Labor’s once in a generation higher education reform

plus millions unnoticed in training

Why UWA won’t commemorate the Orlando victims

and global engineering achievers

Selective silence

Labor’s Kim Carr is debating Christopher Pyne on innovation at the National Press Club on Monday, but when will Senator Carr and Simon Birmingham get into higher education? CMM hears Triple J’s Hack has a standing invitation, which Carr is keen on but Simon not so much. It’s not that Senator Birmingham detests debating. He is turning out tonight for a community debate on schooling (Allan Scott Auditorium, Uni SA City West).

Thursday June 16

Orlando unrecognised

Flinders VC Colin Stirling has a building lit in lgbti rainbow colours in memory of the victims of the Orlando massacre. At Edith Cowan U they are flying a pride standard on all three campuses. But there is nothing doing at UWA, where VC Paul Johnson, knocked back a request to fly a pride flag at half mast; “there have been hundreds of deaths this year of civilians who have been murdered solely because of their faith, or their behaviour, or their ethnicity,” he says.

“These are abhorrent acts of violence which are consciously designed to terrorise civilian populations, and this university despises the perpetrators, regardless of where, or against whom, they conduct their outrages. However, in terms of recognition of loss and demonstration of support, the university, along with most other public institutions in this country, will limit its actions to circumstances which involve numbers of Australian citizens and residents or which occur in this country, ” (thanks to UWA student paper, The Pelican). Good-oh, but what’s wrong with the Flinders option?

Business ability honoured

Former ABC MD Mark Scott now has an hon doc in business from UNSW. Critics who claimed his publicly funded ABC took way too much market share from for-profit providers will think a biz honour is entirely appropriate.

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Labor’s revolutionary plan

In what Kim Carr calls “the biggest highest education reform for a long time” he will today announce $430m over four years to create commonwealth institutes of higher education to provide sub-degree and advanced diploma courses. “They will meet local needs and fill a gap in the system,” Labor’s education spokesman says.

This is a major move, creating a new tertiary education tier and the most significant structural change since the Dawkins reforms abolished the college sector in the ‘90s.

Nine pilots with 10 000 places will be based across the country, with some sites, at Launceston plus Berwick and Preston in Melbourne already decided.

“The institutes will be based in areas where structural economic change has created high unemployment and provide courses for people who variously want to go straight into industry or prepare for university,” Senator Carr says.

While the programme will feature engineering and health sciences the emphasis will be on local needs with TAFE and universities working together to provide “qualifications that mean something, unlike those from bodgy VET FEE HELP colleges.”

Senator Carr adds the new institutes will provide “the highest quality of teaching” and provide for people now let down by university courses that do not meet their needs. “Far too many people enrol in university without the necessary support. This is an opportunity to do something about it.”

A Labor government will fund the institutes, which will not undertake research, at 70 per cent of the allocation per Commonwealth Supported Place. While the plan is to use existing facilities there will be “some” money for capex.

This is the first significant education announcement of the election and reflects Senator Carr’s long standing concern that demand driven funding is leading to universities enrolling, but not properly supporting, people better suited for training than university study and whose employment opportunities as graduates are limited.

Universities can’t go on enrolling people with no hope of success, we need better connections between enrolments and the labour market,” the senator says. If the pilots are successful more institutes will be rolled out.

Ag experts stay put

Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce’s commitment to move the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority from Canberra to the University of New England at Armidale, in his electorate, it is unlikely to occur. An ag research insider says it isn’t all that easy for the minister to tell the pesticide people to up sticks. As the APVMA act puts it, the legislation, in conformity with the public service act “does not empower the minister to direct the chief executive officer in relation to the chief executive officer’s performance of functions, or exercise of powers.” It seems UNE will have room for a new tenant.

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Eight reject demand driven funding

Just as peace breaks out over the ATAR, with university groups broadly backing the Universities Australia model (CMM June 6), a new blue is brewing over demand driven funding. The Group of Eight argue effective open access to university is now unnecessary, “it is not sustainable in the long term, has been inefficient in delivering equity of access, does not address sub-bachelor or postgraduate coursework and more broadly lacks a holistic vision for the entire tertiary sector. It is time to move to build a new model – better supporting opportunity, student choice and diversity across the tertiary education sector. At its heart this must provide access and equity for all who are capable, while maintaining quality,” the Eight argue.

