  The Australian reports that Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans has signalled that the states could be pushed to apply their funding exclusively to training in areas of industry demand.  He highlighted the recent deal with South Australia as a model to ensure states encouraged enrolments in the skills they needed. The SA approach, if adopted by other states, could discourage enrolment spikes in areas of dubious industry need – for example the recent 1000% increase in fitness instructor courses in Victoria. Courses for horticulture, agriculture, warehouse administration and delivery driving have also experienced blowouts in Victoria’s open training market. Senator Evans said the SA approach also required colleges “to demonstrate how they are responsive to the needs of industry” if they wanted to be able to provide government-supported training places or access to loans.

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SYDNEY ACADEMICS CHALLENGE REDUNDANCY CRITERIA

Lateline  16 March 2012

ABC TV report on Fair Work Australia hearing of case of 100 Sydney University academics who are facing the sack based on how many academic papers they have published.

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FUNDING THREAT WOULD HURT TAFEs

The Australian 16 March 2012

Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans’ warning that the government could divert funds from the states and territories to the commonwealth’s National Workforce Development Fund if the states didn’t agree to training reforms could see more funds stripped from the beleaguered TAFE system, the Australian Education Union has warned.  “It will channel funding away from TAFE institutes who will effectively be punished because the states and commonwealth cannot negotiate a robust public policy setting for vocational education,” according to AEU federal TAFE secretary Pat Forward.   RMITUniversity policy analyst Gavin Moodie says that while the federal government had restricted its new higher education entitlement to public universities, it proposed a vocational training entitlement that could be used at private for-profit colleges “where failures of quality, standards and relevance have been most pronounced”.  He says that as with higher education, vocational training entitlements should be restricted to public TAFEs “until rigorous quality and standards monitoring is implemented”.

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AUSTRALIAN UNIS RATE IN REPUTATION RANKINGS

The University of Melbourne, the Australian National University, the University of Sydney and Queensland are in the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings for the second year running and all recorded rises on last year’s results.  Melbourne, ANU and Sydney were in the top 50, Melbourne at 43 (up from 45), ANU at 44 (up from 51-60) and Sydney at 50 (up from 51-60).   Queensland moved into the 71-80 band, from 81-90 last year.  The rankings were headed by the usual suspects: Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Cambridge, Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Oxford.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________TTHREAT TO VET FUNDING

The Australian 15 March 2012

The Commonwealth government has threatened to withhold up to $8.75 billion in funding if the states and territories don’t agree to vocational training reforms at next month’s Council of Australian Governments meeting.

The reforms include HECS-style loans for diploma students and guaranteed training places up to certificate III, the level of most apprenticeships.  Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans said that on top of the $1.4bn already allocated to the states each year, a $1.75bn incentive deal was “on the table” if states cooperated on training reforms over the next five years. But he also said the Commonwealth government would allocate training funds through businesses rather than the states and territories if their governments decided to “baulk at reform”, with the $558 million National Workforce Development Fund providing an alternative funding model.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________DDIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS

The Conversation 15 March 2012

Recent financial crises crises, typically generated by overlending by the financial sector and crashing housing bubbles, are often blamed upon two parties – governments and banks – with considerable justification, writes Phillip Soos (Deakin University). There is, however, a third “villain” that bears primary responsibility for these disasters. While politicians, government bureaucrats, financiers, bankers and the real estate lobby have come under withering assault in the eyes of enraged publics, the economics profession has largely escaped the fury.

Economists who are complicit in the collapse of multi-billion dollar corporations and trillion-dollar economies are still employed, often working in the highest levels of government, industry and academia, while unemployment, bankruptcies, and general misery blows out of all proportion among the public.

Providing a set of penalties in the form of fines, loss of employment, and even imprisonment in the worst cases of financial and economic crisis, can provide economists the incentive to advocate policies based upon scientific theory of how the economy does function in the real world, rather than how it ought to work in a textbook.

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FINNISH MODEL OF TEACHER EDUCATION

The Australian 24 February 2012

The latest infection sweeping Australian schools, according to Finnish education reformer Pasi Sahlberg, is the GERM virus, the Global Education Reform Movement.  The symptoms — universal testing, like the national literacy and numeracy tests; increasing school choice; and competition — are affecting schools throughout much of the English-speaking world, from England and the US to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.  Addressing  the Australian Education Union national conference , Dr Sahlberg said the reforms in Finland in the 1990s offered an alternative path for nations such as Australia.  The changes to teacher education in particular are credited with Finland being crowned for the past 10 years as one of the world’s best school systems. Its students top the world in the international tests of 15 year olds run by the OECD.  About 25 years ago, the status of a teacher in Finland was similar to that given to Australian teachers today; it was considered the course you did if your marks were not high enough to get into medicine, law or economics.  Finland overhauled the system so that student teachers studied a bachelor degree and then completed a two-year masters degree in education.

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VIC PUBLIC & PRIVATE PROVIDERS UNITE ON MORE EFFECTIVE REGULATION

Campus Review 27 February 2012

The Victorian TAFE Association (VTA), representing the public TAFE institutes, has joined forces with the peak body for private education providers – the Australian Council for Private Education & Training (ACPET) –  in calling on the state government to commit to higher quality standards across all providers.  In the latest twist to the Victorian VET funding saga the two bodies have publicly committed to higher standards for educationally quality, well above the Victorian government’s quality levels.   In response to a perceived failure by governments to keep rogue providers out of the sector, ACPET had significantly tightened the Code of Ethics and compliance requirements for members and as a result was pushing rogue providers out of the system.   According to the VTA,   ACPET’s Code of Ethics is of a higher standard, particularly in relation to education quality, student services and marketing than the quality criteria in the Victorian Government’s Skills for Victoria Service Agreement (which determine eligibility for public funding).   According to Martin Cass, CEO of a long established private provider, some changes are needed to the rules about which providers can be eligible. “Managing public funds is a serious thing to do, and they ought to be focusing on a set of criteria that ensure that the people that they’re giving the public funds to are worthwhile and honest.”  Regulators, he says, lost their way in recent years,  being focussed on minor issues and  too concerned about process, and not concerned enough about quality delivery and real outcomes.

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ALLEGED RORTING IN VICTORIAN VET – WHERE’S THE REGULATOR?

The Australian 27 February 2012

Regulators appear to be dragging their feet over alleged ‘abuses’ in the Victorian training system, with signs they couldn’t act even if they wanted to.   At least nine training organisations are being investigated over reports of “misuse and abuse of training opportunities”, Just one of the investigations is being undertaken by the regulator, the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA). The others are being conducted by the funder, Skills Victoria, over possible contract breaches. While there are suggestions from Commonwealth Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans that “dodgy” international education providers are moving into the Victorian VET sector,   the VRQA is, in fact,  largely sidelined because the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) regulates most of the providers.  But ASQA said it wasn’t investigating any of the providers.  ASQA said it would consider information yielded by the investigations if it turned out to be “pertinent to the registration of ASQA RTOs” – suggesting the reported abuses may not actually breach registration conditions.

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DEMAND SYSTEM THREATENS “LOWER TIER UNIS” AND TAFE

Campus Review 27 February 2012

Australia’s regional and newer universities have been put at risk of extinction by the recently introduced demand driven funding system, according Dr Jamie Doughney, a senior lecturer at Victoria University’s school of applied economics.  He  told the National Tertiary Education Union conference last week he had “great fears” for the survival of the country’s poorer universities in the new system.  This year, he said, mid-level universities in Victoria such as La Trobe and Swinburne had dropped their required ATARs considerably, and as a result enrolments at Victoria University and Ballarat University had begun to decline.  It has a knock on effect into TAFE the TAFE as the “lower tier” are forced to recruit in what was previously the TAFE space.

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MEASURING STUDENT LEARNING GAINS

University World News 4 March 2012

The search for a “one-size-fits-all” test to measure learning gains started in the USwith the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA), but CLA is widely regarded as a blunt instrument producing questionable data. Properly designed student surveys might produce more useful information. In 2008 the OECD began a process to assess if it might develop a student assessment test for use internationally. A project emerged: the Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes (AHELO) program. AHELO would assess the feasibility of capturing learning outcomes valid across cultures and languages, and in part informed by the OECD’s success in developing the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) – a widely accepted survey of the knowledge and skills essential of students near the end of the compulsory education years. The proclaimed objective of the AHELO ongoing feasibility study is to determine whether an international assessment is “scientifically and practically possible”. The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) is a lead member of the AHELO consortium.

