Plus Uni Melbourne backs academic free speech

Tracey Bretag takes on contract cheaters

And the winner is …

The University of Melbourne has run a competition to pick a name for the metro station to be built at Parkville. CMM liked Glyneville for the VC, learned reader David Groenewegen suggested Monash, after General Sir John, vice chancellor in the 1920s. But no, UniMelb, “after much deliberation,” went with another name – you’ll never guess, “University!” Genius.


Taking on the essay mills

Tracey Bretag from the University of South Australia is a world-leading researcher on academic integrity demonstrated by the anthology she has edited on different national experiences, (a snip at Eu 749 from Elsevier), CMM June 2 . And now she is leading a national project on how to defeat contract cheating, with what must be just about the last money allocated from the Office of Learning and Teaching.

Contract cheating” refers to outsourcing essays and assessments to corporate providers, which “presents an additionally challenging form of academic integrity breach activity to address given that it so difficult to detect. Institutional responses that have been established to address longstanding issues of plagiarism and poor academic preparation, such as stronger education and learning support, are not sufficient to address these forms of deliberate cheating.”

The project’s primary goal is “an assessment design framework that minimises the potential for students to use third party assistance in completing their assessments.” Partner institutions with the University of South Australia are UNSW, the University of Sydney, Griffith University and Swansea University in Wales.

Last night Associate Professor Bretag said she hopes to have preliminary findings in February.


App of the day

Charles Sturt U at Wagga is working on an app to assess when grapes are good to go. Growers take a pic of fruit on the vine and the app analyses the image and advises on what should happen next, whether it be more water or when to harvest. The app should help the university’s boutique wine making approach, it announced it was ending its 10 000 cases a year venture last March, (CMM March 18 2015).

UniMelbourne sticks to the old standard

It looks like UniMelbourne management has given up on the idea of subordinating the right of academics to speak out critically on issues of interest to the university. A clause in the proposed appropriate behaviour policy would have restricted academics to speaking only on issues covered by their scholarly expertise  (CMM August 1). But following staff protests the clause is gone. The university now reiterates the values of the university, including a commitment; “to preserve, defend and promote the traditional principles of academic freedom in the conduct of its affairs … so that all scholars at the university are free to engage in critical enquiry, scholarly endeavour and public discourse without fear or favour”. And quite right too.

Here there be innovators

The Office of the Chief Economist has released a data graphic, which shows where all the innovation is occurring around the country – in big city hipster suburbs! “Business creation and innovation is influenced by proximity to other innovative activity including that of research organisations. Geographic location is therefore a major influence on innovation and business creation, the OCE states. Who would have thought!


Good news for grads

The Australian Graduate Survey released last night shows an improvement in the three-year outlook for graduates finding full-time employment, up from 76 per cent in 2012 to 88 per cent in 2015. The median starting salary for graduates under 25 is also up, from $52,500 in 2014 to $54 000 now. However the lift in the percentage of bachelor graduates in the full time labour market finding a full time job within three months of graduation only improved marginally, from 68.1 per cent in 2014 to 68.8 per cent last year.

Even so, the survey is very good news for the higher education community, coming just days after the Grattan Institute’s figures on poor initial employment outcomes for STEM graduates. “At a time of great economic change one of the best investments people can make is a university education. … Universities are equipping their graduates with the skills they need for a range of careers and to adapt to ever-changing job markets. Universities Australia CEO Belinda Robinson said last night.

Who’s in demand

While everybody agrees STEM education is a GOOD THING the evidence is in that graduates in science based disciplines can take a while to get a leg up on the career ladder (CMM Monday). Of course it isn’t that simple, as science education academics scrambled to explain yesterday, graduate job prospects over time were good. And as the Chief Scientist suggested last week, being “job capable” not “job ready” is what science education should be about – as proved by Alfred Hitchcock ( CMM August 1) – the Chief Scientist has a statutory authority to create whacky metaphors .

Even so, the signals certainly conflict on the state of graduate supply and industry demand in occupations that are supposed to be the future. In its submission to the present Skilled Occupation List (designed to help choose immigrants) the Computer Society of Australia points to increasing shortages of workers with IT skills, which are being met only by migrants. “A reliance on foreign ICT skills may leave Australia vulnerable to these shortages if the supply of foreign ICT workers is unable to be sustained,” the society suggests. And yet as the Grattan Institute’s new survey of higher education points out, “weaknesses in IT university education” mean local graduates “do not easily find full-time work.” (CMM asked the council of IT deans what they think of this but they have not replied).

Engineers Australia also wants to keep greeting immigrant engineers, with local universities not graduating enough to meet local demand, although Professionals Australia warns the arrivals “face significantly higher levels of unemployment” than locals.


Miner arrives

Neville Plint is the incoming director of the University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals Institute. Dr Plint joins from Anglo American Mining, where he focused on new operational technologies. He takes over as the SMI adapts to the end of the mining boom.

Prudent path

The University of Canberra has a new pathway partner, Chinese provider Huashang Education Group’s Melbourne based Global Business College of Australia, which teaches business courses. “All trainers at GBCA, selected prudently possess concrete theoretical and practical knowledge,” which is good to know.

India ignored

It isn’t easy selling education and training in India, what with overlapping bureaucracies that make ASQA look like a deregulator. But the market there is so vast it is surely worth the effort. The Indians acknowledge they need to graduate 70 000 trainers a year (CMM October 23 2015) and Santana Choudhury now reports in the Wall Street Journal that India has won a bunch of big US defence construction contracts that it can’t complete for want of competent engineers and tradespeople. But, delegations signing MOUs aside (there is a South Australian group there now), Australian trainers do not seem to be interested in the market. There was talk of a big push into India when Simon Birmingham was VET minister but it is all quiet now, which is strange. After all, India is a level-playing field for all exporters with doing business difficult for everybody.

Now this is open access

People with a New York Public Library card can download an app giving them access to 300 000 books. It works for phones now, with Kindle to come. The product includes some scholarly resources including Project Muse and Sage’s social science catalogue.

So how long until universities start doing the same thing, sharing on-line resources and putting e-library services to tender?