Chubb goes in glory

Plus No Happy Feat: UK Publisher Penguin says job applicants don’t need degrees 

No such thing as a free Fitbit

University giveaways for hundreds of commencing students can run to tablets and laptops (CMM is looking at you WSU) but Deakin is much more modest, offering a Fitbit Charge and a brand-name hoodie. Yes, just one each and students have to enter a competition to win them.

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Farewell Address

Ian Chubb ends his nearly five years as chief scientist today and has delivered a parting message to the science community.

“I can only say to scientists: don’t flinch. Do your work; do it according to the trusted methods of ethical science and talk regularly to the public. Encourage the public to walk with you and learn with you. Their support, and the weight and quality of evidence, must always trump make-believe.

“There is no other path to the future that I believe Australians want than to put science at the core of everything we do – a future of rising living standards, good jobs for those who seek them, healthy communities to enjoy and wondrous places to explore.

Nor is there any prospect of growing the pie, or sharing it fairly, without an education system that prepares all children to be part of a world that relies substantially on science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Professor Chubb says.

And he leaves endorsing the government’s innovation and science strategy, one which he played a big role in creating. “If it is implemented in the spirit the prime minister has called for – as a living document to be evaluated, adapted and extended – it can make an important difference. There’s a different and better Australia to make; and we can do it if we have the passion, patience and persistence.”

In addition to serving as VC at Flinders and ANU, Ian Chubb has been a policy giant of education, training and research for 25 years plus. It is hard to imagine the policy world without him – but CMM wonders whether we will have to try just yet. As Prime Minister Turnbull told Professor Chubb in October, “I know that you won’t ever truly retire, in fact it’s a very bad thing to retire.”

“If in coming months you do get some rest, which I doubt, having regard to your hyperactive personality, it will be well earned, if improbable. You have been a champion of science and you have done so much to lift the esteem of scientists and science teachers around the country. Even when science has been under attack, you have never flinched and you have always stood up for science and its central importance in Australia, both today and in our future.”

Quite right PM.

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Good news

Business analysts Ibis report higher education will grow by 3.6 per cent this year. The growth will come thanks to demand driven funding of undergraduate places and the industry recruiting more international students, “who present universities with an opportunity to boost revenue.”

Bad news

A reader points to publisher Penguin joining other UK companies in no longer making a degree mandatory to work there.

“While graduates remain welcome to apply for jobs, not having been through higher education will no longer preclude anyone from joining and progressing their career with Penguin Random House UK – if they have the skills and the potential. The move is also designed to send a clear message to job-seekers who have been through higher education that the university they attended will not impact their chance of success,” the Penguins state.

Ah, university marketing directors reply, “what Penguin wants is people who are work-ready and so forth and so on, with critical thinking skills blah blah. Surveys show employers prefer hiring our graduates to Nobel laureates etc etc.”

The higher education urgers have a point, just an archaic one. Job seekers will still need to pick up the skills and knowledge employers need and CMM suspects Penguin will not be running in-house courses on accounting, editing, marketing in-house. So while job applicants may not need degrees they will need the competencies and education required to work in publishing and if universities are expensive but not mandatory other suppliers, like MOOCs will step up.

This will not mean alternatives to straight undergraduate degrees but at the professional masters level customised collections of courses that equip people for career starts in all sorts of industries will start appearing on-line. Just like the Melbourne model, only much cheaper.

Of course it will be a while until employers are comfortable with job applicants claiming a collection of competencies acquired from all over is the same as a degree. But commercial providers are already supplying things along these lines. Get Qualified Australia shows clients how to use recognition of prior learning “to meet the evidence requirements of one or more units of competency”.

Could be good, could be bad

Despite an economy breathing unassisted while Europe is on life-support, and a declining rate of youth unemployment, young Australians are gloomy about their job prospects. “It can be difficult to break into the job market straight out of school or even tertiary education. People at the beginning of their career may find it difficult to get their foot in the door and are often the first to go with job downturns, which may lead to some disillusion,” says Uni Melbourne business dean Paul Kofman.

So what can universities do? He’s glad you asked.

“We must continue to grow opportunities in partnership with industry for young people to gain experience, learn practical skills and develop business networks. Ideally, those learning experiences are co-curricular, rather than extra-curricular. This means moving away from work placements that are merely considered a screening process for future employment, towards a work experience where both the student and the employer view it as investing in capacity.”

Good-o – some universities are already onto it. Like Macquarie U, which wants to offer all undergraduates “the opportunity” of an internship as part of their programme by 2025 (CMM April 7 2015).

CMM suspects this might not give Macquarie any lasting advantage. If students started to expect real work experience as a part of the undergraduate experience other institutions would follow.

ANU Dec 15 3

Still standing

Rod Camm did not have a great 2015 as head of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training, with his upright members being unfairly associated with the spivs who despoiled the VET FEE HELP system. It ended particularly badly with the government’s rushed legislation to try to stop the rorting rot. As Mr Camm puts it, “ACPET actually supports the intent of the changes, but their legislative implementation allows no discretion to separate quality providers from others. This alone has grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory.”

The Department of Education is telling private providers that they should shed students to remain within an “arbitrary cap” under temporary VET FEE HELP legislation for 2016, Mr Camm says. “This is a poor approach,” he understatedly suggests.

ANU Sept 15

Close the deal

With Gail Gago gone SA premier Jay Wetherill has given her training portfolio to education minister Susan Close, promoted into that portfolio barely 12 months ago. Dr Close is a former director of student services at the University of Adelaide. That will surely help in training, which should be about student not bureaucrat needs. And so much for the common SA assumption that the government loathes Uni Adelaide and all its works. But a local training veteran wonders whether it is wise to combine training with education instead of the employment/industry combo. “Education offices are usually obsessed with schooling under the Act, the protection of the minister and staffed by dysfunctional ex-teachers who still want all the school holidays,” the vet suggests.

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