What the doctor could order

Nationals minister Dr David Gillespie wants to lead the party (at CMM’s deadline last night). If he wins this morning perhaps he could order the release of the review he commissioned into rural medical training places when he was junior health minister, which has never been released. Supporters and opponents of the Murray Darling Medical School proposal are keen to read it.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning David Myton talks to Australian Council of Learned Academies president Glenn Withers about the value of universities … and the dangers posed by “markets, mandarins and managers”.

Hot and bothered at UoQ

At the University of Queensland, VC Peter Hoj has congratulated staff for a big Orientation effort. “If this month has seemed more frenetic than previous Februaries, it is not because we are getting older, the heat and humidity have been intense, and classes started a week earlier than usual. No, it is because staff across the university have mustered their creativity and piloted an extended orientation period for new students.”

Good-o but learned readers suggest a mass of fresh faces on campus early is not the problem for those professional staff, who are doing it tough as they work with new structures and operating systems but with fewer people. That some service-staff are cheesed-off with bearing the burden of change may well explain why a new enterprise agreement is taking longer than widely expected. And it might be why union members are holding out for “a net improvement in the job security package” and “no diminution” of protections now codified in staff discipline processes. While there seems to be room for management to move on their third demand (more money) it may not be enough for rank and file unionists to settle without these two.

Smiles on the face of university tigers

By close of play Friday almost all post school education lobbies had welcomed Labor’s VET – HE review. Even the private training provider group got on board, perhaps on the general principle that smiling at one’s enemies makes them feel unreasonably secure. But for all the positive responses, the university sector is congenitally cautious of any plan which could cost it money.  As the always smiling Belinda Robinson from Universities Australia put it;

“it’s crucial that the starting point for this discussion is an understanding that it is not an ‘either/or’ between TAFE and higher education. Universities want and need a strong TAFE and vocational educational system. The greatest tragedy would be if this debate were to lead to an ‘us vs them’ discussion. I encourage every stakeholder in this debate to understand the different but complementary roles that the component parts of our tertiary education system play.”

Labor education spokesperson Tanya Plibersek is speaking at UA’s conference on Thursday – the audience will be smiling intently.

Andrews works with what she’s got

While VET and higher education lobbies united to applaud Tanya Plibersek’s proposal for a root and branch post-school review on Friday the government worked with what it had. “The Turnbull Government is already well down the path of significant reforms to Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) sector that will make it stronger, boost participation and make it an equal option for young people as a pathway to a rewarding career. … The irony is that Labor is planning to hold a review into fixing the long list of problems they created in VET when last in office,” assistant minister for voc ed and skills Karen Andrews said Friday.

Separations by mutual agreement at UniCanberra

The University of Canberra plans to cut the professional staff to increase its academic strength and will provide a separation payment to just about everybody who volunteers to go. But this is not, UoC adamantly advises, a voluntary redundancy package. “No positions have been identified as excess to requirements and no positions will be made redundant through the voluntary separation package,” UoC tells CMM.

Good o, but if the university can run its administration with fewer staff than it now has, how can people in positions the university decides it can do without and who aren’t accused of poor performance not be redundant? It’s a question UoC staff who decide to depart might wonder about – a redundancy scheme that meets Australian Tax Office specifications means concessional tax rates for an eligible termination payment.

UoC is not the first university to adopt this approach – “it happens when you have to shed costs fast,” a higher education management expert says. But the observer warns, it risks systems-failure as people who stay struggle to plug gaps created by unexpected consequences of unplanned departures.

In breaking 2017 news

With Tanya Plibersek putting VET- higher education amity on the agenda people at Monash University saw a research promotion opportunity too good to miss. Late Friday the university issued a media statement, via AAP, about an Australian Research Council funded project on the effects of offering HE qualifications via VET institutions. Monash professor Sue Webb leads a multi-university team which will work through to 2020. Snaps for relevance it’s just that as news goes this isn’t new news, although Monash embargoed the release until this morning. The “vocational institutions, undergraduate degrees” project received a $395 000 Discovery grant last year.

Kim Carr’s blast from the voced past

There’s already a proposal Tanya Plibersek’s inquiry on TAFE and higher education working better together should consider – but probably won’t, what with it coming from Kim Carr.

