Plus innovative unis call the concierge and time for exits at ASQA

Snap crackle and porridge

Researchers at the University of Florence have evidence that Stone Age people made porridge. Presumably when they were out of Rice Bubbles.

ANU Sept 15

Group of Eight underestimated

Back in July the University of Melbourne’s Melbourne Institute reported data from the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey demonstrated that Group of Eight graduates earn less than those from the Australian Technology Network, (CMM July 16.) This delighted the Eight’s enemies and their urgers in the media. But it puzzled wonks’ wonk Andrew Norton, who said that this was not what he found when he last crunched the numbers. And it infuriated Go8 CEO Vicki Thomson, who said the Institute’s explanation of the HILDA stats was flat wrong.

She was right. The Institute’s Roger Wilkins now advises that coding errors caused errors in the report. Here’s what he says;

“contrary to the findings presented in the report, the models show that graduates of Go8 universities do not earn significantly less than graduates of ATN universities, holding other factors constant. Further, female graduates of IRU universities, male graduates of RUN universities, and male and female graduates of ‘other’ Australian universities are now found to earn significantly less than Go8 graduates.”

So that’s that. Correction made and no harm done. Don’t bet on it. In an immensely competitive market errors like this reduce brand value. This mistake merits more correcting than a statement buried on the MI website.

No more pussyfooting

Flinders U is changing the name of its online student information service from Ask Trim to (and CMM wonders how much market research this took) Ask Flinders. (The former was the latter’s cat on his exploration of the Australian coast.) Quite right too who knows what damage whimsy will do with prospective students.

ANU Sep 15 1

Time for exits at ASQA

Another day, another set of allegations of a for-profit training broker exploiting people. Training Minister Simon Birmingham stuck to his standard script yesterday, pointing to increased penalties and saying the provider involved will lose access to publicly funded places if the allegations are correct and that he has asked the Australian Skills Quality Authority to investigate suspending or revoking the provider’s licence. Senator Birmingham added that stopping cases like this was why he had increased ASQA’s resources. There is no denying the strength of Senator Birmingham’s response, but there is one more thing he could do to demonstrate his commitment to cleaning up training. Sack ASQA executives.

Despite more money for increased regulation ASQA seems resigned to scandals continuing. Earlier this week TAFE Directors Australia quoted ASQA CEO Chris Robinson as telling its conference,” I think VET is very confusing for the consumer because there aren’t sufficient product parameters that are well understood by the market, and that’s the big failing. No amount of regulation or funding is actually going to fix that,” (CMM September 15).

Given the serial scandals besetting the sector this is not good enough. If Minister Birmingham wants to really demonstrate his determination to clean up for-profit training he should ask ASQA to demonstrate what it is doing to identify and act against spivs. If the agency does not do so to his satisfaction heads there should roll.

Too late to make the date

How kind of the Australian Academy of the Humanities to advise CMM of Christopher Pyne’s launch of its publication, The Power of the Humanities, 30 minutes after the event started last night.

QILT covers performance

Two days on the market and the government’s Quality Indicators in Learning and Teaching website is already impacting on the way universities present and students assess institutions. Andy Bridges was out early yesterday reproducing the psychology student experience in QILT for his CQU, compared to James Cook and QUT. Griffith followed; announcing it, “tops QILT ratings on education experience, teaching, student support and skills development.”

Last night Western Sydney U DVC (Academic) Denise Kirkpatrick was talking up its performance against the competition across the Sydney basin and the university’s broader competitive set. And where it does not do so well, “I will be speaking with deans about how schools respond to these data and we will be discussing the results at the next meeting of the university executive committee.”

Sam Danby from the Foundation of Young Australians explains why

QILT might feel like just another government website, but it’s actually a pretty useful tool. Until now, if you asked a university if a course they offered is any good they would most likely just tell you ‘It’s great! Trust me, I work here so I would know’ and that was that. But now we can respond with ‘if your course is so great why do only 48.4 per cent of graduates report being satisfied with the quality of the educational experience?!’ That’ll show ’em.” Precisely.

