plus entry scores can dig deeper than the ATAR

and Uni Wollongong gives itself a clean bill of health on research supervision

Empty rooms at the inn

Southern Cross U and partner Mulpha Australia are holding open days in July for their Hotel School at the Intercontinentals in Sydney and Melbourne. But there may more room at the hospitality training inn than they hope. The University of Victoria (that’s the one in British Columbia) is  teaching a course on how to rent a home on AirBnb.


Wednesday June 23

UoW approves its HDR processes

The University of Wollongong will release a review of its higher degree supervision and examination processes this morning. Vice Chancellor Paul Wellings commissioned the review in January as UoW’s PhD award to vaccination critic Judith Wilyman was all over the media.

The review benchmarked UoW against Australian and international universities and “regulatory frameworks” and finds UoW’s policies and procedures are comparable with its peers “and its policy positions (are) at least as stringent as, or in some cases more stringent than, the benchmarked universities.”

However it does recommend; “greater professional development for supervisors, more rigorous annual progress reporting and streamlined administration.”

Singapore succeeds

The  Times Higher Asia ranking are out and was with the QS competition last week Singapore is strong. The National University of Singapore is number one and the lion state’s Nanyang Technological U number two on the THE (they are one and three on the QS league table). The rest of the top tens on both lists are also similar.

In the money

Policy paladins Frank Larkins and Ian Marshman are back with a paper demonstrating how much money Australian universities are in and the billions more they could collect from a modest deregulation rise, (as long as the feds lent students more money).

In a new paper for the L H Martin Institute, the University of Melbourne mavens explore just how big a bucket of money demand driven funding has delivered. The uncapping of domestic undergraduate places increased equivalent full time student numbers by 133 000 between 2009 and 2014, compared to 53 000 in the previous five years. This translated to an additional $2.87 bn in government funding for teaching and learning, 90 per cent of the total, although there was a notable growth in funding from loans to students, which rose from 36.8 per cent in ‘09 to 40.3 per cent in ’14.

Growth in numbers did not reduce yield, which rose from $16 800 per EFT in 2014 to $18 300 in 2009 and on to $18 900 in 2014. However Larkins and Marshman report public support for research training did decline in absolute dollars and as a share of funding over the decade to 2014.

Overall the authors identify four policy implications from the funding growth.

First, universities never miss a trick, although they phrase it more carefully noting; “the alacrity with which Australian universities respond to financial incentives.”

But don’t expect students to ever pay anything up front. “The very high proportion of domestic enrolments now reliant on some form of government support is likely to make … deregulating undergraduate domestic fees, an increasingly difficult public policy challenge.”

Third, the feds are paying 60 per cent of the direct government subsidy in the Commonwealth Grant Scheme and Research Training Scheme, more if loans unlikely to be repaid are included.

And finally deregulation would not deliver $100k degrees, (CMM’s example, not the authors’). “Market forces would serve as a forceful break on the likelihood of a major escalation in domestic course fees in the event further deregulation were to occur.”

Despite domestic prices being capped while international prices aren’t, the gap isn’t enormous. The authors estimate further domestic deregulation could lead to a $1500 increase in EFTSL. While “modest” “such an increase would result in additional revenues of more than one billion dollars annually to universities.

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“And every law school is above average”

Yesterday the AFR picked up a New York Times story on law graduates with study debt they do not make enough to repay. It’s way worse there than here, (hooray for HECS,) but still the are regular Australian stories of an oversupply of law graduates.

It set one very learned reader wondering what our universities with “mass legal education strategies,” should do. “Research is unlikely to pay the bills. International students that were the milk cows in the past are unlikely to be the saviours in the future. Smaller faculties with smaller classes, few (expensive) electives, and top, multi-skilled students may survive.” But aren’t small classes, top students and elite elective what every law school offers?

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Sum of an entry score’s parts

Universities Australia defused the debate over university entry a few weeks back when it set out standards for its members to use in setting entry scores, ( CMM June 6). Which is good as far as it goes but it could go farther. Daniel Edwards from the Australian Council for Educational Research  suggests we need, “to get past the aggregate and instead match the components of the aggregate with appropriate courses.” An overall aggregate, most commonly the ATAR disguises a students strengths and weaknesses in individual subjects and it is the individual discipline achievement which matters most in courses selection. Dr Edwards suggests the data to do this exists; “and in a demand-driven system it does not make sense to mash all of that data into one ‘magic number’ that prevents access to the information it contains.” Agreeing on how to do this to UA standards will take some time.

Engineered ascent

The Institute for Infrastructure Engineering at Western Sydney University has built up research student number and consultancy income since it was established in 2012 making “significant and valuable contributions to engineering research,” says DVC Scott Holmes. So why is the university moving it inside the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics? Hard to say really given all Professor Holmes told staff yesterday was that; “it was felt that much can be gained by bringing IIE under the school structure with a mandate to take engineering research at Western Sydney University to the next level.”

Manipulating the metrics

The Australian Research Council and Department of Education are driving the process to create a separate engagement and impact measure to join publications in Excellence for Research in Australia 2018, with working groups considering how to measure both (CMM March 30).

The ever-active Innovation Research Universities has responded to the agencies request for advice with its standard MO, looking out to the world rather than observing the internals of existing research cultures, which, it suggests is what the officials don’t do.

“To strengthen the link with end-users, and raise the importance of having an impact and not just being seen to engage, the final process needs to confront the challenge of putting the focus on value for end-users.”

IRU accordingly proposes compiling data on end-user involvement, and assessing research achievements by industry that benefits rather than creating discipline and involving final consumers. But it warns that whatever measures will not be universally endorsed.

“The harsh reality is that nearly every data item and indicator considered in this area is subject to a high level of dispute, interpretation and for many, easy manipulation.” So it’s business as usual in research metrics then.