AMRIT alliance

Aston U has a new VC, to replace Alec Cameron who moved to be vice chancellor at RMIT

It’s Aleks Subik, who will move from RMIT to the UK in August. “With such deep connections to RMIT I am confident this relationship is a strong one and I look forward to it continuing,” Professor Cameron told staff  Friday. T


There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Frank Larkins (Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education) looks at COVID-related job losses across the states and reports staff at NSW universities had the worst of it – with managements there appearing to anticipate more declines in student demand.

plus Linda Corrin (Swinburne U) on cooking up a learning analytics storm. The ingredients are just the start. Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s new selection for her celebrated series, Needed know in teaching and learning.

Students pay to study their interests

During demand driven funding UG enrolments at private providers grew faster  (38 per cent) than at public universities (14 per cent)

Buly Cardak (La Trobe U) Matt Brett (Deakin U) and Sally Burt (Independent Higher Education Australia) suggest why in a new paper for journal Research in post-compulsory education.

what happened: Private provider growth occurred despite the non-government sector being more expensive for students, if only for the 20 per cent premium they paid on HELP loans – which seems strange. What seems stranger is low SES student participation grew faster at private providers than at universities, making up a higher proportion of UGs at the former than the latter.

and why: The authors find students followed their interests – graphic and design studies at private providers went from no enrolments in 2012 to 1325 in 2018, while the number at public institutions was close to stable. Audio-visual enrolments in the private sector went up by 1486 and just 1021 in public universities. “To some extent, private universities and colleges were able to grow enrolments in niche areas where public universities offered relatively limited competition,” they write.

And students at private providers were not put off by price, willing to pay a premium to study what they wanted. “The areas of expansion between 2012 and 2018 were at private universities and private colleges offering niche specialised programmes not widely offered at public universities. In such cases, a higher price can be charged as there is limited competition.”

what it means for policy: “Higher education systems and policy may incentivise engagement in particular disciplines and institutions, but this will not preclude students from pursuing interests that may not align with policy imperatives,” Brett, Burt and Cardak conclude.

Macleay College spikes journalism

The private provider cancels courses for new students-effective in the semester underway

Students were advised late Friday ( broke the yarn), that degree and diploma journalism courses were being closed due to low enrolments. The college warned they had until the end of the week to withdraw without incurring a HECS liability.

Macleay told new students they could transfer to the degree/dip in digital media, which include journalism subjects.  For existing students in the two year FT, four year PT programme the college will teach units this semester only, ending May 20. As of yesterday the college website stated it was accepting applications for March 2022.

CMM asked Macleay College yesterday morning how its plan conforms to teach-out provisions required by the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency, including 6.2.1.i of the Higher Education Standards Framework.

“There are credible business continuity plans and adequately resourced financial and tuition safeguards to mitigate disadvantage to students who are unable to progress in a course of study due to unexpected changes to the higher education provider’s operations, including if the provider is unable to provide a course of study, ceases to operate as a provider, loses professional accreditation for a course of study or is otherwise not able to offer a course of study.”

There was no reply by deadline last night.


Now “world-class” really does not rate for research

The ARC proposes new rankings for next year’s ERA review

Time, as the Australian Research Council acknowledges is tight but the pace on review process had to pick up in December, when Acting Education Minister Stuart Robert called for a scale “that sets the ‘world standard’ benchmark against those nations and universities that are at the forefront of research” (CMM February 8).

The ARC offers two options to replace the existing five-rating scale which goes from “well below” through to “well above” world standard.

Both of the proposals are about changes at the top end.

Option  A adds a new ranking on top of “well above world standard, ” – “world leading.” It would be for “universities that are clearly above the average expected of high performing institutions and at the very top of universities worldwide.”

Option B divides the existing “well above …” into three, A (“comparable to other high-performing institutions”), AA (“clearly above the average expected of high performing institutions”) and AAA (“among the very small number of the best of the high performing institutions” and “world leaders in the field.)”

The A option is pretty much ratings as usual but B would shake things up. “The highest ratings should be a highly exclusive category reserved for units of evaluation performing at the forefront of their field worldwide. In particular, under Option B, it is expected that only a very small number of ‘AAA’ ratings would be awarded across all UoEs,” the ARC consultation paper suggests.

For researchers the delivery is in the detail on how high-performing institutions are identified but overall under Option B there would be a bunch of universities that would have to stop marketing disciplines as global top performers.

Consultation on the proposals closes April 22.

TEQSA chief warns AI generating cheating texts  

And he wants all HE providers to brief their boards

In a brief to university/college heads Chief Commissioner Peter Coaldrake warns, “it is almost impossible to overstate the potential threat to the integrity of the higher education sector which is posed by industrial-scale cheating targeting students and indeed staff. ”

Professor Coaldrake points to agency successes, notably “productive relationships” with Meta brands Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, plus LinkedIn and Gumtree, which are all, ““taking action to remove pages and promotions for commercial academic cheating services.”

But he warns of increasing threats, including AI paraphrasing and text-generating tools that produce written work.

Professor Coaldrake also calls on all providers to recognise that cheating “goes to the core of good governance.”

But while some CEOs and VCs are “sharing the challenge with their governing bodies, this is not the case in all places. It needs to be,” he added.

On-line in-demand

Over 2.2m Australians in 2020-21 undertook work-related training on-line – more than half the total number of 15-74 year olds learning for work

It’s a thumping increase in five years, from 19 per cent in 2016-17 to 55 per cent in the last financial year.

The significant stats are in new work-related training data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

A bunch of the growth might be COVID caused, in Victoria, over 60 per cent of people undertaking training were on-line, compared to around 45 per cent in not locked-down WA.

Appointments, achievements

Salma Ahmed (Uni Queensland) is a 2022 member of the CAS PhD/post doc programme, (it’s a division of the American Chemical Society).

Ben Colagiuri is the next head of Uni Sydney’s School of Psychology, starting January. He moves up from deputy.

Matthew Kiernan (Uni Sydney) wins the (US) Sheila Essey Award for research on motor neurone disease.

Margaret Sheil has a second five year term as vice chancellor of QUT.  The university locked her in early. Her first term does not expire until February next year.

Giovanni Turchini is leaving Deakin U. He will start in May as head of  Uni Melbourne’s School of Agriculture and Food.