Adelaide’s Bebbington breaks ranks and Pyne applauds

Chris has it covered

Good to see Education Minister Christopher Pyne has everything so under control that he can travel to the UK a bare two weeks before the Budget. He will deliver a speech in London to free market public policy group, Policy Exchange on April 28.

A real inquiry

Mr Pyne less released than discretely announced the “issue paper” for his teacher education inquiry chaired by Australian Catholic University VC Greg Craven on Thursday. And what a disappointment it is for hacks looking for headlines – it is fair, balanced and rhetoric free. After a careful reading looking for hidden time-bombs intended to annoy teacher unions, deans of education and whole language theorists I couldn’t find any. Hard to believe but it seems that Mr Pyne has convened an inquiry without knowing the conclusions in advance. Submissions are due by June 13.

Top cat

Flinders University reports, Dr Tiger Zhou has won a prestigious Lions Medical Research Foundation Scholarship in medicine

Bebbington’s big call

After a week of wind-sniffing vice chancellors are breaking cover on the Kemp-Norton report, beyond endorsing demand driven funding (just about everybody) and calling private providers “goannas” (ACU’s Greg Craven). Warren Bebbington stood up with an optimistic op ed in the Times Higher (why preference the poms, pray?). The Adelaide University vice chancellor argued Kemp-Norton offers Australia an opportunity to create “the most dynamic” higher education system in the world. Professor Bebbington embraces the idea of private providers competing for publicly funded students and goes beyond K-N in proposing deregulated fees. He suggests this could create high quality teaching-only institutions proving life-changing student experiences – an idea that appeals to Education Minister Chris Pyne (who linked to Professor Bebbington’s piece on his Facebook page). Bebbington also bells collegial cats who are not game to face competition. “It seems for some vice-chancellors, ‘demand driven’ means only that government should demand everyone is driven into the present public universities. The sameness which bedevils Australian higher education, where we all try to be comprehensive research universities, would simply go on and on.” Professor Bebbington is game to have a go – demonstrated by his commitment to switching Adelaide to small-group intensive teaching and he is not frightened of a fight, which he will get with this oped.

Mastery no more

University of Melbourne VC Glyn Davis also welcomed increased competition; adding the case for higher student fees needs debating. While the former is controversial the latter is not – becoming the default position of university leaders. The problem is that VCs appear to assume that any increased payments will flow to them – what is to stop the feds simply raising repayments and using the cash to reduce the deficit?

Professor Davis is not as outspoken on other aspects of Kemp-Norton, like its discussion of the allocation of publicly funded places for professional masters, which is a shambles of short term solutions, patronage and opportunism. They conclude; “caps on Commonwealth supported places should be removed from postgraduate courses with a combination of clear community benefit and modest financial rewards. Other postgraduate courses should be offered on an entirely full-fee basis.” This creates a splendid opportunity for special pleading (define “clear community benefit”) but it also undermines the credibility of Professor Davis’sMelbourne model” (general undergraduate degrees followed by two year professionals masters in everything from architecture to vet science). Certainly Kemp and Norton accept that because it was based on a Commonwealth promise the Melbourne model must survive, but as “legacy arrangement” outside the new policy framework. An endorsement of the transformation of teaching at the university this is not. However if the UoM thinks this is a slap across the chops it is not letting on. When I asked last week a spokeswoman generously explained what Kemp and Norton proposed but did not mention what the University thought of it.

Speaking up

Edith Cowan University is a Perth sponsor for the third series of the Nine Network’s The Voice. The university is not talking about the deal but I am guessing it’s all about student recruitment. The fit comes from ECU being home to the Western Australian Performing Arts Academy, unless it is a promo for its speech pathology courses.

What is it we shouldn’t forget ?

The ever-organised media team at Monash University has issued a list of expert academics for ANZAC Day comment who can cover everything from  tourism to two-up. Scholars are able to explain the impact of the war on families, Anzac’s role “in mythology and education” even whether we need a war correspondent memorial. State of the art war and society studies indeed, but it ignores one old fashioned interest, military history. Understandably so, why would anybody want to remember all that awful slaughter?

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