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Research block funding announced
Research block indexed grant funding is up by more than $100 million this year across universities, with the Group of Eight maintaining the lion’s share, at 64.8%, up slightly from last year’s 64.5%. Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research Minister Chris Evans has confirmed a total of $1.63 billion for initiatives such as the Research Training Scheme, the Commercialisation Training Scheme and Sustainable Research Excellence and funding for domestic and international postgraduate candidates. The list of grants was headed by The University of Melbourne with $191.7 million (16.4%) and the University of Sydney with $175.3 (15.1%).
Deal to “save” synchnotron???
Australia’s synchrotron, one of the country’s most important scientific facilities, is on the brink of securing enough new financing to avoid an ignominious shutdown, after uncertainty as to sources of future funding when the current agreement with the Victorian government expires on 30 June. A four-year, $90 million-plus rescue package involving the Commonwealth and Victorian governments and universities is being finalised close to a deadline to alert corporate regulators to a shutdown, reports The Australian. Last year it was reported that the synchnotron could be doomed when the then new Baillieu government failed to commit any funding beyond 2012.
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).
Uni offers up – but by how much?
New data from the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIISRTE) show that Queensland has led the increase in university offers this year while Western Australia has actually gone backwards. However, in its report on the data, The Australian points to significant discrepancies between DIISRTE data, data released by Tertiary Admissions Centres (TACs) and data compiled by The Australian itself from information provided by universities. Victorian data differs in particular, with DIISRTE estimating almost 18,000 fewer undergraduate offers have been made in the state than the 68,600 claimed by VTAC. Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans said the national total of just over 220,000 undergraduate offers this year came on the back of three years of strong growth. He said the number of offers had risen by about 4 per cent this year. Last year almost 212,000 offers were made through the early, main and late rounds, according to DEEWR. But most of the TACs claim to have made significantly more offers than those listed in DIISRTE’s state-by-state breakdown. Many universities have also ramped up their direct offers, suggesting this year’s increase could be substantially above 4 per cent. In Victoria, VTAC first round offers were up by 6.5% See also Victoria leads the pack) . A spokesman for the Minister said the varying figures from the different agencies could relate to the time at which the data was provided and the possible inclusion of offers for VET or postgraduate places.
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.
India mission stresses “quality provision”
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.
Meanwhile, there are faint signs of a recovery in demand from the sub-continent. Indian students already living in Australia accounted for every second visa issued for vocational education and training. In the second half of last year, onshore VET grants to Indians rose 84.5% to 15,031, making up 46.7% of the total in the second half of 2011, as against 36.4% the previous year. Observers are reported to be puzzled about this trend because onshore demand was expected to shift to higher education, which offers better hope of permanent residency under reformed rules for skilled migration. Applications for higher education visas from India recovered somewhat to 3648 in the last six months of last year after their virtual collapse (from over 22,000 in 2008/09 to just 5000 in 2009/10).
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.
Australia rates highly in uni cities index
Rankings that judge Paris the world’s best university city, and Melbourne at No 4, have also thrown up apparent anomalies. Cairo is in the top 50, based on affordability, which is an Australian weak point. Mexico City, likewise rated highly affordable, also makes the new Best Student Cities 2012 index from global rankings company QS. Other measures include academic performance, quality of living, employer activity and student mix. All mainland Australian cities are listed, the largest representation for any country. Sydney is sixth, Brisbane is 22, Perth is 25 and Adelaide is 29. QS director of research Ben Sowter noted Australia’s strong performance other than for cost of living and tuition fees. “Take away the affordability factor and Melbourne would move into first position, with Sydney not far behind,” Mr Sowter said.
VET completion rates a mixed bag
A survey by NCVER in 2011 showed that at or near the time of their enrolment, about 90% of students enrolled in a VET qualification indicate their intention to actually complete the qualification. Research published this week by NCVER – Lifting the lid on completion rates in the VET sector: how they are defined and derived – suggests that actual completion rates for people undertaking VET courses are quite modest. The projected qualification completion rate for all students starting Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) qualifications in 2008 over the whole of Australia is 28%, while for full-time VET students aged 25 years and under, the figure rises to 37%. There is considerable variation in completion rates broken down by field of education and qualification level. For example, for full-time VET students, aged 25 and under, certificate III qualifications have a considerably higher completion rate (46%) than the other levels. However, the research also shows the subject load pass rate for all VET students is quite high, at 80%. So taken altogether, the research shows that subjects attempted are completed but that students are not completing the whole qualification. There are likely to be a number of explanations for the disparity between intentions and subject pass rates and actual course completion rates, beyond sudden disinterest, including moving on to better suited or higher AQF level courses. The report also finds that in general, the pay-offs from completion are positive, but the size of the pay-off is much larger for some groups of students than for others. And there is no pay off at all for a sizeable proportion of course completers. While training helps people not in the workforce into jobs, only around 61% of students can expect higher wages upon completion.
More students, not less, is better
In response to Frank Furedi, Conor King (Innovative Research Universities) observes that more students may not make us smarter but then nor will fewer: it depends on what they learn. While we do not need everyone to have university level education it is a reasonable argument that nearly all would be better off with some post school training and education across the range of vocational and higher education. And as to the government’s target for 40 per cent of those 25-34 to have a bachelor, we should focus on ensuring universities can provide the education needed, not on excluding people from them.
Student staff ratios vary widely
New data suggests wildly varying staff-student ratios at Australian universities, with students at the worst-performing institution enjoying only a third of the staff access as those at the other end of the scale. The figures, contained in belatedly published 2010 equity and staffing data, were released as Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans castigated his department about the quality and timeliness of its data. The staff-student ratio varied from one-to-16 at the University of NSW to one-to-47.62 at Central Queensland University. But Richard James, professor of higher education at the University of Melbourne, said published staff-student ratios were notoriously misleading. He said the published data did not reflect reality, since the methodology failed to factor in sessional teachers and those engaged in teaching support.
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
$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”.
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.
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.