Plus the deregulation debate: not dead yet and Parker from Canberra announces his retirement

QILT has everything covered

Finally the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching website will be up today– and it will be worth the wait. I give it to lunchtime before the perpetually aggrieved and their pals in the press start sneering, but this is a solid, and long over-due effort.

Griffith VC Ian O’Connor, who led the working party that oversaw the product development, should be proud of this open access, publicly funded product that makes it possible for people to actually compare courses at a range of universities, and in different disciplines. Want to know how business studies at Bond compares to biz at CQU and teacher education at Uni SA and CQU? QILT, a student focused Aus uni rating has it covered.

Users can compare different study areas at up to six institutions at once, on median salary, full-time study, employment outcomes, experience of newly qualified graduates, skills development and student support. The data is drawn from high-quality sources, the graduation destination survey and the university experience survey. And no, presentations are not euphemised to protect the mediocre, with performance presented in bar charts. Yes, generally there is not much difference between institutions, but that is what survey data shows.

For prospective students who want to know how universities compare on what matters to them, rather than recondite research ratings, this is the go.

Last night, Universities Australia CEO Belinda Robinson described QILT as “a useful addition to the student toolbox when deciding what and where to study – one of the most important decisions of their lives.” Useful be damned, it is excellent and a big win for Chris Pyne who pushed for it.

ANU Sep 15 3

Deregulation debate: not dead yet

What Simon says

Perhaps powerful people are preparing to make possible discussions about deregulation, or perhaps not. Yesterday Training Minister Simon Birmingham was all over the media, talking about the Turnbull triumph, but while the subtle senator was not addressing deregulation, he did let something slip, on ABC Radio in Sydney.

“I think the strength that we have in Malcolm is not only someone who understands the complexity of the challenges we have, but somebody who can explain that to the Australian people, and hopefully take them on a journey where people support the types of measures we need in the future, and that’s so important. There’s no point just talking about reform. There’s no point trying to ram it through. You’ve got to build the consensus in the community that allows you to have the consensus in the parliament. John Howard was very successful at that. Bob Hawke was very successful at that. And I believe that Malcolm Turnbull is the type of communicator and leader and thinker who can be very successful with that too.”

Sounds to CMM like a sales strategy Senator Birmingham could roll out if he is ever education minister. He is already practising with his programme to clean-up for-profit VET.

Reading the tea Lee-ves

Greens leader Richard Di Natale shuffled Lee Rhiannon out of the higher education portfolio yesterday. Senator Rhiannon is adamant in her opposition to deregulation, to the extent that CMM suspects she could never agree to discuss a date for a meeting where a hypothetical market-funding model might be mentioned. However she is being replaced with a federal policy cleanskin, Robert Simms who is taking the South Australian senate seat being given up by Penny Wright. This will make it easier for the Greens to talk about education change. Unlikely given the success of the party’s alliance with the education unions in the “$100 000 degrees” campaign? Perhaps, but Senator Di Natale has already demonstrated he wants the party in negotiation rather than nay-saying mode.

criterion update

Ask Chris

Prime Minister Turnbull replied to a Bill Shorten Question Time query about his position on “$100 000 degrees” by saying he supported all government policies and the opposition leader should ask Christopher Pyne for details. But when Mr Pyne was asked a Dorothy Dixer it was about what the China FTA would deliver for education, not about deregulation.

But what does it all mean?

Probably nothing before the election, especially if Labor’s imminent policy rejects deregulation and pushes for a bigger role for Canberra in setting university funding through Kim Carr’s compacts. But after the next poll CMM suspects the debate will start again.

Athena, goddess of equity

Back in June the Academy of Science announced it would pilot the UK Athena SWAN programme, which promotes employment of women in STEM (CMM June 30). This morning it delivers, announcing a partnership with the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering to trial SWAN, through the Science in Australia Gender Equity project, (SAGE to its supporters).

Some 32 organisations are participating, including more than 50 per cent of universities plus CSIRO and medical research institutes. “Most science disciplines are dominated by men in senior positions, despite the fact that roughly equal numbers of men and women study science and start science careers,” Australian Academy of Science president Andrew Holmes says. Entirely true but changing this requires men to stop thinking, like, well men. As Sharon Bell and Lyn Yates point out in a new study, the heroic model of the scientist is based on people “whose life circumstances enable them to engage in the continuous accumulation of academic and social capital,” – which means blokes (CMM September 10. Ending this is the work of a generation but the Athena SWAN strategy is part of the process.

ANU Sept 15

Grand slam

Like US Open winner Flavia Pennetta, Stephen “renaissance prince” Parker has announced his retirement on a high. After an unexpected win in the Open, Ms Pennetta obviously decided that was as good as it gets and retired. Professor Parker did much the same thing yesterday, on the day when his University of Canberra jumped from the 651-700 band to the 551-600 group in the QS rankings and when the defeat of Tony Abbott was seen by many as a win for opponents of deregulation.

Professor Parker will not leave until next winter and makes it clear that he has no intention of sitting quietly until then. “I will still fight for equitable access to uni, and education as a right not a product,” he said yesterday. But for the only VC to publicly oppose the Pyne package he picked a good day to set an end date.

But Professor Parker should be remembered for much more than this. His sponsorship of ACT sports teams, his patronage of a poetry prize and membership of a band (the Hip Replacements indeed!) plus his Augustan ambitions for campus development all made him a big bloke on the Canberra scene. But what CMM admires him for is the way he engaged with a higher education future that he expects will be very different the campus community he worked so hard to protect.