In June 2016, just before he lost responsibility for higher education to Ms Plibersek in a frontbench shuffle Senator Carr proposed creating commonwealth institutes of higher education which would teach sub-degree and advanced diploma coursesCMM June 16 2016.) With TAFE and universities cooperating, “the institutes will be based in areas where structural economic change has created high unemployment and provide courses for people who variously want to go straight into industry or prepare for university,” Senator Carr said. Healthcare and engineering were suggested as appropriate disciplines but the overall emphasis was on meeting the needs of communities with jobs and skills shortage.  “Universities can’t go on enrolling people with no hope of success, we need better connections between enrolments and the labour market, Senator Carr added back then.

There are worse ideas circulating but back in 2016 Labor critics of Senator Carr did not like it at all. CMM doubts they will have changed their minds.

Peter Noonan defines the issues Labor’s proposed review will need to address

Rather than a new review of the VET-higher education interface, as Tanya Plibersek proposes, a new Labor government could re-read the last major policy plan the party commissioned. The Bradley Review filed a decade back concluded;

“If we are to meet the ambitious tertiary participation targets necessary for Australia to remain internationally competitive, a more holistic approach to planning and provision is vital. What is needed is a continuum of tertiary skills provision primarily funded by a single level of government and nationally regulated rather than two sectors configured as at present. Such a model would deliver skills development in ways that are efficient and fit for purpose to meet the needs of both individuals and the economy. Responsibility for the funding and regulation of the tertiary education and training system should rest with the Australian Government and the independent regulatory agency should consolidate all regulatory functions across this tertiary system.”

But as Labor appears intent on a new review, Peter Noonan has ideas on what it should look at. Informed idea, Professor Noonan (now at Victoria U’s Mitchell Institute) was a member of the Bradley Review and has decades’ experience in VET governance and funding policy and planning. He tells CMM that if Ms Plibersek is minister for education after the next election the issues her reviewers should address are:

– A long-term vision for tertiary education in Australia including respective roles of VET and HE
– the future role of TAFE as the public VET provider in that system
future capacity to meet needs of Australia’s growing population give participation rates are at risk of falling over the next decade
– a funding framework for the tertiary education system, recognising differences between VET and HE, particularly to address funding distortions, such as upfront fees in VET
– specific VET issues particularly national system governance and deficiencies in VET standards and qualifications.
pathways across the tertiary sector and interface with the senior secondary education.
“The challenge will be to address specific issues in each sector while keeping a broad focus. VET issues are particularly urgent,” Professor Noonan says.

“Paging Dr Google, could Dr Google bring the lecture notes to surgery”

Terry Judd and Kristine Elliott from the University of Melbourne surveyed graduate medical students and found they share study resources, using email, Facebook, Twitter and other channels to circulate/consume learning materials an average three times a week (British Journal of Educational Technology).  “If students’ real resource sharing behaviours mirror their self-reported ones then it suggests a very strong social element to their knowledge sharing and study practises,” they suggest.

This has all sorts of implications for medicine teachers; not least that students consuming a bunch of content outside their formal learning management system may be working harder than the official consumption stats show.

But as well as how much they share knowledge, where they find it interests Dr Judd and Aspro Elliott who also surveyed students and looked at logs from a med school learning platform, publishing a separate study in JMIR Medical Education.

They found students access resources, mainly lecture notes, on their university’s learning platform “slightly more” than other e-resources, Google and Wikipedia being the leaders. This is good, although the “slightly more” must be a worry. As Judd and Elliott point out students rate GooWiki “significantly lower than the learning platform for quality and reliability.”

All this has implications for the “additional demands and costs associated with the production and delivery of quality online learning materials,” which are justified by student demand and resulting learning analytics. But LA does not record students off-platform use of sites such as Google, Wikipedia and “increasingly social media” for sharing information and resources.

Rain stops play at ANU

The Australian National University is closed today after Acton copped a deluge yesterday. Overall Canberra had 50mm on Sunday, with more lakeside and in the north and further falls expected overnight. The university advises staff and students no libraries will open today and classes and events are cancelled. “The closure is to ensure the safety of all students and staff as the university conducts essential safety checks on infrastructure including bridges, creek banks and electrical switchboard.” However the University House hotel and function centre and child care centres will open.