“We owe it to students to accelerate the pace of change” he adds

plus TEQSA steps up to defend the compliance process

Deakin U says there is more to law than local practise

and Heads Up on the summer-break’s big job news

Hipster horror

Education Minister Simon Birmingham was on Ten’s The Project the other night, tie-less and bearded. It was bang-on for the audience however the minister says the beard will be gone by Monday. But the precedent is set; could beard be replaced by a man bun?

TEQSA steps up

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency has counselled higher education providers against consultants claiming they can fast-track registration applications, they can’t. As TEQSA CEO Anthony McClaran points out, 11 out of 18 compliance applications were withdrawn last year because they were inadequate. ”  “We need to have confidence that potential providers have the necessary internal capabilities for course development, academic leadership and policy development to become higher education providers”, Mr McClaran says.

The agency reports that a consultant has submitted applications for multiple clients, using the same policies, operational documents and courses.

“It is important that prospective higher education providers draw on the necessary expertise to support them in the development of their application, and we do see the value of consultants in performing this function but it can’t be at the expense of internal capability,” Mr McClaran adds.

And quite right too. After the VET FEE HELP catastrophe Australia’s education system needs evidence that regulators are acute to the risk of substandard providers and will hold all providers to the highest account. In stepping up  TEQSA is defending the credibility of  the higher education system.

More to law than Priestley’s Eleven

Deakin U law school has hired international academics, including scholars from the Sorbonne, LSE, Harvard, Stanford and Oxford. “These talented scholars also bring a record of research and work experience at the World Bank, UN agencies, and major law firms, to sit alongside the school’s Australian commercial, human rights, constitutional and resources law expertise – striking a balance between global priorities and local relevance, the university told CMM last month (December 12). But a learned reader wonders whether any of the learned new chums can practise law in Australia, which requires completing core subjects, known as the Priestley Eleven. If they haven’t, how can they teach they teach local students? “What is required of students should surely apply to those teaching as well,” the reader remarks.

CMM asked Deakin U about this and a spokesperson replied; “Deakin University employs researchers and academics from across the globe and will continue to do so as part of our commitment to hire the best talent possible so that we can contribute to a globally-connected world and offer our students the best teaching experience possible. Qualifications required for practising law differ from those necessary to conduct world-leading research and teaching, which is what our university aims to deliver. The new employees have trained at world-leading universities including Stanford, Harvard and Oxford, giving our students the best chance of succeeding in the international legal services market.”

Expert advice

University of Melbourne management tells staff it wants good things to come in the enterprise agreement to be negotiated this year, notably improved job securityenhanced personal leave provision and “salary and benefits befitting a world-leading university.” The university also wants separate agreements for academic and professional staff (https://campusmorningmail.com.au/fund-us-to-run-our-race-says-regional-universities-lobby-leader-greg-hill/ CMM January 17). A big agenda to be sure but learned readers suggest UoM also wants productivity improvements from teaching staff as part of the flexible academic programme being developed. This, they say, is why management has retained independent and expert legal advisors well in advance of negotiations starting.

UniSyd works its magic

A new University of Sydney student explains why he chose the ancient institution, “it kind of looked like Hogwarts, and I’m a big Harry Potter fan!, (Sydney Morning Herald, yesterday). What was that Simon Birmingham said about the need for people to make informed study decisions?

New year, same argument

Eeva Leinonen has had the first word for the year in the enterprise bargaining negotiation at Murdoch University. The VC tells staff, “I give you my firm commitment that we will continue working to deliver a fair agreement that ensures the long-term sustainability of Murdoch University.” This may not assure those who wonder why MU has asked the Fair Work Commission to terminate the now expired existing agreement, which continues to be the base for wages and conditions, if a new deal isn’t done. While the university says this move is not about attacking “take home pay and key benefits” it would free the university to substantially vary employment conditions.  It certainly is intended to pressure the union to accept management’s draft of a new deal, which offers far less detail on employment and conditions than the old one. Talks resume on Tuesday with another meeting between management and union scheduled on January 31.

LAT for law

Among all the ATAR entry score triumphalism around the country the UNSW law school is promoting the first year of admissions using the traditional ranking plus its new Law Admission Test. According to law dean George Williams, in announcing the LAT back in July, it is intended to “test a broader range of skills such as critical thinking and analysis, and will offer a genuine opportunity to people from lower socio-economic and diverse backgrounds who really want to study law.” While admissions of 300 are the same as last year, the university says a “wider range of students” will study law thanks to the LAT.

Deakin gives it another go

Deakin University has made 140 first round offers for courses at Warrnambool which may not be many but is certainly more than observers expected – what with applications to the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre closing when people feared the campus would not be accepting new students this year . There are likely to be further direct applications over the next six weeks or so.

Early last year Deakin said it could not attract sustainable student numbers to Warrnambool and would close the campus if nobody else wanted it. Nobody did but with new federal funding Deakin decided to persevere. This week it appointed prominent local and director of educational strategy at Warrnambool, Alistair Cosh as campus director.

Whatever happens in Canberra the big changes will come on campus says incoming IRU head

Colin Stirling says policy certainty would be good after the political tumult of the last couple of years and he will push government for initiatives that encourage enterprise, innovation and individuality in universities.

