Plus ERA expert committees announced – and the great eight dominate 

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Backing himself

Greg Craven on whether his own Australian Catholic University will meet tougher teacher education accreditation standards, Friday, “suicide is never an attractive option. … So I’m pretty confident of my own university.”

Agreed by acclamation 

The Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group chaired by Professor Craven had rave reviews on Friday, with various lobbies supporting its recommendations to lift teacher education standards by compelling faculties of education to improve their performance (Campus Morning Mail, February 13). Demonstrating how bad the report is for its members, even the Australian Council of Deans of Education made positive noises. The ACDE generally responds to criticism by going to ground and waiting for journalists to stop asking questions. Not this time, the council was remarkably well prepared on Friday with statements setting out how TEMAG was in-line with what teacher educators had always thought and videos of deans explaining what a good job their colleagues are doing. It was a professionally packaged response and by agreeing rather than arguing the deans ducked the obvious issue – it is the teacher education industry that at best does not address, at worse created, the problems of sub-standard graduates.

But the deans are nowhere near out of strife. As Education Minister Christopher Pyne said, when asked about the full-scale re-registration process for all education faculties that will now occur, those that do not pass will close.

Craven’s coup de main

Greg Craven and his colleagues have taken teacher education off the agenda in a report that is so astutely argued and carefully written that the usual suspects are silent. The unions are not arguing all teachers are equally excellent and there is nothing wrong that smaller classes and higher pay will not fix. The culture warriors are silent on standards because TEMAG tackles the fundamentals of training. And the states, so far, are quiet. NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, the most articulate advocate of state based standards, will struggle to find anything to argue with, other than university entry scores – and Professor Craven and his colleagues make a strong case that ATARs are not everything. No wonder Minister Pyne is pleased and agrees with most of the group’s recommendations – he now has one major reform to roll out.

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Great eight 

The Australian Research Council has announced the research evaluation committees for Excellence in Research for Australia 2015, with members “drawn from nominations submitted from the sector.” As with every aspect of ERA critics can complain the RECs are dominated by Group of Eight academics.

Academics from the University of Queensland and University of Melbourne chair two each of the eight discipline group committees. Professors from UNSW and ANU each lead one committee. A Deakin and Swinburne staffer chair the other two groups.

The 149 committee positions split among the major lobby groups as follows;

Group of Eight: 63

Australian Technology Network: 14

Innovative Research Universities: 12

Unaligned institutions with strong research profiles (Wollongong, Macquarie, Newcastle, Swinburne and Deakin) account for another 21 positions.

The rest of the system shares 35 or so committee memberships (the balance are allocated to off-shore academics).

The leading institutions are Melbourne (10) and the University of Western Australia (nine).

Does this give any institution particular power? Not a chance. Apart from the fact that academics’ allegiances are not lobby-aligned the Go8 does not have the numbers on any REC but it does it demonstrate the scholars academics admire congregate in the Eight.

Too much information

Macquarie University research “reveals more about the mysterious world of cuttlefish sex.” There is also a video, making it all less of a mystery for everybody whose Valentines Day sentiments extend to cuttlefish.

ANU tap into

No good numbers

The National Centre for Vocational Education Research reports December quarter apprentice and trainee starts are off the bottom – which is only ok-ish. While the stats are on the stairs they are still in the cellar. Yes the 52 000 commencement are way-up on 47 000 in the previous quarter, but that was the lowest figure since the series started in 2004 and the new number is not much over half the March 2012 start. Perhaps the missing 50 000 or enrolling at university, I hope so. The prospect of so many young people in unskilled work bodes very badly for another statistical series, which is showing growth – unemployment. Last week’s ABS figures showed 20.3 per cent of 15-19 year old in the workforce are unemployed.

Cover price pain

Noticed what the dollar is trading at? Your librarian will have because as the dollar drops journals published by the big for-profit companies get ever more expensive and that is on top of cover price annual increases around 5 per cent. Here’s a prediction: the open access debate will heat up this year as libraries start to cut subscriptions.

Never let a chance go by

The National Tertiary Education Union released a statement condemning Christopher Pyne at 3.45pm on Saturday afternoon. The union was upset that on Friday NSW police pepper-sprayed protestors trying to storm a Sydney venue where the minister was speaking and it was all the minister’s fault for having such an unpopular policy as deregulation. Quite. Still, you can’t fault the union for never missing an opportunity to make its case.