As west as high culture gets

The English Department at the University of Sydney presents a seminar this afternoon on “Poetics of the Absolute: From Schiller to Hölderlin and Coleridge.” So much for suggestionsUniSydney scholars do not see western civilisation as suitable for study.

A bargain for both sides at Macquarie U

Macquarie U management and union used the Fair Work Commission’s New Approaches bargaining process for the new academic enterprise agreement and the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union is calling it a success. Understandably so, in that the agreement was negotiated and adopted in under a year – which is fast going by university EB standards.

The FWC model starts with management and staff reps setting out issues and objectives and looking for solutions, rather than beginning with demands and escalating arguments from there. The union reports FWC deputy president Anna Booth “assisted with negotiations.” She also approved the university’s application for the agreement to be adopted, in the Commission.

Next steps as University of Queensland grows on-line business

Competition on price and product-form is picking up in online business qualifications, with MOOC provider edX in particular extending micromasters into full scale degrees. It’s an  uncharted market but one university out exploring is the University of Queensland, which pioneers micromasters and with Curtin U is now following with full business MOOC masters CMM October 12.

The first UoQ micromasters is close to completing and by April the university will have data on four. “The tables are turned,” a close observer of the university’s edX engagement says, “the institution is learning from our students.”

On the basis of what UoQ already knows, word is it will start using different availability models, with some courses being open 11 months a year for self-pacing students and others available for fixed periods three times per annum.

UoQ has also found that the appeal of a masters is strong, attracting people with diverse backgrounds. The university is responding by developing additional content and support for students who need help reaching the required academic standard.

Overall raw enrolments for all UoQ micromasters has reached 100 000, giving the university a big base for expanding numbers of completers who pay US100 for a completion certificate and converting edX users into full masters degrees, either on-line or on-campus.

UniSA pulls the pin on merger talks

The South Australia university merger is off, with discussions ending before the planned December decision date.

The chancellors of the universities of Adelaide and South Australia issued a carefully constructed statement yesterday advising that both their councils had considered an interim report on a merger and concluded “they were unable to reach agreement on the threshold issues and strategic risks.”

However, UniAdelaide chancellor Kevin Scarce separately stated, “the University of Adelaide’s council remains confident that such a merger would be in the long-term best interests of the state.”

In contrast, University of SA VC David Lloyd advised staff, “our council concluded that there is not a compelling case to support a merger of the two universities and that consequently, the process of exploring a merger should cease.”

“Our university has been cautious never to allow the light of optimism or ambition to blind robust and evidence-based projection and planning. We have arrived at an outcome which may be reflected on by some as a missed opportunity and equally by others as the outcome of choice – such is the nature of debate and investigation on matters of importance and where both heads and hearts are invested in the result. The evidence today reviewed by council clearly supports the determination reached,” he said.

Professor Lloyd said his university’s council had examined and “discussed in detail”, “associated cost projections and models, the risk profile arising from key assumptions made and the status of considerations such as timelines for delivery, transition arrangements, and proposals related to the subsequent governance, leadership, mission and values of any merged institution.”

It also appears that as internal discussions occurred merger support in the University of Adelaide community was not solid as first appeared. “During our roadshow we spoke to 18 different groups of staff and heard the same things; while a merger could have had potential benefits, there were also a multitude of questions and concerns, including over redundancies, which made staff wary of what a merger process and final product may have looked like in reality,” Nick Warner, university branch president of the National Tertiary Education Union, told members yesterday.

So that’s that, until the next funding downturn and a premier, as SA premiers regularly do, suggests a merger of two, or all three, of SA public universities.  What yesterday’s news demonstrates is that it will take government to rationalise SA university resources. “Where’s John Dawkins when you need him?” a learned reader asked yesterday.

It’s all relative innit

Niklas Steffens and University of Queensland colleagues studied cases of very high paid CEOs to find that the money can “undermine shared identity between leaders and followers and therefore be counterproductive.

