Heads up

Anybody who fears being hit by Blackboard’s “laser-focus” can relax (CMM, yesterday). A learned reader advises a laser is an unfocused beam – “focal point is infinity”.

New academic structure at Western Sydney U

Western Sydney U has a new academic structure. The new set-up follows major administration change which took years to design and implement. “Management must have loved Lego as kids,” a learned reader remarks.

The university’s Board of Trustees has signed off a new-model, which dispenses with faculties and organises academics in seven schools, grouped in what Vice Chancellor Barney Glover tells staff are, “strategically and externally focused clusters of schools.” They are: * Health and Medicine. * HASS, and * STEM.

Three school  are going; science and health, social sciences and psychology, as well as computing, engineering and maths. The new model is; * health sciences, * science, * social sciences, * psychology, * built environment, architecture and industrial design, * computing, maths, stats and data science, and *engineering.

However Professor Glover adds titles are still “indicative.”

The new model will be good deal easier to implement following the admin reorganisation announced in 2017 ( CMM August 28). This centralised services, with school-based administrators handling teaching and research support.

Chorus of complaint

Flinders U students will protest the new academic structure tomorrow and have asked to address Council. It adds a chorus to NTEU official Annie Buchecker’s claim that the introduction of resulting academic workloads is “opaque and shambolic.”  (CMM yesterday).

CQU flying into Cairns

The great CQU tradition of sticking it to local rival James Cook U continues. JCU once had a higher education monopoly in Cairns, until recently retired CQU VC Scott Bowman expanded in the city (CMM June 22 2018). It seems successor Nick Klomp is keen to continue, with news of another Cairns initiative. Labor’s election giveaway of the day is a promise in government of $10m for CQU’s Cairn’s aviation hub, to include tertiary-education in pilot training.

Not that JCU in Cairns is being ignored in the election. Under its every-vice-chancellor-wins-a-prize Labor has promised the university $60m for its med school to expand at the city’s hospital. The government matches the money for its own JCU plan at the hospital (CMM January 22)

Offer she might refuse

Union leader Alison Barnes is looking forward to meeting Celia Hammond, very recent ex VC of University of Notre Dame Australia and now Liberal candidate for Julie Bishop’s seat of Curtin. “If elected we hope you add to the voices in Parliament for students and the sector. Look forward to you becoming a Defender of Tertiary Education & signing our pledge when we meet!,” the federal National Tertiary Education President says. Which may not happen if Professor Hammond sees Dr Barnes first.

On-line plus for pedagogy and productivity

On-line courses can be successfully completed in half the time, especially if student participation is organised right.

Panos Vlachopoulos, Shazia Khan (both Macquarie U) and Lori Locyker (UTS) examined student performance and outcomes in an on-line course when offered over 13 and six weeks. They found no difference in academic performance between the long and short durations, but they did identify a positive relationship between student participation and academic performance in the intensive mode when students, rather than tutors drive the discussion.

This is good news for academics interested in ways to maximise student benefits in compressed courses, without compromising on content and quality – and their deans.

Saini likes assistant professor scheme, but he’s listening

Deep Saini has come over all Fraser Crane (“go ahead, I’m listening”). Back in January the University of Canberra VC announced an internal review of the assistant professor scheme which is designed to turbo-charge research performance.

Academics in the scheme have up to seven years to build a research record that qualifies them for continuing employment. However it is not popular with senior academics, (CMM October 19), the campus branch of the NTEU (CMM January 14) or people in it – one has lodged a workplace health safety notification (CMM February 1).

In January Professor Saini said he saw “no compelling reason” to abandon the associate prof scheme, but “many of you have pointed out significant areas for improvement and have made valuable suggestions on how to achieve this.” Now he is taking advice on what the review needs to address, including last week from the union.

Outsmarting AI with UNE

“Is a robot coming for my job?UNE hopes you will ask. If you do, the university has just the thing to scare yourself into enrolling, a forecast developed by data analytics advisors Alphabeta. It presents a bunch of variables for 3000 jobs in a customised report it emails to anybody asks – including an unsurprising message, “it’s time to consider upskilling. See how UNE can help you stay competitive.”

CMM has no idea what this cost the university, but it has be cheaper than the sort of major metros TV campaign University of New England needs but probably can’t afford to reach the distance re-skilling market.

Group of Eight calls for a third-way in education and training

The Group of Eight wants the higher education Provider Category Standards to continue to defend the quality of the existing system by ensuring “university” applies to institutions, “that have attained sufficiently high standards of quality.”

“This is appropriate in the Australian context as the title represents the benchmark of quality which the broader regulatory and quality assurance architecture is designed to facilitate and protect,” the Eight asserts in its submission to the Coaldrake Review of HE Provider Category Standards (CMM December 10 2018 and  CMM March 11).

And quality inevitably requires research. “It is critical in the context of what it means to be a university to research, and to research training in particular, that universities undertake research in a range of fields and that research training is delivered in a large, comprehensive, and supportive university environment.”

However the Go8 also argues the provider standards need to be assessed in the broader context of the Australian Qualification Framework, now being reviewed by Peter Noonan (CMM February 19).  “Australia is past a point where we can no longer afford to consider elements of post-secondary education in isolation form one another.”

The Eight accordingly suggest the PCS could create a class of institution that cover both VET and higher education, warning “regulatory architecture, ” including the CPS, “have contributed barriers and disincentives for institutions to engage in that section of the marketplace.”

“These types of providers will be an essential component in the post secondary education system that will develop the technical skills base of the future in a disrupted economic environment.”

Appointments, achievements

Michelle Trudgett joins Western Sydney U as PVC, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education, Strategy and Consultation. She moves from UTS.

La Trobe U announces the 2019 Tracey Banivanua Mar Fellows, awarded to “future research leaders who have major care-giving responsibilities”. They are; Kerryn Pike from the School of Psychology and Public Health and Amanda Cooklin from the School of Nursing and Midwifery.