Reasons for keeping lectures: the good, the bad and the ugly
The last textbook chapter
Merlin Crossley on being comfortable in a data desert
As long as it takes
Top spot on the list of extensive job titles is now shared
RMIT has an (deep breath), “associate deputy vice chancellor research training and development”. This matches Monash U’ s “interim senior vice provost-vice provost (research) (CMM April 3 2018).
There’s more in the Mail
In Features this morning, Matt Brett (Deakin U) on transparency in HE, what it involves and why we need it. It’s this week’s essay in commissioning editor Sally Kift’s series on change in teaching and learning.
Tehan talks-up relationship with unis
The minister is generous from a position of strength
Education Minister Dan Tehan will meet with vice chancellors in three weeks to put guidelines in place for campus freedom of academic inquiry, freedom of speech and freedom for peaceful protest.
In an interview with Sky News yesterday, Mr Tehan emphasised the strong state of cooperation between the government and university leaders in the light of protests among different groups of Chinese students over Hong Kong.
And he spoke up for the sector, talking of the importance of research in driving jobs growth and saying commercialising research, “will turbocharge the economy.”
Mr Tehan’s supportive approach follows university leaders accepting without complaint the principles of the government’s new student growth funding system (CMM August 9).
Looking to Brazil
The Study Brisbane international student recruitment group has organised a sales-mission to Brazil, including QUT, Uni Queensland, Griffith U, TAFE and CQU. There’s certainly room for growth, last year there were 4000 or so Brazilians in Queensland higher education.
Griffith U’s (mini) MOOC of the Morning
The university is leading by example in micro-courses and credentialing
Griffith U offers three units on on-line teaching and digital tech, via FutureLearn, but only for staff. Badged as Teach On-Line, the two-week units “focus on core drivers of great student learning”, which GU says are; experience, conversation, assessment and alignment. Some 2000 staff are eligible, including sessionals, not currently engaged.
Completers qualify for a completion badge, from FutureLearn.
Griffith U is also pioneering not-for credit student achievement badges via Credly, which are a digital record for resumes and social media (CMM April 9).
Cisco expands uni network, again
Networking technology company Cisco has a new partnership, its with Victoria U to establish a cybersecurity training centre
“This is one of my proudest moments at Cisco – an investment in partnership with a community based leading education institution focused on preparing students to learn and transition quickly into existing jobs that are a key component of the economic future of Australia,” Cisco’s Tim Fawcett said Friday.
VU says the project is “the first of its kind in Melbourne.” It’s certainly not the company’s first Australian university partnership. To name but a few, Cisco offers a cybersecurity degree with Flinders U. Students from ATN universities can access its on-line training – all up 20 000 ANZ students participate annually in its networking academy. It works with UTS in internet of things research and backs Curtin U MOOCs on the IoT. Cisco is also a member of the Edith Cowan based CRC for Cyber Security.
Look professor, no hands!
“University, uni-cycle; both require balancing skills.” Find out more at Open Day,” Victoria U tweeted video of a top-hated gent on a one-wheel bike yesterday.
Cash for research-service development
There’s an on-line Q&A today for a funding scheme to connect researchers to platform providers
It’s organised by the Australian Research Data Commons, a National Collaborative Research Infrastructure agency, built on three previous services.
There’s funding in three rounds for projects that support one or more of the National Science and Research Priorities through “a transformation of the kinds of research that are possible.” The ARDC says it is more interested in projects that adapt an existing platform rather than builds a new one. (How much funding you ask, CMM is too dim to work out what the ARDC is proposing – ask at the Q&A).
Four new ARC research hubs
Education Minister Dan Tehan announced yesterday $18m in funding over four years via the Australian Research Council
The projects are:
* lobster aquaculture, led by Gregory Smith at Uni Tasmania.
* combating antimicrobial resistance – Rebecca Guy, UNSW
* micro recycling of battery/consumer wastes – Veena Sahajwalla, UNSW
* sustainable crop protection – Neena Mitter, Uni Queensland
Points for international education
There’s a new accreditation scheme for people in off-shore student recruitment
The International Education Association of Australia has a new fellowship, a “professional credential that recognises and rewards members for their education, experience and engagement in international education.”
Aspiring fellows will “track education, experience and engagement with the sector” to accumulate points needed to become, associate fellows, fellows and senior fellows. “Members can set themselves a goal, track their activity and earn points towards being formally recognised with IEAA fellowship.”
The points framework goes live in two-weeks. Assessment costs $150 and fellows will be able to post their accreditation via the Credly digital platform.