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COLLEGE LIVING IMPROVES ACADEMIC LIFE

A study by La Trobe University’s Laura Burge found all students, but particularly first years, living in on-campus colleges outperformed those in share accommodation or living at home. Not only did they receive higher marks, they were 50% less likely to fail a subject and about 15% less likely to drop out. She said the study proved it was not enough just to give non-traditional students access to higher education. “We need to ensure the availability and quality of continuing support programs to enable success,” Ms Burge said.

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UK: WORKING CLASS CONTINUE TO LAG ON UNI

Daily Telegraph 3 March 2012

Research shows that teenagers from middle-class homes have benefited the most from the expansion of UK higher education over the last 15 years. According to figures, the proportion of children from relatively well-off backgrounds getting on to degree courses has increased twice as quick as for pupils with working-class parents. Prof Peter Elias, from Warwick University, who co-wrote the report, said the findings partly reflected a decline in manual occupations and an increase in white-collar jobs over the last 40 years. But he added: “Nonetheless, given the remarkable increase in the participation of young people in higher education that has taken place over the last 20 years, the brief analysis presented here reveals little evidence that the much-vaunted policy ambition – to provide better access to higher education to those from less-privileged backgrounds – has been successful.” The study, published by the Institute of Social and Economic Research, based at Essex University, analysed the social backgrounds of almost 34,000 adults aged 22 to 34 and 37 to 49.

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UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE MEDICAL SCHOOL CELEBRATES 150 YEARS

Sunday Age 4 March 2012

The University of Melbourne Medical School was founded in 1862, opening its doors to the first Australian medical students on 3 March when William Carey Rees, Patrick Moloney and Alexander Mackie attended the first class, a chemistry lecture, given by John Macadam in his own laboratory. In its first decade, 23 doctors graduated from the school, while over the last decade an average of 250 medical practitioners graduate from the school each year, joining the medical profession and, “each in their own way, making important changes in the lives of their patients and communities throughout the world”. A profile in The Sunday Age reveals Macadam to be something of a character:

The doctor, the nut and the footy connection

Melbourne University’s medical school held its first class 150 years ago yesterday, when three students attended a chemistry lecture given by Dr John Macadam in his own laboratory using his own materials.

Macadam was a member of the Victorian Parliament, the secretary of the exploration committee for the Burke and Wills expedition, and had a nut named after him, the macadamia, courtesy of his colleague, botanist Ferdinand von Mueller.

But it is Macadam’s connection to the history of Australian rules football that will resonate for many: he was one of two umpires at the first recorded game, between Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar on paddocks next to the MCG in 1858.

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LA TROBE  DUMPS AUSTRALIAN HISTORY

Sunday Age 26 February 2012

La Trobe University has cancelled its undergraduate Australian history subjects for this year due to low student numbers.  Professor of history Marilyn Lake says the subjects ”People, Politics and Protest” and ”Australians at War” would not be offered at La Trobe this year, as they had attracted only 16 and about 35 students respectively. She said economic pressures meant courses with low enrolments could no longer be supported.  Undergraduates appeared to be more interested in European and American history.

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TOTAL INTERNATIONAL ENROLMENTS DOWN BUT HIGHER ED STEADY

AEI – End of Year Summary of International Student Enrolment Data – 2011  20 February  2012

In 2011, there were 557,425 enrolments by full-fee paying international students in Australia on a student visa. This was a 9.6% decline on the same period in 2010.

There were 298,842 commencements in 2011, representing a 8.6% decline over the same period in 2010.

In 2011, the Higher Education sector ranked first by volume of  enrolments. The sector recorded growth of 0.1% in enrolments. By enrolments volume, the two largest source  countries were China (40.2%) and Malaysia (7.4%).

“Management and Commerce” was the most popular broad  field of education with 51.1% of enrolments. The next most  popular field was “Engineering and Related Technologies” with  8.8% enrolments. The third most popular field was  “Information Technology” with a further 7.5% of enrolments.  In 2011, enrolments at the under-graduate level of study were  up by 3.1% but commencements were down by 2.6% on 2010  figures. Post-graduate research enrolments and  commencements were up by 13.0% and 5.9% respectively over  the same period. In contrast, other post-graduate enrolments  and commencements declined 8.0% and 8.9% respectively.

The Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector ranked second by volume of enrolments and first by volume of commencements. Enrolments and commencements in 2011 fell by 16.6% and 7.3% respectively on 2010. India had the largest share of total enrolments (32.4%) and of total commencements (28.7%). China was the next largest source country by enrolments with 10.8%, followed by Thailand with 6.6%. “Management and Commerce” was the largest broad field of education in VET with 51.5% of enrolments and 57.7% of commencements. Enrolments and commencements in this field grew 7.3% and 12.2% respectively. “Food, Hospitality and Personal Services” ranked second however, enrolments in this field declined by 47.3% and commencements by 44.7%. “Society and Culture” was the third largest broad field of education and recorded a 23.5% decline in enrolments and a 4.5% decline in commencements.

Inter Graph 2011

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UNI MELBOURNE SLASHES AUSTRALIAN STUDIES

Sunday Age 19 February 2012

Melbourne University will slash its dedicated Australian studies program, cutting staff and dismantling the undergraduate   program.  The  university says the move is a response to declining student numbers and followed an external review last year that recommended the changes.   The changes come as the place of Australian literature in universities is being debated, with publisher Michael Heyward last month lamenting its neglect in an opinion piece for The Sunday Age.  The Australian Centre’s teaching staff will be cut back from 4.9 to one full-time position – a director – and will effectively become a research-only centre, with postgraduate students and no undergraduate students.

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SKILLS REFORM INITIATED IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA

17 February 2012

The Commonwealth and South Australian Governments have announced a partnership to radically reform the State’s vocational education and training system.  The bilateral agreement is a joint commitment intended  to ensure the VET sector meets the needs of individual students and the broader economy.  The reforms will guarantee students over the age of 16 a government funded training place, provide support for the disadvantaged, make the system more transparent and improve quality and choice.  For the first time in South Australia, government subsidised Diploma and Advanced Diploma students will have the opportunity to defer payment of their upfront fees through study-now-pay-later loans, similar to what is currently available for university students.

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CHANGES TO STUDENT VISA ASSESSMENT LEVELS

DIAC 15 February 2012

The Government has announced a reduction in assessment levels for 29 countries, effective from 24 March 2012.  These changes will lower the minimum evidentiary requirements needed for the grant of a Student visa for certain countries and education sectors.   The postgraduate sector stands to benefit the most, with applicants from China, India, Indonesia and Nepal now assessed at level 1.  No country has had its assessment level increased.

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WHAT MAKES GOOD SCHOOL SYSTEMS – LESSONS FROM EAST ASIA

The Australian 17 February 2012

A report  by independent think tank the Grattan Institute - Catching up : Learning from the best school systems in East Asia (Summary Report here) –   examines four of the five top-performing school systems in the world – Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea – and notes the absence of Australian preoccupations such as public versus private schools, smaller class sizes and computers in classrooms.  Grattan program director of school education Ben Jensen says the Asian systems placed student learning at the centre of education policy and discarded programs or policies that failed to lead to an improvement.

“We’re spending money in the wrong places,” Dr Jensen said. “We are talking about the same things, about teacher quality, but not making the connection into the classrooms”.

McKinsey’s did something on this a few years back - How the world’s best performing schools come out on top.

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BRIAN SCHMIDT ON THE GONSKI REVIEW & SCIENCE EDUCATION

The Conversation 17 February 2012

The Gonski review on school funding is made public on Monday 20 February 2012. But how does the division of resources between the government, independent and Catholic sectors affect how students learn in the practical sense?  Common sense would appear to dictate that in fields like science, the better resourced schools can offer students better facilities and equipment, and thus a superior learning environment. But is it that simple?   The Conversation spoke with Nobel Laureate Brian Schmidt about the state of science education in Australian schools and what impact the Gonski review can have on ensuring all students get the possible opportunity to learn.

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TUNE IN, TURN ON, DON’T DROP OUT

Times Higher Education  16 February 2012

The first year of higher education is “critical” for laying the foundations of academic study, the UK’s Quality Assurance Agency says, and a key time for “learning how to cope with the demands of a new environment and personal responsibilities”.   A large body of research evidence backs this up.  John Gardner, president of the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, is often credited with being the first higher education professional to advocate a focus on the first-year experience in the US sector.  One of the main reasons why he has argued for its importance is because it is the period when dropout rates are highest.  In the UK, about 12 per cent of students are expected to drop out of higher education, with 8% leaving in their first year.   The QAA has chosen the “first year experience” as the first theme for its cycle of audits taking place in universities across England and Northern Ireland this academic year.

