Scandi Noir

Bereavement, illness, troubled teens and family violence are not usually high on the list of attractions for visitors to Australia,” CQU reports Scandinavian social-work students studying at the university.

How equity experts can influence the new enrolment model

The Department of Education and Training has released, very quietly as is its wont, membership of the Equity Research and Innovation Panel. “The panel will provide strategic advice to the department on Australian Government-funded research and trials on student equity in higher education,” DET innocuously announces.

The Group of Eight says the panel’s, “expertise and breadth of experience … is a new step in delivering strategic advice on equity initiatives.”

But the Innovative Research Universities warn that members will need to address equity issues in an all of university context, that the source of, “most funds for students from equity backgrounds is the Commonwealth Grant Scheme payment that supports the mainstream university activities.”

Which makes the panel’s work important, perhaps more important than it appears.

The government says undergraduate growth places from 2020 will be allocated on the basis of performance metrics, on which the higher education community will have ample chance to engage and comment. And the panel includes exactly the experts to influence the way equity issues are involved in setting growth targets, perhaps suggested by the presence of public service representatives (below) on the panel who might be there to discourage this.  Membership is: Penny Jane Burke, UniNewcastle. Daniel Edwards, Australian Council for Educational Research. Anne Hampshire, The Smith Family. Leanne Holt, Macquarie University. Mary Kelly, QUT. Sue Kilpatrick UTas. Wojtek Tomaszewski, UoQ. Sue Trinidad, National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education. Denise Wood, Central Queensland University.

Demonstrating how serious their work is two DET officials are ex officio members, Robert Latta and Paul Corcoran. And demonstrating how really seriously the government views it there is also a representative of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Patrick Burford.

Ideas to bank on

The University of Adelaide is establishing a Yunus Social Business Centre, to embed the ideas of Nobel Prize winning economist Muhammad Yunus “in teaching research, incubation and acceleration.” There are established Yunus Centres at La Trobe U, UNSW and Griffith UProfessor Yunus pioneered micro finance and credit to lift people out of poverty by funding entrepreneurs who are too poor to access traditional banks. Jokes about this suiting the SA economy would be unkind.

ATAR allies speak up

The Group of Eight universities aren’t giving up on the ATAR, basically because it works for them. Not that the Eight do not recognise it has problems. In common with the rest of Universities Australia, the elite unis are rolling out reforms. “We would not argue that the ATAR is without limitations and we strongly support institutional flexibility in admission practices,” Go8 CEO Vicki Thomson says. But she suggests this week’s Mitchell Institute report underestimated the ATARs importance as a widely used and effective measure of uni entry. Ms Thomson cites Department of Education and Training public figures for 2017 applications, offers and acceptances that 38 per cent of acceptances were based on an ATAR. She adds the Go8 admits “a greater proportion” of undergraduates on than any other university group “on the principal basis of their ATAR achievement. The ATAR is also a good predictor of university success for students with an 85 or better score, which an overwhelming number of Go8 entrants have.

“Context is everything,” Ms Thomson says.

The NSW Universities Admission Centre also speaks up for the ATAR, pointing out that quoting the per centage of all students admitted to university on the basis of their Australian Tertiary Admission Rank is “inherently misleading” and that 70 per cent of Y12 students admitted to uni in the Mitchell report used their ATAR.

“The use of the ATAR and additional criteria to assess a student’s broader skills, such as a personal statement, a questionnaire, a portfolio of work, an audition, an interview or a test, has been in place for many years, and so it should be, with unis eager to recognise a diverse range of capabilities in their students,” UAC asserts.

UK win on student essay integrity (TEQSA take note)

Thanks to a learned reader for pointing out the UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education has a win againstUKEssays, “we take your instructions to tailor an awesome essay just the way you need it”. According to the essay provider, students purchase, “a model answer for the student to use as a learning exercise and resource to start from when writing their own work for submission.” The QAA argued this is not what students take away from advertising. The Advertising Standards Authority agreed, “because we considered consumers would expect from the ad that they could submit purchased essays as their own that would meet the ordered grade without risks, which was not the case, we concluded that the ad was misleading.”

With masterful British understatement, (particularly for a bloke who hails from frank-speaking Queensland) QAA’s Ian Kimber says, “’essay mills mislead students and put their academic and professional careers at risk.” ​

The learned reader suggests TEQSA should follow the UK example and use all available agencies to go after essay providers.

Five reasons young people ignore VET

While the TAFE lobby blames governments and private providers for less falling than plummeting enrolments it is just a touch more complicated. Kristen Osborne and Michele Circelli set out reasons why school completers do and don’t progress to training in a new research review for the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research. They include:

status: VET is seen as offering “practical and work-related learning” but, “a negative view … exists at the primary and secondary school levels in relation to its value, prestige and importance.”

misunderstanding: “students have a higher interest in VET-related jobs than in VET post-school pathways, indicating a misalignment between their occupational and educational aspirations

finances: up-front fees and living expenses while studying

peer influence: “perceptions that VET is for those of low academic ability

gender stereotyping: 2 per cent of young woman consider an apprenticeship compared to 11 per cent of males

It’s going to take a decade to fix this.

Heads Up: wins of the week at work

Céline Boehm is the new head of physics at the University of Sydney. The astro-particle physicist joins from Durham University.

Barney Glover has another five-year term as VC of Western Sydney University.  He joined WSU in January 2014.

Former Federation U VC David Battersby is advising Southern Cross U on enterprise bargaining.

 Southern Cross U has had a big win, poaching Robin Stonecash to be dean of business and head of the Gold Coast campusProfessor Stonecash moves to SCU from the University of Sydney, where she is director of executive education.

 Sharon Oviatt steps up at Monash University as director of Human-Computer Interaction and Human-Centred AI. She joined the university as professor of human-centred interface and creative technologies in September.

The Australian Research Council has appointed chairs of the eight research evaluation committees, “who will perform a key role in the 2018 round of Excellence for Research in Australia.” Rose Amal, UNSW: engineering and environmental sciences, Hugh Barrett, UWA: medical and health sciences,Brenda Cherednichenko, Deakin U: education and human society David Green, Monash U: maths and ICT, Eleanor Mackie: UniMelb: biological and biotechnical sciences, Flavio Menezes, UoQ: econmics and commerce, John O’Connor, UniNewcastle: physical, chemical and earth sciences, Graeme Turner, UoQ: humanities and creative arts