Bye-bye Berwick: Monash plans to close campus

Plus Uni Melbourne’s clever Collision and UWA loses control of savings stoush

Outsourced over red rover

Queensland NTEU state secretary Michael McNally points CMM to a University of Queensland course on outsourcing. The blurb states it is introduced in recognition of the global trend towards outsourcing labour to lower-cost countries and the challenges businesses faced in successfully ‘offshoring’ ”. “Hopefully the lecturing staff won’t find any VCs taking notes in their lectures,” he suggests. In the week when Udemy offered online units in stats, coding and data science for $19 it’s probably a bit late to worry.

Campus Morning Mail

Bye-bye Berwick

Reports that Monash University will bail from Berwick confirm what was clear last winter when the university did not bother holding an open day for prospective students at the campus, opting for a “festival” instead – from 4pm to 9m on a Tuesday (CMM July 23 2015).

Monash Berwick was pretty much doomed from the day it opened. Built to serve Melbourne’s outer-outer east in the mid 90s it was always too close to the Clayton and Peninsula campuses and too far away to be an alternative to what used to be Monash Gippsland for country kids. As Monash management’s staff briefing yesterday explained;

Monash already attracts many qualified students from the south-east Melbourne region, but in the main they have indicated a preference to study at the larger campuses of Clayton and Caulfield, rather than studying locally at Berwick. As such, the demand for locally provided higher education in the south-east of Melbourne has not grown in the way anticipated.

“Enrolments have not been sufficient to create a vibrant and viable campus of the kind hoped for.”

It’s fate was finally sealed when the university offloaded Gippsland to Fed U and hoped Victoria University would similarly acquire Berwick, which VU has finally said it does not want to do.

That Monash will teach out existing degrees at Berwick to 2018 should contain protests and the university is being careful to phrase its plan, sorry proposal, in the language the university’s enterprise agreement requires. But expect the National Tertiary Education Union to consult the Lilydale playbook to see whether the campaign against Swinburne when it closed down its campus there can apply at Berwick.

All entrepreneurs now

The L H Martin Institute is running a course on Friday, which will “identify the key actions needed to lead and build an entrepreneurial university.” Didn’t that use to be an oxymoron?

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Vision lost in detail

The WA branch of the National Tertiary Education Union is not having any of the University of Western Australia’s proposals for staff cuts and a new structure. While management argues both are essential if the university is to be financial sustainable and grow,  the union’s line-by-line analysis makes a case that the books aren’t in such bad shape. “This is not a university that is spending more than it is earning, in fact relative to the Group of Eight, UWA is earning proportionately more than it is spending,” the union argues.

And the comrades find the case for a new structure light on. “The rationale consists of statements for which there are no justification or evidence provided. For example the assertion is made that the current structure is not serving the university well but there is no evidence of how or why that may be so. Similarly the assertion is made that the disparate sizes of current faculties ‘inhibits the university from focusing strategically and delivering on its goals’ again with no evidence.”

As for the idea of offering academic staff teaching-only positions as an alternative to redundancy; “it undermines the university’s claim that redundancies area result of a financial imperative, as there are no savings to be made in retaining an academic employee in a teaching intensive role.”

There is no doubting that management could do the same sort of demolition job on the NTEU case as the union is doing on UWA’s. But the fact that the university is now having its whole case questioned demonstrates it has lost control of the debate. Instead of setting out what the university can accomplish with more resources, UWA management is caught up in an argument over what to cut and how to change.

In contrast, at UNSW Ian Jacobs is selling his campus community on what he will do with extra resources. By the time he gets around to detailing where the money will come from people will have long signed on.

Teachers to test

The long awaited mandatory national literacy and numeracy tests for all commencing teachers apply from July. To be administered by the Australian Council for Educational Research, teacher ed graduates will need to pass them before they are allowed in front of a class. Some 90 per cent passed in a December pilot (CMM December 2) but as they were all self-selectors CMM suspects the roll-out rate will not be as good.

It is now fashionable to dismiss Christopher Pyne as accomplishing nothing as education minister but the teacher tests demonstrate just how subtle a strategist he is. Without the tests the push for high ATARS for teacher education students would have probably prevailed – creating a shortage of classroom commencers down the track. Universities which rely on big teacher education numbers to fund everything else would also have been in strife. Mr Pyne protected their revenues while also sticking to standards for teachers. His successor Senator Birmingham was sensible to stay with the scheme – but will he release the success rates by university? CMM suspects that will be a score too far.

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Low cost, high quality

The University of Queensland has four MOOCs in the works on various aspects of working with people who have an intellectual disability. “In our courses, you will learn about best practice in the field of intellectual disability healthcare and gain knowledge to improve health outcomes for this disadvantaged group,” the MOOC creators promise.

This is brilliant, empowering families by making expert information easily available. With these courses UoQ joins other Australian universities working to provide people with expertise they need to understand difficulties their families face. The University of Tasmania has a MOOC on dementia, Swinburne U has a course on dealing with autism, and the University of Adelaide offers an online programme via EdX on dealing with addiction (CMM July 29). Last month La Trobe released an app to assist families to identify autism (CMM February 15).

There should, CMM suspects will, be many more courses like them, covering real-world health and family problems and it surely will not be long until government starts funding them. A MOOC can reach a target audience with much more information at a fraction of the cost of standard government information campaigns, or television advertisements as they are otherwise known.

Quality collision

CMM is a big fan of the University of Melbourne’s branding strategy, “Collision” which asserts the university as a research leader and supports the claim with coverage of work underway. The new Policy Shop podcast series, “a place where we can think about public policy and the way it affects Australia and the world,” certainly builds the brand.

This is seriously good stuff. “Collisions” is not a set and forget strategy, the only way it will work is for the university to keep demonstrating that its researchers are across the issues that shape peoples’ lives. This means more than advertising, it requires continual new content distributed across all sorts of formats, which the Policy Shop provides.

The first in the series is a discussion on improving teacher standards between VC Glyn Davis and Professor John Hattie, from the university’s Graduate School of Education and state school secondary principals association president Judy Crowe. It is supported by a background paper written as a newspaper feature by Andrew Trounson.

The whole exercise will be expensive but in terms of building and burnishing the Uni Melbourne brand it will pay big dividends.

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Reality intrudes

While the disgraceful mismanagement of VET FEE HELP student funding has diverted attention from the state of training overall the system is in strife. Apprentice and trainee starts are in serious decline, in September there were half the starts that occurred in 2010 (CMM March 4) and it is going to take much more than cleaning up student funding to fix things. It is going to take the states stepping up to a consistent approach.

As Rod Camm, from the private provider lobby, ACPET, points out, “the national skills debate of recent times has not focused on how to ensure we have the skills framework for the future. In fact, it is hard to even accept that there has been a national policy debate.”

He has a point. At present all the talk is of Canberra plots to federalise and then privatise training, which is not going to happen. This suits state governments, if only because it diverts attention from the way the still majority public system has failed to reverse years of decline.

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