Doom of the dip ed

But who will pay for the replacement?

Cash for courses

Jay Weatherill’s announcement that all new teachers in South Australian schools will need masters in education is a cost-efficient classic for a government that needs low cost initiatives for the election in March. For a start, it presents the government as doing something about teacher standards without upsetting the union. And the state’s universities will love the revenue stream from students spending at least an extra year studying for a 24 month masters instead of a dip ed. Even better, the cost could be the Commonwealth’s (plus students). As Premier Weatherill said yesterday the state, “will advocate for necessary changes to funding arrangements for masters degrees with the federal government.” Which means making postgraduate students eligible for what most of us still call HECs, creating a problem for federal minister Chris Pyne in the process. At present funding for professional masters places is allocated ad hoc and the last thing I suspect Canberra comfortably contemplates is an extension of the student loan system to cover as huge an area as education, everywhere. (You think other states will not follow if SA gets away with this?). All of a sudden University of Melbourne Vice Chancellor Glyn Davis’s suggestion of letting universities switch load between undergraduate and masters programs as suits is starting to look less expensive. I would love to report what Mr Pyne thinks, but his office did not reply. But will the plan better prepare beginning teachers for the classroom? Depends what they study – a common complaint is that new teachers, especially in science and maths do not know their subject well enough – a masters full of education theory will not change this.

Uni SA’s class act 

Premier Weatherill’s standards scheme is part of a bigger plan. Yesterday he enthusiastically announced a new high school on the University of South Australia’s Magill Campus, to integrate schooling and teacher training. Uni SA’s Vice Chancellor David Lloyd was equally pleased with the premier, saying masters for new teachers and scholarships for existing ones to upskill, “is an initiative that will pay dividends for generations to come and ensure we keep paces with nations around the world.” Good-oh but who is going to pay the course fees for the extra year a masters instead of a dip ed will involve? And what, if anything, will it mean for the University of Adelaide and Flinders University negotiations to combine to offer a double degree – a discipline qualification from the former and an education course at the latter. Whatever happens, South Australia has set a precedent for higher entry qualifications for teachers across the country. Looks like the dip ed is doomed. I wonder what Minister Pyne’s review of teacher education standards will suggest.

Printing money

The admirable Steve Austin of ABC radio in Brisbane interviewed UofQ VC Peter Hoj about the state of the University of Queensland Press yesterday and very informative it was too. While UQP is doing well now news that it ran a deficit for each of the last three years on revenues around $1.5m pa is not especially surprising – times are tough for print publishers of all shapes and sizes. But what did surprise me is that Professor Hoj has fireproofed the press. Any VC who wants to stop its funding in the future, now at $300k a year, will need Senate approval. As precedents go this is a corker.

 Young steps up

Ian Young is chair elect of the Group of Eight, replacing Fred Hilmer from UNSW. Given the job rotates among member institutions this is hardly an epochal election, although the ANU VC’s approach will likely differ to that of his predecessor. Professor Young had shaky start at ANU in 2011, perhaps taking a while to adjust to the intense campus community. But he learned fast and the way the university briefed staff on the university’s circumstances during the recent enterprise bargaining round was a model of discretion and decorum. I suspect Professor Young will present the Go8 case less publicly than Professor Hilmer but that his message will be heard where it matters.

IRU stands up

The Innovative Research Universities group has submitted a comprehensive report to the government’s Commission of Audit and it makes a strong case for the status quo, demand driven funding, income contingent loans for students’ contribution to course costs and competitive research funding. It is especially strong in analysing how the existing system extends access to disciplines where we need more graduates, for example the 20 per cent rise in undergrads in physical and natural sciences to 76,000 between 2009-2012. Under the previous system science places were capped by Canberra because they are more expensive than subjects such as business. Demand driven funding allows students to study what they want and what, in this case, the country needs. Engineering and agriculture also grew far more than business. As to the core question for the commission, does the government need to be involved in specific areas of the economy the IRU spells out what would happen if it were not. “The take up of higher education would be much with large numbers of individuals underinvesting in their future capabilities (and) there would be a substantial reduction in research in Australia, undermining Australia’s capacity to address problems of unique local and national significance and losing essential linkages to world innovation systems.”

Even at ANU all politics is local

Professor Young (above) will judge the inaugural ANU bake off on Thursday (and you thought I was going to make a bad joke about his taking the cake).

More please 

Last week Swinburne University presented a pay offer to the local union, which has responded by saying thanks (up to a point) for a promise of 3.1 per cent next March but more please. “We recognise our claim for 7% annually in October last year had a fair degree of ambit. Yet while senior management refuses to wind back their salaries and bonuses to the salary increases members receive we can hardly be expected to believe the university can’t afford more,” the National Tertiary Education Union’s Josh Cullinan says. Take the regulation outrage out and it sounds like a deal ready to be done.

The third person 

So who is the third academic to resign over research misconduct allegations at the University of Queensland? Transparent UoQ always isn’t. Professor Hoj acknowledges there is one but would not name them or the allegation on radio yesterday.

Gates giveaways  

Four Australians have received $100k grants in the  new round of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges Explorations awarded for early stage research in global health. This is a tribute to Australia’s research effort, until you compare it to the US, which accounted for 40 out of 81 grants and Great Britain with 15. India is next with 5 then us. Of course there is nothing competitive about the awards but they do go to show that when it comes to public health research it is the Yanks, the Brits and then daylight.

So who won and for what? Simon Reid and colleagues from the University of Queensland will use the money developing a measure of the impact of animal infections on humans. Mohammad Riaz Khan from Charles Sturt University will work on improving reproduction among Pakistani dairy buffalo. Jean-Pierre Scheerlinck (University of Melbourne) intends to develop a vaccine for a cattle parasite that creates fever. There is also a project from outside the universities. Michael Rutner and Russel Burley of House of Petite want to develop a condom applicator that reduces the risk of infection and pregnancy that accompanies manual fitting.

Who’s on first? 

The University of Sydney will livestream its award of an honorary doctorate to Aung San Suu Ki from 5pm tomorrow but there is no mention of the UTS award, to occur at the same ceremony. Perhaps Sydney will only run its own feed, it certainly is not keen to acknowledge that this is a joint affair (UTS is only mentioned three screens down). There was no mention of UTS in Sydney’s original announcement of the event either. If you miss this award (awards?) broadcast you can always watch ANU’s live stream of its ceremony on Friday evening.

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