People do not live by smashed avo alone

Economists  Fabrizio Carmignani and Ross Guest (Griffith U) are to teach the MOOC of the morning, “Will the next generation be worse off?,” (via FutureLearn). “Look at both sides of the debate and decide for yourself,” they suggest. The course includes, “What might lie ahead: an unequal society incapable of innovation,” “why the market will not save us and the need for government intervention,” and “a new approach to promote growth and support socioeconomic transformation.”

The rise and rise of university research spending

As universities warn they could not cope with any cut in public funding policy paladin Frank Larkins reveals their rapid growth in discretionary expenditure on research. In a new paper for the L H Martin Institute, Professor Emeritus Larkins reports “to maintain a desired level of activity and the quality of the research output it seems that universities have been prepared to commit an ever increasing proportion of their discretionary operating expenditure to support research.”

Professor Larkins calculates that while total operating expenditure rose by 39 per cent between 2008 and 2014, total research expenditure increased by 48 per cent. The growth in discretionary research spending, without external research income and funding from block grants, was 66.9 per cent.

Want to know why Australia does well on global research rankings? One reason might be universities throw money at researchers.

Professor Larkins does demonstrate that total research spending came back 2 per cent between 2012 and 2014, to 39.2 per cent but given rising incomes, outlays in the period still increased $535m.

“Universities have collectively have determined that there are strategic benefits in according a higher priority to growth in research expenditure compared with the growth in resources directed towards other activities, principally teaching and learning activities,” he writes.

Melbourne makes the case for piloting Cadmus academic honesty software

The University of Melbourne is piloting the Cadmus Assessment System, software which tracks typing and detects work not typed by the person logged in, which makes it “a protected authoring environment for student assignments.”

But people are not happy, with the university’s student union circulation a petition opposing the pilot as intrusive. However, DVC Academic Richard James makes the case that something must be done to protect academic standards, “Australian universities lack a robust means of detecting contract cheating.  This is a threat to the integrity of university assessment that cannot be ignored.”

But while, Cadmus “shows promise in identifying authentic, original work,” Professor James says “there are presently no plans for its implementation across the university. The university has an ongoing working group on academic integrity, comprising staff and students, to continue to monitor all aspects of academic integrity and to try to reduce the small minority of students who cheat.”

More community less politics

The University of Wollongong celebrated student’s excelling in sport, engaging with the community and achieving in campus life on Friday, just as it announced a restructure of student representation. The new model leaves existing UG and PG organisations intact but makes them part of a new overarching student advisory council. Elected officers of student societies are barred from SAC membership to, “help provide a diverse student voice that balances political and other forms of student representation.”

Revealed: education’s top marketers

Curtin University’s marketers have won the marketing team of the year award from the Australian Institute of Marketing. Box Hill Institute won the education award and RMIT the customer experience marketing award.

In a separate industry-judged award, from publishers IDG, Deakin U’s Trisca Scott-Branagan is rated 5th top chief marketing officer in the country, Tyron Hayes from Curtin U follows at tenth. Sarah Graham from Swinburne U makes the 25-50 group. Natalie Robinson, from Victorian TAFE provider Melbourne Polytechnic is listed as a marketer worth watching.

NSW Premiers science and engineering awards

The NSW Premier’s awards in science and engineering are announced.

Scientist of the Year: Gordon Wallace, University of Wollongong

Biological Sciences: Edward Holmes, University of Sydney

Medical Biological Sciences: Sally Dunwoodie, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute

Engineering and ICT: Sarah Johnson, University of Newcastle

Energy Innovation: Brett Hallam, UNSW

Early Career Researcher: Susan Hua, University of Newcastle

Innovation: Maria Kavallaris, UNSW Sydney

Innovation in NSW Public Sector Science and Engineering: Wayne O’Connor, NSW Department of Primary Industries

Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education: Brett Mckay

It’s a big year for professors Wallace and Holmes. Professor Wallace was made an AO for his polymer research in the Australia Day honours. Professor Holmes became a foreign member of the Royal Society in May and in June was appointed an ARC Laureate Fellow (with $3.4m for his research.) Mr McKay is having an excellent October. Last week he won the Prime Minister’s science prize for secondary teaching.

Lawyer of the year

Cathy Sherry from UNSW is the academic of the year in trade journal Lawyers Weekly 2017 Women in Law awards. Marija Yelavich from Western Sydney U is student of the year.

Few people know what TAFE does and many who do aren’t interested

Young people who are keen on careers in VET-based occupations do not know that TAFE is where they can acquire needed skills, a new survey of student awareness of the training system finds.

According to Jennifer Gore and seven colleagues from the University of Newcastle and Kathryn Holmes from Western Sydney U, “many students, parents/carers and teachers perceived TAFE as only for the less academically capable students.

“Some students, in particular, believed that their occupational futures would be more constrained without a university education, in terms of both options and future success,” they write in new research  published by the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research.

The authors’ survey demonstrates that TAFE has less an image than an awareness problem, that potential students and families have no idea of what the public training system does and many see it “as a lower-status destination, one designed for students who are unsuited to university study.”

“If current and projected skill shortages are to be addressed, there is a pressing need for TAFE to consider how it might attract a more diverse sample of school students.”

Forlorn hope of the day

Rod Camm from the Australian Council for Private Education and Training says the argument over public university funding is academic for his higher education members – what with the way they don’t get any and the state slugs their students for accessing loans.

Private universities and higher education colleges provide real alternatives and choices for students seeking to access higher education. Many focus on specialised programs with courses targeting the particular needs of their students and industry. … Equitable and fair access to higher education should be provided for all students, regardless of their choice of provider and their circumstances.”

Fair enough, but university lobbies and government are a bit busy fighting each other just now to let another combatant into the ring.