Budget highlight

ANU’s Tax and Transfer Policy Institute reports Australia is eighth in the world for a transparent national budget. Perhaps red type stands out more than black.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on the way to find a vaccine.

Aidre Grant (SCU) on the best on-line teaching tool.

Peter Goodyear (Uni Sydney) writes about teaching as design for learning. It is an addition to Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series on what’s needed now in teaching and learning.

Practitioner-experts on building on-line learning communities sponsored by Microsoft.

Asking what’s working on-line

There is a bunch of back-slapping DVCs E pleased with the way staff have moved to remote teaching. But what do the people in the IT-trenches think?

Researchers at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education are asking them. Natasha Ziebell, Daniela Acquaro, WeeTiong Seah and Cath Pearn have a  survey for school and university teachers, plus uni students.

The results will be gold but sadly the data is not being collected by individual university, which will be a relief to some of the back-slappers.

 AI improves on ABBA

 The Eurovision Song Contest is cancelled (for this relief, much thanks) but there is an alternative, on-line Eurovision AI

RMIT’s Sandra Uitdenbogerd, with colleagues from UNSW and studio Uncanny Valley, have an entry.

Beautiful the world” is a song about the summer fires and the present pandemic. It uses AI to turn “koala grunts, kookaburra laughs, and Tassie Devil barks, “into a kind of instrument.” Lyrics and melody are the work of AI and “human intervention.”

Dr Uitdenbogerd describes the song as “high entropy Daft Punk” – but it sounds no sillier to CMM than most Euro-songs, (“At Waterloo Napoleon did surrender, oh yeah”).

You can hear what high entropy Daft Punk sounds like, here and vote for it here.

Med students working on the wards

The feds are funding final year med students to provide “routine care” in hospitals

The plan is release senior doctors and nurses to treat COVID-19 cases while ensuring med students access practical placements. “It’s essential that Australia’s medical students continue to gain practical training as part of their education, despite restrictions because of COVID-19,” Education Minister Dan Tehan says.   

Government departments and a range of regulators have established principles for clinical education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s a choice for medical faculties which haven’t wanted to send students into hospitals, such as the University of Adelaide’s which suspended placements in March, because “the removal of students will clear the way for health professionals to manage their own priorities, (CMM March 19).

Proctor U promises

On-line education oversight provider Proctor U announces a student bill of rights, “in support of academic honesty, privacy and data security for students who complete remote and digital work and assessment”

This could calm students at the University of Queensland, where the student union worries Proctor U running remote exams, will put peoples’ data at risk.

But it probably won’t. P U’s article three is; “entities engaged in remote academic work or assessments are compliant with laws and regulations related to student privacy and student data.”

But article six promises; “the right to understand why data is collected and retained and whether it is disseminated.”

And while article seven adds, “the expectation that data collection is specific and limited,” that may not be precise enough for all.

TAFE: upskilling in the crisis

It sometimes seems if NSW TAFE was a course it would be Cert I in Basket Weaving – not now

The trainer has enrolled 80 000 people in its fee-free short courses for people wanting to up-skill during the COVID-19 crisis. So where does that leave universities planning to pick-up federal funding for similar products? Behind is where.

“I think TAFE NSW has stolen a march on the universities by offering these courses quickly and free. I think “free” is the critical issue,” a long-time training policy watcher says.

“The core question is, are people prepared to pay $1500 for a university credential compared to a free TAFE one? The subject/industry areas seem similar.

“The language the universities are using like ‘up-skilling’, ‘workforce re-entry’ seems very VET.

“Future questions will revolve around completion rates, articulation rates and value for employers.”

But is it all a passing fancy?

“If universities are planning to move longer-term into the VET short course market to replace international students they will find the competition tougher than they might have expected,” the policy watcher observes.

Uni starters of the day

More unis sign-on to provide courses in the crisis

Uni Adelaide announces six-month graduate-certificate courses in software security and nursing infection control. They are part of Education Minister Dan Tehan’s plan for federally funded up-skilling in priority areas.

Southern Cross U is also engaging; launching short courses in engineering, science, education and agriculture.

Opportunity for ASQA

The training regulator, and all it regulates has not had a happy time since it was established. Improvements are in the offing

As part of broad VET reforms, in October the government commissioned a “rapid review” of the Australian Skills Quality Authority’s policies and practises. And rapid was MP Consulting, with its review now released to early approval by industry observers.

Although, it is alarming that some of the recommendations need to be made at all, such as (seven); “build a common understanding of ASQA’s role and regulatory approach, what stakeholders can and cannot expect of ASQA and areas of shared stakeholder responsibility.”

While others rather show why ASQA has been less disliked than loathed by some reputable providers, for example, number two. “Develop new standards in consultation with the sector, with a view to decreasing prescriptive detail and increasing the focus on quality training delivery and outcomes for students and employers.

As Andrew Laming (Lib-Queensland) put it in the House of Reps, ASQA has a reputation for, “an absolute focus on administrative trivia,” (CMM August 2 2019).

Among a mass of policy and procedural improvements, there is one thing CMM suspects will have registered training providers out of their seats applauding; “stakeholders noted that ASQA’s audit reports can be long, convoluted and difficult to read, such that they do not support providers to understand the non-compliance and identify what is at the heart of the issue.”

Reaction: Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia was quick to support findings.

“The review presents an honest assessment of ASQA’s past deficiencies and recognises the ongoing trust deficit that exists between the regular and training providers. (It) contains a solid set of recommendations that will, if implemented, set ASQA on the course to be a regulator that’s more focussed on helping training providers achieve quality outcomes.”

Appointments, achievements

Tina Brock (Director of Pharmacy Education at Monash U, wins Proctor and Gamble’s national leadership award for pharmacy education.

Kerrie Campbell (IT chief at Flinders U) is Telstra’s South Australian Business Woman of the Year.

Steven Chown (Monash U) is a new member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. So is Loeske Kruuk (ANU) and Aileen Morton Robinson (RMIT)

Jane Elith (Uni Melbourne) is elected an international member of the (US) National Academy of Science.

Ray Fleming leaves Microsoft, where he was HE lead, for Google to be HE education projects manager.

Julie Jomeen joins Southern Cross U as head of Health and Human Sciences. She moves from University of Hull. Yes, she sat out arrival quarantine.

Ann Keep is announced as director of Uni Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies unit. She takes-over next month.

Kathy Nicholson becomes operations manager at the University of Adelaide’s Australian Institute for Machine Learning.

Sarah Pearce from CSIRO Astronomy and Space is the NSW Telstra Business Woman of the Year.

Macquarie U’s Centre for Ancient Cultural Heritage announces Ronika Power as new director.

Jane Visvader (Walter and Eliza Hall) is elected a fellow of the Royal Society.

Mike Zuber (Uni Queensland) wins the Partington Prize for the study of alchemy and chemistry