Praise of their peers

Macquarie U is the NSW entry in the education category of the national export awards, which should cheer the international recruiters up.

Makes a cheerful change from Vice Chancellor S Bruce Dowton, citing flat international student demand in “challenging and volatile markets” as one reason why the university needs to abolish a faculty.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning, Part Four of Dobson and Mulder’s series on the international alumni opportunity,  here

Lambert Schuwirth (Flinders U) on the five deadly disruptions universities have a decade to deal with,  here.

Commissioning editor Sally Kift on Connectedness 2.0 – the best chance for all in higher education,  here

Wonderful Wicking

The education category of the national export awards includes experts in putting paying bums on profitable seats – and then there is the entry that should win

Tasmania proposes the Wicking Centre for Dementia Research and Education, based at the state’s university. CMM is a big fan of Wicking’s work, notably the two MOOCs on understanding and dealing with dementia. There are 300 000 enrolments in 200 countries in them to date and a survey of 42 000 users reported “understanding” helps (CMM April 12).

The Wicking Centre may not add a brass razoo to the balance of payments but in demonstrating Australia is a world leader in dealing with one of the great health challenges of our time it is a great soft-power achievement.

If that is not enough Wicking (with Menzies Health Research) launches a MOOC on understanding MS, in March.

Did CMM mention he is a fan?

Research announcements: it’s not all in the timing

Andrew Leigh slammed the government in the Reps yesterday for politicising research announcements – harsh and not entirely fair

Speaking on a routine ARC funding bill Dr Leigh (ex ANU, now Labor member for Fenner) assured the House that, “Australian Research Council funding is seen as being above politics.” At least it was, until “the extraordinary politicisation of ARC grants” by the government in the last few years. He referred to former education minister Simon Birmingham vetoing humanities grants before joining the criticism of Dan Tehan for briefing Coalition MPs to announce recent Discovery Early Career Research Awards, delaying their being made public.

“To allocate grants in conjunction with local MPs gives the false impression to the Australian public that this is pork being handed out by the Morrison government rather than grants carefully assessed by expert scrutiny in the field and allocated purely on merit.”

Dr Leigh has a point, just not an original one, in every government since Federation minister who stayed ministers gave good funding news, whatever its origin, to their backbenchers to announce.

As to pork, that’s not the impression constituents of LNP member for the Townsville seat of Herbert, Phillip Thompson (LNP) would have necessarily got when he announced a DECRA for James Cook U’s Gergely Torda, “to examine whether coral reefs will be able to adapt to the pace of climate change as conditions for their survival deteriorate,” (CMM November 14).

“In Townsville, we understand how important it is to protect this incredible natural wonder. Dr Torda is also a wonderful inspiration to local students that you do not have to leave town to conduct research that can make a difference in the world,” Mr Thompson said.

And there’s more to Mr Tehan’s plan than making nice with his backbench, it is about building a coalition constituency for research. “If I can put a compelling case to my colleagues that we are absolutely instrumental in driving productivity in this nation for the next decade then I think that we can get the support that we need to grow the sector,” he told a meeting of vice chancellors in August (CMM September 2).

UNSW DVC Merlin Crossley makes a good case for a “set day for the communication of funding announcements.”

Minister Tehan makes a good one for building coalition support for research he can appeal to if, sorry, when, the budget razor gang asks him in for a chat.

The two are not exclusive.

Training demand transforming

Australians are skilling-up but this does not always work, for individuals or the VET system

Lisel O’Dwyer and Ian White analysed ABS data in qualifications for the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research.

Findings include;

* 90 per cent of workers with a VET certificate consider it “most relevant” to their work, while 39 per cent of dip holders think the qualification is not relevant to their job, 21 per cent of people with HE qualifications think the same

* The proportion of the workforce with higher education qualifications increased 33 per cent between 2006 and 2016, compared to a 19 per cent increase in VET diplomas and 5 per cent in certificates (overall VET was up 9 per cent).

VET is being ‘crowded out’ by higher education, a development that may signal over-qualification: in a tight labour market, over-qualification may reflect credentialism and qualification inflation,” they write.

* “Jobs built around technical skills — the mainstay of the VET system — have declined (including both manual jobs and clerical jobs rendered redundant by technological change) and will continue to decline”

* Occupations with the “largest shifts out of VET qualifications” 2006-16 were ambulance officers and paramedics, dental hygienists, technicians and therapists, and medical imaging professionals

* Demand for VET training over the next five-ten years will grow in, aged care, education aids, concreters and dental assistants

There’s good news for VET provision as it now exists

“The trend towards the acquisition of higher education qualifications suggests that demand for VET may increasingly come from younger workers, who need practical skills to compensate for experience not routinely provided in higher education.”