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SPENCE GUARANTEES “NO FORCED REDUNDANCIES” AT SYDNEY UNILA TROBE MAY BE SQUEEZED

The Australian 10 February 2012

University of Sydney vice-chancellor Michael Spence has guaranteed no staff will be forced to take redundancy ahead of a final staff plan and that any deals between staff and line managers which are not covered by the university’s enterprise agreement are off. “Any arrangements that do not meet these requirements will not be permitted,” he wrote in a message to staff released on 9 February.  And he gave a blanket guarantee that the university was hiring, saying, “no staff freeze has been put in place and there is no intention to do so.”  The statement follows union allegations by the National Tertiary Education Union  that academic and administrative line managers were targeting staff to either resign or accept different positions before the agreed consultation period on university-wide staff cuts concludes.

Meanwhile, the NTEU is warning that academics at La Trobe University face a hike in teaching loads as faculties cut costs by reducing casual and secessional staff.   New La Trobe vice chancellor John Dewar has told staff that while student enrolments this year are on, or may even exceed target, until student numbers are finalised in March-April,  how close the university is tracking to securing $17 million in targeted cost cuts or revenue increases this year remains unclear.

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UNIVERSITY OF CANBERRA TRIPLES RESEARCH FUNDING

8 February 2012

The University of Canberra tripled its research income in the past year signing contracts to the value of $21.2 million, its highest level of research income to date.  According to the university, this was almost three times the $7.2 million value of contracts signed during 2010. The deputy vice-chancellor (research) Professor Frances Shannon said the university is winning more grants but what was more significant was the increase in the value of the grants and contracts.  The research areas that were substantial recipients of government research and evaluation contracts and competitive grants were environmental science, education and health.“The university is placing a renewed emphasis on research,” said Shannon. “We have appointed a large number of new researchers and attracted more research students who are now capitalising on their expertise and winning more grants and signing new contracts.”  (see Campus Review).

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VICTORIA LEADS ON UNI OFFERS 

The Australian 13 February 2012

Victoria is home to four of the seven fastest growing universities this year, according to figures compiled by The Australian.  RMIT, Deakin, La Trobe and Swinburne universities feature among the seven institutions that experienced at least 10% growth in early and main round offers administered through the tertiary admissions centres.  With an increase of 18.3%, RMIT is by far the fastest growing university in Australia on this measure, which doesn’t take account of late and direct offers.  The surge occurred even though Victoria has already passed the ‘Bradley’ attainment target for 40% of 25-34 year-olds to have degree-level qualifications by 2025.  Andrew Norton, higher education program director with the Grattan Institute, said Victorian universities were taking advantage of the government’s new funding system to address historically high levels of unmet demand.

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 INDIA MISSION:  STRESS ON QUALITY 

Australian Financial Review 13 February 2012

A delegation of 100 Victorian business and education leaders descend upon India this week, in a “super trade mission” led by Premier Ted Baillieu.  In a bid to revive the flagging international education sector, Austrade is dumping the old selling points of lifestyle (“beaches, beer and BBQs”) and affordability in favour of the quality of education on offer.

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CHINA REJECTS AUSTRALIAN JOINT COURSES 

Australian Financial Review 13 February 2012

Last year the Chinese Ministry of Education blocked 25 applications by 10 Australian universities to teach courses in conjunction with a Chinese partner, as it cracks down on foreign partnerships that fail to meet its prioritised areas of national development.   This was the highest number of rejections received by any country, with 23 applications by US institutions and 16 by UK  rejected.  The move coincides with a huge push into China by foreign universities, including Australian institutions, that want to tap into the country’s growing middle class, rapid industrialisation and shortage of domestic tertiary places.  Australian universities are the second most active in China for joint degrees, after the UK.  Monash University is reportedly establishing a campus in China this year.

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MALTHOUSE SIGNS UP WITH LA TROBE 

Sunday Age 12 February 20-12

Retired Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse will swap a tracksuit for the tweeds of academia this week, becoming a vice-chancellor’s fellow at La Trobe University.  In a job switch few predicted after Malthouse’s 40 years as an AFL player and coach, he will lecture in arange of subjects, including physiotherapy, sports administration and marketing.  Despite having no tertiary qualifications after starting with the Saints as a 17-year-old from Ballarat, Malthouse has always been an inveterate reader with a particular fondness for military history and eastern philosophy.  ”Mick is probably not someone who would automatically be associated with universities. But he is a successful leader who will help inspire young people,” La Trobe V-C John Dewar says.

See also  MALTHOUSE DELIVERS LIFE LESSONS AT LA TROBE

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AFRICANS FACING “WHITE WALL”

The Age 12 February 2012

Universities and colleges fear they could lose $100 million a year because of a ”White Australia”-style policy that is preventing thousands of young Africans from studying in Australia.  Tertiary institutions and their agents say red tape and the onerous financial requirements placed on student visa candidates have seen the business almost halve in the past three years, despite efforts by the federal government to streamline the application process.  The number of new African students starting in Australian tertiary institutions fell from 7698 in 2008 to 4591 last year. Enrolments of Zimbabweans fell the most – from 1045 in 2008 to just 431 in 2011.

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$400,000 HECS DEBT

Sunday Herald Sun  12 February 2012

The biggest university loans debt in Australian history has been revealed, with one student owing taxpayers $400,000.  New figures reveal students owe the Commonwealth Government $22 billion in university loans and HECS fees.  While no real interest is applied to the loans, the debts are indexed to reflect inflation and must be paid back through the tax system when students’ earnings reach $47,000 a year.  A big increase in the number of students entering Australian universities this year is set to dramatically increase that figure, with the Government removing the cap on university places.

RORTING ” RTO DEREGISTERED

The Australian 10 February 2012

A private training company at the centre of ‘rip-off’ allegations involving kickbacks to sporting clubs has been deregistered by the Victorian government – but for financial instability rather than the kickback scheme.   Melbourne-based Vocational Training Group had its registration cancelled by the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority, effective 10 February 2012.  Skills Minister Peter Hall told parliament that nine other organisations were being investigated over “reports of misuse and abuse”, including one which claimed over $10 million of government training funds last year.  Payments to all nine have been suspended or withheld pending investigations and independent audits.  Mr Hall said 100 providers had had their applications to deliver government-funded training knocked back – including 56 which had been on last year’s approved list – after Skills Victoria raised the standards required for approval.  He said he didn’t expect the number of approved providers to exceed 500 this year. Last year there were over 600.  Mr Hall said VTG had been deregistered following “an extensive inquiry into its operations”.  It appears the action was taken over the VTG’s financial problems rather than a highly publicised kickback scheme, which Mr Hall described in November as “a rip-off of the public purse”.

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OECD: “DIVERSITY” AT SCHOOL CREATES EQUITY

The Australian 10 February 2012

The OECD has warned against giving parents unfettered choice of schools, recommending measures to ensure all schools enrol a diverse mix of students to guard against entrenching disadvantage in the education system.  A report on equity and quality in education also recommends eliminating the practice of making struggling students repeat a year, which it labels as costly and ineffective, and delaying the sorting of students into streams, such as academic or vocational, until the final years of school.  The report comes about a week before the release of the independent review of school funding headed by businessman David Gonski.  It follows the publication in The Australian of a report commissioned by state education departments for the independent review of school funding headed by businessman David Gonski that found federal government subsidies for private schools had increased the segregation of the school system along social lines.  The OECD report outlines strategies for systems and schools to help create a high-quality education system so that every student, regardless of their personal circumstances, can acquire at least basic skills, with the vast majority attaining a high level of skills.

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THE FUTURE OF UNIVERSITY ENTRY

7  February 2012

In a demand driven system, the days of centrally co-ordinated admissions processes (through Tertiary Admissions Centres) may be drawing to a close, writes Ian Young (V-C, ANU).

At present, the vast majority of students enrol through a Tertiary Admission Centre (a University Admission Centre (UAC) in NSW/ACT). These centres were set up in an environment where there were a limited number of places in universities and a larger number of students seeking those places. The aim of the admission centre is to equitably distribute those students based on their tertiary entry score. In a demand driven system, the tables are turned. There are now a large number of university places and a finite number of students seeking admission. In this environment, why do you need an admission centre? If the student meets the entry requirements for the university, they can be directly admitted…It will not take students long to realise that they now are in a much stronger position. Armed with their tertiary entry score, or even a prediction of that score, they can potentially ‘shop around’ looking for a university place which meets their needs. They do not have to apply through an admission centre and take the offer they receive.

