Unis as election issue- don’t hold your breath

There was a debate in the Reps yesterday about education – with Government and Opposition speakers focusing on schools and training. That these are the agreed areas to argue on will suck the education oxygen out of the election – leaving universities gasping for relevance.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Jack Breen (UNSW) on four ways universities can make the most of social media, including the next big thing in comms that connect. Plus the seven unis that get Tik Tok.

plus Angel Calderon on the national HE staff statistics, out of date, and way too late. “We need to have a national system to help us to optimally plan, deliver, fund, and assure quality higher education, both now and well into the future.”

and Tessa McCredie (Uni Southern Queensland) and Alan McAlpine (Curtin U) on the importance of career development. Learning for career development, “is fundamental for informing the design, delivery and pedagogical approach to employability and WIL in higher education.” This week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

Denouncing or diplomacy on research censorship 

There’s a bill before the Senate to stop ministers vetoing projects they don’t like and submissions are open – where they don’t come from will be interesting

Greens NSW senator Mehreen Faruqi introduced the bill last week and the Senate sent it off to a committee, which is accepting submissions (CMM February 10).

It’s a re-run of a bill which was in the last parliament’s process but lapsed at the 2019 election. But the issue that inspired Senator Faruqi then, ministers overruling research funding recommendations by the Australian Research Council continues current. For readers (presumably on sabbatical at the University of Mars) who have missed the news, on Christmas Eve Acting Education Minister Stuart Robert publicly vetoed six ARC Discovery Grant recommendations – generating outrage that continues still.

But while outrage appears universal displaying it digitally may not be.

To date objections to Mr Robert’s veto are from researchers, discipline associations, some peak bodies, including the Australian Council of Learned Academies and a few vice chancellors. But there are STEM lobbies, whose constituents will benefit from the government’s research priorities, which have stayed silent.

As to Universities Australia, it has not said much so far , (“we will be pursuing this matter, on behalf of our members, with the minister as a matter of the highest importance” (CMM January 20)).

But it’s about to. CMM understands UA will make a submission to the Senate inquiry.

That some organisations might decide to stay silent is understandable, there is a chance that the coalition might win the election.

Victoria U slams government’s religious discrimination bill 

“It goes against all that we believe in,” says DVC Peter Radoll

 “We do not support legislation that erodes existing state and federal discrimination protections afforded on the basis of gender, sexuality, age, disability or any of the other protected attributes,” the recently arrived People and Organisation head tells staff.

Professor Raddoll acknowledges that the bill might “be shelved indefinitely” but, “political and public debates of this nature are incredibly harmful and traumatic for LGBTIQA+ people and people with disability – particularly for young trans and gender diverse people.”


International student numbers: 2020 wasn’t bad everywhere

Have a look at Uni Sydney

The 2020 student stats are out and the future is not great as lower international numbers flow through the system – commencing undergraduates with “overseas” citizenship were down 20 per cent plus.

Indicating the shape of things that could come, universities with significant overall declines in enrolments of internationals  in 2020 included,

ACT and NSW: * ANU: 10 526 (2019) and 8868 (2020) * Charles Sturt U: 10 502 (2019) to 7477 (2020) * UNSW 24 838 (2019) and 23 155 (2020) * UTS: 15 579 (2019) to 14 001 (2020) * Uni Wollongong: 15 984 (2019)  to 13 878 (2020) * UTS: 15 579 (2019) to 14 001 (2020)

Queensland: * CQU: 8726 (2019) to 5818 (2020) * QUT: 9829 (2019) to 8436 (2020) * Uni Sunshine Coast: 3835 (2019) to 2505 (2020)

Victoria: * Federation U: 10 269 (2019) to 8600 (2020) * La Trobe U: 10 648 (2019) to 8720 (2020) * Uni Melbourne: 28 545 (2019) to 27 254 (2020)

But for others , the news ranged from it could have been worse to not bad at all

Uni Queensland’s numbers increased from 20 254  in 2019 to 20431.

In South Australia, Uni Adelaide was up, from 9001 in ’19 to 9229 in 2020 and Uni SA increased from 6744 to 6976. While Flinders U lost students they did not lose many, declining from 5174 to 5025. But in SA the winner is private Torrens U whose international enrolments increased from 9610 in ’19 to 12 549 in 2020.

