Seriously amusing

Fun fact! Media representation of migration as movements of highly skilled people strongly influenced EU migration policies,” from the whacky humourists at University of Sydney Media, via Twitter Friday.

Up and ATEM

Entries open for the alpha education admin awards

The Association for Tertiary Education Management opens entries today for its 9th annual best practice awards for professional staff.  CMM partners ATEM’s awards out of unabashed self-interest. Stories about people and programmes that improve the quality and efficiency of education really rate –they are also good to write.

You probably should start working on your acceptance speeches now, the September 30 awards night, as part of ATEM’s annual conference will roll around fast.  But not as soon as entries close, June 27.

Uni groups hint on how to vote

Peak bodies have not endorsed Labor, but they came close

Universities Australia and the Group of Eight have supported Labor leader Bill Shorten’s budget reply commitment to higher education (CMM Friday).

Labor has set out unequivocally that in government it would make science and research front and centre of its decision-making process,” CEO Vicki Thomson says.

“With a federal election due to be called within days the Group of Eight will be looking for sound policies underpinned by funding that supports the nation’s research effort …”

Which direction the Eight will look appears clear.

Universities Australia is also happy with Mr Shorten, saying Labor’s “recommitment to uncapped student places” is welcome.

““The ALP commitment is important for our future workforce and re-opens the doors of educational opportunity for all Australians,” CEO Catriona Jackson says.

Science and Technology Australia was happy–ish with Mr Shorten’s, “measures to support the future science- and technology-skilled workforce.” But in line with STA standard operating procedure, president Emma Johnston (UNSW) made a case for more, ““Labor’s commitment to support access to universities by removing caps on undergraduate places would enable universities to train more people in science – with their requirement for specialist equipment and technical staff, these degrees tend to be more costly to deliver.”

And she signalled where she expected more good news to come from;

“With a commitment from Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, to revive the Education Investment Fund, we hope to see a bold and detailed approach to science and technology policy once the election is called.”

It will be fun watching lobbies explain what they really meant if the government wins the election.

TEQSA to enforce new law against contract cheating

The government announces long awaited legislation

Education Minister Dan Tehan announced yesterday the government would legislate against exam taking and essay writing services, releasing a draft bill, for comment by end June.

The bill makes it illegal to complete work for a student in whole or part, provide answers for, or sit an examination on behalf of a student and/or advertise such services. Penalties include up to two years in prison and a $210 000 fine.

The Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency will enforce the intended law.

This confirms a December announcement that the government had accepted advice from the Higher Education Standards Panel, sought by then minister Christopher Pyne in June 2015.

The Group of Eight was quick to back the announcement, with CEO Vicki Thomson saying last night, “a strong legislative solution is warranted – and one that sends a strong message to those seeking to profit from students in this way.”

 Merit badges from Griffith U

The university is into value-adding for graduates with new ways to present their credentials

The university’s new credential programme is designed to demonstrate graduates have generic employment-focused skills, not visible on course records.

According to GU, “badges acknowledge current students’ remarkable academic achievements as well as extracurricular and cross-curricular activities, including work placement and volunteer experience.”

Graduates can attach Griffith-earned digital badges to social media pages and embed them in e-resumes and signatures, using partner provider Credly’s platform, with links to reasons for the award

The university says it is expanding badges for skills, work-integrated learning, professional development, learning achievements in generic areas of knowledge and what look to CMM like statements of character with badges for “mission” and “achievement.”

The university will extend the credentials programme to school teachers and health professionals who complete micro-credentials at Griffith U.

French review of campus free speech released

Education Minister Dan Tehan responds by saying not much

The education minister commissioned the review from Robert French last year among concerns that conservatives were being denied opportunities to speak at universities. However, Mr French finds, “claims of a freedom of speech crisis on Australian campus are not substantiated.”

Call for a voluntary code: The former chief justice of the High Court and present chancellor of the University of Western Australia recommends universities voluntarily adopted; “umbrella principles” “operationalised in a code applicable to cases in which freedom of speech or academic freedom may be an issue.’’

“As a non-statutory code it would be applied to guide the exercise of powers and discretions, formal and informal, when their breadth allows for its application. Essentially, its purpose is to effectively restrain the exercise of over-broad powers to the extent that they would otherwise be adversely applied to freedom of speech and academic freedom without proper justification.”

