Power of positive thinking

The Parliamentary Friends of Science event had a hit with a thingatron which allows wearers to move a ball by the power of thought. Labor science spokesman Kin Carr had a go with it the other day (@ SenKimCarr on Twitter). Next step for the science has to be a device that allows the wearer to raise the voting arms of factional opponents.

Major job moves at UoQ, UTas and NCVER

Senior appointment at University of Queensland: Rongyu Li is acting DVC external engagement at the University of Queensland, taking over on March 12. He was previously PVC Future Students in that portfolio.

Fowler to leave NCVER: Craig Fowler will step down as CEO of the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research “in the next few months.” Dr Fowler says he wants “to create new opportunities in which I can express on my experience for the remaining part of my working life,” as well as making “more space and time for family commitments.” NCVER’s board accepted his decision, “with regret.” Dr Fowler joined the NCVER from the SA government in September 2014. He replaced Rod Camm, who moved to the Australian Council for Private Education and Training.

Long to Launceston: Jane Long is the new University of Tasmania provost. Professor Long was senior DVC at La Trobe U, before resigning in February 2017 (CMM December 1 2016). Professor Long, “is very familiar with regionally dispersed, multi-campus universities that simultaneously pursue an agenda of excellence in teaching and research, and build social equity through increased rates of participation. She has an appreciation of the deep community engagement that is critical for the university,” UTas announced yesterday. Professor Long will be based in Launceston and starts in June.

Student loan bill through the Reps

As Rebekha Sharkie (NXT – Mayo) signalled yesterday she was amenable to supporting the government’s student loan legislation if the government ended the proposed lifetime cap on study debt. It did and so she did, voting with the coalition to pass the bill through the House of Representatives yesterday.  Students who reach borrowing ceilings of  $104 ooo for degrees ex medicine, VET  and dentistry, for which the cap is $150 000, will now be able to take on more debt as they pay previous borrowings down. The government also has its procedural ducks in a row in the Senate and is ready to bring the bill on there, perhaps today.

With Labor and the Greens solid against the bill the government will need wide cross-bench support in the upper house but this seems likely, given Education Minister Birmingham can point to a concession (to three Liberal senators) on the lifetime cap, which will not exclude people from retraining.


Industrial action at UoQ

Union members at the University of Queensland have voted to take protected industrial action over the only significant outstanding issue in long-running enterprise bargaining. “After nearly 12 months of meetings, UQ management continues to drag the chain when it comes to job security,“ National Tertiary Education Union branch president Andrew Bonnell says.

The union wants management to adopt its proposals on casualisation and “over-reliance on precarious fixed-term contracts.”

Management and union appear to have reached terms on what were seen as especially significant issues, notably pay and discipline procedures.

ASQA ignored

The training regulator reminds registered training organisations to complete their compliance declaration, due midnight Easter Saturday. Although the Australian Skills Quality Authority sent the forms at the end of February Chief Commissioner Mark Paterson reports only a third have completed the form. The declaration “may take some time to complete, so I encourage you to begin as soon as possible,” he says. And woe betide anybody who thinks it can wait till after Easer; “ASQA has made it clear that it will take regulatory action against RTOs that do not submit their declaration.“

Contract cheating as white collar crime

Contract cheating researcher, Louise Kaktins (Macquarie U) analysed contract cheating advertisements to find they provide “critical information for educational providers about the attitudes of international students towards academic honesty.”

“There is much disquiet on the part of universities generally about the failure of such students to engage in the academic discourse socialisation process and so distancing themselves from the academic community, as well as flaunting academic protocols which uphold the credibility of their university degrees,” she writes in the journal Ethics and Education.  P 14

And she argues that the damage of cheating becoming the norm extends well beyond ersatz experiences of university and degraded degrees; “the loop is a continuous one – with unethical academic behaviour morphing into unethical business behaviour and vice versa – and for academics the challenge will be to determine whether reforming business education (and indeed universities’ approaches to their own perpetuation) with a greater focus on ethical management etc. will, in turn, overflow into nurturing a business environment that operates within a framework of greater integrity.”

Contract cheating may well be classed as a unique version of white collar crime, Ms Kaktins suggests.

So what is to be done? Technology to detect plagiarism and other forms of cheating is a start but the long-term solution lies in teaching changes, with more in-person and smaller classes, face to face feedback and “a movement back to a more collegial atmosphere .”

“The wholesale embracing of a corporate, commercialised approach to recruiting students (on the basis of being ‘customers’) might need to be revisited in the light of some insidious side-effects (including contract cheating),” Ms Kaktin concludes.

An affray to remember

The Murdoch U staff ballot on the union-management proposed enterprise agreement closed yesterday. Endorsement is expected, not least because after long and bitter bargaining the idea of going back to the table is just too terrible.

Volumes of visas

Thanks to a learned reader for pointing to an at-a-glance grasp of the growth in international student numbers via new visa stats. According to the Department of Home Affairs, at Christmas 2011 there were 254 000 student visas, 328 000 by the end of 2015 and 381 00 at December last year. This is two and a half times the number of people on a working holiday visa.

What the market wants

Thanks to the Australian Industry Group yesterday for pointing out what may have occurred to universities. “The needs of the digital economy are also leading to the availability of shorter units of study often termed micro credentials. Companies and workers need to have available greater opportunities for new skill development whenever required as a result of constant new technologies and organisational change. Micro-credentialing, sometimes called badging, is an evolving way to quickly build capabilities as companies’ requirements for work and business change.” They’ll be suggesting unis get into MOOCs next.