Researching Ratatouille

UNSW reports Garvan Institute findings, “link between chronic stress and comfort eating: mouse study”. Studying mice will do that to one

This is the last week of Campus Morning Mail- thanks for reading

And thanks to everybody who made it happen. You know who you are and I hope you know how grateful I am.

CMM is, always was, dedicated to Stephanie Raethel. Her love and wisdom kept the press rolling for just short of ten years.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Amanda-Jane George (CQU) and Julie-Ann Tarr (QUT) on the great FOI go-slow. Academics require access to (inconvenient, uncomfortable) government information. It’s why they need to watch for the results of the latest freedom of information inquiry, HERE

plus Improving student learning for all learners must be at the heart of the Accord. A national resource to lift outcomes and benefits for all through relentless improvement in university teaching is the way to do it . Liz Johnson, Sally Kift, Jason Lodge and Siobhan Lenihan make the case for their proposed National Centre for Student Success, HERE.

with The Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training warns a funding switch means no national resource to coordinate programmes across universities for the fastest growing HE equity community, HERE

and Alice Brown and Jill Lawrence (Uni Southern Queensland) on solving the nudge-nag conundrum and how it help students on-line HERE

These are the last selections by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her celebrated series Needed now in learning and teaching. Thanks Sally, you expanded the national discussion and (put up with CMM).

A bargain for workers that beats bureaucracy and bastardry

The present employment model resembles a metaverse scripted by Franz Kafka and designed by M C Esher

Margaret Gardner (Monash U VC) calls for a universities-unions “grand bargain” to sort out employment praes.

This includes, “systematic difficulties in interpretation of payment schedules, and therefore payment accuracy, that have exacerbated issues for the employment and payment of those in insecure employment.” (CMM June 9).

She has a point, cases come before the Fair Work Commission in which the parties to industrial agreements can’t agree on what agreements in agreements they agreed to mean. In one Uni Newcastle dispute the FWC politely pointed out, “the parties have understandably had a high degree of difficulty in considering these agreement clauses” (CMM September 6 2021).

But there are also cases where agreements are interpreted to suit. Thus Deputy Fair Work Ombudsman Rachel Volzke advises Mary O’Kane, of Accord fame, (CMM June 5) that good university governance includes “remuneration structures where non-compliance is not indirectly incentivised, for example, not rewarding meeting labour budgets where the work required to be done objectively requires more human work than budgeted.”

So with bureaucracy and bastardry embedded in the system what can be done?

Perhaps a broader bargain. On the eve of the present round of contract negotiations at universities across the county, the learned Elizabeth Baré and colleagues proposed matching academic and professional career structures to emerging needs, CMM HERE

* for job descriptions: minimum standards for academic levels were developed in the ‘90s, “ reflecting the narrower scope of academic work.” And as Ms Baré and (other) colleagues also point out, professional staff classifications from decades back may not address skills-mixes, gender pay gaps and differences in market based pay rates for casuals and continuing staff (CMM November 3 2022).

Not to mention classifying people whose jobs did not exist 30 years ago. Last year National Research Collaboration Infrastructure System directors called for a new job classification system for their techs, who are neither academics nor admin staff (CMM November 8).

* for enterprise agreements: Baré and colleagues propose a joint-review, “with a view to simplifying excessive detail would be beneficial and help refocus on important contemporary issues.

It hasn’t happened this time – maybe it will in the next, mid ‘20’s, bargaining round. Or maybe not.

Jason and the Accordanaughts

Education Minister Jason Clare will address the National Press Club on July 19. Gosh, what-ever will he talk about?

The Accord paper due out at the end of this month is CMM’s guess. Although if that timing holds the news gods may have lost interest a fortnight later.

HELP understanding HECS

There’s a political pile-on about the impact of indexation to student debt – Carol Ey from the excellent Parliamentary Library explains what’s happening and in its usual Joe Friday (“just the facts Ma’am”) fashion

In particular she sets out how indexation is factored and explains why the new figure is 7.1 per cent, in line with the 12 month CPI increase as of March, but how last year’s was 3.9 per cent, a full 1 per cent below CPI.

