plus the Green team in education and research

when it comes to new teacher attrition: no one has a clue

and the week’s big employment news

Fundraising takes Flyte

The very proper people at the University of Melbourne’s Ormond College are passing the hat around for worthy causes. One is a medical scholarship and the other a real you-beaut-Brideshead, restoration of “the beloved Picket Lawn”. “Apparently it “is tired and worn from years of heavy use … . With your help we can restore it to its former glory.” What’s next a fund to buy deserving-poor collegians their own Sebastian Flyte teddy bear?

Friday Aug 26

Unhappy with education

Sarah Hanson-Young is out of immigration and into all of education as The Greens portfolio spokesperson, a move the senator is clearly unhappy with. “I fought hard to keep the immigration portfolio, but ultimately it was a decision of the leader,” she said yesterday. Still, if there were Oscars for outrage, Senator Hanson-Young would have more than Katherine Hepburn and doubtless she will soon find much to deplore about the government’s education policy. This move is hard for Labor’s portfolio spokeswoman, Tanya Plibersek who will have to work harder for a hearing with the aggrieved Hanson-Young on her patch.

Adam Bandt is a natural to speak for The Greens on research and innovation. As the member for Melbourne (the seat, although it may as well be the university) all Dr Bandt has to do is to demand more money for research, it’s not as if he will ever have the unhappy ministerial responsibility of having to fund one researcher and not another.

Path less travelled

International education staff across Australian universities are alarmed at the way the newly introduced and supposedly streamlined student visa processing system is turning out to be anything but. It is intended to assess applicants for all areas of education in a single framework and measure risk by country and the institution students are applying to.

But delays are so long universities are talking of postponing course starts, especially effecting Chinese nationals applying for pathway programmes.

“In addition to receiving consistent stinging feedback from our agent network, the problem has become more immediate with our pathway provider reporting massive delays for an alarming number of students destined for our upcoming intakes. This will feed through to the university next year as these students are packaged for entry to the main campus. I worry this is a canary in the coal mine,” an executive at a Group of Eight institution wrote to industry colleagues this week.

“The Department of Immigration and Border Protection is all BP now, with no interest in education,” a long-time industry observer said last night.


A rose should sweat so sweet

Here’s something you won’t learn on The Bachelor. Macquarie U researcher Ian Stephen and colleagues have determined that blokes who eat a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, including tofu, sweat sweeter than carnivores and are accordingly more attractive to women. Good-oh, but there is not enough amorous attention in the universe to make eating curdled soybean milk palatable.

Brace position people

Responses to Simon Birmingham’s broad hints yesterday on what for-profit VET providers will have to do to access loan schemes for students (CMM yesterday) were predictable. The public education lobby was upset that it did not favour TAFE and consign private providers to the galleys while potential galley slaves suggested the minister get cracking, what with the way the system is supposed to start in 2017.

But what nervously interested higher education policy people who keep an eye on VET was the assessment metrics the education minister mentioned in his speech. To participate in a new loan scheme VET providers could be required to meet four core criteria; (i) quality and repute, (ii) funding courses that generate jobs, (iii) practical caps on course numbers, (iv) costs per EFT set according to delivery expences. There is nothing, HE observers note, that would stop these being applied to universities as a way of defusing claims that student centred funding had created too many unemployable graduates.

Gong divided

The University of Wollongong is keen to promote its campus plan, which was all over influential local daily the Illawarra Mercury on Tuesday. But yesterday town had a swipe at gown with Wollongong mayor Gordon Bradbery using the paper to let UoW know that the plan will not create connections between campus and the adjacent CBD and he is worried UoW will become “insular.” This is curious in that the university reports consulting with council, and a bunch of other local organisations in its planning process. It seems there is more than a freeway separating the university’s main campus from the city centre.