And as if to prove the point, Flinders University is open to allcomers.

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“FREE CONTENT” NOT THE SAME AS “FREE EDUCATION”

2 February 2012

Shirley Leitch addresses a common misconception:  that “free content” equals “free education”.

She writes that while there are a large number of providers – most notably the Open University in the UK – providing free content online, this is not the same as a free education. If it was, it would mean the existence of libraries equates to providing free education in a paper-based world.  Neither the Open University nor MIT offer active teaching or assessment through their free portals. The Khan Academy does provide some teaching, but there are no assessments or feedback. It is the teaching and assessing that costs money and this is what students pay for.

Undertaking self-study without the support of an interactive teaching environment does not deliver excellent student outcomes. Free content does not provide a high quality learning experience. You might read a book and learn something from it. But this cannot be compared to the value and quality of education gained through an interactive, student-focused, learning environment.

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ENROLMENTS, FUNDING & STUDENT/STAFF RATIOS BY EDUCATION SECTOR

December 2011

This briefing prepared by the Group of Eight examines government and private funding across educational sectors. Key findings include:

  • Differences in funding for public and private education across the sectors  do not reflect policy  coherence and entrench inequities.
  • All sectors receive funding from both public and private sources, though the shares vary. Private funding is uncapped in independent schools and negligible in Government schools.
  • Private schools receive more government funding for students than public universities.
  • While school student staff ratios have been declining, university student staff ratios have been increasing.

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Robson to chair Standards Panel

The Australian 9 November 2011

Alan Robson, the soon-to-retire V-C of University of Western Australia, has been appointed as the inaugural chair of  the Higher Education Standards Panel, which will advise the Government on the various standards that will apply under the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards regime which comes into operation on 1 January 2012.

Multisectoral education: why bother?

LH Martin Institute 28 October 2011

The Victorian Government’s recent decision to cut VET funding delivers a triple whammy to multi-sectpr universities, writes Victoria University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Anne Jones.. They have incurred the funding cuts levied on all VET providers for seven industry areas and the cuts imposed on all large TAFE institutions.  In addition, they have the difficulty of managing university budgets where a significant proportion of the revenue is greatly below Commonwealth funding levels.  Those difficulties aside, she argues there is a compelling case for multisectoral universities but for a different type of multisectoral university than we have been used to. The new model will certainly need to be economically viable and therefore probably result in universities delivering fewer courses at AQF levels 1-3.  Instead they hould focus intersectoral efforts on supporting three transition points: apprenticeship to diploma, diploma to degree and diploma to postgraduate certificate and beyond.  In each of these circumstances the diploma is the key to transition and in each, VET pedagogy has the power to support access into higher education.

New Universities Australia chief named

 

Universities Australia 6 October 2011

Universities Australia has announced the appointment of former industry leader and senior public servant, Ms Belinda Robinson, as its new Chief Executive, succeeding Dr Glenn Withers.   UA describes Ms Robinson as a highly regarded advocate and policy practitioner, who was most recently Chief Executive of the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association. This followed several years as Chief Executive of the Australian Plantation Products & Paper Industry Council.  Ms Robinson will join Universities Australia in November.

Australian university THE rankings

The Australian 6 October 2011

Monash University has proved the big Australian winner in the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings but questions have been raised once more about the stability of its results.  Last year Monash came in at 178 in the field of 200 institutions that THE selects using Thomson Reuters data, but in the 2011 rankings, released today, it has jumped an impressive 61 places to be equal 117 in the world, with Trinity College Dublin.    Monash was one of seven Australian institutions in the top 200, but a total of 21 were in the top 400.  But University of NSW deputy vice-chancellor, research, Les Field, said he still had doubts whether the THE rankings were stable, after a shaky start last year.   The wrong data was processed for the University of Adelaide and the University of Western Australia was omitted after failing to supply information because THE had sent the request to the chancellor, rather than an executive officer. UWA entered the rankings this year at 189.    UNSW retained its sixth spot in the national league table but slipped 21 places in the global table.  The University of Adelaide went from fourth to eighth on the national table and dropped a whopping 134 places (=73 to 207) internationally.   Meanwhile Charles Drawin has come from nowhere at all to be 13th ranked nationally and 306 on the international scale, somewhat ahead of Curtin,  Swinburne, Deakin, Griffith and La Trobe.

Full list: Where Australian universities ranked

US muscle reigns, but there’s a world of difference in value

Times Higher Education 6 October 2011

The 2011-12 Times Higher Education World University Rankings spring a surprise at the top, where Harvard University is dethroned by the California Institute of Technology, thanks mainly to a 16 per cent rise in research funding.  In terms of overall number of institutions in the top 200, the US leads the way with 75, followed by the UK (32), Germany (12), the Netherlands (12) and Canada (9).  But when that table is adjusted for national spending on higher education, Switzerland has the most universities in the top 200 per billion dollars spent, followed by the UK in second place and the Netherlands in third. The US finishes 16th by this measure.

UC polytec “on track”

The Australian 30 September 2011

The University of Canberra has begun recruiting students for its polytechnic and is on track for a “soft launch” next year. Monique Skidmore, pro vice-chancellor (international and major projects) said the proposed merger with Canberra Institute of Technology would not affect the university’s plans to move to a fully operational polytechnic by 2013.  “We believe there is a niche market in the diploma and advanced diploma market that is not just tick the box competency skills. There is room for niche institutions that sit somewhere between TAFE and university,” Professor Skidmore said.  But the academic union has called on the university abandon its plans for a polytechnic, saying that must be a precondition of any merger with CIT, describing it as a vehicle for de-unionising the workforce.  See also UC sends lists of demand on merger.

Cloud with a silver lining? HE in FE colleges under the new fees regime

Policy Consortium September 2011

A think piece on the impact of the new HE fees policy on FE colleges in England: acknowledges that the arrangements being put in place by the Coalition Government for the 2012-13 intake of students represent the most radical change in HE funding for many years.  It suggests that while these widely contested reforms offer substantial opportunities for further education colleges that are significant providers of HEFCE-funded higher education, and their students there are also considerable threats if these opportunities are ignored or pursued insensitively.

The Australian 23 September 2011

Onerous visa requirements for overseas higher education students will be lifted, and a two- to four-year post-study work visa will be introduced for foreign university graduates, under key recommendations accepted by the governmentfrom the Knight review of the student visa program.But universities will have to wait about a year for the changes, which are scheduled to apply from second semester next year.  And vocational training colleges will have to wait on a second review, also scheduled next year, before they see major changes to visa processing arrangements for their own international students.  Universities Australia has welcomed the report, saying:   The report’s recommendations have sensibly mirrored the views of the sector as articulated in the universities’ submission to the Review. The changes proposed to visa requirements for students enrolled at Australian universities will help to maintain an internationally competitive international education sector that confirms Australia as an attractive higher education destination over the long term. TAFE Directors Australia says the report sends mixed messages:   while it recognises the high quality of the VET sector in Australia, “it falls short of providing students wishing to study in the sector the same concessions and support as universities”.

Private school students more likely to go to uni

The Australian 22 September 2011

 A non-government school education is more likely to get students into university or post-school training than education at a government school, according to ABS social trends data comparing school outcomes.  The results were attributed to the higher socio-economic status of private school students, and fuelled debate about federal school funding.   Last year, more than 54% of young adults who had attended a non-government school were enrolled to study for a post-school qualification compared with 39%of former government school students.   And 39% of non-government school students go on to attain a bachelor degree or above, compared with 25% of government school students.

High price for best and brightest

Australian Financial Review 19 September 2011

Universities are underfunded by about 27% through the Research Training Scheme to train students undertaking higher degrees by research, leaving individual institutions to make up an annual shortfall of between $6million and $25 million a year, according to a report to the government by Deloitte Access Economics.  It costs an average of $33,788 a year to train a fulltime PhD or master’s by research graduate but according to the report the figure can be as high as $56,000.

Universities improve national productivity

Universities Australia 4 September

Universities Australia has released a report by KPMG Econtech which demonstrates that Australian universities can play a lead role in future productivity growth.

According to Universities Australia Chief Executive Dr Glenn Withers: “Full implementation of the landmark Bradley Review of Higher Education can do more for GDP and living standards growth than any other single publicly identified and costed reform”.

