Where the baddies are

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment advises this is “international fraud awareness week.” Presumably there are no local frauds worth mentioning.

International students about to arrive

Charles Darwin University announces it is going ahead with its pilot to bring international students into the NT

Perhaps the Prime Minister did not get the memo when he said, “the ability to move and take international students back at this time through quarantine arrangements does not present itself. It’s Australians coming home first,” (CMM Monday). But CDU is adamant that up to 70 students from five countries will fly out of Singapore into Darwin on November 30.  “The flight has the full approval of the Northern Territory and Australian governments and will not be impacted by Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement on Friday delaying the return of international students in other states.”

CMM asked how-come, but CDU did not respond.

The SA pilot is still on, in principle, but on hold, for now due to the present pandemic unpleasantness in Adelaide. “Our priority is the health and safety of South Australians … All inbound international flights have been suspended until the end of this week. We’ll continue to monitor the situation closely and will work with SA’s universities and the Federal Government with respect to the international students pilot programme,” was the SA Government position yesterday.

As for the ACT, the proposal for 350 international students to come to Canberra was put on-hold in July, where it stays.

Regional unis’ students: self-selecting for success

There is backslapping and tub-thumping among regional universities that look good for UG employment and pay on the new grad outcomes survey. (CMM November 16)

This may have much to do with the sort of people that study at regionals, as well as the undoubted excellence of the institutions.

As the very good indeed Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching, which produced the survey, puts it;

“graduates from regional universities are more likely to be older, study externally and part-time and maintain a continuing connection with the labour market which explains, in part, why graduates from these universities may have fared better in the current downturn. Also graduates from regional universities are more likely to have completed vocational degrees … these graduates have also fared better in the current downturn.”

The science in the fiction

UNSW radio astronomer Maria Cunningham is patron of the inaugural Sydney Science Fiction Film Festival

“Science fiction is how the majority of people interact with science, even though they are not conscious that this is what they are doing,” she says.

Making the point she teaches a course in the School of Physics,  “Brave new world,” which uses SF, “as a teaching aid to stimulate student interest and as a starting point from which to communicate the science, and its likely future development.
“This course aims to provide students with the level of scientific and technological literacy required to take an informed part in debate on important scientific issues,” the course summary states.

But it appears there are limits to who can get lost in space, the prospectus states; “students enrolled in a Faculty of Science programme should not take this course.”

Productivity Commission calls on unis to act on students mental health

University admin processes can impact the mental health of students. The Productivity Commission wants providers to be aware of what they are doing+

The PC’s  final report on Australians’ mental health is out, with a chapter on post-secondary students, particularly internationals.

The Commission recommends;

* universities expanding services to “meet student needs”

* “incorporate de-identified data collection on the mental health of students to enable ongoing improvements in the effectiveness and relevance of mental health support services”

* providers ensure “adequate coverage” of health insurance for international students. “They should also ensure their counselling services are able to meet the language and cultural diversity needs of their international students.”

* the Federal Government should, “require all tertiary education institutions to have a student mental health and wellbeing strategy that includes, but is not limited to, staff training”

* The higher education and VET regulators should provide institutions with best practise advice.

As to what support will require, notably for international students, the PC makes its view clear, “tertiary education institutions that choose to accept international students need to provide services to students that meet their various and diverse needs.”

+ The PC’s example was a university releasing semester results on a Friday afternoon, when counselling services were about to close.


Edith Cowan U building within its means

ECU is in the market for architects and engineers to builds its Perth city “vertical campus”

The project, which ECU prices at $695m, is funded by the Commonwealth, with land from the state government and $300m from the university. (CMM September 21).

Apart from people worried about what ECU will do with the Mount Lawley campus this is all good news for the university, which is not sacking staff while going big on capex. (In fact, ECU seems to be coping COVID-19-wise without making cuts to programmes and continuing staff head counts).

Unlike Griffith U, which is in the market for architects for its proposed $100m professional education building at the Nathan campus, while it is restructuring 299 positions off strength (CMM November 3 and 10).


Nowhere near a national approach for JobTrainer


As the Commonwealth pursues greater national consistency – a comparison between WA and NSW shows only 90 JobTrainer courses in common

JobTrainer is the joint Commonwealth-state and territory $1bn investment in 344,000 extra VET places over the next 12 months.

Despite the scheme being announced in August, to date only three jurisdictions have worked out which courses they will fund and which providers can deliver them: New South Wales, South Australia and the last jurisdiction to sign up to the scheme, Western Australia.

In NSW 291 providers have funding to deliver 337 courses. In South Australia, there are 158 providers and 300 courses, and in Western Australia 132 providers and 171 courses.

I am not a mathematician but for NSW this looks a little like “regression towards the mean”. The Productivity Commission previously identified NSW subsidising hundreds more VET courses than other jurisdictions. Not this time.

As the Commonwealth pursues greater national consistency – a comparison between WA and NSW shows only 90 JobTrainer courses in common.

While the NSW list includes a good number of animal studies and horse breeding/performance courses, in WA they are apparently preparing to rebuild their tourism sector after months of a hard COVID-border with a priority on tourism, tour guiding and events (not priorities in NSW).

Once all jurisdictions publish their JobTrainer details I will publish a fuller analysis. In the meantime, this exercise already highlights wide disparities in state government priorities, as well as extreme differences in course duration across different Training Packages for courses at the same AQF level.

How about three weeks for a Certificate Two in Maritime Operations when AQF Level Two qualifications should be six to 12 months’ duration? Yes, this qualification has pre-requisites and maps to an industry certificate of competency – but it is one of dozens of anomalies which raise questions about how appropriately the AQF is being applied.  I will be highlighting more in the weeks ahead.

Claire is an advisor to the tertiary education sector

Appointments, achievements

The Australian Information Security Association announces its 2020 awards.

Cyber security educator: Box Hill TAFE

Student of the year: Emily Pendlebury (La Trobe U)

Researcher of the year: Matthew Warren (RMIT)

STEM promotion of the year: Charles Sturt U’s “Girls in cyber security advancing” (sic)

Helen Lochhead is UNSW’s new PVC Precincts, which are where the university wants to co-locate university, industry and government organisations. Precincts include Randwick health and education (adjacent to UNSW Kensington), Canberra City and the Western Sydney Aerotropolis. Professor Lochhead moves from dean, built environment.

 Tim Marchant is the incoming director of the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute. He moves from Research Dean at uni Wollongong.  Asha Rao (RMIT) was appointed interim director in August following Tim Brown’s announcing he would stand down (CMM August 21)