Glover goes on

Barney Glover has another five year term as VC of Western Sydney University.  He joined WSU in January 2014. He set out his agenda for education, as then president of Universities Australia, the following year;

“It is the responsibility of Australia’s universities to ensure that we ask the right questions; map new paths; share the knowledge we have; nurture inquiring minds; and, in-turn build critical thinking. These characteristics are at the heart of our serving the public interest. This is what we do. This is what we have always done. Notwithstanding the recognised private benefit that might accrue to individual students, universities have a public purpose,” (CMM October 7 2015).

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning, ATSE president and global tech guru Hugh Bradlow gives us a guided tour of the future

You can run but you can’t hide from activity guidelines

If you are just back from a run this morning and feeling good about it, don’t.  Deakin researchers  report that plenty of people they define as joggers (28kms a week), and runners (67kms) do not meet the World Health Organisation activity guidelines.

Deakin researchers, Timo Rantalainen, Matthew Quittner, Nicola Ridgers and Daniel Belavy, with Finnish colleague Arto Pesola, timed groups of runners, joggers and sedentary citizens to find 32 per cent of joggers and 4 per cent of runners fail to get the recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate and better physical activity in ten minute bursts. A run, it seems, is not enough, if you them sit on your bum for rest of the day. As for the sedentary souls, 35 per cent got what they needed through incidental activity.  Hermes and Atalanta are tough gods to serve.

Death taxes and merged Adelaide unis

Every few years somebody mentions that merging universities in Adelaide is worth considering, which gives everybody else the chance to rule it out. As Peter Rathjen, new VC of the University of Adelaide now knows. Local daily The Advertiser gave him a run, saying mergers were worth thinking about, on election eve – but the idea did not even make it off North Terrace before the other unis nixed it. 

Snooping on staff: just because unis claim they can doesn’t mean they will

A learned reader points out that it isn’t only at Victoria U where union officials might worry that their comms aren’t secure, that other universities claim an unqualified right to access and monitor emails on their networks (CMM Friday). But claiming and acting aren’t always the same. Back in 2016 Western Sydney U backed down fast when it was found to be monitoring the emails of some staff. ““I have instituted a formal review of these instances. In addition, I have directed that the university’s current policies and practices be reviewed to ensure they are clear and consistent with best practice,” VC Barney Glover said then adding “no staff emails will be checked without informing the staff members concerned.” ( CMM February 5 2016)

Expert advisor

When David Battersby ran Federation U nobody seemed much exercised by industrial relations – the 2015 enterprise agreement was certainly adopted quietly. This may be why Professor Battersby appeals to other VCs in need of deals. He is now a member of management’s enterprise bargaining team at Southern Cross U.

Government senators reject lifetime cap on student loans

Government senators are defying Education Minister Simon Birmingham by calling for amendment to the government’s study debt bill, which includes a lifetime university loan limit.

Liberals Lucy Gichuhi, Jim Molan and James Paterson say there should be a cap on outstanding HELP debts rather than a lifetime limit.

Committee chair Senator Gichuhi (Lib-SA) reports that:

“it may be appropriate to adopt the recommendation put forth by many submitters that loan limits should be capped such that students who have reached the cap but begin to repay their debt may again access Commonwealth assistance to the cap amount. The committee considers that this would enable the government to recover debt as HELP loans are repaid, but will not impede on the ability of students to pursue life-long learning.”

The government senators support all other aspects of the bill.

But the Opposition doesn’t. Senators Gavin Marshall (Lab-Vic), Deborah O’Neill (Lab-NSW) and Jacinta Collins (Lab-Vic) say a “flexible borrowing limit,” “would do nothing to discourage very high fee setting.”  And Green senator Sara Hanson Young rejects a “life-time” limit “outright.”

The committee’s findings were announced late Friday, as Senator Birmingham geared up to support his state colleagues in Saturday’s SA election.

A debate not all universities will want: do students get value for money

The Senate committee report on the government’s student loan legislation includes mention of expensive degrees universities would probably be happy not to see mentioned. Like this comparisons-are-odious example from the Labor senators’ report;

Labor is very concerned about reckless fee setting. This was the case in the VET FEE HELP market and evidence from the University of Melbourne demonstrates that fees in higher education can easily exceed the current FEE HELP borrowing limit.”

And there was a signal of what could be included in Tanya Plibersek’s proposed post-secondary review; “Labor is concerned about a system which encourages maximum fee setting. A price signal needs to be accompanied by further reforms in this area as part of a broader inquiry into the post-secondary education system.”

Peak student bodies agree. ““There’s no justification for courses to exceed the existing FEE-HELP cap.  Universities are seeking fat profits off postgraduate students who are saddled with student debt at levels never reached before,” the Council of Australian Postgraduate Research Associations and the National Union of Students say.

This isn’t good for universities, which can generally rely on students agreeing with them that everything wrong is due to government funding failures. If students start looking critically at what universities charge this alliance could end – especially if students start considering at what they pay and what they get, in terms of contact-hours, support services and employment outcomes and decide degrees are not always value for money.

UWA point man with business

UWA’s government and corporate comms director David Harrison is a well-connected man around Perth, even more so now that he is elected chair of the WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Economic Forum.

Open access, up to a point at Oxford

It’s green for go on open access at the University of Oxford where a new open access policy asks researchers to lodge the accepted version of journal articles and conference papers in the university archive. “To ensure the widest possible access to its world-class research. The value and utility of research outputs increases the more broadly they are available to be considered and used by others. A core component of this is open access,” the policy pronounces. And green OA, which does not include pay to publish fees is preferred.

But while this is a powerful shot across the bows of the commercial publishers who want readers and/or authors to pay it is not one below the waterline of prestigious journals that are only available to paying subscribers. UniOxford, “continues to support the academic freedom of its authors (academics, researchers, staff and students) to publish where they choose.”