Even if Christopher Pyne’s deregulation package is never delivered, by creating QILT he will have created the information base for a competitive market based on what universities actually do where none existed. This is no small achievement.

From the Institute for Confirming Known Knowns

Scientists in Colorado have discovered that drinking coffee at night can keep you awake. Who knew! Next they will be telling us that too much grog makes you drunk.

Curtins for Navitas in Sydney

Curtin U is bailing out of Sydney, deciding to close its 800 student Sydney campus, run by Navitas, in 2017. La Trobe Sydney, another Navitas JV and UTS will offer places to Curtin‘s Sydney students who have not completed. According to Curtin VC Deborah Terry, Sydney is in “financial surplus” but the university had decided it “did not fully align with its current focus or vision.”

Navitas says it’s fine with the decision, which will allow it to focus on its Sydney partnership with La Trobe and that negotiations to renew its arrangement with Curtin in Singapore “are progressing positively.”

That was quick

A bare month back Edith Cowan U announced it was in the market for 20 new research professors ( CMM, August 12) and yesterday it announced the first of them, Pere Masque, an expert in environmental radioactivity. Professor Masque joins ECU from the  Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona but he also has an adjunct appointment much closer to home at UWA. Even with the local connection a month is fast going – ECU VC Steve Chapman does not muck around.

Innovators ex Aus

Thomson Reuters has mined its IP and science databases to  compile – what a surprise! – a ranking of the world’s top 100 innovative universities, with no Australian institutions making the cut. The result is as predictable as a prime minister being sacked, with US universities innovating like billy-o. Stanford is number one, followed by MIT, Harvard, Uni Washington and Uni Michigan. The only top ten institution that isn’t American is the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, which is tenth.

All up, just under 110 institutions are on the list (there are multiple listings for some spots). The US leads the field with 55, followed by France with 11, Japan with nine, Korea with eight, Germany with six and the UK with five.

The ranking is based on articles per institution in the TR Web of Science database, cross referenced against institutions filing 70 plus patents in the Derwent indexes. This makes innovation experts wary. Tony Peacock from the Cooperative Research Centre Association questions the reliance on patents. “You have to include some licensing dollars in here as well to get a better measure,” he says. However Dr Peacock adds that what distinguishes this from other rankings is the presence of 19 Asian universities. Per capita the strongest performer is Switzerland, with two institutions – this is no surprise, given the Swiss lead the major economy innovation indexes.

Dr Peacock suggests that what drives success is an institution’s business culture, pointing to similar strategies at the University of Tokyo (24th) and Wake Forrest (78th). Both have set aside the traditional university “commercialisation unit” and instead “are much more proactively seeking out interesting research in their universities and taking it out and actively selling it to industry – but also bringing back into the research units what industry wants.”

Wake Forrest also has a sales team, doing just that, selling IP out of the university and a “concierge” who finds people industry needs among academic staff. Talk about applied research! However CMM will buy a bottle of scotch for the first Australian VC who successfully renames a research office PVC, the “concierge”.

UWA sessionals seek support

Staff at the University of Western Australia aren’t all enthusiastic about the Education Futures plan, which they fear emphasises digital teaching at the expense of support for people keen to improve face-to-face performance (CMM August 24). Sessional staff, who do most of the teaching, are especially upset and are circulating an open letter intended for DVC Education Alec Cameron.

“We have been dismayed to see professional development opportunities disappear over the past year with no explanation or reference to new programmes being launched in the future. Sessional staff have not been made aware of proposed changes and how their positions might alter with this new model of education at the university. In effect, the university has not consulted or engaged with stakeholders directly affected with this proposed change. … “We value the opportunity to pass on our knowledge to students. However, in order to maintain and improve the teaching standards at the university, and help maintain its academic reputation, continued pedagogical support is considered essential.”

Go west young man

Western Sydney University has poached Simon Barrie from the University of (all) Sydney, where he is director of teaching and learning.

criterion update