plus laying down the law to TEQSA

the ANZAC innovation hero is … Auckland!

and where to study to make millions

Door to riches

The University of New South Wales is always pleased to promote itself as a millionaire factory, (CMM November 6 2013). It was at it again yesterday, pointing to a US list of the top 50 universities with the most millionaire graduates. As usual the US dominates the top with Harvard in first place. Of the four Australian institutions UNSW is first at 24th, followed by the University of Sydney at 32nd, Monash U at 45th and UniMelbourne at 49th. Given graduates who own homes in either city  are generally property millionaires this is not as impressive as it sounds.

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Retirement time at WSU

Western Sydney University has not had the best of years, with a freeze on spending and hiring and VC Barney Glover reporting an unexpected drop in student numbers a few months back. So few people were not surprised when Professor Glover announced a voluntary redundancy scheme in July, subject to ATO approval (CMM July 26). Although the tax office has not given the proposal a tick, the VC announced it again yesterday, explaining to staff why it was needed. “Pressures in relation to federal government funding, increasing competition for domestic load and volatility in the recruitment of international students are all impacting on the financial position of the university. We also have a number of staffing challenges including an ageing workforce.”

Professor Glover stressed the scheme, for academic and professional staff, is voluntary and but he made it plain people needed to go. “The scheme will strengthen the university’s ability to achieve a balanced and sustainable staff profile and efficient organisational structure. This will provide the flexibility we need to respond to future challenges and opportunities.”

Schaffer leave La Trobe

A bare two years after his appointment Graham Schaffer is leaving La Trobe. Professor Schaffer was recruited in July 2014 to run the College of Science, Health and Engineering, one of the two pillars of VC John Dewar’s new academic structure.

Professor Schaffer joined from the University of Queensland where he was executive dean of engineering. He is moving to the University of Melbourne.

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“Give me liberty or give me HE provider standards”

“More exciting than our usual stuff,” is how Conor King described his Innovative Research Universities lobby’s response to the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency’s proposals to publicly report on its actions and set out broad trends among higher education providers. Man is too modest; the IRU does not write in Patrick Henry prose but it always sticks up for universities.

It certainly does in its response to the agency’s proposal on how it will publicly report the data it collects on universities and other higher education providers. For a start IRU suggests TEQSA should report on system-wide strengths and weaknesses and certainly not name alleged under-performers.

“The risk is that the raw set of ‘at-risk’ areas and volume will become the headline. The reporting should make clear the extent to which risks identified are confirmed as problems or not, and to the extent it is so that identified risk areas are addressed by providers. … TEQSA should also be careful to remain descriptive about provider characteristics (for example as a medium risk) not allowing those descriptions to become de facto typologies which providers ought to fit.”

The IRU also argues the agency must neither single out institutions nor throw its weight around but is wary of what will happen.

“The experience of the initial years for TEQSA is that we should be wary of its powers to analyse and comment on potential major issues. The proposal in the paper emphasises the analysis of information already collected. The previous efforts in this direction were undermined by heavy-handed data requests for audit standard data rather than useful information.”

Too tough? Perhaps, but Mr King has seen just about everything in higher education policy before and as as Mr Henry famously put it; “I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past.”

Conversation starter

Wollongong City Council b continues to snipe at the university across the freeway. UoW has big plans for more services on campus, which Mayor Gordon Bradbury fears will make it more “insular” (http://campusmorningmail.com.au/bureaucrats-slow-flow-international-students/ CMM August 26). The Illawarra Mercury now reports that council is considering ending the university’s exemption from development contributions to commercial projects on campus. That should at least get the two talking.

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Happy to help

The Australasian Council of Tertiary Admissions Centres thinks an annual report on national university admissions is a terrific idea. In it submission to the Higher Education Standards Panel’s paper on the future of the ATAR the council suggests, “ACTAC could co-ordinate the publication of national data in whatever timeframe and in whatever format thought fit by the government and the sector.” Presumably the members which the ACCC decided to investigate over state-specific approaches, to the detriment of ANU, agree ( CMM July 19)

Excellent innovators (just not many of them)

Thomson Reuters has dug into its science and IP databases to create an Asia-Pacific list of innovative universities. Australia does better on this than the global list, where no Aus institution appeared among the top 100 (CMM September 18 2015) but it’s still nothing to please the PM as he urges everybody to innovate.

Of the top 75 Asia-Pacific  innovators just six are Australian, Uni Sydney (28), Monash U (32), UoQ (33), Uni Melbourne (34), UNSW (52) and UniSA (74). The ANZAC leader is UniAuckland at 27th. China is the overall winner with 22, followed by South Korea with 19 and Japan, 18.

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From Labor to lobby

Anna-Maria Arabia will become chief executive of the Australian Academy of Science in October. She moves from the office of the Leader of the Opposition.

At long last!

And still they close. The Commonwealth has revoked VET provider approval for the Open Training Institute Pty Ltd. ASQA also advises that it has cancelled seven provider registrations.

CMM’s And-about-time-too! correspondent also reports that the Australian Skills Quality Authority says “it is developing a more proactive audit approach which focuses on the student experience.”

“The model will enable ASQA to analyse: * information from current and past complaints * provider compliance history * media reports * enrolment and profile data * funding sources and quantum of funding, and intelligence from other regulators and agencies. There will also be a stronger focus on pre-audit evidence gathering, which will include gathering data about RTO practice in relation to key activities (such as marketing and enrolment) from websites and social media.”

It’s a bit, as in millions of wasted dollars, late but ASQA needed something to show that it is up to a role in the government’s new VET loan scheme expected in the new-year. As Education Minister Simon Birmingham put it last week, the government keeps ASQA to “keep pace” with the sector.

Curtin appointment

Joseli Macedo is the new head of the School of Built Environment at Curtin University. She moves to Perth from the University of Florida.

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