Barely noticed wombat differences

There’s more than than devilry to pay in U Tas conservation science

Researchers at the University of Tasmania have analysed genetic structures to identify three sub-species of the bare-nosed wombat, the continental Australian Bass Strait islanders and the Tasmanian. This will help with conservation, which is very good indeed. The wombat muddle-headed and otherwise, is too oft ignored.

The pain of change at Uni Sydney

At the University of Sydney the strategic plan rolls on – right over some staff’ sensibilities

For three years now the university’s change bureaucracy has worked on an enormous array of academic and administrative change policies and processes ranging from the transformative to the trivial – there was briefly a ruling stopping staff in a new admin building from having plants and their personal pick of artworks in personal space.

Not everybody has enjoyed everything, last year union president Kurt Iveson posted a 19-tweet cluster of complaint (CMM September 24).  And tomorrow there is a rally to tell the university, “hundreds of our colleagues are engaged in desperate efforts to stop senior management making things worse through top-down, ill-considered, poorly-run change processes.”

Not to worry, the 2016-20 strategic plan will be replaced by a new one soon enough.

The case for demand driven funding: as good as it was in 2009

A decade after it was established the demand driven system is identified as a huge success.

The demand driven system was announced in the 2009 budget and to celebrate its creation, and lament its cancellation in 2017, the Innovative Research Universities lobby has crunched the data to identify its achievements.

What the demand driven system achieved

* The number of Australians attending university increased by 35 per cent between 2009 and 20117. Growth soaked up previously unmet demand between 2009 -13 before slowing to 2 per cent – 3 per cent in the later years

* Students in the bottom SES quartile accounted for 15 per cent of UGs in 2009 and 19 per cent in 2017

* Although the participation rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island students remained below other Australians, the number of UGs from ATSI backgrounds grew by 91 per cent under the demand driven system

* Undergraduate numbers increased across community in-demand disciplines, by 50 per cent plus in health science and IT, with growth strongest in 2009-13, as unmet demand was met

 The predicted disasters it did not deliver

* slowing growth 20014-17 demonstrates the demand driven system was financially sustainable

* growth was not concentrated in low delivery-cost disciplines. “Growth in STEM was achieved through an alignment between university supply and demand from students as a discipline of choice.”

What happens next

The IRU has the news, and for as long as demand driven funding stays cancelled,  it is all bad.

“The cap on Commonwealth Grant Scheme funding since 2018 means universities will steadily reduce the number of students enrolled to avoid allowing the investment per student to drop below the level needed for quality student learning. Universities will not be able to meet the 2020s bulge in young people completing school.”

The case for the system is made

As one of its supporters put it back in 2011;

“for the last 30 years the Australian university sector has been highly regulated with decisions, over how many places each higher education provider can offer for each course and how much they can charge students for each place, decided by bureaucrats in Canberra. This highly centralised system did not adequately respond to student demand. ” That was Christopher Pyne, speaking in the House of Reps, June 21 2011.  No, the government did not cancel demand driven funding on his watch.

Education deans talking-up teaching

With teacher education applications down, discipline deans are asking for ideas

The Australian Council of Deans of Education are holding a seminar, Melbourne Friday. Speakers include academics and unionists, consultants and officials.

Federal education minister Dan Tehan is participating on a panel, with Greens senator Janet Rice and Labor shadow assistant schools minister, Andrew Giles.

Mr Tehan is a friend to classroom teachers. In December he made a strong case for more classroom time for students in initial teacher education courses (CMM December 10). And he commissioned a House of Representatives committee inquiry on the status of the profession with a brief including, identifying support for classroom teachers, how “the burden of out-of-hours, at-home work can be reduced” and improving teacher retention and avoiding burnout. Submissions and hearing transcripts are here.

Craig Emerson leads appointments, achievements

Craig Emerson is appointed director of RMIT’s Australian APEC Study Centre. Dr Emerson (economics PhD, ANU)  knows of what he will direct, being trade minister in the Gillard Government – which will undoubtedly go down well with his new colleagues. He was also higher education minister in 2013, when Labor cut the rate of growth in university funding over the forward estimates.

 Jacq Romero and Meru Sheel will split $1m  over three years from the Westpac Scholars Trust. Dr Romero (Uni Queensland) will use the money for her work on quantum computing security, to create an encoding system using shapes of light.  Dr Sheel (ANU) works on evidence bases for responses to disease outbreaks.

Hannah Wooller moves to the comms team at Universities Australia. She is now a senior adviser on government relations at UA.



Voc ed certified second-class

Craig Robertson has found a credit chasm between VET and higher education – he isn’t happy.

The TAFE Directors Australia chief has been reading the Australian Qualifications Framework  and noticed that it limits credit between courses. Mr Robertson is cross that credit applies for Certificates I-III and separately for diplomas to bachelors  Where he wonders is Cert IV, “but more importantly why the heck do we stop progression up the qualification ladder for those holding a Certificate III?”

“What are we telling the 2.2 million Australians with certificate qualifications? Their training doesn’t count if they want to embark on further learning? Our political leaders love to point to “the fair go” as the great Aussie ethos. But not for VET, it appears. What standing are we giving vocational education? Very little it seems.

An issue for the Noonan Review of the AQF.