Greens keep giving

The Greens have made another friend in higher education with the Australian Technology Network endorsing the party’s research policy. The Greens want to restore lost funding and add new across the board research programs to push outlays up by nearly a third, to 3 per cent of GDP. (In comparison, in 2010 defence got less than 2 per cent). This strikes the ATN’s Vicki Thomson as a splendid idea. “The value of university research- both economically and socially- is recognised by the Greens’ plan which is in line with the agenda of the ATN to secure a long term, sustainable source of funding for research,” she said yesterday. Of course the astute Ms Thomson knows the chance of the Greens ever being able to implement the policy is somewhere between macrobiotic buckleys and none. CMM suspects she is sending a signal to the Libs that there is more than medicine to research, in response to Tony Abbott’s speech early this year when he made supportive noises about medical research but mentioned nothing else.

And giving… 

The Parliamentary Budget Office saves whoever is the next education minister from explaining why the April cuts will not be reversed and why there will not be a 10 per cent hike in base funding in its costing of the Greens higher education funding plan.
“This proposal is expected to decrease both the underlying cash balance and fiscal balance by $3.8 billion over the 2013-14 Budget forward estimates period. This is entirety due to an increase to expenses. This proposal will have an ongoing impact that extends beyond the forward estimates period.”

 Bush wish list

So that’s the ATAR argument over, for now, with shadow education minister Christopher Pyne knocking off the idea of mandatory minimum scores for school leavers applying to university. It certainly pleased the Regional University Network, the members of which would really hurt if they could not enrol lesser academic achievers. Not that this is all about institutional self-interest, you understand. As RUN chair David Battersby put it yesterday; “keeping the caps off is important to build participation in higher education in regional Australia where participation is about half that in capital cities, and many students are low socio-economic status and or first-in-family to go to university.”
Professor Battersby also used the opportunity provided by praising Pyne to advance an ambit claim. Responding to Mr Pyne’s proposal to streamline visa processing beyond universities Professor Battersby, “urged all political parties to encourage more international students to go regional Australia.” CMM can’t quite see the connection, but RUN rarely lets a chance to go by to explain what it needs. Thus Professor Battersby proposed: “providing additional bonus points to students towards Australian residency for attending regional campuses, … extending the work rights of international students who study in non-metropolitan locations, … (and) providing work rights to students who have completed a bachelors or masters at a regional campus regardless of the duration of study.”
Anything else? Well actually there is. “Regional universities should be full participants in any new Colombo Plan should the Coalition win government.”
That should cover it, for now.

From the Centre for Analysis of the Obvious

A Monash University led study of 2000 6-13 year old Taiwanese has discovered that obese kids are more likely to have learning difficulties or be depressed than “normal weight” kids.

Selfies in suits 

Linked in is Facebook for employment-focused people and so it was only a matter of time before this vast e-networking opportunity extended its offering to students – which it did this week launching University Pages. For people selling marketing space to universities, notably the commercial league tables that carry university advertising this is scary stuff indeed. For a start, Linked in does not have to worry about investing in data collection and analysis – it just has to build a site and they will come. “They” being universities and prospective students both because Linked in has something people in both markets need – contacts. Students will go to Linked in for the same reason everybody else does, to get their CVs in front of citizens who might be useful.  As Linked in’s sales spiel puts it; “transform those brilliant, creative, hard-working people you met (or will meet) on campus into a lifelong professional network. Alumni can reconnect with former classmates, and students can cement relationships with current and future classmates.” (Sure Facebook does something along the same lines, but the selfies are not in suits.) Universities will follow, creating pages that promote courses, but more important, demonstrate to prospective students that they really are, well, linked in. And because a university’s customers are the most compelling source of information about a campus a university page connecting to happy present students and successful past ones is brilliant brand building.

If this scares ad reps selling space in this year’s  “World’s top universities for plasma physics and ping pong” guide it should truly terrify university marketers. It takes control of brand presentation away from them and places it with the people who are responsible for how a university is perceived – academics. The opinion and achievements of students and graduates of their teachers mean much more in the market than clever campaigns.

Poll prediction of the day 

Monash political scientist Zareh Ghazarian says Labor marginal La Trobe is “a knife-edge” electorate, which could go either way on the strength of local campaigns. But unlike carefully ambivalent academics he predicts the way it will go, which is Liberal.

 A fair start

Back in April Warren Bebbington from the University of Adelaide questioned the policy push to increase low SES enrolments. “The largest problem universities have in admitting more students of low socio-economic status is that such students tend to leave school poorly prepared for university. If governments, federal and state, can properly implement Gonski – and that is a very big if – if funds intended for disadvantaged students are actually used for support and remedial programs that expressly focus on such students – then we might level the national educational playing field,” he wrote. Then, what a surprise, earlier this month the three SA universities received $9m in federal funding for programs to assist kids from low SES backgrounds throughout schooling.
The approach appears vindicated by new research by Patrick Lim, Sinan Gemici and Tom Karmel from the excellent National Centre for Vocational Education Research, which demonstrates that school matters most in getting students from disadvantaged backgrounds to the post secondary starting line. “Academic school quality has a considerable differential effect on school completion for the most vulnerable of students: those who come from the lowest socioeconomic stratum and who are in the lowest academic achievement decile. The differential effect is that school academic quality is more important for the most vulnerable students,” they write. That kids from academically excellent schools get into university is not exactly amazing information nor does this data deal with the debate over ATARs as an indicator of ability. Even so, the point is important; to give disadvantaged students the chance to succeed at university requires support that starts long before they receive an entry score.

Corker of a conclusion

According to University of Adelaide and Monash research if the dollar does not bubble over again China’s share of Australian wine exports could more than double to 28 per cent in five years time. After all that education the 100,000 Chinese students studying here probably could do with a decent drink.