Slow down for Blinky Bill

Could there be, a learned reader asks, a more koala-friendly university than Griffith U?  

Griffith U announces “seasonal speed limits” on Nathan and Mount Gravatt campuses. From now to December it is 20kms from 7pm to 5am and 40kms during the day. The reason is koala mating season.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this week, Angela Carbone (Swinburne U) on closing the skills awareness gap – this week’s essay in commissioning editor Sally Kift’s series on what we need now in teaching and learning.

Good deal on course costs for financial planners

The Financial Planning Association of Australia tells members five education providers are discounting course fees for them

Providers are Deakin University, Kaplan Professional, Swinburne University, TAFE NSW and Uni Newcastle and the price cuts range from 10 per cent to 25 per cent.

Financial planners must meet new formal education standards specified by the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority, requirements first discussed when Luca “double entry” Pacioli was a pup.

So, with established advisors needing to upgrade qualifications why are the five discounting? Perhaps because there is a corps of competitors in the marketplace. As of last week, FASEA approved bachelor/higher degree/bridging courses at no less than 22 universities, one non-uni HE provider (Kaplan) and NSW TAFE.


Peace at last

With an enterprise agreement at Uni Sunshine Coast looking close (below), it’s the end of a bargaining era

For three and a half years Michael McNally, Queensland state secretary  of the National Tertiary Education Union, has been in the arena, assisting branch leaders at James Cook U, CQU, Uni Queensland, Griffith U and now USC with enterprise bargaining. Time for a drink you think?, Perhaps just the one, prep for the next round will start soon enough.


ATAR argument in teacher education to heat-up

The Grattan Institute proposes attracting essential academic talent (80 plus ATARs) to teaching with better pay and career paths.

Teaching is no longer a sought-after career among bright young students. Whichever way you look at it, few higher achievers are putting up their hands to teach,” Peter Goss, Julie Sonnemann, write, with Jonathan Nolan, in a comprehensive, debate-shaping  GI report.

What they propose: * $10 000 cash incentives per annum to “high-potential” students who take up teaching degrees, * “instructional specialist” roles for teachers, paying $40 000 more than base and * master-teachers working across their schools and earning $80 000 more than standard salary

Why: “High achievers makes better teachers”, they argue but warn achievement as measured by ATAR scores is ever-more absent among students in teacher education. The per centage of people under 20 with an 80 or above ATAR starting undergraduate degrees dropped around 35 per cent between 2006 and 2017. The score for science students over the same period was an increase around 40 per cent.

Which will cost: They propose $1.6bn over ten years to double the number of high-achievers becoming teachers, increasing the average ATAR of teaching graduates to 85.  They propose preventing pay-grade inflation by capping the number of instructional specialist and master teacher roles per school,

Yes, there’s a but: “Of course not every great teacher is academically strong. Some fantastic teachers were not studious themselves, and some very smart teachers struggle to inspire their students,” they acknowledge.

But a but they rebut: The best chance to improving the quality of the future teaching workforce is to encourage many more high achievers to apply.

What it means for teacher training: The authors do not focus on what their proposals would mean for teacher education – for which there is already reform via the results of Christopher Pyne’s Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group and the new authority over teacher education governments granted last year to the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership.

But the Grattan report is a slap in the chops for the teacher ed establishment, which is adamant in opposing an emphasis on the ATAR for entry to their courses.

Tania Aspland (Australian Catholic U), chair of the Australian Council of Deans of Education responds to the report by welcoming scholarships for students and “better pathways with two new categories of teachers with adequate pay.”  However, the deans describe the Grattan report as, “only one part of a larger puzzle.” Thus, they warn, “there is also vital need to also improve the attractiveness of the teaching profession to all cohorts to prevent a widening shortage of teachers.”

And they argue, “there are many non-ATAR pathways to becoming a teacher.” This is entirely true but it does not address a core Grattan point, that just about everybody who enters a teacher education faculty has an ATAR, and that “while data is scant, students who use a non-standard admissions pathway tend to have a lower prior academic achievement than those admitted via ATAR.”

The optics are on the ATAR:  Overall, this is a bad result for teacher education establishment arguments that a university entry-rank does not define an individual’s potential and that what matters is what people can do when they graduate not the academic indicator they started with.

