TEQSA reveals why students stay and why they leave

 Coming soon: Big blue at La Trobe U

 A case for yet more medical journals

 Teaching-only doesn’t appeal to all at Flinders U


Regency rollout

“They gradually ascended for half-a-mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, … Elizabeth was delighted and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something! If only there was an artifice to expedite it’s WIFI.”

Monash masters of design students, worked with Jane Austin admirer Chris Browne, a retired professor of medicine at the university, to create interactive exhibition to commemorate the 200 anniversary of her death.

All the research that’s fit to print

Paul Glasziou , professor of evidence based medicine at Bond University suggests anything up to 50 per cent of research goes unpublished. Writing with Iain Chalmers in BMJ Opinion he warns, “the best predictor of publication seems to be whether the study is “positive” or “negative,” which means that the half of the research results we can access is biased. So, there is both waste and distortion.” That noise you can hear are commercial journal publishers rushing to announce a bunch of new medical journals.

 Another blue at LTU

The union is warning La Trobe U academics that management wants to “radically reduce or abolish your employment entitlements” with a proposed workplace agreement that; “is all about them and very little about you.”

According to the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union management is proposing, “literally hundreds of changes.”

Some of the claimed variations to the expiring agreement go to existing operational practise and some are designed to reduce the union’s role in representing staff. But others reflect the national push by the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association for simplified university agreements across the country. LTU VC John Dewar is AHEIA vice president.

Notable changes the union points to include: an end to independent review of discipline cases, consultation with staff after decisions are made, setting entitlements at the statutory requirement, no preference for staff facing redundancy in filling new jobs, and no consultation before workloads are allocated.

One change at the core of the AHEIA productivity push is the potential to increase the number of academics who are not paid to research. The union says LTU wants to advertise new jobs as teaching-focused and lift the 50 per cap on the number of non-sessional staff in these roles.


However, management replies the, “university is engaging in negotiations with the union to develop a fair, collective agreement that will set a solid foundation for La Trobe University’s future.

Academic matters are yet to be discussed in depth, but again we are aiming to achieve a balanced approach that considers staff interests, the needs of the university and consideration of the modern realities of the higher education sector.”

This could be a deep-blue blue, the union fought Professor Dewar’s restructure plan, very long and extremely hard but the VC has no habit of giving ground (CMM November 20 2014).


TEQSA explains: why students stay and why they go


A new regulator report shows that while demand driven funding has not led to increased attrition in first year courses across the range of providers, overall dropout rates vary from the sparse to substantial.

As to the reasons, they are not necessarily what people think; according to the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency, which examined attrition data for 2014, the most recent information when the project commenced. “Many of the student-centred factors expected to impact on attrition levels such as ATARs, socio-economic status, and mature-aged entry, do not emerge as having significant impacts on attrition levels overall or in the clusters of institutions identified.”

Unless, of course, they do. “The presence of the proportion of students admitted on the basis of VET studies … could be acting as a surrogate for other variables such as ATAR or socio-economic status,” TEQSA suggests.

TEQSA has crunched the data for all higher education providers on the per centage of 2014 commencing students who did not complete that year. The figure is for courses at all levels, from sub-bachelor to postgraduate.

While the University of Melbourne had a 10 per cent drop out rate, some private providers lost over 40 per cent of students.

The public university system does not have a monopoly on motivated students.  Carnegie Mellon U for example, had an attrition rate of 7 per cent and the National Institute of Dramatic Art 4 per cent.

However, the over-all drop-out rate for all public universities was 20 per cent. This compared to small and often faith based providers teaching culture and society courses at 28 per cent. Attrition for small colleges mainly teaching business subjects to international students averaged 27 per cent. Non-university higher education providers had a 28 per cent attrition rate.

Drivers of attrition in public universities were; a larger proportion of external enrolments, overall number of students – the fewer the EFTS the more likely to leave, students admitted on VET qualifications, senior staff making up a lower proportion of overall academics and lower proportions of postgraduates.

Drivers in small culture and society providers were: a lower proportion of postgraduate students, poor progress rates, higher percentage of external students.

Drivers in international-focused mid-size providers were: a lower per centage of full-time academic staff, higher percentage of students admitted on VET qualifications, younger students.

Drivers in medium-size mixed-discipline providers were: more part-time students, more enrolling from VET, fewer full-time and senior academics on staff.


The universities starting students love, or love to leave


TEQSA reports the following attrition rate for first year students in courses at all levels at Australian universities in 2014.

Australian Catholic University 21%

Australian National University 15%

Bond University 15%

Central Queensland University 27%

Charles Darwin University 31%

Charles Sturt University 28%

Curtin University of Technology 17%

Deakin University 19%

Edith Cowan University 23%

Federation University 24%

Griffith University 20%

James Cook University 23%

La Trobe University 18%

Macquarie University 16%

Monash University 12%

Murdoch University 20%

Queensland University of Technology 16%

Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology 12%

Southern Cross University 30%

Swinburne University of Technology 27%

The Flinders University of South Australia 18 per cent

The University of Adelaide 14%

The University of Melbourne 10%

The University of Notre Dame Australia 18%

The University of Queensland 15%

The University of Sydney 12%

The University of Western Australia 13%

The University of Canberra 18%

The University of New England 27%

The University of New South Wales 12%

The University of Newcastle 18%

The University of South Australia 20%

The University of Southern Queensland 27%

The University of Tasmania 32%

The University of Technology, Sydney 15%

University of the Sunshine Coast 26%

University of Western Sydney 19%

University of Wollongong 15%

Victoria University 23%


Loved or left

The TEQSA attrition report will upset as many providers as it pleases. But as the outrage and explanations begin from institutions with reputations to protect the agency makes a pretty-good point; “concern over attrition is primarily centred on financial and reputational issues, for governments and for the institutions. But the issue is of considerable significance for the students themselves, in terms of wasted time and personal debt.”

While first year attrition has not changed since the introduction of the demand driven system and is way better than it was 40 years ago (CMM September 16 2016), perhaps some DVCs E could consider whether students fail at university or whether universities fail them.

Leaving LaTrobe

La Trobe CIO Peter Nikoletatos resigned yesterday, effective mid-July. Mr Nikoletatos was variously CIO at Curtin U, UNE and ANU between 2008 and 2014.

Staff futures at Flinders

At Flinders U the union warns a proposal for teaching-specialist jobs, “is a trojan horse, ushering in a swag of nasty surprises.”

This suggests the possibility of a quick deal for a new enterprise agreement looks less diminished than disappeared (CMM April 3).

Previously National Tertiary Education Union leader Andrew Miller had pointed to manageable concerns with an academic and administration restructure but now he suggests management wants to replaceeducation focused” positions, which included a research component, with “teaching-only” ones, that don’t.

Dr Miller  proposes management could use teaching-specialist roles to create an even split between research and teaching and teaching-only staff, with many academics now employed to teach and research moved into lower paid positions, or made redundant. “It is true that there will be some who will welcome the new positions, but our fear is that many will simply have no other choice. When faced with an inevitable redundancy, many staff will simply have to take what they can get, not what they have earned,” he says.

However, a university spokeswoman told CMM yesterday “Flinders introduced teaching specialist positions last year following an extensive consultation process, specifically involving the NTEU.  The university has already filled a number of these positions based on operational need and they will continue to be filled through the normal merit based recruitment process. The university has no plans to force any member of staff into these roles.”


Dolt of the day

Is CMM who misread Simeon Simoff’s name and in yesterday’s issue assumed the University of Western Sydney dean of engineering is a woman. He isn’t.