Tasting notes

VET numbers in South Australia are static but TAFE SA is drinking to success

Last month TAFE was promoting beer and cheese matching courses (presumably as a hobby not an occupation, although in Adelaide you never know). Now it’s promising a corker of a time with four short (very, they take an hour) courses for wine education week, in September.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning, Tim Cahillexplains why the ERA metrics are still the best we have. Plus Nicolette Lee on evolutions in HE.
And on Monday look for Deanne Gannaway (Uni Queensland) on revaluing HASS education, the new essay in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series on what we need now in learning and teaching

Engineering a creativity engine

Humans with the high capacities of creativity and emotion will outperform AI

Graduate education needs to teach the competencies people will need to be, “anti-professionals” HE consultant (and CMM partner) David Wright argues in this morning’s issue.

“Students need to acquire a core set of personal competencies, such as design thinking, problem solving, communication skills, project management, and priority and goal setting.

“These kinds of personal skills are career agnostic – they are valuable in every profession, and as such will be valuable in every new profession,” he suggests.
It is an intensely optimistic argument, that people comfortable outside their occupational skill-set can take-on challenges yet to emerge – and they can work with, not for or against AI.

“A person with creativity and emotion working with an Artificial Intelligence creates an extremely powerful combination,” Mr Wright argues.

Big day in Canberra

The feds convened a meeting of researchers, teachers and students in Canberra yesterday, to work on a model statement of academic integrity. It must have been full-on. CMM asked the Department of Education for advice on progress at 12.30, but was told at 5.30 “the relevant policy experts” hadn’t been available.

Big wrap for the usual league table leaders

Spin cyclotrons at most universities were on idle yesterday, with just six Aus institutions making the Times Higher global reputation ranking

Those making the cut are, Uni Melbourne (44), Uni Sydney (61-70 band), ANU (71-80), Monash U, Uni Queensland, UNSW (all 91-100).

The ranking is based on the surveyed opinions of “experienced, published scholars” on teaching and research in their disciplines.

But while the national uni hypometer barely moved yesterday the University of Melbourne did mention it was its ninth local first-place.

And at UniSydney DVC R Duncan Ivison was delighted with his institution moving up a band; ““In the past few years, we’ve undertaken some of the biggest reforms in a century to both our curriculum and our research approach; and it’s starting to pay off, …  this result also demonstrates the extraordinary contribution our staff and students are making to society more generally.”

Good-oh, but surely a ranking based on a survey of academics’ opinions measures perceptions of universities, rather than actual attributes and outcomes. This could be why the oldest and richest unis with big brand names always rate on opinion based products. Then again, the universities that are strong on opinion surveys are lead on data driven research league tables.

Case closing

Peter Ridd and James Cook University were in the Federal Court yesterday for a relief and penalties hearing

Dr Ridd won his unfair dismissal case against the university in April. The university sacked him over his criticism of research at the university but Justice Vasta concluded he was covered by the academic freedom clause of the JCU enterprise agreement. The hearing is scheduled to continue today.

Educational light and magic at UNSW

CMM has long heard less good than great things about UNSW’s digital uplift of the lecture, David Kellerman demonstrates them

The engineering academic has a reputation for lectures that empower students and he demonstrated what he does, to thousands (said to be tens of thousands) of people at a Microsoft education conference at Los Vegas yesterday

There’s a video of him talking here, where he starts by asking how do you get 500 students in a lecture theatre and live off-site to, “work together as a single team.”

And then he shows how– demonstrating that a range of products well-used can make a lecture an individual, interactive experience, for every-one attending. “The single integrated solution resulted in a 900 per cent increase in posts and engagement per student, per week,” he said.

And he talked about a question-bot – student asks questions – it goes straight to their tutor’s phone, “today, if it doesn’t work on mobile it doesn’t work”.

The bot also uses all the question to create a student generated FAQ for every study topic – and it now can answer questions itself, plus point students to on-line discussion groups where class-members were talking about the issue. “That’s reconnecting people and building learning communities.”

At which point CMM’s brain started to not compute – there was a bunch more stuff about using student questions to create a personalised learning pack for all question and for each individual student a fortnight before exams, but it was all getting too hard – watch it yourself, really, do – it’s as impressive as it is inspiring.

Yes, it was a big wrap for Microsoft products – but it was also a less high than Himalayan inspiration of how AI can humanise individual teaching.

Training numbers going nowhere

The estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research reports a flat-year for training

Total student numbers in publicly funded VET were down 1.9 per cent year on year for 2018, with private providers taking the hit. While TAFE numbers were up a fraction, to 578 000 students, numbers at for-profits were down 5.3 per cent, to 406 000.

