A round of applause for Parker

Props to Stephen Parker and colleagues who use a song from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway show Hamilton to make a point abut Australian higher education in their new report (below).

During the War of Independence, Alexander Hamilton supposedly shelled (the university now known as) Princeton, which had not accepted his application. Makes a case for demand driven student entry.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features David Myton charts the rise of new technologies in higher education.

Stephen Parker’s case for a single post-school education system

When Stephen Parker stood alone among VCs against Christopher Pyne’s deregulation plan some asked if he had a vision of his own. He did and here it is.

Australians should have open access to a single post-secondary education system, designed to “maximise our potential for a future which is different in ways that are presently unknowable.” Stephen Parker, former VC of the University of Canberra, with consultants Andrew Dempster and Mark Warburton, set a ten-point plan to deliver this, in a KPMG report released this morning.

The plan builds on years of writing by Professor Parker on the potential for paradigm-shifting changes to education production and consumption. He now proposes a “move from binary system to ecosystem, with more diversity of providers, organised around the backbone of a revised Australian Qualifications Framework and legislative requirements which treat like providers alike.”

The plan would cost up to $2.4bn, on 2016 circumstances, which he describes as “a small price to pay for investment in a re-invigorated and coherent system which encourages innovation. The price tag for being wrong-footed by economic change would be a lot higher,” he writes.

For providers the plan proposes two fundamental changes, positioning the Australian Qualifications Framework, as a “central organising construct” and creating a new regulator to set course prices.

There are four elements to an enhanced AQF. Learners creating their own programs, with a possible mix of practical and theoretical learning, to meet their individual needs. Qualifications achieved through various learning pathways, including ones that are practical, employer-based, technical and discipline-based. Institutions recognising learning outside regulated tertiary education and an end to VET and higher education variations of the same qualification.

While the authors acknowledge the pricing authority would require expertise beyond the existing Department of Education and Training they are careful to point to precedents (for example the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority)  and the practicalities of what it could achieve.

“Decision-making would occur in a transparent, orderly way through the publication of draft findings, opportunities for stakeholders to comment and publication of a final decision which would then have effect. Advance notice would be given of any changes to pricing arrangements and student contribution arrangements to allow providers and students sufficient time to plan ahead.”

The overall ten points are.

* a single post-secondary system based on the AQF and funded by the feds

* restore and expand the demand driven system

* income-contingent loans for students at private, as well as public providers and for courses at all AQF levels

* Commonwealth funding for teaching spent on teaching with research funded separately

* an independent tertiary education pricing authority: “to determine the appropriate price for the teaching of various disciplines at different tertiary education levels, and set the maximum amount of student contributions that can be levied”

* a single loans scheme for “full range” of tertiary qualifications: annual and lifetime borrowings set according to “expected private benefits of the various qualifications”

* tighter regulation of voced providers

* teaching excellence assessment: with funding attached

* “further improvements” in information on providers: “to assist students in making the right choice for them”

“These nine recommendations would stimulate provision at all levels of tertiary education and training, and enable innovation, particularly in courses focused on practice and the workplace.”

The tenth is that “university” should continue to be protected as a name, but provider categories would be abolished, ending the divide between universities, which are required to research, and HE providers, that aren’t. “A freed up tertiary system with strong regulation to monitor quality would enable a level playing field between new entrants and established entrants, and between public and private providers.”

UA responds early and unhappily to Parker plan

It took as long as the embargo plus a nanosecond for Universities Australia to respond to the Parker paper. “While universities shared an ambition to repair the vocational education sector, it would be a grave mistake to think the way to achieve that is to dismantle the policy settings that give Australia a world class university system,” UA CEO Catriona Jackson said.

“Our high-quality universities are the backbone of Australia’s education export sector, which contributes $30 billion a year to support Australian jobs and living standards.”

Adapting Mark 6.4,  “a parker is without honour in his own country.”

Addressing sexual violence on campus a year after the national report

A year after the national report on sexual violence on campuses, Universities Australia says all 39 institutions have “continued to enhance student support services, university policies and prevention programs,” with 800 actions and initiatives. Last week UA added an extra, releasing a ten-point plan for universities to use in responses to reports of sexual assault and harassment (CMM July 20). However, the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations is not especially impressed, stating last night, “One year on, we believe that there is widespread recognition in the sector that sexual violence on campus is a problem, but actions against this have been slow, limited, and not always the best use of resources.”