“Modelling for Universities Australia estimates that this Bradley reform scenario would add some 5.6% to national productivity by 2040 and some 6.4% to Australia’s GDP”.


A role for universities in halting the death of manufacturing

The Conversation

2 September 2011

Over the last few weeks, the cost of upheaval in the manufacturing sector has become ever more visible.  The plight of the manufacturing sector should not be a surprise. The sector’s contribution to Australia’s gross domestic product has been in steady decline, halving since the mid 1970s. Yet, as a nation, we are still ill-prepared.  Universities now have a role to play that not only promotes growth and improvements in existing firms, but also growing the number of new firms that can survive and excel in this new environment.  Universities then need to rethink how best to respond to this change. Traditionally universities focus on teaching and research aimed at serving and improving existing firms. While this focus is worthwhile, it does little to create new businesses, new jobs and new sectors in our economy.  Instead, universities need to also focus on contributing more rapidly and effectively to the development of our economy.  A development focus means that research targets and incentives should move beyond creation of new knowledge and toward the application of new knowledge.  Research only for scientific breakthrough does too little to create new industry. Innovation policies and practices need to emphasise the creation of new enterprises that exhibit significant growth potential.

Student “churn” hides collapse in China market

The Australian 1 September 2011

Chinese students jumping from one course to another may be masking the bleak outlook for this higher education market, according to Sue Blundell, who heads the peak body for English language colleges. ELICOS colleges, a key source of students for universities, have been suffering steep declines in numbers for 18 months.  Yet higher education starts by Chinese students have only just begun to decline.

Warrnambool student claims top medical spot

The Warrnambool Standard 1 September 2011

As one of the first Deakin University medical students to finish her degree in Warrnambool, Traudi Almhofer is going out an high.  Ms Almhofer received the highest mark in the final exam of medical students across all four Deakin campuses, a total of 111 students.  She has studied in Warrnambool for the final two years of her medical degree, having spent the previous two years at the Waurn Ponds campus.  The success will open up new career opportunities for Ms Almhofer, who came to the course after spending five years working as a nurse.  Originally from Melbourne, Ms Almhofer was keen to return to the University for her medical training after gaining her nursing qualification with the university.

University of Ballarat prepares “community report card on sustainability”

University of Ballarat MR 1 September 2011

South West Victoria will soon be the first region in the state to have its own Community Report Card into its overall sustainability.  The Great South West Community Report Card is being developed by researchers at the University of Ballarat together with Southern Grampians Shire Council and the Natural Assets Alliance of South West Sustainability Partnership which includes Wannon Water, the Department of Sustainability and Environment and the Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority.

Plan to establish “free University of Liverpool”

The Guardian 31 August 2011

Plans are currently in motion for the establishment of a Free University of Liverpool(FUL). This is explicitly framed as a protest against the government’s tuition fees rise, but also evidences a longer-standing dissatisfaction with the current structure of higher education.  The founding group consists of artists and activists, as well as educators currently employed by formal university programmes.  They are tagged anonymously as “the committee” to avoid any conflict with the institutions many work within.   This tag also has an ethical flipside, removing the teachers from the ownership of the project and ducking hierarchy.   All those involved are offering their time and skills voluntarily and the FUL is being supported by donations, ranging from secondhand books for a radical library to financial contributions made online.  The university’s first course is a six-month foundation studies degree, which will start this October. It is currently receiving applications for the 15 places available. The following year will see the launch of a BA in cultural praxis, teaching what is essentially the group’s mission statement: the “belief in the strength of intervention, the necessity of interruption and the efficacy of interference in the powers that seek to privatise and instrumentalise education”.

Using micro – sites to recruit students

Inside Higher Ed 31 August 2011

If you Google “colleges in Omaha” and scroll through the results, eventually you’ll find the website of the College of Saint Mary.  Scroll a little further, and you’ll find it again.  The two links have the same name and street address, and they are both operated by the College of Saint Mary. The only difference visible from the search index is the Web URL. One is relatively straightforward: csm.edu. Click through and you’ll find yourself on a fairly typical college home page.  The other is more provocative: watchmebloom.com. Click and you’ll find yourself inside an interactive, animated landscape that looks more like a video game app. Here, you can take a diagnostic test that poses a series of hypothetical scenarios and recommends a course of study based on your answers (“People Person!” — “Our programs in psychology may be the academic path for you to explore the possibilities ahead…”). You can mouse over different buildings on the cartoon rendering of campus — and the Omaha skyline beyond — and watch unscripted films of Saint Mary students talking about those places. And, of course, visitors are repeatedly invited to create a “profile” that includes their names and e-mail addresses. This is College of Saint Mary’s microsite for prospective students. It was designed not by the in-house Web team at Saint Mary but by Phenomblue, a firm that develops game-oriented promotional sites such as “McNuggets Olympic Village” and “Tums Food Fight” (also in the firm’s book: “Zombie Christmas”). Compared to the college’s website proper, the “Watch Me Bloom” microsite is designed to be more targeted, marketable, fun — and effective for drawing in potential applicants.

Navitas and Pearsons join forces on English test

31 August 2011

Navitas has announced the selection of Pearson’s Versant™ English Placement Test to evaluate English speaking,listening, reading and writing skills across its Australian programs for international students.

University goes online with virtual course

Daily Telegraph 31 August 2011

As British students face the daunting prospect of paying up to £9,000 a year for higher education, there are increasing opportunities to learn online for much less, and in many cases free.  Earlier this month, Stanford University opened registration to its artificial intelligence course which is being offered free online to all.  Previously, the university had offered only introductory notes to its Computer Science course free online. However, this pioneering move sees the university, which students from all over the world pay thousands to attend, sees offer a complete course free of charge.

Toll barriers

Times Higher Education 25 August 2011

When their tuition fees almost triple next year, English students are expected to begin a mass scramble in search of the best-value degree.  As they are unlikely to stop at England’s borders, the Scottish and Welsh devolved governments plan to raise their fees to stop students from the rest of the UK scaling Hadrian’s Wall and pouring across Offa’s Dyke in search of a cheap education. Northern Ireland has yet to make a decision, but already it is clear that there will be a bewildering range of fees across the UK.

Productivity places program “on track”

The Australian 31 August 2011

Tertiary education minister Chris Evans has rebutted claims reported in The Australian about a scathing report on the productivity places program, telling the ABC it was way out of date. The report’s more than a year old, he explained, and the program is now on track to meet its targets.

Professor abandons eternal search for a parking spot

Chronicle of Higher Education 30 August 2011

Danford W. Middlemiss is done looking for parking at Canada’s Dalhousie University. After waiting in line for more than an hour on Monday to purchase a parking pass — only to learn that all the passes had been sold and that he would have to return the next day — the political-science professor pulled the plug on his career of 31 years, according to an article on the CBC News Web site.“I went straight upstairs, I said, ‘I’m not kidding this time, I don’t have to put up with this. I’m resigning,’” said Mr. Middlemiss.

Plan for Year 12 “thesis”

The Age 30 August 2011

Year 12 students would be able to write a university-style thesis as part of their Victorian Certificate of Education under a radical new proposal by Victoria’s curriculum body. The investigation subject will be trialled in a pilot program next year at up to 15 schools before a final decision is made by the state government on whether it becomes part of the VCE.  The plan for the subject – ”Extended Investigation VCE Study Design” – shows that students would develop an area of study and complete a 4000 to 4500 word thesis or research project under teacher supervision.

Blogging beyond the journals

Campus Review Weekly 29 August 2011

For many, the role of the online world in academia is still vague, but Associate Professor Steven Wheeler, a specialist in online and electronic education, says his blog Learning with ‘e’s’ was a “natural progression” from traditional academic publishing methods.  “[It has enabled] me to become a global educator with a huge, almost limitless classroom of people to teach, and to learn from,” he says.  His most popular posts tend to be “top 10” lists, or snappy tips and ideas for teaching.  The most popular so far has been Teaching with Twitter which has had more than 15,000 views.

