Central planning on the way back

Preparing graduates for jobs the big uni challenge

Not him

Rudd announces crackdown on overseas students and new work visas,” headline from the (UK) Guardian’s, Facebook feed yesterday. Relax, Kevin’s not back – it’s UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd.



By the book

What a coincidence! Within hours of Education Minister Simon Birmingham announcing the re-regulation of private-sector training the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency released its regulatory record for 2015-16. The contrast between the student loan shambles and crook courses in VET and the disciplined higher education sector is stark. TESQA states it registered six new providers and renewed registration of 27 existing ones, accredited 135 new courses and authorised four providers to self-accredit.

Data on demand

A learned reader suggests that Academic Torrents hardly has the open research data space to itself (CMM Tuesday), pointing to  Datadryad,  Figshare, theEuropean Union Open Data Portal and local hero Research Data Australia.


La Trobe goes for growth

La Trobe University is expanding into outer southeast Melbourne, in a move that looks intended to grow market share at the expense of Federation U’s Berwick (ex Monash) campus and Monash Peninsula – which is set for significant expansion (CMM September 27.)

In a partnership announced yesterday Chisholm Institute will offer La Trobe degrees in accounting, IT, foundation nursing, early learning and community services at its Dandenong, Berwick and Frankston campuses. Other courses, including engineering and business will follow, with Chisholm committing $70m to expanding at Frankston, where Monash Peninsula is based. A La Trobe MBA via Chisholm is also planned.

Chisholm will employ staff teaching the La Trobe courses but they will have to be approved by the university. La Trobe will also provide support for teaching staff to meet TEQSA threshold standards. The university has used this model for an accounting degree offered at Dandenong since 2012.

With infrastructure supplied and teaching-only staff this initiative should deliver La Trobe low-cost growth.

All that jazz

Professor Paul Grabowsky (Monash Academy of Performing Arts) and Vince Jones (cool cat) have won this year’s ARIA for best jazz album.  In August Grabowsky won the Art Music Awards jazz category for a collaboration with the Young Wagilak Group. CMM remembers when the professor was merely Count Paul Grabowsky.


Empty market

Advocates of government control in education and training are delighted with Education Minister Simon Birmingham’s plan to re-regulate training private providers (CMM yesterday).

“The whole VET experience has no doubt rocked Senator Birmingham’s faith in the market, especially as it became increasingly obvious that the actions of some private providers were not hindered by any sense of ethical or moral behaviour toward their students, but driven by opportunism and greed,” National Tertiary Education Union president Jeannie Rea said yesterday.

As gloating goes this was far milder than the NTEU, which argued against VET FEE HELP from the start, could have expressed.

But VET is not the main game for the union, as Ms Rea made clear. “We hope that the minister has learnt from this faith-shattering experience and will abandon his plans to open the demand driven system in higher education to for-profit private providers.”

He probably will, the VET FEE HELP disaster has utterly discredited a market approach to training, despite the cause being badly designed legislation and regulatory failure. It would be bravery of the highest Sir Humphrey kind to even suggest deregulating undergraduate fees before the next election.

The question is not whether there will be less regulation but how much more there will be. The push for an independent agency over-sighting post school education funding (CMM September 26) will increase following yesterday’s announcement.


Premier poet

Curtin University lecturer Lucy Duggan has won the WA Premier’s prize for poetry. Alumna Brooke Davis, won the emerging writers award for a novel written as part of her Curtin U PhD.

Collateral Damage

The Australian Council for Private Education and Training has offered about the only strong criticism of the Birmingham reforms. CEO Rod Camm made the entirely reasonable point that the mass of members who are entirely legitimate are being penalised for the villainy of a few, which was missed by government regulators. And he pointed to the fatal flaw in the plan, government approving the courses that students can borrow for. “We’ve seen in the past that governments are not good at ‘picking winners’ in terms of eligible courses,” Mr Camm said.

Good points, which will be ignored – the VET FEE HELP catastrophe has made public sector training the safe choice.

Sainsbury at fishing authority

University of Tasmania fisheries management researcher Keith Sainsbury will serve a further three-year term as a commissioner of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority. Assistant Agriculture Minister Anne Rushton announced his reappointment yesterday.


Fewer but better grad opportunities

The growth of graduates has not led to higher unemployment or lower incomes for people with degrees but their position in the labour market is starting to change and not for the better, Tom Karmel and David Carroll suggest in an important  new paper.

A very important paper – Australia has drunk the campus kool-aid, accepting that degrees deliver better jobs. The community will not take it well if the expansion of higher education appears not to deliver.

Which might occur – “graduate jobs are moving down the occupational distribution,” the authors suggest. And graduates are disengaging from both academy and employment, the number neither working nor studying full-time doubled between 2008 and 2016, to 26 per cent for males and 29 per cent for females.

There is a mass of data in the paper supporting carefully calibrated suggestions about the causes and extent of declining full-time employment across types of campus and disciplines, which universities should consider very seriously. If anybody understands the overall economic impact of education and training it is Tom Karmel, the long-time head of the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education and Training, now a professor at Flinders U’s National Institute of Labour Studies.

He and Mr Carroll present an alarming finding for higher education as a whole; “(it) will become a riskier investment; the rewards are still there for those who can find a full-time job after graduation, but the numbers of such jobs (relative to graduate supply) are declining. Surely, at some stage this will impact on the perceived return from undertaking higher education and there will be a decline in the demand for higher education, at least in certain fields of study or at certain types of institutions.”

However Karmel and Carroll also offer a solution for universities. It appears that those graduates who do get full time jobs get better ones; “a possible reason for this is that employers recruiting graduates have not expanded their recruitment to absorb the increasing number of graduates, but, if anything, have become more selective in recruiting – that is, only recruiting to the better quality jobs where they can be more productive.”

The challenge for universities is to offer undergraduates the internships and employment prep courses that will make them more career competitive.

UoQ gets the message

The University of Queensland has got the message (above) that graduates will want more than a degree as the employment market tightens. In July VC Peter Hoj promised programmes to “enhance workplace integration and employability” (CMM July 20) and has now released three 60 minute on-line packages on “innovation, entrepreneurship and advocacy. “Students need to understand these key concepts – how to take their ideas forward and leverage influence and partnerships to bridge the gap between great concepts and reality,” Professor Hoj says.