Awful attrition: 37 per cent of education drop-outs are undergrads

plus support for an independent higher education commission

Another defeat for the Murray Darling med school plan

and burrows of code: Matrix meets wombats

Keep smiling

According to the University of Melbourne (promoting a social media scholar) yesterday was “world selfie day,” presumably proclaimed under the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Narcissist. But CMM is puzzled; surely every day is world selfie day.

Thursday June 24

Waited in vain

Charles Sturt and La Trobe U  people were waiting yesterday for an expected announcement from deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce on their proposal for a Murray Darling medical school. It never came. Mr Joyce announced funding for various rural and regional causes at the National Press Club, including a four-month cut to the 18 months country kids must work to qualify for student support but not the MDMS.

Attrition on the agenda
Sunny statistics on education, the economy and employment are out but so are others that aren’t exactly a bag of bluebirds.

The good news is pretty good. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics more 61 per cent of working age people, that’s 9.4m Australians, have post school qualifications, up from 59 per cent five years back. And what the education industry says is true – there is indeed a connection between qualifications and cash. Men with two post-school qualifications working full-time earn $830 pw more than blokes with none. For women the gap is $504.

The less encouraging news is just 55 per cent of workers have jobs in the industries they trained for or for which their qualifications are relevant. This is more a problem for people with lower quals; only 62 per cent of people with certificates work in the field they trained for compared to 72 per cent for those with postgraduate degrees. Good oh, people adapt and change, and as Universities Australia points out; “in a diversifying economy, the average person is even more likely to have many careers throughout their lifetime … a degree equips people with both specialist and broader employment skills that will be vital for a wide variety of jobs through a person’s working life.” Even so you have to wonder how many did the wrong degree in the first place.

Which leads to the sorry stats. Some 18 per cent of adults started but did not finish a non-school qualification and of this group 37 per cent did not complete a bachelors degree. The learned Andrew Norton dug down into the data to find that of bachelor non-completers, 28% completed another degree, 32% have a voc ed qual, and 39% have no non-school qualification at all. This is very bad indeed, a waste of people’s potential, a loss to productivity and a huge cost to government in funding education places that aren’t used. This is surely unacceptable attrition rate, which the next government is a racing certainty to raise with universities.

JCU expands in environmental education

James Cook U is recruiting four academics to teach a new bachelors degree in environmental practice with new, to JCU, majors in urban design and corporate environmental management. The four staff will work at either Cairns or Townsville campuses.

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Expert oversight

Kim Carr’s proposal for a higher education productivity and performance commission (CMM September 24 2015) is not popular among VCs who think the role of government is to send cheques. But a curious coalition that supports it is emerging. Uni Melbourne VC Glyn Davis wants an independent expert agency “to provide long term plans and stewardship” (CMM February 1).

And yesterday the learned Andrew Norton and TAFE lobby leader Martin Riordan backed the idea. Mr Norton told Fran Kelly on Radio National that there is “a problem with the depth of expertise around higher education policy.” In particular he pointed to a need to update government’s funding model for universities, which dates from the ‘80s, and needs ‘a re-think’. Mr Riordan agreed, saying there is “a gap in policy knowledge in higher education” and that there is support for a commission. “Why stop at higher education?” he added. Why indeed. Senator Carr’s proposal for commonwealth institutes of higher education, involving TAFE and universities, would make cross-sector policy oversight essential.

Dealing for dementia

Dementia researcher Henry Brodaty has won the $250 000 Ryman Prize for his work on diagnosing and treating the disease. Professor Brodaty is co-chair of the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing at the University of New South Wales.

The big Ms matrix

The University of Melbourne and Monash U used to be on no-speaks, dating some say to when the pharmacy school joined Monash, despite being in Parkville, during the Dawkins reforms. But latterly relations have moved from entente cordiale to la belle alliance.   A few weeks back the pair established a joint venture to bring biomedical products to market (Campus Morning Mail, June 3) and now they have created the International Mathematics Research Institute to be known as MATRIX. Staff will initially work in a “maths house” at Uni Melbourne’s Cresswick campus, which is near Ballarat, adjacent to the Wombat State Forrest. Yes the Matrix is neighbours with wombats, making it less corridor than burrow of code.

And the winner is, policy!

Tony Peacock from the Cooperative Research Association calls Wednesday’s innovation debate between minister Christopher Pyne and shadow Kim Carr a success, not least because it occurred. “You would have to go back to the 1990 election to have innovation even registering a blip on the political radar. This time it is front and centre.” That the speakers actually answered questions probably helped. “The debate provided a good insight into how each party sees innovation strengthening their overall economic and social plans.” Good lord, a debate about policy. Here’s hoping campaign strategists don’t hear.

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Unhappy UNE

A major University of New England staff survey is in and while Vice Chancellor Annabelle Duncan told staff yesterday there is room for improvement in communications (for example academics should respond quickly to student emails) overall everything is generally ok.

Not according to the report of another survey, this one from the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union. According to president Professor Margaret Sims, people feel excluded and ignored to the extent that there is a “debilitating inconsistency in managerial dealing with staff.”

“Around a third of staff felt that UNE is not pursuing its obligations to them, but more worryingly, about another third are unsure, indicating a lack of awareness of their rights and the importance of a mutual relationship between employer and employee. The spread of results and their variance across schools and directorates indicates a worrying lack of managerial consistency in dealing with behavioural issues and in applying obligations and entitlements,” she writes.

The office of PVC External Relations Trevor Goldstone did not respond to a request for comment.

What we learn from visitors

The International Education Association of Australia is inviting pitches for a research paper on the cultural and social interactions between international students and the communities they live in, Details are here.

Creating ripples

Dianne Jackson is leaving the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth to join Charles Sturt U. Dr Jackson will become deputy director of the Research Institute of Professional Practice, Learning and Education and build its networking, consulting and fund raising capacities.

Really applied research

The Department of Innovation has announced winners in the new round of Cooperative Research Centre Projects (the category for short-term, industry-led projects). All 11 are about as applied as research gets, on everything from oysters to hydrocarbon fuel for hypersonic air-breathing vehicles. CMM is impressed and will be more so when he works out what “radiopharmaceuticals,” work on which won funding, are. Innovation insiders note that ten of the 11 projects got what they asked for and that industry stumped up significant sums. For example, the feds kicked in $3m for the CRC on prefabricated building systems while industry partners, notably company Seedpanel and the University of Melbourne committed $9m.

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