Who, us?

“Can you know too much for your role? Sometimes experts can’t see the woods for the trees,” the Australian Business Deans Council, tweets a link to a journal article.

Where the education money went

The Mitchell Institute report on 2016 public expenditure in all education sectors is due on Thursday, very convenient for anybody after ammunition to use against cuts in MYEFO, expected on Monday.

MI analysts Kate Torrii and Megan O’Connell say their report “shows some stages of education have been clearly prioritised over others.”  Given the huge increase in HE expenditure, up 45 per cent in the decade to 2014-15, perhaps Education Minister Simon Birmingham will be one of the people quoting their work to justify cutting universities.

Sampson to Surrey

David Sampson is leaving UWA to join Max Lu (former UoQ provost) and now VC at the University of Surrey. Professor Sampson is director of the Centre for Microscopy Characterisation and Analysis at UWA. He move to Surrey as vice provost, research and innovation. He says his move is a “push back on the current invasion of UK academics into Australia, (especially into UWA).”

Keeping skills ship-shape in Adelaide

Hundreds of workers on the Air Warfare Destroyers project will walk through the shipbuilding valley death unscathed with Christopher Pyne’s announcement that 200 of them will switch to the submarine build in Adelaide. “As many as 100 scholarships would be offered to workers to support opportunities to upskill in roles in operations management, computer-aided design, and engineering and supply chain fields,” the Defence Industry Minister said yesterday. Ah scholarships, now which institution will offer them? Perhaps the long-promised shipbuilding college, the location of which is supposed to be announced by the end of the year.

ANU Press multi-million download year

ANU Press has given away 2.3m e-books – and that is just this year. The press will sell you a print product but downloads from the scholarly press’s 700-title catalogue are free.

Demand is growing fast the press passed the one-million-mark last year.

This year’s top title is Ron May’s The Military and Democracy in Asia and the Pacific (24 000 downloads) but the Press also points to perennial hits, like now VC at SCU Adam Shoemaker’s study of Australian Indigenous literature, Black Words, White Pages, downloaded “tens of thousands of times”. And yes, if the subject matter and methodology qualifies it ANUP titles are acceptable for Excellence in Research for Australia.


Deus ex machina: can AI and ships save SA

While federal Liberals are looking to ships to prop up South Australian employment, state Labor is investing in artificial intelligence. The Weatherill Government is kicking $7.1m in to the University of Adelaide’s Australian Institute of Machine Learning, “which will help lead South Australia through the economic transformation, directly supporting SA businesses to develop new products based on artificial intelligence and upskilling the workforce of the future.”

According to UniAdelaide acting VC Mike Brooks, the new centre will work with the university’s Australian Centre for Visual Technologies which is a global top ten in machine learning.

There’s no faulting SA politicians for optimism, but not veteran economists. As adjunct University of South Australia professor, Richard Blandy  puts it, “ the government’s resort to both employment and investment subsidies (‘industry attraction’) reveals an emerging economic crisis. Private investment has crashed. The unemployment rate is only as low as it is because large numbers of South Australians have moved for work interstate.”

UniSydney’s Norris wins Isaiah Berlin award

Pippa Norris has won the Isaiah Berlin lifetime achievement award from the (UK) Political Studies Association. The University of Sydney scholar compares public opinion and electoral practise, political institutions and gender politics across cultures. UniSydney says she is Google Scholar’s fourth most cited political scientist and the number two pol sci author for Social Science Research Network downloads.

So, is she a Berlin hedgehog or a fox? CMM suspects both – she knows a great, great deal about many, many subjects.

Urban researchers honoured

The urban studies experts of the Australian Cities Research Network have awarded its biennial medal to Stephen Hamnett (UniSA) and Susan Thompson (UNSW).

Quality training: difficult to deliver, harder to define

A new study  for the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research, by Tabitha Griffin, suggests  “quality” in VET means many different things. “For students it is obtaining skills to get a job, or a better job; for employers it is staff with workplace skills; for providers it is optimal outcomes for all clients, along with provider reputation and viability; and for regulators it is all providers meeting and exceeding national standards. The common ground for all, including for governments and funders, is that learners are provided with the skills they are training for,” a summary of her analysis states.

Ms Griffith explores what is considered quality and how stakeholders determine if it is delivered and concludes that an all things to all persons measure is not easy; “the multiple purposes of VET signal that quality can mean different things, even within each of these stakeholder groups. These groups are not homogeneous and it is therefore unrealistic to expect that a subjective concept such as quality would be uniform,” she writes.

And she makes another compounding-the-confusion point, that existing measures of assessing quality could become obsolete, with students and employers “choosing shorter courses, skill sets and single subjects … this ‘micro-credentialing’ confounds more traditional views of requiring full qualifications and their completion rates as a proxy for quality … this growth can reflect a mismatch and imbalance between the regulation of qualifications and the needs of employers and students.”

Another challenge for ASQA.

Schmidt a hit

ANU’s Rabee Tourky comments on a successful labour economics conference and the university’s renewed commitment to the field, which is occurring “under the leadership of ANU’s greatest ever vice-chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt.”

VET loan system stays

The government is very pleased that a review of its VET loan scheme finds it is working well. ““The review confirms the current vet student loans course list and loan caps are successfully balancing industry needs, employment outcomes and student choice, while ensuring the student loans program remains fiscally sustainable and focused on the needs of students,” Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills Karen Andrews says.

Not, you understand that there is actually a “review” as in a document explaining success. What the government released yesterday was a discussion paper and submissions on the capped loans that replaced the VET FEE HELP disaster. The long long list of submissions, mainly from students and teachers is worth sampling – if only to be reminded that the after-shock of the training fee mess impacted many, many blameless people.

The loan caps for next year will be the same as for this, with minor indexation increases, to $5075, $10,150 and $15,225. The list of providers whose students can borrow for a course will be updated to keep it in line with existing requirements but is otherwise unchanged.

“Minister Andrews said the review found little evidence to suggest a need to vary the current VSL settings at this stage.”