Stem cell expert honoured

James Hudson from the University of Queensland is the Centenary Institute’s Medical Innovation Award winner. Dr Hudson is noted for his work on creating human heart tissue for cardiac repair from stem cells.


Government “showing total disregard and disrespect for HE” says Go8’s Thomson

With the government’s legislation to cut university funding expected in parliament this week the Group of Eight has a broadside for Simon Birmingham  

“After weeks of misleading and disingenuous accusations against the university sector, Education Minister Simon Birmingham is showing total disregard and disrespect for higher education and the students the sector serves,” Go8 chief executive Vicki Thomson says this morning.

Ms Thomson rejects the minister’s arguments that the sector is well-funded and can accommodate his proposed cuts and she warns that the government is ignoring the real problem universities face. “There is no good public policy direction here. This package does not address the fact that we have a broken funding model for our universities. It is desperate politics unbecoming of any government that suggests it supports higher education.”

The Group of Eight also warns cuts will force members to make “difficult choices” in allocating resources, including its hundreds of rural and regional health and medicine teaching and placement facilities, campuses and research centres.

With a vote imminent and no alternatives on the agenda the Eight’s outcry will have no negotiating impact on the government but it may influence Senator Nick Xenophon and his two Senate colleagues – who are widely expected to determine the outcome.

Flinders staff to go

There’s friction at Flinders U as the comprehensive campus restructure gets down to detail. Jobs are going in a range of support services, from accommodation to retail fear. And around 20 library positions are set to be abolished. Yes, new digitally-focused jobs are coming but Flinders watchers say this is not going to be much use to library staffers whose skills do not fit.

“A more contemporary approach” to humanities at UniNewcastle

Building a new structure at the University of Newcastle continues apace, with new administration systems announced, the gleaming tower of the city-centre NeWSpace open and now course content on the agenda.

A proposed undergraduate humanities restructure is expected to hit the 13 philosophy subjects now offered. The university tells CMM, “philosophy content will be incorporated into the core courses of the degree under the proposed changes to orient the liberal arts disciplines around four new teaching and research clusters.” These are history, classical studies and critical inquiry; societies, cultures and human services; language, writing and digital humanities; and healthy communities and social futures.

Apparently, “the proposed changes reflect a broader shift in the higher education sector towards a more contemporary approach to liberal arts … that is responsive to student demand, graduate employability, research priorities and social innovation.”

Staff have until September 20 to comment.

Dawe to Flinders

Dawe to Flinders

Jodieann Dawe is head of Flinders U’s “new look research entity.” The old Research Office is “transformed” taking on responsibility for IP and commercialisation. Ms Dawe joins from the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research, where she has managed research and engagement since June 2015.

All quiet-ish on the western front as union says Fair Work law must change

The National Tertiary Education Union is maintaining the rage at Murdoch U following the university’s huge win in the Fair Work Commission, which agreed to cancel the application of the last enterprise agreement. There was a Murdoch U stop-work on Thursday and union general secretary Grahame McCulloch travelled to WA to lead loyalists in expressing outrage. “The Fair Work Commission rules are unfair, broken and need to be changed,” he said.

The Labor and Greens senators who control the Senate Education and Employment References Committee, agree. Their report last week on Corporate Avoidance of the Far Work Act recommends amending it to; “prevent the FWC from terminating an agreement where workers would be worse off as a result of the termination. This would have the effect of protecting the living standards of workers as the parties go about the task of negotiating a new collective agreement. Failing to do so will allow further erosion of the collective bargaining process and expose workers to significant vulnerability.”

Labor shadow for employment and workplace relations Brendan O’Connor has already committed to do something about this. After the Murdoch decision Mr O’Connor said that in government, “Labor will change the law. We will limit capacity to terminate agreements, in order to redress the imbalance in bargaining power between workers, their unions.”

Good-oh, but if the NTEU is to stop any universities following Murdoch it cannot wait that long and will surely have to appeal.

Curtin comms chief honoured

Valerie Raubenheimer has won Universities Australia’s lifetime achievement award for marketing and communications.Curtin comms chief honouredstarted at Curtin as PR manager twenty years ago, becoming vice president corporate relations and development in 2009. “Val is clearly a beloved and respected figure in her university community … . Her values and her passion for universities and the opportunity they create are compelling,” UA’s citation states.