“People identify less strongly with a CEO who receives high pay relative to other CEOs and that this reduces that leader’s perceived identity leadership and charisma,” they argue in new research. As Australian VCs may well attest, it depends how you define “high”.

 Growing international education in Perth: looks like a job for Rod Jones

The WA Government has launched its international student recruitment plan, it only looks a tourism brochure. In contrast a report on tourism in the state’s southwest by Curtin U’s Michael Volgger, Christoff Pforr and Sara Cavalcanti Marques presents a substantial strategy, addressing issues and presenting answers.

Among the pics of scenic vistas and happy students the student recruitment document commits to “a unified and coordinated approach to destination marketing,” “more active engagement with Perth alumni,” and “opportunities to participate in authentic Australian cultural experiences.” There are some marketing specifics, a “one stop shop” for student support and “relevant digital platforms to connect and support students.”

But there is one marketing move that will help the struggling state improve its share of the international study industry – having Navitas founder Rod Jones as chair of Study Perth. Mr Jones sets out three things the state’s international education providers have to do.

* coordinate the marketing of the Western Australian brand of international education

* implement initiatives that focus on enhancing the experience of international students studying in Perth

* promote collaboration and cooperation between international education providers.

Perhaps Mr Jones could hire the Curtin team to come up with the detail.

House of Nous proposes separate funding for research and teaching

Robert Griew and Nous Group colleagues have stepped up to fill the policy void in Canberra, with a paper proposing separate funding streams for teaching and research.

“Sooner or later we will need to face the issue of separating the cost of research from the funding of teaching places. This will direct research funding to research activity in a more transparent way. It will also reduce the cost of teaching at bachelor level, through the process of more accurate job definition and valuing great teachers within universities for teaching,” Griew, Jesse Borthwick, Cameron Barnes and Arun Murali write.

They argue that the university teaching-research model dates from another age and does not serve the students who have entered the expanded system of the last generation.

“The contemporary challenge is to provide great training, credentialing and educational service at an affordable price to the great middle of the post-school education population. The current system grants a near monopoly to public universities for this population. We are designing an education system for most of its participants based on the needs of the outlying 15 per cent and the experiences of their parents.”

The Nousers’ proposals include;

*a new category of university that acknowledges full higher educational merit in teaching, at lower price and with less substantial debt imposts on students

* higher teaching standards in VET to “level the playing field” with high education”

* separating teaching and research costs to lower the cost of the former and make funding for the latter more transparent

* use (assumed) savings from the above for merit-based research funding

* quarantining funds for “local and regional economies and communities

* end regulatory requirements which dictate what universities must do and leave them to “choose which funds they compete for, based on their strengths and missions.”

This last proposal is a core reason for reform,

“We mask the costs of research and teaching, and we facilitate internal cross-subsidies that avoid a more transparent pricing structure. We thus make it harder for some universities to fulfil their research missions in a global economy, and for others to better exploit local relationships and community engagement (via research or other activity). We bind these distinct missions to a brittle set of definitions.”


Appointments, achievements

Tania Aspland (Australian Catholic U) is re-elected president of the Australian Council of Deans of Education. Michele Simons (Western Sydney U) is her deputy.

Jason Cowie starts as Curtin U’s CIO in January. He returns to Perth from Florida, where he works with IT advisors Gartner.

Louis-Philippe Demers will join QUT next year as professor of creative innovation and director of the university’s Creative Lab. He joins from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Professor Demers is known for his machine art and interactive robotic works.

Blake Repine is the new COO of the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin. He was previously associate VC central highlands at CQU.

Leanne Harrison becomes onshore recruitment manager at University of Canberra she moves from a similar role at UNSW in Canberra.

The New Zealand Tertiary Education Union has a new national president, Victoria University of Wellington philosophy tutor Michael Gilchrist. He replaces Sandra Grey.

Dolt of the day

Is CMM who upset Australian Catholic U by reporting yesterday that 12 universities are involved with its graduate teacher performance assessment measure now. It’s 13, although not all are rolling it out.