Tails you lose

“Have you ever wondered why humans do not have tails?” the University of Melbourne asked on December 30, thus ensuring readers who never have ignored its research tales.

UoQ cracks two million MOOC learners

The University of Queensland is eating more of its own lunch, extending its range of micromasters. This year the university will offer a sustainable energy course “to equip learners to overcome the challenges of transitioning to a low-carbon energy system” and a new business course in corporate innovation. They join two MMs launched last year, in business leadership and global development. UoQ’s MM’s can count for credit for on-campus degrees and are a great way of introducing students to a full UoQ course. But CMM wonders (September 4 2017) whether there is a risk of people taking the courses and adding on subjects from other institutions to create their own customised collection of skills at a much lower cost  than a conventional degree.

It’s obviously a risk the university thinks is worth taking – a part of its successful commitment to MOOCs. UoQ’s 47 MOOCs, via edX, have enrolled over two million students – quadrupling enrolments in around two years.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features, this morning David Myton is in conversation with UniSA DVCR and outstanding scientist Tanya Monro.

 

The right stuff

With Education Minister Simon Birmingham intent on establishing performance measures for undergraduate outcomes Charles Sturt U will surely pick up points for hosting the 43rd international conference on improving university teaching. It’s on in Port Macquarie, June 27-29. Deadline for paper proposals is February 9.

Heads roll as VU staffs up new learning support scheme

The Victoria University teaching and learning restructure rolls on, with management announcing the Centre for Student Success will be in place for the start of the academic year. The new centre will support VU’s first year college model and meet the needs of students (among others) not especially well prepared for tertiary study. However the new centre has come at a cost, with 25 student support permanent staff taking voluntary redundancy and another ten fixed-term staffers not having their contracts renewed. Some 18 appointments to the new centre are announced with PVC Learning Innovation Ian Solomonides saying the recruitment process is halfway through.

However the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union is not optimistic, suggesting academics are replaced in the new unit by professional staff who “will not be able to provide the specialist support required to support senior, postgraduate and higher degree by research students. These students are likely to miss out on the support they need.”

Appointments

UNSW has appointed a Nobel laureate to staff for the first time. Sir Fraser Stoddart joins chemistry part-time at the Sydney campus.

Anna Meredith will become head of the University of Melbourne’s Veterinary School in July. She will join from the University of Edinburgh.

UA chief Gardner slams government: “there is money to cut taxes but cuts to education”

In a robust challenge to Canberra quietly abolishing demand driven undergraduate places, Universities Australia president Margaret Gardner says the government must explain whether there was a “direct-decision” to end the system as part of a Mid-Year Economic Forecast and Outlook funding cut announced just before Christmas. “This is a big policy decision which was not debated,” she says.

Professor Gardner also declines to consider Education Minister Simon Birmingham’s MYEFO statement that any future growth in student numbers at a university will depend on institutions meeting yet to be determined performance metrics. “First we need to answer whether the funding cut is a statement about Demand Driven Funding or it was just a cut in the MYEFO statement.

She also calls for experts across the tertiary system to engage with the community in a national discussion of what Australia will need to prosper in the “knowledge century,” signalling that the Universities Australia conference in March will be a good place to start. “UA needs to have a discussion and reach out to all tertiary education sectors.”

Instead of “reactive change on the basis of a funding cut” there must be an “evidence-based, research-based discussion, “not an exchange of op eds,” the UA president and Monash University vice chancellor told CMM yesterday.

While Professor Gardner declines to define terms of engagement, saying it is “too early to say what the core issues will be,” she will “raise questions about the sustainability of tertiary education for Australia,” at UA.

Professor Gardner’s statement sets Universities Australia at odds with Senator Birmingham, who dismissed a return to demand driven funding after a two-year MYEFO freeze on university funding; saying the government’s policy “is now settled,” (CMM December 19). However she also wants the Opposition to state its position.

Government quietly announces big bucks for block grants

Universities are not top of the pops with the government so perhaps it pained Minister Birmingham to have to announce funding for them – handing out block grants on December 22 was not a way to attract attention. Unless he did not want to draw attention to distributing $1.9bn in research training and support in a week when he was suggesting the sector had never had it so good.

Unless of course, he just could not want to hear an it’s-unfair-athon from the 34 universities which will share 37 per cent of the money. The Group of Eight gets the rest. UniMelb leads with $197m, followed by UoQ- $187m, UniSydney-$185, Monash U-$170m, UNSW-$169m, ANU-$120m, UWA-$94m and Adelaide $88m.

Regional unis warn: campus closures on cards

Seven regional universities warn the federal government’s two-year funding-freeze will “dismantle” “important advances in living and education standards.”

Regional universities hold the key to unlocking a new future for regional Australians, helping create new businesses and a re-skilled workforce – but those initiatives have suddenly and unfairly been put on hold by the Federal Government funding freeze,” says Regional Universities Network chair Greg Hill.

The six member (CQU, USC, USQ, UNE, Federation U and SCU) RUN group plus Charles Sturt U warn; “this policy is likely to see some regional campuses close and will terminate many initiatives which have been cross-subsidised by universities to build capacity in regional communities.”