Plus training ministers must do better and Greens take on Torrens U

Never let a chance go by

The University of South Australia on its ranking in the QS 50 under 50 yesterday: “25 in the world under 50 years old and next year we turn 25 – synchronicity!,” UniSA suggests.

Swinburne knows how to pick em

Martin Parkinson is set to speak at tonight’s launch of Swinburne U’s Centre for Transformative Innovation. After being sacked from Treasury by Tony Abbott but now expected to return to government as head of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Dr Parkinson is well qualified indeed to talk about occupational innovation not to mention career transformation.

Who benefits

Why shouldn’t universities spend Commonwealth Grant Scheme funds on research, (CMM yesterday)? No reason CMM can find in the CGS guidelines. But a learned reader points to the constitutional authority for Canberra funding students as Section 51, xxiiia of the Constitution, which empowers the Commonwealth to provide “benefits to students.” Lord, imagine the fun lawyers with mischief in mind could have with that.


High fives

The QS ratings agency 50 under 50 is no more contrived than other global rankings (where, CMM wants to know is the league table for lacrosse playing business schools) so hooray for this years achievers in the list of 50 institutions under 50 years old. Demonstrating that too much of a good thing does not exist QS also ranks the “next 50 under 50.”

The interesting aspect of this rating is the way young-ish US and UK institutions do not dominate in the way the ivy-adorned oldsters do the all-comers league table. Singapore’s Nanyang TU is number one, followed by Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, the City University of Hong Kong and the Pohang University of Science and Technology. The first anglo-sphere entry is the University of Bath at seven followed by the University of Calgary at 12. There are also 16 top rating Euro-unis, outside the UK.

As for the Australians, UTS leads at 14, followed by Wollongong (17), QUT (20), RMIT (21), Curtin (23) Uni SA (25), Deakin (36), Griffith (37). No Kiwis make the cut, although the Auckland University of Technology is in the 71-80 group. Of the second 50 James Cook U and La Trobe are in the 51-60 band, Bond, Flinders and Swinburne rate between 81 and 90 and Charles Darwin, Murdoch and Canberra make it into the 91-100 group. The University of Newcastle led the locals last year, but has since hit the big five-o.

The result is similar, at least for Australia, to THE’s “One hundred under fifty list” released in April which placed UTS at 21 followed by, Uni Newcastle (30), Wollongong (31), QUT (33), UniSA (35), Deakin (45), Charles Darwin (48), WSU (56), Murdoch (65), Swinburne (65), La Trobe (75), Flinders (77), Curtin (81), Griffith (82), Edith Cowan (90) and RMIT (97). Same style of ranking different rating receptacle

They read his mind

Innovation Minister Chris Pyne has praised Innovation Australia chair Bill Ferris’s address to CEDA in Adelaide today, before he delivers it. “Mr Ferris has correctly pointed to the importance of innovation both for today’s jobs, exports and profits – but also ensuring that future generations can exploit these opportunities,” Mr Pyne said in a statement released at midnight – hours before Mr Ferris speaks. CMM wonders what will happen if he goes off-text.


Greens set the agenda

Nobody arced up back in October when the government moved private provider Torrens U to the higher education provider category B list, which means it qualifies to compete for public research funding. This puzzled CMM (October 26) , for a start TU is owned by US company Laureate  and that should have been enough to upset the public education lobby. But not a dickey bird. Perhaps, CMM thought, this was because Laureate had switched status to being a public benefit corporation. This means that US law requires it “to balance the financial interests of its stockholders with the best interests of those stakeholders materially affected by its conduct.” But this did not seem likely – nor was it, because it seems opponents of for-profit education were just picking the time to attack.

Which was yesterday, in the Senate, where Greens education spokesman Robert Simms got stuck in.

“Has the government learnt nothing from the debacle in our VET sector? Public funding and for-profit education institutions do not mix. The incentives do not line up, for the chief outcomes of the higher education sector: qualifications, training, research, teaching; are so difficult to quantify and diverse in their qualities that the profit incentive, even with regulation, almost invariably leads to rorting.

Look at how the dodgy registered training organisation’s in the VET sector have cut every corner to maximise profit at the expense of education outcomes. With what confidence does the minister say that this will not happen at Torrens?” Senator Simms asked.

Um, because the circumstances are entirely different, this is largely about research infrastructure and Torrens checks out with the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency. As Labor higher education spokesman Kim Carr explained in supporting the bill. Senator Carr spoke responsibly and well and as such he demonstrated Labor’s problem in higher education politics. While Senator Carr stuck to policy Senator Simms appealed to people who loathe any private sector involvement in higher education – an audience once rusted on to Labor but which the Greens are pursuing. This is not fringe politics anymore, the deregulation debate and the voced fee mess has made opposition to for-profit, or even just private, education provision a political issue that engages the sensible centre of the electorate.

Border wars

“Heard that J(ames) C(ook) U(niversity) is looking to set up study centre in Mackay – imitation the best form of flattery – again. The very best of luck from CQU,” – Scott Bowman, CQU VC on Twitter yesterday. Mackay is traditionally CQU turf but a study centre hardly trumps the full-blown campus it has opened in Cairns, where JCU used to have an higher education monopoly.

Ignoring the issue

The COAG Industry and Skills Council has issued a communiqué from last week’s ministers’ meeting – no! don’t stop reading, it gets better. In fact, the text would make a horse laugh.

There is all the usual bland blather about cooperation and standards, important issues, that deserve clearer commitments but the herd of elephants in the room was barely acknowledged. The failure to restrain rorters ruining the reputation of all private sector providers puts the whole training system at risk. Legitimate private providers meet anything up to 30 per cent of demand in some states and if they lose share because people decide they are not to be trusted TAFE will struggle to meet demand.

So what did ministers decide do? “A number of ideas to improve quality and regulation, and avoid unintended outcomes, were discussed and will be explored further. Ministers welcomed the reforms already undertaken in the area of VET FEE-HELP and (federal training) Minister Hartsuyker indicated that further reforms were under consideration.”

Ye gods. Here’s some of what the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission alleges in an action announced yesterday against private provider Phoenix Institute of Australia Pty Ltd and Community Training Initiatives Pty Ltd (CTI) “We allege this conduct targeted some of the most vulnerable groups in the Australian community, including consumers from low socio-economic backgrounds and consumers with intellectual disabilities. Further, for these online courses, some people were enrolled who could not use a computer, and were not able to email. Not surprisingly, course commencement rates were extremely low.”

The training sector needs more than ministers discussing ideas, including half-baked ones about federal takeovers of the system, briefly boomed earlier in the year.

ANU Sep 15 3

Golden locals

The Gold Coast Bulletin is rolling out its 130 most powerful people and is down to 91 – so far two academics have made the cut, Southern Cross U VC Peter Lee (106) who “has overseen huge growth” and Ned Pankhurst, provost of Griffith U’s Gold Coast campus (98). Like all league tables university people will say they are not paying any attention to the list, but CMM suspects there will be more than a few hoping to appear higher up.

Dolt of the day

Is CMM. Yesterday’s email edition attributed projects to TEQSA. In fact TEQSA’s Anthony McClaren was noting activities in the sector it sees as significant.