QILT covers off quality on university education

plus arguing at Edith Cowan U

and US indifference to international education

Birmingham’s big day

Whether or not Simon Birmingham is education minister after the election he has delivered a major market reform without anybody noticing. QILT will transform the way students select where they study.

Promise of the day

“A Shorten Labor government will invest an additional $31 million in Tertiary Education Quality Standards Australia,” party policy states. Well, that’s a bunch of votes lost from people who work at the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency and don’t like the idea of new organisation on their patch.

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Where the audience isn’t

One of the things CMM was hoping for in the government’s international education strategy was comprehensive ways for institutions to not make it obvious that students from overseas are just considered cash flow. Alas, it was not to be (CMM May 2) – an absence delegates to the Council for International Students Australia conference will undoubtedly note when they convene in Darwin, July 5-8. “The conference provides an important opportunity for government bodies, stakeholders and students to gather together and listen to each other, sharing inspirational and interesting opinions and goals.” Out of towners will certainly get to talk to international students at the local Charles Darwin U, perhaps all of them – there are less than a thousand. Yes, it makes a change from conferring in state capitals or Canberra, but then again, that is where the students are.

Runs on the board

Swinburne U’s new PVC for research development, Alan Kin-tak Lau is newly elected to the European Academy of Sciences and Arts. Professor Lau is a materials scientist with 9000 citations. Swinburne hired him to drive engagement and research metric performance so he will probably be keen to see this sort of endorsement incorporated in the new ERA engagement and impact metric.

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The truth is out there

As long expected (CMM March 7) the feds have released whole of institution performance data on recent graduate’ salary, employment outcomes and overall experience from the excellent Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching university assessment website. On top of the discipline data already available this ensures prospective students have information to make an informed decision about where to study.

Want to know why $100k degrees would not have been the norm if deregulation had been adopted? QILT shows some big-brand institutions do not significantly outperform lower status competitors on a range of outcomes.

QILT could be better. If this information was provided at the discipline level with the already available data on teaching and learning it would create a truly informed market. Even so, there is now more information available than Australians deciding where to enrol have ever enjoyed.

The implications are obvious and not just for university enrolments as the market responds to more information. Over time QILT will force universities to actually address what they stand for. Much university marketing, especially at the high end, is interchangeable, with anodyne statements of excellence. When many universities bother with the stuff students pay for – teaching and study resources – they vague it up, banging on about quality. Not for much longer they wont. Not when what their students actually think is on the record thanks to QILT. Stories all over the media comparing university performance in QILT will prove the point, status and self-promotion will not cut it anymore.

Good on Christopher Pyne for starting the product and hooray for Simon Birmingham for giving prospective students information they need. It is outrageous that the government has to provide this data, which is really what rankings should be, but funnily enough the universities and allied providers have never got around to it. An oversight, CMM is sure.

Equal opportunity

The Council of Private Higher Education is pleased that its members are included in the new QILT coverage. “This website demonstrates to all its users that the private sector achieves a great deal for its students,” CEO Adrian McComb said yesterday. He added that it makes the case for giving students at private higher education providers access to HECS FEE HELP. One for after the election, if the government is returned.

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Separate checks please

Last week the University of Melbourne’s Business and Economics faculty and the Melbourne Business School jointly announced “another milestone in their collaboration” with the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business granting joint reaccreditation. The announcement included statements from Faculty of Business and Economics co-dean Paul Kofman and Melbourne Business School Dean and Faculty of Business and Economics co-dean Zeger Degraeve about all being well since 2013 when the faculty and school agreed that MBS would be the sole graduate buseco outlet in 2013.

But who, apart from the people involved, cares? Not it seems the AASCB, which just reaccredited the University of Melbourne. However this simply will not do and a university spokeswoman says “we are in communication with the AACSB to ensure that the joint accreditation is accurately reflected on its website.”

For the people just trying to market the university as a whole this must be like Proctor wanting a separate indentity to Gamble.

Starting as they mean to go on

The skirmishing has started at Edith Cowan U over enterprise bargaining. CMM hears VC Steve Chapman is out talking to staff about changed times after the election and the virtues of moderation, to which National Tertiary Education Union branch president Associate Professor Utte Mueller replies, “the question I have on this is: does the senior management team impose a similar wage restraint on themselves? That is a question to which we do not know the answer as their pay details are not public (in contrast to those of academic and professional staff covered by the enterprise agreement).” The bargaining teams are due to meet Friday week.

Indifferent US

New US stats show the yanks are not really trying in the international education market. Yes, the numbers of foreign students there grew 6 per cent in the year from March 2015, but only to 1.18m, not many given 8700 institutions are accredited to receive them. Good news for Australia now, but what happens if the US ever gets serious about expanding into its, and our main markets – China and India?

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Rushing headlong into the 18th century

Academia has failed to better inform public political debate and policy thinking.” No CMM is not being presumptuous it’s the blurb for a seminar at ANU’s Coral Bell School on Friday on how academics can better inform public policy debates. It also asks, “is academia spluttering on a 17th century track far removed from the digital realities of the 21st century?” Heavens no – academics don’t lecture in Latin anymore.

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