ARC’s ownest goals

The Australian Research Council excluded applicants for the Discovery Early Career Research Award scheme announced last week for the high-crime of mentioning pre-prints in applications

Cue outrage in the research community – and now in parliament. Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi wants the government to advise how many applications were not considered because they breached the new rule and from what fields. And the Senate agrees it should be done, tomorrow.

This is the ownest of ARC own goals. The ARC states that the rule was in the DECRA documents (CMM August 20) but not why. And it could (but probably won’t) explain why it needs the exclusion but the National Health and Medical Research Council does not – the NHMRC went out of its way on Monday to announce pre-prints can be mentioned in applications (CMM yesterday).

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

James Guthrie (Macquarie U) on NSW unis investment strategies – borrowing for infrastructure and investments (does no-one remember Lehman Brothers/)

plus, Sally Patfield and Jenny Gore on a Uni Newcastle programme to assist university teachers with no training in teaching. It’s Sally Kift’s new selection for her celebrated series, Needed now in learning and teaching.”

and scroll down for Colin Simpson’s ed-tech resources of the week and Claire Field on the state of VET.

Uni Adelaide plans fewer faculties

The university’s Council has given Peter Høj the nod to reduce faculties from five to three

Council approved the move, subject to the staff consultation required by the university’s enterprise agreement.

The vice chancellor tells staff that a new faculty structure should be ready in mid-September for staff to consider “over several weeks.” Discussions on proposed job losses are also underway.

Last month Professor Høj warned staff the university faced continuing deficits for 2022 and ’23 and needed $30m in savings. The university is already consulting on cutting 130 professional staff positions and has signalled a review of the academic workforce (CMM July 9).

The faculty restructure is the only measure so far that can only be contemplated with council approval.


Victoria U’s turn for state funding

The state government will provide $17.2m to Victoria U for three “innovation hubs.”

The money is from the state’s $350m HE Investment Fund which supports “applied research and infrastructure projects.”

Unlike a bunch of other unis’ infrastructure projects, VU is supported for support and service, modelling job and skill demand in Melbourne’s west, help for disadvantaged communities and research on access to post-school education and training.

The scheme is great value for the Vic Government, winning plaudits from vice chancellors who are not well-inclined towards the federal government’s absence of job support last year.

Charles Sturt U goes outside the sector for new VC

After a protracted search, CSU appoints former public servant Renée Leon as vice chancellor

Ms Leon will start today weekNow consulting, she is a former head of employment services of the Commonwealth Department of Education, Skills and Employment and of the Department of Human Services. Ms Leon describes herself as an “experienced CEO with over 15 years in senior executive roles, including as head of large and complex organisations with multi-billion dollar budgets.”

How to address her: Whether Ms Leon (BA, LLb ANU, LLM Camb) will take a university title is undecided. The university tells CMM the CSU council will announce a decision by her first day on the job.  In July Mark Scott, also from the public sector, became a Uni Sydney professor of practise on becoming VC there.

It took a while: Ms Leon’s appointment ends an extraordinary time at CSU. Former VC Andrew Vann went on sabbatical in June 2020, with his job advertised that month – applications closed at its end (CMM June 19 2020).  He formally left last December but DVC A and Provost, John Germov had long stepped up, first as acting and then “interim” VC (CMM February 10 2021).

In May this year CSU announced it had appointed a search firm and that an announcement was expected this month (CMM May 10) – which has happened.

Professor Germov will now return to his substantive roles.

What Ms Leon inherits: Professor Germov has done a great deal of difficult work. Staff cuts and course closures last year (CMM September 17 2020) more than halved a projected $49.5m deficit (CMM June 18 2020) – in the end the university reported a positive net result for 2020 (CMM June21).

It cost the university political skin in regional centres (CMM October 21 and November 5 2020) but no one will blame Ms Leon.

Claire Field on the state of VET


As Minister Robert flagged significant reforms to apprenticeships and VET qualification design in a speech to launch National Skills Week, it is timely to examine the latest NCVER Total VET Activity data to see where the VET sector is currently at.

Looking at programme enrolments (i.e. full qualifications, accredited courses and skillsets) in TAFEs and independent providers, the data shows that for the TAFE sector at the national level government-funded enrolments were largely stable (-2 per cent) between 2016 and 2020. However, there was a significant decline in TAFE domestic fee-for-service enrolments (-67 per cent), and international fee-for-service enrolments (-38 per cent).

The past five years have seen major restructuring of the New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia TAFE systems (and prior to that, restructuring in Tasmania and South Australia). It remains to be seen if fee-for-service activity in TAFE will rebound as institutes bed down their new operating models.

