There’s more in the Mail

In Features this week, Angela Carbone (Swinburne U) on closing the skills awareness gap – this week’s essay in commissioning editor Sally Kift’s series on what we need now in teaching and learning.

Health research on the money

Another day, another funding announcement by Health Minister Greg Hunt

Mr Hunt has a bunch of research cash to distribute and he makes the most of the political advantage it ensures by announcing grants great and small.  Today’s is ten worth $11.7m and shared by six universities, from the Medical Research Future Fund’s, admirably well-defined Keeping Australians out of Hospital programme.

Uni Melbourne has three, QUT and La Trobe U two each and UTS, Baker HDI and Macquarie U all have one.

CMM’s fave is $1.5m for Macquarie U to use “insights” and data from NSW multi-agency projects to work out ways to keep people out of hospital. It’s not much money, by medical research standards, but in presenting the government as across health it is worth its weight in hip replacements.

USQ stepping up on digital delivery

Uni Southern Queensland wants to, “reclaim (its) position as the sector leader in innovative, quality online and/or digital education that delivers a powerful and flexible student experience”

In June last year USQ started reviewing its Office for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching. The process is now closing on completion with a draft org structure out for consultation.

And not a moment too soon – as USQ explains.

“The student appetite for online learning including alternative modalities such as intensive learning and short form micro-courses, is increasing but so too is industry competition, as more education providers enter the industry, and existing providers aggressively expand their market share.”

“USQ needs to craft a narrative that speaks to this savvy cohort, but crucially, plan to deliver on those promises and exceed student expectations.”
The university proposes reorganising positions and functions to; * create new and innovative degrees, curriculum, educational models and modes, * enhance and improve existing courses and programs, including updating curriculum and pedagogical approaches, * build academic capacity to teach … and support success in awarded learning and teaching awards, and *create digital approaches and learning resources that invite and sustain student engagement, excitement and immersion in learning.

While there are new positions and reporting lines and functions will change, there is no apparent net job loss.

Call to end “uber ratings” of uni teaching  

The NTEU is arcing up against student surveys of teachers

The Queensland branch of the union is set to campaign against student evaluations of teaching, and the ways university managements use them.

The push responds to a member survey last year which found, in part; * students wrote disrespectful/abusive responses to open-questions, which managements generally let slide, * management used survey results to appraise staff despite, 20 per cent of academics in the survey thought they were “an accurate measure of their performance.”

“The standardised online one size fits all evaluation, which is relatively efficient to administer and analyse is not fit for purpose as a tool to inform or improve subject/units or their delivery,” the union argues.

“The fundamental question universities need to answer is why are they using these flawed, biased assessment tools that have the propensity to hurt staff?,” the NTEU’s Michael McNally asks.

“The best answer we have had so far is ‘well they are the best thing we’ have got’. The NTEU will campaign against these ridiculous Uber ratings for academics until they are back to what they were: voluntary mechanisms for academics to get feedback on their courses.”

You are warned, whoever you are

The peak research body suggests prominent med researchers keep their traps shut

Peer reviewers are reminded of the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of NHMRC peer review, and how this confidentiality contributes to the fairness and robustness of peer review,” the National Health and Medical Research Council lays down the law yesterday via social media yesterday. A specific warning or a general reminder? Who knows, but if it is the second people will stink it is the first.

Not those usual suspects, the usual usual suspects

“Chinese students at an Australian uni accept the “neo-liberal” line

A survey of Chinese students at an Australian university found they, “like many of their non-Chinese classmates—tend to be more focused on recruitment into lucrative and/or prestigious careers back home than on becoming global citizens, or acting as government agents.”

The research is reported by Claudia Astarita, Allan Patience and Sow Kea Tok, (all Uni Melbourne) who conclude; “the surveyed students—also mirroring their local counterparts—are disinclined to interrogate conventional or official accounts of their country’s contemporary politics and recent history, despite educational resources available to them. Their aims are primarily utilitarian, rarely idealistic, much less clandestine, and therefore more likely to advance the worldwide neoliberal project than the ideals of cosmopolitanism.”

Questions asked VET can answer

It’s National Skills Week and for the first time in years the training community has good reason to hope for better times

Ministers are not best pleased with university lobbies opposing whatever the government proposes and after the research innovation agenda of Malcom Turnbull, Morrison ministers appear inclined to listen to VET advocates talking up trade training.

The Peter Shergold chaired review (yes, another one) of pathways for senior secondary students to study/work is another indication that policy thinking has moved on from ways to pay for demand driven funding for university places.

The review did not get much of a run when announced earlier this month, CMM certainly missed it, but it could make a considerable contribution to reinvigorating VET.

As federal education minister Dan Tehan put it; “we must ensure that all pathways are equally valued, and that our young people can access a secondary education that can equally prepare them for work, VET or higher education.”

The terms of reference include identifying best practice for school students transitioning to work/training/education, including; “career education and awareness that supports inclusion and includes information linked to labour market outcomes for all pathways”, “vocational education and training delivered to secondary students that leads to strong transitions” and “work-based learning and industry partnerships.”


Three academics are short-listed for the Women’s Agenda web-hub’s emerging public sector female leader award. Abeer Alsadoon is an IT research scientist at Charles Sturt U. Also from CSU, Faye McMillan researches Indigenous Health. Amy Thunig is an associate lecturer at Macquarie U with a PhD on Indigenous women academics.

Newell Johnson, from Menzies Health Institute Queensland, at Griffith U, receives a one-off honour from the University of Peradinyar, in Sri Lanka, for 50 years of joint research projects, publications and supervising PhDs, all in dentistry.

Ed tech provider Blackboard announces its 2019 awards for teaching, learning and student engagement;

Student success: Shashidhar Venkatesh Murthy and Andrew Gavan (James Cook U)

Professional development: Nikki Meller (Western Sydney U) and Mark Northover, Nell Buissink, John Davies, Herewini Easton, Piki Diamond, Emily Whitehead, (Auckland U T)

Leading change: Kulari LokugeIan Rorke, Sharon Whippy, Paul Hellwge, Nathan Fitzgerald, Vy Tran, Divya Srinivas, Louis Doug An, Julia Vanuchchi, Sohail Aslam, Prateek Jindal, Estha Hanning Su, Amit Vij, Emily Takayama, (Monash College)