Birrell warns of IT oversupply

Plus is university accreditation obsolete and help for sessional staff

Melody lingers on

Ian “the gent” Young is rehearsing for his farewell VC tour at ANU – with a fit-to-beat-the band blue in the music school. Which is where he came in. Back in 2012 Professor Young announced the music school as it then existed was unsustainable. (CMM wearing a different hat wrote the story here). And now the VC, with DVC Marnie Hughes Warrington, faced music students upset at resignations and resources at a meeting yesterday. CMM hears everybody there was not (sorry) on-song.

Akolade

Jobs for Julia

Julia Gillard’s lecture for the University of Adelaide in the Bonython Hall next Thursday was booked out in an hour but demand is such the university will also screen it online and via an outside broadcast on the Goodman Crescent lawns. Ms Gillard also went down well when she spoke at the Tertiary Education Managers conference in Wollongong on Tuesday (below). CMM has no idea if she wants to do more in education than the occasional lecture but plenty of people wish she would.

Talent on display

David Bowser understands how tough life can be for casual academics. Even as a senior neuroscientist he got sick of wondering where the next research grant would come from and so he relates to the condition of the casual, dreaming of time for research and dreading the prospect of a semester without work. But instead of sympathy Dr Bowser has done something far more practical, created a marketplace where sellers and buyers of teaching skills can find each other. It’s a website called Sessions, which lets educators post their details and teaching areas on an easily searchable site where course coordinators can find talent fast. “Sessions includes simple, easy to use tools for managing recruitment of educators. These include multiple shortlists, rating applicants, tagging, contacting referees and communicating directly with candidates all within the application,” Dr Bowser says. And yes it’s free for educators looking for work.

Permanent disruption

The great change in the way the world learns is far more pervasive than MOOCS, according to RMIT VC Martin Bean. “The disruption is not really about MOOCs but about the internet, which has moved from content centric to people centric, a world changing tool for access to knowledge,” the knowledge entrepreneur told a recent Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand round table in Melbourne.

“The boundary of MOOCs is between credit bearing learning and non-credit bearing learning. The Internet disrupts entrenched business models and breaks up units of consumption,” Mr Bean said.

So what to do? A way forward for universities is to “tie their brands” to professional associations. “This system is recognised by employers when it appears on LinkedIn, and so can be easily searched by employers,” he added.

But the overall challenge for universities and professional associations is “think deeply about educating for life and how to measure educational value. How can learning and teaching be more engaging for labour market needs?” Good question, which makes one thing very clear indeed – professional faculties and the industry standards groups they work with aren’t on a campus in Kansas anymore.

ANU June 4

Blow away

At ANU PhD student Billy O Foghlu has used a 3D printer to make a replica of an iron-age artefact, which was thought to be a spearbutt but now is thought to have been the mouthpiece for a horn. CMM likes horns as played by the great Mr Davis but the idea of printing part of an ancient instrument would surely have made Miles smile.

Off campus accreditation

Professional and academic accounting organisations have long worked on how to ensure graduates have, and are seen to have, the skills employers need but it is a lot more complex than it used to be. Both issues were addressed in the recent Chartered Accountants ANZ round table (above) by veterans of accounting education. James Guthrie, head of academic relations for CA ANZ pointed out, “in the 1970s in accounting there were two professional bodies to provide accreditation, no guidelines and open space compared to today where there are a variety of players – TEQSA , AACSB, Equis, CA ANZ, IFAC educational standards, Professions Australia. Moreover, this accreditation relates not just to university courses but also to lifelong learning where there are significant opportunities for training and certification.”

The University of Sydney’s Mark Freeman pointed to the importance of industry accreditation to students in a “future that relies more on people being contractors rather than employees, and where the ability to signal ability is crucial. Professional membership and accreditation contribute valuable signals in the trust economy.”  Which leaves testamurs where?

From ninja to pirate

WSU humanities academic James “Jack Sparrow” Arvanitakis loves a cultural mash-up. Back in March he reported on a China trip where he promoted good teaching and learned about it, “like an academic ninja” (CMM March 23. And now he is at the equally exotic University of Canberra, where DVC Nicholas Klomp says Dr A  is, “sharing ideas with our academic leaders about how to teach like a pirate.”

Confident about campus

Julia Gillard would not be drawn on past or present politics in her Tuesday address to the Tertiary Education Managers Conference on Tuesday, focusing on the future instead. She told delegates that they faced planning challenges as technology would roll out in ways we cannot anticipate. But she said that the campus was here to stay that the university experience was a path to maturity for students and that scholars and teachers wanted to talk in the same room.

Birrell warns on IT oversupply

For decades at Monash University, Bob Birrell worked with big data, long before the expression appeared, to assess the shape and state of Australian society. He continues his work as president of the Australian Population Research Institute where he goes where the data directs. His latest journey off the path of popular wisdom is to question whether we are as short of STEM graduates as everybody assumes. Not that he denies the importance of the STEM subjects, he just wonders what graduates, notably in IT will do. (The research appears in the new issue of the Australian Universities Review).

While domestic IT enrolments dropped from 11 500 in 2003 to 6200 in 2009 numbers bounced back by 29 per cent between then and 2013. The problem is that more grads will hit the job market, where there is not enough work for them. Dr Birrell argues that while 83 per cent of the 2008 class found full time, work the figure dropped to 67 per cent in 2014.

There are three reasons for the problem he foresees, the absence of a local IT development industry, competition from skilled migrants and organisations sending their support functions offshore. And so he warns of a repeat of the collapse in student demand following the dot com crash

criterion update

Crash test dummies

In the first episode of West Wing (so long ago Martin Sheehan delivered his lines in Latin) POTUS fell off his bicycle, thus interrupting Sam Seaborn’s evening, It was meant to signal that brilliant but middle-aged people had no business on bikes. Nobody listened. According to Dr Benjamin Breyer from the University of California, San Francisco, the per centage of US bicycle accidents involving over 45s who were admitted to hospital went from 39 per cent to 65 per cent between 1998 and 2013.

Read More

Know something the world needs to know? Anonymity guaranteed but lots of questions asked, stephen4@hotkey.net.au