Under the radar release

Is there something in the Braithwaite report on VET regulation that the government hopes we miss? Releasing it late Friday was a great way to ensure minimum attention.

What cockatoos do

Heather Dalton (University of Melbourne) and Finnish colleagues have identified images of a cockatoo in a 12th century manuscript in the Vatican Library. The say the bird was from northern Australia or Indonesia/New Guinea. The manuscript describes it as a gift from the Sultan of Egypt, to the Holy Roman Emperor – who must have loved the way it ate the palace’s wooden walls.

Colin longs to last at NTEU

A learned reader points to significant elections for National Tertiary Education Union positions in Victoria, with state secretary Colin Long, in office for eight years, running again. Dr Long has a campaign website where he says the unionmust speed up our ability to reach agreements to ensure that bargaining teams and members don’t experience fatigue.” University managements know what he means.

Dr Long is running a ticket with candidates at Deakin and Swinburne universities, and the University of Melbourne. It is backed by retiring national secretary Grahame McCulloch.

Grade inflation

Stephen Whyte, Ho Fai Chan, and Benno Torgler from QUT have analysed dating sites to discover if education is important to people posting. They found it is, more-so for women. While how much education matters to men and women in the market varies according to age, overall women are “more likely to state a higher minimum preference for educational level.”

ASQA inquiry recommends a student ombudsman and better teachers

The newly released Braithwaite report on ASQA’s legislation proposes a tertiary sector ombudsman and calls for action to raise teaching quality in the system.

Valerie Braithwaite (ANU) is a leading expert on education regulation, undertaking, with Kwong Lee Dow, the transformative 2013 review of TEQSA that ensured the agency’s survival.

In this new report on the act governing the Australian Skills Quality Authority she argues that, “as the higher education and VET sectors come closer together in meeting Australia’s tertiary education needs, the problems that students are likely to have will increasingly lie at their interface. Rather than requiring some patchwork of dispute resolution, this review recommends a leap forward to have the institutional infrastructure in place to meet future student demands.”

The government says it supports the proposal and commits to federal agencies working on the constitutional issues involved on organising national oversight of state training systems.

Professor Braithwaite makes 23 recommendations, focused on ASQA’s operating environment, working with providers and student assistance.

She also recommends requiring colleges to report on teacher quality and to implement plans to approve it and for the Commonwealth to create a career path for VET teachers with a new position of master assessor, “at the pinnacle of the VET teacher/trainer career path with the responsibility to mentor through professional development programs and assess the quality of an RTO’s next cohort of graduating students.”

The federal government, says it will ask officials to look at this.

Overall, Professor Braithwaite faintly praises the Australian Skills Quality Authority; “the review has not found that, at this stage of the evolution of the regulatory framework, there are major deficits in its functions and powers that disable ASQA from appropriately regulating the current VET environment. “

Compared to the VET FEE HELP catastrophe that occurred while ASQA’s previous regulatory model was in place this is a good result for the agency. But not good enough, Professor Braithwaite adds the authority can do more with what it has; “deepening the quality of regulatory conversations in ways that sharpen and refine existing tools is the imperative rather than creating a wide range of new formal powers.”

Reaction: Yesterday TAFE Directors Association chief executive Craig Robertson was quick to support the review, saying “for the first time in a long while a report brings together many aspects which form the ingredient of quality learning outcomes for students.”

Mr Robertson was a member of the expert panel that assisted Professor Braithwaite.

However, Labor VET spokesman Doug Cameron was less impressed, suggesting it was “a partial review” “severely limited by the Turnbull Government’s narrow terms of reference.” “The fundamental design of the system is flawed and no amount of regulatory tweaking will ensure quality student outcomes,” he said.

Oxbridge on the Torrens

The idea of a merger to create Adelaide University (CMM yesterday) isn’t new – John Saunders from consultants Linden Group points to his report to the state government back in 2005.

“Universities are the brain of knowledge-based societies. Adelaide, a city-state of 1 million people, has too many independent universities. The three universities should strongly collaborate under the brand of a single entity called ‘Adelaide University’ with regional, city-north, city-centre and city-south campuses. … In time, this globally oriented university of teaching and R&D excellence must be led to join the ranks of the world’s top 20 universities. It will then return to the city its famous name – Adelaide – but now with a brand equity like the mid-sized cities of Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard and their connection with the global flow of ideas,” he suggested.


Doctors ordered

The University of Melbourne is in the market for senior medical researchers, looking to recruit 50 in five years. The medicine faculty specifies 17 areas of interest, including brain cancer, emerging infections and antimicrobial resistance, genomics and stem cells, regenerative medicine and epilepsy. A separate call for researchers in clinical and population health informatics is expected later in the year.

How RUN does it

The 43rd international conference on improving higher education, “a self-supporting, non-profit organisation under U.S. law” (CMM January 16) convenes tomorrow at Charles Sturt U in Port Macquarie.  CMM has not seen a programme but wonders whether the Regional Universities Network will run a master-class on lobbying. RUN could use the way it is working to set the undergraduate performance metrics agenda as an example (CMM yesterday).

Appointments, achievements

Just days after Griffith University named Suzanne Chambers as joint-winner of a research leadership award (CMM June 20) her departure for UTS is announced. Professor Chambers will become dean of health at UTS in December. She was awarded an AO in the Queen’s Birthday honours list.

Stephen Kent from La Trobe U is the newly elected chair of the Heads of Departments and Schools of Psychology Association. His LT U colleague Cheryl Dissanayake is a new fellow of the International Society of Autism Research.

Mojtaba Bahaaddini, Bruce Hebblewhite and G Sharrock from the School of Mining Engineering at UNSW, have won journal Computers and Geotechnics outstanding paper award for 2018, which is based on Scopus citations for the last five years. Their paper is called “Numerical investigation of the effect of joint geometrical parameters on the mechanical properties of a non-persistent jointed rock mass under uniaxial compression,” and those who understand the title can find it  here.