MPs want STEM at the centre of education

Parly committee demands maths for all in post school education and says demand driven funding is delivering

 

MOOC of the morning: UniSydney course on easing the burden of obesity 

 

plus: WA unis pay the price for staying safe on international enrolments

 



 On-song with study

“Best of both worlds: part-time study and Hannah Montana”, student blogger Laura promotes QUT yesterday. Note the absent comma,  apparently Hannah is a TV character, not a place.

Debrief on attrition

TEQSA is hosting a discussion tomorrow on its new report on first year attrition (CMM June 7).

Speakers include TEQSA commissioner Lin Martin, who oversaw the report. It’s on in Melbourne and space is tight so quick-sticks if you want to go.

 STEM, STEM and more STEM

The House of Representatives Committee inquiring into the skills the future workforce will require wants to see STEM, and lots of it, plus it backs demand driven funding

The inquiry, commissioned by Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham,  recommends; “mathematics be re-established as a pre-requisite for obtaining an ATAR and that universities re-establish mathematics as a pre-requisite for relevant tertiary courses with an option for special circumstance exceptions.”

It also wants a strategy to end STEM subjects being taught in schools by teachers who are not discipline-qualified within five years and for universities “to increase the quantity and quality of STEM graduates from higher education.”

Nor do maths-phobes escape, with another recommendation requiring; “university faculties incorporate a unit of business, statistics, technology or entrepreneurship in non-STEM degrees.”

There is also bad news for opponents of the demand driven system, with the committee stating its support.

“The committee is pleased to see that the system is working. It notes criticism that this has not worked well enough to deliver the technical skills that individuals and the nation require for innovation and creativity and agrees that businesses has a role in advising students of employment and work opportunities. … The committee sees a time where, for example, business students, will develop a relationship with their university over many years rather than three. They will learn subjects as they feel they are needed, alternating between work and study as career and personal circumstances allow.”



MOOC of the morning

The University of Sydney has a snappily titled new MOOC, “Easing the burden, of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”

It’s via  Coursera, is taught by Stephen Simpson, academic director of the School of Life and Environmental Science, and is designed for “anyone who is concerned about the growing global epidemic of chronic non-communicable diseases in developed and developing countries.”

It is also another great example of Australian MOOCs that make a community contribution while extending provider institutions’ teaching and research reputation.

CQU on track

CQU has picked up funding to work on “intelligent train control for heavy haul railways.”

The cash comes from the feds accelerating commercialisation programme. With big coal fields adjacent, CQU has long worked on freight trains. It is a small grant, $167 000and part of a programme for tech start-up entrepreneurs, demonstrating the nimble company CQU keeps.

Brace for bargaining

The enterprise bargaining pace is set to pick, up with agreements at eight universities about to expire

The bargaining season just got serious with universities that others will watch about to start, or not, negotiations, depending on management strategies. In the past negotiations that drag on were less a big than no deal at all. The practice was to stick to the terms of the expired agreement until a new one was in-place.

But not necessarily now, thanks to Murdoch U, which is playing the hardest of hard ball with the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union. Management is asking the Fair Work Commission to end application of the old agreement, which could mean worse pay and conditions than its workforce now enjoys. However, management’s motive is not about slamming staff but pressuring the union to accept the university’s now non-negotiable offer.

By higher education community standards this is tough stuff, the toughest. While Murdoch is on its own, for now, a win in the commission next month could encourage other unis to follow. And the NTEU appears to know it. The Victorian branch has suggested Monash VC Margaret Gardner tell her team to get cracking and start negotiating

The universities with agreements expiring at month’s end are: Australian Catholic U, Macquarie U (academics), University of Southern Queensland, Flinders U, Monash U, RMIT, Swinburne and the University of Melbourne.

 

Open Days of the day

The University of Tasmania is set to go with green-is-good (well it is Tasmania) open days.

The university is promoting open days at its Hobart and three north of state campuses. It is the usual mix of friendly famils, course guides and the mandatory fun-stuff, including a smoothie bike, “learn about exercise and healthy eating whilst blending yourself a delicious smoothie!”. There is also car-pooling (well it is Tasmania) for “members of the UTas community in Launceston who want to go to Hobart. Given traditional regional rivalries the “community member” restriction may be to stop staff in the north complaining about the south stealing prospective students.  But for big open day events UniTas in the north will be hard to be beat – with Hawthorn playing North Melbourne at the University of Tasmanian oval, across the street from the Inveresk campus on Open Day.



Bacic to LaTrobe

Tony Bacic will be the inaugural director of the La Trobe University Institute of Agriculture and Food when it launches next year.

The plant biologist is joining from the University of Melbourne.

Price of prudence

WA universities are less dependent on international student fees than NSW institutions

In NSW universities rely on international student fees for 24 per cent of overall income more than domestic students provide, but the WA Auditor General reports a much lower contribution there. While Curtin and Edith Cowan U, picked up 20 per cent of earnings from internationals last year Murdoch earned just 11 per cent, down 7 per cent on 2015 and UWA 13 per cent, up two per cent on the preceding year. This is good in that the universities would not be in strife if international demand diminished very quickly, but there would be a lot more money to invest if WA universities came anywhere near those in NSW.

Overall, Perth’s universities were all in surplus in 2016, albeit not by much Murdoch’s case. The university recorded an 11 per cent operating surplus, but only after a $34m injection from a subsidiary, without which the margin would have been two per cent. UWA’s suplus was 3 per cent but that was after an $18m impairment charge from its museum collection. Curtin (4 per cent) and Edith Cowan (6 per cent) both recorded surpluses.

USN expert to QUT

The bloke who kept the US navy underway is joining QUT to work biofuels technology.

As director of operational energy Chris Tindall was also part of the Great Green Fleet initiative which uses biofuels to power warships. He has joined QUT as an adjunct professor working on biofuel research.

Kiwis keep calm and carry on

There are 500 or so volcanos underneath Auckland.

Economist Gary McDonald, UniAuckland volcanologist Shane Cronin and colleagues have studied the impact of one going off in the city of 1.4m people which produces 35 per cent of GDP. Across the ditch, they work with what they’ve got.

TAFE to take a hit as unis expand

TAFE Directors Australia has slammed the government’s plan for universities to expand in the sub-degree market saying it will distort student choice and “fails the public policy test of equitable access to tertiary education.”

“While the quantum of university courses and enrolments at this level is low, significant expansion runs the risk of duplicating and displacing current VET delivery in these areas. Such expansion would accelerate the shift of students, who normally would have attended TAFEs, to universities, which appears to have been the case with demand-driven CSP for bachelor enrolments in universities,” TDA’s Craig Robertson warns in a submission to a Senate inquiry into the government’s higher education package.

Universities soaking up demand at the higher end of the diploma market will also make it harder for TAFE systems to meet their community service obligations to provide training in rural and regional “thin markets.”  TDA also warns that universities will provide qualifications that TAFE provides at a lower cost to students and taxpayers.

“A more joined up approach to tertiary education would assist in efficient education investment by governments, and would do so at a lower cost with reduced duplication,” the submission states.

But not to worry, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training has a solution (above). It’s new report on workplace skills recommends; “access for Commonwealth Supported Places for sub-bachelor courses be applied in a way that disadvantages neither the university or VET sector.” Easy-peasy

 

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