What he really thinks

Education Minister Alan Tudge has a message for unis on the release of the QILT student satisfaction surveys

“The results are of course impacted by COVID-19, but we can and should be doing better,” Minister Tudge said.

“I want all universities to focus on their main purpose: educating Australians and giving them the skills and qualifications that will get them into a job.”

Scroll down for QILT coverage.

Insta is the answer

 “There is a widening gap between an ageing professoriate and today’s Snapchatting and TikToking 18-year-olds,”

Suggests Nick Agar, Victoria U of Wellington professor of ethics

To which the  Australian Deans of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences respond (via Twitter), “older faculty don’t have to be on Snapchat and TikTok to be youth-adjacent. But they do need to understand where today’s 18-year-olds are coming from.” CMM looks forward to DASH as Instagram influencer.


There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Merlin Crossley on how humour can help (and hinder) in teaching.

Amanda-Jane George (CQU) suggests there is a third approach – non R&D innovation, “simple or incremental innovation, like changing delivery methods or shifting on-line.”

Mahsood Shah (Swinburne U) wanted to know how students learnt during COVID 19 – so he asked three peak-body leaders. Their paper is in Features this morning. It’s this week’s contribution to Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s long-running series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

A new business for bized

International students will not be back on campus this year or next

Qual and quant research for the Australian Business Deans Council suggests senior bized staff think COVID-19 has caused a permanent change to what and how they teach.

A new survey reveals,

* the 2020 on-line experience will have an impact on the traditional lecture, with business schools, “looking to develop new models for content delivery that can find the ‘sweet spot’ between cost savings, meeting the needs of students and teaching staff, and providing a ‘COVID-safe’ environment”

* new products, notably short-courses, ‘stackable’ and ‘build your own degree’ programmes

* more distinctive brand and product differentiation

* virtual study tours and internships, curriculum collaboration with overseas institutions and study from home programmes to keep the international market alive.

As to when demand will bounce back, “few faculty believe that international student numbers will return to the historical normal before 2023 at the earliest.”

Unis take big hits on student satisfaction

The QILT 2020 results reveal declines in student satisfaction across the country but have a look at Monash U, RMIT and Uni Melbourne

Not so marvellous Melbourne: The University of Melbourne records the biggest year on year decline in the 2020 Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching undergraduate survey, released yesterday.

One of the nation’s most prestigious university recorded an overall student satisfaction score of 52.3, well below the national average of 68.4 and 25 points down on its 2019 result.

Victoria’s other Group of Eight elite institution, Monash U, also too a huge hit, rating 60.4 last year compared to 78.6 in 2019. RMIT followed, 16 points lower in 2020, to 62.1.

QUT (81.8 in ’19 and 65.8 in ’20) and Uni Wollongong (81 and 66.7) make up the five universities with the worse falls in overall student satisfaction.

The least-worse news: The lowest overall declines were for Uni Southern Queensland, Edith Cowan U, CQU, UNE and Bond U. UNSW also took small hit, down 3.2 year on year, although that was off a below-average 2019 base.

Bad, but not all over: The universal expectation is met, that undergraduate satisfaction with the quality of their student experience would decline, due to the rush to on-line study and disruption to life, especially for vulnerable international students. The 2020 positive response on the quality of the entire education experience was 68.4, down from 78.4 in 2019. And learner engagement score dropped from 59.9 to 43.2.

However, in a tribute to class-room teachers, learning designers and student support staff  everywhere, two key categories recorded less than abysmal falls. The overall score for teaching quality dropped from 80.9 to 77.6. Student support was down 3.2, to 73.7.

Dejection in the detail: The head-line numbers do not explain all of what’s occurred. While traditional DE providers did ok, others expanding on-line could have hoped for more. In some cases, this could have come down to culture, where campus-classes gone remote could not match those taught by on-line experts in the same institution. And where universities are based matters – students living in Melbourne communities suffered way more than those anywhere else.

Then there are specifics, universities big on lab-based and demonstration courses suffered – with student satisfaction down 11 per cent (82 per cent in 2019 to71 per cent last year) and universities that did worse on engagement will have taken a hit, overall just 52 per cent of students were satisfied with being able to work with their peers, down from 66 per cent in 2019. Plus the overall experience of internationals will have hurt. Just under 50 per cent reported their finances impacted on studies (20 per cent up on last year). Overall fewer international students rated their entire education experience as positive (63 per cent) than locals (70 per cent).

Take Covid-cover: There’s enough data in QILT to create a case for every institution’s circumstances and some universities will spin the results as best they can (others will do what they always do, just keep heads-down to hacks lose interest). And this year the COVID-19 disaster will make special-pleading plausible. Good-o, but it alone cannot explain why some rich and powerful institutions did badly, very badly indeed.

The price of parking for Monash U

The Victorian Ombudsman wants Monash U to pay back a bunch of parking fines that people appealed (CMM yesterday). Monash U accepts it must and has budgeted $1m.


Ticks all the boxes: new lists of what jobs need (including academics)

“It’s a new way of identifying the range of skills linked to occupations”

The National Skills Commission announces a collection of classifications that “for the first time in Australia,” “provides a connection between labour market analysis and skills needs.”

The beta version includes skills for 600 occupation, with elements, core competencies, specialist tasks and technology tools.

“Rather than using occupations and qualifications as proxies for skills, the Australian Skills Classification offers a new way of identifying the range of skills linked to occupations,” National Skills Commissioner, Adam Boyton announces.

And very helpful they will be to, in some cases for people recruiting for roles they know nothing about.

