Gut reaction

CQU lists its values as Engagement, Can-Do, Openness, Leadership and Inclusion, conveniently acronymed as ECOLI.

Over and outages: UNSW staff and students can’t access computer drives

The UNSWhome-drive migration programme” does not appear to be going especially well. Last Friday university IT advised students that there was, “emergency maintenance in order to ensure the stability and performance of our systems during the exam period next week.” But by 11 am Tuesday, IT was reporting, “all staff and student home drives were unavailable.”

Things got a bit better that afternoon, but only a bit, after IT called in the cavalry. “Student home drives have been restored by the vendor IBM to a state as they were Friday 1 June 22:00. Files changed or created after that time are currently unavailable.”

But, and it was a very big but indeed, at 11am yesterdaystaff drives access is still being addressed. IBM continues to work to restore those newer student files and staff home drives. “

There is all sorts of anguish at UNSW, with staff wondering where work, and research files are, and when, or whether they are coming back.

There was talk yesterday that backups are gone. Surely not, CMM thought, so at 12.30 yesterday afternoon he asked the university’s media unit. UNSW had not responded by CMM’s deadline last night.

Chateau UTS

UTS is very pleased with its new, under-construction Building Two, not least for its four-flight double-helix staircase. Nice-touch for a university of technology. Leonardo da Vinci is generally held to have designed the world’s most famous d-h staircase, at the Chateau Chambord in the Loire Valley.

Local student growth slows

The government will be pleased with new stats showing Commonwealth supported student starts staying stable in first half 2017 over ‘16, down 0.3 per cent. This continues a trend starting in 2015 which appears to indicate the demand driven system had peaked. If so it will make it easier for ministers to argue that the coming cap on undergraduate places at this year’s level will not generate unmet demand.

Overall growth in higher education enrolments is being driven by international students. While total domestic student numbers in the first half of last year were up 1.2 per cent on 2016 comparable international student growth was 10.5 per cent.

No issue Monday

CMM is taking the Monday public holiday in most states. Back on Tuesday.

At CQU the people speak with one VOICE

Just about every university conducts a VOICE staff-survey but few are coloured in as much green (for great results) and gold (for good ones) as CQU.

On a survey response of 77 per cent CQU-ers, generally by thumping majorities, report believing and belonging in the university and being committed to its goals. Even the few weak results are relatively strong – while 49 per cent of respondents said they had input into every day decision-making, this was 5 per cent up on the 2015 survey and six per cent above the uni-system benchmark. There will be a bunch of speeches about what a good job VC Scott Bowman has done when he retires at year end. These results already say a bunch about how he led CQU.

Dolt of the day

A bright spark (sorry) at UoQ suggests CMM is a dill for not knowing the difference between a megawatt and a megawatt hour. The university will build a solar farm which will produce 154 000 of the latter, which is way less than the former. Guilty as (ahem) charged.

Frank and up-front

There was the usual ducking and covering yesterday as universities did not respond to reported security breach warnings from UK provider of HR software, PageUp.

Honourable exceptions are, the University of Tasmania, which warned people who had successfully applied for jobs in the last few months that their details might be exposed (CMM yesterday). The University of Melbourne also spoke up, saying no breaches were obvious but people who might be effected should change passwords. As did the University of Adelaide, which states it isn’t aware of “fraudulent activity” and that it “has strong assurances” from PageUp that there is no current security risk. However, UniAdelaide does suggest that people in contact with the university via PageUp change their passwords.

Achievements and appointments

Yvonne Breyer and Macquarie U colleagues have won Coursera’s outstanding educator award for transformation, for their four-unit MOOCExcel skills for business (CMMFebruary 5). It’s had 40 000 enrolments and the current sessions started last week.

Curtin University public health researcher Mike Daube is the West Australian of the Year.  The university made him a professor emeritus this week.

Anita Bowman (CQU) is the Australasian Sonographer Association educator of the yearand sonographer of the year. Both honours double as lifetime achievement awards as Aspro Bowman, along with husband CQU VC Scott Bowman are leaving the university at the end of the year to travel.

Vanessa Pirotta from Macquarie U won the Australian round of FameLab, the British Council’s explain-your-research-in-three-minutes competition. She goes on to the world finals, at the Cheltenham Science Festival, this week.

RMIT researcher Hannah Badland is the Australian Health Promotion Association’s new thinker in residence.

Lara McKay is moving back to the University of Melbourne, where she used to run marketing commsto become master of Ormond College.

Nick Birbilis is moving from Monash to ANU where he will be deputy dean of engineering and computer science.

Simon Wilkie will be the next dean of business and economics at Monash U. He joins from the University of Southern California.

Isabelle Skinner from James Cook U is the new CEO of the International Council of Nurses, the global umbrella body for 130 national associations.

