Truthiness in advertising

A learned reader points to a story on UK advertising regulators scrutinising university ranking claims. The Advertising Standards Authority there  kicks up at advertisements, a few not entirely unlike some here.

There’s more in the Mail

David Myton’s brief on global HE news is this morning’s feature

USQ reaches out to its audience

The University of Southern Queensland had the second highest student attrition rate in the country in 2015 (23.98 per cent). It’s new TV advertisement explains why.

The TVC features Katie, who at significant moments of life, from learning to walk, to delivering a baby has had someone she loves telling her, “Katie you’ve got this.” And now she is a mother with young kids an online tutor from USQ is assuring Katie “she has got this” as she studies. Brilliantly targeted and well executed to encourage women with family responsibilities who want to study and worry if they can manage it. But it explains the university’s attrition rate, not everybody can fit study into life.

Another Davis innovation at the University of Melbourne

There is more than hits and memories in Vice Chancellor Glyn Davis’s farewell year at the University of Melbourne.

Yesterday the university announced the Melbourne School of Professional and Continuing Education.

MSPACE will, “offer lifelong learning opportunities for professionals across all academic areas for people at all stages of their career.”

According to Professor Davis, “radical developments in the technology landscape, primarily associated with the rise of the internet and associated digital media and tools, have opened up new possibilities in the provision of, participation in, and access to, education.”

“There is a clear demand for education providers to respond to the needs of graduates in local and international communities who will increasingly be seeking opportunities to re-skill throughout their careers,” he says.

The school will be based in Business and Economics, with a head now being recruited, who will have to hit the ground less running than sprinting given MSPACE is scheduled to start on January 1.

But how will it work, you ask. Here’s how, PVC Teaching and Learning Gregor Kennedy explained to CMM;

“The school will bring together and integrate key areas of the university that already provide programs in continuing, professional and executive education. In partnership with the university’s faculties and graduate schools, MSPACE will deliver existing courses and it will also build a suite of new programs.

“A range of delivery models will be used and it is expected there will be a reliance on campus-based intensive, online-learning and custom modes of delivery, all designed to meet the needs of professionals interested in furthering their education.

“The programmes designed and delivered by MSPACE will be aligned with the current award, credit and fee arrangements in place at the university.

“The establishment of the school will also provide further opportunities for the university to investigate its credentialing ecosystem, such as its recent pilot of issuing certificates on the blockchain.”

Last month the university announced the flexible academic programming scheme, intended to reform and refresh courses and develop digital delivery for big-enrolment subjects (CMM October 9).

That was big, so is this.

Who could refuse?

“Anyone for some next-generation light harvesting molecules?” UNSW science dean Emma Johnston launching the campus node of the ARC Centre for Exciton Science yesterday.  They just live for pleasure at Kensington.

John Dewar’s new plan for La Trobe U: bold succeeded by bolder

John Dewar’s new plan for La Trobe University is rare among higher education strategies in that it is actually a plan, with hard numbers among the aphorisms. Vice Chancellor Dewar’s strategy commits to LTU becoming a billion-dollar business.

“Compound Annual Growth Rate for Revenue of 7.5% over the five-year period of this strategic plan will double revenue growth, from $135m in 2012-17 to more than $270m in 2018-22); and achieve $1.1B in revenue by 2022.”

Professor Dewar will need all of it to achieve an ambitious plan that addresses the transformative challenges higher education faces to become what he calls, “university 4.0.”

His plan is designed to deliver:

#  “customised, on-demand learning offered in multiple modes,”

# “a mix of degrees and shorter cycle qualifications and credentials,”

# “life-long career management for students and alumni, which will include the ability to ‘top up’ standard university qualifications to address skills gaps throughout a working life”  and

# “physical sites for co-location and collaboration with industry and other partners for research and innovation, including as brokers of relationships.”

While the plan lacks specifics on curricula and employment prep it puts students at the centre and emphasises working to their schedules; “our students increasingly expect to engage with their studies flexibly, including through online and micro-credential options in addition to more traditional degree structures.”

The Dewar manifesto is also realistic about LaTrobe’s research future, pointing to improvements but carefully suggesting the university cannot take the next steps alone; “we have a successful record of local collaboration in research, and now is the moment to increase the level of international collaboration in our research effort. This global perspective will help us achieve greater influence and impact.”

There is, it seems a way to go; “we will transform La Trobe’s existing R&D park into a thriving research and innovation precinct to attract global partners, and world class research and education collaborations.”

The most significant research target Professor Dewar sets is to reach the top 250 in the Academic Ranking of World Universities by 2022. LTU was 336 last year, after failing to make the global 500 in 2014 and ’15.