But whatever comes out of Canberra will not compete with the change that will occur on campuses, change which he welcomes. “We owe it to students to accelerate the pace of change,” the incoming chair of the Innovative Research Universities Group and vice chancellor of Flinders University says.

With “the lecture not dead but on its last legs,” and the competency based learning trend in the United States, the switch to small-group problem based learning at universities will accelerate, he predicts. “The existing culture of teaching will need to evolve, but it can be done,” he says. However, while transformative changes in pedagogy are imminent the prospects for policy aren’t pellucid. Professor Stirling points to three operational issues which will shape the immediate future for universities and. And he points to a major policy challenge for governments in the way it resources universities.

The biggest immediate issue is demand driven funding. “In its response to the government’s discussion paper, IRU set out some possible ways ahead that could increase revenue for universities within the agreed parameters of set maximum charges for students,” Professor Stirling says.   But while acknowledging the government may well look to students to recoup costs of demand driven funding he is adamant that DDF must stay, “it gives students choices,” he says. He is also cautious about the prospect of changes to funding bands for Commonwealth Supported Places, which Education Minister Simon Birmingham has signalled are coming.

Simplifying discipline bands is possibly helpful but it will depend on how profound changes are.  The bands mask considerable valuations in terms of relative contributions students make.”

Professor Stirling’s support for the government’s new impact and engagement approach to research assessment is also qualified, acknowledging the case for applied research but also arguing for continuing basic research; “you never know where the next innovation coming from but equally research that has no impact is much harder to sustain argument for.” However he is adamant that there is no case for concentrating research resources, welcoming former IndustryInnovation and Science Minister Greg Hunt’s plan for university-led research clusters, which he says the IRU has argued for. Professor Stirling also says there is no case for cutting institutions out of the research system, which would deprive their students of the complete higher education experience. “There’s an increasing need to ensure students are exposed to ways of thinking that are inherent in research. It is more important than ever to expose students to the critical thinking that comes from research.”

Above all, Professor Stirling says government should recognise the rich differences in the sector. While IRU members have a common purpose the university sector includes “different types of institutions.” With uniform funding drivers universities head in similar directions and there is scope to encourage universities to purse innovation.

Overall, the future of higher education in an age where information is everywhere will come down to the quality of the undergraduate experience.

He points to Flinders’ new model which ensures all students can study at least one unit in entrepreneurship, thanks to a programme adapted from the Fox Business School at Temple University in Philadelphia, (CMM August 19). “It’s a very efficient delivery model, freeing time for group work and problem based learning,” Stirling says.

And it points to his optimism for the future of enterprising, innovating universities. “The question is what experiences you can have in a university which aren’t available by other means, YouTube downloads say. There is huge added value from learning with experts in small groups. Ultimately unis will survive because they are collections of expertise.”


Heads Up

The summer’s big job news


UNSW conferred Christmas greetings on 16 staffers who have become scientia professors, the university’s designation for elite researchers. They are: Bernard Balleine, (psychology), Michael Barton, (medicine), Lyn Craig, (social policy), Louisa Degenhardt, (drug and alcohol research), Louise Edwards, (humanities and languages), Jacob Goeree, (economics), Gary Housley, (medical sciences), Stephen Lord, (neuroscience), Andrew Martin, (education), Rosemary Rayfuse (law), John Roberts, (marketing), Derrick Silove, (psychiatry), Martina Stenzel, (chemistry), Brian Uy, (engineering), Toby Walsh, (computer Science and engineering), Jingling Xue, (computer science and engineering).

Swinburne U has a new CIO; Peter Mahler’s appointment was announced just before Christmas for a Jan 1 start. Mr Mahler replaced Lachlan Cameron, who worked for Swinburne for five years, the last two as CIO. With five executive staff leaving the university over the last four months it is certainly a very new year for managing Swinburne.

John Wilson is also announced as Swinburne PVC for academic strategy implementation, starting in April. He will move up from executive dean of the faculty of science, engineering and technology. Sarah Maddison will act as ED during the recruitment process for a replacement at FEST.

Angela Hill is moving from James Cook U, where she is dean of learning and teaching, to Edith Cowan U. In April Professor Hill will become PVC Education there, with responsibility for the Centre for Learning and Teaching, library services, technology enhanced learning and academic governance.

Jill Eddington is the new head of the University of Queensland Press, she joins the press from the Australia Council for the Arts.

At the University of Western Australia Senior DVC Dawn Freshwater moves up to the top job, replacing Paul Johnson, who is leaving after one-term as vice chancellor. Four of the five WA universities now have women VCs. Professor Freshwater joining Deborah Terry at Curtin, Eeva Leinonen at Murdoch and Celia Hammond at Notre Dame Australia. The sole bloke is Steve Chapman at Edith Cowan.

Andrew Vann has accepted a second term as VC of Charles Sturt U.

Bryce Ives is Federation University’s new artistic director, with responsibility for the Arts Academy Ballarat and the Gippsland Centre of Arts and Design.

The council of Macquarie University has appointed S (for silent) Bruce Dowton to a second term as vice chancellor. He will serve until 2024.