Plus Swinburne’s polite productivity push and weight-loss with Wyl E Coyote 

Frying high

Cop this other Open Day organisers! Monash Clayton will have all the usual information and events for future students on Open Day, Sunday August 2. But IT has excelled itself, the faculty will have a drone flying burgers right across campus. If any other open day anywhere can beat that in the stunt stakes CMM wants to know.

CEF June 15 3

Swinburne (politely) proposes really big reform

In May Swinburne released a discussion paper on academic workloads (CMM May 20). It was a clear and careful, reasoned and respectful document, designed to deliver a debate not a dispute.

Given bitterness over the closure of Swinburne’s Lilydale campus and the still unsettled enterprise agreement this was a sensible strategy. Yes, the paper raised the prospect of significant changes to work loads and functions among teaching and research academics. “The university’s current workload models strongly support research. While this is a good thing, we also need to ensure that we are devoting sufficient resources to teaching; and reducing our reliance on sessional teaching staff,” Vice Chancellor Linda Kristjanson told staff. But the university was adamant that nothing was being unilaterally imposed.

And so yesterday Swinburne released two more documents, a proposal for an academic work allocation framework and workload model and a paper on expectations of academics.

The framework model defines six staff categories covering varying teaching, research and service/leadership roles, to replace the six existing faculty workload models. There is a bunch of detail on what these roles involve and how staff will be placed in them. The academic expectations paper, “serve(s) a broader purpose including identifying development needs and approaches.” It specifies expected teaching competencies (well, that’s what they look like to CMM) and professional development for staff at levels A through E and sets out research performance requirements, with an Australian Technology Network –like emphasis on impact. Staff will be assessed against their annual ERA cited publications, research funding won and doctorates supervised. The message for staff paid to research is that they should get on with it; “those staff who do not meet the minimum expectations will be supported to improve their work in order to meet the appropriate and agreed minimum expectations.”

ANU June 1

Challenging for many, scary for some. But having made a considered case for change in May the management had no choice but to show how the university can grow. Not that any of this is set in stone. As Provost Jennelle Kyd, told Swinburne staff yesterday, the papers include staff feedback from May and further comment is welcomed. The university leadership wants staff to engage with reform, we will see how many are buying it at the end of the consultation period, which runs to August 4.

That’s all folks

Kids who watch cartoons with fat characters eat more than those who watch lightweight toons, according to new research from Margaret Campbell from the University of Colorado and colleagues. So that’s the answer – nothing but cartoons featuring the endlessly exercising, low BMI Wyl E Coyote and The Roadrunner. Plus, these classics from the brothers Warner teach children a core life lesson – no matter how hard he tries Mr Coyote never wins.

The Hilda horrors

Sound and fury wise the new report of the HILDA panel surveys since 2001, including information on graduate incomes by university, was as loud and cross as it gets. The loud came from people meanly mentioning the Group of Eight not appearing to graduate top earners. The fury came Go8 Executive Director Vicki Thomson (CMM yesterday) who firmly and frankly questioned the methodology and pointed out the damage not entirely convincing data could do. Understandably so; the report wrote that “it is perhaps surprising that graduates of the Go8 universities do not have the highest (conditional) earnings, and indeed have significantly lower earnings than ATN (Australian Technology Network), IRU (Innovative Research Universities) and, for women, RUN (Regional Universities Network) universities.”

Rather making Ms Thomson’s point about reputational damage, this was seized upon by journalists and commentators, Many of whom missed the next par, which qualified the point, suggesting earnings figures might reflect ATN and IRU graduates working in high paying fields and not including “high earning” self-employed Go8 grads; (CMM is guessing he meant barrister and brain surgeons). Wonk’s wonk Andrew Norton added that when he crunched the same numbers last year he found a 6 per cent salary premium for the Go8. In any case, Go8 universities graduate far more humanities students, who tend to make less money, than the other two university groups. As ever, Mr Norton made the point that needed making (university marketing directors take note) “If a prospective student wants to maximise their income, the key advice is that what they study matters more than where they study it.”


No honour for-profits in their own country

Private training providers in South Australia are less upset than appalled that VOCED minister Gail Gago is not budging on the state budget plan to halve publicly funded training places on offer this financial year and to reserve 90 per cent of them for TAFE. Minister Gago argues TAFE needs help to improve performance, (CMM June 1). There was all sorts of outrage last month, with Ms Gago copping Serena-size serves on Adelaide radio and federal training minister Simon Birmingham pointing out that the decision breached national agreements adopted when Labor was last in federal power.

But it seems the lady is not for turning. Which explains why Australian Council for Private Education and Training chief Rodd Camm yesterday renewed his earlier warnings.

“The South Australian Government needs to consider the impact of this funding decision on jobseekers with the current unemployment rate running at a 15 year high of 8.2 per cent. … Our members remain very concerned that the policy could lead to a loss of up to 2,000 jobs from the private training sector as well as reducing South Australian students’ opportunities to gain a qualification,” he said.

Good-oh, but CMM suspects that having weathered a local media storm Minister Gago will think the worst is over. CMM wonders what, if anything, Senator Birmingham will do to prove her wrong.

It will only seem longer

The University of Tasmania announces a lecture on evolution by PhD student Indrani Mukherjee, “The boring billion years.” With a title like that it’s a sell-out for sure.

mindhive 2

Now why didn’t the industry think of this?

The Victorian Government has issued a second discussion paper on education. Like the first (CMM, June 11), this one, on international education, will give everybody who enjoys glossy brochures full of photos of happy people, but not many ideas, much to discuss. Certainly there is a considered summary of emerging challenges, from competing countries to new product forms (online and in-country short courses, for example) however the conclusion does not add anything; “to remain competitive in this global market, it is more important than ever that the Victorian approach to international education continues to evolve.” You don’t say.

The paper proposes reducing dependence on China and India by attracting more students from Vietnam, the Philippines and Latin America, especially Brazil. It suggests fostering more postgraduate research opportunities and “leveraging technology” for online delivery. Sensible ideas; but what the state government has to do with them, eludes CMM.

In one area where Spring St does have authority, VOCED, the paper points to the vast Asian market and suggests “Victoria’s VET offering must become increasingly nimble and targeted.” As to what government can do to help with this –who knows.

International education is a bad example of competitive federalism – the states do not have much role in the industry but cannot resist getting involved. It’s not just Victoria, the South Australian government is planning an advertising campaign to sell Adelaide as a destination for international education (CMM June 19). There is also talk of the state government guaranteeing all arriving international students Adelaide accommodation, which generous commentators describe as not thought through.

It occurs to CMM that if state governments really wanted to help they would abandon half-baked plans and small scale strategies and use the money saved for a competitive fund for international marketing that educational institutions could bid for. Maybe somebody could suggest this at the next Victorian Government education exporters of the year awards night (sigh).