 MCD set to become Australia’s first  university of specialisation

Victorian Government Special Gazette 29 August 2011

By Gazette notice today, the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority has granted approval for the Melbourne College of Divinity to operate as a “university of specialisation” with the title “MCD University of Divinity”.  The approval is for an initial 5 year period, commencing 1 January, 2012.   The notice will now be tabled in both houses of Victorian Parliament and may be disallowed or suspended up until 8 December (the last sitting day for the year). Until this time the decision is not final in Victorian law.   Under the current National Protocols for Higher Education Approvals Processes (which are shortly to be replaced by Provider Registration Standards), a “university of specialisation” is an  institution which delivers Australian Qualifications Framework higher education qualifications (including Research Masters and PhDs or equivalent Research Doctorates) in one or two broad fields of study only and sets standards for those qualifications which are equivalent to Australian and international standards.  A full university delivers such qualifications in at least three broad fields of study.   MCD is the first institution to be granted status as a university of specialisation.

RMIT waives application fees for international students

Meld 29 August 2011

Until 31 December, students who apply to study at RMIT University will not have to pay the $70 application fee. RMIT executive international director Ailsa Lamont said the university “decided to waive the $70 application fee temporarily in recognition of the financial challenges facing many international students at the moment”.  She cited the strength of the Australian dollar and the slowing economic conditions in many parts of the world as leading to these financial challenges.  Other measures taken by RMIT to support international students coming to the university include more flexible arrangements for tuition fee deposits and the introduction of an education savings plan, which will help families to save for their children’s future education.

Colleges bullish on online delivery but public sceptical

The Chronicle of Higher Education 28 August 2011

Delivering courses in cyberclassrooms has gained broad acceptance among top US college leaders, but the general public is far less convinced of online education’s quality, according to new survey data released this week by the Pew Research Center, in association with The Chronicle. Just over half of the 1,055 college presidents queried believe that online courses offer a value to students that equals a traditional classroom’s.  By contrast, only 29 percent of 2,142 adult Americans thought online education measured up to traditional teaching. The presidents’ survey included leaders of two-year and four-year private, public, and for-profit colleges and was conducted online. The public survey was conducted by telephone.  The gauge of differing perceptions comes at a critical moment for online education. Just 10 years ago, few colleges took teaching onto the Internet, and skepticism about the practice was the norm among professors and university leaders.  Now many studies have proved the effectiveness of online instruction, and colleges trying to cut costs and serve students who want more convenient options are embracing this form of teaching.

Will Steve Jobs stepping down affect higher education?

Wired Campus 25 August 2011

Much is being written about whether Apple can retain its edge now that Steve Jobs, its visionary chief executive, has announced his departure from that post for health reasons. For colleges, the question is whether the company will remain as attentive to higher education, given that Mr. Jobs has long sought the advice of higher-education officials and encouraged colleges to use the company’s technology in new ways for teaching and research.

New head of higher education group

The Australian 25 August 2011

David de Carvalho has been appointed the new general manager of the Higher Education Group within the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, succeeding David Hazlehurst. He is currently first assistant secretary at the social policy division is within the budget group of the Department of Finance and Deregulation and will take up his new appointment on 11 October 2011.

Thinking about SES equity

Glyn Davis 24 August 2011

Over the many decades the university sector has collected data on the social origins of public university students, one result has persisted: with rounding, only 15 per cent of students come from the geographic areas home to the 25 per cent of the population with the lowest socioeconomic status (SES).  This disappointing result is not for want of effort by universities.  Many remedies suggested are already long-standing practices.  Universities make allowance for disadvantage in their entry requirements, and encourage outreach programs to disadvantaged schools. There are support mechanisms to support completion as well as commencement. And yet, despite institutional efforts, the status quo endures.

Death of distance

Campus Review Weekly 22 August 2011

Within just five years it’s more than likely that universities will have their own app stores, be connected at speeds of up to 8 terabits per second, link to many of their students over the national broadband network, and have demolished all their lecture theatres. For university administrators and chief information officers the challenge is to ensure that any information systems infrastructure rolled out today is future proofed for tomorrow.

CPA research grants

22 August 2011

The Global Research Perspectives Program is CPA Australia’s annual research grants program, which encourages and supports research worldwide that is relevant to its membership, the profession and the global business community.  CPA Australia will consider bold and innovative projects that have merit and potential. CPA Australia supports the dissemination of high quality and innovative research to influence governments, regulators and standards, and inform our members.  New research grants are available for researchers, institutions and consultancies. Partnerships between academe and business are encouraged as are cross-disciplinary applications and requests for joint funding with other organisations.Applications for the current funding program close on Wednesday 31 August.

Melbourne to cut Australian studies course

The Age 23 August 2011

MELBOURNE University is preparing to slash its Australian studies program after a review called for it to be scrapped because of dwindling enrolments and budget troubles.  Under the planned restructure, the Australian Centre would be reduced to just two staff – down from 12 teaching and research staff and four administrative staff – and would no longer offer undergraduate subjects but collaborate with other departments on ”breadth” subjects under the Melbourne Model.

Melbourne University brought to book for snubbing Australian literature

The Age 21 August 2011

Author Elliot Perlman looks around the group of students and beams: ”I’m so heartened that you guys are doing this that I feel like I could hug each one of you.”  It’s an unusual start to a literary seminar, but this is an unusual event.   Perlman has been invited to Melbourne University by a group of undergraduate English students who are so appalled at the university’s failure to teach Australian literature that they have set up their own course.  Each Friday afternoon they gather in a stately room in the historic quad area to listen to local writers who have been invited to talk about their craft.

Social media sells education

12 August 2011

The explosion in internet access has transformed the 3.5 million strong market for international education according to a four year global research project by the British Council’s Education Intelligence unit.  Research manager Elizabeth Shepherd, “the evidence shows institutions that want to attract the best quality students must make information accessible in the easiest possible way and that means going the extra mile online.”

Courses in aged care “need audit”

The Age 10 August 2011

Poor standards of care throughout the aged care industry have prompted the Productivity Commission to recommend a national independent audit of training standards for personal care workers.  In the report, released on 9 August 2011, the commission found that training colleges were issuing certificate III qualifications to workers after as little as a month.

Which paths work for young people?

NCVER 10 August 2011

In this NCVER report, the authors identify various educational paths involving school and post-school study and assess the effectivness of these in relation to post-school outcomes at age 25 years. They use the 1995 cohort of the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth and find that, for males, undertaking an apprenticeship after completing senior secondary and university are attractive paths. For females, the best path is that of university study, even for those with low academic orientation.

High $A and visa changes drive international students to Canada

The Australian 3 August 2011

Foreign students are turning away from Australia and flocking to Canada as uncertainty intensifies over visa regulations and the high Australian dollar, according to Rod Jones, chief executive of education provider Navitas.  Canada is benefiting from students who are turning away from Australia and the UK because of government changes in visa policy for foreign students.  Enrolments fell 14 per cent in Navitas colleges in Australia during the last June/July semester, while numbers decreased 16 per cent in Britain.  For all that, Navitas the company reported a 20 per cent rise in after-tax net profit to $77.4 million.

Full steam ahead for regional agenda

The Australian 20 July 2011

The federal government’s progress on improving access to and quality of higher education in the regions is striding ahead, writes David Battersby (University of Ballarat). But draft funding guidelines for the regional EIF round  reveal some of the tensions still bedevilling the government about regional tertiary education provision.   While the regional EIF was always intended to focus on vocational education and training and higher education, the focus appears to be solely on university campuses. The guidelines indicate that the intention is to support students in regional, rural and remote areas and in regional cities including, but not limited to, Newcastle, Wollongong and Geelong. Capital city universities and TAFE institutes, other than Hobart and Darwin, seem to be excluded even if they have a regional presence.  Third, with a stated intention for the regional EIF to be used to transform research infrastructure within the regions, there is some confusion in the draft guidelines as to the relationship of such research to teaching and learning.

Blind alleys in multiple uni entry pathways

The Australian 20 July 2011

Andrew Harvey and Andrea Simpson (La Trobe University) write that the federal  government will soon allocate $119 million to universities to support their partnerships with disadvantaged schools, some of which will be used to develop new recruitment pathways for students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds.  While from an equity perspective, ATAR is tilted heavily to high SES students, direct entry schemes, relying on school recommendations, are likely to differ across the sector and create there will be confusion among secondary students and parents but potentially new areas of disadvantage, depending on who’s partnering whom.

Regional EIF focuses on teaching

The Australian 13 July 2011

Research will take a back seat in the latest allocation of the Education Investment Fund, with the $480 million Regional Priorities Round reserved mainly for teaching and learning infrastructure, according to draft guidelines. Research projects will only be funded if they’re “integral to a proposed teaching and learning or VET infrastructure project”, the guidelines suggest.  “Funding for projects which support research-related activities is only available where such a connection is established.”  University of Ballarat vice-chancellor David Battersby said the treatment of research was a differentiating factor of the regional round. He said its focus was mainly on skills development and regional competitiveness.