And it means the deans are playing defence. As Professor Aspland has put it; “we, as the stakeholders, need to give the politicians something to run with if we don’t want them to run with the ATAR figure,” (CMM April 17).

Bracing for impact

At UNSW there are suggestions staff in admin functions might like to do “resilience training”

The university accesses “building resilience” via Lynda and suggests “if you can build your resilience, you’ll find it easier to face new challenges and earn a valuable skill to offer employers.” Can a round of retrenchments be far away?” CMM’s cassandra correspondent asks.  

Uni Newcastle academic admin set for restructure

After three years of thinking and discussion a new plan proposes splitting the existing academic division into two “domains,” learning and teaching and student experience-administration.

Uni Newcastle says, the proposal is based on aligning structures with function and process improvements, and giving staff, “opportunities to consolidate, refresh and actively work together to further improve the student experience.

Overall the university proposes to reduce staff from 225 to 211, with six of the positions abolished being senior executive level. However, there is what looks like some “spill and fill,” with five HEW Level Six positions deleted and five HEW Level Five created.

Sydney campus management takes a particular hit, with the university, deciding to “shift focus from short courses” to “professional graduate programmes, showcasing applied research and offering micro-credentials, and master classes related to the university’s postgraduate programmes and research.”

Submissions are due in a month, with consultations through October and recommendations to the VC at month end for a planned start date of January 1. The new structure is expected to be fully in-place by mid-year.

The library is next, with “its own re-imaging process” due before year-end.


Enterprise bargaining sunshine on the coast

Learned readers advise that union and management at the University of the Sunshine Coast are down to final drafting details for a new enterprise agreement and it took less than a year – (which may be a record)

A deal has been off and on for weeks with the last divide being how to move academic staff to teaching only roles. Management is said to have proposed allowing it to move people from teaching and research workloads to teaching-only after consultation. Word is this did not go down at all well with rank and file National Tertiary Education Union members at USC. “Everyone in higher education knows that consultation ends up being ‘we have an idea, what do you think?’, ‘okay but we’re going to do it anyway’, an observer of life at its-always sunny at Sippy Downs says.

After locals dug their heels in, new terms were reached with a working party representing management and a representative selection of researchers to come-up with a new definition of research-active. What they propose will go the VC, who can either adopt it, or stick with the existing measurement.

Uni Wollongong staff awards and other appointments, achievements

The comrades called and Andrew Dempster responded, joining Labor leader Anthony Albanese as head of policy. Mr Dempster last kept the light on the hill burning when on the staff of Gillard Government education minister “Silent Chris” Evans. Since them he has run comms and government relations for Swinburne U and advised universities on IR. He joins the Opposition from KPMG.

Karen Andrews is QUT science and engineering alumnus of the year. Ms Andrews is an engineer and is minister for industry, science and technology. Ticks all the boxes.

Bill Ashraf joins Australian Catholic U as a professor and associate dean, learning, teaching and governance in the arts and education faculty. He will be based at the North Sydney campus.  He moves from Macquarie U.

Leanne Kemp’s term as Queensland’s Chief Entrepreneur is extended to August 2020.

The University of Wollongong honours winners of the 2019 VC’s awards, including

* outstanding contribution to teaching and learning (individual): Anura De Zoysa (business)

* outstanding contribution to teaching and learning (team): Rodney Vickers (engineering and  information sciences), Emma Purdy (academic quality and standards), Jan Sullivan (academic quality and standards), Peter McLean (business), David Fulcher (learning, teaching and curriculum),  Robert Sim (student services), Christopher Torrens (information management and technology sciences),  Tracey Wilson (student services),  Alison Freeman (learning, teaching and curriculum), Joice Priya (global enterprises)Venessa Andari  (global enterprises)and Dominique Parrish, Simon Bedford, Marc Conboy

* researchers of the year: Zaiping Guo (engineering and information science). Sharon Robinson (science, medicine and health)

* emerging researcher: Briony Larance (social sciences),

* global strategy: Jie Sun (international engagement)

* outstanding professional services: Carlee Mottley (science, medicine, health), Sarah Smith (PVC students), Siobhan Christian (governance and legal), Catherine Lancaster (science, medicine and health), Nik Milosevski (law, humanities and arts) amd Nhan Nguyen (student services)