Here come the Kiwis

Universities dependent on international enrolments beware – Victoria University of Wellington reports a thumping 32 per year to date hike in international undergraduates starts on 2017. It’s the third consecutive yearly rise in a row – from 180 in ’17 to 239 this year.

Gardner creates new policy voice for Monash U

Disruptive times such as these require thoughtful, clear leadership,” Monash University declares, announcing its new Monash Commission, which is charged with “fuelling national discussion and policy reform.”  The Commission’s first subject will be post compulsory education.

“Instead of waiting for change to happen, Monash University is focusing on the changes Australians want to see, and harnessing the expertise of leaders from enterprise, education and the community to advance with and through innovation, rather than be led by it,” Vice Chancellor Margaret Gardner says.

In addition to Professor Gardner, the commissioners for the first inquiry are corporate director and mandarin Elizabeth Proust as chair. She is joined by former vice chancellor and chief scientist Ian Chubb, public sector executive Marie Persson, financial and professional services specialist Mette Schepers, veteran university (including UNSW) leader Rory Hume and former UK vc Nigel Thrift.

“We are seeking to design policy options that make a substantive contribution to addressing key challenges for Australia and our region and to shape a vision for the future …Systemic change will come only by presenting compelling evidence, as well as ideas, to government and community,” Professor Gardner says.

The Vice Chancellor signaled this strategy in January, telling CMM, instead of “reactive change on the basis of a funding cut” there must be an “evidence-based, research-based discussion, “not an exchange of op eds,” (CMM January16). It turns out to be a prescient plan. With the political winds swinging towards a focus on training in the post-school education mix, and undoubtedly more money, for VET the university sector will need to do more than complain about funding if it is to make its case with the community. However, Professor Gardner has to walk a fine policy-line lest people mistake which of her three hats she wears when speaking out on issues, that of a Group of Eight VC, president of Universities Australia or now founder of a new peak policy group.

A deal to be done at UniNewcastle

It seems the University of Newcastle is not looking for big staff changes in the agreement being negotiated. The National Tertiary Education Union reports the long-established 40/40/20 workload allocation continues for teaching and research academics.  Nor has management floated a flotilla of workpractice changes in the form of a simplified agreement. Just about the only substantive procedural push is a management proposal to change discipline procedures. This looks like a move from the university industrial peak body’s playbook, which has turned up in negotiations around the country. A common compromise is to replace a discipline appeal committee with an independent arbiter.

The parties are not yet talking pay rises but so far it seems peaceful progress prevails. It’s an improvement on tensions last year when administrative jobs were changed and abolished under the Organisational Design Project and subjects went in a humanities restructure.


Mike Brooks is appointed provost at the University of Adelaide.  He takes on oversight of the university’s five faculties in addition to his existing job, DVC R.

James Giggacher returns to Canberra to join the comms team at Universities Australia. He moves from RMIT, prior to which he was at ANU.

Sweating the cyber stuff at CQU

Australian scientists are running hard in the emerging discipline of using electronic and mobile monitors to research health.

A bunch of researchers, including an assembly of Australians, analysed the Web of Science for research publishing on electronic and mobile health approaches addressing diet, sedentary behaviour and related problems. Their findings appear in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

They found Australian researchers rate second in the world for papers published, with 195 articles in surveyed journals, 11 per cent of the total, second to the US with 836 (49 per cent).  Corresponding authors in Australia were also second most cited, after the US.

The most prolific researcher is CQU’s Corneel  Vandelanotte with 43 papers, cited 1379 times.  Google scholar reports his H index as 38.

Professor Vandelanotte is at the front of a fast paced field – just under half the identified papers in this study were published in 2014-16. However the authors counsel caution; “the trend of using the newest technologies to address health behaviours is expected to continue, but whether these technologies have a meaningful and long-lasting impact on people’s physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and dietary habits needs to be seen.”

They’re enrolled and they vote

Honi Soit, reports Chinese international students have won nearly half the seats in an election for the Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association. Writing in the excellent UniSyd student paper, Janek Drevikovsky writes they ran on a range of tickets, which included students from other countries. If the four groups caucus they will have 15 votes – just short of the 17 need for a majority. The election saw the highest voter turn-out in “recent times,” so let us hear no talk of stacks. There are 22 0000 postgrads at the University of Sydney, of whom 8 000 or so are Chinese nationals.

Queensland getting in on the ATAR

In the worst timing since CMM last danced, the Queensland Tertiary Admission Centre has launched  MyPath, “an innovative tool that will help Year 10 students chose their senior subjects, check if they meet tertiary prerequisites and find out if they are eligible for an ATAR.” Yes, the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, which was being blamed last week for student innumeracy.

IRU group wants intrusive industry associations to but-out

The Innovative Research Universities backs the government plan to stop industry associations sticking their bibs into university teaching via professional accreditation requirements. “At the very least, this has led to a duplication of effort and additional costs. In the worse cases, it involved conflicts of interest, illegitimate restrictions for entry into professions, and undermined the freedom of universities to design curriculum and implement innovative approaches to teaching. Limiting the role of professional accreditation to clearly defined and profession-specific matters is, therefore, appropriate, “ the IRU announces.

Basket of pain

The University of Newcastle reports a study that finds groin pain among basketball players is under-reported. “Sounds like a load of bollocks” a learned reader remarks.

The big Gonski give: warnings for universities in the new schools report

There are warnings of criticism to come for universities in the second Gonski report. Nothing immediate or appalling mind, but sure signs that the bright sun of unquestioning community support is showing signs of setting.

For a start, the Gonski group suggest that university is not the only post-school path that matters; “senior secondary schooling models have been largely static, remaining focused on academic knowledge and preparing students for university. It is essential that these models are reviewed to make sure they are giving every student the best preparation for life.”

And they give a Gonski about encouraging VET. “It is vital that a focus on university entrance does not overshadow a focus on vocationally-based education, including preparing young people for employment or for a combination of work and training.”

There are also three recommendations which will disturb the status quo.

The ninth calls for, “a comprehensive, national and independent inquiry to investigate and review the objectives, curriculum, assessment provisions and delivery structures for senior secondary schooling.” Depending on terms of reference and who is appointed this could become a wholesale assault on the ideas that Year 12 is a pipeline to university.

Recommendation 14 calls for “a comprehensive national teacher workforce strategy to better match supply with workforce demands, including skill and capability requirements.” At worst this could get government back into labour-force planning with implications for universities that rely on teacher education numbers to bolster bottom-lines. At not so bad, but still not best, it could impose quotas on what disciplines teachers are trained in and specify required skills and knowledge.

Recommendation 23 isn’t exactly an endorsement of the teacher education establishment. It calls for “an independent institution to coordinate the strategic development of a national research and evidence base,” to “improve student outcomes.” Surely this is something the deans of education could organise.

But there is good news, albeit slight, for the teacher education community. The Gonskis say there is “significant national progress” on the reforms called for by the Christopher Pyne appointed Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group.