Regional EIF Guidelines released

13 July 2011

Guidelines for the $500 million Regional Priorities Round of the Education Investment Fund have been released at the Regional Universities Campus Heads Conference at the University of Tasmania’s Cradle Coast Campus.  This new infrastructure funding round will support regional higher education and vocational education and training institutions to improve their infrastructure, and help improve the quality of training and education regional students receive,  said Senator Chris Evans, Minister for Tertiary Education.

New funds to maintain teaching and learning momentum

13 July 2011

Almost $1.8 million in new funding has been awarded by the ALTC to strengthen learning and teaching networks over the next two years. Chief Executive Dr Carol Nicoll said the funds will be used by national discipline bodies and state-based clusters to ensure the work of the ALTC and its programs is not lost in the wake of the organisation’s closure.   “With this funding the ALTC will enable national discipline bodies to mobilise existing connections, and establish new links, to advocate for learning and teaching and to provide leadership and expertise in addressing Australian higher education priorities,” Dr Nicoll said.

ALTC: “take pride in teaching”

13 July 2011

In her closing speech at the annual Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australia (HERDSA) conference, Dr Carol Nicoll, Chief Executive Officer of the ALTC, delivered her vision for the Australian higher education sector.  Dr Nicoll said she hopes that in the future, higher education will be viewed not as a commodity but as a foundation element of a prosperous developed nation.  “Pride in being an outstanding teacher in higher education is something well worth aiming for. The word ‘teacher’ should be worth claiming proudly by academics as a signifier of their potentially lifelong impact on their students,” she said.

What does it take to create a world class university?

13 July 2011

The Grattan Institute will present Professor Andrew Hamilton, Vice-Chancellor, the University of Oxford, in a discussion about what is required to create a world class university. The seminar, at the BMW Edge Theatre, Federation Square, Melbourne on Thursday 28 July from 6.15 – 7.30 pm, will be Professor Hamilton’s only public seminar during this trip to Australia.   Drawing on his personal experience as a professor and administrator at leading universities such as Princeton, Yale, and Oxford, he will discuss what it takes both for universities to achieve and sustain the very highest international  level.

UK taskforce to investigate economic impact of uni research

Times Higher Education 10 July 2011

Over the next 12 months a new task force, set up by the Council for Industry and Higher Education, will ask the question: “How does the UK maximise the value of publicly funded research?”  David Eyton, co-chair of the task force and group head of research and technology at BP, said that Europe in general, and the UK particular, had an excellent reputation for producing research. “But somehow it doesn’t end up with business based in the UK so it [the country] doesn’t get as much benefit as it might,” he said.  “It’s very little to do with the research itself but has a lot to do with the relationships between universities and business. ”

QS final rankings on social sciences and the humanities

11 July 2011

A pattern of domination by universities in the United States and United Kingdom established in international subject rankings compiled by QS, the UK-based education network, is repeated for the final two groups of subjects. Social sciences and the arts and humanities are confirmed as the near-exclusive preserve of the developed, English speaking world,, with Australian universities featuring strongly.    Two Australian universities are among the top 20: the University of Toronto, Australian National University and the University of Melbourne.

Government receives report on student income support review

Media Release 10 July 2011

The Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans, has received the report from the independent Review of Student Income Support Reforms conducted by Professor Kwong Lee Dow AM.  The report will be tabled in both houses of Parliament within 10 sitting days.  The Review examined the impact of the student income support reform package put in place in response to the Bradley Review of Australian Higher Education.

System ruins quality, say TAFE Teachers

The Age 8 July 2011

Reform to vocational education in Victoria has caused a surge in enrolments across the sector, but TAFE teachers say the new system is driving down the quality of education as students turn cheaper courses at private providers.

Expert analysis throws further light on international student downturn

6 July 2011

Universities Australia has today released a commissioned report providing an independent assessment of the impact of the downturn in international student numbers. Deloitte Access Economics has analysed both the total expenditure by international students in Australia, and spending across industry sectors to model the effect of such a downturn on the higher education sector, and the repercussions for the wider Australian economy.

Bid to gag Monckton

SBS 30 June 2011

More than 50 Australian academics have signed a letter urging Western Australia’s Notre Dame University to cancel a speech by British climate change sceptic Lord Christopher Monckton.  He is due to deliver the Lang Hancock Lecture at the university in Fremantle on Thursday night, an event named for the late mining magnate and sponsored by his daughter Gina Rinehart.  But a letter signed by more than 50 academics has called on the university to bar the controversial speaker, saying “he stands for the kind of ignorance and superstition that universities have a duty to counter”.

Tertiary education and training in Australia 2009

27 June 2011

For the first time, student enrolment data for the vocational education and training (VET) and higher education sectors are now available in one publication.Sourcing data from the National VET Provider Collection and the Higher Education Statistics Collection, this publication provides a summary of participation in tertiary education and training in Australia. It covers participation in Australian Qualifications Framework certificate I qualifications through to doctorates by research, as well as enrolments in a single vocational subject. Information is presented on students and on equivalent full-time students.

UK: Private providers set to rise?

BBC 26 June 2011

The forthcoming White Paper for higher education looks set to be the turning point for the growth of private institutions offering undergraduate degrees in England.  the dramatic shift from teaching grants to tuition fee income at mainstream universities means the difference between public and private is narrowing fast.  The cut in teaching grants goes a long way towards creating a level playing-field for private universities, which rely almost entirely on fee income.

UK: private colleges may be better value than unis Times Higher Education

26 June 2011

For-profit higher education providers could “really strike a chord” with students worried about the value for money of traditional £9,000-a-year degrees with “ridiculous” long vacations, according to Lord Adonis, director of the Institute for Government think tank and a former education minister.  H said that it would be “a jolly good thing” if for-profit private universities shook up the degree market with shorter, more “intensive” degrees that could provide better value for money.

NSW “no” to concessions for O/S students

The Australian 24 June 2011

The O’Farrell government has ruled out transport concessions for international students, despite nose-diving overseas commencements threatening the $18.8 billion industry nationally.

CSU appoints new vice-chancellor

The Australian 24 June 2011

Andrew Vann will be the new vice-chancellor and president of Charles Sturt University from next year, succeeding Ian GoulterProfessor Vann, senior deputy vice-chancellor at James Cook University, has led teaching and learning strategies there. He hopes to build futher on CSU’s strengths as a regional institution. “Charles Sturt University has strong links to the community, it is strong in indigenous education and is the largest distance education provider in Australia,” he said.  See media release here.

Poverty sees kids suffer in science

The Australian 23 June 2011

Poor students not only start school behind their peers but are given less chance to catch up, as an international study shows disadvantaged students in Australia spend about 30 minutes less a week studying science than students from more affluent families.  An analysis by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development group of industrialised nations shows that among the most disadvantaged children is a group of resilient students who defy the odds of their background and perform at the top level in international tests.  The key difference appears to be the time spent learning in a classroom, with disadvantaged students on average given less opportunity to learn at school than more advantaged students.

Public lectures at the University of Melbourne

23 June 2011

University of Melbourne places its public lectures on you tube, including Paul Keating, Malcolm Fraser,  Tim Costello,  Ravi Shankar,  Hillary Rodham Clinton…

Senior social scientist needed at CSIRO

23 June 2011

CSIRO is seeking to recruit an experienced social science researcher with quantitative skills. The Science into Society Group currently conducts research on behalf of several of CSIRO’s research Flagships on areas of strategic national importance including climate change, energy, oceans and minerals.

Kaplan Acquires 100% of Structuralia, Spain

22 June 2011

Kaplan, the global provider of training and education, has acquired Madrid-based Structuralia, the leader in e-learning for the engineering and infrastructure sector in Spain, for an undisclosed sum.  Structuralia provides training to more than 85,000 staff employed at more than 1,350 companies. Programs are created by more than 400 leading academics and industry experts based on interactive e-learning technology developed by Structuralia’s multi-media lab. Major clients include the top global infrastructure developers in the world such as ACS, Ferrovial (operator of Indiana Toll Road and BAA-Heathrow Airport), Sacyr (builder of the new extension of the Panama Canal), OHL (designer, builder, financer and operator of University of Montreal Hospital; builder of New York Subway), and energy companies such as ENDESA, IBERDROLA and REE.

