Brand in Space

“With construction well underway, we’ve reached another exciting milestone for the Australian Space Discovery Centre with the unveiling of its official brand! Launching in 2021, the ASDC will inspire the community and the next generation of the space workforce,” Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews, via Twitter yesterday. As the marketing guru in Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy put it, all very well, but what colour will people want it in?

Scholarship: TEQSA wants to know it when it sees it

The regulator asks the higher education community how it should identify scholarship

This is important because the Higher Education Standards Framework requires providers to undertake “scholarship” and the regulator wants to update its existing guidance on what it is.

So, there is a paper including five principles and nine, “selected examples” of key indicators. But in an editorial decision that may not amuse everybody rendered breathless by reading all the exciting prose, right at the end the regulator sums up what it will look for.

For individuals; claimed scholarship is “activity consistent” with an “established typology of scholarship” and “evidence of intended outputs or outcomes … “likely to foster advances more broadly.”

For providers; evidence of a “climate of scholarship” including institutional planning and monitoring of scholarships’ impact.

ANU to do more with less

Deep in the stage two recovery plan announced yesterday there is a reference to expanding short courses. “There is substantial interest and activity in the colleges to deliver micro-credentials in diverse areas to support revenue, professional networks and community outreach.” But there are limits to all this teaching and learning outside the academic box.

Micro-credentials also have the potential to enhance the pipeline of students into postgraduate programmes through credit,” the academic portfolio’s recovery plan states.

Uni reps (very) critically questioned on China links

Peak bodies representatives appeared at a Senate committee hearing yesterday

The Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade is inquiring into legislation to “assess and manage the effect of arrangements” between state/territory “entities” (and that includes universities) with “foreign entities.”

Senators Kitching (ALP-Vic), Fierravanti-Wells (Lib-NSW) and chair, Senator Abetz (Lib-Tas) were robust in questioning Catriona Jackson (Unis Aus) Vicki Thomson (Go8) and Luke Sheehy (ATN) about universities links with Chinese Government and Communist Party agencies, notably Confucius Institutes and their impact of such connections on human rights in the PRC and about protecting Australia’s interests in their relations with China. Some questions were institution specific and as such beyond witnesses ability to address in detail – which in some cases did not go down at all well.

Senator Ayres (Labor-NSW) followed with calming questions about how the legislation would work.

It gave Ms Thomson the chance to expand on her opening statement to the committee, that in the breadth of its application “we do not consider the bill fit for purpose.”

“We don’t want the bill to ensnare potentially tens of thousands of contracts which pose no risk because of the unintended consequences of drafting. This drafting may be eminently sensible for State and local government – but we are not them. Ensnaring us in the net will damage the economy. There is nothing surer. It will damage the potential for future technologies, future manufacturing, future jobs.”

This isn’t even the tough committee inquiry –  that’s the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security inquiry into “foreign interference” in universities and public research agencies, yet to start (CMM September 1).

Murdoch U academics to management: apologise over international admissions in 2018

Last year regulator TEQSA conducted a compliance assessment of Murdoch U’s international admissions 

“During the course of the assessment, the university self-identified a number of areas that would benefit from improved document management, record keeping and other processes which we have implemented. Our analysis found there was no systemic misapplication of admissions criteria, however, there were some specific cases identified and we immediately implemented remedial changes,” VC Eeva Leinonen states, (CMM October 8).

Murdoch U academics Graeme Hocking and Duncan Farrow, who went public in 2019 with their concerns over international admissions, wonder why the university “self-identified” and remediated issues when TEQSA got involved, given “university management had received multiple warnings from both internal and external sources well before the TEQSA investigation.”

“It is difficult to understand how ‘inconsistent application of … admission practices’ can result in the ‘admission of some international students (in 2018) who were ill-equipped to progress through their course of study,’” they say.

Our experience was that there were a significant number of such ill-equipped students. It would seem that either the “admissions practices” were not applied or were inadequate.”

And they point to the impact of what occurred, “it is very disappointing that university management is yet to acknowledge, let alone apologise for, the negative consequences of decisions, on the welfare of students (and staff) affected.

