Revealed: the degrees that don’t deliver for women

Women who study science, engineering and IT often end up working in sales

plus: MOOC magic! UniMelb crunches the data to discover learning potential

Calm, for now, QUT as change rolls out


Not so open day

A group of “valued visitors” spent 25 minutes in a lift at RMIT Architecture’s Open House on Saturday, waiting for the fire brigade. Lord knows what happened to guests considered unimportant.

Not all degrees are equal

Women who study science, engineering and IT are least advantaged in work and pay

A major Australian study finds dramatically different employment outcomes among equity groups. Tim Pitman and Lynne Roberts from Curtin U, with Dawn Bennett and Sarah Richardson from the Australian Council for Educational Research crunched data for 142 000 2013 and ’14 graduates for the six policy-focus equity groups, NESB, low SES, Indigenous Australians, regional and remote, students with disabilities and women in science, engineering and IT.

Where they work

graduates with a disability: are most likely employed in education, and least likely in engineering

Indigenous graduates: most likely employed in education and least likely in engineering and IT

NESB graduates: in health professions but not “social professions”

Low SES graduates: most in education professions, least in IT

Women graduating in science, engineering and IT: “most likely to be employed as sales workers. Just 12 per cent were employed in engineering or IT

Hours and pay

Indigenous graduates: top earners for both full-time and part-time jobs

Regional graduates: above median income for FT and PT

Low SES graduates: lead for PT salaries, below median wage in FT employment

NESB graduates: “earn well-below” median wage for FT and PT jobs

Women graduating in science, engineering and IT: “well below” FT and PT median wage and the only cohort with more people working part-time than full-time.

The authors also identify one activity that empowers people in all groups – paid work in the final year of study. This “is associated with improved full-time working opportunities for all graduates”.

Granted, the nature of work may not relate to their course, this is still a strong signal to universities that programmes assisting students with job skills and finding work matter now and will matter more as the demand driven system grows the number of graduates looking for work.

The article appears in the July issue of the Journal of Further and Higher Education here. If you can’t access it via subscription 24-hour access costs $42!

Rare achievement

Judy Raper is the 2017 Chemeca medallist, awarded to the ANZ chemical engineer of the year. The University of Wollongong DVC R is just the second woman to have received the award in its 25-year history.

Unis Aus acts on sexual assault

The peak universities lobby announces national support line for victims and survivors

Universities Australia’s phone service for victims and survivors of sexual assault, goes live at 9am today. The contact number is 1800 572 224.

The service opens 24 hours ahead of the UA backedAustralian Human Rights Commission report on sexual assault and harassment at the organisation’s 39 member universities. As previously reported by CMM, (July 24) Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia will run the UA service.

No go with the flow

A new drug sale makes the case for investing in pure research

A learned reader points out that the $US325m the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute will pick up from selling the royalty stream for new cancer drug Venetoclax (CMM Friday) is the result of 20 years of research. David Vaux discovered what has turned out to be a river gold in 1988, when he found a protein makes leukaemia cells live indefinitely. It took decades of work, which no one knew for sure would lead anywhere, to turn that discovery into a drug that is now on the market.

“It’s an illustration of just how hard it is to measure the impact of research. I wonder if our government will be that patient when it starts ranking these things,” the reader asks.

Friends of the feds will say that this is exactly the reason the government created the $500m Biomedical Translation Fund ($250m public and the same in private money). “Australia is a world leader in health and medical research, but the challenge has always been getting the research out of the laboratory and into the marketplace to improve health outcomes for Australians,” the BTF brief states.

Good-oh, but that is not about funding decades of work before research is ready to sell. The government’s impact and engagement research measures apply to the Australian Research Council rather than medical research agency NHMRC. However the rhetoric of the $20bn capital Medical Research Future Fund is all about “priority focused” research rather than the “investigator initiated” NHMRC approach. As Ian Frazer, chair of the Australian Medical Research Advisory Board put in November; “the MRFF will attract and retain excellent researchers, allow for the discovery and commercialisation of new medicines and technologies, and enable innovative treatments and cures.” This does not sound like funding research which may, or may not lead to a breakthrough drug in 20 years.

TEQSA hire

Greg Simmons has moved Monash U to TEQSA where he will be associate director, risk analysis. He was a statistical consultant and epidemiologist at Monash.

Calm at QUT

Big changes are carefully introduced

In April QUT announced it would replace “silo-based services in a federated manner” with a whole of university approach. This appears to especially apply to IT, where services operate according to past and present practise in operating units. Management now proposes centralising services (and here is the bit you weren’t waiting for) without savage staff cuts.

