Talking up training

“As a uni dropout I turned to VET and became a chippie. Uni can be great, but it isn’t for everyone. I want to show students and parents just how great an option VET can be.” NSW Skills Minister, John Barilaro, via Twitter. TAFE is in the minister’s portfolio

Better now than later

A learned reader suggests the freeze on undergraduate places could be much worse for Queensland universities. If 2020 was adopted as the base year the total of commencing students would be halved. An increase in the school starting age in 2008, will mean Year 11 in 2018 has a third-less students than Year Ten and 12.

UNSW union wants to outlaw forced redundancies

Last year was tough for staff at UNSW, with a restructure generating professional staff job losses and accompanying anguish. The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union wants to stop a repeat, making information on workplace change a priority its claims for a new enterprise agreement.

The union demands no forced redundancies, a review committee for professional staff, “when redundancy is alleged,” and “that there be extensive and genuine consultation prior to the release of change proposals, and that this consultation process include the provision to staff of evidence.”

Wins of the morning

Swinburne U’s Sarah Maddison is appointed its PVC Academic Innovation. She replaces John Wilson who moves up to DVC and CEO of Swinburne, Sarawak.

Professor Xinghu Yu from RMIT has won Engineers Australia’s M A Sargent medal for electrical engineering.

RUN’s Hill warns unintended consequences of cap on places

The freeze of student places on last year’s level has created a problem for Greg Hill. The University of the Sunshine Coast VC says there is federal infrastructure funding for a new campus at Petrie, based on the university’s capacity to repay a loan – but the freeze means there can be no federally funded students for a new installation for at least two years. “If there is not a guaranteed number of places to pay the bills, there is not much point,” he says.

Professor Hill says he hopes this is “an unintended consequence” of the government’s decision. But even if it is, it is not the only one. The freeze will also affect USC’s takeover of QUT’s Caboolture campus, where it had no students enrolled this year. And at Hervey Bay it will enrol its first third year’s next year, students who will not be funded under the new proposal, with the university committed to a 2018 first-year intake there.

And it’s not just the university that will cop unintended consequences. USC catchments, Caboolture and Moreton Bay and the Fraser Coast have the lowest proportions of degree-qualified 21-34 year olds in the country. It’s not life or death for us if we do not build Petrie for a couple of years, but the community has great expectations,” Professor Hill says.

Professor Hill is also chair of the Regional Universities network and he says its members face similar problems with investments made to increase education access in communities that are based on demand driven funding, which the government dropped at Christmas.

And while the freeze on places is only for two years he wonders how future student growth will be allocated. “We could be going back to the days of compacts and special deals, I am not looking forward to returning.”

Brace for the blockchain

A new  EU report, by Alexander Grech and Anthony F Camilleri, sets out eight scenarios for the blockchain in education administration.

Using: blockchains to permanently secure certificates, to verify multi-step accreditation, for automatic recognition and transfer of credits, as a lifelong learning passport, for tracking intellectual property and rewarding use and re-use, receiving payments from students, providing student funding in terms of vouchers, using verified sovereign identities for student identification within educational organisations

This is bad news indeed for institutions that rely on their ability to issue qualifications, rather than the quality of their teaching, for market share. As Grech and Camilleri put it; “blockchain(s) could probably disrupt the market in student information systems and loosen the control current players have.

Distance lends enchantment

The Babson Survey Research Group reports that US UG enrolments declined in every year from 2012 to 2016, but for 2015-16 all the loss was in private for-profit providers. In contrast, total DE enrolments in ’15-’16 grew 5.6 per cent. There were 6.3m students taking at least one DE course in 2016.

Labor’s demand driven funding denounceathon

Labor’s Tanya Plibersek yesterday joined the denounceathon of the government’s freeze of UG student places, tweeting; “data released today shows that 10,000 people will miss out on a uni place this year because of Malcolm Turnbull’s $2.2 billion of cuts. This is a cruel blow to the thousands of Year 12 graduates who studied so hard to get into uni.” Her parliamentary colleagues Catherine King and Terri Butler made the same point.

Not quite. Universities Australia estimates universities will enrol 9 500 students whose places will not be federally funded, due to the government’s freeze on places. But while we are here CMM wonders whether Labor will restore demand driven funding in government, thus ensuring there are no more “cruel blows” after the election.


What works in science blogging

Scientists are the main audience for science blogs, rather than the general readers, who are often the intended target, but there is little research on how writing by the former can attract the latter, Anna Gardiner, Miriam Sullivan and Ann Grand from the University of Western Australia write. The authors tested four types of blog content, (humour, text-only, video and images) to find non-scientists enjoy images most, while scientists prefer video treatments. They conclude adding images increases recall and enjoyment among readers.

CMM would love to report more but the body of this report is behind a journal publisher paywall – one sure to ensure general readers do not see it.

When a great staff to student ratios isn’t everything

Times Higher names NZ’s Lincoln University as one of the world’s best 100 for staff to student ratios, (the only ANZ institution to make the cut). Good-o, but this may not mean much for students. Last year the New Zealand university auditor had a look at Lincoln and found, “there is a need for much more robust strategic planning related to teaching and learning, with objectives which can be evaluated and appropriate key performance indicators. An apparent lack of external referencing and academic benchmarking was an issue raised in the previous audit which remains relevant and did not appear to have been addressed in any systematic way,” ( CMM February 17 2017)

An ASQA oops

The Australian Skills Quality Authority cancelled Study Groups VET registration this week, but its January 15 announcement did not mention that higher education courses, provided for partners including ANU and Flinders U, are not effected. It  issued an  updated announcement the following day which added, “ASQA’s regulatory decision only applies to VET courses offered by Study Group Australia. Higher education courses … offered by Study Group Australia under its various trading names are separately regulated by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) and are not affected by ASQA’s decision.” TEQSA’s reports on SG are