New national survey shows Notre Dame Australia and Bond lead the country

The new all-university survey ranks unis from great to not-so-much

NTEU demands unis stand up for free speech

The new VET loan scheme: big private providers excluded

Scary experience

New international students from the University of Sydney toured the NSW Parliament the other day and sat through Question Time – it would be unkind to inquire how many of them went straight to the airport after.

Students rate their universities

The University of Notre Dame Australia rates highest in in the country, with over 90 per cent of its students rating their entire education experience positively in a survey for the federal government’s Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching, released this morning. Notre Dame is just ahead of private provider Bond U and the Melbourne based University of Divinity. There is a five per cent gap to Edith Cowan U, which is closely followed by Griffith and Deakin universities and the University of the Sunshine Coast.

The results come from QILT’S 2016 student experience survey and are based on a 46 per cent national response rate. Students also rate higher education providers on a range of attributes.

“The Turnbull Government is determined to drive increased accountability in our higher education system and is committed to delivering greater transparency around how higher education institutions perform and engage and support their students,” Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham said last night.

“The more information that students can have at their fingertips, the better decisions they can make when considering the courses and careers they choose to embark on.”

The overall range of university student satisfaction runs from just over 70 per cent to 90 per cent plus.

Students expressed least satisfaction with UTS, Charles Darwin U, La Trobe U and the University of New South Wales, which had positive scores between 15 per cent and 20 per below the top achievers.

CQU is a dramatic improver over the two surveys, in the bottom ten for 2015, now just above the 80 per cent system-wide satisfaction figure. In contrast, Federation U has slumped from a top ten place in ’15 to the bottom five last year.

tomorrow: details on student judgement on focus areas and employer ratings.

Better than it sounds

“In a tribute to innovation, sustainability and advanced manufacturing, Australia has presented India’s Narendra Modi with replica Mahatma Gandhi spectacles – made entirely from waste using breakthrough recycling technology developed at UNSW,” the University of New South Wales announced yesterday.

It’s better than it sounds. The ‘waste’ is plastic from electronic goods transformed into filaments for 3D printers.

NTEU calls on unis to stand up for free speech

The National Tertiary Education Union has warned the week-long detention of UTS academic Feng Chongyi, in Guangzhou, “highlighted a profound difference between Australia and China in relation to academic freedom.”

“It is apparent that the threat he poses to Chinese state security is inseparable from his academic expertise gained through research undertaken at UTS. His academic expertise is about constitutional democracy in China,” the union states.

Academic freedom is not just about the freedom to collaborate with other academics, or to freely research or communicate findings. Academic freedom is necessary to ensure scholars are free to outline views that may be institutionally or geopolitically inconvenient. The same principle serves freedom of speech. Academic freedom ultimately must protect academics when they speak truth to power.”

The union calls on universities to “publicly commit and champion the principle of academic freedom at every opportunity.”

Perhaps it’s the square pants

“You have more in common with a sea sponge than you may realise” the University of Queensland’s “we can get a story out of anything” team tweeted yesterday. Dr Milos Tanurdzic, citing research mainly by former UQ PhD student Dr Federico Gaiti, says, “a collaborative study found sponges use a complex gene regulation toolkit similar to much more complex organisms such as humans. … This implies that gene regulatory complexity relying on histone marks was fundamental for the evolution of animal multicellularity and diverse animal forms and functions,” and there you were thinking Sponge Bob was just a cartoon.

Tell us now

Labor education shadow Tanya Plibersek is not impressed by the possibility of funding cuts for universities and HECS hikes for students in the budget.  “Is this all the Liberals have come up with after spending around $4.5 million on 27 reviews, inquiries, and talkfests on higher education?, she asks. “The Liberals need to release the full details of exactly what they have planned.” CMM suspects that the government might do exactly that in the budget.

International student numbers up (again)

Australia’s international education numbers in February were up 14 per cent on Feb ’16 to 486 000. As most institutions enrol in March the growth comes from continuing students progressing through the system however higher education commencements did grow by 14 per cent and VET starts increased by 16 per cent on 2016.

Demonstrating higher education’s dominance of demand from India, university enrolments of Indian students in February had doubled on the 2009 figure, to 38 000. In contrast VET enrolments declined as visa requirements were tightened, from 43 000 in 2009 to 15 300. Overall Indian commencers were 12 800 in February up 1700 from 2016.

Last night Education Minister Simon Birmingham declared his visit to India a success, “thanks to the positive discussions had in India, it won’t be too long until we see Australian universities and training providers complement their significant numbers of Indian students studying in Australia with a significant presence in India too.”

Senator Birmingham said India’s minister for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Shri Pratap Rudy “has endorsed the value of Australian ‘train the trainer’ courses being delivered by Australian providers.

Careers Australia and Evocca excluded from new VET loan scheme

The federal government has approved 109 of 265 applying private training providers to participate in its new vocational education and training student loans programme, designed to replace the discredited VET FEE HELP scheme. The Australian National Audit Office found $2.2bn in public funds was lost under the previous system (CMM December 21).

Major private providers,  Careers Australia and Evocca are among providers which will not participate.

“I do not apologise for implementing a program that protects students and rightly ensures that taxpayer money will go to high quality courses delivered by providers with strong reputations that will help students get a job,” Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham says.

“These arrangements put students at the centre of everything we are doing through greater protections and an emphasis on protecting the reputations of high quality providers and the sector more generally.”

According to a Department of Education and Training spokesperson, “all providers were subjected to a rigorous assessment process. It was clear from this process that some providers were more ready than others to make the move to a program which was designed to focus on students, and only admit good quality providers.”

The DET spokesperson says Careers Australia was excluded from the scheme because it “demonstrated very poor student completion rates across the majority of their qualifications.”

Careers Australia was unable to demonstrate that it had established and maintained material, relevant and appropriate links with industry and other bodies to ensure that its approved courses meet workplace needs.”

The Department also rejected the Australian College of Training and Employment, trading as Evocca, pointing to “issues with quality provision and compliance with laws.”

“The department could not be satisfied that ACTE/Evocca met the provider suitability requirements around management and governance and experience and course offerings,” the spokesperson said.

Last night Careers Australia said it was “extremely disappointed” with DET’s decision and had “immediately applied” for an internal review. Spokesperson Scott Kessell said  “as the number one private provider of trades and nursing training in the country, Careers Australia has a proud record of providing high quality vocational training resulting in employment outcomes for thousands of Australians.”

Mr Kessell added Careers Australia student completion rates “exceed industry standards in terms of employment and further study outcomes. … We have made significant investments to ensure the progression of students through to the completion of their course of study.”