Telling students what their chances of completion are will help (but the low ATAR dropout isn’t that big an issue)


Chris Pyne announces federal tech to ensure shipbuilding skills


Doubleplusgood management-speak at UNSW


Plus HeadsUp! winners at work this week

“Now get out there and study!”

Victoria University, which sponsors the Western Bulldogs, has made teach coach Luke Beveridge an adjunct professor, working in sport science, coaching, and management courses. Perhaps he could also gee-up students who are flailing by mid-semester break.

Super scientists

From Paris comes news that UNSW’s Michelle Simmons has picked up her €100 000 Euro Prize as L’Oréal-UNESCO Asia-Pacific woman in science for 2016 (CMM October 5). CMM suspects the head of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology could spend it on kit nobody but her colleagues will understand. Associate Professor Muireann Irish, a dementia research at the University of Sydney was also honoured by L’Oreal

Subverting the geometric paradigm

The University of Sydney’s School of Social and Political Science is  promoting a “Q&A style” series of talks themed “outside the square.” The headshots of participants are in circles. Brilliant.

Information an answer to low ATAR attrition

The moral panic over ATARs and attrition is off the agenda, at least until the next time a journalist is short of a headline, but in the meantime research rolls on. Work by Ittima Cherastidtham from the Grattan Institute, presented to the recent Higher Education Services conference demonstrates that the demand driven system has not flooded campuses with kids incapable of completing a course.

Yes, Ms Cherastidtham shows, people with ultra-low ATARs are less likely to complete than better qualified commencers, but there are just not that many of the former. Students with scores of 30-49 account for only 4 per cent of undergraduates, on 2015 federal figures. And horror headlines of offers ignore that only 25 per cent of applications with very low ATARS take them up.

Indeed, students with low entry scores is not the group with the largest proportion of early leavers, more off-campus students give it away and the figure for part-timers is the same as those from the bottom ATAR group. (Yes people  can be from multiple groups).

Even so, there is more to do that can help potentially vulnerable students know what they would be getting into on campus. Grattan is working on a predictor for prospective students that would give them an idea of how people with similar characteristics to them go. And “the government has also made substantial improvements through the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching,” Ms Cherastidtham says. She suggests linking the two sources would help, adding, “ultimately the aim is to provide students with information so they can make the most informed decision possible.”

 DoublePlusGood at UNSW

UNSW management takes the week’s award for weasel words in its staff brief on the university-wide restructure now underway. “Transforming the way we deliver our professional services to provide a better experience for students and staff, is what’s at the heart of our Operational Excellence portfolio. In the first significant step towards this goal, workplace change is underway in several areas including Finance, Central IT, International, Marketing and Communications and Philanthropy.” Um, the experience of staff whose jobs are going isn’t “better.”

Best way to celebrate

The whacky funsters at the National Health and Medical Research Council advise that May 20 is International Clinical Trials Day and want to know how we all plan to celebrate it. CMM intends to revel by not having any medical issue that qualifies him to be part of one.

Nothing up in lights

Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s review of the national electricity market was lost in the political wilderness once Malcolm, ‘Man from Snowy River’ Turnbull decided that hydroelectricity powers opinion polls. But Dr Finkel released the 360 submissions to the review anyway, of which only 15 of which are badged as coming from the higher education research community.

This does not seem many, what with 21 Australian universities making it onto the world top 500 on the new QS subject list for environmental science and 19 for engineering and technology.

The only universities to make institution-badged submissions were the University of New South Wales, the University of South Australia and the University of Queensland but they were statements by specialists rather than official university positions.  CMM suspects this might change if Dr Finkel’s final report recommends research money to keep the green lights on.

Big resource, huge price

Monica Thielking from Swinburne U has coedited (with Mark Terjesen of St John’s U in New York) a Handbook of Australian School Psychology.  It includes chapters on dealing with bullying, emotional learning, depression, suicide, anxiety, poverty and working with students in remote Indigenous communities which will make it very useful indeed. It’s yours, or more likely your library’s for just US$399 for the e-edition, that’s the one the publisher does not have to print and pack and post. No CMM does not understand how it can be so expensive to produce that it requires such a price.

