There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning Susie Robinson slices and dices all the engagement and impact data you can imagine and then some.

Celebration math, come-on!

R&B (as Riemann and Babbage) star Chris Tisdell has a new song

It’s his lyrics  and vocals about integration in maths set to Kool and the Gang’s Celebration and it’s just one of the music-vids, e texts and on-line lectures the UNSW professor has created, with free access for anyone interested – like the 68 000 subscribers to his  YouTube channelTisdell’s version isn’t as upbeat as the original but, Kool, even with the Gang, probably doesn’t know as much about math.

Engagement and impact: analysis and reaction

The self-promotion started softly but got louder

Even universities who take credit for nice weather were subdued in first responses to the Australian Research Council’s release of the inaugural research Engagement and Impact review (CMM Friday). Perhaps it was due to not knowing quite what to make of the methodologies but having way less than 24 hours to get heads around a mass of detail did not help. Or maybe people listened to Kim Carr and think it will be a oncer.

Just before EI’s release the Labor research spokesman told a DVCRs meeting, he was not convinced.  “If I was minister I would never have allowed such a half-baked scheme to be implemented. And if it doesn’t measure up, it won’t happen again,” he said.

But as the national superlative supply (depleted by Excellence in Research for Australia earlier in the week) came back on line many institutions reported they were leaders in something. With low, medium and high scores for each of 24 broad fields of research there was plenty of good news to go around.

But the achieving in analysis award, for celebrating without spin goes to UNSW VC Ian Jacobs. His Friday afternoon message to staff clearly set out his university’s substantial achievement in ERA and Friday’s EI results, with a dignified fanfare from the corporate trumpet.



All over bar the voting

Kim Carr has commissioned a research review – useful for the next government

The Hubris Assessment Office in the Good Place might be reading a Kim Carr speech. On Thursday, the shadow minister for research (plus other things) told a DVCs R meeting about Labor’s root-and-branch research review. Senator Carr said chair Ian Chubbhas already begun work on the task” and is expected to finish in six months.  Perhaps not the sort of project a shadow minister who thought the election was in doubt would have commissioned.

Uni Canberra’s Saini delivers on promised assistant prof review

The review of Uni Canberra’s assistant professor scheme is set to start

Vice Chancellor Deep Saini has announced members and terms of reference for the review.  Uni Newcastle DVC Kevin Hall is chair, joined by, Marie Carroll (UniSydney). Workplace relations expert Graham Smith is an external consultant and Reena Ghildya, from Uni Canberra is internal consultant.

“We have used input from the assistant professors, staff and the National Tertiary Education Union to develop the scope of the review,” Professor Saini says.

ToR’s include, conditions of employment, frameworks for reviews and promotions, and “assessing if workload and performance-based remuneration encourages work/life balance.”

The scheme is unpopular with the campus union, professoriate (CMM October 19) and some assistant profs, one of whom lodged an occ heath grievance about it. ( CMM February 1)

The cream of the complaints is that staff in the scheme have seven years to generate the big bunch of research over seven years required to qualify for continuing employment.

In January Professor Saini said he saw “no compelling reason” to give it up but he was happy to hear how it could be improved.

Always on message

The NTEU never lets a chance go by

The union’s WA branch reminds us that Excellence in Research for Australia outcomes are due to the, “talent and dedication of Australian research and support staff, many of who do not enjoy secure jobs and the bulk of whom work many unpaid hours.”

For and agin the ATAR in teacher ed

Dan Tehan backs the teacher education orthodoxy on ATARs

Education Minister Dan Tehan repeated his opposition to higher ATARs for entry to teacher training courses at a deans of education seminar Friday. ““We will not enhance our teaching profession by putting higher and higher ATARs in place to limit the amount of teachers who can enter the teaching profession,” Mr Tehan said.

This is in-line with his predecessors, Christopher Pyne and Simon Birmingham, who argued that it was the skills and knowledge teacher ed students graduate with that matter, not their uni entry scores. Both acted to ensure, that teacher education graduates are certified classroom ready. And it is way-different to Labor education shadow minister Tanya Plibersek’s (albeit qualified) commitment to a top 30 per cent ATAR as minimum entry to initial teacher. education course (CMM January 14).  Her assistant shadow minister for schools Andrew Giles reiterated the message at the dean’s seminar. “A future Labor government will target entry to teaching degrees to the top 30 per cent of academic achievers. This is in line with top performing systems around the globe. … We want to work cooperatively with you in the university sector to get the balance on entry into ITE courses right. However, as Tanya Plibersek has made clear, ultimately she would have the ability to cap places in teaching degrees.”

A Liberal minister agrees with the education establishment and Labor’s deputy leader doesn’t. It’s enough to make a dean’s brain blow-up.

