Group of Eight warns TEQSA plan could risk Australia’s education reputation

 Academic records instantly available – it’s coming soon

 Uni Queensland wants to rebuild but the neighbours need convincing

 Great new MOOC on the menu

Bad timing

With talk of job cuts among ABC production staff perhaps yesterday was not the best day for the corporation to tweet video of an enthusiastic ANU student, who holds the corporation’s women in broadcast technology scholarship. She was talking up the importance of having women in broadcast technology.

Go8 says TEQSA talking too tough

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency is talking tough about protecting students, proposing to release decisions on provider performance when they are made, instead of waiting for 28 days, or the end of any review process, which the agency argues can mean delays of months, or even years.

“While it is important to ensure that higher education providers receive procedural fairness, TEQSA considers that procedural fairness can be afforded in ways which also ensure that sufficient information about significant decisions is available as decisions are made,” the agency asserts.

This gives universities and other higher education providers a case of the screaming meemies. Some point out a critical ruling by the regulator will do reputational damage from the day it is published, damage that will not be undone if it is later overturned. Others remember the first incarnation of the agency, when it was so aggressive in is approach expert reviewers said it should tone down dealing with providers.

And now the Group of Eight is involved, stating that while it supports “maximum protections for students” TEQSA’s proposal risks the reputation of Australian education built over decades.

“Allowing regulatory decisions to be published before the affected parties have had an opportunity to access any review of that decision would appear to remove any procedural fairness and diminish the scope for natural justice for providers. In our view the proposal poses the very great risk of damaging Australia’s domestic and international reputation. Such a proposal is also likely to adversely affect a provider’s existing student body; potentially without any basis.”

The specific proposal to issue media releases following regulatory decisions is one aspect of the broader proposal that is likely to have a deleterious effect on the sector,” the Go8 argues.

However, the Group of Eight argues that TEQSA could reduce the time it now takes to consider an appeal for review, now 90 days.

Qualifications on demand

People will have control of their academic records via a secure and tamper-proof programme being developed for Australian and New Zealand universities by a project team managed by Universities Australia subsidiary, Higher Education Services. Called My eQuals, the product will ensure students can instantly assure employers they have the qualifications they claim. The project will roll out over the next two years with 45 ANZAC universities being first participants.

eQuals will be launched at the annual meeting the Groningen Declaration, in Melbourne next month. The Declaration commits signatory nations to creating global digital data portability for student records.

On her way to Wellington

Linda Trenberth is to be Vice Provost (Academic and Equity) at Victoria University of Wellington. She moves from Griffith U where she is the business school’s academic dean.

Consulting the critics

The University of Queensland has put its new draft campus master plan out for consultation, It includes, “opportunities to open the campus grounds and facilities to the wider community,” there is talk of improved access to the Brisbane River, parkland and ways to encourage people to get to the university other than driving. This is a very big capital works plan, including campus student housing, although you have to look for it in the master guide. This may be because last time the university proposed campus development neighbours kicked up. “The … campus development will impact many hundreds of residents in a densely-populated part of a major urban city. The effect of UQ’s decisions has the potential to be devastating,” the Indooroopilly Community Association,” warned, (CMM July 23 2015).

But any hopes the university harboured that planning would be more peaceful this time around did not survive the first day of consultation. Last night the Brisbane city council and residents were out criticising the proposal in the press.

MOOC of the morning

 Clare Collins and Tracy Burrow have a new MOOC on the menu, The science of weight loss (via edX). The University of Newcastle nutrition researchers say the course “will dispel common myths about weight loss and teach you the science behind healthy eating for a healthy weight. This has to be close to the best example of the MOOC as community service CMM knows of. Question is, how many of the millions of people who would benefit from the course will ever know about it.

Good move, but not for all

Staff at the Australian Graduate School of Management fear banishment from the University of New South WalesKensington campus but management says it isn’t happening. What is being planned is a new residential and teaching complex for MBA students and short course clients at the university’s very pleasant indeed Cliffbrook campus, in sea side Coogee. Management is “collecting feedback on the ideas proposed,” a university spokesperson says. So everything is ok for everybody? Not quite, the spokesperson says the university’s 2025 restructure strategy, “may affect some positions at the AGSM.”

Who will do what

Western Sydney U watchers say Barney Glover wants staff to hurry-up and sort out the structures, and savings, from the voluntary redundancy scheme which has concluded and the reorganisation of operating units, codenamed Project Essex, which drags on. Word is the vice chancellor is asking for results by June and staff who fear for their futures are understandably anxious. This is not because the university is locking them out, CMM hears management is meeting with staff reps regularly. But with HR driving headcount cuts and the Essex team (consultants Deloitte Australia and WSU people) looking at new structures no one seems sure of who will do the work of the 220 or so staff who have already taken voluntary redundancy and where functions will be located.

Smart money on micromasters

“Credit is the sonic barrier of education and MOOCs must ensure quality and integrity to cross it,” edX vice president for education Kathy Pugh told a University of Adelaide audience last week ( CMM March 7. The sort of integrity, perhaps that comes from massive open online courses that count for postgrad credit at the issuing institution, like the University of Adelaide’s first, and new, micromasters in big data management.

Ms Pugh outlined the extraordinary growth of the micromaster product, even by edX’s spectacularly standards. Launched last September, some 22 institutions now offer 22 micromaster courses, generally in business education and related disciplines, across 34 programmes with one million plus enrolments. In addition to UniAdelaide, the University of Queensland and Curtin U also offer Australian micromasters. “Digital disruption is everywhere,” as the understated Ms Pugh puts it.

The power of the status quo

While open access advocates are making noise about the need for publicly funded research to be free to read the for-profit publishers are making money.  Elsevier announced a 36 per cent profit margin on sales of  £2 320m last month, ( CMM March 28.) Of course, the publishers are as cluey as they are cashed-up and instead of defending their business model they promote all the services it provides. They are all producing value adding data analysis and aggregator tools, like the new one from Springer Nature. This combines its information with that of partner organisations to create an open-access platform which will; “overcome former boundaries by relating comprehensive information about the research landscape.” The platform is expected to include up to 2bn data triples (a data entry consisting of subject-predicate-object).

Useful to be sure, but at the end of the day all the value adding in the world is surely secondary to the immense power of the status quo and the way it suits research organisations as well as publishers. Like, for example, the American Anthropological Association, which has just renewed its deal for John Wiley to publish its 23 journals. “Of the proposals presented to AAA, Wiley’s aligned with our publishing program’s core values: quality, breadth, accessibility, and sustainability,” the association’s Ed Liebow says.

Yes, there are extra benefits, assistance for editors, for example and there is a nod to open access, “Wiley will work with the association to enhance the global circulation of its publications, including through free and reduced-price access programs in developing countries.” Good-o but for people without subscription access it can cost US$6 to read an article online and US$38 to print it as a PDF. “Accessible,” huh?