Campus Morning Mail for Thursday

Cap that didn’t fit

It is hard to fault the politics of Christopher Pyne’s ending the $2000 cap on self-education expenses imposed by Labor in April. As the minister puts it, “removing the cap is great news for thousands of nurses, teachers and others who would have struggled to afford critical education courses and vital self-accreditation.” Quite right. Course it will not make universities that teach expensive business masters and their students happy and medicos who will miss out on deductions for conference and continuing training will protest but I’ m guessing college heads and vice chancellors will be happy to see their certificate IV and diploma courses, their education and nursing masters degrees, protected. But this does not end the question of how to fund professional masters. Under the previous government some Commonwealth funded places were provided for professional accreditation degrees at some universities and some weren’t. The allocation was supposedly worked out through the compact (do they still exist?) process, which is hardly a system-wide solution. Problem is expanding access to masters places will cost and I have a suspicion that Mr Pyne has just spent a swag of what little extra cash he will have for higher education this, or the other, side of the budget.

Crass self-congratulation

I asked yesterday whether any university on the list of institutions with millionaire alumni would promote it –and lo, the University of New South Wales did, tweeting it “has produced more millionaires than any other Australian university.” The old Australian convention against big noting, obviously does not apply in the property-price obsessed, status focused eastern suburbs of Sydney.

Them too

The University of Sydney will present Aung San Suu Kyi with an honorary doctorate at the end of November.  Let’s hope the visit planning is smoother than for the Dali Lama earlier in the year when a scheduling problem left the university looking like it did not want His Holiness to visit lest it offend great and powerful friends in Beijing (Sydney has a very big China Studies Centre). It all worked out in the end but for a while it appeared as if the university was kowtowing to the CCP. Not much chance of that this time, what with Burmese generals having nothing to invest in research.

Funnily enough UoS forgot to mention that the ceremony is being co-hosted with the University of Technology Sydney, which is also presenting Ms Suu Kyi with an hon doc. The former got a mention in the latter’s announcement.

Survival of the cruellest

If you think well of your fellow person and consider that on the whole humanity is not  a bad bunch you may not want to read Thomas Suddendorf’s new book. The University of Queensland psychologist suggests that the reason why we are so much smarter than other species is that our clever relatives, “big Neanderthals in Europe and tiny ‘hobbits’ on Flores” are gone  “We appear so different from other animals because these closely related species have all gone extinct — and our ancestors may well have had a hand in their extinctions,” he writes in The Gap: The science of what separates us from other animals, (Basic).

End and beginning

A new enterprise agreement for the University of Sydney is closer with management and unions intending to put a proposal to a ballot next week. E-voting begins on Wednesday. After all the angst it has taken to get this far here’s hoping staff accept. Burt as one fight finishes another begins. National Tertiary Education Union members at the University of Wollongong will meet today to discuss the log of claims to present to management.

Roads less travelled 

Everybody in post compulsory education is supposed to approve of pathways, the route to university open to people with a VET award. And so it seems they do. According to new work from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, some 10 per cent of university admissions are based on a VET qualification. The problem is the path is not well marked and VET students need many maps to find the various tracks different universities favour. Some are well travelled but others look like they are designed to get applicants lost. The top seven admit 18.7 per cent of VET completers while the worse 14 have a 3.2 per cent overall entry rate. This is strange given the NCVER finds that VET completers looking to move into university on the basis of their voc ed award are much the same as other undergraduates, apart from being a little older and more inclined to study part time.  The best are Charles Sturt, RMIT, Swinburne, UWS, Victoria University, Edith Cowan and Deakin. As for the lowest acceptors, there are undoubtedly good reasons and it is mean to single them out, but since you twist my arm they are, Flinders, USQ, ANU, James Cook, U Sunshine Coast, Monash, Macquarie, Curtin, UNSW, U of Sydney, U of Adelaide, U of Melbourne, U of Q and U WA. Does this matter? You bet. As the NCVER paper puts it, “Australia’s capacity to alleviate national skills shortages through strengthening VET to higher education pathways will be compromised in fields where Cluster 3 universities are over represented.”

Only a million

Once a million dollar donation to a university would have been big news but no longer, what with gifts 20 and 50 times that. Still, I am impressed that University of Queensland alumnus Matthew McLennan, now a New York fund manager has donated $1 million for business and economic research at the university.