ACPET to assess its own

The for-profit VET providers association has launched its own quality assurance scheme in a move to insulate members from the damage down by the shonks and spivs who rorted VET FEE HELP. Australian Council for Private Education and Training CEO Rod Camm announced the programme yesterday, saying it will cover “the quality of the entire student experience from marketing and recruitment, enrolment and orientation, participation and progression, student support and teaching quality.”

“The review will validate student outcomes and ensure members are providing student centric education and training, and demonstrating ethical practices and behaviours beyond regulatory compliance. Only those providers who can demonstrate consistent delivery of high quality service, support and outcomes will become ACPET Quality Endorsed,” Mr Camm said.

This is a very big deal, indeed hugely expensive and enormously time consuming but ACPET has no choice The rorting of the VET loan system did such damage to the entire industry that this is the only way to restore the reputation of legitimate for-profit providers.


In breaking news

Thanks to IDP for the urgent information that the name of the Universities UK international unit is changing from UK Higher Education International Unit (IU) to Universities UK International (UUKi). It appears, that like The Addams Family, the UK export business is “absolutely uuki”!

Uninformed arguments

The number of teacher graduates who do not enter the profession, or quickly leave, is used as a proxy for opposition to student centred funding, but arguments that universities over-enrol too many inappropriate teaching undergraduates are hard to support, if only because nobody knows the actual attrition rate, however defined, for new teachers. According to the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership, “the current rate of attrition of early career teachers in Australia can only be estimated and these estimates are highly variable.”

“There is a strong case for more comprehensive and better linked data collections to provide a basis for future research and policy development,” AITSL asserts.

So why was there a thundering silence from education faculties when the Productivity Commission sought submission for its inquiry into the education evidence base the nation has, and needs? AITSL made a submission as did Collette Tayler and Dan Cloney from the Melbourne Graduate School of Education but few others in the industry bothered.



Employment news from this week’s issues of CMM


La Trobe U’s Clare Wright is the Society of Women Writers choice for its Alice Literary Award for work that has inspired women’s literature. Dr Wright is an ARC Future Fellow, her Forgotten Rebels of Eureka won the Stella Prize in 2014.

Gillian Arrighi from the University of Newcastle has a National Library fellowship to research its archives for a study of child performers in Australia from 1880 to 1920.

The university’s Kim van Netten has won the inaugural Australian Falling Walls Lab competition (it’s an allusion to the end of the Berlin Wall). Dr van Netten and colleagues have created a liquid binding agent that attaches to toxic waste and contaminated water, in tailing dams and the like, making filtering wastes much quicker and cheaper. She will present her work at the global final of the competition in Berlin come November.

Curtin U’s Kingsley Dixon is the WA premier’s scientist of the year, “in recognition of his efforts in conservation science, restoration ecology and plant science.” Scott Draper, from UWA is the Woodside Early Career Scientist of the Year for his work on offshore fluid mechanics and audiologist Christopher Brennan-Jones, also from the University of Western Australia is student scientist of the year.


The WA Government is cooperating with Curtin and Murdoch universities to create a big-data agriculture research team led by Dr Simon CookDr Cook is now working in Colombia, applying data analytics to agriculture. He returns to Perth in October.

After eight years as executive director, Sharon Winocur is leaving the Business Higher Education Roundtable.

Melissa Slee from RMIT has won a crucial election in the Victorian branch of the National Tertiary Education Union. This is a big loss for the union’s state office, which backed official Josh Cullinan to become assistant state secretary.

Steve Larkin is joining the University of Newcastle as PVC for indigenous education and researchProfessor Larkin joins from Charles Darwin U, where he was the country’s first PVC I (CMM November 2 2015)

UofQ structural engineer Sritawat Kitipornchai becomes the fifth Australian elected to the European Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Fedor Iskhakov is joining ANU’s Research School of Economics where he will work on dynamic modelling of “employment, retirement, taxation and social welfare.” A graduate of St Petersburg UniversityDr Iskhakov did his postgraduate work in Norway.