People listen to Unis Aus

On Friday, Universities Australia announced members are committed to working with the aged care industry on student placements and research in service delivery. This clearly got the prime minister thinking – yesterday he announced a royal commission into the system.

There’s more in the Mail

There’s more in the Mail … in Features today David Myton looks at a new report warning employers face a looming skills shortage.

Universities stable for now with more growth to come

Anybody who wants to understand Australian higher education (morning Minister Tehan) needs, needs, needs Andrew Norton and Ittima Cherastidtham’s fifth edition of the Grattan Institution’s guide to a system as baroque as it is byzantine, out this morning.

CMM asked Andrew Norton what all the evidence in the report indicates for the next few years.

* without policy intervention, domestic student demand will be stable for now

* student satisfaction will remain as is

* international student revenues could be at risk from policy changes, or “a souring of the environment,” if immigration is politicised

* the rate of research productivity growth will slow but certainly continue as investment based on the international student boom flows through the system.

And his advice for university’s looking a decade out.

“Universities should behave cautiously in the short-term but if the participation rate stays around 40 per cent there will be a surge in demand in the middle of the 2020s, as the Costello baby boomers start to enrol – perhaps 20 000 in 2026 – that’s the size of a new university,” Mr Norton says.

Scroll down for and Cherastidtham on the good-ish news on graduate income.

Got it in writing

A QUT team has won a 2018 Ig Nobel, the prize for science that it is more sensible than it sounds. Thea Blackler, Rafael Gomez, Vesna Popovic and M. Helen Thompson are honoured for qualitative and quantitative research demonstrating a majority of people don’t read product manuals. “Over-featuring and being forced to consult manuals also appears to cause negative emotional experiences,” they conclude. See, it’s not just the KITKAT catapult blokes.



Nothing relaxed about conditions of casuals

NTEU members at the University of Newcastle are striking today, over stalled enterprise bargaining negotiations. One of the big issues at UniNewcastle is the university’s use of casual and contract staff. “We have heard from a significant number of staff who have been employed on annual contracts for 10, 15, and even 20 years, with annual cycles of insecurity about work the following year. … And the situation for casual staff – including professional, academics, and teachers – is even more precarious.”  National Tertiary Education Union branch president Tom Griffiths says.

It’s also an issue at UTS, which held its annual professional development for casual academic staff last week, providing advice and information on intellectual infrastructure available for teachers. This makes sense for the university, which relies on casual teaching staff – on 2016 DET figures just over half the university academic FTE are casuals.

However, it feeds into the union’s campaign to improve conditions, including paths to permanent employment, for them. “UTS presents the casual conference with an expectation that casual academic staff both keep up to date with teaching technologies and continually provide higher quality student feedback, but the human cost of precarious employment – to both staff and students – is massive,” National Tertiary Education Union branch president Vince Caughley says.

Rathjen top-20 rating in Adelaide (already)

Peter Rathjen makes CityMag’s top 20 influential Adelaidians, despite only being VC of the University of Adelaide for seven-months or so (that’s ten minutes SA establishment time). He’s on the list because of the now being discussed merger of his uni with the University of South Australia. Apparently, Professor Rathjen “has the power” to make it a good or bad thing.

He’s certainly a parselmouth, Professor Rathjen. When he was VC of the University of Tasmania, reptiles of the press just loved him (CMM August 25 2017). And within weeks of arriving in Adelaide, The Advertiser was editorialising that he is dynamic CMM April 6)

Open Universities turns 25 but competitors are having their own party

Open Universities Australia is having a birthday, celebrating “25 years of empowering more than 350,000 students to achieve their study goals.” Starting as Monash U-owned, Open Learning Australia and joined by six more university-content providers in 1996, OUA has grown to 12 partners, with ANU signing-on last year.

The birthday news is good with OUA reporting student starts are up 17 per cent YTD on 2017. Overall enrolments are up 5 per cent, with 35 0000 students “studying through the OUA marketplace.” The number of degree on offers is also increasing, from 140 to 190 this year.

But while OUA is growing, so is the competition. Aside from the MOOC space, other providers are expanding into digital delivery for externals. Last week QUT announced it was partnering with Seek subsidiary, Online Education Services which provides marketing, student support services, plus what it describes as “workforce management” and course-design. QUT will initially offer, “graduate certificates, diplomas and masters, in health managementproject managementpublic health, financial planning and education.

