There’s more in the Mail

In Features, a new CMM series starts this morning, Australian Learning and Teaching Fellows writing on what is needed now in teaching and learning. This week, Angela Brew (Macquarie U) on preparing students for professional life.

Plus David Myton’s regular wrap on what’s going on in the sector overseas.

Coalition commits cash for CQU

At last, a coalition higher education funding announcement to report

Scott Morrison promises CQU $30m for a central Queensland school of mining and manufacturing. The money will build on existing facilities at the Gladstone and Rockhampton campuses. The university says the money will go to infrastructure, plus, “state-of-the-art equipment,” not to mention training for, “cutting edge and emerging technologies.”  This is one of very few coalition capital commitments to universities this campaign but even if Mr Morrison is not PM next week CQU will still do ok. Labor has promised it $14.5m for three new facilities.

TEQSA talks to Murdoch U on international entry standards

A week after the Four Corners allegations after-shocks rumble: Murdoch U chancellor David Flanagan was on ABC Perth radio with Geoff Hutchison the other night, defending the university against  allegations that international students are admitted with inadequate English. He worked with what he had on student literacy, but he did not shut down fears that staff who spoke to Four Corners could suffer. And if he hoped interest in the issue is over he will be disappointed – TEQSA is now involved.

The standards Murdoch U sets for English-language entry: Mr Flanagan was adamant, “we haven’t done anything that is not standard,” “there has not been a person admitted who doesn’t have an English standard score of six across the four tests.”

By “standard” Mr Flanagan means what universities require from international applicants on the IELT, on which Murdoch U requires an average score of six across all categories (listening, reading, writing and speaking). The university says the same, telling CMM that, “in determining the national standards, we look at all Australian universities.”

Good-o, except that IELTS six is by no means universally assumed sufficient for postgrad study. The other WA public universities, require 6.5, as do, for starters, Murdoch U’s fellow members of the Innovative Research Universities group, La Trobe U, Western Sydney U and Griffith U. So do University of Queensland, University of Adelaide and Monash U. Murdoch U also requires 6.5 or higher for eight masters and grad dips.

Staff who spoke out:  Hutchison asked Mr Flanagan if he would guarantee the jobs of Murdoch U academics who spoke to Four Corners for its programme last Monday. The chancellor didn’t. “I’m not focused on any sort of disciplinary action or whatever for those staff,” he said, but that’s because, as chancellor, he is “the wrong person to ask that question.”

Hutchison asked him again, and Mr Flanagan replied; “you’re speaking to the wrong person in relation to those people and I’m not contemplating anything of the order of that.” Chancellors do not hire and fire but Mr Flanagan could have relayed VC Eeva Leinonen’s intention. As National Tertiary Education Union president Alison Barnes and WA division secretary Jonathan Hallett put it in a letter to Mr Flanagan and Professor Leinonen, “the protection of whistleblowers is a serious public issue that goes to the heart of accountability of public institutions such as Murdoch.” They also demanded a, “clear and unequivocal written commitment from you, as a matter of urgency, that no action will be taken against employees who provided information (to Four Corners).”

What happens next:  Mr Flanagan said he did not know if the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency had been in touch with the university after Four Corners. It has. “Senior TEQSA Officers spoke with the vice chancellor of Murdoch University following the Four Corners program,” the agency advises.

They will be in touch a bunch more. Murdoch U is up for renewal of registration next year and must start discussions with agency in the next couple of months. One issue the process involves is whether a university meets the minimum evidence requirements or whether TEQSA decides it needs to “extend” the “scope of assessment.”

An example of where an extended assessment might be need is where;

“issues relating to academic standards have been identified (including for example English language proficiency of students or graduates), it may be necessary to seek evidence beyond the core standards.”

 What are the odds

UNSW leads the world for actuarial research

There are five Australian universities in the new global league table of published research in top actuarial and risk-management journals over 2014-18.

UNSW is first in the word, with Macquarie U at six and the University of Melbourne at seven. Monash U (22) and ANU (42) are the others in the world top 50.

The ranking is produced in the actuarial science programme at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Research funding from WA government

Every little bit helps

The WA Budget kicks $52m in new money into medical research, albeit over three years. And the state government confirms that once legislated interest on the $1.3bn state future fund will go to health and medical research, “transforming WA into a leader in medical research and innovation.” The Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes thinks this is very good indeed, assuring Premier McGowan, “medical research is one of the best investments a government can make in our future health.”

UWA is also pleased with $10m in the budget for the micro-scale LNG plant it will use for research. The plant was announced last month (CMM April 3).

Regulator reduces conditions on Charles Sturt U

After a Friday meeting the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency has reduced its registration conditions on Charles Sturt University

The agency has renewed CSU registration for four years (seven is the norm), conditional on the university meeting governance and quality control requirements. But TEQSA has now lifted its fifth condition, which banned CSU enrolling its students in study centres managed for it by partner Study Group Australia.  The ban applied until TEQSA was satisfied, “that the university has implemented controls to ensure academic integrity” at study centres run for it by SGA.

CSU says that it has demonstrated work accomplished and underway to managing risk and strengthening academic integrity at study centres. “We appreciate the expedited approach to revoking this condition based on the evidence and improvements we have in train, CSU said Saturday.

This is a win for CSU. While five other, largely governance and quality control monitoring conditions are still in place, the SGA partnership is live.

Government must act on open access say advocates

Australian universities pay $280m annually for access to academic publications but only 32 per cent of research articles rated by the ARC are open access. It’s time to do something about it say librarians and OA advocates

The Council of Australian University Librarians and the Australasian Open Access Strategy Group call for a national OA strategy in a joint election statement.

“We are at a stalemate in improving access to scholarly research because of the tension between the needs of research institutions, which want to disseminate their research outputs as widely as possible, and commercial publishers, who dominate academic publishing, and who primarily serve the needs of their shareholders,” they warn.

The allies call for a “cross-sectoral body,” to develop a national open access action plan within three years which would include policy recommendations to include in any review of HE and research by the next government.

“Achieving fair and open access to Australian research outputs would be a realistic and significant accomplishment for a new or re-appointed minister after the election, and a priority for government,” they state.


The Australian Academy of the Humanities has appointed a working group of academy fellows for its arts and culture advocacy group, A New Approach

Malcolm Gillies (now ANU emeritus professor) chairs and members are, Ien Ang (Western Sydney U), Tony Bennett (Western Sydney U), Stuart Cunningham (QUT) and Jennifer Milam (Uni Melbourne). This body is separate to the New Approach reference group chaired by philanthropist Rupert Myers, announced last month (CMM April 15).