Learning on the job

“We are building the plane as we are flying it,” a staffer briefing academics on adapting courses for on-line use by students in China, University of Adelaide, Business School, on-line presentation

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning, Jason Lodge (Uni Queensland) on the importance of process in student learning. It’s this week’s essay in Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series on what is needed now in teaching and learning.

And Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on the science and cricket of research publishing strategy.

Uni Sydney VC announces resignation

He leaves the university better run but exposed to a China downturn

Michael Spence will leave the University of Sydney in December – becoming president and provost of UCL, “disruptive thinking since 1826” (formerly University College, London) in January 2021.

This is an early exit in his present term, which runs to 2022, (CMM April 4 2019). He became VC in 2008.

When Dr Spence took over the university was ready, if not all willing, for change. The student record system was cumbersome, admin services sclerotic, and the undergraduate degree structure dated. Dr Spence took-on improving or transforming all of them.

He also built – and built – with a dozen or so developments on the university’s Camperdown-Darlington campus. He leaves the university shinier in structure, more competitive in research and better focused on the front-end, where the students and teaching staff are.

But the university relies on international students, many, many from China, for more revenue than it does locals. As the NSW Audit Office warns, “universities should assess their student market concentration risk where they rely heavily on students from a single country of origin. This increases their sensitivity to economic or political changes in that country,” (CMM June 12 2018).


Union warns of ANU’s expanding precariate

ANU’s expanding precariate

The union estimates casual staff numbers were up a third in 2016-19.

This perplexes the National Tertiary Education Union’s campus casuals’ committee, – ANU is generally considered to be less aggressive on insecure employment than other universities. Yesterday the union was out asking staff for opinions and experiences.

Sounds like, what one staffer calls “creeping casualisation” is shaping as an early issue for (brace yourselves …) enterprise bargaining. Yes, it starts again at ANU next year.

Research students: who they are, what they study

Research higher degree enrolment growth is driven by international students

Newly released figures from the feds show HDR enrolments grew from just under 50 000 to 66 000 between 2007 and 2017.

The big increase was among international students, which nearly doubled to 33 per cent.

Among domestic students doing doctorates there are more women (55 per cent) than men, although there are marked discipline disparities.

Women lead in medical and biological sciences, HASS and other natural sciences (just). But there are more males in all engineering disciplines and, by a narrow margin, business and management.  And in specific science disciplines men account for 70 per cent plus of enrolments – in maths, physics and astronomy.

Higher degree research also has a strong upper SES skew, with 8 per cent of students from low SES backgrounds in 2011, unchanged in 2017. High SES students accounted for an unchanged 50 per or so.

Overall, equity patterns are similar to undergraduate courses, just worse; “While the HDR cohort mirrors many of the patterns seen in undergraduate education, most equity groups exhibit lower rates of participation in HDR compared to undergraduate courses,” the report states,

Curtin U changes Public Health School

The university has created new jobs and abolished ten

In November management proposed abolishing some jobs, creating new ones and course changes to address a $1.5m deficit and meet, “the changing needs of students.”

The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union acknowledged, a “challenging financial environment,” but questioned abolishing ten, in the main senior, academic positions, “with substantial existing research, PHD student and research staff supervision, industry and partnership commitments, teaching loads.”

The union also claimed the new structure would emphasise data science, at the expense of stand-alone epidemiology and biostatistics.

PVC Health Sciences Archie Clements now tells CMM that “after comprehensive consultation” there were changes to the proposal last month. These include, three new jobs, movement of others within the school and the loss of ten positions, “that no longer fit the future strategic positioning of the school.”

Teaching the feds fund

Andrew Norton crunches the discipline cluster numbers

Professor Norton (now ANU) reports that in 2018 STEM received way most public money for teaching, $1.8bn. Humanities had $151m. Of course, it isn’t that bad, other HASS subjects are in different clusters. Perhaps the people who should be aggrieved are business academics. With the law schools, they score a bare $200m – despite bizoids teaching masses of students cost effectively and producing buckets of international student income, most of which, they complain, they don’t get to keep.

New med school: different countries, same arguments

Nothing in nature is redder in tooth and claw than the conflict between universities that want a med school and those that have them 

After years of arguments about the Charles Sturt and La Trobe universities proposal for a joint medical school things are quiet, for now in Aus (although CQU does want one, CMM March 22 2019). But not over the ditch. Waikato U would like the country’s third medical school, to address the rural and regional shortage of medicos. The University of Auckland which has a med school (U Otago has the other) says the way to address any shortages is to expand existing programmes. Just like it did the last time the idea was floated.  Just like arguments here.

Appointments, achievements

Stephen Garton will act as VC at the University of Sydney if a successor to Michael Spence is not in-place when his resignation is in effect next January. Professor Garton is a DVC and previous provost.

 At Victoria UBronte Neyland is the inaugural PVC, future students and marketing. She moves from director of VU International.

Kerrie Thornton joins the Innovative Research Universities as government relations manager. She is a veteran of both the Group of Eight and Universities Australia.