This is the second new activity-based credential from an industry association announced in a week, the other is the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ACPET as was) certified education practitioner credential (CMM August 14).
Different uni ranking, same uni results
Whatever the methodology the same unis are on top
With universities turning up the spin cycle on their ARWU ranking results (CMM Friday), Isidro F Aguillo from Spanish research agency, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas took the opportunity to remind us of the July results for Australia in the CSIC’s Ranking Web of Universities.
Some purists dismiss the RWU, which is based on volume and impact of www on-line content, but then again, they also don’t like rankings based on surveys. Which leaves us with the course-based U-Multirank (which is hard to use and isn’t a ranking) and the Leiden U research- ranking (which is hard to understand).
But whatever the methodology, results are generally much the same, certainly at the sharp end, which may be Mr Aguillo’s point.
In his ranking, there are seven Australian universities in the global first 100, as there are in the new ARWU . The only difference is that Uni Adelaide makes the RWU cut with UWA missing out, which is the reverse of the ARWU.
And the spread of the super seven is similar on both. Uni Melb is 46th in the world in the RWU list (41 in ARWU), Uni Queensland is 54thn on both. There’s a relatively big difference for UNSW, at 55th for RWU and 94th for ARWU. Uni Sydney is 68th on the RWU and =80th on the ARWU. ANU is 71st and 76th, Monash is 79th and 73rd on the ARWU. Results between the two rankings for the last top 100 spot are reversed. Uni Adelaide is 100th on the Spanish ranking and in the 101-150 band of the ARWU while UWA, which is 99th on the ARWU is 166th on the RWU.
Ian Chubb is appointed chairman elect of “national peak pain organisation,” Pain Australia. Professor Chubb is a former Australian chief scientist and VC of ANU and Flinders U.
Griffith U’s Debbie Bargallie wins the Stanner Award for an analysis of racism in the Australian Public Service. The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies issue the biennial award for best manuscript by an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander scholar.
A UNSW team has won the best public sector campaign category at the Social Media Marketing Awards. Amy Roberts from the University of the Sunshine Coast won best student campaign.
Uni finances – ok(ish) for now
Federal government reports and state audits generally advise universities are in good financial shape. Helen Irvine and Christine Ryan (QUT) took an in-depth look
They report their analysis of financial data from all 39 public universities for 2009-2015 in journal Accounting, Auditing and Accountability, looking at five performance measures.
revenue health: They found the bottom ten universities are more dependent on government funding than the top ten, which have more diversified income streams. Viewing revenue concentration as “an indicator of financial vulnerability,” they conclude, “despite increases in total revenue, any cutbacks in government funding, given the limited revenue diversity across the sector, could render some universities financially vulnerable.”
expense health: While public documents put average surpluses at 6.1 per cent over 2009-15, they conclude the net operating result across the sector was 8.8 per cent. However five universities were in deficit by 2015.
The top ten institutions share of sector net operating result rose from 46.4 per cent in 2009 to 51.5 per cent in 2015. The bottom ten’s share of total sector result dropped from 8.1 per cent in 2009 to 4 per cent in 2015.
debt health: Overall, “the sector is financially healthy in terms of debt, and there is latent capacity for most universities to increase their levels of debt to service their needs and remain viable, and even, in some cases, resilient.” The share of interest-bearing debt is bigger among the middle 19 universities than the top and bottom ten.
liquidity health: Current ratios declined over time but are sustainable. The top institutions have lower ratios than those at the other end, perhaps demonstrating the first group’s more sophisticated cash management Crucially, reserves increased.
financial sustainability: The expenses to revenue gap among the top and bottom ten universities widened over the study period.
In 2015 one of the top ten and six of the bottom had a return on assets below 2015 inflation (1.5 per cent). “This indicates financial vulnerability, and the importance of leaner, more efficient operations regarding new building acquisition and the use or disposal of existing buildings, particularly vital in a digital age.” Irvine and Ryan warn
* “the university sector is viable in terms of revenue but will become vulnerable if attempts to diversify revenue are not successful. So far successful diversifying is “fledgling at best”
* the top ten is more likely to be sustainable and resilient “in the face of government funding uncertainty.” In the study period the bottom ten was “showing distinct signs of financial vulnerability”
* advocates of the current, or increased levels of public funding current need to consider university efficiency, allocation of resources, cross-subsidisation of courses and between teaching-research. They also need to consider marketing expenditure, employee benefits and general efficiencies
* advocates for less public funding should be aware this could threaten the viability of some universities and “seriously affect the sector’s capacity to offer equity of opportunity to all.”
Sadly, they do not name institutions.