All talk, no agreement

Which makes it business as usual in higher education

Short and to the point 

National Union of Students president Jade Tyrell is upset that Education Minister Chris Pyne can’t find the time to meet her. Not to worry, it’s not as if he does not know what she wants. As she told the world yesterday; “Our economy will be stronger when we invest more public funding in our TAFEs and universities for improved education and training”. There you all she would have said, in a sentence!

Going for growth

Charles Sturt University reports a record enrolment of 33,000 domestic students this year, plus another 6000 internationals. I’m guessing the university supports uncapped demand.

Watchful Kate waits

There were rumours around yesterday that journalist Kate McClymont had won a spot on the University of Sydney Senate but management says this was just an enthusiastic assumption and the poll will be declared on Friday. It will make a change from all those corruption inquiries she covers if she wins. A natural for chair of the Senate finance committee!

In thunderous agreement

NTEU yesterday: “the National Tertiary Education Union calls on the federal government to ensure that access and equity for disadvantaged students is central in the Kemp Review of the demand driven system.
Kemp review terms of reference:  The review will examine the following aspects of the demand driven system:
… early evidence on the extent to which it is: a. increasing participation; b. improving access for students from low socio-economic status backgrounds and rural and regional communities;

Worth fighting for?

On Monday Fair Work Australia disallowed a union ban at RMIT on processing international student results, except for specific groups, including Australian citizens. The university argued this was discriminatory and Commissioner Wilson agreed, ordering the ban lifted. The NTEU appealed but Vice President Joe Catanzariti knocked them back, refusing a stay of Mr Wilson’s order. However a full bench of the commission today week will consider the union’s appeal. But why is this a game the union wants to win? Industrial action that exempts Australians but harms other students in Singapore sends a very bad signal to an important market for all at RMIT, management and staff both.

Closely observed confrontation

The union is not having an especially good week in the ACT either, where the University of Canberra is going around it and putting a wage offer direct to staff. This, says union secretary Stephen Darwin is a ploy to foist an inferior deal on workers. “Managements of various universities have sometimes tried to bypass negotiations with staff representatives by presenting an offer on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis, as UC management has here. In the vast majority of cases, staff have voted against those offers.” But not at Charles Sturt, where the workforce recently adopted an enterprise agreement, against the union’s advice. This is a high-stakes tactic for union and university both. A win for management will be noticed by vice chancellors negotiating enterprise agreements around the country. If the proposal is knocked back the NTEU will be back at the bargaining table in a powerful position.

And the winner isn’t

The inaugural Victorian International Education awards are announced with RMIT winning the premier’s award for international education provider of the year. Other institutions getting gongs include Swinburne, La Trobe and Deakin plus William Anglis and a couple of private training providers. But Monash and the University of Melbourne are conspicuously absent. Seems strange that they did not get a guernsey for anything – especially Monash, which won the education category in the Governor of Victoria Export Education Awards, announced last month. I wonder what the differences between the two awards are.

 All a twitter 

Deakin engineer and all-round astute observer Stuart Palmer has crunched the numbers on Twitter use by a representative cross-section of Australian universities and fascinating reading for any student of social media it is too. (Not that everybody will be able to read it, what with it being published in the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management – which does not share the open access ideals of social media). There are substantial and subtle ideas in the paper which every university marketing and student services manager can learn from but my take-out is that winners tweet quality and tweet it often, focusing on audiences rather than just standing in the cyber bazaar and bellowing. One question, which is the institution with 17,000 followers and at the other end of the scale which is the one with just 600? There is a great deal more detail than this and Palmer’s model applies across the system. A rating system for Twitter performance in student recruitment – now there’s an idea for an award.
And if you think this is peripheral to pedagogy (sorry) consider the Washington Post’s Student Advisor site, which lists the top ten US colleges for using social media. Same names as always including– Harvard, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Yale, Duke – and Full Sail, (it’s a private college teaching media and entertainment industry degrees). “Wildly successful social media engagement. Totally cool Facebook chats with esteemed grads, most recently a chat with a grad who works on The Walking DeadStudent Advisor writes. Oh good, zombies. Still Full Sail has built Facebook and Twitter communities of 75,000, who I am sure are not all undead. As a way of reaching prospective students for not much money it is all but impossible to beat.

Couch surfing not studying 

Lest anyone get over-excited by the on-line demand for MOOC content consider Sandvine’s  count of streaming content on fixed-line networks in the US, between them Netflix and YouTube account for 50 per cent of total traffic. I’m guessing that this is not all lectures and course videos.

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