And for all the early gloom (CMM April 9 2020), Uni Sydney’s enrolment of students with overseas citizenship went up, from 30 076 in 2019 to 32 053  in 2020.

Colin Simpson’s ed-tech reads of the week

Second Life vs the Metaverse from Drew Harry

The hype continues to grow around the Metaverse, the coming virtual work/play space that Gartner claims 25 per cent of people will spend at least an hour a week in (by 2026). Many of us however are having déjà vu, there were similar claims in the time of Second Life. This Twitter thread from Drew Hill firstly steps us through how little has changed but then, interestingly, explores some ways that we could learn from subsequent technologies to make more meaningful use of the virtual world this time around.

Pearson buys Credly from Reuters

Credly is one of the most notable digital badge/micro-credentialling platforms still in existence and with this purchase, Pearson continues, in their unique way, to look for opportunities to carve out a niche in the on-line learning space. Their focus here seems to be primarily tied to the corporate learning and development side rather than VET or Higher Ed, which kind of makes sense given the size of the too-hard basket that this approach to education has mostly sat in for more than a decade.

AI replicates your voice after listening to a 5 second clip from Ramos AI (TikTok)

Some people still raise their eyebrows when I tell them that TikTok isn’t just full of dancing teenagers and cooked conspiracy theorists. I found this brief video demonstrating recent work from Google where a speaker provided a five second voice clip that AI was then able to use to generate many unrelated sentences in the same voice. If you are interested in the more scholarly side of this research, it was also presented at the 32nd Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems.

Sound and vision: introducing leadership from the International Consortium of Academic Language and Learning Developers

This blog post addresses a question commonly heard from people in my world – as a learning developer, how do you influence university policy and practice? Authors Carina Buckley and Kate Coulson share their experiences working in UK universities, modelling good practice and getting a seat at the table.

Wikitrivia from Tom J Watson

This simple on-line game asks players to drag random tiles generated from Wikipedia entries to the correct relative spot on a timeline. Put three in the wrong spot and your turn is over. This game offers a nicely balanced mixed of educated guessing and learning more about entirely random subjects. (My highest streak is 18 if you are up to the challenge)

Colin Simpson has worked in education technology, teaching, learning design and academic development in the tertiary sector since 2003 and is employed by Monash University’s Education Innovation team. He is also one of the leaders of the TELedvisors Network. For more from Colin, follow him on Twitter @gamerlearner

A problem dropped on colleges

In January the feds lifted time limits on hours international students can work – the training regulator wants providers to handle the resulting problem

The decision, to be reviewed in April, is a change to the long-running restriction on working hours (40 per fortnight) with policy in the past always emphasising study. The Australian Skills Quality Authority acknowledges the decision was made by the government to, “help alleviate current workforce shortages.” But ASQA makes it plain that it expects providers to ensure students’ studies don’t suffer.

Not that VET providers can necessarily demonstrate they tried to warn government about visa holders working more and studying less. As ASQA acknowledges, “providers may need to wait for up to six months before reporting students who are not meeting course progress or attendance.” But the authority adds “vigilance is required to identify whether course requirements are being met.”

And ASQA is watching – “ we are closely monitoring VET and ELICOS providers to ensure students receive quality outcomes, particularly in the context of COVID-19.”

Could bodgy colleges enrol students and ignore they aren’t studying, or are given the facilities they need to do so, you ask. You mean like happened in the great cookery college scandal of  2010? CMM replies. Who knows? But as Dirk Mulder points out, In 2010, there were 10 117 cookery students, in February 2020 there were 19 814, (CMM April 28 2020).

There may well be plenty for ASQA to observe – but it could be tough on legit colleges charged with enforcing study standards the Commonwealth has made it easier to bend.



The Australian Universities International Directors’ Forum elects its 2022-’24 executive; * Mike Ferguson (Uni Canberra) – chair * Brett Lovegrove (Uni Wollongong) – deputy chair and treasurer * executive: Ingrid Elliston (Uni New England), Woendi Hampton (James Cook U) , Jogvan Klein (Swinburne U).

Flora Salim becomes UNSW’s inaugural Cisco Chair in Digital Transport. She moves from RMIT.