Government-funded programme enrolments in independent providers declined by 10 percent over the last five years. In the same period their domestic fee-for-service enrolments also declined (-18 per cent) while international fee-for-service enrolments increased significantly (74 per cent).

In addition to the 2.6 million programme enrolments in VET in 2020, there were more than 26.4 million subject-only enrolments. More than half of these (55 per cent) were fee-for-service (i.e. not government-subsidised). However, since 2016 there has been a serious decline in subject-only enrolments in a number of important fields (e.g. financial services, ICT, public service, resources and infrastructure, retail, and transport and logistics).

Increased automation and the introduction of advanced technology means some employers now rely more on equipment manufacturers for their training needs. In other industries, there is a growing availability of industry-certified, alternative credentials offered by the technology giants and EdTech platforms.

Complicating the picture is a shift in subject-only enrolments from TAFEs to independent providers in fields such as: * construction and plumbing * foundation skills * furnishing * property services * sport, fitness and recreation * tourism, travel and hspitality

More detailed analysis, including at the State and Territory level, is available on my website.

Claire Field is a non-executive director of apprenticeship provider MEGT and therefore does not comment on apprenticeship issues, but the minister’s speech signalled significant reforms are being planned for the apprenticeship sector


Colin Simpson’s ed tech resources of the week

Current trends in online delivery and assessment in ANZ from @michael sankey

The Australasian technology enhanced learning world’s Mr Everywhere, Michael Sankey, recently presented the findings of several ACODE surveys of HE institutions to the Blackboard APAC conference. Unsurprisingly, it shows the sector in the midst of significant change – not entirely brought on by the pandemic but certainly accelerated by it. This wide-ranging slide deck covers the variety of approaches to online exam proctoring, intentions for the lecture, micro-credentials and the kinds of communication and collaboration tools that institutions are using to support student learning.


Pearson unveils Pearson+ platform to address costly college textbook process from ZDNet

After moving from Disney (home of streaming platform Disney+), new Pearson publishing CEO Andy Bird has launched Pearson+, a subscription service for textbooks for US college students. They can either rent a single digital textbook for $9.99 per month or 1500 books for $15.99. What implications could this brave new direction have for students? Might they find themselves losing access to books if authors get Tangled up in legal actions with the publisher? Will Pearson turn the textbook landscape Inside Out? Time will tell but either way, it’s good to see an organisation not Frozen in place.


Discussing the Stanford AI report on education from @BenPatrickWill on Twitter.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a hot topic in many spaces and education isn’t spared. University of Edinburgh ed tech research Ben Williamson examines a hefty report published last week by Stanford University about work underway to train computer models to “understand” teachers, students and more in this deep twitter thread. Will an algorithm one day be able to meaningfully replicate the interactions at the heart of good learning and teaching?


Webinar: Rescued from HERDSA21 – Technology’s role in enabling feedback and assessment Thursday 26/8 12 noon AEST

This year’s HERDSA conference was sadly cancelled but planned presentations keep popping up anyway. The ASCILITE TELedvisors Network hosts two of these on Thursday, with Deakin’s Ameena Payne showcasing the benefits and challenges of audio/video feedback and Griffith’s Diana Tolmie discussing the use of ePortfolios among music students. These webinars are always free and recordings are posted to the TELedvisors’ YouTube channel.


Creating art with AI from @artgallerai

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On the less daunting side of AI, there are many new tools that let creators work with the bizarre imagination of computers to create beautiful and surreal images. The @GallerAi account on Twitter, feeds the VQGAN+CLIP algorithm random poetic phrases like “Deep space dive bar” or “Golden Trojan Horse love bomb” and shares the resulting otherworldly images.

Colin Simpson has worked in education technology in the tertiary sector since 2003 and is employed by Monash University’s Education Innovation team. For more from Colin, follow him on Twitter @gamerlearner

Appointments, achievements

Peter Derbyshire will become policy director of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. He moves from Science and Technology Australia.

Griffith U announces Liz Burd will become the inaugural provost in January. She joined the university in February this year as DVC E, moving from Uni Newcastle. She will be replaced in the education portfolio by Shaun Ewen, who moves from Uni Melbourne.

William Isdale (Uni Queensland) wins Federation Press’s Holt Prize for his manuscript, Compensation for Native Title.

 Michelle Simmons (UNSW) is the Royal Society’s 2021 Bakerian lecturer and medallist. That’s the Royal Society, as in the original, not the RS of somewhere or other. Professor Simmons is honoured for, “seminal contributions to our understanding of nature at the atomic-scale.”

Rachel Thomas ( becomes a professor of practice at QUT’s Centre for Data Science.