Adelaide’s a stage

Today’s MOOC of the morning is Shakespeare Matters from the University of Adelaide (via edX) which covers Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello, Henry V and A Winter’s Tale. It’s been a long time coming, a learned reader spotted a campus shoot for the production back in April.




There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning David Myton’s pick of the world’s big higher education stories.

Birmingham kapows unis on attrition and employment

Simon Birmingham has slammed universities with high attrition rates, revealed in statistics released this morning. “With more and more students engaging in higher education, our universities and institutions need to take responsibility for the students they choose to enrol and ensure they have the capabilities and support to succeed. … It’s clear some of our universities need to take a close look at their efforts and do more to support the students they enrol with significant taxpayer subsidies,” Senator Birmingham said.

And he kapowed unis in general for “a disconnect between some of the courses universities are offering and the employment market.”

“Our universities should be carefully considering whether their courses are setting students up with the right skills and our students should be trying to find courses that match their passions and offer pathways to fulfilling careers.”

This is much more than a minister miffed with university lobbyists, who convinced enough crossbenchers to block his proposed performance metrics. Rather, Senator Birmingham is speaking to a key opponent of his package, Rebekha Sharkie (NXT- Mayo) who complained about under-employed graduates while opposing tying university funds to student outcomes, calling it a “hunger games” contest.

“It’s results like these that are behind the Turnbull Government’s performance funding policy that would put student outcomes at the centre of learning. By making universities account for their performance and take steps to boost student retention, completion, satisfaction and job outcomes, taxpayers will be able to have confidence that the record funding they are delivering is being used effectively. Our universities shouldn’t be afraid of that scrutiny,” the senator said.

UWA is where it’s at

There are 37 new National Health and Medical Research Council research projects announced in Western Australia (and there isn’t even an election on) and 27 of them, worth $27m of a total $33m go to UWA. Researchers elsewhere must feel as if a western version of Paul Keating’s famous line applies unfairly to them, “if you aren’t in Crawley you’re just camping out”.

Unis Aus kabooms Birmingham back

Peak lobby Universities Australia responded to Simon Birmingham’s attacks on attrition and graduate employment yesterday, suggesting he had things out of proportion.

“The government has tried to dress up a one per cent drop in the percentage of students completing their degrees within six years as an argument for performance funding. … Let us speak frankly. This type of criticism is really a Trojan horse for the government’s crusade to impose new conditions on university funding as part of a broader plan to deliver budget savings,” UA chief Belinda Robinson said.

As with the minister, her audience is Ms Sharkie and the Senate crossbench.

Changes in UniMelbourne leadership team with Considine appointed provost

Mark Considine will become provost of the University of Melbourne in February, replacing Margaret Sheil, who is moving to be vice chancellor at QUT. Outgoing VC Glyn Davis announced the appointment last night, made, he said, after consultation with his own replacement Duncan Maskell. Professor Maskell takes over in October. Professor Considine is now dean of the university’s faculty of arts.

Carolyn Evans will add international to her portfolio in January, while a DVC I is recruited. Professor Evans is also deputy VC, deputy provost for graduate programmes and assistant VC for advancement.

Southern Cross U’s Adam Shoemaker calls for a new deal for regional universities

The university’s VC wants “to bridge the divide, accelerate the progression of thousands of regional Australians into higher education and create a workforce for the future,” with more places for student places and more money for regional campuses.

He calls for;

# 10,000 Commonwealth funded regional enabling courses, allocated by need and demand

# $50m million a year for four years “to address the chronic underfunding of regional campuses

# An “improved” funding formula that recognises the higher costs of regional universities.

“This proposal offers a rare opportunity to lower spending on a lifetime of welfare provision, help unemployed regional people into jobs, and create a valued regional workforce capable of building stronger regional communities,” Professor Shoemaker adds.

The proposal is in a submission to the Halsey review of regional education, separate to the Regional Universities Network proposal, which is along the same lines, but less ambitious in its call for cash.

National grad survey data demonstrates degrees still deliver, just not for everybody

Four months after 2014 graduates hit the job market 67 per cent of them had full-time employment but three years later the comparable figure was up, to 89 per cent. And the newer grads were earning more money, with 2014 salaries of $56 000 increasing to $68 700.

