Nearly TEQSA time

It’s a North American festival, but what a chance to celebrate TEQSA!

Thanksgiving occurs during this year’s Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency conference, where delegates will have a great deal to enjoy – papers from experts in everything the agency regulates and the company of the people who keep the system running, ethically, efficiently.

Only (and don’t tell me you didn’t see this coming) a turkey would not want to be there.

Big smile on the science dial

The Australian Academy of Science has cracked two million Facebook likes

That’s twice what it had this time last year and a light-year lead over the other learned academies (CMM October 8 2018). The Australian Academy of the Humanities did not have a Fb page then and if it has one now CMM did not recognise it in its Halloween costume last night. Ditto the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.

The Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia is on FB, with 86 likes, no CMM did not leave four noughts off.

Peak social science and humanities bodies lament their disciplines are not sufficiently supported by funding agencies or recognised for what they can contribute to the community. It’s just a guess but perhaps explaining their work to a wider audience might help.

Ethics and rhetoric: things AI can do we can do better

The ever erudite, always entertaining Alan Finkel spoke at a “collaboration and commercialisation summit” on artificial intelligence yesterday

It was the usual Chief Scientist’s quality address, rather making his point that whatever AI can do better than humans, it does not know how to make a speech about ethics. “We remain solely capable of putting thoughts together for a speech … our unique human ability to meditate on the known and unknown, … will be critical as we delve into the challenge of ensuring our zeal for innovation never betrays our values, “he said.

Which was his point; what’s next in AI, “requires the application of ethics rather than physics” and a focus on “clear benefits to everyday Australians.”

He nominates medical diagnostics, financial services and agriculture as industries where AI can serve us. Where it can, but should not, is in analysing surveillance data of all our lives.

This will require policy at interface of ethics and utility and is where Dr Finkel sees the need for academics outside computing, “in academic leaders in ethics, philosophy, law and business.“

“As a reservoir of ideas, and a touchstone of our morality, input from across our universities will be crucial as we navigate the uncharted waters of promoting A.I.’s promise, while safeguarding against its potential perils.”

Victoria U staff endorse enterprise agreement

Times have changed

Staff have endorsed Victoria U’s proposed enterprise agreement, with 90 per cent voting yes, on a 60 per cent turnout. The deal was backed by both management and the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union and the vote ends a long and bitter negotiation. The university tried twice to win staff backing for a deal which the union opposed, failing by thumping majorities both times (CMM February 20). Since then the mood at VU has changed, perhaps due in part to the success of the block-teaching model, now to be rolled out across all undergraduate years. In September, the university won a higher education industry IR award, “for substantive positive change,” (CMM September 5).

Macquarie U bans hiring

Management freezes all recruitment, indefinitely. Fixed term contracts up for renewal will also be “reviewed”

According to Nicole Gower (VP, people and services) and Robin Payne (VP, finance and resources), “the aim of these initiatives is to reduce the impact of financial pressures and minimise potential redundancies and forced job losses.”

Appeals for exemptions will go to a recruitment exceptions board chaired by Vice Chancellor S Bruce Dowton. “No jobs will be advertised, and no offers of employment will be made,” without the board’s approval.

The university executive will also establish a process for co-ordinating and planning workplace change. This will presumably apply to this week’s announcement that the Faculty of Human Sciences is to be broken up (CMM, Tuesday).

“These initiatives have been developed in support of Budget 2020 activities,” Ms Gower and Mr Payne write.

So, what is Macquarie management worrying about? The university isn’t exactly in the money, with a net result of $9.7m on $1bn plus revenue in 2018, but it can cover its debts. The NSW Audit Office identified nothing negative about Macquarie U’s money in this year’s report on the state’s universities.

Victoria to announce post-school review

The Victorian Government is expected to announce a review of its training system this morning

And a good thing to, says TAFE Directors Australia.

“The pace of technological change and disruption stemming from artificial intelligence and digitisation warrants a fundamental look at how we prepare people for future jobs and careers,” says TDA CEO Craig Roberston.