What’s in it: The proposed code includes;

* restricting staff and student freedom of speech on the basis of law, and, “the reasonable and proportionate regulation of conduct necessary to the discharge of the university’s teaching and research

* giving students the right to know the content of courses but not precluding staff from including material, “on the ground that it may offend or shock” students

* universities refusing permission to speakers whose content is likely to be unlawful, fall below scholarly standards, and “prejudice the fulfilment by the university of its duty to foster the wellbeing of staff and students

* visiting speakers paying for security

* not refusing visitors the right to speak or placing conditions on their visit, “solely on the basis of the content of the proposed speech

An underwhelmed response: Mr Tehan released the review Saturday, with what reads like underwhelming enthusiasm, although The Australian newspaper was well-informed to talk-up its contents.

The minister made clear in a brief statement he is not committed to Mr French’s proposal for amendments to the Higher Education Standards Act and the HE Standards, “to distinguish freedom of speech and academic freedom and to define academic freedom by reference to generally accepted elements.”

However, Mr Tehan said he is writing to higher education providers, “to urge them to carefully consider Mr French’s recommendations.”

In accepting Mr French’s call for a code, Mr Tehan described the review as, “an important contribution to the higher education sector’s reflection on and management of issues of free speech and academic freedom.”

In fact, what Mr French has delivered is a comprehensive guide to the vast and complex issue of what can and cannot be said on campus and how the rights of all staff, students and visitors are best respected and protected.

He and his team reviewed policies and practice in Australian and international universities, examined how the law has dealt with a mass of complex and contentious circumstances and comprehensively consulted institutions and interest groups to reach conclusions.

The French report will disappoint any who hoped it would give the government reason to direct universities on how they should manage their own affairs.

IT on-track at Uni Adelaide

The IT restructure at the University of Adelaide is on-track

In February Uni Adelaide IT chief Bev Whitfield told staff that a budget shortfall dictated a restructure to “reduce operating expenses”. This included job changes and losses, including an end to 25 fixed-term positions (CMM February 22).

In news that surprised as many as none, the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union kicked back, lodging a dispute, stating the plan breached change management provisions of the university’s enterprise agreement.

But all is well, with the union’s issues sorted in a Fair Work Commission conciliation conference. The new structure will begin to roll out at the beginning of May, a month behind the original schedule, which is way better than what a full-scale dispute could have led to.

Teacher status inquiry beaten by the bell

It’s class dismissed for House of Reps committees when an election is called, so the MPs inquiring into the status of teachers got some ideas out early

The House of Representatives education committee inquiring into the status of teachers still had a way to go on Thursday, when it appears chair Andrew Laming (Lib, Qld) decided it was time to report on work in progress, lest all disappear into the election abyss. A summary of the issues addressed in submissions and hearings appeared on the committee webpage.

Issues important to initial teacher education include:

* ATAR “reliability as an indication of who will be a good teacher”

* “The necessity for prerequisites such as mathematics and English for initial teacher training. Some considered this to be essential while others argued that it makes little difference to teacher quality.”

* mandatory education courses in university teaching degrees. “There are no electives. Many felt that this was risk averse and compliance driven.”

* reducing graduate teaching degrees from two to one year. “It was suggested that the second year should integrate placement, study and a salary.”

Appointments, achievements

Christina Turner is the new HR director at the University of the Sunshine Coast. She replaces Mark Nugent, who has retired.

ANU’s David Lindenmayer is elected a fellow of the Ecological Society of America. In other awards to ANU-ites (ANU-ers?) emeritus professors Tom Griffith (History) and Libby Robin (Environment and Society) are jointly awarded the American Society for Environmental History’s distinguished career award.

Kent Anderson (ex ANU and UWA, now in advisory roles) is renewed as a member of the Australian National Library’s council.

The Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute is expanding its board with five appointments; Anne Baly from consultants PhillipsKPA. Sue Barrell, ex Bureau of Meteorology. Robyn Owens, DVC UWA.  Joe Forbes co-founder of commercial maths and analytics company, Biarri. Andrew Peele, director, Australian Synchrotron.