Pyne picks up the pace

All’s well that ends well

A University of London librarian, “who proposed the sale of Shakespeare’s folios has resigned weeks after his undeclared romantic link with an employee at the auction house set to sell them was revealed,” Claire Carter writes in the (London) Telegraph. A case of love’s labour lost? (Thanks to Colin Steele for pointing out this comedy of errors – all right I will stop now.)

Pyne picks up the pace

This is more like it. After a couple of weeks settling in the Education Minister is hopping into work. He delivered a major speech to schoolteachers yesterday and also agreed to deliver Tuesday’s plenary to the Australian International Education Conference.

Who is up, who is down and who cares

The response to the Times Higher rankings played out pretty much as normal yesterday. Universities who went down pointed out, with some justice, that one year’s results a trend does not make while those who went up were pleased indeed. Like the Pollyanna of promotion at the University of Melbourne who announced, “ Wow UniMelb 13/world for Arts & Humanities, 21 for Social Sciences; tops Australian rankings.” All true, however overall the university dropped 6 spots, falling out of the world’s top 30. The University of Queensland promoted a two-place rise, despite “straitened conditions for Australian higher education.” Entirely correct, although UofQ might want to consider that the United States, which dominates the ratings is not in the best of shape for education funding. The University of Newcastle was also exuberant to be “the highest ranked outside a capital city!” University of Wollongong VC Paul Wellings was happy enough to climb into the top 300 to reflect, “overall it’s been a good year for UOW in the key international rankings.” Um, excluding the drop in the QS rankings, released last month, in which the Gong has slid for the last six years. As Professor Wellings told the Illawarra Mercury on September 12 improving Asian institutions meant Australian institutions had to run harder to stand still. Quite.
Of course no one is as happy with the rankings as the Times Higher team, they banged on about them all day.

No “if” about it 

Frank Stagnitti, DVC Research at what was the University of Ballarat muses on Twitter about a Times Higher report that researchers have unrealistic hopes for academic careers; “I wonder if Oz is heading this way”.  Perhaps he should ask sessional staff.

Pyne makes it plain

Chris Pyne delivered his first major speech, to the National Conference of the Independent Education Union in Canberra yesterday. It included a strong statement of what the minister wants from deans of education and a warning that he knows he is in a position to get it, teaching standards, he said, “is one of the areas in which a Federal Minister for Education has the most scope to bring about change.”
The good news for deans who admit teacher education students with low entry scores is that Mr Pyne is sticking to his previous position and rejecting the idea that an ATAR is a measure of potential.
“We’ll establish best-practice guidelines to encourage universities to base admission not just on academic achievement, but on the personal qualities that make good teachers. And by this I mean being truly motivated to teach and work with children, exhibiting good communication skills, and having a record of community service. We should be admitting to university courses people who have marked down teaching as their first or second preference, not their last. Establishing more flexible pathways into teaching is another initiative the Government will explore in an effort to attract more high-quality candidates into the profession.”
The bad news is that he thinks universities can do a better job;
“the Government will set up a Ministerial Advisory Group to look into initial teacher-education courses and to then advise improvements. This group will consider the teaching methods imparted, the trainees’ knowledge of the school subjects to be taught, and the adequacy of “in-school” training opportunities. Overall, the Government wants to work with universities to make teaching courses more rigorous and attractive.
Can’t get much clearer than that – so who is going to be in the MAG?

The comrades confer

The National Tertiary Education Union’s 120 member National Council, was addressed by member for Melbourne, Adam Bandt yesterday. I hope he said thanks for all the union assistance that helped get him re-elected.  The Council consists of officers plus 100 or counsellors elected by the rank and file on a branch basis with one representative per 300 or so members. With the absence of education as an election issue and pay settlements lower than the union wanted it can’t have been much of a meeting.
The union’s professional staff conference is in Adelaide next month. One of the issue that should get a run there is the push, also launched yesterday, for a single enterprise agreement at the University of New South Wales, where the union claims academics enjoy better redundancy and working conditions.

 Not so tough TEQSA

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency revealed a kindler, gentler approach to regulation yesterday, briefing the system on how it is “implementing an agenda to reduce the regulatory burden for providers”. Could have fooled me – whatever the intended outcome the way the documents are as daunting as they ever were. But maybe that is just me, ever since the Lee Dow-Braithwaite review slammed the agency a defence of TEQSA has become a shibboleth for some in the sector – as if attacking it is endorsing a free market in higher education, where the state has no funding responsibility or regulatory role. Whatever anybody thinks the only question is what does Minister Pyne think about it. Perhaps there was a hint in his speech to the independent teachers conference yesterday; “under the Coalition, you’ll see the end of the “command-and-control” regime that has emanated from Canberra.”  Granted TEQSA is an independent authority, and in Melbourne, but I suspect this is a theme that Mr Pyne will apply across the portfolio.

They finish Middlemarch

A study of readers of literary fiction finds they have superior emotional intelligence – or at least high boredom threshholds.

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