What price entry standards?

Campus Morning Mail Summer Edition

Unappealing invitation number one

At the height of the heat Flinders linked to a “top free things to do in Adelaide in January,” site – funnily enough “try not to die of heat exhaustion” was not one of them. I defy any South Australian university to find something positive to say about the weather to prospective international students from anywhere but the Middle East.

And two

“Join us in Cairns, Australia’s Dengue capital, where scientists @ James Cook University are working to bite back at the Dengue mosquito.” Gosh thanks.

Quantity and quality

Universities are trumpeting how many offers they have made and, with varying degrees of prominence, the entry scores of those they made them to. I am not sure what this is intended to prove in an of all but open access environment, where supply (at least) equals demand and just about anybody can find a place somewhere. Given all the alternative entry schemes around and the way the ability to breathe bumps up scores the idea that comparative measures set a meaningful floor for most courses contradicts Gresham’s Law of University Entry – bodgy schemes drive out the credibility of unimpeachable ATARS.

Not that open entry crunches quality, as the excellent Daniel Edwards and Ali Radloff from ACER point out; “using the ATAR and attrition as proxies suggest that the impact of growth in higher education institutions has not had any significant influence on quality in terms of achievement prior to entry or on the likelihood of completing first year.”

SMS stuff-up

When I applied for university the beadle posted a list in Latin on the door of the parish church. But at least he didn’t mix up applicants for degrees in alchemy and necromancy. Which was better than happens now. Uni Sydney is the latest university to see prospective students stuffed around, posting the following on its website last night. “We understand that, due to an error made by a third party service, a number of applicants received an SMS relating to their main-round offer from the University of Sydney. We apologise for this error and any inconvenience and advise all students to check their official offers when they are released.” Apparently the message advised recipients that they were accepted into Sydney and suggested they enrol quick smart before the official announcement. Did they mention it isn’t the university’s fault?

Elastic demand

Good to see the NTEU is  back from leave with Paul Kniest quoting stories from (who would have thought!) News Limited papers on why markets don’t work in post school education. There is a question here for demand driven funding reviewers Andrew Norton and David Kemp he says, “given the already high levels of debt faced by current and former students, will they have the courage to recommend the removal of or an increase in the maximum (HECS) fees paid by government-students?” Fair question. The UK experience certainly demonstrates people contemplating study are price sensitive. Numbers were released last night for 2012-13, when higher education providers were allowed to jack up their fees (and all but universally did, by the maximum allowed). It probably isn’t a coincidence that first year numbers dropped by 13 per cent.

Inappropriately unhappy

Everybody isn’t happy in the University of South Australia School of Commerce – but about what isn’t clear. I came across complaints the other day – that six out eight professors will be gone by April, that research support staff, as well as administrators are being cut, that professors have lost professional development funding, and these were just the start.  But it isn’t so, according to PVC Business and Law Marie Wilson. When I called she said most the detailed allegations were either wrong or news to her. However one claim she was happy to confirm is that administrative support for professors is cut, “the funds can be better used to support teachers,” she said.  So how are people getting it so wrong? “These are all issues that reflect change and sometimes people’s pet projects don’t get the latitude they want in terms of extra funds. We are always looking to invest appropriately,” she said. Depends how you define “appropriate.”

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