Return tickets

The government is promising to think about fast-tracking super-speedy trains all over, including Melbourne – Warrnambool. Education Minister and local member (seat of Wnanon) Dan Tehan thinks this is a splendid idea. “Fast rail means faster travel between Melbourne and Warrnambool,” he tweets. But perhaps it’s not great for the government’s push for more students in regions if a fast train could permit students at Deakin U Warrnambool to split their time between town and country.

Keep standards high by keeping competitors out

Education is far too important to be left to the market, the NTEU argues.

The National Tertiary Education Union’s submission to the Coaldrake Review of Provider Caetgory Standards makes a case for the status quo.

The  union argues the review should not consider lowering entry barriers, pointing to the VET FEE HELP catastrophe as an example of what can occur when competition increases. “Education is far too important to be left to the market. Any attempts to weaken the gatekeeper role of the existing PCS and standards framework would be a serious mistake,” the union argues.

The NTEU specifically calls for:

* a “coherent taxonomy”of qualifications across post-secondary education. This fits its call for an independent system regulator

* a “tidy-up” of provider categories, with three classes, adult and community education, cross-sectoral and higher education, “there is also capacity for finer grained sub-categories such as universities of specialisation and overseas universities.”

* no categories of teaching-only, or research-only universities.

* universities to offer research higher degrees in no less than half the undergraduate fields it teaches

The NTEU’s position in restricting the university title to institutions that have it already is in-line with submissions from university lobbies.

The buck stops with ARC chair

Can any individual understand whether every research meets the nation’s interest? ARC chair Sue Thomas is on to it.

In November Education Minister Dan Tehan announced  a national interest test, with the Australian Research Council chair required to give projects a tick before a minister signs the cheque. How that will work puzzles universities and Labor research shadow Kim Carr thinks the idea is ridiculous, as he explained to Professor Thomas in Senate estimates last month (CMM, February 25).

However Professor Thomas says she, and ARC staff have been out explaining to DVC Rs and research offices how it will work. “It is my role to consider the recommendations from the selection advisory committee, following the peer review process and the applicant’s response to the NIT. I will be looking at whether the statement is easy to understand and seems reasonable, that is, the claims are logical and specific to the research project being proposed. I will be seeking information from administering organisations on applications where I have concern about how they meet the NIT based on the information provided in the application form.”

Taking-on contract cheating

It took nearly two years  for the government to back the Higher Education Standards Panel’s recommendations on commercial cheating. That aside, the Group of Eight is pleased the government is going to act.

The government plans to legislate to make illegal advertising or providing “cheating services.” The Group of Eight hopes it will include:
* legislation states and territories can enact

* single over-sight by the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency

* Institutional responses, including technology to win “the arms-race” as cheating service provides improve their products

However the Eight warns that requiring students sign a “statement of intent”  to act honestly, “will inevitably be perceived as a government-issued directive.”

“Should TEQSA be designated as the single national regulator for academic integrity, then it might be assumed TEQSA will also regulate the extent to which students sign these statements. … This would seem a level of regulatory oversight and overreach that is not warranted, in a context where institutions should be incentivised and more strongly encouraged to act proactively in this area.”

 Where to file big research ideas

ANZ stats and research admin authorities are reviewing the trans-Tasman research classification

The agencies are first asking for input to a  discussion paper on the existing research codes and what needs to change. They point to three especial issues.

* whether Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Māori Studies, and Pacific Peoples Studies research now allocated to discipline codes gets lost in the existing categories and accordingly need specific classifications

* classifying (or not) inter-disciplinary, multi-disciplinary research, “without compromising the structure or mutual exclusivity of the classification”

* adding new categories to cover new research disciplines that have started since the existing list was set in 2008 and considering new classifications for “emerging subject areas


MOOC of the morning

There’s a second run of Kym Fraser’s  (Swinburne U) MOOC for new  university teachers.

The course has eleven modules for early career university teachers, plus specialist units on work integrated learning, teaching maths, and “the politics of Australian higher education”.

It also “provides key introductory learning and teaching concepts and strategies.”

Aspro Fraser led the making of the MOOC, with work from 34 content-experts.

Over 1800 people from 50 countries used the MOOC in its first run last year (CMM February 28 2018) . Enrolments are open for the self-paced course which is available now, with a third run scheduled July-December.

Deciding promotions at Uni Queensland

At Uni Queensland the union fears managements want a bigger say in who is promoted.

University of Queensland management is said to be looking to roll out the academic promotion rules used by the Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences, which upsets the union. According to the National Tertiary Education Union, management wants to, “move away from a peer review, collegial-based system to one dominated by line managers.”
Promotion committees are generally chaired by the dean, with two representatives of local confirmation and promotions committees and four staff local members. But in HABS it’s the executive dean, a head of school and two other staff members.
This, the union warns is a move away from collegial review, “one of the cornerstones of academic life.”
“Heads of schools and deans already have considerable influence over the careers of academic staff. They have a large say in the appointments of academic staff and their work, and this new system will now allow them to have an ever greater say in determining the assessment of staff performance.”

ANU leads for international campus culture

Times Higher will surely impress its new owners (Providence Equity Partners) with its productivity.

THE has used data from the 2019 World University Rankings to create a list of the world’s most international universities.

Top rating ANZ institution is ANU (=12) in the world, followed by Uni Melbourne (=20), Uni Queensland (24), UNSW (25), Uni Auckland  (26), Uni Sydney (=32), and  Monash U (=35).

The global top ten, in descending order is the University of Hong Kong, followed by ETH Zurich, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Chinese University of Hong Kong, National University of Singapore, University of Oxford, Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, Imperial College London and the  University of Cambridge.

THE explains changes in methodology caused a rapid rating rise for HK Uni of Science and Technology and Chinese U of HK. The list is based on the proportion of international students and staff, world-wide research collaboration  and global reputation.