Plus Sydney moves on MOOCs

Keep it short

“Wouldn’t it be gr8 if nxt yr boffins could txt apps to wazzer@nhmrc” Paul Kniest from the NTEU suggests in response to suggestions from the National Health and Medical Research Council on how to save time on their funding applications. (CMM yesterday). I am guessing “wazzer” is chair Professor Warwick Anderson – who takes over at the Human Frontier Science Programme in July. With jokes like that I wonder if he wishes it was sooner.

Arguing to the end

The Australian Council for Private Education and Training is making a last ditch stand in support of deregulation, calling on supporters to encourage students to sign a petition which points out that they, “pay full fees and an extra 25% on our HECS debt” and asks, “why should we be disadvantaged simply because of where we choose to study.” ACPET is hoping for 2000 signatories – good-oh, but it looks like way too little, too late.

CEF Jan 15


And sticking to the script

Training Minister Simon Birmingham is hammering away on how the feds are cleaning up private training. “Rapid growth in training providers has brought some shonks into the market, taking advantage of vulnerable people. And I hear too often of training for training’s sake; people who complete multiple training certificates yet remain no more employable. Our government has already introduced tougher regulations to target shonks,” he told his hometown newspaper The Advertiser on Monday.

He has to keep hammering if he has any hope of being heard. ABC radio bought into the crook private providers problem yesterday with a scathing story of expensive courses that did not deliver what was promised. The TAFE lobby will be loving it. So is Labor, “it seems that every week we are hearing a new story about unscrupulous recruiting practices, yet all we hear from the minister is that the new National Standards or a Hotline will fix this. Yet the stories keep coming and students are still racking up debt for unsuitable courses” shadow training minister Sharon Bird said yesterday.

ANU tap into

Signs of the times

Via Twitter, last night

Conor King (Executive Director, Innovative Research Universities): “Why could I not move over XMAS New Year in Adelaide without seeing CSU signs?” Andy Vann (VC, Charles Sturt University): “have you enrolled in anything?” For sure Professor Vann knows where all the billboards are and wants to fine-tune the spread.

Mark on the money

It looks like members of various New South Wales university superannuation schemes established in the dim past, when the state government managed pensions can relax. There are three unfunded programmes and for years Canberra and Macquarie Street argued over which should pick up any shortfall between members’ defined benefits and what is in the kitty – the latter often insufficient to fund the former. But now Canberra has agreed to cover the gap. “This is a very pleasing outcome for staff who belong to these schemes and for the university,” University of Sydney HR director John Dixon told staff yesterday. Mr Dixon also made it clear who relieved retirees should thank, “we took the lead in the complex negotiation process and the Commonwealth has expressed gratitude for the “important and constructive role” played by our Chief Financial Officer, Mark Easson.”

Sydney moves on MOOCs

With all the other Group of Eight institutions members of various MOOC consortia the University of Sydney is late to the party. But DVC Education Pip Pattison is doing something about that now, announcing the university will develop MOOC courses, but without revealing on which platform. “The university is currently entering into an agreement,” is all she is saying. The university wants four MOOCs ready for market this year and has established an in-house production team to support the academics whose proposals are adopted. There is also $35 000 development funding per course.  The first four should “should  showcase existing research strengths,” which can mean whatever the people making the pick want it to.

Sharing the wealth

The University of California Press has announced Collabra, a new open access “mega” journal focusing biological, behavioural and environmental science. While author-processing charges apply the money raised goes to editors and peer reviewers – who might like to kick the cash on to their institutions open access fund. Makes a change to the for-profit model under which publishers pay nobody and send the resulting profit to their bottom line. The Press is also creating a new imprint, Luminos, which is intended “to ensure the longevity of monographic publishing” while creating “a wholly new approach to sustainable and affordable monograph publishing.”

“For authors whose traditional monographs have been relegated to sales of just a few hundred, an open access model offers the potential to exponentially increase the discoverability and readership of their work. UC Press’s model also supports rich multimedia content—essential in order to keep pace with new digital modes of scholarship,” the university argues.

It makes a change from the British report last week, which argued that because proper chaps like print the existing monograph model of short runs at ridiculous prices should continue. But sadly there is a catch; in this case it is producer pays. “For each title, UCal Press makes a significant contribution, augmented by membership funds from supporting libraries. Authors will then be asked to secure a title publication fee to cover the remaining costs. Additional revenue from supporting libraries and print sales will help to support an author waiver fund.”


Mutual benefit

Dating site reports a 42 per cent increase in students signing-up, which founder Brandon Wade attributes to the cost of HECs debt. The site lets people in search of a sugar daddy or mom, find people keen to oblige. It claims 3.6m members around the world who are interested in “mutually beneficial relationships on their own terms.” I’m guessing agreeing on “terms” might have a bit to do with any the nature of what happens next. According to SA, students at 20 Australian universities, numbered in the hundreds in at least one, are seeking generous friends. I’m guessing this is one league table the winners will not promote.

Off their bums

A generation after Australia first debated competency based training there is tentative interest in the US. Robert Kelchen reports on the small number of colleges that give credit for prior knowledge and skills acquired, rather than “seat time” in a new study for the American Enterprise Institute. He finds that CBE works for older students with workplace skills and some prior experience of post compulsory education but that no one really knows how the approach would work across para-professional courses or whether it can save students time and money. As the Australian experience demonstrated, don’t hold your breath waiting for wholesale endorsement.

I am a dill

In the first correction of the year (well, I nearly made it to the end of January) I got two names wrong in yesterday’s email edition. The acting business dean at UTS is Tracy Walker (not Taylor) and the author of the NCVER report on training regulation and standards in Europe and North America is Josie Misko.