Indexation used to be based on Average Weekly Earnings, which the coalition government  changed to CPI in 2018 – which accounts for some of the anguish from graduates whose debt is increasing faster than their pay.

Which some may think makes more than a bit rich shadow education education minister Sarah Henderson’s view (via Twitter) that indexation penalties on student loans are, “fuelled by Labor’s sky-high inflation which has driven up HECS debts by 7.1%, it’s unjust that so many Australians are being gouged like this.


Deal (nearly) done at Uni Newcastle

At long, long last (talking about talks started in September ‘21) management and NTEU leadership appear to have settled on terms for new enterprise agreements

It took a big effort at the end with Fair Work Deputy President Saunders facilitating a fortnight of talks (CMM, May 31, June 5).

So what’s in the deal? Those who know aren’t talking.

The most VC Alex Zelinsky was saying Friday was a thanks to campus unions (CPSU leadership was already largely ok, the NTEU wasn’t) and that full details of the agreements will be presented by the end of this week.

The VC added that the approved texts will “be put to staff for ballot” and DP Saunders, states, “the NTEU and CPSU will encourage their members to vote in favour of the enterprise agreements negotiated by the parties.”

Good-o, but where pray, CMM asked, is the process where union members get to approve proposals before they go to an all staff vote?

As of deadline last night those who know weren’t telling CMM that either.


Future Campus: what to expect when you’re not expecting anything


Even the most hardened cynics in the sector are going to be surprised by the number of staff who are intending to move on from their current job before Christmas 2024

The first four editions of Future Campus will carry links to detailed insights from our survey of more than 3000 higher education staff, conducted in April – including the number of staff looking to move.

The first hint of the need for Future Campus came after I did a simple LinkedIn post, asking for responses to the survey – and had 900 within a couple of days, including many extended responses to key questions.

The sector finds itself in an environment of rapid and extensive change and we really need insights and conversations about new challenges and opportunities across many fronts.

The new Future Campus publication didn’t emerge as an essential proposition until later, after conversations with Stephen Matchett, when he revealed that the era of Campus Morning Mail was coming to an end.

Future Campus was born out of necessity, and while it won’t replace CMM, it will carry a weekly news digest and regular articles and interviews from Matchett as well as insights from other thought leaders across the sector.

We want to bring the voices that you may not hear otherwise – as well as the best of the voices that you regularly hear. We want to encourage new insights and understanding about the sector, because we are passionate about contributing to a stronger future for the sector, and understanding how we can each best contribute to it.

We are looking forward to launching on June 22 and are humbled that thousands of HE staff have already signed up, supporting our fledgling enterprise.

Join us on the Future Campus journey – it’s free and I can tell you more about the number of your colleagues getting ready to move in the first issue.

Subscribe free to Future Campus:

More micro-credentials

News of m-cs was released to the government’s friends in old media, in time for Sunday papers

“New micro-credential courses to support in-demand jobs” is the pitch, making it a natural for the papers.  Some 18 unis share $18.5m for 28 courses, in engineering and IT, science and education. There will be another round within 12 months.

“The pilot programme is part of the Albanese Government’s broader efforts to promote micro-credentials.”

The pilots appear to build on funding for product design announced in November (CMM November 10).

The government’s efforts follow on from the coalition’s enthusiasm.

Dan Tehan in particular was keen on m-cs. “(they) address the most common barriers cited by adult workers who are not intending to undertake further formal training or study: time and cost,” the then education minister said in 2020 (CMM June 22 and October 20).

But where m-cs fit in the national qualifications framework wasn’t clear then and still isn’t, unless CMM missed it in the Sundays.

Perhaps all will be revealed when the Australian Qualification Framework is finally updated – or at the crack of doom, whichever comes first.

Colin Simpson’s ed tech must reads of the week

Before I kick off the final instalment of this column (in this place), I’d like to quickly thank Stephen Matchett for his tireless work on CMM. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of it.

I will be carrying on the Ed/Tech must-reads column from next week as a free Substack newsletter, so please sign up for uninterrupted service. Now on with the show.

