Postgrads back higher degree training plan

Plus ANU’s new deal on Asian languages and VU loyalty plan for footy fans  

Begin again

A reader points out that with parliament prorogued all bills are void. That includes the original Higher Education Support Amendment (Savings and Other Measures) Bill 2013 blocked by Labor in the Senate, (although it was introduced by the last Labor government.) As the bill included the 2014 and 2015 efficiency dividends the government does not seem to have much choice but to introduce it again, unless of course it wants to pay universities the cash it has kept.

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ANU commits to keep language teaching

ANU says “fewer than 15 academic positions could be affected” by its new proposal for changes in the School of Culture, History and Languagesreleased last night. And Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt has committed to teaching “a wide-range of Asia-Pacific languages” including “all currently being taught.”

But the school will be replaced by a new one “organised around questions of how Asia and the Pacific are being transformed” which will have fewer staff and rely in part on “the further development of initiatives to improve income.” The existing school now has 56 continuing academic and 14 professional staff. An unspecified number of professional staff will go but existing academics will transfer to the new school, except when they don’t, in which case “transition arrangements for affected staff will be developed on a case by case individual arrangement.” The university has not ruled out compulsory redundancies. However positions teaching “less commonly taught” languages which were to be fixed term in a previous plan are now continuing.

While the successor school will need to work with $2.44m less than the existing $14.6 budget, the existing language subsidy paid by the university and now budgeted to reduce to $1m in 2018 will continue after then, “subject to (a) set of defined performance conditions.” One of which is a 10 per cent increase in EFTSL across all languages offered by 2016-18.

Late last night opponents of the original proposal acknowledged Professor Schmidt‘s commitment to languages demonstrated by continuing the teaching subsidy. However the Hands off Asia Pacific Studies group warned, “the dynamism and excellence of the school is broader than just it’s language programs. …We believe that speaking the language is only one part of the puzzle for intelligent engagement in the Asia Pacific Region.”  The group also deplores the continuing cut of what it says will be 15 academic jobs, calling it “the largest industrial event in the history of the ANU, (which) simply cannot be justified for a school with such a record of demonstrated excellence.”

“These cuts remain deep, brutal and unjustified: ongoing commitment to ‘smart’ engagement with the region cannot begin and end with languages. Cultures and histories, are not only vital they are the prerequisite for the ‘smart’ engagement Australia needs and ANU has promised.”

Dragging on

A consultant’s report into the conduct of a senior Murdoch University manager is yet to be released, more than six months after staff complaints triggered it. The identity of the manager involved is common knowledge at the university and staff wonder what’s causing the delay.

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CAPA calls for not much cash

Interest groups rarely endorse reports to government that do not call for buckets more money. But Council of Australian Postgraduate Association president Jim Smith has done just that in response to last week’s higher degree review. CAPA “generally endorses” the Australian Council of Learning Academies report (CMM April 14) which among many recommendations; proposed an emphasis on skills gained by postgraduate degree candidates rather than the existing common ordeal by thesis, called for an independent agency running an industry placement scheme for postgraduates and urged allowing universities to use their allocated higher degree funding to extend government scholarships to four years and provide top-up support. These are big ideas, which would take relatively small amounts to fund.

However CAPA acknowledges that ACOLA recommending and the higher education establishment supporting change are different things. “What remains to be seen is if vice chancellors and the commonwealth government are actually willing to step up to the plate and provide adequate resourcing to support the changes recommended by the review.” Good point, the risk is that the review will disappear into election campaign-fog. Whether it is found on the other side will depend on who the minister is then.

Good starts

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business now accredits business courses at Curtin and Deakin universities. This is a win for both, but not the quadrella of business school success. To achieve that universities also need accreditation by AACSB for accounting plus ticks from AMBA (for Association of MBAs) and the European Quality Improvement System. As far as CMM knows no Australian university has all four.

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But wait, there’s more!

Victoria University says staff, students and people who use university gyms can have a free pass to three Western Bulldog home games this season. People who take up the  offer have to accept they may receive marketing material from the club. Standard stuff in direct marketing land but is it the first time a university has participated in what is effectively a loyalty programme? Some one in a campus somewhere is dreaming of a rewards programme based on units enrolled.

It makes La Trobe’s partnership with Melbourne City Football Club (as in soccer) look mundane. According to PVC Research Development Russell Hoye, the relationship delivers research and internships. Not a free gift in sight!

Another ASQA achievement

Demonstrating the commitment to detail that has made it such a regulatory success the Australian Skills Quality Authority has advised VET trainers and assessors that Registered Training Organisations claiming they are required to upgrade their qualifications are wrong. ASQA is right, for now. What the Australian Industry and Skills Committee has recommended to COAG is that “the existing VET workforce should have to undertake two new additional units in the Certificate IV Training and Assessment,” (CMM April 4). ASQA is at pains to point out that no RTO is actually empowered to teach the new units, but CMM suspects that this because they are, well, new. It is also said COAG will endorse the proposal. As it stands in the ruins of VET FEE HELP it is good to see ASQA focusing on big issues.

Research impact of the day

La Trobe’s Jill Cook has posted “Ten things not to do if you have lower limb tendon pain” to the university’s Sports and Exercise Medicine Research Blog. It’s been viewed 15 000 times. As a way of raising the university’s research profile, and actually doing people in pain some good this is hard to beat.

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Data is the new mining boom

The Productivity Commission  urges academics, “as big data users,” to have their say on data use– which is as close as the PC will ever come to promoting its discussion paper for an inquiry into big data, released yesterday. The paper’s point is that regulatory and privacy restrictions prevent access by “neutral third parties” notably academics, to many public social policy data sets. But, the PC proposes, by mining public, and private sector data researchers can assess the efficiency of public programmes and ways to improve them, increase competition by making markets more transparent, empower consumers by increasing actionable information on products and services and “shed light” on the effectiveness of government policies and programmes. Ominously, the PC’s example of the last one is, “government-funded research.” Even so, this is one mining boom that will pay dividends for researchers in just about every STEM, medicine and social science discipline.

 

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