But preparing for deregulation is standards stuff

Full marks for frankness

“The ability to solve complex, unstructured problems and to communicate effectively are essential attributes of business school graduates. However, recent studies report deficiencies in Australian graduate attributes in problem solving, judgement and communication,” writes Colette Southam from Bond University. Aspro Southam has $50,000 from the Office for Learning and Teaching to develop case studies and show academics how to use them in teaching business students.

Asian elite

The Asia edition of the Times Higher university rankings are out this morning. Japan has 20 institutions in the top 100, (down two), including the University of Tokyo at nunber one. China has three more in the first 100, up to 18. The Republic of Korea is third with 14. India has just ten. The ratings also cover the Middle East, with Israel and Iran having three universities each on the list.

Expensive market failure

Paul Kniest from the National Tertiary Education Union suggests the “market just doesn’t have the magic to deliver what the community or economy need,” (CMM yesterday). It will not be long, he argues, before Christopher Pyne’s “market experiment will need significant adjustment as student debt blows out of control or there will be need to significant changes to Commonwealth funding rates to stop ‘dodgy’ private providers exploiting public subsidies in highly popular and low cost courses. How long? Mr Kniest has modelled HELP debt in a deregulated environment and predicts it will overtake Commonwealth net debt in a decade and reach $279bn in 2024-25, when net debt will drop to $153bn. (Under the existing arrangement HELP debt that year will be $172bn).

Edith Cowan announces new VC

Steve Chapman, now vice chancellor of Heriot-Watt University outside Edinburgh will take over as Edith Cowan VC early next year. Professor Chapman has driven an aggressive export strategy at H-W. Some 36 per cent of its students in Scotland are internationals and it has a campus in Dubai with another to open in Malaysia in September. He is the second UK import announced this month with Ian Jacobs from the University of Manchester appointed to take over from Fred Hilmer at the University of New South Wales next year.

Dopey on the details

“Parents hazy on cannabis facts,” UNSW reported yesterday. Too much marijuana will do that.

Help for those in need

The antecedent of the Committee to Assist Refugee Academics was established in 1933 to help scholars out of Germany Now John Simons, dean or arts at Macquarie is organising a CARA scholarship to assist a Syrian academic escape. It’s early days yet but this is a cause worth supporting.

Those who can teach

The 2014 Office for Learning and Teaching Grants are out, and as often happens with such federal programs just about every (well half Australia’s) university wins a prize. This year 17 universities are lead institutions for 22 awards. The only multiple grant winners are Monash and the University of South Australia. An especially interesting award is to Robin Wright from Swinburne to work on content licensing with the University of Tasmania, “without clear information on open access licensing and its interaction with Australian copyright law, Australia’s higher educational sector will be unable to effectively use, develop or distribute open online education material such as open educational resources and Massive Open Online Courses or be globally competitive in this market,” she says.

Fellowships were also judiciously distributed with nine institutions picking up 13. The University of Western Sydney led with three fellowships followed by Flinders and the University of Queensland with two each. Geoff Scott is one of the UWS winners. He will work on ways to develop assessment tools are relevant across different disciplines. Professor Scott has a long interest in education change management and metrics. In 2008 he produced an Australian Learning and Teaching Council report on what academic leaders need to change an organisation.

Pyne pushes his point

Sharon Bird (Labor-NSW) had the first question in the Reps yesterday, marking National TAFE Day by asking the Prime Minister about apprentices losing a tools subsidy program. Good- oh, but once again (CMM yesterday) there was nothing about increasing course costs for university students from 2016. Interesting insight into Opposition priorities.

In contrast, Christopher Pyne used TAFE day to sell his reforms, explaining to NSW central coast MP Lucy Wicks (Liberal-Robertson) how deregulation and an expansion of sub degree programs will create opportunities for people from low SES backgrounds in her electorate. And if the neighbouring University of Newcastle does not want to provide the places Mr Pyne said he was sure the private sector would. (Gosh you don’t think the minister is irked by Uni Newcastle VC Caroline McMillen’s ambivalence over de-regulating fees, do you?). Other ministers are also selling to the higher education sector. Yesterday Assistant Employment Minister Luke Hartsuyker (Nationals-Cowper) hosted a Parliament House roundtable on de-regulation for the Regional Universities Network.

The standard definition of standards

You have to Friday week to make a submission to the Higher Education Standards Panel on the HE Standards Framework. The panel suggests that all is ok, with its work to date well received by a recent meeting of 200 governance experts. This is serious stuff, the intellectual engineering needed to keep the HE machinery running and wonks (the wonkiest) I asked yesterday say the proposed framework looks solid. As for those of us who struggle to understand it, Christine Ewan is on the case. The learned University of Wollongong professor is the HE Standards Panel research fellow charged with working out how to apply threshold standards in course accreditation and qualification. “The definition of standards is itself a fraught task, largely because the term has many potential meanings and the dialogue is therefore often hampered by ambiguity,” she says. Who would have thought it.

Export sandwiches are safe

Minister Pyne regularly warns Asia’s universities want to eat Australian education’s lunch but it seems the sangers are safe for the moment. According to Australian Education International, there were 390,600 international full-fee paying students here in April, 13 per cent up on last year. Signalling good years ahead commencements were up nearly 14 per cent in higher education and just under 20 per cent in vocational education. However the industry remains dependent on China, which provides 29 per cent of total enrolments.

Policy praised with loud damns

Funnily enough, Chris Pyne has not mentioned the National Tertiary Education Union’s support for his policy of extending Commonwealth Supported Places to sub degree programs, (he certainly has quoted everybody else who has said anything even slightly sympathetic to his plan). This might be because the union is appalled by the idea of private providers competing for CSPs. “Such courses are best delivered in public universities and TAFE institutions, which have the expertise and infrastructure to provide students with a quality and well-supported education”, newly re-elected NTEU President Jeannie Rea says. “The track record of private, including for-profit, providers is at best niche and patchy and at worse wrecks students’ opportunities to better themselves. Australia has an internationally envied, comprehensive, regulated tertiary education system. Dismantling this system through blind faith in market forces will leave students and employers the losers.” Everybody clear on that?