History Prize

Shortlisted authors for the 2017 Ernest Scott Prize for history are Barbara Brookes, A History of New Zealand Women, Penelope Edmonds, Settler Colonialism and (re) Conciliation, Tom Griffiths, The Art of Time Travel: historians and their craft and Hannah Robert, Paved with Good Intentions: Terra Nullius, Aboriginal Land Rights and Settler-Colonial Law. The winner will be announced on April at the University of Melbourne.

Pyne announces shipbuilding tech

Paul Keating and John Howard were keen to get the feds into tech education and now Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne has announced the $25m (for starters) Maritime Technical College. The college will train workers, first for the Offshore Patrol Vessel which will start building next year. It will then move on to help meet the Future Frigates project which will “cut steel” in 2020 and need up to 2500 skilled workers.

 Mr Pyne says the projects will require workers from, say the automotive industry, to retrain. “For others this will mean going through a full apprenticeship.”

According to the minister, the college will be a national institution, using a hub and spoke approach and cooperating rather than competing with existing institutions, like the Australian Maritime College in Launceston. As to where the hub and spokes will be Mr Pyne didn’t give anything away however he did say; “students could be undertaking training through the Maritime Technical College which is for shipbuilding in South Australia, but actually be studying at Queensland University of Technology or at a TAFE in Shepparton or Bunbury.”

 Courtesy or curtness at Curtin

From Perth comes speculation that both Curtin University management and the National Tertiary Education Union are keen to reach an enterprise bargaining agreement. Observers say look to the tone of questions from staff and the way associate HR director Jane van den Herik handles them at an open staff meeting today.

HeadsUp: the week’s winners at work


The (UK) Higher Education Academy has announced judges for its annual teaching awards, including two Australian appointments, Darrell Evans, DVC A at the University of Newcastle and Philippa Levy, PVC Learning at the University of Adelaide.

Western Sydney U’s Whitlam Institute has appointed Professor the Honourable Margaret Wilson a distinguished fellow, she was attorney general in Helen Clark’s NZ Labor government. Edward Nik-Khah, an economist from Roanoke College in Virginia becomes a fellow. He is known for his research on the “history and philosophical underpinnings of neoliberalism.”

The National Health and Medical Research Council has a new commissioner of complaintsChris Reid, a former general counsel for the Department of Health. Mr Reid replaces associate dean of law at the University of Tasmania, Don Chalmers.

Bruce McColl has started work as an industry professor at the University of South Australia, delivering his first lecture last week. His previous job was chief marketing officer at Mars (as in bars and a bunch of other brands)

QUT has appointed a police officer in residence, with Queensland Police Inspector Christopher Emzin starting 12 months at the university’s School of Justice. A QUT graduate, Inspector Emzin will lecture and work with researchers.

Ann Mossop is the inaugural head of Strategic Events at UNSW. She joins from the Sydney Opera House, where she ran the talks programme.

Professor Megan Davis is the inaugural PVC Indigenous at UNSW.

The endlessly energetic advocate for robotics, data science and digital wizardry in general, Hugh Durrant-Whyte is off to the UK to become chief scientific advisor to the Ministry of Defence.

Sarah Pearson is the University of Newcastle’s inaugural PVC for Industry Engagement and Innovation. She joins from the Canberra Innovation Network.

Tony Walker (ex Australian Financial Review) has joined La Trobe University as a vice chancellor’s fellow.

The University of Sydney’s School of Architecture, Design and Planning has appointed architectural historian and critic Professor Andrew Leach. He joins from Griffith U.  Professor Jianlei Niu, an authority on office environments and energy-efficient buildings moves to the school from Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Anton Middelberg will become the University of Adelaide’s new dean of engineering, computer and mathematical sciences in August. He moves from the University of Queensland.