GPT detectors are biased against non-native English writers from arXiv

As HE leaders continue to search for the academic integrity silver bullet and vendors continue to promise the world, the news from the world of Gen AI detection tools remains bleak. This study from five Stanford computing academics isn’t peer-reviewed but it does make a strong case that detection tools consistently generate false positives when evaluating the work of non-native English speakers. In addition, they find that they were able to use iterative prompting to largely bypass detectors, with requests such as “elevate the provided text by employing literary language.”

Student Perceptions of AI-Generated Avatars in Teaching Business Ethics: We Might not be Impressed from Postdigital Science and Education

Among the “fun” advancements in our current age of GenAI has been the ability to generate video and audio of realistic human avatars from text. Vallis, Wilson, Gozman and Buchanan (Uni Sydney) explored student perceptions of the use of these avatars in a redesigned Business Ethics unit. They found that students were far more ambivalent than they had expected and were interested in the potential of being able to customise your own digital lecturer. Some students weren’t aware that avatars had been used until it was pointed out, which itself sparked further thinking about ethics. The fact that the avatars were too “smooth,” lacking the usual fillers, stumbles and digressions was noted as a downside.

Prototypes-in-progress for bi(nary)-curious university educators and researchers from Safe-to-fail AI

For those people keen to get their hands (virtually) dirty, this site from Armin Alimardani (Uni Wollongong) and Emma Jane (UNSW) offers some usable prototypes of GenAI tools built specifically for use in Australian Higher Education. These include student quiz feedback, a course outline FAQ, conversational AI and a speech recognition tool.

ASCII art by chatbot from AI weirdness

And finally, in reassuring news from the AI trenches, this collection of bizarre attempts at ASCII art (art made up of letters, numbers and characters) from ChatGPT shows that some areas are still safe. A giraffe that looks more like an elongated human skull and a running uniform that looks like the outline of a heart are highlights for me.

And that’s it for me. I hope to see you next week on the Substack.

Colin Simpson has worked in education technology, teaching, learning design and academic development in the tertiary sector since 2003 at CIT, ANU, Swinburne University and Monash University. He is also one of the leaders of the ASCILITE TELedvisors Network. For more from Colin, follow him on Twitter @gamerlearner (or @[email protected] on Mastodon)

Honours List: medicos and more medicos

The King’s Birthday Orders of Australia include (with apologies to anybody missed)

Companion in the General Division  of the Order of Australia (AC)

Caroline Bower (UWA) medical research, Glenda Halliday (Uni Sydney) medical research, David Hunter (Uni Oxford) medicine

That’s half of the new appointments to the top award going to medical scientists.

Officer in the General Division  of the Order of Australia (AO)

22 of 46 go to medical and health scientists with HE roles and/or connections – that is just short of half the total apppointments

Robert Ali (Uni Adelaide) medical and health research, Kerry Breen (Monash U) medical research,  Julie-Anne Considine (Deakin U) emergency nursing, David Craik (Uni Queensland) biological and medicinal chemistry

Louisa Jane Degenhardt  (UNSW) medical research, Kingsley Dixon (Curtin U) conservation biology, David Ellwood (Griffith U) medicine, Cassandra Goldie (UNSW) social justice, Jane Gunn (Uni Melbourne) medical administration

Jane Hall (UTS) social sciences, Marianne Horak (entomology) CSIRO, Michael Horowitz, (Uni Adelaide) endocrinology, Misty Jenkins (Walter and Eliza Hall IMR) medical science,  Brendon Kearney (Uni Adelaide) medicine. Michael Kidd (ANU, Uni Melbourne) medical administration

Sharon Liberali (Adelaide Dental Hospital, Uni Adelaide) dentistry, Glen Liddell-Mola  (Uni PNG) obstetrics, gynaecology, Grant McArthur (Uni Melbourne) medicine, Ruth Marshall (Uni Adelaide) rehabilitation medicine

Lynette Riley (Uni Sydney) Indigenous education, Sandra Staffieri  (Royal Melbourne Children’s Hospital) medicine, Fiona Stapleton (UNSW) optometry, Gerald Williams (Griffith U), critical care nursing Donald Wilson (Uni Sydney) medicine, Erica Wood (Monash U) transfusion medicine, John Zalcberg (Monash U) oncology