“Some universities are more concerned about the optics of implementing response measures than they are about the number of students being assaulted each day. Others have made strong public statements but have failed to implement evidence-based and properly resourced measures,” CAPA states.

CAPA calls for a range of improvements, including “adequately resourced on-campus counselling, monitoring of university residential colleges and bans on “inappropriate relationships” between research supervisors and students. This morning UA delivers on that one with a set of principles “for respectful supervisory relationships” developed in cooperation with stakeholders, including CAPA.

Open but (sort of) Shut Day

“Are you planning on attending UniMelb Open Day? Hundreds of UniMelbourne staff aren’t due to our industrial action. Some stalls may be unstaffed and academic sessions may be cancelled.” University branch of the National Tertiary Education Union, Facebook yesterday.

Needed: more new students from original international markets

While the China boom in international enrolments rolls-on experts point to problems in other country markets, problems that will pick up prominence when the Chinese student flow slows. There is, veteran policy analyst Frank Larkins warns, already an issue as student demand from Australia’s neighbours declines.

In a new paper for the L H Martin Institute, Professor Larkins expands on a previous project that looked at our out of synch sources of international students. He now provides comprehensive statistics on changing demand this century and warns that eight of the top 20 countries sending students to Australia in 2017 accounted for a lower proportion of the internationals-total than they did in 2002.

Four of them, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore had fewer students travelling to Australia last year than they did 15 years back.

This may be more to do with improving education at home than anything wrong with the Australian product, but it still creates two issues for Australia to address.

“The narrowing of the demographic diversity in Australian classrooms impacts on the richness of the educational experiences of all students. Australia should be promoting stronger educational engagements with our near regional neighbours, Professor Larkins warns.

And three of them are nations with which we need good relationships, to counter the weight of China, in more contexts than education.

“Students educated in Australia do provide an important bridge back to their home nationality,” Professor Larkins writes, suggesting the Commonwealth should consider re-starting the original Colombo Plan and “sponsoring students from underrepresented strategically important countries in the region.”

Vet students are learning for it themselves

The VET slump stabilised, at best, last year, with one expansive exception.

According to the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education and Research, 4.2m students enrolled in VET last year, up 0.7 per cent on 2016 but overall subject enrolments fell by 3.5 per cent to 29 million. Publicly funded subject enrolments were down even more, by 6.3 per cent to 13.m.

But what is interesting is that subject-only enrolments increased by 19.3% to 5.2 million, representing 17.8% of all subject enrolments (14.4% in 2016). It seems people have worked out that they can study to pick up the specific skill they need rather than do a whole-RTO packaged programme.

This sort of independence shows in an NCVER report by Margaret Johnston and Victor Callan. They found VET students are not waiting to be taught. Instead people in teamwork-focused courses are organising themselves via Facebook and Twitter. And when apprentices get to difficult bits of a subject they learn from YouTube. “They are not the passive consumers of VET training of the past,” Johnston and Callan wrote last year.

Appointments, achievements

Elizabeth Capp is the new head of campus at La Trobe U, Shepparton. Ms Capp moves from the University of Melbourne where is director, students and equity.

John Germov will move to Charles Sturt University to become provost and DVC A. He is now PVC A at the University of Newcastle. He starts in November, taking over from Robyn McGuiggan (ex JCU) acting since June. The previous incumbent was Toni Downes.

Nalini Joshi (UniSydney) is elected VP of the International Mathematical Union.

The SA Young Tall Poppies research awards are announced. The awards are for “outstanding research by young scientists and science communicators”. Winners are:

Catherine Attard (molecular ecology) Flinders U

Ryan Balzan (psychology) Flinders U

Melanie MacGregor (nano-architecture) UniSA

Lewis Mitchell (maths) UniAdelaide

Rodrigo Praino (politics and public policy) Flinders U

Katharina Richter (antibiotic-resistant infections) UniAdelaide

Cameron Shearer (solar cells) UniAdelaide

Benjamin Sparkes (quantum cryptography) UniAdelaide

Emma Thomas (social psychology) Flinders U

Harriet Whiley (environmental health) Flinders U