The biggest drops by education field were; engineering down 32 000 enrolments to 204 000 and food hospitality and personal services, with 129 000 enrolments in ’17 and 111 000 last year.

Machines learning depends on who is teaching

ANU historian Marnie Hughes Warrington is exploring the interface between AI and the way we mortals construct our pasts – including tales of tech heroes

In a new essay, another note for a major study of the historicising of AI, she considers the foundation legends of great tech creators and the way they are all blokes. “Think young male genius makes something seemingly impossible in his garage, drops out of university, pushes through adversity, prevails. Sometimes it is a small number of male geniuses. If women appear at all, they make the tea, take notes, or are the subject of the early boom in internet or cybernetic porn.”

Unless they are villains – like Elizabeth Holmes, who told colossal lies about what her blood testing technology at Theranos could do.

This makes her a convenient fall-person for a culture shaped by and steeped in talking up heroic tech creators.

“Ethics in AI is not just a trolley problem where you try to figure out how to avoid hitting people with an autonomous vehicle. It is also at work in the claims about what you can and will do, and the stories you tell about how you got to what you can do. That’s a history ethics problem, and with apologies, us folks in the humanities are technology’s inconvenient truth,” Hughes Warrington suggests.

Policy page-turner

The Parliamentary Library has a briefing book for the 46th parliament – with enough to keep members and senators busy to the 50th

The PL’s learned policy people point to two key issues on our patch:

* research and development funding, including investment as a share of GDP, the (endlessly unresolved) R&D tax incentive and calls for a translational research fund, to serve as non- medicine equivalent to the Medical Research Future Fund

* higher education: the PL sets out the past decade of difference in HE and VET policy and suggests; “the 46th Parliament will likely need to weigh up the advantages of large-scale changes to address distortions created by a decade of two-track reform, against the risks in terms of cost, complexity, diversity of providers, and challenges negotiating changes to VET with the states and territories.”

Like CMM said, that should keep them busy through to the 50th parly.


The Parliamentary Library has a briefing book for the 46th parliament – with enough to keep members and senators busy to the 50th

The PL’s learned policy people point to two key issues on our patch:

* research and development funding, including investment as a share of GDP, the (endlessly unresolved) R&D tax incentive and calls for a translational research fund, to serve as non- medicine equivalent to the Medical Research Future Fund

* higher education: the PL sets out the past decade of difference in HE and VET policy and suggests; “the 46th Parliament will likely need to weigh up the advantages of large-scale changes to address distortions created by a decade of two-track reform, against the risks in terms of cost, complexity, diversity of providers, and challenges negotiating changes to VET with the states and territories.” Like CMM said, that should keep them busy through to the 50th parly.

Appointments, achievements

Of the day

At QUT’s Business School Paula McDonald becomes assistant dean, research.

Chris Rizos (emeritus professor civil engineering UNSW) is the new president elect of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics.

Of the week

Janelle Wheat starts work today as PVC learning and teaching at Charles Sturt U. She moves from UNSW, where she is deputy dean – education in the science faculty.

Michael Ondaatje is inaugural PVC arts and academic culture at Australian Catholic U. He moves from head of the National School of Arts at the university.

Laurie Pearcey is new CEO of UNSW Global, he continues as the university’s PVC. Global is the UNSW pathway provider.

Andre Brett (University of Wollongong) wins the Australian Historical Society’s Allan Martin award to assist early career historians with a research trip.

Shaun Goldfinch is the Australia and New Zealand School of Government’s inaugural WA Government Chair in Public Administration and Policy. He will be based at Curtin U and moves from Victoria U of Wellington.

Griffith U research professor Allan Cripps is the new chair of the Children’s Health Alliance, an initiative of the Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service and the Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Sarah O’Shea and Janine Delahunty (both Uni Wollongong) win the Higher Education Research and Development Journal article of the year for their, “Getting through the day and still having a smile on my face: how do students define success in the university learning environment?”  You can read it, here.

The University of Melbourne announces the 2019 chancellor’s prizes for PhD thesesKatherine O’Connor (Melbourne Graduate School of Education), Tyne Sumner, (Culture and Communication), Andrew Price (Mathematics and Statistics), Michela Mariani (Management and Geography), Joshua Foreman (Ophthalmology Ear and Eye Hospital.

QUT is making its own Anthony Clarke a doctor of science, an honour last awarded ten-years back. Professor Marshall is honoured for his research on fruit flies of the Asia-Pacific.

Amanda Barbosa (Murdoch U) wins the Odile Bain Memorial Prize, awarded by journal Parasites and Vectors for research on med/vet parasitology.  Dr Barbosa studies ticks.