For the chop

Seen at Uni Sydney a sign warning, “pruning in progress”

No, it wasn’t a reference to “staff and quality of courses,” the Casuals Network advises, but it might as well have been.

Unhappy on-line

TEQSA reports the largest category of complaints about HE providers tripled last year

There were 470, (32 per cent) about course delivery and teaching, including COVID-19 caused on-line classes.

“We expect that COVID-19 will continue to impact providers in 2021 and beyond,” the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency,” states in its new compliance report.

Scroll down for the (un-named universities) the agency investigated for their handling of international students’ English


There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

David Eckstein (Swinburne U) on the way university staff see disabilities as career blocks for students and what can be done to end them. This week’s addition to Contributing Editor Sally Kift’s series, Needed Now in Teaching and Learning.

Merlin medals

Merlin Crossley (UNSW) wins the Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s Lemberg Medal – (not for his CMM column)

Rather, the society states, “the Lemberg Medal goes to an individual who has demonstrated excellence in biochemistry and molecular biology and who has made significant contributions to the scientific community.”

CMM would report Professor Crossley’s citation if he understood a word of it. It’s  here.

Other ASBMB awards are in Appointments/Achievements (scroll down) this morning


Monash U looks to Indonesia

It’s small  start but it makes a change from the student quarantine cargo-cult

When students and researchers from China can come back is one question, another is whether the PRC will want them to – which means Australia needs all the education-friends it can get.

Say, from Indonesia.

Monash U has long got this.

In December, it became a licensed provider in Indonesia, “the first-ever international foreign-owned university.” It plans to start teaching postgrad programmes in October and have 2000 masters, 100 PhD students and 1000 people in executive ed programmes in a decade (CMM February 11 and December 10 2020).

It’s a start in a market with 67m “college age” people, (CMM August 7 2019).

And now the university, for the Australian Indonesian Centre, has signed an MOU with Indonesia’s Research and Innovation Agency for joint research between Aus and Indon universities.

It’s a start, in 2018 Indonesia was 59th for Australian Research Council funded collaborative projects, with researchers there looking to the US and UK. But it makes a change from the current quarantine cargo cult that assumes that the pandemic will pass, the politics will calm down and China will be the research and student market that matters.

Room to move at Macquarie U

The VC announces “COVID lower-risk” rules, effectively immediately

This includes in-person “large-group learning” from second semester (but virtual classes continue). And university events “return to normal.” Or normal-ish, with capacity based on venue space and the relevant measure of people per square metre.

VC S Bruce Dowton tells staff the university has the rules and resources to ensure safety if COVID-19 cases escalate.

Call for rules on rejecting research

There are no stated principles governing ministerial decisions to reject research proposals says Anna Hickey-Moody and there should be

The RMIT media researcher and ARC Future Fellow is calling on peak research bodies to back her petition calling for a “publicly approved code of conduct” which ministers would have to adhere to when knocking back Australian Research Council peer-approved research bids.

She points to two Linkage Grant proposals, that succeeded according to ARC process, but were not funded in last month’s announcement.  Last week the ARC confirmed that “Visualising humanitarian crises” and “Sparking imagination education: transforming inequality in schools” were still “pending,” waiting on a decision by Education Minister Alan Tudge.

“Extensive ARC assessments already deemed these projects as being in the national interest. The taxpayers of Australia deserve to have an education minister who at least abides by a publicly approved code of conduct when exercising ‘ministerial discretion’ in these situations,” Professor Hickey-Moodey states.

She wants, “peak industry bodies and politicians to work together to develop a ministerial code of conduct for research approval that can hold our education minister to account.”

The Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (via Twitter) recommends her petition.

TEQSA reports uni failings on international student English admissions

The Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency reports investigating ten universities last year over English-language entry for international students

The agency’s compliance report states it, “did not find evidence of widespread systemic failures in relation to English language admission standards.”

However, it states some “governing bodies,” “lacked oversight of admissions practices and could not be confident that admissions policies and procedures were being applied consistently.”

Providers blamed the Commonwealth’s international student management system for their not recording reasons why some students were admitted. “The universal use of ‘other form of testing which satisfied the institution’ limited visibility of a provider’s records to ensure compliance with English language requirements,” TEQSA states.

Other issues TEQSA identifies , “to address risks of non-compliance with the Higher Education Standards framework, include;

* “some providers had not reviewed or benchmarked their admissions practices for a considerable period of time”

* providers using “waiver” interchangeably with “equivalence” in admitting students who do not meet “documented” English language requirements for courses

* providers not using student-performance “to monitor, test and adjust” admissions policy

* providers “did not track poorly performing student cohorts and academic misconduct issues back to the student entry pathways, country/region of origin.”

So, what are the ten institutions – learned readers in the international education community generally agree on which ones they are but TEQSA isn’t telling.

Complaint signed but not delivered at Southern Cross U

Continuing academic staff at SCU are unhappy with the new workload model but they want to complain discretely

A draft letter is circulating stating that a new EFTS based model will increasing workloads by up to 60 per cent, compared to the old allocation by hours and “the majority of academic staff are already experiencing serious workplace health and safety issues as a direct result of these changes”

The letter is intended for chancellor, Nick Burton Taylor, “we feel we are left with no choice because our communications with SCU management, containing detailed documented specific examples of the above problems are not being listened to or acted upon,” the draft states.

But he has not got it yet, the letter will only go if 60 per cent of continuing academic staff sign, with all signatories confidential until that happens.

And if it does the chancellor will be asked to keep signatories names to himself.


Appointments, achievements

The Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology announces its 2021 awards. In addition to Merlin Crossley (scroll-up) Erinna Lee (La Trobe U and Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Centre) receive the Shimadzu Research Medal. Awards go to, Lahhiru Gangoda (the research organisation formally known as the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute), Lois Balmer (Edith Cowan U) and Anton Calabrese (University of Leeds).

Sammy Bedoui (Un Melbourne) is appointed research director for its School of Biomedical Sciences.

 Melinta Grant (UTS) receives a 2021Dunlop Fellowship, from the AsiaLink Leaders Programme, “given annually to Australians committed to making a lasting contribution to Australia-Asia relations.” The other fellowship goes to Melissa DeLaney, CEO of ANAT (art+science+technology).

Griffith U reports Niru Nirthanan (Deputy Head of School, Health Group) is a fellow of the American Society for Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics.

Microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles is New Zealander of the Year for her science communication of COVID-19. Dr Wiles is a microbiologist at Uni Auckland.