The 2014 Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings show that while the majority of Australian universities have slipped on the ladder of the world’s leading institutions, seven still in rank in the world top 100 and twenty universities – half of the entire system – make the top 400.The top universities in Australia were: ANU at 27 (down 3 places from last year), Melbourne, (31, up 5 places) Sydney (38, up 1 place), University of Queensland (43, up 3), University of NSW (52, steady) Monash (=69, down 8 places) and the University of Western Australia (84, down 5 places)…..[ READ MORE ]….
Deakin and Monash universities are proposing to establish a network of regional medical training centres in Victoria in a direct challenge to rival plans from La Trobe and Charles Sturt for a new regional medical school, the Murray-Darling Medical School. They are seeking $15 million in federal government capital funding to upgrade facilities at Geelong and Bendigo in order to provide more regionally based training places for medical specialists and general practitioners. Small training centres would also be established at Warrnambool, Hamilton, Ballarat, Horsham, Colac, Mildura, Castlemaine, Traralgon and Bairnsdale…..[ READ MORE ]….
Margaret Sheil, the former head of the Australian Research Council and now provost at the University of Melbourne – a person you would expect to have a sound understanding of both the value and the cost of research – says that contrary to views within the incoming Coalition government, there’s little evidence of “fringe or wasteful” research. According to Sheil, the ARC grants process is highly detailed and accountable – a proposition that Coalition finance spokesperson Andrew Robb has seemed to agree with at the same time as decrying fringe research. He has said he is “appalled at the amount of time established researchers have to spend simply applying for grants.”….[ READ MORE ]….
The Queensland government has given the green light to the merger of Central Queensland University (CQU) and Central Queensland Institute of TAFE to create Australia’s sixth dual sector university, spanning both higher education and vocational education and training. CQU vice-chancellor Scott Bowman says the decision will change the face of post-school education and training in the central Queensland region…..[ READ MORE ]….
8 September 2013 | This wasn’t an election in which education was a key issue and tertiary education hardly figured at all. Here’s a collage of Scan articles over the past year or so touching on the Coalition’s approach to tertiary education, which provide assort of compass to the horizon….[ READ MORE ]….
Sector responses to new government
Australian university vice-chancellors, as well as lobby groups for the schools and TAFE sectors, have called on newly-elected Prime Minister Tony Abbott to focus strongly on education. Among the policies announced during the election campaign were a New Colombo Plan to boost foreign study in Asia, a review of the national schools curriculum, a greater emphasis on science and languages in teaching and research, and maintaining the increased funding promised by the previous government under the Better Schools scheme. The latter however will apply only for four years rather than six….[ READ MORE ]…..
Universities Australia’s policy statement, A Smarter Australia, provides the basis for early discussions on the framework needed for a vibrant university sector that is more than up to the task that the public expects of it….[ READ MORE ]
The Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN) says it looks forward to working with an incoming Abbott Government to ensure universities are central to the ‘open for business’ agenda of the Coalition Government….[ READ MORE ]….
What does it all mean?
The election of the Coalition government means, on the face of it, not a lot of change in the direction of higher education. In setting out the “seven pillars” of the Coalition’s higher education policy earlier this year, prime minister-designate Tony Abbott indicated there would be nothing new (including money), except the New Colombo Scheme, but he did promise “stability”. The Coalition education spokesperson (and presumably soon to be minister) has said the demand-driven will remain and that a Coalition government would not be fiddling with fees. Analysts quoted in The Australian appear agreed that the level of fees will certainly be on the table but, for the moment, that’s all speculation. A “commission of audit” into government finances is to report by year’s end, n order to assist the new government frame its first budget. So we don’t expect any certainty until May next year. In this opinion piece published in The Conversation, Griffith University’s Tony Shiel rummages through the entrails and, while generally optimistic, concludes there will be cuts and there will be some redirection of funding, give, for example, the apparent disdain with which senior members of the incoming government view some research in the humanities and social sciences.
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As the higher education sector begins to look to life under the 44th parliament, it might pause to consider the words of prime minister-elect Tony Abbott upon claiming victory on Saturday night [7 September]:
Now is the time to stop campaigning and start governing.
