Oars not so old

The University of Melbourne promotes the rowing race between it and the University of Sydney, “that captures the long-standing rivalry between two great cities and two great universities.” Good-o but this contest started in 2009.

There’s more in the Mail

In a world-first for tertiary education, the University of Newcastle is adopting a personalised approach to learning design, known as “Big Picture Education.”  Erica James explains.

Tiago Barros from Publons reports on the state of peer reviewing, including growing demand for, but declining supply of, reviewers and the push for publishing reviews.

Keep the state out of science findings says STA

Science and Technology Australia warns against attempts “to discredit the integrity of scientists”

What’s going on: The National Party has adopted as policy establishing an “independent science quality assurance agency,” to “provide quality assurance and verification of scientific papers which are used to influence, formulate or determine public policy,” (CMM Monday).

Which perplexes the science establishment: Science and Technology Australia’s Emma Johnston and Kylie Walker respond, “we are perplexed by recent attempts to discredit the integrity of scientists.”

“The work of scientists is arguably subjected to a greater rigour and scrutiny than any other professional group. Grant funding cannot be obtained without passing both a test of independent experts and political ‘national interest’ tests. Results cannot be published and promotion cannot be achieved without convincing an independent group of experts from around the world that the discovery you have made or the theory you have proven is as close to correct as it is possible to be. And on the rare occasion that flawed findings make it through all those hoops and checks, there is no cover-up. Retractions are published, results are withdrawn – the word is spread.”

Where this came from: The Nats policy sponsor is George Christensen, whose federal seat looks east to the Great Barrier Reef and west to coal mines. “Farmers, coal miners, business and industry across this nation are being railroaded by policies that have been implemented because scientific research papers said there was some problem that needed fixing. Many of those last scientific papers have never been tested and their conclusions may be wrong,” he posted to Facebook, Saturday.

He’s not alone. Senator Susan McDonald (Nats, Queensland) wants the Senate rural and regional references committee to inquire into, “the existing evidence base on the impact of farm water runoff on the health of the Great Barrier Reef and catchment areas” and “proposed changes to regulations that would impact on farm productivity and the potential benefits of such proposed regulations.”

Where STA fears it could go: “Does Australia really want a culture in which our strongest testers of the truth and our best chance of creating solutions to existential challenges are afraid to speak up? Where scientists working for national scientific institutions are publicly harassed after presenting their findings,?” STA asks.


UNSW expands into legal practice quals

ANU is getting out of practical legal training – as UNSW is getting in

UNSW law dean George Williams announces the university will provide “practical legal training,” to qualify graduates for practice, starting next year. The course consists of five days of in-person workshops and 19 weeks of on-line learning with “practitioner mentors,” “providing structured support”.

Last month ANU announced it will close its School of Legal Practice (CMM August 9). Campus observers suggest university management do not think it can be competitive against private providers. Not so at UNSW, which is charging $10 800 tuition.

UNE management assists students caught by industrial action

But the university signals it wants workload change

What’s happened: Students at the University of New England have a week’s assignment extension, granted, PVC Academic Innovation Jonathan Powles says, because the union has a ban on electronic communication with students.

“Coming as this action does in the busiest assessment period in the trimester, students have understandably reacted negatively to the disruption to their studies. Requests for assistance have been received centrally and at faculty level. In particular, on-line students have felt that their coming assessment performance may be negatively impacted as they cannot ask questions or receive advice or guidance online owing to the industrial action.”

Where this comes from: UNE management and the National Tertiary Education Union have been at odds for well over a year on all sorts of workload issues, mostly connected to enterprise bargaining. New vice chancellor Brigid Heywood has made it plain that to return to a budget surplus, productivity needs to lift and that means changes to academic workloads.  Presumably she is also looking to fund the $400m STEM she told the local Armidale Express about.

TEQSA hires integrity experts for standards roadshow

The regulator commissions Tracey Bretag (UniSA) and colleagues to advise on cheating

The Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency is funding a team led by AsPro Bretag to develop and deliver workshops at 20 institutions on maintaining research integrity and dealing with contract cheating.

The programme will run late this year –early next, starting on October 28 at EQUALs college in Adelaide.

Dr Bretag worked with TEQSA on its 2017 good practice note on contract cheating. (Members of the project team are in appointments and achievements, below).

MOOC of the morning

A learned reader recommends, Teaching in university science laboratories (via Coursera)

Mauro Mocerino (Curtin U) is a member of the mainly University of Amsterdam team. “This MOOC goes to the heart of supporting our sessional and very early career academics with gentle introductory pedagogical theory and practical teaching skills that they can go out and use immediately. Low stakes, high quality, free professional development for our most overlooked colleagues, the LR advises.

VET student loans: more opportunities for men


The VET Student Loans scheme shows a funding bias towards male occupations and includes a raft of courses not offered by any registered training organisations

I learnt these startling facts from work commissioned by Niche Education Group, a highly-respected RTO in the beauty and dermal therapies industry offering a range of accredited courses to meet the skill needs of their industry. Their students cannot access a VSL loan for these courses – because Niche is a private provider.

Managing Director, April Jorgensen, hired a data analyst to look at the VSL scheme. That analysis is still underway but I am pleased to share some of the initial findings.

Looking at Band Three courses (those which receive the largest loans):

* nearly 30 per cent of courses are not offered by any RTOs (VSL approved or not).

* nearly 60 per cent are offered by two or fewer RTOs (VSL approved or not).

* almost two-thirds of all Band Three courses lead to work in male-dominated industries.

* courses aligned to female-dominated industries make up less than 5 per cent of those funded at Band Three.

* the median number of units in a Band Three diploma is 14, whereas it is 17 units for Band Two diplomas.

* some Band Two diplomas comprise 25 units and require extensive equipment and facilities to meet Training Package requirements (for example) the Diploma of Beauty Therapy.

While there is more analysis to be done, initial results indicate the scheme discriminates against women and is not delivering the expected employment outcomes.

 Claire Field advises on VET, international education and private higher education

Appointments, achievements

The Media Centre for Education Research Australia announces six new members for its education research advisory panel; Kim Beswick (UNSW), Sheilah Degotardi (Macquarie U), Julianne Moss (Deakin U), Mary Ryan (Macquarie U), Pasi Sahlberg (UNSW) and Annette Woods (Australian Association for Research in Education).

Publons (Web of Science group) announces its top global peer reviewers for 2019. The cross-publisher awards “recognise global researchers for both the quality and quantity of their peer reviews.” Three ANZ based reviewers are on the ten-person list of top editors by number of manuscript peer-reviews managed,  Anthony C Smith, (professor of on-line health at the University of Queensland), Sara Dolnicar (professor tourism, also Uni Queensland) and Marius Rademaker (dermatology, Uni Auckland).

Martina Stenzel (UNSW) wins the Royal Society of NSW’s bi-annual Liversidge Medal for chemistry.  Professor Stenzel became a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science last year.

Team members for TEQSA’s new academic integrity-contract cheating workshop are; Tracey Bretag (Uni SA), Guy Curtis, (UWA), Margot McNeill, (International College of Management Sydney) and Christine Slade, (Uni Queensland).