Deregulation legislation: Pyne brings it on

Plus why Jacqui Lambie is a winner this week

Innovative inaction

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, yesterday, “just under ten per cent of innovation-active businesses had a collaborative arrangement with universities or other higher education institutions.” I wonder how the ABS missed asking all those universities who boast about close industry links.

Kim says its over but Chris brings it on

Kim Carr has railed against the Pyne package since budget night but now the Opposition education spokesman is starting to add that it is all over. “It’s time to acknowledge the package is not going to make it through the Senate – no matter how much it’s fiddled with – and the only solution is to toss it out and go back to the drawing board,” he said yesterday. But Education Minister Chris Pyne is not having any of it, saying he will introduce the legislation on Thursday and expects that negotiations in the Senate “will take most of the rest of the year. I’m a patient man and committed to see it pass. I will take as long as need to be taken.”

They might get what they settle for

Universities Australia held its membership together at a VC plenary this week, despite deep divisions among the factions that sit within the umbrella organisation. UA has previously suggested Minister Pyne should drop the 20 per cent cut in funding for Commonwealth Supported Places and protect universities against “potential market failures.” It seems UA convinced enough VCs that if they want deregulation at all this is going to be as much as they can get out of the government. As such it suits the Group of Eight and the Regional Universities Network, which have argued their quite different cases hard. The old and bold obviously have convinced the minister and the bush universities have had very sympathetic hearings, albeit only in private, from National Party members and senators.

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Conflict in other classes

Chris Pyne was talking up the Craven inquiry into teacher education yesterday, saying it’s advice would be important “to better prepare teachers with the right mix of academic and practical skills needed to teach our young Australians.” Good-o, but not everybody is convinced that is what Professor Craven and his colleagues will deliver. As one school standards expert put it yesterday, “the inquiry’s terms of reference are wishy-washy and higher entry standards for teaching, be they via ATAR or making education a postgraduate course might be too much, for members.” But alternatives exist, this expert argues, pointing to NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli’s plan for an entry exam in literacy and numeracy for graduates to qualify to teach in the state’s schools. The exam is complete and is said to be ready to go for next year. Won’t it be interesting if results are released, showing how many graduates, from which universities pass, and fail.

Alternative entry

I can’t see Faculty of Education academics at the University of Sydney agreeing to externally administered tests of its graduates. Diane Mayer, announced as dean yesterday, is no fan of what she calls in a co-authored article, “the current neoliberal accountability discourses.” Instead of teacher and student test scores, Professor Mayer argues for “structured portfolios” of pre-service teachers work for consideration by external assessors. Overall, “teacher educators need to reinsert themselves as key players in the debate around quality beginning teaching, rather than being viewed as a source of the problem.”

Research Laurels

Mr Pyne has announced the Australian Research Council’s 2014 Laureate Fellowships, awarded to “outstanding researchers of international repute” for major research projects. There are sixteen this year (one less than in 2013), splitting $42m for research, mentoring young researchers and salary supplements. Group of Eight universities accounted for 12 of the fellowships, with UNSW, Sydney, UoQ and Monash securing two each and ANU, Adelaide, Melbourne and UWA one each. The other four were split between Uni Canberra, Macquarie, Wollongong and James Cook. Most of the fellows are scientists, like Antoine M van Oijen (Wollongong), who intends to make “Real-time single-molecule movies” to help understand “disease mechanisms. Kate Miles-Smith from Monash will use her fellowship to “stress test algorithms” to “avoid disasters” when they are applied in fields such as machine learning, forecasting and software testing. Of the four social science/humanities scholars perhaps the most prominent is senior University of Melbourne historian Joy Damousi who will work on child refugees in Australia since 1920.

TAFE time

The AusTafe 2014 conference is announced, October 9-10 National Maritime Museum, Sydney. The program is by and for public sector voc educators.

 UNE’S understated announcement

The University of New England let off no fireworks the other day on announcing Annabelle Duncan is the new vice chancellor. Perhaps this is because Professor Duncan has acted in the job for months and the announcement only confirmed what everybody assumed. Or maybe after years of management instability, (two VCs, and three chancellors have gone since 2009) yet another change is not something to announce loudly. Perhaps UNE should have. Shortly after taking over as acting VC, Professor Duncan implemented a restructure to focus the university on core business, teaching and learning. It is a message UNE, with its reputation diminished by years of management instability, needs the world to here.

Winners of the week

Full marks for frankness go to Senator Jacqui Lambie (PUP-Tasmania) who left no doubts about how she, and presumably her party colleagues, will vote on the Pyne package. “Christopher Pyne, you know, he can go and grab a box of Kleenex because all his education reforms are going down the gurgler; it’s as simple as that,” she said on Tuesday. Not that this bothers Chris Pyne. On Wednesday students burned him in effigy – or tried to, but the cardboard cut-out of ever cool Chris would not ignite. This bloke can stand the heat in any policy kitchen. High-flying CQ University VC Scott Bowman also did well this week, expanding his reach into the home territory of regional rival James Cook, with a basketball sponsorship in Cairns and a study centre in Townsville. To the unimaginative the centre looks like a shop front but to the visionary Professor Bowman it makes Townsville “a two university” town. And hooray for Charles Sturt chief Andrew Vann, author of Vann’s Law of University Ranking, (“up is brilliance, down is methodology”) .

Swinburne lawyers-up

Dan Hunter is the new dean of law at Swinburne – which is an understated way of reporting that we have a new law school. This is something Australia does not need, at least if you listen to other legal academics. But if deregulation gets through the market will sort it out. If Swinburne’s emphasis on intellectual property and innovation meets a market demand and they price the degree competitively the new law school will do well. And if not, not

Dream on

Hospitality trainer William Angliss promotes a course, which “integrates three separate diplomas into one course so graduates can embark on careers that hold vast opportunities.” Apparently “it’s perfect for those who have dreamed of a career where they can cruise the open ocean, rub shoulders at exclusive events with celebrities or work in some of the world’s most luxurious hotels.” Apart from the under-stated tone of the announcement the thing that impresses me is how they jam the content required for three diplomas into a single year of study.

Truth in journalism

In Fredericksburg Virginia the University of Mary Washington has just changed the name of the student newspaper, previously The Bullet. I’m guessing that it was reference to the Civil War battle fought a bit down the hill from campus in December 1862. The new name is the Blue and Grey Press, surely a reference to Civil War uniform colours. Talk about living history. It could have been worse – they could have called it (joke for Civil War scholars here) The Chicken.

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