Plus Minister Birmingham questions demand driven funding

Glyn passes GO

So much for Malcolm Turnbull suggesting Glyn Davis needs to attract innovators – this morning’s big news is that his University of Melbourne now has its own square on the local edition of the Monopoly board. Please note that CMM is not making any cheap jokes about the university being between the Zoo and Shrine of Remembrance.

Engagement is the answer

Marnie Hughes-Warrington has the numbers on why the lecture, at least at her ANU, is less declining than dying as the preferred way students’ acquire information, (CMM Monday). Rather than deny the data, supporters of the lecture are suggesting ways it can survive. Professor Mark Baker from Macquarie U argues students who attend/download lectures get better grades which should accordingly be compulsory (CMM yesterday).

However Stephen Fityus, assistant dean of engineering at the University of Newcastle, tells CMM while several years of data for engineering students at his institution corroborate both professors Hughes-Warrington and Baker, “engagement is the key.”

“The majority of students who failed a course did not regularly attend class and the proportion of students attaining pass and credit grades is similar, regardless of attendance. However a greater proportion of the students who attained distinction or high distinction grades attended class

“But while the correlation between attendance and outcome is clear and direct, the underlying mechanism is not necessarily so straightforward. The simple interpretation is that what is presented in lectures is beneficial to learning. More likely, however, is that attendance to lectures is a reflection of engagement in the course. Compulsory attendance is a good start, but ultimately engagement is an attitude, and mandatory requirements cannot change attitude alone.”

Another high achiever

Another name on the Honour Roll of Indigenous Australian academic leaders, (CMM November 2). Peter Radoll is the new Dean of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership and Strategy at the University of Canberra. Professor Raddoll was a motor mechanic for 11 years before taking up university study. He has bachelor and masters degrees in IT from Uni Canberra and a PhD from ANU. He returns to UoC from the University of Newcastle.

ANU Sep 15 3

Offshore exemption

The government’s decision to chase expats with what everybody still calls HECS debts is a compliment to Grattan Institute analyst Andrew Norton and ANU economist and father of HECS, Bruce Chapman. In fact it could be $30m commendations – the amount the feds think is owed by expat debtors. Professor Chapman suggested the idea in 2007 and last year Mr Norton set out how the money could be collected.

But Greens education spokesman Robert Simms is not impressed saying it is “unfair”. For a start he says chasing HECS offshore might raise $6.5m per annum, “whereas every year an estimated $60 billion is funnelled out of Australia by multinationals.”

“This is another example of the Liberal Government completely missing the mark and going after every day Australians while letting big business off the hook,” he says.

Good-oh but how it is “unfair” for the Commonwealth to collect study debt from people whose presence overseas now exempts them eludes CMM.

Full-bodied MOOC

The University of Adelaide is repeating its edX course, “The world of wine: from grape to glass,” which first ran earlier this year and attracted 30 000 drinkers, sorry students. This repeat offering is self-paced giving participants time to really focus on their tasting notes. The team who teach the course, Kerry Wilkinson, Cassandra Collins, David Jeffrey and Paul Grbin won the best wine educator award from the Wine Communicators of Australia last night.

What Simon said

Education Minister Simon “softly softly” Birmingham was interviewed by Peter Van Onselen on Sky News yesterday, although it could have been the other way around given the way Professor Van Onselen made his views known. “Don’t you think that 40 per cent of Australians going to university is just too high?, he asked the minister. There is nothing unusual in this, Professor Van Onselen has oft expressed concerns over quality in undergraduate education. But what is interesting was Minister Birmingham’s reply.

“I am happy to see as many people going to university as will get good, high quality jobs at the end of it … So, the idea of having a demand driven system is great in that sense but it has been operating in a way where huge growth has occurred and there are questions about whether we’re getting the right employment outcomes, whether students are taking on debt that they shouldn’t necessarily have and these are all factors that we have to sensibly look at and considering where the government goes in future around university reform.

“I’m very conscious of making sure we structure incentives in a way where both sides of the market, both sides of the supply and demand equation for university’s students and the universities themselves, are behaving rationally and making sensible decisions.”

This sounds like something Kim “compacts” Carr could agree with and makes CMM wonder is the demand driven funding system in play as the government searches for savings to fund research?

More researchers fewer awards

Thanks to ANU geneticist and grant-watcher Gaetan Burgio for an analysis of how who got what in the 2015 National Health and Medical Research Council awards (CMM yesterday) is worse than previous years.

In 2010 there were 433 applications for early career fellowships, with funding for 121. This year 111 were awarded from 519. The 2010 success rate for career development fellowships was 62 from 468 applications, compared to 44 from 461 this year. Over the last five years successful applications for research fellowships has dropped from 92 out of 243 to 69 from 290.

Parker, Stephen Parker

“Off to Brit High Comm as Oddjob in my E-Type for costume-required advance screening of Spectre, new Bond movie,” University of Canberra VC Stephen Parker tweeted last night. The accompanying picture confirmed it all. Lord knows what Professor Parker will get up to when retirement from UoC and is free of all restraint.

Terrific training

It’s been a while coming (quite a while) but the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education and Training now has complete training data for all providers, not just government funded activity, starting in 2014. The result is extraordinary, all up 3.9m Australians, one in four of working age, were in some sort of study. It seems that 20 years after talk of “lifelong learning” started the community has got the message. All of the community – some 760 000 people aged 44-64 undertook training last year, 13 per cent of the age group.

This is great news for an era where skills and knowledge are the engines of economic growth. The subject completion rate (granted subject, not course) for publicly funded subjects last year was 82 per cent of some 27.5 million undertaken.

Even better is the evidence that while the rorters are ruining the private sector’s reputation the reality in the real training market is that people are sticking at it in both public and private sectors. In fact, like it or not the public training lobby is stuck with the privates-there is no possibility of TAFE picking up the huge amount of work undertaken by for-profit providers. Overall private trainers accounted for 2.25m students, 57 per cent of the total.

Transforming time tight

Starting from scratch might be a stretch but teams working on bids for the Australian Research Council’s Industrial Transformation Research Programme have a month to submit.