Plus measuring new teacher impact and RUN holds the line on regional access

Employment programme

New Zealand research suggests that public sector expectation is expanding demand for university courses. “As the largest employer of graduates, the government has been contributing to national ‘qualification creep’, where a degree is seen as a requirement for more and more jobs. Chris Whelan, The role universities can play in supporting the state sector (August 2015)

Deregulated done

ANU VC in waiting Brian Schmidt explains his preferred student community; “I will strongly advocate for a federal system of funding which allows excellence, and at the same time provides equitable access to university, and provides value to the student. I do not know what the post-deregulated environment is going to look like – I do know now that <5 per cent of ANU students come from low socio-economic households – and we need to make sure that future students better represent our nation – we are the national university. This means making it possible for people to pay cost of living from all walks of life, and selecting students on things more than ATAR.”

Good-oh, but how about the reference to “what the post-deregulated environment is going to look like.” At the moment it looks like it will never happen, apparently Professor Schmidt knows more than the rest of us.

The week that wasn’t

Training Minister Simon Birmingham supports National Skills Week here, which is the sort of thing ministers do – but as far CMM can tell nothing has actually happened since Monday that celebrates skills.

Everybody should get a go

The Regional Universities Network recognised the message critics will take from Edwards and McMillan’s research for the Australian Council for Educational Research on attrition rates (CMM, yesterday). Yesterday RUN chair Peter Lee pointed out that students from disadvantaged backgrounds do not drop out at rates especially higher than the average and those that do have specific reasons, such as low incomes and family responsibilities. And he was quick to address the threat to his members, that opponents of demand driven funding will use the figures to argue too many people unsuited to study enrol in the first place. “We should not deny capable regional Australians the opportunity to study at university. The demand-driven student system has given many a chance, and most will successfully complete university study. … More university educated professionals are vital to diversifying regional Australian economies.” Defensive? Perhaps just a bit.


Class action

That new teacher education graduates must demonstrate they are classroom competent is now a given. The question is how to measure the impact of what they learn at university on the classrooms they intend to enter, which is the purpose of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership’s new position paper. “Better quality assurance of teacher education programs is essential to ensure every program is preparing classroom ready teachers with the skills they need to make a positive impact on school student learning,” AITSL argues. The paper sets out options for assessing programmes on how graduates meet the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers and evidence of graduate outcomes. This must drive education academics nuts but at least it ensures universities can admit whom they like to their programmes rather than work to state mandated undergraduate entry requirements.

Obscure impact

THE has established a new innovation ranking which demonstrate the strong industry links of institutions that rarely rate in the big basic research and citation league tables. That it also gives THE another marketing platform and uses data in its own collections, and accessed from partner Elsevier, is completely irrelevant.

The four ratings for STEM disciplines, are; resources an institution accesses from industry, collaboration with industry, patent citations and the percentage of income received via industry support. All interesting indeed; especially for governments, wondering how to encourage industry to kick the research tin (morning Mr Macfarlane). But even with THE’s prodigious powers of promotion don’t expect the academic Anglosphere elite to promote the four measures with the gusto they use to embrace the ARWU, the usual suspects do not rate on any of the four measures. Harvard? Entirely absent. MIT? It isn’t mentioned. Stanford, utterly unknown and Oxford isn’t a starter. And as for the University of Melbourne, isn’t that a town in Florida? The best known US institutions on all the lists are Duke U and the University of Minnesota (11 and 12 of 15 on resources from industry). Instead the industry impact winners come from all over Asia and Europe. And the only Australian entrant among the top 60 is the QIMR Berghofer MRI, seven out of 15 for patent citations.

Until there is an agreed Australian impact metric I wonder what THE would want to run the local numbers for Mr Macfarlane?

Chips not cashed

If 2015 being the UN International Year of Soils is big news in agricultural faculties they are keeping it to themselves. Here it is the end of August and no one has announced anything. Then again ag science is always understated. CMM remembers the International Year of the Potato in 2008 when there was no push to create a federally funded centre for spud studies.


Less live lectures

Last month ANU DVC Marnie Hughes-Warrington upset academics in Bourbon Studies with an essay on the likely end of the lecture as we know it, as indicated by student behaviour at her university. (July CMM). “We desperately want live lectures to work. We’ve done them for so long now that they seem a part of who we are. And we are tantalised by the mirage of thinking that if only everyone turned up, they would be a far more efficient way of teaching than the seminar or the tutorial,” she wrote. Upset academics replied that the live lecture has enduring value and must not be easily dismissed. It seems students agree, just in different ways, with feedback to the Education Standards and Quality Committee showing “an enthusiasm for review of lectures and an eagerness for familiarity with the content, the enabling of differently paced learning depending on need, that recordings allow multiple accesses to each lecture both at the time of revision for examinations and in the week that the lecture is recorded to clarify information and re-engage, and the facilitation of better clash management both with other courses and occupational requirements.” The committee recommends taping lectures should be compulsory.

The more they stay the same

“Reform is to be despaired of unless the community realises that competition, whether in production or exchange, becomes more and more a conflict waged by the trained skill of communities. If this be so, the best weapons are the trained faculties of the people.” Royal Commission on Technical Education, Second Progress Report, (Melbourne 1899).

criterion update