We’re at home among the gum trees

Eucalypt Australia announces its tree of the year

It’s the Gimlet (Eucalyptus salubris) from WA. It was up against a forest of competition – there are said to be 900 species.

Eucalypts are good for us, as Marnie Hughes Warrington explained about the Red Stringybarks at ANU, People prefer to work and study near wood, and it has a positive impact on productivity and stress levels,” CMM February 22 2018)

UNSW’s MOOC of the morning

There’s not a cast of thousands  – it just looks like it

Simon McIntyre, Emma Robertson, Jeffrey Koh, Ollie Brown and George Khut teach, “Transmedia storytelling” (via Coursera), which is about creating a “cohesive story experience across multiple traditional and digital delivery platforms – for entertainment, advertising and marketing, or social change.”

Plus there’s, “inside access to the personal stories, insight and advice” from “innovative transmedia storytelling professionals.” No less than 27 of them.

As of yesterday, 69 000 people had enrolled. It starts Monday.

Now if CMM could just work out how to get a marvel of academic superheroes into copy.

International ed 2.0 from Swinburne U

The university extends its embrace of international students at home  

Swinburne U opened a Hanoi “location” in 2019 and now announces one in Ho Chi Minh city, starting September

Swinburne academics in Vietnam and Australia will teach school leavers, business, ICT and media degrees. There’s a pathway programme to Melbourne.   Capacity on the new campus is 1200 students.


Uni Queensland in surplus

VC Deborah Terry reports a $24m surplus for 2020 – there’s another $85m in unrealised investment returns

And there is more good news. the university reports a 28 per cent “up-lift” on 2020 in domestic PG students accepting places and juts a 4 per cent drop in international acceptances on 2019. (Local UG numbers aren’t out until March 31.)

Which creates cash to spend on teaching. “I do understand that the better than expected enrolments, combined with the need to continue to teach many of our courses in both internal and external mode, is adding very significantly to staff workloads,” Professor Terry tells staff. “We are, therefore, making new funding available immediately to provide additional support for our teaching and learning programmes.”  Heads of schools are invited to submit proposals.

And there is a third win, a new research fellow scheme, using federal funding provided, “to ensure that we are able to maintain our research capability and pipeline through the pandemic.” “Additional funding” is also coming for the SAGE Athena Swan programme (gender equity in STEMM) and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research Strategy.

As for bad news, it can’t be unexpected. “It is likely that the pandemic will continue to impact us throughout 2021, given that international borders remain closed,” Professor Terry says.

Drops in an overflowing bucket

Southern Cross U reports efficiencies will save seven Olympic pools worth of water at the Lismore campus

Good-o, but perhaps yesterday was not best for maximum news impact.  The Bureau of Meteorology reports Lismore Airport has received 350 mms in the last few days and there was a flood watch for the city yesterday.

Claire Field says on-line has arrived


Institutions will not only need to lift the quality and engagement of their on-line education, they will also need to provide more student support in an on-line context

At the PIE Live conference yesterday, Hamish Coates from Tsinghua University observed that “on-line has move to the academic core.”

His comments were timely given the latest Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching data showing an average 10 per cent decline in university student experience ratings in 2020. It was noticeable that those universities which rated highly on student experience during COVID-19 were mostly regional universities (with a historic reliance on distance/on-line learning) and private universities where a focus on the student experience is a key part of their offering, given students are ineligible for government subsidies and hence pay higher fees.

It was also notable that amongst the non-university higher education institutes, there were 11 independent providers and two TAFEs which rated more highly on their combined 2019-2020 QILT results than they did on their 2018-2019 figures. That is, their student experience ratings appear to have risen during the pandemic (CMM explained the methodological issues resulting from small student samples in the non-university sector earlier this week).

These findings are important in the context of the new performance measures the government has introduced for universities, as well as in relation to the results of a recent survey by Studiosity. The survey of 1000 domestic and international students in Australia last year found that despite the challenges of on-line learning, many students want a blended learning approach in the future rather than a return to full-time, on-campus study.

That means institutions will not only need to lift the quality and engagement of their on-line education, they will also need to provide more student support in an on-line context.

Jack Goodman (Studiosity founder), Kylie Readman (PVC, Education at Murdoch University), and mental health expert and former Australian of the Year Patrick McGorry AO joined me on the latest episode of the podcast to discuss these issues. Listen online or check your podcast feed.

Claire Field is the host of the ‘What now? What next? Insights into Australia’s tertiary education sector’ podcast

Short and suite: Curtin U “Credentials”

It’s a product, for professionals to “up-skill, cross-skill and re-skill”

Credentials will, “support learners who seek to continue their professional development, training, and industry-focused study in shorter formats, delivering ‘just in time’ learning tailored to their professional needs or lifestyle.”

And Credentials are indeed major on the micro, with some being one-day, in-person for $599. The first 14 are “in five curated themes” and can stack into a grad cert of professional practice.

This extends Curtin U’s ambitious plan to expand what, and how, it teaches.

Admirers of Curtin’s many MOOCs will recognise where at least one of the Credentials comes from. And the university went big last year on the government’s undergraduate certificates, originally intended for people seeking new skills when COVID-19 ended employment.

It still is, the learned Claire Field reports Curtin U is allocating 10 per cent of Commonwealth base funding to short courses, (CMM March 17).

But there’s one thing which Curtin U will need time explaining to students. Completed Credentials earn “five credit points” which are in-line, “with AQF Level Eight criteria, ensuring comprehensive theoretical and/or technical knowledge of the credential.” Take more than a day to explain the Australian Qualifications Framework.


Rachel Huang is Uni Queensland’s new Chief Student Entrepreneur. The position “leads and mentors” students to engage with entrepreneurship opportunities on campus.

Unis need to know: there’s a new list of prescribed technologies

Researchers who think their work isn’t on the government’s national security prescribed technologies list might want to wonder which one

ASIO chief Mike Burgess gave evidence at the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee’s additional estimates the other day, including responding to questions from Kim Carr (Labor-Victoria).

Senator Carr asked about Australian Research Council approved grants vetoed by former Education Minister Dan Tehan, which Mr Burgess answered without adding anything especially interesting.

And when Senator Carr asked about whether research proposals could have been covered by prescribed technologies on the annually updated list for the Defence Trade Control Act, Mr Burgess replied, it wasn’t his focus.

But when asked by Senator Carr, he did acknowledge another list of prescribed technologies is being worked on, by the departments of Home Affairs and Prime Minister and Cabinet, adding that he had talked about it to other committees. What’s the relationship between the DTCA list and the new one, Senator Carr asked? Mr Bugess responded, offering “his perspective” on “the latter list.”

“It is incredibly important in my mind to explain to universities what technologies, what research subjects would be sensitive to the national interest beyond the defence export controls so that everyone would have certainty in terms of areas that are potentially no-go, areas that are where conversations can be had. Then you can assume everything else is free to go. I have been suggesting that is very useful and would be something that we should pursue and that is being taken up by other departments,” Mr Burgess said.

So, when, Senator Carr asked, will researchers get to see this list of prescribed technologies, “over and above that contained in the current legal framework?”

That was not a matter for ASIO Mr Burgess replied.

And has he “discussed this list with the universities,” Senator Carr asked. “I haven’t not directly,” Mr Burgess responded.