The Scan 19 April 2012

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Salary showdown on cards

Universities and the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) appear headed for a showdown over a claim for pay rises of more than 20% over 3 years.  The NTEU is expected to seek annual salary increases of 7% for staff – a claim branded ludicrous by the employer group, the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association.  It warned that universities would be more “hardnosed” in the coming rounds of enterprising bargaining and foreshadowed pay outcomes “much less” than those achieved in the last agreement.  TheUniversityofSydney, which is already at loggerheads with the NTEU over proposed redundancies, will be the first to enter the bargaining fray when its enterprise agreement expires on 31 May.  NTEU assistant national secretary Matt McGowan acknowledged that there is a degree of ambit in the proposed claim but said that with staff being asked to deliver more and more with less and less, you can’t continue to squeeze people and not provide compensation.  Job security and further limits on casual employment are likely to be repeat features of the coming rounds.


TEQSA investigates UQ “enrolment irregularity”

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency has launched an investigation into the University of Queensland after an “enrolment irregularity” that forced the resignations of its vice-chancellor and deputy vice-chancellor. Last year a “close relative” of vice-chancellor Paul Greenfield was offered a place in the university’s prestigious medicine course without meeting the full entry requirements. An internal review found that, in addition toGreenfield’s close relative, 10 students were admitted to the medicine course in its first round of admissions by what was known as a “manual entry” – where the university selected students outside the automatic academic cut-off procedures.



The Australian  investigates journalism schools

Following up the exposure of apparent “soft marking” of 2 international journalism students at the University of Canberra The Australian’s Media and Higher Ed editors explain their investigation into the nation’s journalism schools and reveal their findings.

VIDEO: Journalism schools investigated

Would it be too cynical to speculate whether this might have something to do with the Finkelstein Report?

The Canberra Times reports that UC vice-chancellor Steven Parker has returned early from an overseas trip to deal with the marking issue and a couple of other controversies,  Parker proposes to appoint an independent investigator report on the marking issue  because of his concern at how these allegations might undermine UC’s reputation.


Harvard academic to lead Macquarie

Professor S. Bruce Dowton has been appointed the next Vice-Chancellor and President of Macquarie University, succeeding Steven Schwartz who retires later this year.  Dowton is currently Clinical Professor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and until recently was Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Partners Harvard Medical International.  Dowton is also an Emeritus Professor at theUniversity ofNew South Wales where he was Dean of theSchool ofMedicine between 1998 and 2005. During that time, he was a member of the Board of St. Vincent’s and Mater Health Sydney, Chair of the Deans of Australian Medical Schools, and Chair of the Medical Training and Education Council of New South Wales. Macquarie chancellor Michael Egan says Dowton has a stellar international reputation is “a passionate and visionary leader, who is committed to ‘the pursuit of knowledge and learning as a key to improving the human condition.”


Queensland to quit ASQA?

Queensland may back out of an agreement to refer its vocational training regulatory powers to the new national regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority, as the newly installed Newman government puts its predecessor’s skills policies under the microscope.  A spokeswoman for new Education, Training and Employment Minister John-Paul Langbroek said it the issue is “currently under consideration”.  If Queensland backs out, that will leave ASQA with full jurisdiction over only three of the six states – NSW,South Australia andTasmania- and the territories  ASQA regulates only about half the providers inVictoria and a third of those in WA, after both states opted out of the plan to establish the national regulator in late 2009.  In a contested move, the Commonwealth subsequently claimed oversight of Victorian and WA colleges with international students and those operating across state borders.  The  Queensland government intends to establish a skills and training taskforce to “reform and revamp” the training system.


Integration agenda seems to have softened

The Commonwealth government seems to be back-pedalling on moves for more integration of the higher education and VET systems, says University of Ballarat v-c David Battersby.  While the proposed introduction of a common training entitlement, income-contingent loans for higher level VET qualifications and the tracking of skills and qualifications of VET students provide opportunities for lessening fragmentation of the complex VET system, on the broader agenda, the COAG reforms indicate a softening of the government’s previous enthusiasm for greater integration.  It is already clear that the two regulatory frameworks governing the VET and higher education systems (TEQSA and ASQA) are unlikely to coalesce as initially envisaged.  In the 84 page report Skills for All Australians, the word “university” gets only four fleeting mentions and this is in the context that the government is now completing its reforms of higher education and is turning its attention to VET.  He notes there is a complete oversight in the report about dual-sector universities which, in the case of Victoria and the Northern Territory, are major providers of VET.  Likewise, the report makes no mention of the active involvement of a number of other universities in the VET space and the significant interface that is now occurring between TAFE and universities.  He concludes that the increasing rhetoric about the training needs of the new economy seems to be reinforcing a sentiment espoused by the Murray Committee in 1957 when it proffered the view that the key role of vocational training is simply to produce “the technicians and craftsmen for whom there is urgent national need”.  Real tertiary education, for the Murray Committee, had to be left to others.


Award for online learning site

Two academics from the University of NSW’s Collegeof Fine Artshave been recognised for their work in online learning, winning an award from an American organisation dedicated to spreading new ways of teaching and learning.  Karin Watson and Simon McIntyre, the project leaders behind COFA’s Learning to Teach Online series, have won the 2012 MERLOT award for Exemplary Online Learning Resources, and will present at the fifth annual international symposium for Emerging Technologies for Online Learning in the US later this year.  The first videos for the project went up on October 26, 2010. Since then, the host page has had 138,000 unique browsers, from 138 countries.  The UK, US andAustralia are the top users of the site, but it is popular in Spain and Norway as well.


Go8 unis top My University visits

The government has produced its own popularity league table from the new My University website in which the top spots are so far dominated by high-status Group of Eight universities in the most populous states.  There have been 73,000 visitors since the site’s launch on 3 April, amounting to 565,00 page views. The University of Sydney tops the hit list, with 5547 visitors in just two weeks. It is followed by the University of NSW with 5121,Melbourne with 4241 and Queensland with 3556. Macquarie, Monash, Australian National University, Australian Catholic University,University  of Technology Sydney and Charles Sturt made up the rest of the top 10.  At the bottom were University of theSunshineCoast with 664, Ballarat with 741 and Charles Darwin with 758.


Finding a measure of the uni value add

An Australian version of the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) as part of a suite of performance measurement instruments that aim improve transparency in university performance.  Public and political pressure for more information on the quality of tertiary institutions and how well their students do is not confined to Australia. This article from the New York Times outlines approaches adopted in the United States and confirms how difficult and contentious assessing quality can be.


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