Albanese silent on universities

The bad news for higher education is there is no news in Anthony Albanese big-picture leader’s speech

The Opposition Leader’s first big policy speech included an AI excellence centre and “a national project to repair our VET system,” plus national workforce planning.

But take no heart private providers, when Mr Albanese says VET, he mainly means TAFE, which “is the cornerstone of the Australian training system. It can be complemented, but never replaced.”

And accept the wreck of hopes HE people, universities are not mentioned at all.

TEQSA ticks Torrens U (with conditions)

The private university’s registration is renewed

The Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency has renewed the Laureate-owned, Adelaide-based, private provider for five years, two less than the maximum.

TEQSA has also imposed four conditions.

*  Academic Board to monitor student performance

* demonstrate how academic quality, including English-language standard will be maintained while enrolments increase

* report course reviews to TEQSA

* report research and scholarly outputs to TEQSA

Torrens U follows Charles Sturt U, renewed for four years, with conditions in May (CMM May 27) and U Tas, which got a nod for the magnificent seven, but also with conditions, (CMM October 16).

Working out the right rate for the job

There is a union-push at Uni Melbourne for casual teaching staff to be paid the correct rate for work

The campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union challenged management over the rate paid casual staff for marking in the School of Computing and Information Systems between June 2015 and last December. Word is the university is now contacting people who may not have been paid correctly. Uni Melbourne had not responded to a request for comment by deadline last night.

Working out the correct rate for casual university staff does not appear to be easy. Casuals in Macquarie U’s maths and stats department believed they were not being paid the correct rate and after discussions involving the Fair Work Commission university management agreed to pay up to $50 000 (CMM October 18).

The art is red: La Trobe gifted $2m contemporary collection

Geoff Raby has donated his 174-piece collection, mainly work by contemporary Chinese artists since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976

Dr Raby began collecting when an Australian diplomat in China in the mid ‘80s.  He now lives in Beijing and runs a cross-culture business advice firm.

La Trobe U gave me the knowledge and life-skills to achieve things that were unimaginable to me when I first walked through its doors in March 1973 … The collection is a small recognition of all that the institution and its staff, past and present, have done for so many students from Australia and overseas,” he says.

The gift is made under the Commonwealth’s Cultural Gifts Programme, which “offers tax incentives to encourage people to donate cultural items to public art galleries, museums, libraries and archives in Australia.”

Regional unis to run hard on secondary teacher training

Regional universities need to be “activist and leader” in the search for solutions to a teacher shortage

Secondary teacher education course commencements are down 8 per cent since 2014 and a shortage of teachers will be “most acutely felt” in regional, rural and remote areas. “Significant intervention is required to prevent the sector reaching a more severe crisis point,” a report for the Regional Universities Network warns.

Stephen Parker and Ian Hawke (KPMG) detail a range of issues that do not encourage school leavers, and people returning to study, to enrol in teacher education courses, including; * negative perceptions of teaching, * “media coverage” of the ATARs of school leavers enrolling in initial teacher education, and * the “general feeling” that teaching has lower prestige, reward and recognition than other professions.

“It seems most, if not all, stakeholders have an adverse view, whether broad or narrow of teaching. Many of these views have played out in the public domain, resulting in sharp criticisms and at times unhelpful policy interventions. There is no doubt that the “noise” around teaching is acting as a disincentive to school leavers, including those for whom, all other things being equal, teaching would be an attractive and long-term career options,” they warn

Parker and Hawke propose,

* ending ATARs in initial teacher education selection and developing entry measures based on individual aptitude and attributes, literacy and numeracy standards, relevant academic performance and personal interviews

* masters programmes for fields with teacher shortages could use a “job internship model”

* bringing former teachers back to the classroom

* RUN taking a leadership role in engaging with government, “and in policy reform of initial teacher education”


The National Health and Medical Research Council’s new grant system went live last week – only $10m over the original contract price
The new system, SAPPHIRE, was originally budgeted at $5.8m, including “an operational component.” The cost is now $16.2m which interested Senator Deborah O’Neill, (Labor NSW), who asked how come, in Estimates.

“Are you building a Rolls Royce?” Senator O’Neill asked the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Tony Krizan who explained the NHMRC’s “expectations have grown dramatically” and capability is added to support the Medical Research Future Fund.

Given the investment in tech increased as the system developed perhaps the senator meant a Tesla.

“At this stage I wouldn’t classify the project as being a cost blowout. Certainly, it is a significant amount; I acknowledge that. But, rather than being a project, it is a beast that is evolving,” Mr Krizan added.

“How many more millions are going to be invested in its beastliness?” Senator O’Neill asked.

“We are reaching our limit for the moment and we are deploying what we can, but I am not able to advise you on that, because it depends what further expectations are brought forward and if further resources are brought forward,” Mr Krizan replied.


VET student loans: not worth borrowing  

 Providers and students avoid the VSL scheme


In January 2017, then education minister, Simon Birmingham heralded the VET Student Loans scheme as “the start of a new era for vocational education in Australia.” He reassured us the program was “designed to support students to undertake industry-linked and value-for-money courses at quality training providers”.

He went on to say that “VET Student Loans includes a range of new measures to protect students and taxpayers, address skills shortages and ultimately restore the reputation of the vocational education sector.”

Sadly, the data tells a different story – one of a student loan scheme with such restrictions that providers and students avoid it.

In 2013 (prior to a small number of providers exploiting loopholes in the VET FEE-HELP scheme) there were 98,023 students in a higher-level VET qualification backed by a VFH loan. There were 276 providers participating in the scheme.

At the end of 2018 only 57,874 students were accessing a higher qualification through the VSL scheme; studying with one of 177 providers.

Thanks to an analysis commissioned by Niche Education Group – some of the reasons for the problems in the VSL scheme are now clear. They include, decisions in relation to the different levels of funding available to different courses, the lack of providers offering many VSL-eligible courses, issues with course and loan availability in different jurisdictions, and the exclusion of private providers’ accredited courses from the scheme.

Further details are here .

Claire Field advises on VET, international education and private higher education.

Appointments, achievements

Macquarie U observers expect  Martin Parkinson to be named chancellor today. Dr Parkinson is both a former Treasury secretary and head of Prime Minister and Cabinet.  In a speech in August he spoke of education as a means to end entrenched inter-generational disadvantage. “Education is a key way for us to even-up those odds but to do that we need the best education system we can build and a culture that values learning.”

Graeme Samuel (Monash U) chairs and Andrew Macintosh (ANU) is a member of the Commonwealth’s new review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Uni Sydney announces the second cohort of Robinson Fellows (salary, research funding and mentoring to “help prepare them to transfer into a continuing academic position.”

Sally Gainsbury (School of Psychology). Samantha Solon-Biet (School of Medical Sciences). Anne Tiedeman (School of Public Heath). Anna Waterhouse (Heart Research Institute). Phree Lep Yeoh (School of Electrical and Information and Engineering). Sabin Zahirovic (School of Geosciences)