Future work

La Trobe U suggests the skills needed if aliens arrive, biomedical science, linguistics – and party planning

It’s part of a droll student recruitment campaign (skills needed in a superbug pandemic –biomedical science, acute care nursing and handwashing – CMM assumes LT U has already assured the National Party the last skill is a joke). “Explore your clever future” makes a jovial change from universities that pitch their programmes as standing between us and dystopia. It’s version of the less amusing campaign for La Trobe launched 2017 (CMM June 9).

There’s more in the Mail

In a world-first for tertiary education, the University of Newcastle is adopting a personalised approach to learning design, known as “Big Picture Education.”  Erica James explains.

Tiago Barros from Publons reports on the state of peer reviewing, including growing demand for, but declining supply of, reviewers and the push for publishing reviews.

Private providers peer reviewing

30 members of Independent Higher Education of Australia are benchmarking performance

It’s a new run of a project in place since 2015, used to reference best-practice for the Higher Education Standards Framework. This year’s projects are on staff development, student wellbeing and safety, assessment moderation and academic integrity. Sara Booth from on-line external review and referencing provider Peer Review Portal, has carriage. The project is set to complete in January.

Swinburne U announces research conduct investigation

Journal publisher Sage announces it has retracted 22 articles with numerous authors published in the International Journal of Damage Mechanics and Journal of Composite Materials

Sage states the articles, “contain significant overlap with previously published articles by at least one of the authors.”

Swinburne University issued a statement yesterday; “an investigation involving a Swinburne researcher is ongoing in line with university policies and procedures for responsible conduct of research. We cannot offer further comment on these allegations until that investigation has concluded and outcomes determined. Swinburne is committed to upholding research integrity and takes allegations of self-plagiarism seriously.”

Griffith U plans for student support

Griffith U’s strategic plan is expected next month – it will be big on student experience

The plan is said to include:

* increased participation/completion by students who come from community groups that are under-represented in the community

* coordinating academic and support services to reduce student attrition

* investing in digital teaching and learning

* student workplace engagement

One objective demonstrates Griffith U’s transformative education agenda, Griffith credentials that extend beyond formal qualifications. The university already offers digital-badges, via Credly, which demonstrate employment-focused skills, and in April announced expanding the range to work-integrated learning and professional development

Top-down change to remove student equity blocks

Assisting disadvantaged students to succeed in existing university cultures is not an answer to exclusion. Changing their systems is. “Equity is everyone’s business”

“Rather than asking how students can acquire missing skills needed to leverage success within an institution,” the task should be for institutions to address what they can do, “to make themselves more or less inclusive and navigable for all students (and even, staff and the wider community)” , Ryan Naylor and Nathan Mifsud (La Trobe U) argue in a new report from the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education.

They suggest six “pressure points” in institutions where “structural inequalities” can be addressed.

* staff: “how staff interact with students, particularly through teaching, may have a substantial effect on the creation of structural barriers for some students. Internal inequalities may arise in classroom teaching through unconscious bias from teachers, or privileging particular styles of discourse in the curriculum. A simple, but potentially prevalent problem, is assumed knowledge.”

* students: “are also active co-creators in classroom cultures, and may therefore contribute to internal inequalities and exclusionary discourses”

* curriculum: “policies associated with curriculum design and administration, such as assessment policies, may also contribute to internal inequalities by increasing or reducing flexibility for non-traditional students, students with family responsibilities, or students with disabilities”

* administration: “alienating language; bureaucratism; inflexibility; poor coordination between services; or poor data collection, warehousing and analysis which fails to identify students in need of support or assumes that membership of a formal equity group necessitates support”

* campus life: while students are spending less time on campus, “developing a sense of belonging to a learning community remains important in retention

* physical environment: potential inequalities extend beyond “mobility issues” and include, commutes, campus feel and sense of community and availability of “fundamental services”, for example WiFi

Naylor and Mifsud also warn that while, “barriers that arise from the organisational and cultural makeup of an institution are most amenable to change led from within the sector,” it can require top-down direction.

Leadership may be able to drive change in these areas—should there be a desire to do so—without constraints from contextual factors such as type of institution, size, research intensiveness, or location. That is, institutions can enact structurally enabling changes to their cultures regardless of whether such an outlook is ‘part of their DNA’ or a relatively recent understanding. This is a positive finding for making higher education in Australia more accommodating of a diverse range of students.”

The best with what TAFE’s got

Despite a cumbersome system, Vic TAFE generally helps rather than hinders people to start study

The state’s Auditor-General looked at procedures at five big colleges and found three still use manual enrolments, two do not monitor customer experiences and one does not take feedback from prospective students.

Overall however, “a significant proportion of prospective students find it easy to enrol at the five audited TAFEs.”

A system-wide approach will assist improving processes, “rather than TAFEs duplicating effort using their own limited resources.”


Appointments, achievements

Lauren Kelly joins federally funded industry programme MTP as director of its biomedical translation bridge.

Paulo de Souza is the new head of Griffith U’s school of ICT, moving from CSIRO. He replaces Bela Stantic who returns to research and teaching after seven years as head of school.