plus the sound of money: ANU backs music school

and Michelle Simmons wins woman of science award

RMIT has one a winner

RMIT got in on the AFL act yesterday, congratulating its creative writing student and Western Bulldogs player Tom Liberatore.  Good but hardly a match for Victoria U which sponsors the team. There is no truth to the rumour that The Age reported Mr Liberatore studies physics at Caltech (CMM yesterday).


Government moves to end VET FEE HELP fiasco

The federal government will re-regulate vocational education and training via a new scheme to replace the VET FEE HELP financial fiasco.

According to Education Minister Simon Birmingham, the new scheme, announced this morning, will reduce outstanding student debt by $7bn by the end of the decade.

“(It) will return integrity to the vocational education sector and deliver a win-win for students and taxpayers through a range of protections,” Senator Birmingham said.

The new VET Student Loans Programme, establishes: “tougher barriers” for training providers to enrol students with federal loans, “properly considered” caps on course costs, course eligibility criteria “that align with industry needs” mandatory “student engagement measures” a ban on brokers recruiting students and “a stronger focus” on course completions.

While TAFE and other public providers will automatically qualify to issue loans all private ones will need approval based on “their relationships with industry, their student completion rates, the employment outcomes of their courses and their track record as education institutions.” Providers that do not meet performance standards may also have payments withheld and participation in the loan scheme cancelled.

Fees will also be effectively set by Canberra, with course loans of $5, $10 and $15 thousand, set according to delivery costs.

The measures are necessary, the minister says, because “the waste and rorting and damage to vocational education simply cannot continue.” VET FEE HELP debt grew from $325m in 2012 to $2.9bn last year, with the number of student borrowers rising by a factor of four.

Senator Birmingham is right, the policy outcome of VET FEE HELP was a shambles, the political consequences a disaster which no government could sanction.

But which agency will monitor and enforce the legislation? Apparently it is the Australian Skills Quality Authority. Yes ASQA which regulated provider content under VET FEE HELP – and didn’t that go well.


Clarivating claim

Private equity investors Baring Asia and Onex have completed their purchase of Thomson ReutersIP businesses, (think Web of Science and Derwent World Patents Index.) The new company is called Clarivate Analytics, “a name that speaks to accelerating the pace of innovation with the trusted insights and analytics it provides to customers.” If they say so; as Humpty Dumpty famously put it; “when I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean.”

Simmons honoured

Michelle Simmons is the L’oreal-UNESCO Asia-Pacific woman in science for 2016. The award comes with a 100 000 Euro prize. The UNSW scientist is honoured for her “ pioneering contributions to quantum and atomic electronics, constructing atomic transistors en route to quantum computers.” Professor Simmons leads the 180 researcher, six university ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology. If quantum computing turns out to be practical, the team could create a single computer with more processing power than all existing now.

The sound of money

The Podger Review of the ANU Music School is out and Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt has responded with a commitment of $12.5m over five years to set the school up for sustainable success. It’s a result that could have occurred four years back when then VC, Ian ‘the gent’ Young moved to make the school sustainable, however he looked to cuts rather than cash to do it. Given the range of cultural and structural problems Professor Podger identified in his six month inquiry money may not be a sovereign remedy but then again Professor Young’s experience demonstrates anything that upsets the city’s vocal music community isn’t going to work. But will Canberra puts its money where the music is? Professor Podger says the university will need $800 000 a year in community funding for his plan to work, which emphasises performance rather than music theory. The ACT Government was in-tune early if modestly yesterday – with Chief Minister Andrew Barr promising $1m over four years, assuming his government is returned at Saturday week’s election.


CAUDIT leader

Michael Kirby-Lewis is the new director of the Council of Australian University Directors of IT’s Leadership Institute. He takes over from Liz Gosling. Mr Kirby-Lewis was CIO at the University of New South Wales from 2007 until May this year.

Outstanding APP

La Trobe’s Josephine Barbaro in partnership with company Sales Force, has created an app to help identify autism (CMM February 15) which is already a hit, downloaded 10 000 time and used in 4000 assessments. Last month it won the Australian Information Association’s R&D Project of the Year (CMM September 5) and now it is shortlisted for Google’s Australia Impact Challenge. The people’s choice will win $750 000 and judges will select three more winners. You can vote here.

VC on the money

University of Waikato VC Neil Quigley is the new chair of the New Zealand Reserve Bank Board, which oversees the RB’s governor.

Fagan honoured

Seamus Fagan from the University of Newcastle has a lifetime achievement award from, English Australia, the peak international education body for teaching the language. In a 37-year career Associate Professor Fagan, has led two university English language centres and served on the EA board for 17 years, six as chair. Over that time the sector grew from 20 000 to 160 000 students.


Going north

Peter Heilbuth is leaving TAFE NSW to become PVC VET at CQU.

PC push for extra accountability

The Productivity Commission  wants government to measure and report return on investment in education and training for students. And it thinks students should be allowed to “mix and match” courses from different providers. Plus all providers should be eligible for self-accreditation. But harrumph not, it’s the New Zealand Productivity Commission.