Uni Queensland plan to transform teaching and learning

plus: in the money – the universities that really collect from Canberra 

Famous name

Whatever the case for calling the metro station to be built at ParkvilleUniversity” (CMM yesterday) Dr David Groenewegen, Director of Research in the Monash U Library has a much better idea. “The University of Melbourne should try to have it named for one of their most distinguished alumni, and vice-chancellor from 1923-1931, as a mark of respect for his many contributions to Australia and the world. Monash would be a great name for the station.”

Wednesday July 20

UofQ transformative education plan

The University of Queensland will transform undergraduate education with an comprehensive five-year strategy, announced yesterday. The university says it will expand digital learning resources, engage undergraduates in research, create new courses and expand programs to “enhance workplace integration and employability.”

According to VC Peter Hoj, “graduate employability is our number-one priority, and we want to ensure UQ graduates maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace at graduation.”

A core element of the strategy is online learning which explains the university’s big investment in MOOCs. In particular the plan promises to “prioritise the online delivery of courses within our largest programs and develop quality online resources to complement high-value, active learning on campus,” and to “offer key components of our courses in short modules that draw on UQ’s advanced digital learning resources and allow students to build competency based credit.”

There are elements of the plan which staff who like to leave teaching to casuals so they can get on with their research will not like, notably the commitment to; “support a greater involvement in direct teaching activity by more of UQ’s staff to help embed our research excellence within our teaching capability.” In fact the old assumption, that quality researchers make good teachers is core to the plan which specifies; “inquiry-based learning opportunities that incorporate UQ’s cutting edge research to build students’ advanced knowledge base and skills critical for enhanced employability.”

Overall the plan addresses the crucial emerging issues in undergraduate recruitment. Like Deakin, UoQ is focused on graduate employment and like Uni Adelaide it appears to be looking to large campus class lecturing online, presumably to release resources for intensive in-person teaching. The plan also promises achievement metrics, which will focus on student satisfaction ratings and employability.

The new strategy follows the announcement of a reorganisation of all support services last month, (CMM June 10). When Vice Chancellor Hoj took on a second term in March insiders suggested a transformation of teaching was on his agenda (Campus Morning Mail, March 7), they were right.

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You don’t say

CMM’s bleeding obvious correspondent reports that University of Adelaide psychology researcher Alison Robb finds actors are prone to depression and anxiety. Wondering whether you will earn enough to eat next week will do that to you.

New dean @ Melbourne

Julie Willis is the new dean of architecture at the University of Melbourne where she is now PVC Research Capability. She replaces former dean Tom Kvan who became PVC Global Engagement at the end of June. Professor Willis will take over in November, until then former VC of Canterbury (NZ) and UTas and sometime dean of architecture at Deakin U, Daryl Le Grew will act.

Where there be monsters

For those too embarrassed or indifferent to admit not having a clue about Pokemon Go, UNSW’s “Know thy Selfie” series is here to help. Dr Tom Apperley explains all. Can a journal be far away? Probably, but at the speed research publishers move by the time they have a first issue ready everybody else will have moved on.

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Getting rankings right

Ratings agency QS reports a new  study of where prospective international students look for information, which finds (and brace for a shock here) that they use rankings. Not exclusively mind you, but they certainly see rankings as “a good proxy measure of employment prospects; that they to at least some extent reflect quality of education and other aspects of the student experience.” But many consumers especially emphasise the ranking of the discipline they seek to study, above overall corporate standing.

“The ultimate appeal of the subject rankings lies in students’ desire for more granular comparisons; indeed, many expressed a desire for rankings comparing specific programmes and courses, rather than just subject areas. Students want to understand and assess the experience they are personally signing up for, on a particular course and in a particular department. This is one reason for the growing importance of peer reviews, particularly from current students or alumni who have studied the same programme and/or share the same background,” QS states.

Gosh, like U-Multirank, which compares similar institutions on a corporate and discipline basis rather than creating a simple numerical list of best to least? While this European product is cumbersome to use it can create a practical consideration set for prospective students.

U-Multirank’s methodology is much admired by ranking observers, with U-Mr releasing endorsements yesterday. As Simon Marginson puts it;

“It is a vital corrective to the ‘football league’ mentality that has crept into higher education – higher education is more than a competition, more important than sport, and cannot be adequately summed up by single ranks in university league tables.

Compared to other comparisons and rankings, U-Multirank gives students and other higher education stakeholders much more information to work with in making considered decisions.”

U-Mr’s marketing does not do it much good. If there is ever a dull but worthy award at Cannes it will be likely up for a Lion. But the site is a model of how university comparison sites can work.

Pointless from top to bottom

Meanwhile, back in the world, where lists are loved, the Saudi Arabian based Centre for World University Rankings has released its top 1000. Based on “eight robust indicators” its findings are much the same as the generality of top-down lists, with Harvard first and seven other US institutions in the global first ten. Some 31 Australian institutions made the list from the University of Melbourne first at 89 to Charles Darwin at 902. This generated media coverage of “the best universities in Australia, ranked.” In what way pray does comparing Uni Melbourne with CDU serve any practical purpose?

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Fed fronts up

They do not muck around at Federation University. Just days after announcing the takeover of Monash U’s Berwick campus DVC Todd Walker was doing local media there yesterday. Unless it was election analyst Antony Green with some esoteric analysis of what Fed’s arrival will mean for Victorian upper house preferences. The two certainly look similar, in fact has anybody ever seen them together?

App of the Day

Burns researchers at the University of Queensland and developer iPug have created an app for parents of babies and young children on preventing and treating burns.

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Follow the money

Australian universities have followed the money trail to Canberra, relying on demand driven public funding of undergraduate places to drive a 50 per cent growth in teaching and learning revenue over the five years to 2014, according to a new L H Martin Institute analysis by Frank Larkins and Ian Marshman.

But they question whether the growth has come at the cost of quality in teaching, ask if student funding should based on exclusively on enrolments and query whether an emphasis on undergraduate places at the expense of support for research, “is the right approach to contribute long term economic and social benefits for Australia.”

The metrics mavens’ analysis reveals Deakin, ACU, RMIT, Curtin, Swinburne, Western Sydney and Macquarie all grew equivalent full-time student numbers by 6000 plus between 2009 and 2014.

In contrast, six universities were either happy with their student numbers or could not attract new business and grew by less than 1500 EFTs. These steady state schools are Southern Cross, Murdoch, Victoria U, Federation U, Charles Darwin and ANU.

While the generality of institutions looked to Canberra for cash, four Group of Eight institutions focused on expanding export income. The University of Melbourne earned $242m more between 2009 and 2014 than in the preceding five years, followed by UoQ ($226m), UniSyd ($211m) and UNSW ($195m). But the Group of Eight appear to have lost interest in the domestic fee paying masters market, with only the University of Melbourne making more from the market in 2014 than it did in 2009. The stand-out performer over all for this revenue stream is Macquarie University, with earnings up $30m.

The reasons why the Group of Eight focus on international growth is demonstrated by members’ yield per student place. The domestic figure is much the same across the system, ranging from Notre Dame’s $16 200 to $23 071 at the University of Sydney. However Melbourne and Monash universities enjoyed yields over $30 000 for internationals, a third higher than the all institutions figure.

For Larkins and Marshman the evidence is clear that universities and students all assume public funding, and lots of it, is a given. “Australian universities have been adept in following the most obvious money trail. With few exceptions, there appears now to be a very limited market for fee-paying courses. Any policy review that contemplates a change to upfront grants and loans will face fierce opposition from a community now acculturated to that form of support.”

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