No news is good news

In news universally expected; the University of Wollongong is in business for the next seven years, with regulator TEQSA registering it through to March 2025. TEQSA says UoW ticks all the boxes, including “strong performance for teaching and learning,” “strong research culture,” robust quality assurance,” and academic and research integrity.

There’s more in the Mail

Today in Features – David Myton’s regular wrap on what’s happening across the world in highered.

The power of one and 100 000

Flinders U graduates its 100 000 student today. Sarah Wright will be conferred with bachelors of education and health sciences. Ms Wright did not complete high school and went to Flinders as a mature age student with two small kids. She will be joined by the university’s first-ever graduate, Alan Easton who received a master of science in 1967 and went on to become a maths and ecology academic, at Swinburne for 24 years and UPNG for another 11. Want young and old examples of what education makes possible? Try these two.

More money on the CSU table

Charles Sturt U has upped its enterprise bargaining pay offer. The university is adopting the popular mix of specified cash increases to pay plus percentage rises; year one: $500 plus 1.8 per cent. year two: 1.5 per cent. Year three: 1.5 per cent. Year four: $500 plus 1.5 per cent. VC Andrew Vann tells staff that management and unions are “continuing to negotiate in good faith.”

Still a chance for professional assocs to protect patches

The feds are legislating to stop professional associations sticking their bibs into universities in the guise of protecting industry practise standards, (CMM February 28). The government intends to act on recommendations from the Higher Education Standards Panel, which are based on a PhillipsKPA report delivered last year (CMM November 8).

But while legislation looms, tertiary education regulator TEQSA advises professional associations can still have a say. “Views are now being sought on how best to implement the suggested changes, which range from a legislated code of practice limiting professional accreditation bodies to matters that are profession-specific, to TEQSA working with accrediting bodies to build their capacity to work more effectively and efficiently.”

Interested organisations do not have long – submissions are due end April.

Question of the morning

“Are sweet potatoes older than us?” the Science Media Centre asked Friday, promoting research by UniOxford’s Robert Scotland.  For anybody wondering, the answer is here.

Halsey review of rural education positive about unis but talks up TAFE

Cynics suggest the government hoped to bury John Halsey’s review into remote, rural and regional education by releasing it on Friday afternoon, especially on the Friday when the COAG minco on education had met to talk about reviewing NAPLAN, school bullying and a report from Chief Scientist Alan Finkel on industry-school partnerships in STEM.

Surely not, after all, no less than four minsters (McCormack, deputy PM, Birmingham, education, McKenzie, rural health and regional comms and McVeigh, regional development) announced Professor Halsey’s report.

The Flinders emeritus professor also addressed the meeting, although perhaps he should have spoken more slowly and simply – ministers asked officials to advise on Halsey’s recommendations at their June meeting.

Most of the review is about on school education but two recommendations focus on post-compulsory, supporting RRR students in the transition from school to training and higher education and expanding dual VET/higher education programmes and two-year associate degrees.

While Professor Halsey acknowledges the work of universities, notably the Regional Universities Network, he focuses on the public training provider’s role in post-secondary education.  “TAFE has to be put back into the regions, closer to people, places and the heartland of much of Australia’s productivity.” And while he does not mention Labor’s proposed training review he proposes what could well be a term of reference for it.  “It is clear that the issues of adequate funding for TAFE, access to and the costs of programs for students, designing new flexible offerings and enhanced qualification scaffolding and recognition with universities must all be included in a ‘root and branch’ review.

This did not discourage the Regional Universities Network which was quick to “strongly support” Professor Halsey’s findings. “We have advocated for the need to continue to grow tertiary education options in the regions, consistent with the review recommendation for an expansion of the availability, affordability and accessibility of dual VET/university options and two-year associate degree programs for regional students,” RUN chair Greg Hill said Friday.

Last month Cathy McGowan (Ind-Indi) proposed a bill that would put universities at the centre of government policy for regional growth (CMM March 27). Back then Canberra observers suggested the bill will never be debated, that the government will promote the Halsey review, especially the bits the states will have to pay for, as a basis of policy promises for the next election. They are probably right.


QUT architecture lecturer Lindy Burton is the new academic representative on the Queensland government Board of Architects registration agency.

UTS and union split over keeping things simple

There are claims at UTS that management has varied the draft enterprise agreement, signed off in-principle by the university and the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union.

The union says university officials have re-drafted the text into “plain English” and omitted some agreed terms while inserting new one. Among other issues, what’s out are clauses covering hiring scholarly teaching fellows and improving job access for sessional staff. What is in includes a small increase in annual work hours and changed job descriptors.

The new draft also excludes previously in-place statements of principle, notably on recognising what staff who are victims of domestic violence endure.

The simplified text issue also puzzles people briefed on the new draft. For a start, some say it is not all that easily understood with inept drafting adding ambiguity and changing meaning. The Australian Higher Education Industrial Association was big on shorter, simpler enterprise agreements at the start of the present bargaining round last year, which the union opposed on the grounds that generalities can reduce staff rights – the UTS situation appears to explain why.

Yesterday UTS responded with a statement that it “is keen to ensure our agreements are in plain English to ensure accessibility to all staff – this was discussed with the NTEU at the outset and throughout bargaining. We are disappointed the NTEU have chosen to ignore opportunities to discuss the new redraft and remain committed to the in-principle agreements that are in place for both our agreements and trust the union is too.”

New CRC pitching hard for research students

The Digital Health CRC launched Friday with big announcements about the way it will use data digitally delivered and analysed to improve heathcare and profitability.

There is a plethora of partners, 84 all up, from government, industry plus 16, no less!, universities. Given the size of the venture, there is also a bucket of money to spend over the project’s seven year life, $50m from the feds plus $110m in cash and $118m in kind from partners.

The new CRC emerges from the health quality market programme of the Capital Markets CRC which developed data analytics to address, fraud, waste and errors in healthcare.

This is a professionally packaged CRC, carefully targeting benefits for participants and engaging with the government’s applied research agenda.

The pitch ticks a bunch of boxes wanted by DVCs looking for more profile than journal citations secure, including, “potential for an active role in commercialisation,” “funding for post docs,” and “students more likely to complete PhDs in three years.”

Labor puts TAFE centre stage

Labor skills and TAFE spokesman Doug Cameron has set out issues the party’s proposed review of post-secondary education should address, including alternatives to competency based training and the “competitive training market model.” The review, which Labor is committed to launching within 100 days of forming government, must also; “start by examining the critical role TAFE plays as an educational and social institution – in our communities and in local, national and global economies.”

Senator Cameron outlined what the review would address in a Friday address to the Australian Education Union in Melbourne. It was a speech to fire up the faithful with the senator praising TAFE teachers, “they have earned and deserve the recognition, social status, and financial security that other trained, skilled and responsible professionals enjoy,” and denouncingmarketisation and unhealthy competition in the VET sector.” “Economic theory doesn’t distinguish between price and value. Regulating for the cheapest petrol is light years away from regulating for the best quality education and training system that is possible,” he said.

And just in case anybody missed it; “In every Labor VET delivery program TAFE will be given a key role, the senator said.