Claire Field on the future for digital skills accreditation in VET


It’s going to be what people can do not what training package they completed

“Creative destruction” and “innovation” are not terms typically associated with Australian public policy.

However, after a webinar last week it is clear that the accepted wisdom on public policy making in VET is being given a HUGE shake-up.

The “Workforce of the Future: Focus on Digital” webinar featured the Chair and a Board member of the pilot Digital Skills Organisation.

The pilot Skills Organisations come from the Joyce Review recommending “industry-owned and government-registered skills organisations to be set up to take responsibility for the qualification development process for their industries and to control their training packages.”

In a complete rejection of the ‘Training Package development’ part of their mandate the Digital Skills Organisation instead intends “to blow things up”. Specifically, their Board member stated the Training Package model is ill-suited to the fast-moving skill needs of the tech sector and therefore they instead intend encouraging/investing in a variety of innovative, non-accredited, education models.

While Joyce also recommended that skills organisations receive funding based on the level of training activity undertaken in their field, it is unclear if the Digital Skills Organisation sees any role for formal IT training in VET. They want to put the emphasis on certifying the skills people gain. Where and how the skills are learned is irrelevant.

One innovative example which was discussed was the 42 Program which one of the webinar participants is involved in bringing to Australia.

CMM readers will know that for some time I have been pondering if and how government would respond to the threat from the non-accredited EdTech sector. I did not imagine they would look to bring it into the heart of the formal VET system.

The video of the webinar is not yet on the Department’s website – but it is a “must watch” when it is.

Claire is an advisor to the tertiary education sector. She has written about the threats and opportunities from EdTech and has interviewed a number of EdTech entrepreneurs on the ‘What now? What next?’ podcast

Uni Newcastle expands support for teachers

The university has funding to foster a PD resource in schools

Uni Newcastle announces its Quality Teaching Academy, to provide teachers, “support services, resources and networks to implement and evaluate professional development in their schools.” It joins the quality teaching rounds and assessments Uni Newcastle already offers with funding from the Paul Ramsay Foundation, (yes that Paul Ramsay, but nothing to do with the western civilisation study programme).

The Foundation stumped up $16.4m for Uni Newcastle to develop PD for school teachers in 2018 CMM July 27 2018). The new programme is developed by Laureate Professor Jenny Gore, with Un Newcastle colleagues Jess Harris and Drew Miller.

Jobs going and to go at ANU

The good news at ANU is the bad news could be worse

The second stage of the university’s recovery plan went to staff yesterday, with the headline news being the number of jobs still to go, is down, thanks to the success of the voluntary separation programme. With 273 people deciding to leave, required departures are now 194, down from the previous 215.

Yesterday the university released where the departures will be.

Arts and Social Sciences: 35 staff gone a further 12 needed

Asia and the Pacific: 17 voluntary separations so far, with a further 18 needed. The college will hire eight positions, “aligned with emerging needs”

Business and Economics: 11 voluntary separations and no more departures needed. The college will recruit for five positions

Engineering and Computer Science: 17 people gone, 19 more departures needed. Recruiting 15 positions

Health and Medicine: 18 positions voluntarily gone, 22 still needed to go, although the college will recruit seven, “to build capability and maintain critical services”

Law: Nine voluntary separations and no more needed. College to fill three positions

Science: 75 departures so far (24 academic, 51 professional staff). A further 55 are needed to go, offset by recruiting for 27. Net loss of 103 positions

VC portfolio: four exec roles to go (two now empty). No second-contract pay rise for VC and reduction in existing pay continues

Academic portfolio: 12 positions already to go, ten more needed, but three to be filled

Research and Innovation portfolio: five positions gone, six to follow

Student and University Experience portfolio: Voluntary separations for two position already two more jobs to go but five positions will be filled

Operations portfolio:  Voluntary separations so far: facilities 22, scholarly information 26. Some 40 more needed to go. However, 38 positions to be filled for a net loss of 67

Global Engagement portfolio: Six gone, 11 to go, recruiting 11

First Nations portfolio: This is new, and small, with a $3.4m budget next year. No staff reductions and recruiting three positions