Worth watching

It’s Senate Additional Estimates time and tomorrow at 2pm the Australian Research Council is on

This will give senators, notably Mehreen Faruqi (Greens NSW) an opportunity to inquire about process in research grants. On Christmas Eve Acting Education Minister Stuart Robert rejected the council recommendation to award six Discovery Grants.

While CSIRO official  Judi Zielke has been acting CEO at the ARC for only a couple of months, as a very senior public servant she knows the way senate committees work, which will likely make for interesting exchanges.


There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Jack Breen (UNSW) on four ways universities can make the most of social media, including the next big thing in comms that connect. Plus the seven unis that get Tik Tok.

plus Angel Calderon on the national HE staff statistics, out of date, and way too late. “We need to have a national system to help us to optimally plan, deliver, fund, and assure quality higher education, both now and well into the future.”

and Tessa McCredie (Uni Southern Queensland) and Alan McAlpine (Curtin U) on the importance of career development. Learning for career development, “is fundamental for informing the design, delivery and pedagogical approach to employability and WIL in higher education.”

This week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

Writing the manual  on open texts

The Council of Australian University Librarians launches a two-year pilot on open (as in access) publishing in “priority disciplines”

There was a briefing yesterday for the 30 CAUL member institutions participating in the Open Educational Resources Collective.

The plan is for participants to publish up to four books of their own a year with the collective providing training, resources and a press-book platform. Base fee is $2500. There’s a second stage, for multi-participant publishing, from July.

Open publishing is a happening thing. Last year California allocated $115m for community colleges to develop “zero-textbook-cost degrees,” using open resources (CMM August 3).


Monash keeps consulting on COVID

Management reports more consultation with concerned staff over returning to campus and has made what looks like a final proposal, but isn’t

 HR head Phil Vaughan tells staff the OHS committee, health and safety representatives, safety officers, local OHS Committees, and staff members have “shared further information, discussed issues and concerns and provided feedback” on the COVID-safe back to campus plan.

It follows intervention by the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union, which was unhappy with management’s original plans and consultation with staff (CMM January 27, 28, February 5).

Management now commits to pretty much what it indicated it would including; * a four-week trial of Rapid Antigen Tests for “teaching and community-facing staff” plus other groups * surgical masks for “all staff and students” with heavy-duty ones for all the staff who quality for RATS * continuing swipe-access to buildings, to check vaccination status * “central teaching spaces” now have “low ‘COVID risk’ ventilation systems that are ready for semester one.”

But that’s not that – this proposal is now out for consultation. Management hopes to put it in place, Friday.

Monash U management is keen for the university to be open for classes when first semester starts on February 28, DVC E Sharon Pickering says only she can issue exemptions for staff scheduled to teach on campus (CMM February 11). Mr Vaughan appears keen to ensure no one will be able to claim there were no consultations on safety.

Updating training:  it’s harder than it should be  


New courses are developed for new jobs in the same way courses have traditionally been developed for traditional occupation

Last week’s  column on the changing world of work and what it means for VET solicited a number of interesting responses. One leading figure suggested the problem lay in unfinished work dating back to the Hawke-Keating reforms. In a nutshell the argument was that while that era saw significant education reforms, they were not focussed on the challenges of what and how to teach in a post-industrial economy, and hence new courses are developed for new jobs in the same way courses have traditionally been developed for traditional occupations. We need to ask – do “product people” need the same training approach as electricians?

Another surprising response was receiving anonymous hard copy documents outlining the challenges in finalising changes to the Community Services Training Package.

Despite the urgent need for changes in aged care training, and the unanimous views of the relevant Industry Reference Committees on the proposed changes, and the strong support of stakeholders – the process has stalled due to “residual differences” about “a small number of units of competency.”

To resolve these concerns the training package was sent to senior VET officials in October. It appears they are now considering four options:

(i) recommend ministers endorse the proposed changes

(ii)  send the proposed changes back to the Australian Industry Skills Committee for further consultation

(iii)  recommend ministers reject the changes, or

(iv) a hybrid approach where some of the changes are approved and others rejected – with one of the rejected changes being amendments to the Certificate IV in Ageing Support “given concerns that the job role for this certificate is not clear.”

Whichever option officials ultimately recommend to ministers this process raises serious questions, including for the new Industry Cluster model. They include:

* who represents industry and whose views count when a minority disagree with a small number of changes to what is taught in VET?

* will VET continue to only create courses which narrowly align with existing occupations – despite the significant changes in workplaces which Prof. Unwin singled out in the conference speech I referenced last week?

And most crucially of all – what does the delay in approving changes to the Community Services Training Package mean for elderly people in aged care?

Claire Field is an adviser to the tertiary education sector

ATN helps with career planning

The Australian Technology Network has three sequential short courses on-line, for completing undergrad career starters and grad upskillers, badged “Designing your future”

They are to help people decide what they want to do for work and how to create the careers that will deliver. All three require an all-up investment of 70 hours, with the first free for all comers and the other two offered “at a nominal fee.”

The courses were developed at ATN members, Curtin U and UTS, based on a product from Stanford U.

They are available via all six ATN members, Curtin U, Deakin U, RMIT, Uni Newcastle, Uni SA and UTS.

Great community service, brilliant brand-building in the postgrad study market. When people who did the courses think about more skills guess where they will look.

Appointments, achievements

 Catherine Branson has a second, two-year, term as chancellor of Uni Adelaide. She joined the university’s council in 2013, became deputy chancellor in 2017 and stepped up in mid 2020 when then chancellor Kevin Scarce resigned.

Theresa Hay becomes associate director of the WA Government’s Defence Science Centre. She joins from the Commonwealth’s Defence Science and Technology Group.

Caroline McMillen has a second three-year term as SA Chief Scientist. Prior to the job she was Uni Newcastle VC.

The Stroke Foundation announces its 2022 research grants * Jessica Campbell – Uni Queensland (aphasia) * Natalie Fini – Uni Melbourne (physical activity for survivors) * Brooke Ryan – UTS (family support for victims) * Emma Wallace – Uni Sydney (tele-rehab for swallowing difficulties) *

A case for uni casuals who want permanent jobs

Tomorrow the Fair Work Commission hears Toby Priest’s application that it deal with a dispute over his becoming a continuing university employee

Mr Priest is a long-serving academic causal at Flinders U who was knocked back for conversion.

This is a big deal for Mr Priest, it could become a way bigger one depending on what the Commission decides.

Last year universities across the country interpreted a new conversion requirement in the Fair Work Act in ways that meant only a handful (in some cases from thousands) of casuals could qualify for a continuing jobs (CMM February 7). If the FWC ultimately found for Mr Priest it could be a precedent.