Plus declining by degrees: women ignore IT 

Green treats

Californians who take their own bags to the shops buy organic foods according to Uma R. Karmarkar & Bryan Bollinger, writing in the Journal of Marketing. But they also purchase what the authors politely call “indulgent food,” apparently on the basis that environmental awareness is not its own reward.

mindhive 2

Paradigm less shifted than shattered

When it comes to lectures “students are voting with their feet,” Pascale Quester from the University of Adelaide told CMM yesterday. At ANU many have already left, as DVC Marnie Hughes Warrington makes plain. “The cumulative investment in lectures globally is almost unfathomable,” she writes, but students aren’t interested. Professor Hughes Warrington presents student attendance in five first semester 2015 ANU courses to make her point. In one nearly 450 students attended a week two lecture, but by week seven just 250 were still there. The pattern was the same in another course, which had 275 of a planned 400 students attending in week two and 275 in week seven.

“We desperately want live lectures to work. We’ve done them for so long now that they seem a part of who we are. And we are tantalised by the mirage of thinking that if only everyone turned up, they would be a far more efficient way of teaching than the seminar or the tutorial,” Professor Hughes Warrington writes.

But wishing isn’t teaching. This is bad for budgets and appalling for academics facing such student indifference, not to subjects, but to their teachers. However there is no avoiding it, students have changed the way they consume information. Universities are now like the music industry, which saw sales drop from US$25n to US$15bn between 2002 and 2014, as the audience abandoned the old model. Something similar is happening to lectures.

Bumper baby bumb

RMIT students Henry Bezuidenhout and Michael MacRae have created an app for pregnant women which tells them what to expect and when, as their baby develops. The app is available @ Google play, and has had half a million unique visitors. There is no report on how many of them have bought the 99c product, but a 500 000 market is a solid sales base. Brilliant, just brilliant.

ANU June 1

CQU strong

It’s a brave VC that invests in a comprehensive staff survey and then lets outsiders see the unsanitised outcome. For a start, university staff are generally idealists who believe things can always be better and the default position of hacks is to write what is bad rather than publish the positives. So good on CQU’s Scott Bowman for making available a mass of results from the university’s comprehensive new survey. The contrast with neighbour James Cook U, which is not releasing a report on what its staff think, is instructive.

Overall CQU management should be pleased – it’s a bare two years since the university was shedding staff to repair a budget in bad shape but now workers are generally happy in the service, comfortable with colleagues, clear on what they are doing and committed to the university’s mission, especially teaching. That 70 per cent of staff believe the university brand reflects its culture may look like a middling result but many other institutions would be very pleased indeed with it. That 80 per cent of respondents are proud to work at CQU says it all.

All is not universally well, there are positive, but not olympian leadership ratings for senior management and higher education staff do not feel they have time for research or expanding audiences for what they do. And management has work to do in engaging with voced staff. But overall the vast majority of people are not going anywhere. In six out of seven operating units over 80 per cent staff say they will be at CQU in two years time, and even in the outlier, international and services, some 73 per cent plan to stay.

Understated achievement

Just like politicians saying they don’t pay attention to the polls VCs will tell you they do not watch where grant money goes. But not the vice chancellor who texted CMM yesterday to point out that Griffith and QUT both out performed no less than three Group of Eight institutions on number, dollar value and success rate in Linkage Grants yesterday. (CMM understated the IRU achievement yesterday by missing Griffith’s contribution) And no, it wasn’t Ian O’Connor or Peter Coaldrake.

Does not compute

The efforts to encourage young women into engineering appear to be working, but perhaps at the expense of IT. Rebecca Vivian from the University of Adelaide has extracted discipline data from the feds’ uCube system that demonstrates overall engineering enrolments rose from 60 000 to 80 000 between 2001 and 2013. While women still account for only a fraction of the total at least it is a growing one. In 2001 there were barely 10 000 women studying engineering, growing to 18 000 by 2013.

However there is a reverse trend in the overall IT numbers, dropping from 80 000 in 2001 to a touch over 50 000 12 years later. It’s even worse for women, with the number enrolled halving from 20 000 to 10 000. The rate of decline is roughly the same for domestic and international students.

CEF June 15 3

Campus cartels

Barack Obama has tentatively tinkered with student debt, ranking universities and textbook costs as election issues. And now Matt Santos, sorry Marco Rubio, is already making education an issue in the GOP 2016 presidential nomination. Senator Rubio is already on the record calling for transparency on college costs but went much further on Tuesday, saying higher education is a cartel which charges students too much for degrees that do not deliver jobs. He called for accreditation reform so that low-cost, including on-line, providers can deliver job-focused post-secondary training. This move does not amount to anything much now, but a US senator suggesting universities are part of the reason for graduate unemployment and under employment isn’t good for higher education.