Rewriting pre-history

“Australia’s oldest dinosaur was a peaceful vegetarian, not a fierce predator,” Uni Queensland promotes research, via Twitter yesterday. Have lawyers for the Sauropodomorph family been in touch?

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

“TAFE bachelor degrees are able to break away from the competency-based model of vocational education that some providers consider to be a constraint on their responsiveness to industry,” Susan Webb, Elizabeth Knight, Steven Hodge and Shaun Rawolle suggest. Why, they ask, are there not more of them, in a new contribution to Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

Plus, Sean Brawley (Macquarie U) looks at the short history of the UC and wonders what, if anything, is next for the qualification. If it goes people who leave UG study early will be the losers, he warns.

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on the rhetoric of conflict in university life. There are better ways to deal with people and set goals.

And tomorrow

The US News and World Report “Best Global” university ranking is out and, what a surprise, Uni Melbourne is top for ANZ and 25th in the world! It’s pretty much the usual list with the rest of the Group of Eight in the next seven spots, from Uni Sydney at 27 in the world to UWA in 78 position. UTS (162) and Curtin U (174) make up the Australian top ten. Uni Auckland is first in NZ, and ahead of UTS and Curtin U. Tomorrow: Angel Calderon’s overall analyis.

Stephen Parker on new challenges for the way unis work now

In Features this morning he sets out what is coming and looks back for an inspiring solution 

Where we are: “for a decade, we’ve witnessed disengagement of students from universities, evidenced by the reduced number coming to lectures and the increased number watching recordings at double speed just before the exam.

What’s coming: “Before long, there will be a metaverse model, offering immersive experiences via headsets and glasses. Coupled with 5G, we could imagine a ‘metaversity’; a 3D virtual university.

“Machine learning is still its infancy but with incredible potential, including the potential to wipe out thousands of high end white collar jobs that today’s graduates go into; whilst robotic process automation eats away at the low end.

What is to be done: “I suspect the answers will lie in the idea of the personal, transformative experience of being a university student, of a course of study deliberately designed and delivered in a particular sequence, of personal interaction and life-changing moments; the laying down of memories.  And the good lecture, which inspires and galvanises students, should never be dead.”

The complete piece is here.

More states to welcome internationals

The Queensland Government will allow double vaccinated international students into the state, for first semester starts

Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchcliffe announced yesterday that, for starters, 250 students a week will be able to fly in from the start of the new year. They will sit-out a two-week quarantine at the new Wellcamp facility at Toowoomba. And when the state reaches 90 per cent double vax the government will look at the quarantine requirement.

Uni Queensland VC Deborah Terry welcomed the announcement yesterday, saying international students who need to do pracs and placements to complete their degrees will be priorities.

She was careful to add the plan, “keeps our communities safe and does not interfere with the return of Australian citizens and residents.”

SA set to go

South Australian vice chancellors are also pleased with the state government plan to allow double vaxed international arrivals to sit-out a seven day  quarantine from November 23 and no isolation at all, once 90 per cent of South Australians over 12 are fully vaccinated, which is expected to before Christmas.

Flinders VC Colin Stirling, speaking for all three public university chiefs welcomed the state government’s “pragmatic approach”.

“This is a strong signal to the many students who need to return to complete their studies, that they will soon be able to do so.”

Professor Stirling said if the plan holds, international students now offshore could be back for the start of the 2022 academic year.

And now there are four – there needs to be five: Yesterday’s announcements follow NSW and the ACT committing to internationals returning, (CMM October 18 and 25).

Which piles the pressure on the Commonwealth, to come up with a system to ensure arriving international students are double jabbed with an Australian-approved vaccine. The Morrison Government will also cop the blame and pain if  a system to do this fails.

Claire Field sees change coming: the question is scale


The Bayeux Tapestry, Brian Cox and the American civil war – these were just some of the unexpected topics discussed at last week’s excellent Needed Now conference

As universities grapple with increasing levels of on-line delivery, changing expectations amongst some cohorts of students, and the need to build the pedagogical skills of a predominantly casualised teaching workforce it was former vice chancellor, Glyn Davis’ comments which particularly struck a chord.

One of the questions he posed was if we would still have standalone universities when lectures are increasingly on-line and only tutorials are local? He went on to suggest there would be “players” who in future would “buy in” lectures from overseas and just deliver the tutorials themselves.

After all – “why would you produce the content yourself?”

That is in fact the decision the European Foundation of Management Development’s (EFMD) 700 business schools (across 90 countries) have taken. Last month they announced a partnership with Coursera to provide their business school students with access to Coursera’s 5,000+ courses and 1,900 Guided Projects.

Last year I was pondering the potential for this kind of change, albeit I was not yet contemplating this kind of scale.

