Fashion on a budget

“Study in Dubai, Paris, Geneva and Milan, exploring a world of luxury with UOWD,” that’s UOWD as in the University of Wollongong, Dubai.  UOWD is promoting its Global Executive Master of Luxury Management, a joint qualification with Politecnico di Milano. Cost is $US 38 000 – cheaper than a decent handbag.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning; Ian Solomonides and Trish McCluskey (Victoria U) on what the block-model of teaching delivers, “all students have achieved higher quality learning outcomes, those from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds even more so.” It’s a  new essay in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.

Plus, Merlin Crossley (DVC, UNSW) on why we need PhD programmes the way they are now.

100 000 Chinese students cut off from Aus uni classes

Over 60 per cent of Chinese students with an Australian visa for higher education are outside the country

The Department of Home Affairs reports that when the boom-lowered Saturday 97 000 China-resident higher education student visa holders were outside Australia, 62 per cent of the total.  Another 1700 postgrads from China are not here yet.

The figure for all education-categories was 106 000, or 56 per cent overall. Some 35 per cent of Chinese postgrads are effected and 20 per cent of VET students.

Yesterday individual universities were reporting numbers in-line with the federal figures, ranging from 20 per cent of Chinese students here already to 50-60 per cent.


Research life’s a lottery

New Zealand’s Health Research Council has a grants scheme allocated by a lottery of (peer-approved) proposals. Lucy Pomeroy (HRC NZ) and colleagues asked applicants over six years what they thought

“Multiple respondents” like a lottery when ineligible applications aren’t in the draw and outstanding proposals are pre-funded, so that all up for selection “are truly equal.”

“Support for randomisation was higher amongst researchers who won funding, which indicates the difficulty of decoupling researchers’ thoughts about a funding system from their personal experience,” they found.

Ranking unis for student equity: do-able but not desirable

It’s entirely possible to create a university ranking based on off-the-shelf equity measures. But when researchers did it for Australian universities they found flaws

Tim Pitman (Curtin U) and colleagues from Australian Council for Educational Research created an equity ranking for Australian higher education and then scored universities on it. Some of the results put elite universities in top spots.

What they did: The team sourced data on six HE equity-measures, aspiration, academic preparation, access-participation, experience in first-year of study, progress through course and graduate outcomes and built a model to weight them. They then assessed 37 Australian universities according to the performance of low SES students.

What they found: Outcomes depended on how indicators were weighted. When they were all measured equally five of the top ten were Group of Eight institutions. “They achieved a high ranking due to their superior performance in the retention, completion and graduate outcomes of their equity students,” the authors explain.

When participation was scored higher the ranking was more predictable, with regional universities in the top seven places, although when there is not much between scores, ranking can “magnify or understate” performance.”  For example, on retention and completion a 3.5 per cent performance gap between two institutions meant they were 12 places apart.

And the data itself can create an accurate but misleading ranking; “institutions enrolling relatively few, but high-achieving, equity students could be perceived as performing better than institutions enrolling many more, but lower-achieving, equity-group students.”

What it means: If you want a ranking that demonstrates what is actually going on, it must be custom-built rather than use off-the-shelf data, the authors suggest.

“There are multiple ways in which a university can achieve higher education equity depending on institutional profile, historical legacy and the overall policy environment. Thus, while a single rankings index has the advantage of focusing stakeholder attention, the complexity of measuring institutional performance in regard to higher education equity may be better understood through the complementary use of a wider range of indicators.”

Tim Pitman, Daniel Edwards, Liang-Cheng Zhang, Paul Koshy, Julie McMillan,  “Constructing a ranking of higher education institutions based on equity: is it possible or desirable?,” Higher Education, January 2020

In-touch and in-person

University of Newcastle students weren’t happy yesterday with news that management has an app which can monitor UG class attendance

It will be mandatory to sit exams this year and is also intended liven the joint up. As Vice Chancellor Alex Zelinsky said when the app and policy were announced in October, “higher attendance will also help us create a more vibrant and active on-campus community which is a real focus for us. We want our students to experience a campus life that is diverse, inclusive and connected.” (CMM October 25).

Perhaps critics weren’t connecting with campus when the announcement was first made.

Good government thinking on VET student loans

There is good news for students and providers using the VET Student Loan scheme, but why is no-one in government discussing it?


Late last year there were calls for changes to the VET Student Loan scheme (CMM 30 October 2019). Among the issues identified were significant problems with the scheme, including shorter courses (in terms of the units of competency required to be taught) being eligible for larger loans than longer courses.

In November 2019, the COAG Skills Council meeting agreed to a review of the VET Student Loan Scheme.

On 20 January, Michaelia Cash, Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, made changes to the VSL scheme via legislative instrument. While this is an annual process (to add a small number of new courses to the VSL-approved list and to remove superseded or deleted qualifications), this year the changes were significant and explicitly addressed the issue whereby so many longer courses had very low loan caps.

Specifically the changes:

* moved 33 courses moved from Band One (a maximum loan of $5,264) to Band Two (a maximum loan of $10,528,) and

* moved 64 courses moved from Band Two to Band Three where students can access loans of up to $15,793.

The changes have immediate effect. Providers cannot raise their published fees but students who were facing a gap between the cost of their course and the previous loan cap will now not have to pay up-front-fees out of their own pockets.

The government is to be applauded for making these changes.

My sensible side says their silence on the issue is because they are the architects of the VSL program and do not want to discuss its problems.  My optimistic side says perhaps it is because there are more reforms of the VSL scheme still to be announced?

Claire Field advises on VET, international education and private higher education

Savings in a China-student crisis

If there is a big drop in students from China, universities most exposed may not need all their teaching-staff

Frank Larkins’ new analysis of the billion dollar-income unis (CMM yesterday) demonstrates the universities of Melbourne, Sydney, Queensland, UNSW and Monash U all have built up their teaching-only casual academic numbers.

In 2009 the big five employed 2366 TO casuals, increasing to 3358 last year.

The other 34 unis grew TO casuals from 6587 to 11 201.

“For Sydney, Queensland and Monash more than 50 percent of the increase in teaching-only staff were casuals,” Professor Larkins observes. He does not suggest that TO staff could be dispensable but CMM suspects uni managements will have thought of it.

Mixed income accommodation at Uni Melbourne

Trinity College at the University of Melbourne launches a $28m residential extension on Friday

The PR people are promoting its egalitarian aspects. “The new building will house 100 additional residential students, many of whom attend Trinity via its extensive scholarship program.”

For those who don’t a year at Trinity will set you back $31 000.


Peta Ashworth is appointed inaugural director of Uni Queensland’s Andrew N Liveris Academy for Innovation and Leadership.

Griffith U appoints artist Carol McGregor to oversee its Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art programme.

Grady Venville steps up to be DVC A at ANU. She was acting in the job last year and had been PVC Education since April ’18. “Grady has dealt effectively with numerous ‘wicked’ problems, and she is always a calm, reasoned and effective voice during even the toughest of situations, including those we are facing presently,” VC Brian Schmidt said yesterday.

Joanne Wallis will leave ANU’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre mid-year, to become professor of international security at Uni Adelaide.