Plus interfacing impactfully at Macquarie and PM praises James Cook  

Food for thought

What a surprise. Researchers at QUT have found “compulsive snacking” when the snacker is not hungry is a “major cause of weight gain.”

mindhive 2

Tests for teaching

Chris Pyne delivered on a February promise yesterday, announcing national literacy and numeracy tests for education students before they can qualify to teach. He is building on the Craven Review of teacher education, which slammed faculties while avoiding the push, notably from NSW education minister Adrian Piccoli, to set minimum academic entry scores for teaching degrees. Minister Pyne says the Australian Council for Educational Research will trial a test with 5000 students in August.

CMM wonders where this leaves work for the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership on standardised assessments of teaching graduates by its deputy chair Bill Loudon. Professor Loudon’s paper, dated February but only released last week, examined US and UK digital tests of teacher education students and suggested “a new, national capstone assessment of teacher performance would strengthen both the Graduate Teacher Standards and the accreditation Program Standards.”

“The option of nationally moderated assessments, combined with public disclosure of proportion of candidates passing at each institution, is a tantalising option for those committed to empirical measurement of standards,” he wrote.

Mr Pyne also again announced the overhaul for teacher ed courses next year, flagged by the Craven review. “For too long there have been public concerns about the variability in the quality of teaching graduates and in the effectiveness of existing programmes in preparing new teachers.”

It was a shocker of a Sunday for teacher education faculties. While critics of the plan are around today, including the University of Canberra‘s Misty Adoniou on Radio National this morning, CMM suspects deans of education will cop sweet all the implicit criticism, just as they astutely did in February. There are too many anecdotes of commencing teachers who aren’t academically flash for them to argue all in the academy is rosy. And Mr Pyne‘s plan leaves their revenue base intact, with no talk of mandatory minimum entry standards.

CEF June 15 3

House rules

The International Education Association of Australia heard on Friday how we have much to learn from the yanks about on-campus accommodation. Presumably including what not to do – is there a US dormitory university without an alcohol and sexual assault problem?

Interfacing impactfully at Macquarie

They love a review at Macquarie University. They have just had one in marketing communications, with three new senior jobs created. The university wants a comms director who can “impactfully tell Macquarie’s stories to the world.” There is no mention of working with the media, which CMM supposes means the university is keen to maintain its present subterranean profile in the press and focus on using its own digital channels. The university is also in the market for a “strategic and engaging” chief marketing officer who can do all the usual insightful, unless I mean impactful, stuff in “capturing the true spirit” of the place. MU also wants a director of future students who knows a bunch about student recruitment and has “the ability to interface widely” – which sounds like hell on the cheekbones.

CMM wonders whether there are implications for the comms strategy the university launched a year back, based on the brand statement “a university like no other,” (apart from the universities of Northern British Columbia and Utah which both use the same slogan), there was also an agency shakeout a couple of months back. (As CMM, said they like a review at Macquarie).

Topically tropical

Prime Minister Tony Abbott did the honours at the opening of James Cook U’s new Singapore campus yesterday. JCU has 2500 students there already and the new site, a former Buddhist high school on the CBD fringe, has room for 1500 more. This is a smart move indeed, taking an Australian education to customers who do not want, or cannot afford, to come here. “As Australia focuses more and more on strengthening our links with Asia universities focused on the tropics like James Cook will be very well placed to reap the benefits,” the prime minister said. CMM suspects VC Sandra Harding will quote that line in the university’s bid to house the new Developing Northern Australia CRC.

ANU June 4

Here we go again

The NSW NTEU launched its campaign for the next election on Friday with a message that sounded similar to its launch for the last, and every other, election. The NSW branch is proposing a 10 per cent increase in university base funding and opposing the Coalition’s deregulation plan. The comrades also reject public funding of “dodgy” private providers. Standard stuff, but what is interesting is the three NSW electorates the NTEU specifies it will target in the campaign, Page, Gilmore and Macquarie. Page is a north coast NSW seat, where the NTEU might have hope its friends in the Greens will do well, although the party only picked up 6 per cent of the 2013 vote, (down 2 per cent) when the Nats won the seat. Gilmore is on the south coast and has no strong higher education connection. It’s a safe-ish Liberal electorate, given the party won 46 per cent of the primary vote last time. Macquarie covers the Blue Mountains west of Sydney and is UWS staff heartland. The Liberal Party held it in 2013 with 47 per cent of the primary vote, compared to Labor’s 31 per cent and The Greens 11 per cent in 2013. Last election the union supported (but did not donate to) Greens in key seats, notably Adam Bandt in the electorate of Melbourne. CMM wonders what the national executive will make of the Sydney soviet’s choice of electorates.

Clever Carr considers Kiwis

Thanks to the reader who pointed CMM to Senator Kim Carr’s  bill to fix a higher education anomaly that hurts former New Zealanders now resident here. It seems people who came to Australia from NZ as minors, or were born here to Kiwi parents and are long-term residents, qualify for Commonwealth Supported Places at university but not for HELP loans to cover student fees in higher or further education. Chris Pyne’s deregulation package addresses the issue but this isn’t much help to former Kiwis while it is stalled in the Senate. So Labor’s shadow education minister has introduced his own bill to address the issue. This is a smart move by Senator Carr; the numbers in the Senate suggest the bill will pass if it ever comes to a vote, which places the government in a tight spot. To vote the bill down in the Reps would look mean, but to let it pass would give up a positive in the Pyne package.

UniSuper silence

UniSuper did not respond to CMM’s requests for comment on the government decision that superannuation funds must have independent chairs and that a third of board members must be independent of unions and business. It seems strange, because it will not be hard for the fund to meet the new requirement. As CMM reported in November, VCs nominate two board members, a consultative committee representing universities nominates two, as do committees representing academic and professional staff and unions nominated two. These eight appoint a further three independents to the board “on the basis of knowledge and experience.” Maybe UniSuper was worried CMM would also ask about the well-placed talk of major changes for the fund that in the works.

Indian itineraries

CMM has banged on for weeks about India being the new China in international education and the need for Australia to start chasing the vast market there, especially for training. So good for Chris Pyne, who will shortly lead an international education delegation (or is that a durbar?) to India. And even better for Foreign Affairs and Trade parliamentary secretary Steve Ciobi who was up there last week, among other things launching an Australian alumni association in Hyderabad.

White House white wash

In bad news for US students the higher education industry has seen off President Obama’s proposal for a government-created rating system, which was to rank colleges. The original idea was to compare colleges on a range of attributes from the start of the new academic year in a few months. It seems the White House wilted in the heat of complaining college presidents who feared the ranking system would not recognise their institutions unique challenges and wonderful qualities. The adamant opposition of education expert Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) who threatens to legislate against a government ranking can’t have helped (CMM June 12). But CMM suspects creating multi-measure rankings for 6000 US institutions was just too hard and the end product that will appear will be like the European U-Multirank, (grouped information on like universities) an excellent idea incoherently executed. In contrast, the word in Canberra is the team building the QILT database has a created a robust ranking that will make it possible to compare universities on performance. It will be up to Education Minister Pyne to do what the White House wont and defend it on publication when the serious sniping starts.