Enjoy it while it lasts

While universities were tucking into a big serve of ranking self-promotion yesterday Google was laying out how it will eat a bunch of their lunch (scroll down).

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Tim Winkler on outrage over early uni offers and why it misses the point

with All the cyber bells and IT whistles do not rate unless everybody in a university can use them, ADCET explains. It’s the new selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift, for her celebrated series Needed now in learning and teaching.

Angel Calderon explains THE ranking ups and downs

In Features this morning he analyses the what and why of the new Times Higher world university performance metrics, HERE

There was the usual puffery from the usual performers about scores that are not that much different from last year – anywhere in the global top 100 is pretty good.

And there was enthusiasm for apparent achievement, including Universities Australia explaining its 37 members contribution to Oceania (46 unis all up) having “the highest overall average score of all the regions.”

Calderon cuts through the self-congratulation to explain how THE works and why overall performance matters more than wins based on one or two measures.

And he reminds universities that what THE measures is not all that matters.

“none of these global rankings measure student experience, student satisfaction, and measures of student access and success. If measures like these would be considered, it is highly certain that the order of top-ranking institutions would differ to what we see currently in any of the major schemas (i.e., QS, Shanghai Rankings and THE),” he writes.

Who’s learning what

The Bureau of Stats reports the 2021 census found the four most common fields of study are business, teaching, nursing, building

The most blokey area of non-school study is building, where there are 566 000 men and 13 000 women. As for engineering and tech,  electrical has 400 000 men and 24 000 women, mech has 336 000 men and 11 000 women and general eng has 338 000 and nearly 40 000 women.

Women are way more numerous in teacher ed (644 000, men 191 000) and nursing 550 000 women, 56 000 men).


VET starts at decade high

Apprentice and trainee commencements in the March quarter were the highest since June 2012

The estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research reports they were also up 23 per cent on March Q ’21.

Although, there is a way to go to reach the 2012 peak – the 85 000 starts this year were still 40 000 down on Q2 ’12.

NCVER attributes this year’s lift to business activity improving, and the apprenticeship commencement wage subsidy then in place.

However cancellations and withdrawals were also well up on pre-pandemic levels (37 per cent for trades and 62 per cent (non trades), perhaps reflecting plentiful jobs.

Brendan O’Connor is on to it – scroll down

Library quiet

Uni Sydney advises “swipe-access only to library spaces” today and tomorrow, adding “thank you for your understanding”

But there’s no word on what there is to understand. That National Tertiary Education Union members are out might have something to do with it. The comrades are unhappy with progress in enterprise bargaining negotiations, which are not yet as long as those for the Peace of Westphalia. But give it time.

Starting VET is good, completing is way better

Skills Minister Brendan O’Connor warns, “one of the biggest issues for the sector is the poor completion rates for our apprentices and trainees”

Over ten years the completion rate for apprentices has fallen to 55.7 per cent, he told a business lunch in Melbourne yesterday.

“Low completion rates derail potential careers, they’re costly, and deprive the economy of much-needed skills. That is clearly not good enough,” he said, adding;

“we need to fix the leaks in the bucket before we turn the tap on harder.”

Mr O’Connor said the government “would explore options” with business, “ to drive up completion rates, and create more opportunities for training that delivers more secure, more rewarding jobs.”


Gender balance for elite med research grants

From next year the National Health and Medical Research Council will award an equal number of leadership level grants for its main Investigator programme, to men and women (including non-binary researchers)

“This, more than anything else, will ensure that the excellent contributions of Australia’s female researchers are enabled and recognised, as well as ensuring female leaders are active and visible role models for the next generation” the NHMRC states.

The announcement addresses a long-standing gender imbalance and follows years of calls for action. As the NHMRC acknowledged in August, “the gender disparities in funding outcomes in the Investigator Grant scheme reflect the systemic disadvantage faced by women in health and medical research, made visible by the attrition of female applicants at more senior levels of the scheme,” (CMM August 1).

The council started the process in February (CMM February 4) and went on to consult widely on options over the winter.

There was strong support for the announcement on social media yesterday, however the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes pointed out, “more work still needs to be done to address the issue of differences in career trajectories, including periods of part-time work.”

This has been a long-time coming, with council chair Anne Kelso acknowledging something needed to be done in  2019 (CMM September 6).

Google goes big in training and not a college or uni in sight

It has trained 600 000 Australians in digital skills since 2014 and plans to train way more

The company launched its Career Certificates programme in Australia yesterday, courses in “high-growth” technology areas, via Coursera. “Not only have there been changes in the skills Australians need, but the way we learn has changed too,” Google’s Mel Silva says.

She cites Australia Post, Woolworths, Canva, Optus and IAG, as recognising recognise the certificates and “interested”  in hiring completers.

Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic was at the launch, welcoming the programme as meeting a need;

“People are getting employed with no degree. No need for a degree. In the tech sector people are being called up. You’ve seen some firms develop, particularly Australian digital firms, develop their own apprenticeship programs because they couldn’t wait. The education system and largely government leadership was not there to reshape the way that skills were developed.”

There’s a bunch of endorsements from tech gentry for the programme but no word of HE or VET people at the launch. Perhaps they were busy or perhaps it did not occur to Google to invite any.

Appointments, achievement

Ngaire Elwood (Murdoch Children’s RI) is having a good couple of weeks, newly appointed director of the Cord Blood Association and now inducted to the Victorian Honour Roll of Women

Philip Mendes (Monash U) wins the Australian Journal of Political Science’s Mayer Prize for his paper, “Is Conditional Welfare an Effective Means for Reducing Alcohol and Drug Abuse?”

Brenton Prosser joins UNSW in Canberra as a professor of public policy. He moves from Uni Canberra.