Government announces more money for STEM gender equity

Just very, very quietly

The government has announced $3.4m to fund gender equity initiatives in science, technology, engineering and maths. Some $1.8m will go to the Science in Australia Gender Equity programme which runs in universities and research institutions. This is on-top of $2m in federal funding for SAGE since 2016-17. There is also a separate $1.8m for a “national digital awareness raising initiative,” supported by women in STEM ambassador, Lisa Harvey-Smith.

Science Minister Karen Andrews announced the funding on Saturday, perhaps hoping it would not got lost in bigger Budget announcements. Unless it was because the Australian Academy of Science launches its decadal women in STEM plan Monday night.

Whatever the reason, the academy was grateful, stating Saturday the minister’s “bold vision … is commendable and achievable.”

The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering was also pleased; “a welcome acknowledgement that we need to build a gender-balanced workforce underpinned by an inclusive workplace culture that values diversity.”

Swinburne puts micro-courses on the menu

The university is going to keep its own professional education lunch

Swinburne U continues to expand in the alternative-ed space announcing five new micro-courses, starting this month. The units focus on AI, data analytics and industry 4.0 opportunities, cost $1250 and take four-six hours a week for six weeks. The course includes a final project, allowing participants to, “apply the skills and knowledge acquired to your own professional context – ensuring that you translate your learning to clear value for your organisation.”  The university makes no mention of credit towards future study but there is a course-completion certificate for doing the project.

The suite is another addition to the corpus of courses teaching competencies and skills in business and IT. And the long (MOOCs) and short (micro-units like these) of it is that people can assemble their own informal programmes, designed to suite their individual career requirements.

But informality may not be indefinite. It isn’t just Swinburne U that is putting micro-courses on the menu, lest outsiders eat universities professional education lunch.  A paper for the Noonan Review of the Australian Qualifications Framework recognises the possibility of including courses now in regulatory limbo, “opening up the option for organisations to seek recognition of shorter form credentials through the AQF would make them part of the existing quality assurance mechanism. This could give providers more confidence and capacity to grant credit for those credentials towards full qualifications.”

Which alarms orthodox opinion. The National Tertiary Education Union warns the Noonan Review of its; “concerns regarding the quality assurance and risk of small, low skill, stand-alone micro-credentials (that do not build to a complete award or qualification) being recognised by the AQF. Not only do we have concerns about the pedagogy of such qualifications, but how the creation of a new sub-set of qualifications fits into and integrates with other formally recognised qualifications will need careful consideration by regulators.”

The union also worries about the impact on staff. “Micro-credentials will change the nature of work in a sector that already has high levels of casualisation and insecure employment. Stand-alone micro-credentials are highly likely to be more attractive if they have the lowest overheads, of which staffing is the highest cost.”

Disciplines putting their work out-there

While universities promote their engagement and impact achievements the ARC’s review also demonstrate the discipline cultures that work with the community

The Australian Research Council‘s new Engagement assessment rates universities and fields of research on a low, medium, high, scale for three measures;

Engagement, “interaction between researchers and research end-users outside of academia”.

Impact, “contribution the research made to the economy, society, environment or culture, beyond the contribution to academic research.”

Approach to impact, how universities facilitated community connections.

Discipline groups that really rate on them include:

History, with nine out of 19 universities participating rating high on engagement and ten on impact.

For law the comparable figures are 15 (from 26) on engagement and 18 on impact.

Engineers are also out-there. Some 16 faculties scored high on engagement (from 33 universities participating) and 20 on impact.

Appointments, achievements

Steve Chapman will continue as Edith Cowan VC to 2025. The university council has appointed him to a second term a year before his first expires. Professor Chapman joined ECU in 2015 from Heriot-Watt U, in Scotland.

Mark Grant is the new CEO of the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership. He joins from the NSW Department of Education. Last June state and federal ministers empowered AITSL to oversee initial teacher education standards.

Geoff Lee is the new NSW minister for skills and tertiary education. Premier Berejiklian announced his appointment yesterday. Dr Lee is a former TAFE teacher and Western Sydney U academic.

Diane Costello has stood down after 30 years as executive officer of the Council of Australian University Librarians. She is replaced by executive director, Rob O’Connor and content procurement manager Mark Sutherland.

Deakin U has won the best use of technology in a campaign at the Mumbrella marketing comms awards, for Mindracer. This was an open day attraction, “using brain-computer interface (BCI) technology that enables players to propel a slot car around a track.”The Melbourne Museum won best PR-led brand partnership for Windmills, “an immersive, educational experience in renewables. Universities Australia won campaign launch, for research changes lives (CMM December 14 liked it  here).