plus Tanya Monro’s great contribution to International Women’s Day

and Victoria cross: tense times between management and union at VU

Honoured achievers

Ahead of International Women’s Day the Victorian Premier’s Women’s Honours Roll has 25 new members. They include Dr Christine Tippett an obstetrician affiliated with Monash University, general practice educator Dr Ruth McNair from the University of Melbourne, Dr Lou Bennett, an indigenous arts and language scholar, also at UniMelbourne and Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea, a gene therapy scientist at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

All optimism for edX in Adelaide

Kathy Pugh, vice president education services at edX is at the University of Adelaide to talk to about the future of the MOOC provider, the university’s role as one of the three Australian charter members. The timing is perfect as UniAdelaide has just launched a micromasters, the next big thing in massive open online courses, which count to credit for masters at providing institutions. Adelaide’s is on big data and completing it can count for credit of 25 per cent of the university’s masters of data science. While it is early days, micromasters show signs of being “very successful” Ms Pugh says.

For-credit courses from universities with global reputations will certainly sell to the 40 per cent of edX consumers who use it to advance their careers. It’s a huge market, with edX reaching 10 million learners between its founding in 2012 and last month. Many millions of them take multiple courses, with 35 million overall edX enrolments. While she does not discount humanities courses, education in social services and the STEM subjects that were edX’s original strength Ms Pugh says there is a “great opportunity” in business course.

So what happens next? Ms Pugh isn’t predicting anything, saying it is too early to say what block chains might accomplish for course-recognition and that on-campus study will remain “desirable for many learners. But she does point to the potential of Open edX, the open source system for creating courses. “It’s a worldwide movement across 52 countries.”


UNSW up for online biz ed

The ranking of the day is the UK Financial Time ’s online MBA in which the University of New South Wales is fourth, up four spots on 2016. UNSW is the only Australian institution in the top 20, joining 13 US and three UK schools. The remainder are in Europe, apart from Peru’s Centrum Catolica, which is 17th. The first five are IE Business School (Spain), Warwick U (UK), University of Massachusetts, Amherst, UNSW and the University of Florida.

Promotion for Parker

Michael Parker moves up to lead the University of Melbourne ’s Bio 21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute. He will also continue to run the St Vincent’s Institute structural biology unit.

Great and generous commitment

Tanya Monro will do much, much more than talk the talk on International Women’s Day tomorrow, she will stump up $80 000 over two years to assist mothers “to manage their research commitments and the demands of a new baby.”  And it’s not $80 000 from her budget as DVC R at the University of South Australia, it’s a personal donation made by Professor Monro.

“I want the money to be used in ways that release the pressure on women researchers and helps them to keep momentum during their leave or shortly after their return to work without feeling they’ve had to sacrifice time with their baby,” she says.

She knows what she speaks of; having had three children while building her research career on photonics.

“Sometimes it is the smallest supports that can make all the difference – support from a research assistant to keep vital experiments moving, a plane fare, someone to answer the phones and take care of an email backlog, a few hours of some accounting services.

“What I hope this fund will do is smooth out some of the little hurdles that slow women down at a time when they have a lot to contend with.”

Money not the only issue

A student recruiter who works in regions confirms a readers’ explanation that families in the country often can’t stretch to the cost of their children moving to cities for study (CMM yesterday). “I speak to a lot of students who defer to earn some money that I never expect to see again. Having said that, even those students with financial support seem to suffer from the same difficulties of transitioning to university. Qualitatively, it seems to be the removal from support networks, friends/family plus the stress of a new city that seems to have the biggest influence on attrition,” the recruiter writes.

Rules of the game

Sony has accredited Torrens University’s media design school to its First Academic Development Programme, which means students can learn code and create games for Playstation. Torrens is the second Australian participant in the programme, following the Academy of Interactive Entertainment.  The Media Design School in New Zealand, like Torrens U owned by US education chain Laureate, is also accredited by Sony.

Victoria U cross

The Fair Work Commission has put Victoria University back in its box over a manoeuvre in its continuing academic workloads dispute with the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union. The two sides are negotiating in the commission but the union did not take it well when some academic units made changes to staffing and time allocated to teaching organisational responsibilities and branch president Paul Adams advised staff effected how they should respond, warning; “any time you decide to ‘donate’ work to the university without a workload allocation you will tend to ‘normalise’ these arrangements, and you will probably be expected in the future to ‘absorb’ these activities into other parts of your workloads as a routine activity. So think carefully if this is what you want to do.”

The university responded by going to FWC arguing that elements of Dr Adams’ advice was the basis of industrial action, (which needs approval to proceed). But Commissioner Michelle Bissett wasn’t having it saying Dr Adams advice was not industrial action and given this, lawful. While she did suggest the NTEU, “take care with the form of the advice it provides to members,” the optics are with the union. As Dr Adams told members yesterday; “it shows how out of touch management are also with the local community in which the university is situated which is strongly Labor with proud traditions of supporting union rights. The NTEU will never ever resile from giving advice to members about their workplace rights and will not be deterred from developing a major campaign to defend member’s rights to have fair and equitable workloads.” Victoria U is yet to respond for a request for comment.

It’s going to be Bond

Chris Stapelberg is the new joint chair in mental health at Bond University medical school and the Gold Coast University Hospital. He moves from Griffith University.