Some Uni of Wollongong staff don’t like on-line lectures but students love them

Plus Chief Scientist’s big tick for TEQSA

Global elite universities make the case for pure research

Walking and Talking

CMM praised Deakin VC Jane den Hollander yesterday for talking to whomever she comes across walking round campus. Turns out Uni Adelaide VC Warren Bebbington is also big on walking and talking tours – he has just completed a month of visits to the university’s 52 operating units. So if the VC is Adelaide’s version of Josiah Bartlett in West Wing it surely makes DVC Pascale Quester Adelaide’s own C J Cregg.


Innovative UTS

Louise McWhinnie is founding dean of UTS’s Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation. Never heard of it? Neither it seems have people at UTS, the faculty was not on the org list when CMM checked yesterday. However it is home to the Bachelor of Technology and Innovation, the $40 000 fee Master of Animation and Visualisation (a JV with production house Animal Logic) and the Diploma in Innovation, “a new qualification created as a direct response to industry demand for graduates to work at the intersection of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Professor McWhinnie moves up from associate dean of teaching and learning in the university’s design, architecture and building faculty.

OUA offloads e3Learning

Open Universities Australia has sold online workplace and compliance corporate training provider e3Learning to UK based City and Guilds Group.


The possibilities of pure research

The global grand alliance of nine research university lobbies has made the case for funding pure research – because sooner or later, it creates solutions for practical problems. According to the Global Council of Research Intensive Universities’ new Tokyo Statement, while the work of research-intensive universities is “the foundation that will allow next generations to flourish … it is rare that the new knowledge created by scientific breakthrough(s) has immediate practical implications.”

This is an argument we will hear more often, with the Group of Eight charged by the council to make its case (CMM November 8). The Eight is certainly well placed to have a bob each way in debates between advocates of job generating applied research and supporters of investing in blue sky science which may, or may not, come up with anything. As the Eight announce every ARC announcement day, they pick up plenty of funding for all sorts of research.

Big Day

University of Melbourne innovation expert Charles Day is the new head of the Office of Innovation and Science Australia. Dr Day previously led the Carlton Connect Initiative, which connected industry, government and academic researchers.

Terrific for TEQSA

Funnily enough, the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency  has not prescribed standards for speeches abut universities but CMM suspects the TEQSANS were generous with the elephant stamps at the end of their first inaugural conference yesterday. Chief Scientist Alan Finkel set the tone, with his usual erudite and engaging address, about the essential role of the regulator. “I have felt the frustrations of regulation done badly – and pursued the returns on regulation done right. So I say with absolute confidence that TEQSA’s role is vital to the future of higher education, just as higher education is vital to the future of Australia.”

The Chief Scientist went on to argue that regulation is not about restriction but protecting consumers and expanding the economy, “with effective regulation, risk is taken out of the business because it is playing by the rules. With effective regulation, your competitors cannot game the system to reap an unfair advantage.” TEQSA, he added can give Australia, “the regulatory edge in education – a sector on the high road to success.”

It was standard Chief Scientist, rigorous, generous and with a discrete sting in the policy tail with Dr Finkel wondering whether the blurring of boundaries between what higher and further education provide is an entirely good idea.

“We do have to think very carefully before encouraging the drift of degree awards from universities to non-university institutions and private providers.  At the very least, we want to insist that the non-university providers be subject to extremely tough standards, with a high burden of proof, rigorously evaluated. No more than we ask of our universities.” Sounds like a job for TESQA.


Boldly going to Sydney

Sydney will host the 2020 Committee on Space Research conference, when 3000 scientists will assemble to discuss stuff nobody else will understand. It’s a big win for bid leaders, the Australian Academy of Science and the University of New South Wales. Chief Scientist Alan Finkel was also involved, talking yesterday of “a bold vision for our nation’s place in science and through science, our place in space.” Damn, for one happy moment when CMM heard ‘bold’ he thought Dr Finkel was going to start quoting Star Trek, but alas.

Voting with their keyboards

The online lecture argument is erupting at the University of Wollongong, where students have told Lisa Wachsmuth from  The Illawarra Mercury that some academics refuse to use the university system to record their lectures. Student reps have certainly put the claim to Academic Senate and CMM hears some lecturers are opposed to making it mandatory for all lectures to be on-line.

Georgine Clarsen, university president of the National Tertiary Education Union says many, “perhaps even most” teaching staff put their lectures up, but some are concerned that an “over-reliance” on digital recordings, “will reduce the quality of learning for students via the loss of in class interaction and engagement with academic staff.,

“This is of particular concern to staff in subjects where face to face learning is a vital component of course delivery. We believe that machines do not teach as well as real humans, we also want to encourage our students to interact with each other in the classroom.”

Good-oh, as long as they turn up. And it seems that UoW people are voting with their keyboards. According to the university, while the “vast majority” of recordings viewed are lectures the system does not distinguish between them and other events, such as graduations. However in 2015 there were 9000 recordings in the UoW system which were viewed nearly 777 000 times. So far this year there have been 10 100 recordings watched 1 097 000 times. “The statistics clearly indicate that students are using recorded lectures for revision purposes, with a surge in the number of viewings during the weeks leading up to exam periods,” UoW states.


Defence research wins

Two universities have won new defence contracts. The University of Adelaide will upgrade target detection systems for the Jindalee over the horizon radar. ANU will improve the “performance of inertial navigation systems” in land, sea and sky environments where GPS does not work. Defence Industry Minister Chris Pyne did not disclose the contracts’ value.