But the Regional Universities Network is not having it. “Many more low SES and regional students have attended university because caps on places have been removed. … RUN universities have seen a significant growth in students from low SES and regional backgrounds due to the demand driven system,” chair Jan Thomas said yesterday.

If Labor wins the election Kim Carr’s new institutes will make the argument irrelevant, but in a way which will suit the Go8 more than the RUN.

App of the day

A proposal for an app that records the performance of teams playing online game Counter Strike has won the University of Adelaide’s 2016 Tech eChallenge. The app is intended to help professional teams “focus on areas of gameplay and strategy improvement.” Engineering students Aaron Hunter, David Donnellan and Gavin Meredith share a $20 000 prize pack, including the chance to pitch the product to Microsoft in Seattle.

Engineering Success

The United States dominates this year’s Shanghai Consultancy engineering rankings with 430 of the top 1000 universities across ten disciplines. American universities are number one in all but energy science and engineering, where China’s Tsinghua U is in top spot.

The University of Queensland is the only Australian school to make a global top ten, being tenth for engineering science. Overall the University of New South Wales led the locals with one top 20 and seven top 100 listings, ahead of the University of Queensland (one and four), Monash (four in the top 100) and Curtin, Newcastle, UWA (two in the top 100) followed by James Cook U, Macquarie, Swinburne, ANU, Adelaide, Uni SA and Uni Sydney with one in the top 100 – in engineering it isn;t the Group of Eight then daylight.

The first ten nations for the top 100 across all fields are, the US, UK, South Korea, China, Japan, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and Germany and Sweden.

Prized Pfleger

UWA aspro Kevin Pfleger has won the British Pharmacological Society’s Novartis Prize for his work on chronic kidney disease.

DIGITAL MARKETING Strategies for Higher Education

Twice the trainees

With all training, rather than just TAFE and government funded courses, now being reported the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education and Training states some 3.9m Australians were in some form of training in 2014, nearly twice the public supported figure.

While TAFE and private providers have similar training profiles the NCVER reports the public sector provides more engineering and trades courses and the private sector is stronger in health and services, “including policing, transport, logistics, security languages and music.” Overall private providers have 57 per cent of the market, with 27 per cent at TAFE and the remainder spread among schools, community and university providers.

While the NCVER is careful to qualify the data as incomplete until figures for multiple years are available it does point to private sector completion rates for certificates III and IV.

“A possible explanation for this may relate to the value placed by the student on training that is unsubsidised. Alternatively, it may relate to the nature of training. Much of the training delivered by private training providers is in the health sector which may correlate to training that is a job requirement and hence more likely to be completed.”

Overall this is extraordinary information, demonstrating the enormous size of the training system and the fundamental role of for-profit providers. For all the VET FEE HELP shonkery it seems clear that the training system would collapse without the private sector.

One to miss

The eighth OECD conference on “measuring regulatory performance and the role of institutional frameworks.” You are warned.

Perhaps delayed but not denied

It’s ironic that old-media in the form of the excellent David Uren at The Australian had first go at the Productivity Commission paper on digital disruption yesterday. Or perhaps not, because the PC’s position is one of understated scepticism, that, according to PC chair Peter Harris, “today’s digital disruption” is yet to deliver changes to match those of the 1870s or 1980s. (US economist Robert Gordon kick started this idea in 2012). CMM has no clue but the PC’s summary of what digital disruption can do seems scarily specific to a bunch of higher education functions: “reducing transactions costs for information exchange, generating and maintaining data as a valuable resource, increasing the automation of tasks, allowing new business models facilitated by digital platforms, cloud computing and sensor technology.”

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Agility is all

All of a sudden there are competing technologies for blockchain credit transfer systems (above) but asking whether they can be ignored for a while is a kodak of a question. Because if these two don’t create a new academic qualification system something else will. And the same speedy changes apply across just about all mass customer based, high-transaction industries. Its why a thousand people, including some from Monash, Deakin, Uni of Melbourne, Uni of Adelaide, Charles Sturt U and Griffith U are all attending next week’s Agile conference in Melbourne to hear experts including MIT’s Kate Darling and IBM CIO Jeff Smith discuss disruption and the digital technology to embrace the challenges and overcome the crises of an endlessly agile world. The two day conference includes a session for school and university students on working with at the absolute edge tech companies.  Content activated by Agile

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