Future tense: Deakin’s den Hollander on higher education

plus staying home to sell

Lost in translation

UWS student shines at Chinese Bridge Competition” the university boasts. Sadly, it’s not as interesting as it sounds. It’s about non-native speakers learning the language – with no mention of engineering or cards.

ANU June 2

Future tense

Jane den Hollander’s essay in the new CEDA report,  Australia’s Future Workforce is a standout. The Deakin VC does not address sources of higher education funding but while CMM suspects this was not her intention, Professor den Hollander’s paper demonstrates that how much money government or undergraduates contribute to degree costs is a second order issue compared to the existential issues universities face.

But Professor den Hollander was also obviously intent on demonstrating that universities are losing/will loose/have lost their ancient authority over what is taught, how it is taught and who does the teaching. That she sets out issues but offers no answers is unsurprising – no one knows what the education market will want in a decade. However in asking questions she makes it plain that change will keep coming.

“The Internet is the primary platform for creating and sharing information, and universities are no longer the gatekeepers of knowledge. Consumers of information are not passive observers but active contributors who co-create knowledge, evolve markets, have opinions, and influence elections and hence governments,” she writes.

While Professor den Holllander emphasises what reads to CMM something like competencies and generic inquiry and analytic skills plus meeting workforce needs one issue is largely implicit in her discussion – what should universities teach. “In a fast evolving technology landscape, the connection between work and learning will become closer, and work-based learning opportunities will have a critical place in preparing students for the jobs and skills of the future.” To CMM this means universities will need staff permanently identifying changes in demand and working on how faculties must spend up on what the market might, or might not, want in the future. Remember that aphorism of the ‘90s, “the only constant is change”? It turned out to be true.

Some closer than others

The University of Queensland is in the market for a director of advancement services to build, “a new era in engagement and philanthropic giving.” According to the job advert, which appears pitched to an international audience, UoQ “offers more than just a fantastic place to work” it also offers “proximity to the Great Barrier Reef and the Australian outback, the Sunshine and Gold Coasts makes it a popular place to create an enviable lifestyle.” Distance is such a relative concept.

CEF1 June 15

More desirable property 

An astute observer of education infrastructure responds that the state government has made it easier for entrepreneurs to make a go of the old Lilydale campus than when Swinburne University was trying to shift the site ( CMM yesterday). The Victorian government is prepared to kick $10m in, around 40 per cent the price mentioned a few years back, and a promised technical school on the site will surely make for a better deal.

Mellow Mike

Mike Baird is surely blessed with buckets of good-blokeness and congenial calm. On Friday the NSW premier cheerfully fronted the ceremony for Barry and Joy Lambert’s $34m donation to the University of Sydney for cannabinoid medical research, despite knowing it would take the air out of his own announcement. On Sunday the state government committed to $12m over four years for a centre explore the use of marijuana in pain relief. The state’s chief scientist, Mary O’Kane will lead the programme. The announcement allowed Southern Cross U to get in on the act yesterday, welcoming “the opportunity to join the research network.” It’s tough on SCU, which has real expertise in genetic analysis to improve hemp and medical analysis, but does not get the same sort of attention as cashed-up Uni Syd.

Easier access

Chris Pyne is kicking off his council of international education experts in Canberra tomorrow with news the industry will welcome, simplified student visa processes and a single immigration risk framework for them. Universities Australia welcomed the new visa system, which “reward low risk providers with access to simpler visa processes for their students.” Private VET providers, the sector that caused Immigration officials most grief over the years, also endorsed the new approach. “This framework will provide policy stability so that providers can get on with marketing and growing Australia’s international education sector,” Rod Camm, CEO of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training, said last night.

‘70s strategies

Mr Pyne also released responses to his draft international education strategy before the meeting; including some lobby groups had not already circulated. One that was new is from export education commentator Andrew Smith, a, long-time critic of road-show style recruitment. He suggests digital marketing could mean peak/statutory bodies staying at home – and saving $100m annually.

“Conventional international travel plans, recruitment events, agent workshops, accommodation, hospitality, per diem, etc. have been estimated at $500+ million per year in the international education sector; with minimal if any objective analysis of outcomes (only students know how they found an institution). Further, this does not include opportunity cost of being ‘on the road’ in one market versus liaising with already enrolled students, partners and agents from relevant regions and/or language groups, from onshore using digital communications,” Mr Smith writes.

He also points to a tourism strategy, using workers in the industry to build social media awareness as an example that contrasts well with education exports. “Australian international education management still develops business plans or strategies that owe more to promotion of commodity exports of the 1970s, while ignoring effective and well managed digital, all year round to be visible online.”

CMM wonders if anybody will raise the Smith strategy at Mr Pyne’s meeting.

Flexible up to a point

The new NSW training minister, John Barilaro is committing to allowing some trainers with state-wide coverage to operate in a range of regions where there is demand. “We are giving employers greater flexibility to choose the training organisation they want to deliver apprentices and trainees when they need it it,” he recently wrote to the Australian Council for Private Education and Training‘s Peter McDonald.  This is certainly a more private sector friendly approach than in South Australia, where minister Gail Gago is committed to reserving training places for TAFE. But, and it is a big but, NSW, like Victoria, is also running a review of training needs, through its Skills Board.

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