What will work in India

Conor King reckons a merged UniSA-UniAdelaide will best be called the University of South Adelaide. However one learned reader recommends North Terrace University, presumably to comply with TEQSA’s geography threshold standard*. Then again, another LR with an eye on the Indian education market suggests Bradman U. *Which CMM just made up.

UniNewcastle’s new vice chancellor

Alex Zelinsky will become VC of the University of Newcastle in November, replacing Caroline McMillen. Dr Zelinsky is now chief defence scientist. His academic background is in computer science and engineering. Prior to Defence Science and Technology he was at CSIRO for eight years. Dr Zelinsky’s last university appointments were at ANU, where he was a professor of systems engineering.

Dr Zelinsky is well-placed to lead a regional university, doing his undergraduate and doctoral degrees at the University of Wollongong, also serving on its council. And he has a strong applied-research background which will suit Newcastle. At DST he led the $700m Next Generations Technologies Fund and oversaw R&D links with 33 universities.

Observers say his first two tasks at UniNewcastle are likely to be financial. The university has an ambitious inner-city expansion plan to pay for and the NSW Audit Office says while its reserves cover debt, last year current liabilities exceeded assets. There is also the present round of enterprise bargaining which is not yet at pay-scale stage (CMM June 12). Some suggest that the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union will now try to pick the pace up to get a deal before Dr Zelinsky arrives but others argue VC Caroline McMillen will not want to lock her imminent successor into anything.

Bradley backs uni merger talks

Denise Bradley has backed talks on uniting between the universities of Adelaide and South Australia. Professor Bradley led the higher education inquiry which created the demand driven system and is a former VC of the University of South Australia.

“I am delighted that the two institutions are talking about merger. The opportunities for a new university, building on the strengths of each are boundless.

It is a move which is right for the time and I congratulate the two VCs and the chancellors for their readiness to look so firmly to the future and not be held back by the rivalries of the past,” Professor Bradley told CMM.

The view from Flinders

With all Adelaide eyes on North Terrace down south Flinders U management says it is getting on with things and “welcomes competition which it regards as an important driver of innovation and quality teaching to the benefit of students.”

The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union see the “prospect of a mega merger” by the state’s other two universities as an opportunity, “to abandon the neoliberal bandwagon and create a new and unique university culture and student experience (to differentiate and stand boldly apart). Perhaps the VC and council might want to resurrect the socially-critical, socially-just university culture Flinders was once famous for, with higher staff to student ratios, and a genuinely staff-powered research and learning culture.”

Those who can, need to know how to teach

The premise of VET colleges, is (as George Bernard Shaw undoubtedly meant to say,) those who can, can, as well as teach. But just knowing skills is not the same as being able to teach them. This will matter as TAFE and the non-government sector increase their pitch for students and as universities look to expand into sub-degree markets, especially at dual-sector institutions.

A learned reader points to ARC funded  by Erica Smith (Federation U) and colleagues on what makes a good vocational teacher.

They found that specific VET teaching skills matter, a lot, “higher level qualifications in VET pedagogy make a significant difference to VET teachers’ confidence and ability in teaching a diversity of learners.”

“The key qualification level that makes a difference,” they write, “is a degree.”

Good-o, but while 1000 or so people are studying VET teaching at the ten universities that offer it this still leaves 80 000 or so voced teachers who have the industry-norm Certificate IV teaching qualification, at best. As Queensland TAFE puts it, teachers must have a Cert IV in training and assessment, “or be willing to get one.”

Professor Smith’s findings are circulating in the training policy community but encouraging VET teachers to skill-up will be a hard sell, given the orthodoxy that CERT IV is a sensible standard. As the Productivity Commission put it in 2011 report on the VET workforce, “evidence that the workforce is performing adequately, and a lack of evidence as to the link between formal teaching qualifications and student achievement, means that the Commission does not see cause to recommend a higher minimum.”

Appointments, achievements

Judyth Sachs becomes chief academic officer at online study support provider, Studiosity. Professor Sachs is now a member of Studiosity’s academic advisory board. Professor Sachs is a previous provost of Macquarie U, where she created the PACE (for professional and community engagement) job placement for undergraduates. Studiosity is now a PACE partner.

Lisa Adkins is moving from the University of Newcastle to become head of the social and political sciences school at the University of Sydney. Professor Adkins starts next month.

ANU and University of Canberra academics have received Max Crawford Medals from the Australian Academy of the Humanities. Raihan Ismail is a lecturer at ANU’s Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies and researches Islamic theology and Arab culture. Ana Tanasoca is a post doc at the University of Canberra with research interests in moral philosophy, ethics and political theory. The Crawford Medal is for early career researchers.

Richard Hopkins joins UNSW’s engineering faculty as a professor of practise. A former operations head for the Red Bull Formula One team, Professor Hopkins will mentor students in the solar car and Formula SAE race car programmes.

Dolt of the day

Is CMM (June 19) who missed the University of Queensland winning one of two golds in the multimedia category at the CASE awards.