Plus ranked QILT data on uni teaching could be coming
and UNSW spends up big on new research scholarships
As Mad Max: Fury Road picked up Oscar after Oscar last Monday CMM waited for universities to claim Australian recipients as their own. And waited and waited. It was not until Friday that one did, with Charles Sturt U announcing that staff member Damien Candusso was one of the best sound editing Oscar-winning team.
Hoj continues at UoQ
The University of Queensland Senate has renewed VC Peter Hoj for a second term of five years. Professor Hoj has already done well keeping UoQ in the news for the right reasons. Student demand is strong, research income grows and the university regularly rates in the top five, even three universities in the country. The culture on campus has also changed, with UoQ people now less fearful of upsetting a touchy leadership than in the past. And no decision made on Professor Hoj’s watch has attracted the attention of the state’s corruption commission, a KPI predecessor Paul Greenfield did not achieve.
St Lucia observers wonder what he will do with a second term. Despite a previous productivity push some suggest a transformation of teaching is on the agenda. The university has certainly successfully signed-up to the Harvard/MIT edX consortium, with UoQ claiming 750 000 enrolments for its MOOCs.
The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency is holding invitation-only roundtables for higher education providers. CEO Anthony McClaran plus a TEQSA commissioner will brief guests on how the assessment processes introduced last year are going and on the agencies approach on implementing the Higher Education Standards Framework, which start next year. You will all have to contain your enthusiasm until invitations are sent this month.
The Christopher Pyne created Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching, which give prospective students means to compare courses at universities in their consideration set are a vast improvement on previous half-baked survey reports
QILT could soon be even better, following release of the 2015 student survey (CMM March 4). The QILT team will talk about institutional results with each university and higher education provider and a table showing overall performance by individual institution is in the report, with identities anonymised, “to avoid creating a simplistic ‘league table’ “.
But CMM hears that the release of all-institution comparative data using the attributes assessed in the student experience survey is being considered in Canberra.
And quite right too. While universities (well, the ones on the bottom) would kick up if the feds published the top to bottom list that already exists there would be nothing simplistic about identifying each institution and its separate courses by all the variables measured, or just the five headline ones, skills development, learner engagement, teaching quality, student support and learning resources.
Protecting poor-performers from scrutiny is no reason to restrict deny prospective students access to information. QILT was created to help students make informed decisions under Mr Pyne’s fee deregulation plan. And just because that is off the agenda there is no reason why people deciding where to study should not have comparative data on where best to spend their money.
This is taxpayer funded data the community has a right to, because it shows real differences in student assessment of universities on core functions. As the QILT report states; “while there does not appear to be many significant differences between providers in the middle of the distribution, there are institutions at both ends of the distribution that are significantly different to those in the middle.”
Education Minister Simon Birmingham addresses the Universities Australia conference this week – it would be an excellent opportunity to demonstrate his commitment to a competitive higher education system, but without putting the possibility of increased fees on the table, just months before the election.
The rich get richer
Having reached the $500m target for it’s Believe fundraising campaign two years early the University of Melbourne asked itself why stop there? So it didn’t – it now plans to have a nice round $1bn in its kick by 2021. The university took full page print newspaper advertisements on the weekend to trumpet its achievement and announce its new goal.
UNSW super serious about new research
The University of New South Wales is out selling VC Ian Jacobs’ ten year plan to staff, with a summary of initiatives released on Friday. Including some significant new ones, notably the commitment to 500 “fully funded” Phd scholarships. These are on top of the university’s existing programme and will provide a $40 0000 stipend per annum for four year.This is serious money and certainly shows the VC is rock solid about building the university’s research output.
But where will all the money come from? Last month Professor Jacobs told staff that 25 per cent of the $3bn expenditure would come from “reprioritising existing resources,” and “greater efficiencies” which CMM estimated at savings of $70m – $75m pa or so over the life of the programme (CMM February 5). The university promises spending on “people, people, people” which is nice except for those who worry about the promise to “manage performance consistently and rigorously against clear expectations for all staff.” Isn’t that what the enterprise agreement covers already? a UNSWer asks.
Unhappiness remains at Murdoch
An inquiry into management of an especially unhappy (resignations and complaints) professional staff team at Murdoch U took months to complete but has now been with acting VC Andrew Taggart for a couple of weeks. Maybe he was too busy sorting out the outrageous attempt to silence an academic who supported student support for asylum seekers last week to deal with it (CMM March 4).
Uni Super duper
Uni Super was named fund and default fund of the year last week, which has got to be good news for just about everybody who reads (and writes!) CMM.
It does not take much digging to find very interesting information in the QILT student survey for 2015 (above and CMM Friday).
While QILT data demonstrates positive results across higher education in general, university student responses reveal some disciplines teach better than others. The big winner for satisfaction across all areas of the student experience is rehabilitation studies (physio and occupational therapy) which rates up to 15 per cent higher than system-wide averages.
Across all academic areas the average satisfaction rate for teaching quality is 82. Science and maths and veterinary science are all above average on both measures but engineering, dentistry and business lag.
And universities need to take international student concerns more seriously. Perhaps paying up front makes them more conscious of what they are getting but international students are significantly less satisfied than locals with the quality of teaching they receive (75 per cent to 81 per cent) and with the quality of the entire education experience (73 per cent to 80 per cent).
The QILT team warns that differences in subject area performance may not be statistically significant. But equally, it states; “broad disciplinary aggregations hide much of the detail that is relevant to schools, faculties and academic departments.” Not to mention students – another excellent reason for releasing all the information on every institution.
UWA staffer sacked
The University of Western Australia has dismissed staffer James Mitton for serious misconduct over emails and “inappropriate and disrespectful” photoshopped images sent to colleagues. According to the letter sacking him he admitted to emailing the images, to calling HR director Sandra Ventre “evil” and being “disrespectful” to her.
“Your outlined wilful behaviour is inconsistent with the continuation of your employment with the university,” Ms Ventre advised him on Friday. The images CMM has seen are certainly critical of VC Paul Johnson. However CMM thinks they could appear on a pamphlet or poster without breaching community standards. This is certainly going to end up in the Fair Work Commission.