“The Victorian review is a timely initiative that will help inform and extend the initiatives the federal government is putting in place and demonstrate approaches to improve the connections between TAFEs and universities and other education providers.”

Uni Canberra assistant prof review

Soon but not yet

Learned readers who expected the imminent release of the Uni Canberra assistant professor review were over-optimistic (CMM October 25). Yes, the review is with management, but no it is not being released, not, at least, until people in the scheme, 22 per cent of the university’s academic staff, are consulted.  Apparently, there will be a focus group to work on the response to the report.

Chinese provider buys Sydney college

China’s largest listed HE provider has purchased a local private college

China Education Group has bought the owner of King’s Own Institute, which offers undergraduate, grad certificate, diplomas and masters in business disciplines and TESOL. KOI teaches international students at three campuses in the Sydney CBD.

CEO Doug Hinchcliffe told staff yesterday the purchase will allow KOI to “explore new growth opportunities” in the China market and “roll-out new campuses in other attractive cities.”

For staff, it is business as usual, “I could not be more optimistic about the future of KOI,” Dr Hinchcliffe says.

TEQSA registered KOI’s owner, the Australian Institute of Business and Management, for four years in 2016, with two conditions – that it “endeavour” to maintain a 30:1 ratio of students to academic staff and report annually on student attrition, progression, completion and the distribution of marks.

China Education Group is listed in Hong Kong and has 180 000 students enrolled in nine institutions. It claims both the largest private university and private technical school in China.

KOI is named both for the Asian fish and a British regiment Dr Hinchcliffe was associated with.

ComparED with QILT

The feds have quietly launched what isn’t all that new a HE search site

It’s creatively called comparED and it allows users to check the performance of private and public HE providers in 21 study areas.

“What, like the excellent Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching from the esteemed Social Research Centre,” you ask? That’s the one, CMM replies. “So, what happens to QILT?” Good question, nothing, as far as CMM can tell.  According to the new site, “the existing QILT will continue to operate. ComparED is funded by the Australian Government Department of Education and is powered by the QILT survey data.”

“Good-o, so why rebadge QILT?” CMM has no clue – whatever the new site cost could have funded social media marketing for the site where the data was, is and will be.

Appointments, achievements

Of the day

 The Menzies School of Health Research awards its Menzies Medallion to Peter d’Abbs. He is recognised for his, “significant contribution” to research on substance misuse, alcohol and other drug policy issues

Dan Doran is Tanya Plibersek’s new chief of staff. Mr Doran is a long-serving staffer to the Shadow Minister for Education.

Meegan Fitzharris joins ANU as senior fellow in health policy and leadership. Ms FitzHarris is a former health minister in the ACT Labor government. She resigned from the ministry and Legislative Assembly mid-year.

Tim Hume is confirmed as Macquarie U COO, he has acted since June.

Of the week

 Rose Amal (UNSW) is the NSW Scientist of the Year. Professor Amal works on nanomaterials for solar and chemical energy applications. (The other NSW premier’s science award winners are in CMM, Wednesday).

 Bianca Beetson will become Griffith U’s new director of the Indigenous Research Unit in the new year. She now convenes the university’s contemporary Australian Indigenous art programme.

 Martin Cole is the new head of the University of Adelaide School of Agriculture, Food and Wine. He moves from CSIRO, where he is deputy director, agriculture and food.

Carol Evans will become Griffith U PVC Learning and Teaching in February. She joins from the University of Birmingham in the UK.

Sebastian Kaempf (Uni Queensland, political science) wins the 2019 Deborah Gerner Innovative Teaching Award from the International Studies Association.  Dr Kaempf created the Global media, war and technology MOOC (via edX) which has had 9600 enrolments.

Queensland’s chief entrepreneur, Leanne Kemp becomes an adjunct professor at QUT, where she will, “boost entrepreneurship and blockchain initiatives.”

Southern Cross U’s impact award winners are in CMM, yesterday

Green energy business founder (Zen Energy) Richard Turner joins Uni SA as entrepreneur in residence and professor of practice.