It is also the bad news

But what VET offers will need to change, “future demand for VET may also be driven by the emerging need for the workforce of the future to reskill and upskill, by undertaking training based on skill sets or micro-credentials rather than completing full qualifications.”

China matters more than ever

The feds set out country-markets share of international student revenue, based on ABS multipliers. It shows how big China’s share is. Scary huh?

This year Chinese students generate $12bn of the $37bn in national education exports, way more than the next five markets, India $5.5bn, Nepal, $1.6bn, Malaysia $1.4bn, Vietnam $1.4bn and Brazil, $1bn.

Overall revenue grew 15 per cent from 2013-15 to 2018-19, with China still up 9 per cent on a big base. Five years ago, the PRC generated around a quarter of industry income, it’s now 32 per cent.

And there’s no replacement market. (On which point is it only CMM who wonders how Nepal with a GDP of $US 79bn and 25 per cent of the population below the poverty line as of 2011 is Australia’s third largest education source?)

(Some of) The MOOCs with the mostest

There’s a ranking of universities who use three big platforms

MoocLab ranks providers who publish with Coursera, edX and FutureLearn, on five criteria; number offered, “provision of learning pathways”, micro-credentials, degrees and the institution’s average world ranking. For whatever it is worth, the last one is the mean of Times Higher, QS, Academic Ranking of World Universities scores.

As a guide to overall MOOC quality it is not much, but it is an indication of who is active on three big platforms.

The top five world-wide are Delft U, Uni Penn, Uni Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), Coventry U and Michigan U.

Deakin U is eighth, Uni Queensland 12th, Curtin U 22nd, Monash U 48th, ANU 56th, Macquarie U 59th, Uni Adelaide 62nd, Uni Melbourne 65th, UNSW 73rd, Uni Sydney 74th, Uni Newcastle 86th, QUT 121st, UWA 127th, RMIT 133rd, Uni Wollongong 163rd and Griffith U 173rd.

Claire Field on ASEAN Vet: ahead of Australia for Industry 4.0


Australia used to have much to offer ASEAN, now not so much

When we think about the Australian VET system and our relationship with countries in the ASEAN region – I’m guessing that most, if not all of us, think about what Australian training providers can offer, how we can help, what knowledge and skills we can pass on.

That’s a generous attitude and historically it made sense. Businesses in the ASEAN region wanted higher level, more advanced technical skills and many of ASEAN’s training providers could benefit from Australia’s expertise. This was not just because of our more developed economy but also because of key reforms like the Australian Qualifications Framework, and Training Packages, which collectively enable industry input into the design of training standards and provide for nationally portable qualifications.

The point is though that these reforms were introduced almost a quarter of a century ago and while we have subsequently been (endlessly) tinkering with them, our friends in the ASEAN region are moving and have moved ahead of us.

The Penang Skills Development Centre is just one example of an ASEAN TVET provider we can and should learn from. They are well ahead of most Australian RTOs (public and private) in the delivery of training for Industry 4.0.

I was honoured to visit the PSDC as part of this year’s ASEAN-Australia Education Dialogue. My observations on the Dialogue as well as the site visits to PSDC and one of the Malaysian polytechnics, Politeknik Tuanku Sultanah Bahiyah, are available here or you can listen to the podcast version here.

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

ANU achievement awards

The 2019 VC awards are announced

Peter Baume award (“highest accolade for staff”): Barry Pogson (Plant Sciences)

Chancellor’s award (“distinguished contribution”): Richard Baker (emeritus professor)

Service to campus community: Neill Daly (Facilities and Services)

Innovation and excellence in service: also Neill Daly

Early career academics: Zongyou Yin (Chemistry), Sofia Samper Carro (Zooarchaeology)

Educational excellence: Samantha Bennett (Music)

Impact and Engagement: * Jay Poria and the ANU India Future Research Talent Award team, * Mark Howden with the ANU Climate Change Institute and ANU Media-Multimedia

Reconciliation: Marian Irvine and the National Indigenous Summer School committee

Research excellence: * Michelle Coote (Chemistry) * Seth Lazar (Humanising Machine Intelligence Grand Challenge)

Equity and diversity: ANU Gender Institute

Health and safety: Xin LI  (Work, Health and Safety)