OES already works with Swinburne (an OUA) member and Western Sydney universities. And another OUA partner, the University of South Australia, launched its own independent online courses this year and now has 1500 enrolments in business, health, IT social science and construction qualifications. UniSA says more courses in the same disciplines are scheduled to start in 2019 and ’20.

Different courses bundled together under the QILT

Last week a learned reader lamented the low-profile of the federally funded quality indicators for learning and teaching. “In all my dealings with university students I have never come across a single student that knew about it,” the LR remarked.

And a good thing too, another learned reader responds, complaining QILTconflates specific schools and study areas,” thus making information on specific courses impossible to find.  “A potential student for one school at a university will have data filtered through the experiences of graduates from a different school in an entirely different field, school and perhaps experience.”

“ ‘Study Areas’ in QILT provides impoverished information for prospective students and no one has any interest in changing this,” the second LR laments.

Graduate incomes: the good old days aren’t back

The gender wage gap for graduates is narrowing, although not by much, according to new Grattan Institute research by Andrew Norton and Ittima Cherastidtham. Women who graduated with a bachelor degree in 2006 are expected to earn 30 per cent less than men across their careers but at least the gap for the class of 2016 narrowed – to 27 per cent. While Norton and Cherastidtham attribute the disparity to women spending less career time in the FT workforce they add the slightly smaller gap is significant.  Maternity leave and childcare subsidies mean more women with young children are variously returning to work or staying in their jobs. Women aged 55-64 are also earning more, 17 per cent more in 2016 than women in that age group ten years prior. In contrast earnings for 55-64 year-old men grew 7 per cent in the decade.

They also find:

* full-time work opportunities for new graduates are picking up after the double whammies of the GFC and the end of the mining boom. However, growth in the number of professional jobs also “dropped significantly” in 2009 and 2013.

* the life-long earnings premium a degree will deliver for 2016 graduates has declined, due to lower earnings and employment opportunities in their starter years having a compounding impact. “With fewer years in steady full-time employment than earlier graduate cohorts, recent early-career graduates have accumulated less experience and received less employer training, reducing their skills development. The graduates who did find employment experienced low wage growth,” Norton and Cherastidtham write.

Monash moves

Monash University has promoted one of its own to be senior vice provost and VP research. Rebekha Brown is now director of the university’s Sustainable Development Institute. The university is also in the market for a dean of education, with near 30 year Monash veteran John Loughran announcing his retirement.

New menus at ANU

ANU is using the big campus rebuild as an opportunity to construct its own fNew menus at ANU –a range of eating options based on what people can afford, want and need.  People as in skint students whose need to eat can be greater than what can pay. And people as in staff who are cash-richer but time poor. DVC Marnie Hughes Warrington sets out the challenge in the new essay in her series on the remaking of ANU’s central consumer services.

The ANUryamidprioritises time, affordability and provision, and variety. It has to recognise and to work with financial and time poverty, and to provide people with access to a variety of foods without guilt,” she writes. The base is “grab and go” $4-$10 items and moves up price points to apex fine-dining.

It’s an alternative to “the heaped pile of skipped meals, late meals, substitute snacks, high calorie and low nutritional cheap eats and hunger that defines much of our experience of university life.”

“We have also tried to listen to student and staff feedback on the kinds of foods that they would like to be able to access for free through our student associations and that they can and will pay for in money and in time.”

Fast that is free, or at least not fatty.

Appointments, achievements

Astronomer Dick Manchester is awarded the Australian Academy of Science’s Matthew Flinders Medal for research in physical science. The former CSIRO scientist is a pioneer in pulsar research and radio astronomy instrumentation.

Minoti Apte from UNSW receives the 2018 distinguished researcher medal prize from the Gastroenterological Society of Australia.

David Norman is the inaugural CEO of the Future Fuels Cooperative Research Centre. He previously ran its predecessor, the Energy Pipelines CRC, which will exhaust its public funding in June.

Wai-Hong Tham from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute has won the David Syme Research Prize for her work toward a malaria vaccine. Her work “has driven preclinical development of novel vaccine candidates.”