In breaking news

“The digital economy is not separate to the economy,” the federal government explains all in its discussion paper on, yes, the digital economy, yesterday.

Southern Cross U announce university-wide reviews

Southern Cross U face three years of organisation reviews. Senior DVC John Jenkins tells staff that the schools of Arts and Social Sciences and Health and Human Sciences are up for examination early and mid next year. The Centre for Teaching and Learning is scheduled for later this year or early in 2018.

The BBus in Hotel Management, taught at hotel schools in Sydney and Melbourne is being reviewed now under the course and unit accreditation policy.

Other operating units will follow “over the next two to three years” once the schedule is set.

“Organisational reviews are integral to self-review, reflection, continuous improvement, strategic and operational planning, and quality assurance and review frameworks,” Professor Jenkins says.



“When I became Chief Scientist it quickly became apparent to me that I was expected to do two things.

One, talk at conferences on the dearth of start-ups and industry research engagement.

And two, visit start-ups and launch industry research engagements,” CS Alan Finkel yesterday.

Solidarity not forever as NTEU splits at UniSydney

The National Tertiary Education Union at the University of Sydney is split over management’s bargaining offer

The schism comes a bare fortnight after the union had a huge win, convincing a decisive majority of staff who voted to reject a management proposal to put its wage offer to a formal vote. But now the union’s campus leadership is divided over recommending the university’s offer or holding out for a better deal.

As per its repeated commitment, management has not increased its last pay offer, which stands at a headline rate of 2.1 per annum over four years. However, supporters of settling on the union side point to a management concessions. These include a range of job security and family/carers leave benefits, flexible hours and extending 17 per cent superannuation for all fixed term staff, but not casuals. Management has also agreed to NTEU proposals, which reflect UniSyd’s activist culture, staff involvement on academic workloads and procedures to engage staff in the creation of change proposals. Management knocked back electing deans and heads of schools but what it did accept gives staff, and the union, a significant role.

The union is now split, between officials and members who want to accept the deal and those who want to push management into doing more for casual staff. Last night 25 casuals urged NTEU members to reject management’s existing offer. “Casuals have some of the worst conditions and deserve better. There are the casuals that have been teaching languages for close to 20 years, with no job security, no paid leave, and far less superannuation than other staff. There are the casuals that were sacked en masse in the student centre without any redundancy package. In every hallway of the university, there are casuals stressed and underpaid, lacking support.”

Thy also argued that better terms for casual staff could create more permanent jobs. “By winning our key demands of equal superannuation and sick leave for casuals, we would make it more expensive for the university to hire casuals. This would force management to think about putting long-term casuals into more permanent positions, while also improving conditions for those that remain as casuals.”

Opponents of accepting management’s offer are meeting tomorrow ahead of a general meeting of NTEU members on Thursday.

Fast data

They deliver across the ditch, where the NZ Tertiary Education Commission has published 2016 education performance indicators for the eight universities, plus all the other providers (there are 25 polys for a start) it administers. Here, not so much – with the first half 2016 student numbers being the latest available, like they have been since October last year. “Back in the ‘70s the figures used to be out in July/August, when officials used cylindrical slide rules,” a learned reader remarks.

Charles Sturt targets people who think study delays careers

Charles Sturt U has a new recruitment campaign, “start now,” replacing the previous strategy of segment-specific sells. According to CSU the campaign addresses a core concern for potential students, that a degree delays the start of their career. “This uncertain market has developed a perception that four years or more at university will be spent simply earning a piece of paper, rather than an education that genuinely prepares them for the career they are dreaming about today.”

One of the broadcast campaigns that is gone, is the excellent “think again,” which CSU used to target the returning to study/late start market. One spot featured a 60 year-old talking about studying with CSU to be a mental health nurse. CSU says this is still a market the university pursues but not in digital not “large scale media”.

Victoria U struggles to help students learn how to study

Victoria U is catering for students who are “less prepared for higher education” – of those who enter on an ATAR, 60 per cent recently had a score under 50. To improve retention VU has a plan to prepare people for university students and a common first year (CMM March 13).

Early results from the pilot of this VU Enhance scheme are mixed with VU’s Stefan Schutt advising management that half the 138 students who signed up later signed out. In a programme assessment seen by CMM, Dr Schutt reports repeated concerns with the formal structure and content of the programme, especially the TAFE certificate in study prep, which students take in parallel with uni courses.

And the very students who need it do not know it; “teachers and coordinators also confirmed the reports’ statements about the changing profile of VU students: that they are increasingly ill -prepared for tertiary study. They also added  that many of these students do not always recognise their level of ill- preparedness, a factor not helped by having been accepted into a tertiary course. Students, they said, “are not good at self – identifying” as suitable candidates for VU Enhance, and that “those who could most benefit aren’t choosing it.”

But Dr Schutt does not doubt the determination of VU staff involved or of the premise of the programme, that many VU students need help in grasping what university involves.

The issue is whether the structure suits the circumstances.

“Some students are treating (it)  as a form of occasional, just – in  time academic support rather than as a concerted, regular form of skill development with assessment attached. Arts students interviewed at drop – in sessions said they had withdrawn from VU Enhance but were still attending the sessions.”

It’s early days but VU desperately needs to get this right. The new model means big moves of teaching staff into the new programme and potential job losses among those who do not make the cut and academics are watching, wondering, waiting.

There’s more in the mail

As well as the CMM daily news this week David Myton talks to the endlessly energetic ANU DVC Marnie Hughes Warrington about her passions for innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education. Plus, there’s a review of the what universities do to prepare graduatesfor a world where jobs keep changing. And a wrap on why work integrated learning is tougher than it sounds. Scroll up for the links.

Making the case for digital skills

Before the election the prime minister was energetic about innovation and how Australia will prosper by embracing the digital age. But being true did not make it popular and when Mr Turnbull said “entrepreneur” older, less educated voters heard “unemployment.”

But the feds are still trying, with a digital economy discussion paper, released yesterday.

“Structural changes in our economy, including digital disruption, are changing the skills that employers need. This requires workers to be adaptable enough to adjust to the changing nature of work and undertake life-long learning, including the use of micro-credentialing,” the paper proposes.

“People will need a combination of technical skills—a trade, university degree or on the job training—and entrepreneurial skills like communication, critical thinking and digital literacy. Management skills are vital for digital businesses to achieve global scale, and capture market value. We also need the right culture and mind-set to embrace innovation and lifelong learning.”

It’s true – just scary for anybody who does not think they could teach Apple about innovating. But it sets the challenge for the entire post-secondary sector to demonstrate that skills do not just offer survival they offer salvation from a working life trapped in one set of tasks.

The market might already be on to this. Training numbers increased last year, driven by a big rise in NSW, where 17 per cent of the increase was students taking subjects outside the AQF. This looks to CMM to like workers picking up a specific skill they need for their changing job or to get a new one.

The universities that are keen on getting into sub-degree programmes might also be thinking of shorter courses.