What bird was that?

Uni Queensland reports research that has identified a now extinct goose in a 4600 year-old Egyptian painting. Which rather leaves Uni Melbourne with fewer feathers to fly with. It can only point to research about a Polish tapestry which includes a dodo, a mere 500 years ago. (CMM August 10 2020).

Where micro-credentials belong, or don’t

Robin Shreeve (L H Martin Institute) on  micro-credentials (in Features this morning), “with current moves to greater utilisation of “stackable” micro-credentials increasingly (and currently necessarily) delivered online I wonder if we in danger of backing form over substance and missing a key part of the university educational experience.”  A supportive response to Merlin Crossley’s argument that there is a place for micro-credentials, but it isn’t at university.  To which Claire Field responds (scroll down,) it depends on the university.

Uni Queensland’s civ secrets stay that way

Details of the deal for Ramsay Centre funding won’t be released

When Uni Queensland announced negotiations for scholarship funding from the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, the National Tertiary Education Union wanted to know what uni management was getting its members into. “There needs to be full transparency before Uni Queensland agrees to any kind of MoU with Ramsay,” the union’s branch president Andrew Bonnell said at the start of the controversy, (CMM September 14 2018).

So, when the university did not deliver documents the union FOI’d the drafts and final agreement.

Which they now have not got, at least not most of it, and will not get. Queensland’s Office of the Information Commissioner says release would be a breach of confidence.

It’s not on, according to NTEU State Secretary Michael McNally, who says the ruling “has profound implications for academic freedom and governance.”

“While the NTEU supports institutional autonomy as well as academic freedom, there needs to be transparency in institutional decision-making for the university system to function effectively,” he adds.

Bit tough, given the Information Commissioner reports the university did release documents on the Western Civ teaching and scholarships arrangement?

Not really, Uni Queensland released six pages in full, 18 in part and refused access to 859.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Pru Mitchell (ACER) on the great Australian open access resource for leaning and teaching and how to make it greater. New this week in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s CMM series, “Needed now in teaching and learning.”

John Howard (UTS) argues Commonwealth governments have failed to provide leadership and Australia needs an independent agency to do it. “

Desirable digital real estate

There are four things universities need to digitise campuses for “COVID-normal” life. Cisco and Optus set them out in CMM 

“The priority given to digital does not mean that physical campuses will drift into the background, but campus design will almost certainly change. For example, the campus will increasingly become a place for collaboration and peer-to-peer learning. This will drastically reduce demand for traditional spaces such as lecture theatres and create more demand for technology-enabled hybrid learning spaces,” they suggest.

Campus free speech: MPs are all ayes

The government’s campus free speech bill was (finally) in the Reps last night for the second reading debate. Progress was never in doubt 

Graham Perrett (Labor-Queensland) argued the bill is unnecessary, that there is no problem with free speech, that the real issue is the lack of government funding and proposed amendments to that effect, “whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading.”

Celia Hammond, (Lib -WA) the former VC of the University of Notre Dame, led for the government, describing the technical content of the bill and making a not especially strong case as to why it is needed now.

Research scientist Katie Allen (Lib – Victoria) spoke more strongly on the importance of campus debate but also suggested some VCs needed to take the issue seriously, that science depended on exchanges of ideas that can be heated and challenging. “Science is a contest of ideas, just like politics.”

A point that Anne Aly, former Curtin U counter-terrorism researcher (Lab-WA) engaged, arguing that the biggest threat to academic freedom are attacks on the humanities by members of the government.

The Senate will be louder and longer.

Claire Field on why and where micro-credentials can work for unis


But some should stick to “proper degrees”

In her seminal piece ‘Making micro-credentials work’ Emeritus Professor Beverley Oliver defines micro-credentials as “a certification of assessed learning that is additional, alternative, complementary to or a component part of a formal qualification”.

The recent review of the Australian Qualifications Framework used Oliver’s definition and also noted that the European MOOC Consortium’s criteria for defining a micro-credential included “a total study of 100 – 150 hours including assessment.”

While no such official “length” or “volume” exists for micro-credentials in Australia – with Oliver’s definition and that volume benchmark in mind, it is clear that contrary to the views of Merlin Crossley (CMM, here ), many Australian universities have embraced them.

The University of Canberra’s UC Pro, for example, offers nine different six week courses for individuals and organisations.

They are not alone. Many other Australian universities have similar offerings and almost all of them are available exclusively on-line.

And here may lie the difference.

In 2019, 70 per cent of Australian higher education students were studying on-campus. Only 16 per cent attended externally (almost exclusively on-line), and 14 percent were multi-modal (i.e. on-campus and external).

By contrast, 90 per cent of students at the Group of Eight universities were on-campus. With high levels of research funding and an ability to more readily attract international students – on-line delivery at scale was not a part of the Go8 business model pre-pandemic.

Amongst the rest of the sector the take-up of on-line teaching was much stronger – led by UNE with 84 per cent of their students studying externally in 2019.

If your institution is used to on-line delivery, then offering micro-credentials (adapted from existing courses) alongside your existing full-degree programmes is a fairly straightforward proposition. For other institutions, a focus solely on “proper degrees” probably makes more sense.

 Claire Field is an advisor to the tertiary education sector



The Australian National University is always on about its mission as the national university, founded by the feds, which means the Australian National Audit Office gets to go through the books

It is happening now, with the ANAO announcing an audit of the university’s “high‐level governance arrangements” and oversight of “systems of control and accountability.” Contributions to the audit are due March 28.

Two ways to make a med school

One is being a regional uni, the other is patience

The feds are making a big deal indeed about students commencing in the new Murray Darling Medical School network, involving six unis teaching at five regional centres (when fully functioning next year) in NSW and Victoria.

It isn’t quite what La Trobe and Charles Sturt unis had in mind when they were lobbying for a MDMS to call their own back in 2013 (CMM August 9 2013) – but at least both are partners in their project.

But unis without a medical school wanting one is a political perennial and CQU is continuing the push then VC Scott Bowman started (CMM March 9 2018).  It’s getting towards the shove over the line stage, with students starting a CQU pre-med bachelor degree next year, before moving to a Uni Queensland MD taught in CQU’s heartland (CMM November 13).

And now CQU is looking further north, with the Cairns Post favourably reporting its interest in teaching courses, including health, in Innisfail. It already teaches nursing and paramedic science up the road in Cairns.

James Cook U already has a medical school in the region, but the MDMS demonstrates that over-time it is hard to stop an institution pitching more health services for a region and harder for governments to stay no.

Appointments, achievements

Alexander Filkov wins the early career award from the International Association of Wildland Fire.

 Peter Leggat (James Cook U) receives a Gold Commendation from St John Ambulance for his work as a member of its clinical governance committee