Resigned to reading ERA advice

Campus Morning Mail summer edition

Yes, you have to

First day back? Want something to cheer you up? Well don’t read the new Australian Research Council paper on ERA 2015 submission guidelines, which is light on for jokes. But if your career depends on research performance, yours and the university’s both, you probably should. Most of the changes from the last Excellence in Research for Australia initiative are operational but some are to stop people gaming the system. Staff only employed for a couple of days a week “must have a publication associated with the system,” presumably to stop universities inflating output by buying rights to a big name. And to stop people recycling research they can only submit one paper based on work that generated multiple publications. Not that any one would

More Pyne plans

Deans of education who think Christopher Pyne’s new battle plan for a school curriculum content and culture war gets them off the hook should think again. Teacher education is still on the minister’s mind. Reminding us of his quality inquiry into “how teacher education programmes could be improved to better prepare new teachers with the practical classroom skills needed for modern classrooms,” the Education Minister promises more initiatives to come.

Say what?

The estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research begins 2014 as it means to go on – with challenging, often alarming, research. The first effort is by Steven Hodge, who finds that trainers and teachers who complete a Certificate Four in Training and Assessment often have few clues, at least initially, as to what they are intended to assess. “VET practitioners may encounter difficulties in interpreting competencies, beginning at the stage of reading the texts. Most participants in this study reported that they needed to read competencies several times before comprehending them. … Some participants thought that too much jargon was used in the texts or that they were not written as well as they could be. The sheer number of participants reporting difficulty with the language of the competencies indicates that, in practice, the process of interpretation may encounter a hurdle at the very first stage,” Mr Hodge writes. Gosh, what a surprise.

Recycled warnings

The Senate Education and Employment References Committee is holding an inquiry into TAFE, which will provide critics of deregulation with less a soapbox than a grandstand to make their case, what with “the effects of a competitive training market” being a reference term. And you can expect committee member Lee Rhiannon, who runs hard on education, to make the most of another; “what public funding is adequate to ensure TAFEs remain in a strong and sustainable position to carry out their aims?” The Australian Education Union is keen to give Senator Rhiannon a hand, providing members and friends with a guide to making a submission. “Use facts and figures if you can, but also case studies and local stories Personal stories are especially compelling. Governments are often once-removed from the impact of their policies. This is your chance to put a human face to the current events in TAFE.” This is very good news for the 172 individuals and organisations that made submissions to last year’s House of Representatives TAFE inquiry, which ended before its work was done when the election was called.

Snow pony pleading 

Tony Peacock from the CRC Association provides a considered view on Chris Turney’s Antarctic imbroglio, what the frozen expedition did and didn’t achieve – and most important how it impacted on other scientists. Antarctica is nobody’s private patch, but as reported this week the need to rescue unfreeze the expedition seems to have harmed other people’s plans. But Professor Peacock suggests this is not being recognised. “The University of New South Wales team has ‘regretted’ the impact on other organisations and thanked them for the rescue. But each time they do so, they seem to add words to the effect that the impact on others won’t be too much – obviously they wouldn’t actually know and it sounds a bit weasel worded. I suspect a straight apology is better,” he writes.

Rush to judgement

The Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities have backed Universities Australia position in its submission to the demand driven funding review. (UA is in favour). Um, that will be the UA submission, which went in at the start of November.

UQ stands for unpopularity quotient

That the University of Queensland is on the nose in Brisbane is demonstrated by  commentary on the way it mistakenly announced and then withdrew undergraduate scholarships. The university handled its response to the stuff-up by the book – announcing, apologising and offering up DVC Joanne Wright to grovel in the media last Monday. There is more to sympathy for disappointed kids in anger at UQ  – demonstrated by the Courier Mail illustrating an oped on the subject with a picture of Paul Greenfield. Ever since the enrolment scandal that cost Mr Greenfield his job as vice chancellor there is a perception that UofQ does not much care what the community thinks of it. This is unfair – the university is much more transparent under Peter Hoj – but the idea it is aloof seems set. This is a problem that will take years to fix.

University of where?

The Weekend Australian reported research on injuries among young footballers from the Australian Centre for Research into Injury in Sport at the University of Ballarat. At the where? Hacks note, it is now Federation University Australia, which is never, ever abbreviated to FU – although that may be what VC David Battersby wants to say to the paper.

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