And the under-statement Oscar does not go to …

The NSW based Stop TAFE cuts campaign is using Catherine Martin in its cause, pointing out she studied pattern cutting at the then East Sydney Tech. “Supporting TAFE is supporting Australian success, creativity and talent.”

Voice of the people

Staff surveys are like inquiries, never commission one unless you know the outcome in advance, unless of course the intention is to undermine an enemy. I have no idea which it is at Macquarie University, where staff are being given the opportunity to slam whoever is responsible for the internal communications strategy. A comms survey asks whether workers use the staff homepage and for what. It wants to know what they make of the CCT screens around campus that broadcast information. And it includes dangerously worded questions like, “overall do you feel like you are well-informed about what is happening around campus?” Please, how often do staff in vast organisations ever feel they are properly informed by management, even when they are? And why bother asking whether they strongly agree/disagree with statements like most university announcements “are relevant to me”? Manifestly many will not be. Perhaps the survey will demonstrate the men and women of Macquarie wait with enthusiasm for every announcement from the ministry of truth screens. Perhaps not – whatever the outcome I imagine the internal announcement service will go big with the survey results.

 Truth will out

“What better way to get inside the University of Wollongong VC’s head than via a coffee” UoW announced, via Twitter, yesterday. So much more convenient than sodium thiopental.

It’s not all money ball

Just days before the first siren of the season economists Geoff Borland (Melbourne U) and Ross Booth (Monash) have run the numbers on AFL players’ pay and club performance. They conclude that a correlation has emerged between spending on players and place on the ladder, but not that big and only recently. On balance they suggest the salary cap has worked but administrators need to do more to keep the competition competitive. “Our study suggests that sporting leagues seeking to improve competitive balance are right to worry about equalising spending by clubs. It also suggests, however, that it is important to recognise that clubs’ performances depend on other influences – such as luck or how well they spend their money. Hence, improving competitive balance may also be about equalising those other influences. There’s a job for Andrew Demetriou before he retires, he could work out a way of  allocating luck.

Dropped that one

One draft that isn’t complete. “At the end of our sample period in 2011 the cap was $?? per club,” page four of Borland and Booth’s paper.

Not as bad as it looks

Back on December 11 the Senate referred an inquiry into TAFE to the Education Reference Committee, with March 7 set as a closing date for submissions. Of which there are 24, no I did not delete a zero, 24! It looks terrible, but actually it isn’t. A Reps Committee was holding an inquiry, which lapsed when the election was called. I imagine the senators are considering the 172 submissions their colleagues in the other place received.

More useful than advertising

Aged services charity HammondCare is  promoting the University of Tasmania’s nine-week MOOC course on dementia, which starts at month’s end. It makes sense. The more people in the aged care industry, not to mention those whose lives dementia diminishes in one way or another, understand about it the more that can be accomplished. Which makes me wonder if U Tas has not created a model for universities to run MOOCs on all sorts of health and welfare related subjects. I may be missing something but it seems to me that there is a vast gap between what universities teach and what people pick up from Professor Google – and MOOCs are brilliant way to replace the latter with the former in complex areas at the interface of different disciplines. And it is hard to imagine a better way of building a university brand than inviting people to learn from expert academics on subjects of enormous community importance. As to funding such MOOCs – take it out of the marketing budget. This would be a great way of proving the standard expertise and community service claims all universities make .

Curtin call

Friday before last the Curtin University branch of the National Tertiary Education Union explained its concerns with a restructure and the way teaching only positions are being filled. That day I asked management to respond, which they did – yesterday. According to Provost Colin Stirling the university is “respecting its obligations under its Enterprise Agreement” and “following the change process that was agreed upon with the NTEU last year.” “The university recognises that the reshaping initiative, while vital for Curtin’s future, involves change for some staff members.  Support is being offered to staff during the process through Curtin’s support agencies as well as external experts in the field,” Professor Stirling said.

That’s the ticket

International students and supporters are not especially impressed by the Victorian Government’s proposed 50 per cent Melbourne public transport subsidy, for those who stump up in advance for an annual pass. But universities are promising to kick the tin, not that they have much choice – only students at universities contributing to the cost of the yearly ticket qualify. Monash, Deakin and La Trobe were quick to commit last week – followed by the University of Melbourne. At least I think Melbourne is in, the university praised the arrangement without actually stating it would contribute. No one is saying what it will cost the universities although cynics suggest international student fees at participating institutions might rise by a similar sum. Surely not.

Massive no more

MOOCs are starting to look like an industry as people analyse the marketing intel to improve offerings, demonstrated by a new paper from Katey Jordan from the (UK) Open University. Ms Jordan found the average MOOC enrolled 43,000 students of whom 6.5 per cent complete the course. While there is no relationship between status of the university and completion rates, the longer the course the fewer who finished. Also intriguing she found that 50 per cent of the people enrolled across all sorts of institutions became active students. So ways to hang onto prospects are emerging – but still to what end? For as long as MOOCs are free surely the only people a university really wants are those who value a course enough to complete.  How U Tas does with dementia will be very interesting indeed.