For example, “university lecturer” has 25 skills, including, “guide class discussions,” “serve on institutional or departmental committees”, “research topics in areas of expertise” and “write grant proposals.” Competencies required include, “teamwork” (nine out of ten) down to “numeracy” (six).

However, physicists have to be specifically skilled, their first is “develop theories or models of physical phenomena” and core competencies are all rated eight, nine or ten. Except for teamwork – which is four.

Sadly, “vice chancellor” is not a category.

Uni Queensland learning and teaching awards

The university honours 2020 achievers  

Teaching excellence: * Saiied Aminossadati (Mech and Mining Eng), Nicholas Carah (Comms and Arts), * Leanne Johnston (Health and Rehab Sciences) * Frances Shapter (Vet Science)

Enhance learning: * Madelaine-Marie Judd, * Kelly Matthews, * Naima Crisp, * Eimear Enright, * Julia Groening, * Yvonne Oberhollenzer, * Caelan Rafferty, * Franciele Spinelli (Students-Staff Partnerships Project)

Citations for student learning: * Roma Forbes (Health and Rehab Sciences) * Cle-Anne Gabriel (Business School) * Sara Herke (Maths and Physics) * Ian MacKenzie (Economics) * Ben Mitchell (Primary Care Clinical Unit) * Michael Thai (Pyschology)

Commendations for student learning: * Louise Ainscough (Biomedical Sciences) * Leigh Sperka (Human Movement, Nutrition Sciences) * Kate O’Brien * Steven Pratt * Peter Ellerton * Bernadino Virdis * Lisa Bai (Environmental Systems Engineering Team)

Making the case for VET: call for HECS-style loan

The NSW Government announces it adopts all five recommendations of Peter Shergold and David Gonski’s VET review

Their brief was to, “ensure NSW remains nationally and internationally competitive, and that VET is regarded as a genuine and desirable option for school leavers” and they respond with five recommendations.

The most ambitious is an Income Contingent Loan scheme, which the state should establish itself if the Commonwealth is not interested. Shergold and Gonski acknowledge the VET FEE HELP catastrophe but argue this was due to bad design and not an intrinsically flawed principal.

A well-designed scheme would, “reduce the distortion between higher and vocational education, increasing user choice and participation. It will make VET more accessible to students upfront and will level the playing feld of student decision-making,” they argue.

All their recommendations are,

* establish a multi-college Institute of Applied Technology, to, “deliver fully integrated theoretical and practical employability skills”

* create Careers NSW, to provide “life-long careers information”

* “improve the breadth and quality of voced in NSW high schools

* give employers “a more influential role” in planning and designing education and training courses

* an income contingent loan scheme for Certificate III and IV courses in priority skills areas

But there’s no rush. “While we advocate for the implementation of our package as a whole, the components of our reform agenda can be rolled out progressively. Indeed, we see virtue in demonstrating the benefits of new approaches before scaling up. … Each of the recommendations can also be implemented independently of the others, should that be the preference of the NSW Government,” they suggest.

There’s more to that than giving the government wriggle room – the state’s public training system had a terrible time with the too-much, too-fast implementation of the One TAFE administration. As the state’s auditor general advises, “TAFE NSW committed to timeframes and benefits without fully understanding its baseline, nor how achievable these timeframes and benefits would be,” (CMM January 20).

Appointments, achievements


Of the day

Marissa Betts(UNE)wins the A H Voisey Medal (for earth scientists), from the Geological Society of Australia’s NSW division.

Of the week

Kaarin Anstey receives a senior researcher award from the Journal of Mental Health and Prevention. Professor Anstey is deputy director of the ARC’s Centre of Excellence in Ageing and Popular Research.

Hazel Bateman (UNSW) is appointed chair of the Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement scientific council.

Dawn Bennett is leaving Curtin U to join Bond University as assistant provost.

IDP International reports Montse Castells is now Regional Director – Operations, for South East Asia and Joanna Storti joins as Commercial Director for IDP Connect, Asia Pacific.

Patricia Davidson receives a distinguished leadership award from the Consortium of Universities for Global Health. Professor Davidson is outgoing dean of nursing at Johns Hopkins U and incoming VC at Uni Wollongong.

Writer/director Wesley Enoch is appointed Indigenous Chair in the Creative Industries at QUT.

Rebecca Glauert moves from Telethon Kids Institute to scientific director at the Raine Study, (formerly known as the WA Pregnancy Cohort Study).

Noreen Golfman joins the academic advisory board of study-support provider (and CMM advertiser) Studiosity.  Dr Golfman is former provost and VP Academic of Memorial U in Newfoundland

Renee Hindmarsh is South Australia’s first skills commissioner. She moves from SA Training Advocate, prior to which she was ED of the Australian Technology Network.

Rosemary Kayess (UNSW) is elected chair of the UN’s Committee on the rights of people with disabilities.

Martin Parkinson is the in-coming chair of ANU’s Sir Roland Wilson Foundation, which provides postgrad scholarships and PD for public servants. Dr Parkinson is a former secretary of both Treasury and Prime Minister and Cabinet. He is now chancellor of Macquarie U. Ken Henry is the foundation’s out-going chair.

Shabih Shakeel takes up his appointment as lab head at WEHI (that’s the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for people who did not get the memo about the new abbreviated name).  His lab will research heterochromatin, which apparently is, “the dark matter of genome.”

At Western Sydney U, Michelle Trudgett is acting Senior DVC to mid-June, when Clare Pollock arrives from Flinders U to take up the position.