Curse those Kiwis!

But look to ASEAN for education export opportunities

Support, sort of

RMIT staff were out over wages and conditions yesterday. It seems a subdued affair with the student union supporting the strike, urging students not to cross picket lines, but still turn up.  And if classes were cancelled, well it was in a good cause. “The student union supports the staff’s aims to limit tutorial sizes, reduce casualisation and increase staff availability.”

Valuing what we can measure

Oh good, another ranking, this one being the National Taiwan University Ranking of Scientific Papers. Obscure for sure, but it merits attention if only as a break from the incessant self-promotion of the Times Higher.  And it could be worse. The new edition of Andrejs Rauvargers’ magisterial Global university rankings  says “the NTU Ranking aims to be a ranking of scientific papers, i.e. it deliberately uses publication and citation indicators only; therefore, data is reliable,” which could pass for praise from this very careful commentator. However it isn’t comprehensive, covering agriculture, clinical medicine, engineering, life sciences, natural sciences and social sciences but ignoring arts and humanities. Scores are based on research productivity (number of articles), impact (citations) and excellence (highly cited papers and articles in high impact journals). Inevitably you can slice and dice the data to prove good things about your institution and demonstrator the opposition’s failings. But for what its worth, the results do not seem all that different to the broad trends in other rankings. The US dominates the top 20 spots with Harvard first, ahead of Johns Hopkins, Stanford, U Wash-Seattle and UCLA. In fact the only institution which is not from the anglo-sphere in the first 20 for the last year is the University of Tokyo at 17.  And by anglo-sphere I mean the US, UK and Canada (Uni Toronto is overall 7th). Overall the University of Melbourne makes it at 38, followed by Sydney at 51, UofQ at 67 and Monash at 94th. After that the gaps to the rest of the G8 rather open up, UNSW 113, ANU, 177 with Adelaide trailing at 246 (New Zealand patriots can rejoice at the U of Auckland at 235).

Does this prove anything other than the diligence of academics in specific disciplines? Probably not. But at least its based on hard data.

 House of review

The National Tertiary Education Union is actively campaigning for a team led by former NSW education minister Verity Firth in the University of Sydney senate elections. They are needed, the NTEU argues, to protect the university “from narrow sectional interests”. Apparently, “many at Sydney University were alarmed by the excessive intervention of corporate university senators in the negotiations of our recent enterprise agreement. This was yet another sign that corporate interests dominate Senate at the expense of quality education and democratic representation.” Ye gods! It is not the place of senators to stick their bibs into the routine administration of the university. The Senate’s rules delegate responsibility for the university’s enterprise agreement to management and while the ever-urbane Michael Spence would charmingly receive advice on operational issues from senators I cannot imagine him ever doing anything he did not want to.  Funnily enough, university management did not respond to the union’s claim last night, but did say, “as is appropriate, this resolution was negotiated between senior management and the unions via a formal enterprise bargaining process.”

It takes time

The final field of the Universitas 21 “three minute thesis” competition are live today. That the video on how to make an entry runs for nine minutes demonstrates the inverse relationship between effort and output that doctoral students are familiar with.

 Curse those kiwis

For a start they produce international education advertising which makes AusTrade’s “Future Unlimited” campaign look only slightly less lame than it actually is and now they are on the immigration pace. The day after Chris Pyne explained how the new government will ease up on visas for international students and immigration for graduates who want to stay, New Zealand  announces their equivalent. As of January international students at “high quality providers” will have liberalised work rights. A streamlined visa process will also be trialled. “Learn more, stress less in the greenest, safest, best value learning environment in the world,” is the NZ slogan, which is obviously what they are doing.

 An offer you can refuse

Curtin University offer, Twitter last night. “Want a $20 voucher and your face on our flyers and brochures? Sign up for a 1hr photo shoot.” Gosh $20!

 DASH depleted 

John Germov from the University of Newcastle is the new president of the deans of arts, social sciences and humanities and he is obviously keen to demonstrate the way DASH delivers on the government’s relevant research rubric. “Research in the arts, social sciences and humanities underpins public policies and programs, informing and shaping the ‘big issues’ that are driving social and economic change and development – issues as diverse as understanding health behaviour, the impact of an ageing population, labour trends and the balance of land use and economic development,” he said yesterday. Well at least that’s the social science part of his portfolio covered.

Voc ed export opportunities 

The ASEAN nations intend to establish an economic community in 2015 and to grow their economies by expanding education and training. While universities are already competing flat-out across the region Austrade identifies 18 industries where voc ed can build market share, from agriculture to telecommunications, aged care to tourism. The problem is “a low awareness” of Australia’s training capacity in the region. Sounds like a challenge and an opportunity to me.

An endorsement, of sorts 

There is a circle of hell reserved for bibliometricians. In fact there are several, so they can argue about how to measure who is in the hottest. A new paper in PlosBiology demonstrates why. According to Adam Walker and Nina Stoletzki, article assessors over-rate papers being considered for high-impact journals. In particular they over-estimate the citations they will receive, which in itself is an unreliable indicator. It is depressing stuff, especially the conclusion, that for all its faults, “although it is likely to be poor, the impact factor, of the journal in which a paper is published, may be the best measure of scientific merit currently available.”

Shock horror headline

The idea writing news (not to mention reporting) is a competency learnt by hard experience is ever-so analogue for many of the digerati in journalism schools. But Swinburne’s Andrew Dodd hacked around newsrooms for long enough to know better and he reports it straight in a well-written puff piece for his own outfit. “Journalism was a craft long before it was a profession and, before universities came along, journalists honed their skills on the job in cadetships. … The system obviously had its limitations, but it was very good at imparting the basic news gathering and writing skills that are so important for journalists. Universities have been reluctant to embrace this sort of teaching … In fact some university writing courses ask students to do very little actual writing.” Not, of course at Swinburne where students learn how to write (and presumably report) by doing lots of it. Good-oh, but there is just one issue an editor might ask of this piece – will there be any newsrooms for Dodd’s graduates to write in a few years?

What a surprise

University of Oxford Vice Chancellor Andrew Hamilton made a speech the other day explaining the need to deregulate tuition fees. His view was quickly backed by Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, the lobby group for elite universities, including, um Oxford.

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