On-line no new normal for physics

The Australian Institute of Physics “applauds” academics and teachers, schools and universities for keeping teaching going through the COVID-19 crisis

But it warns on-line cannot be the “new normal.”

“The high quality and high standing of physics education in Australia stems from large face-to-face and hands-on curriculum components, from high levels of student-student and student-teacher interactions, and from invigilated examinations,” the association states.

Not that this is an opposition to change, “physics itself, physics education is continually evolving alongside developments in technology and society and that there are instances where the COVID-19 pandemic can act as a trigger for positive change.”

But, “beyond the individual curriculum components, the social structure of the degree programs with extensive student-student and teacher-student interactions – and the community of learning that these create – are integral to high quality physics programs.”

There’s more in the Mail

In Campus Morning Mail Features

Ian Marshman and Frank Larkins, the real cost of teaching leaves little for research.

Andrew Harvey (La Trobe U). The COVID-19 burden weighs on disadvantaged students. This week’s essay in Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.

How Flinders U uses  Microsoft platforms to keep its community informed on COVID-19

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) explains (really explains) viruses and why they kill us

Tim Winker’s five ways to overcome the crisis and expand enrolments

Voluntary, at least for now, redundancies, at CQU

CQU has around 200 applications for voluntary redundancy as management faces an $114m budget hole this year, with more revenue reductions next year – they aren’t enough

Last month VC Nick Klomp warned the university could save $59m through cuts, not to staff, and campus closures (CMM April 22) –  but that still left $55m to find for now.

The university says not everybody who has put their hand up will be let go. But CQU observers suggest with the university over $20m short, everybody who leaves willingly will reduce the number who will be told to go.

As CQU management puts it; “this process is nearing finalisation and an update on how many expression of interest will be accepted, as well as any further cost saving measures will be announced in the coming weeks.”

CQU is acting early but it’s by no means alone. Unless negotiating VCs and the National Tertiary Education Union federal leadership can come up with a trade-off of conditions for job security that is acceptable to their separate constituencies, people are going to start leaving their jobs – and there will be nothing voluntary about it.

Returning to business, not quite as usual at UNSW

There’s no getting round “strong and unavoidable safety” measures”

UNSW advises students that all Term Two (June 1 – August 27) courses and assessments will be “will be accessible on-line, as they were in Term One. So, if you start your course overseas, you can complete it overseas.” Good-o, of course, international students excluded from Australia don’t have any alternative.

The university also expects an end to COVID-19 assessment concessions, with “grading expected to revert to normal.”

And by Term Three (September 14 December 10), UNSW hopes, “most of our typical on-campus activities will have resumed, with physical distancing and other health safety measures remaining a strong and unavoidable feature of campus life.” Which might rule-out the 500 student engineering lectures (CMM July 19 2019).

FWC makes its own rules

If universities and the NTEU don’t agree on crisis-adaptions on employment conditions the Fair Work Commission might decide its own (CMM April 7) – in fact, it already has 

The FWC has varied the higher education award for professional staff, which sets out base conditions, which apply in the absence of an enterprise agreement, with specific clauses to cover COVID-19. They cover unpaid/ half-pay self-quarantine leave, are in place to June 30, but can be extended on application.

New government agency announces its here to help VET

The imminent National Skills Commission asked VET providers how it will be able to help

The federally-funded agency is charged with, “overseeing the Australian Government’s investment in VET and driving long-term improvements to the system.” Apparently, it is, “a once in a generation opportunity to improve the VET sector.”

The Commission consulted with the VET community and reports it heard :

* that  people want the NSC to “lead skills and workforce development,” “compared with a traditional focus on qualifications which would limit capacity to consider other learning approaches”

* that the “NSC should be a centralised source of truth for the sector on how the economy is changing and what skills are needed”

* providers want, pricing consistency – and flexibility

* that the NSC should set set “national standards for RTOs, training products (including content), apprenticeships and developing the VET workforce to articulate quality beyond compliance”

* that it identify “skills needs at the local level

*  there are mixed views on it taking “responsibility for the content of training products and oversight.”

More unis go long on short courses

Federation U signs-on for the government’s low-cost, six-month certificate course in national priority industries

With Fed U’s eleven there are now 150 plus on offer.

When Education Minister Dan Tehan announced the courses there was scepticism as to whether they would be worth universities while to teach and questions, which continue, about the credibility of “undergraduate certificates.”  But, with Fed U now in, 21 universities have now decided that some new federal funding is better than none.

And while “undergraduate certificate” strikes some experts as a credential oxymoron, they can only be issued by TEQSA approved self-accrediting HE providers and are part of the Australian Qualifications Framework, although they may not continue to be issued after December ’21.

Chinese: a new lingua franca

During last year’s outrageathon over Confucius Institutes on campus Jeffrey Gill provided informed opinion, unsurprising given he’s written a book them

Yes, universities needed to assert authority over them he warned.  But, “developing Chinese language proficiency and cultural competence is vital for Australia’s interests, and CIs can continue to make a valuable contribution,” (CMM August 20).

How “vital”? Quite a bit, given Dr Gil now suggests  that its character-based writing system will not necessarily stop Chinese can become a global language. Software converts characters to Pinyin and people can learn as much Chinese as they need, as many millions do with English, and “the inconsistencies and irregularities of English’s writing system show that linguistic properties alone do not determine whether a language becomes global.”

Appointments, achievements

Sumit Lodhia (Uni SA) is re-elected to the board of the Accounting and Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand. Nicola Beatson is elected to the AFAANZ board.

Nancy Pachana (Uni Queensland) wins the 2020 Lawton Award in Clinical Geropsychology wins the (US) Clinical Society of Geropsychology’s Lawton Award for a distinguished contribution