The prosperity appear in the new Graduate Outcomes Survey, one of the excellent Quality Indicators in Learning and Teaching suite.

The study points to effectively full-employment for graduates from 13 out of 23 discipline groups, which have employment rates over 90 per cent. The lowest overall employment figures are for science and maths grads (86 per cent) and psychologists (88 per cent).

As for the warnings of graduates stocking supermarket shelves nearly 70 per cent of full-time workers and 65 per cent of part timers say their degree is important for their job. However, this is qualified by the 45 per cent of people not using their degree at work because they cannot find skilled employment in their field.

The five discipline fields with the highest per centage of graduates saying their qualification does not fully utilise “their skills and educations” are: tourism and personal services (48 per cent), psychology (43 per cent), science/maths and humanities (both 41 per cent) and creative arts (46 per cent).

Westward ho

Caroline Finch will join Edith Cowan U in March as DVC R. The exercise injury scientist moves from Federation University. Archie Clements is also moving west. The director of the Research School of Population Health at ANU is moving to Curtin University to become PVC Health Sciences, starting in April.

Entry scores matter for teacher education

The debate over entry qualifications for initial teacher education courses is set to intensify with new research showing a correlation between entry scores and study performance and making a case that teacher education programmes do not improve students’ positive classroom characteristics.

According to Helen Boon from James Cook University, “prospective teacher recruits need to have higher entry scores than are currently required by some universities, irrespective of other dispositional attributes, if they are to graduate and enter the profession.”

Associate Professor Boon surveyed 190 bachelor and grad dip students to find:

# “no significant differences between undergraduate and post-graduate students’ self-efficacy, resilience and persistence and no significant differences in these characteristics between those who completed their degrees and those who did not.

#  “character traits had no effect upon timely degree completion. … Higher grades and goal directedness were the strongest predictors of a timely completion.”

Entry scores make a difference in whether a student is likely to successfully complete their teaching degree. Those students with higher scores and those who already have a degree are more likely to complete. Those with lower scores are more likely to drop out,” she writes.

This is hot stuff. The orthodoxy holds it is the skills ITE students graduate with rather than their starting scores that matter. But Aspro Boon states; “my research shows that entry levels do indeed make a difference. It also shows, perhaps surprisingly, that current teacher education programs do not seem to be influencing the major characteristics important to teachers that recruits bring into the course at entry point.

Growth in teacher education numbers is certainly accompanied by lower completion rates. As yesterday’s attrition-sequence data shows, by last year 74.8 per cent of the 2005 cohort had completed teacher education degrees down to 62 per cent for the 2010 cohort.

Undergraduate completions: the universities that are doing well and those that aren’t

New federal figures show the demand driven system has had a marginal impact on undergraduate completion rates over time. But while some universities have improved their performance, Federation U completions collapsed from 51.3 per cent for the 2009-2014 cohort to 36.4 per cent for the 2010-2015 group.

The new figures from the Department of Education and Training cover students who started during the increased access to study period which preceded the introduction of demand driven funding and which provide, “an early indication” of the impact of the new system.

Overall 66 per cent of 2010 starting students had completed a course after six years, the lowest figure since the first collection of data, for 2005 starts. However, the decline was just 0.9 per cent. But  early four-year figures for the 2012 cohort confirm the decline since universities expanded access, with completions down 0.9 per cent on 2011 and 2.2 per cent on 2005.  (The 2012 figure includes private providers but government analysis indicates this had no significant impact).

Universities with 75 per cent plus completions in 2010-2015 are: University of Melbourne 87.7 per cent (88 per cent in 2009-2014) University of Sydney 82.9 per cent (81.9), ANU 81.1 per cent (80 per cent), Monash University 79.8 per cent (79.3 per cent) UNSW 79.6 per cent (78.1 per cent), UTS 76.7 per cent (77.1 per cent), University of Wollongong 75.2 per cent (76.7 per cent),

While some universities improved completion rates from 2009-2014 to 2010-2015, notably Southern Cross U up 3 per cent, less than 60 per cent of 2010-2105 students completed at 13 public institutions.



