Check-out the rest of the QILT top ten: image isn’t everything

plus Birmingham clears the “fog and double-speak” around admissions

and keeping research infrastructure ideas on the agenda

How students rate their university

Where’s hot: Bond University has the highest student rating for overall education experience in data released this morning by the government’s Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching website. Its followed in the nation’s top ten universities by theUniversity of Notre Dame Australia, University of the Sunshine Coast, Edith Cowan U,University of New England, Griffith University, Federation University, University of Wollongong, University of Divinity (in Melbourne) and Deakin University. Student satisfaction levels ranges fromDeakin at 83.3 per cent to Bond at 90.1 per cent.

Where’s not: At the other end of the spread Victoria University has the lowest level of overall students satisfied (74.8 per cent). The rest of the bottom ten, in ascending order of UG approval are La Trobe University, University of Western Australia, University of New South Wales, Central Queensland University, University of Sydney,Charles Sturt University, University of Tasmania, Western Sydney University and Southern Cross University(77.9 per cent).

Where’s warm: Clustered around the 80.2 per cent system-wide satisfaction figure are the University of Adelaide, ANU, Swinburne University, Monash University and James Cook University (above) and Curtin University, Macquarie University, University of South Australia, Murdoch University and UTS (below).

QILT also provides data for all universities on student satisfaction on a range of variables.

Why it matters: Former education minister Christopher Pyne announced QILT during his push for fee deregulation, presumably on the assumption that consumers need consistent and comprehensible product information to make informed decisions. But even in the absence of a market, QILT delivers an essential service, providing prospective students information on what present ones think.

A big win for Birmingham

The federal government has adopted all 14 recommendations of the Higher Education Standards Panel onundergraduate entry schemes and standards (CMM November 16).

“These reforms are about clearing away the fog and double-speak that has clouded higher education admissions. … It’s in the interest of Australia’s future workforce that prospective students and their families can easily navigate the higher education system and clearly understand an institution’s admissions requirements.” Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham said yesterday.

The minister also put state admission authorities on notice by calling for consideration of a “more consolidated national approach”.

Senator Birmingham said the HESP plan would be put in place by an implementation group, chaired by a “senior representative of the higher education sector” and including representatives of universities, other higher education providers, regulator TEQSA, state tertiary admission centres and students. And if any institution does not like it they can lump it, as the government makes clear. “The working group will identify the steps necessary to implement the Panel’s recommendations as quickly as possible, either through voluntary adoptionacross the sector, additional regulation, or requirements linked to funding agreements, where necessary.”

The HESP outcome is a big win for Minister Birmingham. It demonstrates he is on the side of students, which will go someway to undo the damage done by the $100k degree campaign against the Pyne deregulation plan. And it shows universities he is committed to student centred funding and wants to contain critics who say too many people unsuited to study enrol at university. Making it easier for students to pick appropriate courses is surely a solid way to reduce attrition.

Clark Infrastructure Review: too important to ignore

Whatever happened to?: The Clark research infrastructure review is out, published without announcement on theDET site. Oh come on, Philip Clark’s review, the one commissioned by the government in 2014 and sent to the minister, then some bloke called Christopher Pyne, in September, 2015, that one. So what took so long to release it? CMM hears that the report was in the mix for the draft research infrastructure roadmap released last week and that the former was delayed lest it be seen as a predictor of content in the latter. This makes sense given the Clark review recommends, “roadmaps should be the mechanism for determination of Australia’s future national research infrastructure needs.” Even so this is serious work by serious people, Mr Clark plus past and present chief scientists Ian Chubb and Alan Finkel, animal geneticist Oliver Mayo, biotechnologist Susan Pond and University of Wollongong VC Paul Wellings. Their report merited, and still does, consideration by the science community and government.

So what’s the big idea?: The foundation of the report is that the feds must step up. “Providing essential infrastructure for Australian researchers is primarily the responsibility of the government. There is no precedent anywhere in the world to suggest that industry, state and territory governments or not-for-profit agencies would accept sole responsibility if the government stepped away. Public investment is necessary to provide the ‘truly patient’ capital needed to create an environment for the inspired risk taking that is essential to technological discovery. Only governments have the capacity to invest this patient capital.”

How much?: The panel proposed creating a $6.6bn Australian National Infrastructure Fund, managed by anindependent board. The fund should have $3.7bn up front from the feds, plus up to 10 per cent of government research outlays, net of the R&D Tax concession, set aside in advance to fund long-term infrastructure investment, in the first instance for a decade. Why $3.7bn? – It’s the remains of the Education Investment Fund, now parked in the Future Fund. The Group of Eight had the same idea in September (CMM September 23).

And spent by who?: Mr Clark and colleagues also wanted an independent board for the ANIF, consisting of anindependent chair, three “science and research based members” three industry members, the chief scientistand secretary of the department of finance to work on a seven year planning and funding cycle. However it appears they were told (by whom?) that this wasn’t going to happen, “in the current legislative environment” and so the review proposed giving the job to an already legislated committee, perhaps from the ARC.

What happens now?: Time has passed and research directions set by the draft infrastructure roadmap but the governance and funding proposals set by Mr Clark and colleagues are surely still on the agenda. CMM hears thegovernment’s response to Clark will be rolled into its assessment of the draft national infrastructure roadmap, which was produced by a team chaired by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel.

Granted, things don’t look good for the investment fund idea – the roadmap report states that “the development of specific investment plans falls beyond the scope of the 2016 Roadmap. As for an independent board, the research community might have to settle for a “group”. The roadmap recommends, “a research infrastructure national advisory group to provide independent advice to government on future planning and investment for a whole of government response to national research infrastructure.”

But responses to the draft roadmap are still open. Perhaps the chief scientist wearing his Clark review hat could write to the chief scientist wearing his roadmap one.

CMM over and out

This is the last issue of Campus Morning Mail for the year, back on January 16. Thanks for reading.

Heads up: winners at work this week

Bruce Callaghan is the new chair of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training. He replaces Mel Koumides.

Charles Sturt U veteran Jennifer Munday is the new head of campus at Albury-WodongaDr Munday is nowassociate head of the School of Education.

In October Kerrie Mengersen from QUT received the CRC for Spatial Information’s research excellence award. Last week she was awarded the Statistical Society of Australia’s Pitman Medal. To cap it all on Friday QUT has designated her a distinguished professor

Mark Paterson is the new chief commissioner of the Australian Skills Quality Authority, replacing Chris RobinsonMr Paterson joined ASQA in May as commissioner for risk intelligence and regulatory support.

ANU DVC Marnie Hughes Warrington is appointed a principal fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy.

UNSW law professor Martin Krygier has won the $50 000 Dennis Leslie Mahoney prize for legal theory.