Gwidon Stachowiak and adjunct professor John Stephens are new emeritus professors at Curtin U. PVC Andris Stelbovics becomes a John Curtin distinguished professor.

Attrition: it’s up to universities to do something about it

Federation U, Swinburne U and the University of Tasmania are singled out for “showing significant rises” in student attrition,” in the Higher Education Standards Panel’s final report on completion rates, released this morning.

While there is no “immediate crisis” in higher education, “significant improvements in provider approach are possible to maximise students’ chances of successfully completing their studies,” the HESP states. It adds, that institutions cannot avoid responsibility for their attrition rates by blaming students’ backgrounds and circumstances.

“There are some institutions supporting higher-risk students to succeed to greater effect than others. An analysis using regression techniques showed that student characteristics only explained a small part of the overall variation in student attrition. The institution is a more important factor than the basis of admission, the student’s ATAR score, type of attendance, mode of attendance or age in explaining attrition – although, all measurable factors only explain 22.5 per cent of the overall variation in attrition.”

HESP also recommends the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency use its existing powers to ensure compliance with the Higher Education Standards Framework and; “take account of every institution’s retention performance in assessing whether these standards are being met.”

Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham says, “greater focus on student outcomes improves the employment prospects of students, benefits prospective employers and ultimately delivers better value for taxpayers. Whilst some institutions have reduced their attrition rates and made big efforts to better support students, there is still work to be done across the entire sector.”

Senator Birmingham adds, the government accepts all of HESP’s 18 recommendations which cover;

Compliance with higher education standards

Better access to career and study advice

Institutions improving student services and retention strategies, especially for external students

Shared resources on best practice

Improved stats across the HE system

TEQSA examining attrition 

Revealed: the universities that students leave in droves

The Higher Education Standards Panel identified attrition rates at universities and some other providers, using regression techniques to ‘allow for the influence of student characteristics’.  “Controlling for student characteristics reduces variation in institutional attrition rates by just under half. The standard deviation of adjusted institutional attrition rates is 7.5 percentage points which reduces to 4.4 percentage points for the OLS method and 4.3 percentage points for the logit method,” HESP states. (Sorry, no idea.)


Adjusted and ‘modified for student distribution’ institutional attrition rates, domestic bachelor commencing students, 2014, per cent

Institution Adjusted attrition rate OLS ‘modified’ attrition rate Logit ‘modified’ attrition rate
The University of Melbourne 3.7 8.6 5.3
University of New South Wales 4.8 9.2 5.9
The University of Sydney 5.9 10.3 7.2
Monash University 6.5 11.8 8.8
The Australian National University 7.3 10.1 7.7
The University of Western Australia 7.7 12.7 10.6
University of Technology Sydney 7.7 10.0 8.0
The University of Notre Dame Australia 9.5 10.4 8.6
Macquarie University 9.7 11.7 9.9
The University of Queensland 9.9 14.3 12.4
RMIT University 10.3 13.2 11.0
University of Wollongong 10.6 12.0 10.0
The University of Adelaide 11.6 14.8 13.1
La Trobe University 11.6 13.7 11.3
Queensland University of Technology 12.0 14.2 12.3
Western Sydney University 14.0 13.4 11.7
Curtin University of Technology 14.1 14.3 12.6
Deakin University 14.4 13.7 11.8
University of Newcastle 14.5 15.1 13.0
Avondale College of Higher Education 15.3 14.3 12.2
Australian Catholic University 15.3 15.8 13.8
Griffith University 16.0 17.3 15.2
University of South Australia 16.1 16.3 14.5
Flinders University of South Australia 17.1 17.8 15.8
University of Canberra 17.3 17.6 15.6
Murdoch University 18.7 16.5 14.4
James Cook University 19.0 20.1 18.3
Victoria University 19.5 18.1 15.6
University of the Sunshine Coast 19.9 20.0 17.9
Edith Cowan University 20.7 17.8 15.6
Eastern College Australia Inc 21.9 13.9 11.5
University of Southern Queensland 22.2 16.6 15.3
University of New England 22.6 15.1 13.8
Charles Sturt University 22.7 15.2 13.2
Federation University Australia 23.3 21.3 18.3
Central Queensland University 23.9 18.9 17.0
Southern Cross University 24.1 20.5 17.8
Christian Heritage College 24.4 21.8 19.1
Swinburne University of Technology 24.7 16.8 14.4
Holmesglen Institute of TAFE 25.8 23.5 22.9
Charles Darwin University 26.1 18.7 16.5
Tabor Adelaide 27.4 18.9 15.3
Melbourne Polytechnic 28.1 24.5 20.8
University of Tasmania 37.7 30.2 25.4
Standard deviation

(percentage points)

7.5 4.4 4.3