TAFE sounds the tocsin: time to lead the policy discussion

TAFE leaders “despair” at the state of the voced debate says Mary Farone, Holmesglen Institute CEO and chair of TAFE Directors Australia.

Speaking at the TDA conference Ms Farone warned; There are increasingly more and more commentators on the sector, about what it should be like, what it should do, and what it doesn’t do well.”

TAFE is also ““in danger of being swallowed up by universities at the diploma level and at the policy level the understanding of the sector only extends to apprenticeships and trainneeships”.

In a call to arms Ms Farone told the conference, “it is time to take back the narrative about technical, vocational and tertiary education and lead the discussion with clear thought leadership about how the sector can assist, not just with apprenticeships and traineeships but across the gamut of qualifications from certificate one to masters programs.

“We need to lead the charge of excellence, industry collaboration and learner outcomes. Let’s get back to where we belong, as the number one technical, vocational and tertiary provider in Australia,” Ms Farone said. (See below for an example of TDA making the policy running.)

It’s an exhortation embraced by Labor skills spokesman Doug Cameron who made it plain at the conference that for the ALP, TAFE is a synonym for training. Senator Cameron repeated the party pledge that two-thirds of all vocational education and training budget spending, “will go to the most trusted VET provider in the country – and that is TAFE.

“Without the TAFE Network, Australia would be less competitive, less skilled, less innovative. Labor recognises this and we will ensure TAFE continues its tremendous contribution to this great country.”

Another Miles Franklin winner at Curtin U

Josephine Wilson is the 2016 Miles Franklin award winner. Dr Wilson is a sessional staff member at Curtin University, teaching creative writing. She joins other sometime Curtin staff who have won the Miles Franklin, Elizabeth Jolley, Kim Scott and Curtin graduate Tim Winton.

Teacher education in ok shape

Teacher education students are happy with the quality of their courses, according to the new edition of the annual AITSL survey

The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership combines survey data to report annually on the state of teacher education. Key findings in the new analysis include:

Teacher education student numbers grew by 30 per cent between 2006 and 2015. Growth picked up as demand driven funding kicked in but remained in-line with overall enrolments, holding at 6 per cent of total enrolled students.

There was UG retention of 77 per cent, 1 per cent lower than the mean for nine undergraduate programmes.

Commencing students who entered a course on the basis of ATAR of 81 or higher had an 84 per cent retention rate, 5 per cent higher than the all-ATAR entrants while 73 per cent of teacher education commencers with ATARs under 50 continued their course. There was a 75 per cent retention rate for people not admitted on an ATAR.

Over ten disciplines, undergraduate teacher education’s 62 per cent for completion/still studying over six years, was fourth, 12 per cent behind health.

Of recent undergraduate degree completers 82 per cent were satisfied with their course, in line with the 2015 all-programmes figure.

In 2015 94 per cent of new teachers with an undergraduate degree were employed, with 70 per cent teach full-time.

Putting a big T in TAFE

“TAFE is well-equipped to produce the “T-shaped” graduates, who have “who have both broad capabilities and in-depth higher technical vocational skills”

Leo Goedegebuure and Ruth Schubert from the L H Martin Institute make the case for TAFE being a key catalyst for industry innovation in a new report for TAFE Directors Australia. They suggest that examples from Europe and Canada demonstrate how institutes with applied research and training roles can foster innovation ecologies in the economy, especially engaging small and medium enterprises. They point to TAFE involvement with industry in the Geelong and Hunter innovation ecosystems as demonstrating what is possible across the country.

A key part of the challenge is for industry to buy into TAFE’s skills and training capital. “This generates a knowledge flow from the tertiary institutions into local industry as well as from industry back into the institutions as a result of the project outcomes being fed back into the education and training programs.”

To accomplish this, Goedegebuure and Schubert suggest, “structures such as supported and funded pure and applied research groups, large and smaller scale student projects, incubators, including student incubators, and mentored start-up hubs.”