University education is the Australian way

Plus Uni Sydney deals with the  ARWU research ranking 

Passage to India

In breaking news Education Minister Christopher Pyne has announced the Australia – India Institute has expanded into, India. Until now it has operated out of the University of Mumbaiborne, sorry Melbourne, but will now have a base in Delhi.

A Bass for Flinders

Flinders VC Colin Stirling is in the market for a chief of staff, which will alarm any old Flinders hands who still hoped, however unlikely, that he would rely only on their advice. Professor Stirling wants a COS who “will provide independent senior-level advice and strategic support to the VC.” The job includes, “managing high-level university strategic initiatives and projects, developing and implementing the university’s next strategic plan and monitoring and reporting on the university’s performance.” This sounds like a very powerful position designed by a VC who clearly wants help to do things his way.

criterion update

Empty Shelves

Graduate Careers Australia lost a big chunk of business a year back when it did not win renewal of a long-held contract to produce the national graduate outcome survey. But there is always a demand for data in education and GCA is now developing a higher education library survey for institutions to distribute to users. CMM hears a pilot is planned but all Graduate Careers would say yesterday was the project “is still in development.”

Cross Camm

Rodd Camm could have taken over at the Australian Council for Private Education and Training at a worse time a year back –there might have been plague in member institutions. But things have still been crook with just about a problem a month with for-profits pinged for gulling people into courses they cannot complete and providing substandard training. The most recent example is the Australian Skills Quality Authority inquiry into childcare training that found cases of providers  cutting recommended course lengths by half (CMM August 20). People in the public education lobby have used every awful example to argue that it all proves there is no place for profit in VET.

Mr Camm has responded in the only possible way – damning the shonks, backing Training Minister Simon Birmingham’s industry clean-up and threatening to expel ACPET members who do not meet standards. But he has had enough and the frustration is showing.

“I remain unconvinced that the answer to the problem is more audits. The answer is immediate action. If the practice of the registered training organisation is wrong – stop it! Anyway we can – it is that urgent. We know what is wrong (we really do), so the regulators must deal with it immediately. The sooner this happens, the sooner quality becomes the benchmark and not the conversation. You are right – I am over it. I really am. So just stop it!”

Good-oh, but if for-profits with business models based on exploiting students and providing low-quality courses have not changed by now CMM suspects that it will take more than a ticking-off for them to stop.

ANU June 3

Standards stay

There is speculation around that the Trans Pacific Partnership (if it ever happens) would mean Australia having to accept US specialist competency certifications as the equivalent of VET qualifications here. Not so, according to the feds, the government says nothing changes on Australian recognition of foreign qualifications.

University for all

People who yearn for days when higher education was for the academic elite will have to live with disappointment because new research shows that Australian families have drunk the campus kool-aid, with most mums assuming their kids will do a degree. According to Maggie Yu and Galina Daraganova’s new report, based on the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, some 56 per cent of mothers with sons below year 12 age expect them to go to university, 71 per cent for daughters. And their kids listen to them, 49 per cent of boys and 56 per cent of girls have university expectations.

Nor is this a factor of parents education and income alone. Families in the bottom 25 per cent on the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage have lower expectations of higher education, with 47 per cent of mothers thinking their kids will go to university, compared to 87 per cent of those in the top quartile. Even so, close to 50 per cent is just extraordinary for anybody old enough to remember the days when it was a struggle convincing families finishing Year 12 was essential. Australians believe in education.

Short but not to the point

“Great to witness a (National Health and Medical Research Councilexpert review panel in action today – so many exciting Australian research proposals!,” Health Minister Sussan Ley tweeted yesterday. Fortunately the 140 character limit meant she did not need to deal with the fact that NHMRC funding is such that the success rate for young researchers is somewhere between buckleys and none.

ACPET 2015 Conf EDM-FINAL

Sydney responds to ARWU result

The University of Sydney only responded yesterday to the Academic Ranking of World Universities, the rating formerly known as Shanghai Jiao Tong (CMM August 15) Perhaps this is unsurprising, given Sydney stayed where it was last year – out of the world top 100 – whereas the old enemy, the University of Melbourne, also stayed in the same spot, way up the scale, at 44th.

On the public list Uni Sydney appears in the 100-150 group, but Kylie Colvin from the Higher Education Consulting Group provides a specific estimate of where ARWU rates it. She takes the category scores for universities and weights them according to the ARWU methodology. Last year she estimated Uni Sydney was 117th in world, down from 97 in 2014, CMM August 19 2014). She calculates that it picked up two spots this year.

In 2014 then DVC R Jill Trewehalla explained Sydney’s showing as due in part to ARWU only counting a researcher’s first affiliation – thus denying Sydney points for many medical researchers with joint appointments (CMM ibid). But, she assured staff Sydney would do well in the 2015 Excellence for Research in Australia. Yesterday new DVC R Duncan Ivison extended the defence, saying ARWU is science heavy and includes neither student-based nor teaching indicators. “We must be careful to strike a balance between the pursuit of rankings success for its own sake and the pursuit of the richer and deeper research goals we have set ourselves,” he said.

Very good, but being 70 or so spots behind Melbourne in a rivalry that started 150 years ago must hurt. As VC Michael Spence put it last month in signalling a new research strategy; “in many parts of the university, our performance is good but also under pressure, as our national and global competitors are improving at a faster rate than us and the prospects for research funding are changing, with governments and other funding agencies refocusing their priorities,” (CMM July 13).

UoQ

Hooray for Jose

Local publishing insiders are pleased with the appointment of one of their own as secretary general of the International Publishers Association. Jose Borghino (formerly of the Australian industry association) joined the IPA in 2013 and has lifted its education profile.

Week of the week which isn’t

It was science week last week, which was replaced yesterday with National Skills Week as of yesterdayt. But don’t expect too much; the website promises “more details will be released in coming weeks.” Gosh a retrospective promotional week

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