Professor Davis went on to state that post-COVID there would be greater differentiation in the Australian university sector because of:

* technological innovation

* the government’s Job-ready Graduates package removing research funding from base funding for universities and the concurrent changes to the higher education provider category standards, and

* the growth of private providers, not necessarily private higher education providers but other private companies partnering with universities and allowing them the opportunity to “buy in” the best courses from overseas.

He thinks that competitive tensions within the system will pull apart its current level of uniformity. I agree.

Claire Field is an advisor to the tertiary education sector

Flinders U keeps teaching a loved language, and an important one

The university announces it will keep classes in Italian and Indonesian

Italian was set to go as part of course changes but it upset friends of the language in the community (CMM October 8). The consul also had a view, and there was “strong advocacy” from the state government. And so HASS Executive Dean Peter Monteath says the “Italian language programme will be retained and is open for enrolments in 2022.”

Certainly, Professor Monteath adds, “the long-term sustainability of Italian” will be monitored and he hopes “the deeply held views of the community result in an upswing of interest in Italian language studies.”  But having responded to community concerns once, Flinders U will face another fight if it tries to axe Italian in the future. La Trobe U similarly decided to keep Greek and Hindi after community campaigns (CMM January 29, February 9).

But LT U is teaching out Indonesian (CMM, April 13) which Flinders U was set to end but has decided to keep.

Wise move. There may not be many advocates of Indonesian language learning in Adelaide but 277m people who speak it are just 10 flight-hours away.

Australian Catholic U gets to build in Fitzroy

The university plans a 12-story building at its Melbourne campus, which does not impress some locals

There is a view that the building is “too big, dominant and overwhelming to the heritage setting.” But the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal finds for the university, calling the planned construction, “a building worthy of its high-profile location” and an “interesting and indeed innovative response that has a realistic chance of adding to the heritage of the city as seen by future generations.”

This will be a relief to the university that wants the building “to accommodate student and staff growth” and issued a bond to fund the $250m cost (CMM October 16 2018).

Final countdown to Macquarie U admin restructure

Management has released the change proposals for student services and faculties

The faculty admin structure is largely in-line with what staff have seen – a core structure across all faculties, with professional staff organised in four teams variously covering operations, teaching support, tech services and research admin. Some operations roles will be school/department based.

Faculty student support centres (course planning and advice) are to close, with assisted support functions moving to the all-services centralised Student Connect team. A new dean of students is proposed and all admissions will be consolidated in Shared Services.

Formal consultation runs to Monday week.

Observers suggest around 300 positions are involved but that it looks like there is no significant net loss. The questions will be how many existing positions are reclassified up, or down, on responsibility and pay scale, and how many staff who are displaced will find a job in the new structure that suits.

Appointment, achievements

Dylan Ashton (Uni Sydney) wins Cooperative Research Australia’s ECR award for using kangaroo tendon for human knee ligament grafts. Mr Ashton is at the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre. (CRA is the renamed Cooperative Research Centres Association).

Jo Barraket will be director of Uni Melbourne’s Melbourne Social Equity Institute. Professor Barraket will join from Swinburne U in January.

The Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences announces its 2021 fellows,

* Gerry Adams (the MRI formerly known as Walter and Eliza Hall Institute) * Kaarin Anstey (UNSW) * Julie Bines (Murdoch Children’s Research Institute) * Suzanne Cory (WEHI) * Jodie Dodd (Uni Adelaide) * Pat Dudgeon (UWA) * Jonathan Golledge (UWA) * Ron Grunstein (Woolcock IMR) * Rebecca Guy (Kirby Institute) * Rana Hinman (Uni Melbourne) * Harriet Hiscock (Murdoch Children’s RI) * Kirsten Howard (Uni Sydney) * David Huang (WEHI) * Christine Jenkins (George Institute for Global Health) * Karin Leder (Monash U) * Louise Maple-Brown (Menzies School of Health Research) * Helen Marshall (Uni Adelaide) * Colette Mackay (Bionics Institute of Australia) * Jodie McVernon (Doherty Institute) * Alicia Oshlack (Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre) * George Patton (Murdoch Children’s RI) * Richard Price (Menzies School HR) * Danny Rischin (Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre) * John Saville (Melbourne Academic Centre for Health) * Kanto Subbarao (Doherty Institute) * Penny Webb (QIMR Berghofer MRI) *  Andrew Whitehouse (Telethon Kids Institute) * Ingrid Winship (Royal Melbourne Hospital) * Tien Wong (Singapore National Eye Centre/Uni Melbourne).

It’s a big week for Professor Winship. On Monday she was reappointed to the National Health and Medical Research Council.