WA Government set to change uni councils

Plus campus parking: it’s harder than it looks and protecting people with low ATARS

The great assembled

Today’s collective noun for vice chancellors comes from policy commentator Gavin Moodie, “a lack of principals.” Such cynicism from one so young.

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 Consumer protection

In the low ATAR equates with idiocy argument the interests of one key group is being ignored – people who are allowed into programmes they may struggle to compete. As policy analyst Andrew Norton puts it; “prospective students are not being informed of the risks they are taking. Universities say that they are looking at what predicts success other than ATAR, but only rarely do they release any evidence of this that can be checked by independent analysts. The regulator’s vague statements are less than confidence inspiring. The numbers of people taking major risks are not that large in the context of total enrolments. But we should be doing more to ensure that they are making decisions that are in their own long-term interests.”

Clark Kerr’s law of cold parking

A veteran of really cold climates suggests parking problems here (CMM on university parking for the last few days) can’t compare to Canada where the waiting list for a much-wanted faculty spot on a campus where he worked was 13 years – it came with a power supply to stop engines freezing during the day.

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WA university councils set for change

The Western Australian government has confirmed long anticipated changes to the state’s university act. Education Minister Peter Collier has advised National Tertiary Education Union state president, Stuart Blunt, that legislation is coming to reduce the size of university governing councils and vary staff and student representation on them. Details are expected in departmental briefings in coming weeks, followed no doubt by university staff and student protests if elected positions on councils go.

The legislation will also address the 2013 Seare’s report, which called for changes to university acts to allow them to undertake commercial activities, including property development (CMM November 5). However, “it is unclear at this stage the extent to which university management will have a free hand to engage in activities that are not consistent with their core functions and characteristics, “ the union reports. This could be a problem for Murdoch University, which has acres upon acres it wants to develop.

Nothing VETS haven’t heard before

Just days after Kaye Bowman and Suzy McKenna published their history of VET reform (CMM January 19) it is already out of date with a new discussion paper released by Training Minister Luke Hartsuyker on the quality of assessment in vocational education and training.

CMM suspects the paper is part of Mr Hartsuyker’s plan to restore the credibility of the for-profit training sector. “While the majority of training providers do the right thing, some students have complained that assessments are ‘too easy’ or that people are being ‘let through’ when they are not ready. Equally, employers are concerned that too many students are graduating without the necessary skills and knowledge for the jobs on offer,” the minister said yesterday.

Among a mass of ideas for discussion the paper proposes consideration of a VET professional association, presumably along the lines of the discussion running since 2011.

Other proposals include assessment of industry competencies before a student is issued with a qualification and plain English statements so employers know what a worker with a particular qualification can do. Good-o but that after a century of VET the industry is still discussing these things gives CMM no confidence at all that anything will be settled for good.

Name recognition

Edith Cowan University terrorism expert Anne Azza Aly is the new Labor candidate for the Perth electorate of Cowan. Sitting Liberal Luke Simpkins held the seat in 2013 with 49.5 per cent of the primary vote and healthy 57 per cent on preferences however the recent redistribution makes it less safe for the conservatives. Working at a university with the same name as the seat will not hurt Dr Aly either.

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All directions covered

The University of the Sunshine Coast is expanding again with a study centre targeting international students in Melbourne. The new venture is a partnership with a private provider and follows the November move to teach business in Brisbane, also to internationals (CMM November 27).

While USC goes south its neighbour to the north, CQU is going west, with plans to expand in WA. Funnily enough neither talks of going east – perhaps there is no unmet demand in Fiji.

CQU presented its plans for the golden west to students and supporters in a Perth pub. Apparently a “highlight” was a raffle with the prize being a room for the night at the hotel. CQU is silent as to who won it and whether they used it straightaway with somebody they had just met at the function.

Crowding round

CMM is a big fan of Deakin U’s programme to crowd fund research and a  great admirer of the university’s  “this” (think of The Atlantic’s Quartz). So a story about the former in the latter is worth reading, although how to crowd fund what could actually become a commercial TV series is a bit of a step from the science, which is Deakin’s usual focus.

Guff of the month

Thanks to a Monash correspondent for the winner of CMM’s guff of the month award. It’s education services provider Pearson’s take on its new corporate livery “Nothing like a new year for trying out a new look. But behind our new logo and splash of new colours for 2016, there’s something fundamental that will never change about us – a belief that education has the power to change the world.” But for the worse, at least for the 4000 people Pearson is firing after a slow down in US demand for its services (CMM January 25).

Certified parking

A senior staffer at a university with plenty of parking proposes a practical training course in its use (sorry it’s a competency not a scholarly discipline). “Universities have some of the least competent driving and parking I’ve ever seen. I’m waiting until the tax breaks for private providers reach their peak and then I can realise my dream of being a car parking course provider. It can’t be long before a cert IV in car parking is a professional development requirement.”

CMM read the guide and decided it was the work of a sense of humour less dry than arid, for example. “Our courses aim to take you from home to work in one smooth and event-free self-drive journey. It is to this end we offer an elective program on roads, drawing together key knowledge from previous courses to communicate to participants the idea of a space shared between the participant and ‘the other’. For 2 hours a week over 10 weeks participants will begin with a simple map and make the transition from a line on a page to a shared reality. Tasks include recognising a road, acknowledging lines and using a mirror to see other drivers.”

But then again, maybe its serious. It should only take ASQA a year or so to accredit it.

Obscure no more

Yesterday CMM reported the five Skills Services Organisations, which will develop industry training packages for the feds. PricewaterhouseCooopers aside, industry experts told CMM, they were largely unknown – a situation a correspondent decided to correct. It turns out that one of the obscure four, Australian Industry Standards is the new business name for what was the Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council. Artibus Innovation is a Tasmanian consultancy. Skills IQ is a combination of two industry skills councils, Service Skills and Community Services and Health and Skills Impact is a partnership of the National Farmers Federation and the Forestworks ISC. Nothing remarkable about any of this but it is the sort of industry information that must be on the record.

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Answer according to ASQA

Perhaps the Australian Skills Quality Authority could develop a training package for handwringing, it certainly excels at it. Throughout 2015 one ASQA response to the exploitation of people by rorters in the training industry was to explain what it exists to do, which does not appear to be much. And now a new ASQA report details what’s wrong with training for the security (as in bouncers not the bourse) industry and what somebody should do about it. Just not ASQA alone.

As coronial inquiries over the years make clear the industry has problems – people get killed in the process of removing and being removed from clubs and pubs, which obviously should not happen. But not all of ASQA’s proposals to address the problem encourage confidence, for example,

“While licensing authorities agree that consistency in jurisdictional licensing arrangements will be helpful, they consider this will only address the current problems with mutual recognition if all other things are equal, including the duration of courses and the regulatory framework governing registered training organisations providing the training and assessment. This requires action by the training package developers to ensure the training package explicitly details industry’s requirements and thus enhances ASQA’s ability to regulate the training and assessment delivered by registered training organisations.”

If you think picking one par for quotation is unfair, have a look at the whole report for yourself. It is an excellent example of failed federalism and cumbersome regulation. A couple of weeks back Education Minister Simon Birmingham told CMM (January 14) that “ASQA probably confronted a ‘perfect storm’ as a new national regulator bringing different schemes in different jurisdictions together. Problems were also compounded by “unprecedented growth in state training schemes and Canberra’s VET FEE HELP system,” but that the agency has “caught up” with problems in private training providers and is sending “clear signals” to the industry. Generous to a fault the senator is.

 

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