Universities invite private college to step into their ‘back office’

Times Higher Education 22 June 2011

The UK’s only for-profit university college is in talks about running the “back-office” functions of publicly funded universities.  BPP University College, which offers its own degrees in business, law and finance, has been approached by “several” institutions about the possibility of running services such as IT support, estate management and procurement.

Big challenges on bottom of the world

The Australian 22 June 2011

Peter Hall (university of Melbourne) warns that arguments in favour of concentrating research resources in a small number of Australian universities typically neglect the vital intellectual environment, which cannot be assembled nearly as easily as offices and laboratories. Moreover, funding only a small number of research-intensive universities involves substantial changes across the education system, including at the interface between schools and universities.

Behind the sale of a Picasso lies a larger global philanthropic tale

Chronicle of Higher Education 21 June 2011

In a transaction that speaks to the growing globalisation of philanthropy and research, the London auction of a Picasso from a U.S. donor for nearly $22 million will benefit Australia-based studies of disease.  Michael Spence, vice-chancellor of the University of Sydney, says the gift is part of a larger donation of 11 paintings, jewellery, some bonds, and cash from a donor who wants to stay anonymous and who specified that the Picasso was to be sold and the money used for research.  The donation will support endowed chairs at a new Centre for Obesity, Diabetes, and Cardiovascular Disease, where research will take place on topics as diverse as the economics of grocery shopping, the philosophy of body image, and the basic science of metabolic disorders.  Spence calls it a “genuine pan-university project” that will include the social sciences and humanities from the start. “This is not just doctors with the rest added on,” he says.

UK student fees policy ‘a slow car crash

Telegraph (UK) 20 June 2011

Sir Peter Scott, former vice-chancellor of Kingston University, said the UK Government’s overhaul of higher education is probably the “worse example of public policy making” he had ever seen.  He said ministers had failed to create a true market on fees by imposing a £9,000 cap – encouraging almost every university to charge at the top level.  Sir Peter also attacked the proposed expansion of further education colleges as a cheap alternative provider of degree courses, saying the idea was “sheer fantasy”.

International students: pros and cons of agents

Chronicle of Higher Education 16 June 2011

As American colleges look to increase international enrolments, in part to bolster their bottom lines, many are turning to independent contractors, known as agents, to represent them overseas. This practice has proved controversial, however. Critics argue that recruiters are often more interested in making money than serving students or institutions. They also say that the way many of them are paid, on a per-student commission basis, encourages unethical behaviour. Proponents say agents are cost-effective and can best assist foreign students because they speak the same language and understand the local culture. While there have been examples of abuses, due diligence by institutions and a broader reliance on standards and certification procedures can curb bad behaviour, the proponents say.

University drop out rates tied to preparedness not laziness

21 June 2011

Research from the University of Western Ontario observes that approximately 40% of students who quit university do so because of what they learn about their own academic ability, based primarily on the marks they receive after arriving on campus. On average, students enrol in university overly optimistic about their likely performance, predicting they will obtain far higher marks than what they actually get in their first term. As a result, many students learn over the course of their studies that university is not a good match for them academically, and they decide to drop out. Based on findings from a long-term panel study surveying students from low income families, the study concludes that new policies must be put in place that target individuals at much younger ages to better prepare them for a quality post-secondary education, especially for those who choose to study math or science.

Australian generations oral history project

17 June 2011

Australian Generations will pioneer new ways of creating, interpreting and presenting oral history. Life history interviews with 300 Australians born between 1920 and 1990 will create a digital audio archive of 1500 hours of recordings which will be hosted by the National Library of Australia. Future researchers will benefit from online access to an immensely rich national oral history collection.The project will also produce two books and one of Australia’s most ambitious radio history series.

Learning in Networks of Knowledge website launched

17 June 2011

ALTC Fellow Matthew Allen, professor of Internet Studies at Curtin University, has recently completed work on the Learning in Networks of Knowledge (LINK) website, a resource aimed to provide academics with a rich set of resources to support their work in developing network enabled learning.  Professor Allen, who is also a previous ALTC Teaching Award winner, said the website is an extensive, practical guide to innovative uses of Web 2.0 applications for online learning in both distance and on-campus education.

Not by skills alone: need some getting of wisdom

16 June 2011

Wisdom has an image problem, according to Steven Schwartz  (V-C Macquarie University).  Wise people are not only portrayed as old, alien and weird but also bookish, risk averse and unemotional.  You might think that universities would hold a different view; after all, they are in the wisdom business. Well, you might think this but you would be wrong.  Every type of knowledge – massage therapy, homeopathy and circus-performing – is represented on campus, but the word “wisdom”is rarely mentioned.

Safety and quality issues deter O/S Students

15 June 2011

Australia’s visa changes may have played only a minor role in the current downturn in overseas enrolments, with Australia’s arrangements perceived as far less complex than those of the US and Britain, but quality and safety concerns weighing heavily against Australia.   A report by the New York-based Institute of International Education, Who Goes Where and Why?, highlights Australia and Britain as the most likely casualties of a global shift in student mobility patterns. As competition for internationally mobile students intensifies, countries that make themselves less attractive inevitably find they are losing ground, it says.

See also Overseas students: preferred study destinations .

Regional unis combine efforts

15 June 2011

An informal group of seven regional universities – comprising Central Queensland University, Charles Sturt, Southern Cross, Ballarat, the University of Southern Queensland and the University of the Sunshine Coast - may be the first step towards creating a new sectoral body with its lobbying focused as much on Simon Crean’s department of Regional Australia as it is on the departments of education and research.  Under the informal banner of the Consortium of Regional Universities, the institutions put in a joint submission to the base funding review.

VU TAFE scholarships

14 June 2011

Victoria University has invited TAFE students who are experiencing financial difficulty a to apply for a scholarship.  Scholarships available are:

    • VU Access Scholarship – worth $1000 per year for up to four years
    • John Byrne scholarship for refugees. There is one scholarship valued at $1000.
  • Khoto Australia Victorian Taxi Association scholarship for an accredited taxi driver who is enrolled at Victoria University. There is one scholarship valued at $2000.

How do you transition a trade region dependent on brown coal to a low-carbon economy?

14 June 2011

It seemed a perfect opportunity to reskill a workforce and keep a local economy alive.  A Welsh steel factory was closing down, just at the time when Professor Peter Fairbrother was in the UK working on transition plans for the European steel industry. But instead, the one-size-fits-all efforts of the local authorities became the perfect example of well-meant ineptitude.   Since arriving in Australia in 2009, Fairbrother has turned his focus on a region expected to be one of the hardest hit by the difficult transition to a low-carbon economy. Home to the state’s huge brown coal deposits and four power generators, the Latrobe Valley in Victoria’s south-east is one of Australia’s most trade-exposed regions but talk on the ground is about future opportunities, rather than mourning the past.

More Australian students grasp university opportunities

14 June 2011
The Commonwealth  Government’s reforms and investments in higher education are resulting in more Australian students grasping the opportunities that a university education offers,  according to Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans.  Analysis released today by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations shows that applications by students from disadvantaged backgrounds iare up up by 12.7% since 2009 – compared with increases of 9.7% for medium-SES applicants and 5.3% for high-SES applicants. since 2009.

Sally Walker awarded Order of Australia

13 June 2011

Professor Sally Walker,  former Vice-Chancellor of Deakin University Victoria, has been made a Member of  the Order of Australia for “for service to the higher education sector through leadership and administrative roles, to the advancement of women, and to the law as an academic”.

Victorian Government invites funding applications from ACFE organisations

10 June 2011

The Victorian Minister for Higher Education and Skills is inviting Victoria’s Adult and Community Further Education  (Learn Local) providers to apply for grants of up to $150,000, with $3 million available under round 2 of the ACFE  Capacity and Innovation Fund program.   Details are available at www.acfe.vic.gov.au .

Year 12 has its benefits but is not for everyone

10 June 2011

Young people who complete Year 12 tend to make a more successful transition from school to work, but employment outcomes for those who complete an apprenticeship or traineeship are just as good.  Year 12 completion and youth transitions looks at young people who are at risk of making an unsuccessful transition from school to work and finds that for young men, completing an apprenticeship provides the best pathway to employment, followed by completing Year 12.

VESKI Announces New Innovation Fellows

10 June 2011

The Victorian  Government has announced Dr Matthew Call, a structural biologist from Harvard Medical School and Dr Christopher McNeill, an expatriate Australian scientist from Cambridge University as  winners of the 2011 Victorian Endowment for Science, Knowledge and Innovation (VESKI).

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