Science on firm ground

It turns out that it is physically impossible to completely sink in quicksand. Don’t trust old films for scientific accuracy!” Solid advice from the Australian Academy of Science, via Twitter, ((sorry, no idea why). It’s accompanied by a 90 second video on how quicksand does not work.

But be warned, the claims aren’t cleared  by the independent research assessor the National Party wants.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this week Melissa Zaccagnini and colleagues warn that safeguarding higher education from academic misconduct, “may restrict the very practices that are a cornerstone of 21st century learning.”

It’s another essay in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series in what we need now in teaching and learning.

Dewar on deck to 2024

The La Trobe U vice chancellor’s contract is extended for three more years

Sensible move by LT U Council’s – Dewar has done well, since taking over as VC at then languishing La Trobe in 2012.

He moved methodically to change the university, restructuring courses, staffing and administration in comprehensive changes that cost jobs and were deeply unpopular with many staff. The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union certainly opposed them long and hard.

But by 2017 LT U was set for growth, which he committed to delivering in that year’s five-year plan, which included things the generality of university strategies eschew – hard targets, including a world top 250 place in the Academic Ranking of World Universities and specific revenue goals.

Dewar also put his money where his plan is – in March 2017 he kicked-in $100 000 for La Trobe U’s first-ever fund-raiser.

Ideas for imminent ATEM

The Association of Tertiary Education Management conference is on in Adelaide next week

This year’s theme is, “distilling ideas, transforming futures” and Susannah Marsden and Paul Abela start the discussion in CMM Features this morning.

“We are the professional service that makes universities different to other sectors. We contribute significantly to the success of our students and our institutions, as well as often being the ones managing significant risk. So why is it that our professional identity is so nebulous?” Marsden argues.

“The paradox of seeking professional staff needing transferable skills at the same time as specialising we believe is answered by having a deep knowledge of the sector, its history and its purpose, Abela suggests.

 U Tasmania as a state of mind

The uni plans to promote undergraduate study to interstate students, as well as internationals

Vice Chancellor Rufus Black was in the Hobart Mercury in the weekend pitching the idea, which is defined in the new university plan as being to, “attract interstate students into our core courses to compensate for the young Tasmanians who go off-island, ensure those courses are of a sustainable size and enable a healthy balance between domestic and international students right across the university.”

The message is that, “our whole island is your campus.” “If you’re in one of the world’s most extraordinary locations, you have to get outside, explore and live while you learn,” the 2020 course guide announces.

U Tas can but try – and make sure the accommodation expansion to ensure enough student beds on Hobart delivers. CMM January 14

English language students speak on satisfaction

A new survey will take the temperature of English language students’ course satisfaction

Industry organisation English Australia  announces the sixth round of the Australian English Language Training Barometer. It measures, decision-making, perceptions, expectations and experiences of international students.

At a system level, the results support “promotional and advocacy work in addition to extensive focus on improving the student experience and Australia’s competitive advantage,” EA’s Brett Blacker says.

Each participating provider receives a performance report on student responses on 30 issues, with an anonymised system-wide ranking.

The barometer is funded by the feds, which picks up 50 per cent of the $3000 per provider-cost.  Why they do is probably because there were 180 000 English language students in the country in 2018, with two-thirds of those on a student visa going on to further study.

What’s on the way for ASQA

There’s less a hint than an announcement of what ministers want from the training regulator

A national meeting of training ministers agrees the, “Australian Skills Quality Authority should improve its engagement with the VET sector and expand its educative role. Both the Braithwaite Review of the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 and the Expert Review of VET” (the Joyce Review) “emphasised it is critical to ensure that training providers are aware of, and supported to understand, their compliance requirements, and that regulatory decisions are transparent. Members called for immediate work to be done to reform ASQA’s regulatory approach, improve confidence in the regulator and support continuous improvement in training provision across the VET sector.”

This follows concerted criticism of ASQA’s regulatory approach to private providers, including a federer of a serve from Andrew Laming (Lib-Qld) in the House of Representatives, (CMM August 2.)

Observers of ASQA suggest there is a bit in Valerie Braithwaite’s 2018 review which the agency should focus on;

“as a regulator (ASQA’s) role is to motivate” (registered training organisations) “to reflect on their performance, what they might do better and how they might go about improving their performance. Recommendations in this review favour continuous improvement over mandating quality standards that all RTOs must achieve. … Ultimately, the way ASQA should regulate for quality (as opposed to sufficiency) is to look at how well RTOs go about setting their own higher standards, checking if such standards are met, motivating through praise and encouragement and support when they have achieved improvement, and advising on options when they have not.”

Court prepares for James Cook U’s appeal against the Ridd judgement

JCU has delivered on its promise to appeal the Federal Court decision that it breached the university enterprise agreement in sacking Dr Ridd

JCU argued unsuccessfully that he breached its code of conduct in his criticism of research at the university on the condition of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Federal Court has ordered that $1m of the $1.2m Dr Ridd was awarded be held in trust until the university’s appeal is determined. The balance of $215 000 is to be held for Dr Ridd’s costs in the appeal.

Swedes sign an adaptable deal on open access

Its a model Australian research publishing leaders could pursue

Swedish research funding agencies, universities and institutions will fund 50 per cent of publishing costs for researchers’ articles to appear in the 576 open access journals published by Springer Nature. The Bibsam consortium of universities and research institutions plans to adopt the same arrangement with other publishers.

It’s a model that may be adopted here; research funders and information managers do not appear to have the stomach for an all-in U Cal v Elsevier brawl. The university network no longer subscribes to the publisher’s journals after negotiations on open-access for U Cal researcher publications failed.

The Council of Australian University Librarians, which manages publisher deals says, “a transformative read and publish agreement” with a university press and learned-society publisher is in negotiation.  “The focus is on journal publishing with the aim of transforming the nature of the agreements from subscription-based access to content as the starting point, to service-based publishing and open access to content as the end point.”

CAUL adds, “early planning and preliminary modelling is underway with a major publisher for a read & publish agreement to commence in 2021.”  (CMM August 21).

Sound like Springer?

Appointments achievements

The Australasian Research Management Society has a new board. As reported yesterday, Ross McLennan is president. Other appointments are, Connie Mogg (Monash U) as treasurer and Misty Palmer (NHMRC) as secretary. The new committee is; Johanna Barclay (UNSW), Tania Bezzobs (Swinburne U), Maxine Bryant (Uni Canterbury) and Steve Hannan (Western Sydney U).

Mat Santamouris (UNSW) wins the World Society of Sustainable Energy Technologies’

2019 award for low carbon buildings and future cities.