Uproar accompanied Professor Dewar’s previous plan Future Ready, with the campus branch of the NTEU warning that he was sacrificing jobs to an overly ambitious agenda (CMM August 14 2014). But he is still standing now and manifestly game to have an even bolder go.

Job benefits

UNSW is introducing a 40 per cent staff discount for its courses, commencing in February. VP HR David Ward says it will help staff further their education and grow their careers, “as well as strengthening employee benefit offerings to ensure the university can retain and attract the very best talent.”

Three choices for Murdoch U management

Murdoch University responded to the union challenge for management to put its proposed enterprise agreement to a vote (CMM yesterday) with a wordy  equivalent of “no comment.”

“We remain committed to achieving a new enterprise agreement that delivers certainty and benefits for our staff and which underpins a prosperous future for our university,” a spokesperson says.

With negotiations stalled and not much to talk about with the National Tertiary Education Union bargaining team management has three options. Do nothing other than keep making a case that is as conciliatory as possible. Take the proposed deal to staff. Or hang really tough by acting on the Fair Work Commission’s ruling and canceling terms and conditions of the now expired agreement and move staff to the lower pay/lesser conditions of the award safety net.

The first is the easy option, except that VC Eeva Leinonen is on record as wanting an agreement this year. The second is high-risk, while a win would be a huge defeat for the union at Murdoch a loss would empower the NTEU to argue om forever. The third would utterly alienate the university’s workforce.

This is the stalemate stage where the NTEU federal office could intervene but with deals being done at universities across the country the union’s national leadership is under no pressure to help its perhaps least-favourite university management.

Great names on CVs

ANU maintains top ANZ spot in the new Times Higher graduate employment ranking, up one place on its 2016 position to 21st in the world. It leads just five other ANZ institutions among a worldwide list of 150; the University of Sydney at 48th (49th in 2016), University of Melbourne 50 (47th last year), Monash University, unchanged at 57th and UNSW 61st (up three). The University of Auckland is 146th down six places.

The ranking is based on surveys of big recruiters servicing international employers, demonstrated by the global reputations of the top ten; CalTech, Harvard, Columbia, MIT, Cambridge, Boston, Stanford, Technical University of Munich, Tokyo and Yale.

Fierce but few

In a recent ballot on taking industrial action at RMIT,  536 union members voted, some 43 per cent of the campus member roll. To adapt Napoleon I on British infantry, National Tertiary Education unionists are the toughest in the world, there just aren’t many of them. Not in this case anyway, the proposal failed because the Fair Work Commission requires 50 per cent of eligible voters to cast a ballot.

HEADS UP: achievers of the week

The Australian Academy of Science variously honours researchers this morning, with medals and invitations to lecture.

Career Awards

Douglas MacFarlane (chemistry-Monash University)

David Cooke (mineral chemisty-University of Tasmania)

Matt King (polar research- University of Tasmania)

Calum John Drummond (chemistry -RMIT)

Geoffrey Burnstock (neuroscience- University College London and Monash University)

Mid-Career Awards

Anushka Patel (cardiovascular disease management-George Institute)

Killugudi Swaminathan Iyer (molecular science-University of Western Australia)

Marie-Liesse Asselin-Labat (cancer biology, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute)

Early Career Awards

Shanyong Wang (engineering-University of Newcastle)

Ceridwen Fraser (biodiversity-ANU)

Irina Voineagu (neurodevelopment disorders-UNSW)

Alex Fornito (human brain function-Monash University)

Rhodri Davies (geophysical processes-ANU)

Zdravko Botev (computational statistics- UNSW)

Tracy Danielle Ainsworth (reef-building corals-James Cook University)

Paul Lasky (physics and astronomy-Monash University)

Alex Sen Gupta (climate variability-UNSW)

Amir Karton (molecular sciences-University of Western Australia)


Rufus Black is the incoming vice chancellor of the University of TasmaniaProfessor Black is master of Ormond College at the University of Melbourne and a fellow of the university’s management and philosophy departments.

Nancy Odegaard is the University of Canberra’s alumni award winner. Dr Odegaard is an “internationally recognised conservator” who is now a professor of anthropology and of materials science and engineering at the University of Arizona.

Climate scientist David Karoly is moving to CSIRO. He is now professor of atmospheric science at the University of Melbourne. At CSIRO he will lead the snappily titled National Environmental Science Programme Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub.

Tracy Chalk is coming home to become chief marketing officer at the University of Newcastle.  She is now comms director at the University of the West of England.

Simon Biggs will move from the University of Queensland to become senior DVC at the University of Western AustraliaProfessor Biggs is now UoQ’s dean of engineering, architecture and IT.