Good while it lasts

Yesterday ANU (recruitment) and VU (teaching) announced new student-centric schemes – great examples of universities breaking the old mould of public universities doing everything the same. It’s a result that flows from demand driven funding, with universities looking to meet the wants and needs of different sorts of students. But opponents of competition can relax. With the federal government planning to allocate growth places according to yet to be announced metrics the market universities will have to meet in the future will be officials administering the allocation process. Goodbye Adam Smith, hello Leonid Brezhnev.

There’s more in the Mail

In his regular column ATSE president and tech guru Hugh Bradlow conducts a guided tour of the future.

Government adopts Halsey RRR review while RUN goes the full Oliver

The federal government has adopted all the recommendations in the Halsey Review of regional, rural and remote education (CMM April 16).

Most of Professor Halsey’s recommendations focus on access to school education but two deal with the post-compulsory years, supporting RRR students in the transition from school to training and higher education and expanding dual VET/higher education programmes and two-year associate degrees.

The Regional Universities Network was quick to back the government yesterday, saying, “the government has acknowledged that a place-based approach is needed for regional education, and that a one-size-fits-all policy does not work.”

RUN chair Greg Hill (Uni Sunshine Coast VC) added, “establishing a national focus for regional education, training and research to enhance access, outcomes and opportunities in the regions was the first step.”

However, Professor Hill also went the full Oliver and asked for more, suggesting the now abolished policy of demand driven funding of undergraduate places should exist for his members. “The flexibility of a demand driven student system for both bachelor and sub-bachelor places is needed to grow opportunities for regional students and communities.”

Bargaining breakthrough at UoQ

Terms for an enterprise agreement are set to be adopted at the University of Queensland. Yesterday union leaders told members that a four-hour meeting with management, “made excellent progress … we believe that we have reached an in-principle agreement on all outstanding matters.” With an agreement on pay reached weeks back a big outstanding issue was management’s push to widen the span of university open-hours in which support staff could work a standard shift.

On Tuesday Provost Aidan Byrne told (CMM May 29) the university community that management was prepared to put its offer to staff, with, or without union support. It seems the UoQ workforce will now get to vote on a unity-ticket proposal.

QUT appointments

New QUT VC Margaret Sheil continues to adjust the university’s management structure. Earlier in the month she tweaked titles of some of her most senior subordinates (CMM May 7) and now she is creating three new executive positions. Helen Klaebe will be the inaugural PVC for graduate research and development. Professor Klaebe is now dean, research and training. QUT will also recruit a PVC for indigenous strategy, who will report direct to Professor Sheil, and a PVC for digital learning.

Another maths win for Geordie Williamson

UniSydney mathematicians Geordie Williamson and Anthony Henderson will be co-directors of a new maths research institute, funded by a $5m donation. The centre will provide long-term research residencies for “leading mathematicians from all over the world.” The money comes from the Simon Marais Foundation, which also supports an undergraduate Asia-Pacific maths competition. Dr Marais was a theoretical physicist turned asset fund manager who died in 2015.

Professor Williamson has had a monster May, being named a fellow of both the Royal Society and the Australian Academy of Science.

Birmingham backs ANU

Education Minister Simon Birmingham backs the ANU’s new student recruitment model (below). “ANU is leading the way in maintaining high academic standards, including by making maths and English prerequisites for admissions. … I call upon all Australian universities to reintroduce clear pre-requisites as part of their admissions processes,” he says.

 Senator Birmingham also likes the new emphasis on community engagement. “It’s these kinds of well-rounded students that go on to succeed after graduation.”


ANU’s new entry scheme: who it welcomes and how it works

The new ANU entry scheme is up for discussion at a campus forum tomorrow, and questions are coming. ANU economist Rabee Tourky tweeted one last night; “given that a large number of our female students come from three to six schools in Canberra, will we be reversing the gender balance in commencing student cohort by effectively capping the number of Canberra based students admitted in 2020?”

He will not have to wait long to find out. The process is set for a March-start, with offers in August for the 2020 academic year.

From 2020 ANU will admit applicants first from three priority groups, subject to their meeting academic and co-curricular/community service thresholds;

Priority students: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, final round applicants for the Tuckwell Scholarship (for elite school leavers), ANU extension (ACT schools programme), refugees, students from low SES schools and students who have suffered “long-term physical or psychological hardship.”

National group: the top 2 per cent of students at all schools across the country

High achievers: based on ATAR

Any remaining places will go to UAC applicants.

The new service measure is based on employment, creative activities, sport and fitness, academic extension (e.g. debating, education competitions) and community service. Applicants are not ranked but must meet a threshold.

Shock result: law academic backs management

A union survey of academic staff welfare in the QUT law school has heard from an apostate. The comments section includes considerable complaints; low morale, high workloads, out of touch management, a “toxic culture.” But one respondent does not think things are too bad. “There are many variables that impact on the quality of my wellbeing with respect to my job, including other colleagues, students and university-level management and decisions. I think it is important that all of that is properly taken into account and that any conclusions about causation (i.e. attributing staff wellbeing directly to the law school management) are made carefully. For the most part I think that the law school management is doing a good job.”   Who would have thought!

Parly committee calls for teacher education regulation (but not on entry scores)

Every now and again there is an outbreak of outrage over teacher training but deans of education just keep quiet until it goes away. It will be interesting to see what they do with a new proposal which isn’t the regular demand for minimum academic subject standards for entry into education courses. Instead a House of Reps committee wants to “reconstitute” the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership to regulate teacher education. And it wants higher education providers to demonstrate, “evidence-based pedagogical approaches, effective integration of professional experience, rigorous and iterative assessment of pre-service teachers.”
The recommendations from the Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training’s report on school to work transition are repeated from the 2014 Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group (2014).

In a better result for the deans ,the committee also argues higher entry requirements for teaching degrees will not necessarily lift standards, concluding; “this evidence suggests that, whatever the university entrance score, a teaching degree allows students to learn and grow into the role of a teacher. Suggestions such as ‘raising the university entrance score for teaching’ may not, without a change in remuneration and attitudes to teaching result in better teachers.

Outstanding! another option for advance warning of epilepsy attacks

Artificial intelligence could warn people with epilepsy of an imminent attack according to UniSydney researcher Nhan Duy Truong and colleagues. They used three epilepsy datasets to create a predictive algorithm that could be incorporated into a wearable device to give people subject to seizures up to 30 minutes warning of one. The AI’s predictive power could also improve as it acquired more data on individual users experience of the disease. Researchers at the University of Melbourne are thinking about a brain-implantable chip (CMM December 6 2017).