With the burden of office comes a sense of pragmatism. People behave differently once off the campaign trail – not immediately, but usually over the long term.
The incoming education minister, presumably Christopher Pyne with the possible support of Brett Mason in the higher education and research portfolio, will come to one immediate conclusion. On balance, they have inherited a portfolio in good health.
Under the previous Coalition government support for research and development in Australia as a proportion of GDP grew from around 1.5% in 2002 to almost 2.0% in 2007. Continued support under Labor saw that proportion move upwards over 2.2% edging closer to the OECD average which is around 2.3%.
For Australian research, the decade since 2002 has been kind with progressive increases in funding for people and projects, infrastructure and equipment. This has propelled 19 Australian universities into the Academic Ranking of World Universities top 500 and five into the top 100. This was helped by the additional funds created by expanding student places, which in turn led to a greater capacity to undertake more research.
For this they should thank their predecessors as far back as Coalition education ministers David Kemp and Brendan Nelson who gave us the Backing Australia’s Ability and Backing Australia’s Future innovation plans, former Liberal higher education minister Julie Bishop who brought us the Higher Education Endowment Fund, former Labor prime minister Julia Gillard for the uncapping of student places and the former Labor higher education minister Kim Carr for his commitment to senior, mid and early career fellowships plus Higher Degree Research scholarships.
The prime minister-elect also deserves an honourable mention here for his commitment as health minister to doubling the National Health and Medical Research Council budget.
No government would want to undo these accomplishments, especially when their own Coalition predecessors, including the incoming prime minster and foreign minister, were largely responsible.
But there will be cuts and there will be some redirection of funding. Those engaged in medical research and big science will be feeling more comfortable than colleagues in the humanities, arts and social sciences who might be entering a difficult period.
Tertiary sector analyst Gavin Moodie (RMIT) says that the three big ideas for higher education in the last term of government came not from Labor but from the Liberals, through Andrew Robb as opposition spokesman on finance.
The first big idea is that there is no reason why Australian educators couldn’t teach 10 million international students in a decade. Robb said the demand would be driven by Asia’s rising middle classes.
Robb’s second proposal, related to the first, is that Australian universities and TAFEs could team up with internet giants such as Google to roll out online platforms to teach Asia’s millions.
The third potentially big idea is the auditing of research grants. This was proposed most recently in the Coalition’s policy released just before the election by Jamie Briggs, chairman of the Coalition’s scrutiny of government waste committee. But this, too, originated from Robb. Late last year he criticised as wasteful grants from the Australian Research Council in medieval history, Renaissance history, literature and ethics. He proposed a process to “weed out the unjustifiable in order to support the genuinely meaningful”.
Perhaps in anticipation of post-election fee increases, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has launched the My Student Debt website, complete with a national calculator, to highlight ballooning student HELP (HECS) debt. Australian students have accumulated debt from their university study of over $34 billion and the NTEU estimates that outstanding HELP debt is increasing by $500,000 an hour or $12 million a day.
We haven’t run any good news for ages. The good news section celebrates the achievements and contributions of our tertiary education and training institutions, their staff and their students. This item was first published in August 2012 but now has a video clip link added.
Teachabout is an organisation set up by University of Melbourne students and ex-students to run school holiday programs for children in remote communities. It was established in 2010, with funding from the university and the Cybec Foundation charitable fund, by a group of students from Melbourne University’s Trinity College who had visited Minyerri in the Northern Territory the previous year.
But the Teachabout people wanted the program to be more than just a boredom cure.
So our program has a twist…We incorporate literacy and numeracy into fun, engaging activities with a fundamental commitment to community involvement and cultural activities. Our aim is to contribute to a brighter education future for kids in remote communities.
The Mysteries of Thera: Pompeii of the Bronze Age Aegean 24 August
The University of Melbourne presents the 2013 Faculty of Arts Winter Series of masterclasses designed to expand horizons, enliven the mind and enrich the soul this Melbourne winter. The masterclasses are scheduled over a series of weekends in winter and into spring, featuring the university’s most celebrated teachers and public intellectuals.