Special relationships

Universities Australia and its UK equivalent want their members to chum-up, agreeing to map measures for mutual recognition of qualifications and to talk about how they could work together if there is a free-trade treaty. Not that connections aren’t already close, Australian representatives at talks last week included Dawn Freshwater (VC, UWA), Andrew Vann (VCU, Charles Sturt U) and Paul Wellings (VC, UniWollongong) who all hail from the UK. One other, Eeva Leinonen  (VC, Murdoch) is Finnish born and UK educated.

Presumably all is forgotten about the Brits swanning off into the then European Community 45 years ago.

Another health problem for Minister McKenzie as CQU confirms med-school bid

CQU hopes to have a medical school based at its Bundaberg and Rockhampton conferences teaching in three years. VC Scott Bowman detailed the proposal on Friday, which is a combined effort with two Queensland state government hospital and health service regions.

And if the feds will not fund it the university is said to be willing to consider establishing the school independent of government, enrolling full-fee students.

CQU already teaches a range of health and para-med courses and Professor Bowman says it is time for the region the university serves to have a “fully fledged” medical school. The university suggests students would complete a three-year medical-science qualification and progress to a four year postgraduate medical degree.

The proposal is intended to address the shortfall of doctors in CQU’s region and assumes graduates tend to remain in the area where they trained.

Professor Bowman acknowledged the Commonwealth’s freeze on student places was a problem for the plan.

The other major potential obstacle is post graduation hospital training places but this appears to be addressed by state government hospital regions already being onboard. The venture partners are already in contact with accreditation agency the Australian Medical Council and Professor Bowman is said to be ready to brief rural health minister Bridget McKenzie.

The CQU plan is a second health problem for Senator McKenzie, who already must manage expectations from supporters of Charles Sturt U and La Trobe U’s long-proposed Murray Darling Medical School who hope for favourable news in the Budget, as they have hoped for in the previous five.

UniCanberra faces second dispute over staff reduction and research restructure

The University of Canberra faces a second dispute with the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union, which says management has failed to consult over the plan to amalgamate research institutes with faculties (CMM March 9).

“Legally, consultation cannot be a rubber stamp but must mean you have an opportunity to influence decisions,” NTEU organiser Jane Maze tells staff.

According to VC Deep Saini, the plan is necessary to address shortfalls in postgraduate and international enrolments by increasing research-informed teaching. CMM hears the UniCanberra community is less opposed to the plan than somewhat sceptical about its efficacy and annoyed with the way it is being introduced.

The new dispute follows protests over management’s voluntary staff separation plan, (CMM March 2), which the union says involves “confusing and misleading information” on staff payouts.

Both set a tone for enterprise bargaining, which will occur this year.

In Adelaide Weatherill plays the TAFE card

SA premier Jay Weatherill promises a $100m TAFE boost and a guarantee of 70 per cent of publicly funded places for the state systems if he wins Saturday’s election. This is something of a standard for his government; back in 2015 then training minister Gail Gago quarantined 60 000 of 80 000 training places to TAFE; “while it transitions to more innovative and flexible training provision that better responds to community and industry needs and is more sustainable in a competitive market,” (CMM May 26 2016).

As regulator ASQA’s scathing assessments of TAFE SA courses has recently found didn’t that work well.

UA calls for thaw on funding freeze to lift Indigenous enrolments

The government’s funding freeze jeopardises university enrolment growth for Indigenous students, Universities Australia warns. Last year UA committed to a growth rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island students 50 per cent above the figure for all students. ATSI enrolments were then 1.6 per cent of the total, although Indigenous Australians account for 3 per cent of the country’s population.

“We need to ensure that every policy and funding decision is pulling in the right direction to keep making strong progress to close the gaps in both education and employment,” UA president Margaret Gardner says.
“We ask government to reconsider a funding freeze which makes it harder to enrol more students from disadvantaged and under-represented groupsincluding Indigenous students.”

Why it’s called higher education: the (many) unis that out-rate the UK for top-qualified staff

The learned Phil Batty from the Times Higher reports 54 per cent of academics in the UK hold a PhD – which is way below the Australian figure.

The latest published fed figures, (2014), for the number of full-time and fractional full-time academic staff by state show 68 per cent of academics at Australian public universities have a PhD. It’s 73 per cent for FTE.

Just three Australian institutions were under the UK average, and then not by much, Charles Sturt U (50.7 per cent), Victoria U (53.2 per cent) and CQU (49 per cent).

Universities where 70 per cent or more of academic staff have PhDs were UoQ (83 per cent) UTS (81 per cent), Griffith, Monash and RMIT (78 per cent), UniWollongong (76 per cent), UniAdelaide and UniSA (74 per cent), UniCanberra and UniNewcastle (73 per cent), UWA (72 per cent) and Murdoch U (71 per cent).

The Higher Education Standards Framework specifies teaching staff must have a qualification one level higher than they are teaching, or equivalent experience/expertise. In the case of doctoral programmes, supervisors must have a doctorate.

Cashed-up Clode

Flinders U’s Danielle Clode is the Adelaide Festival’s Fatchen Fellow. She will use the $15 000 award to finish a YA SF novella on climate change and colonisation.

Research rankings: working with the least-worse

Learned scholar of ranking systems, Richard Holmes, points to a new review which finds all assessed deficient in various and serious ways. (Marlo M. VernonE. Andrew Balas and Shaher Moman, “Are university rankings useful to improve research? A systematic review,” PLOS One, March 7 @). But as rankings are a reality of research competition, they propose working with the least worse of what is there; “when used in tandem, several ranking systems may have more reasonable comprehensiveness and validity. Use of the Leiden Ranking System, the Clarivate Analytics Innovation Ranking System, and SCImago process for systematic evaluation and comparison may be a promising approach for research administrators”

That will work, at least until somebody comes up with a ranking which combines all three, which all the other raters will then explain does not work.