While dozens of jobs will have new reporting lines just five, four in management, will go. (However, the university warns this might change if the restructure reveals a need for more work).

But change is not as potentially painless for academics facing the university’s new performance management procedures in science and engineering. While there is support for the new metrics, significant number of staff feel measures of research undertaken and income raised are unreasonable and teaching loads are onerous. There is also talk of academics being hit with unsatisfactory performance ratings they do not see coming.

But they do things differently at QUT and instead of industrial action a staff and management group is working things through.

QUT watchers say this could blow up in management’s face but for now there is still a sense an agreement is possible that staff members who say they now feel unreasonably threatened can work with.

MOOCs for every morning

A UniMelbourne analysis shows MOOCS can teach students how to learn

Sandra Milligan (co-founder of the Good Universities Guide, so long ago the early issues appeared in Latin) joined the University of Melbourne in March to research combining data analytics and measurement science in assessing teaching and learning.

She has not mucked around – already analysing data produced by the 100 000 students in UniMelb MOOCs; “every click, tap, swipe they make, every document they consult, and every word they write in chat forums and exercises,” she writes in a new Group of Eight briefing.

She finds distinct learning styles depending on experience.

Less skilled learners are passive, reading what they are told, keeping quiet and consuming a MOOC like a lecture. Skilled learners search for sources, talk to their peers and reject content that does not work for them.

And learners can progress up five levels of learning, MOOC as textbook, MOOC as tutor, MOOC as tutor and user support group, MOOC as collaborative learning environment, MOOC as two-way learning in a distributed learning environment.

This is seriously super-stuff. As Aspro Milligan explains, the consistent patterns she identifies make it possible to, “design online learning systems that not only teach skills and knowledge, but at the same time teaches students how to best learn.”

She says analysis of learner-progressions in Melbourne MOOCs suggest course developers can learn ‘what works’ “to develop both the quality of programmes and the capacity of learners to make the most of them.”

Content knowledge plus learning how to learn – it’s a hell of a sell for UniMelbourne MOOCs.

Eureka candidates announced

The Eureka Prize nominations are out

Environmental Research: Griffith U. UNSW, NSW Department of Primary Industries and Southern Cross U. CSIRO and Antarctic CRC.

Data Science: Jie Liu, UTS. Dacheng Tao, University of Sydney. Geoffrey Webb, Monash U.

Interdisciplinary Research: University of Adelaide and South Australian Museum. University of Wollongong, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, University of Melbourne. CSIRO.

Infectious Diseases: Scott Bell, QIMR-Berghofer MRI. Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Kirby Institute, St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, Menzies School of Health Research. UNSW.

Medical Research: George Institute for Global Health and Ellen Medical Devises. CSIRO, Clinical Genomics Pty Ltd and Flinders University. Macquarie University, St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania, UNSW.

Technology: Francois Aguey-Zinsou, UNSW. University of Melbourne. Justin Gooding, Parisa Khiabani, Alexander Soeriyadi, UNSW.

Early Career Researcher: Igor Aharonovich, UTS. Madhu Bhaskaran, RMIT. Pengyi Yang, University of Sydney.

Science in Safeguarding Australia: Richard Mildren, Macquarie University. University of Adelaide and Cryoclock Pty Ltd.

Scientific Research: Swinburne University of Technology, UNSW, Katharina Gaus, UNSW.

Emerging Leader: Elizabeth New, University of Sydney. Andrew Whitehouse, Telethon Kids Institute.

Leadership and Innovation: Michelle Haber, Children’s Cancer Institute and UNSW. Andrew Pitman, UNSW. Salah Sukkarieh, University of Sydney.

Outstanding Mentor: Tom Davis, Monash University. Justin Gooding, UNSW. Damon Honnery, Monash University.

Citizen Science: EcoOcean Inc. Macquarie University, Yugul Mangi Rangers and Ngukurr School. University of Tasmania.

Science Journalism: Julia Peters, Wain Fimeri, Jordan Nguyen, Riley Saban, Ili Baré, Lizzy Nash. Paul Scott. Marcus Strom.

Sleek Geeks, Primary School: Oxford Falls Grammar. Presbyterian Ladies College, Sydney

Sleek Geeks, Secondary School: St Monica’s College, Queensland. Westminster School, South Australia. Scots School, Albury.

Winners will be announced on August 30.

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