Six year completion rates for commencing domestic bachelor students by Table A institution and Table B institution, 2005-2010, 2006-2011, 2007-2012, 2008-2013, 2009-2014 and 2010-2015, %
2005-2010 2006-2011 2007-2012 2008-2013 2009-2014 2010-2015
Table A institutions
New South Wales Charles Sturt University 56.0 54.2 53.7 55.9 53.5 54.6
Macquarie University 72.1 71.9 73.2 73.0 71.3 69.4
Southern Cross University 52.7 54.7 52.7 52.1 52.5 55.6
The University of New England 53.0 51.6 49.4 50.8 49.0 47.2
The University of Newcastle 71.0 70.7 67.1 64.7 64.1 63.5
The University of Sydney 84.4 84.2 82.8 81.6 81.9 82.9
University of New South Wales 75.8 74.7 75.5 75.9 78.1 79.6
University of Technology, Sydney 77.1 76.3 77.0 77.1 77.1 76.7
University of Wollongong 76.0 75.0 77.4 76.5 76.7 75.2
Western Sydney University 68.4 67.7 64.4 63.9 63.1 61.2
Victoria Deakin University 64.6 64.9 65.9 68.6 70.5 71.3
Federation University Australia 65.4 57.7 56.7 53.2 51.3 36.4
La Trobe University 70.5 70.7 69.7 70.1 69.5 70.8
Monash University 74.2 77.1 78.2 79.7 79.3 79.8
RMIT University 68.5 68.7 70.3 72.4 74.8 74.2
Swinburne University of Technology 65.7 66.8 66.1 64.1 65.5 65.1
The University of Melbourne 83.9 84.7 86.4 87.7 88.0 87.7
Victoria University 61.0 62.4 60.2 62.3 57.4 54.7
Queensland CQUniversity 44.0 41.8 42.2 43.6 42.5 45.5
Griffith University 62.7 62.9 63.3 64.8 64.1 62.6
James Cook University 52.0 51.4 53.1 56.1 55.6 54.2
Queensland University of Technology 67.7 65.5 65.6 66.9 69.3 68.3
The University of Queensland 73.1 70.2 69.8 72.7 71.3 71.7
University of Southern Queensland 43.4 39.7 41.9 42.4 44.4 42.5
University of the Sunshine Coast 48.6 46.8 49.7 54.5 53.2 55.3
Western Australia Curtin University of Technology 66.6 65.8 65.3 65.5 64.2 63.2
Edith Cowan University 56.8 56.7 57.7 57.5 55.4 53.5
Murdoch University 54.1 53.0 50.0 51.6 49.6 50.9
The University of Western Australia 76.9 75.8 76.3 75.6 74.5 74.1
South Australia Flinders University 68.1 67.3 65.8 65.1 62.5 62.2
The University of Adelaide 73.1 74.5 72.4 71.8 70.5 68.4
University of South Australia 62.2 62.6 63.7 63.6 65.8 64.4
Tasmania University of Tasmania 64.5 62.3 61.7 59.5 62.7 60.6
Northern Territory Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education 43.9 35.8 32.6 30.8 36.9 22.1
Charles Darwin University 46.0 44.0 42.4 43.3 41.8 41.2
Australian Capital Territory The Australian National University 79.8 80.6 77.8 79.8 81.0 81.1
University of Canberra 68.8 67.4 64.7 62.8 65.5 59.2
Multi-state Australian Catholic University 75.2 75.0 73.3 73.3 69.5 68.3
Total for Table A institutions 67.0 66.8 66.6 67.1 66.7 65.8
Table B institutions
Victoria University of Divinity 44.4 33.0 32.1 37.5 45.9 44.0
Queensland Bond University 71.0 73.3 71.3 73.1 72.8 74.8
Western Australia The University of Notre Dame Australia 68.3 71.4 74.4 77.3 75.2 73.8
Total for Table B institutions 68.0 70.5 71.2 74.7 73.7 73.4
Total for Table A and Table B institutions 67.0 66.8 66.6 67.2 66.8 66.0