You work with what you’ve got

“Reef trip a turtley awesome adventure,” James Cook U media alert on green turtle research, yesterday

Plus ça change of the day

Oh good, a new skills planning agency. Whatever happened to the last one?

“The National Skills Commission is playing an increasingly important role in our national conversation, identifying emerging and future workforce skills needs and enabling us to develop targeted and evidence-based policies to maximise our investment in skills and employment.” Employment and skills minister Stuart Robert, speech yesterday.

The Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency, “will play an important role in ensuring the Government has the right policy settings and long term planning in place to meet the future training demands of the economy. Through the work of the agency we are planning today for the jobs of tomorrow and putting the skills needs of Australians first. Labor Tertiary education and skills minister, “Silent Chris” Evans launches AWPA, July 19 2012

Yes that AWPA, the one abolished by the Abbott Government in 2014

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Frank Larkins and Ian Marshman (Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education) estimate public uni income streams and how institutions would cope with a decline in international student fees this year. (Looking good ANU).

plus Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on access and equity to post school education – expanding PG is the next issue.

with, Denise Jackson (Edith Cowan U) and Bonnie Amelia Dean (Uni Wollongong) on what the Graduate Outcomes Survey reveals about the ways (that’s plural) work integrated learning can deliver.  It follows Jackson and Anna Rowe (UNSW) on WIL outcomes for graduate-level jobs.  They are both selections by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

ACU on-line students not alone at home

Australian Catholic U announces a “digital transformation” in study and student support for off-campus courses

From April, Australian Catholic U On-line will offer courses that are “specifically designed for on-line learning” and which will “complement” the existing on-campus and on-line portfolio.

Eight courses start then, an UG commerce degree, an MBA and grad certificates in health, nursing and aged care. Three follow (cyber security, ed tech and a teaching masters) in August.  Micro-credentials are also expected next year.

The emphasis is on fee-paying PG.

ACU is pitching the portfolio on support, pointing to a new Canvas LMS, “which will provide students with a seamlessly integrated platform.” Plus, long-time academic support provider Studiosity is involved. The university is also engaged with student-mentor and peer – assistance platform, Vygo. ACU has an $850 000 equity stake in the venture. (CMM September 6).

Undergrad certificates: great while the funding lasts

Last week the feds announced the states had agreed and undergraduate certificate short courses would stay Australian Qualification Framework accredited to 2025 (CMM December 2)

Which must have cheered up acting minister for all things educational Stuart Robert no end, because yesterday he explained undergrad certs are a thoroughly good thing.

“The higher education sector has stepped up to the challenge to develop and deliver high-quality short courses to ensure we can get the economy back on track following the effects of the pandemic, and Australians should take advantage of these fantastic offerings in all areas of study,” he said in a Sydney speech.

But where will the money to run them come from? Mr Robert had an answer yesterday, “universities and eligible non-university higher education providers will be able to continue to deliver these important courses using 2021 unspent funding allocations.”

Good-o, except for institutions whose offerings to date are indeed so fantastic that funding for their share of the 47 500 CSPs so far is spent.

But fear not – all is well-ish. The Department of Education Skills and Employment advises, “providers can continue to deliver already approved short courses. Any new courses will be subject to an assessment process in early 2022. New courses must target areas of industry need and contribute to greater university-industry collaboration.”

There will be more information in December, which presumably means sometime in the 15 working days between now and the holidays. Got content for a new UG cert you want to run next semester? Cancel Christmas.


Claire Field on the cost of Labor’s “free TAFE” promise


While any additional investment in VET is welcomed, most “free TAFE” places will not be new enrolments

Federal Labor has announced the following VET election policies:

* 45,000 new “Free TAFE” places

* 10,000 New Energy Apprenticeships

* convert 420,00 existing places to  “Free TAFE” (by paying states and territories to remove student fees)

* introduce accredited micro-credentials

* establish a TAFE Technology Fund, and

* no more than 30 percent of VET funding going to non-TAFE providers (i.e. maintain the current share).

While any additional investment in VET is welcomed, most “Free TAFE” places will not be new enrolments. Instead, student fees will be removed from some TAFE courses for students ineligible for a concession card (concession card holders currently study for free).

Some of these students would have gone to TAFE anyway. Others would have studied with an independent or community education provider. And as always in VET, the role of the states and territories makes things more complex.

My analysis of the latest National Centre for Vocational Education Research data shows the highest percentage increases in recurrent VET funding over the last four years were in New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania – states which largely have not pursued substantial “Free TAFE” policies.

With NSW and WA mandating the fees VET providers must charge, Labor’s “Free TAFE” policy will have a greater impact in these jurisdictions than, for example, in Victoria where government-funded providers do not need to charge student fees.

If Labor wins the election their policies will create significant financial stress for some community and independent providers. They will also create challenges for employers who prefer non-TAFE providers.

The policies will also pose significant challenges for regulator ASQA – in ensuing no quality problems emerge as TAFEs rapidly expand their offerings and as other providers rapidly cut costs and lower student fees to compete.

Against this backdrop, the latest ASQA annual staff survey results and emerging stakeholder concerns are worrying.

Troy Williams advises Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia has been meeting with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of Finance on various aspects of ASQA’s operations. And the NSW Utilities and Electrotechnology ITAB reports the ACT Electrical Regulator has concerns about training quality and ASQA’s regulatory approach.

 Claire Field is an adviser to the tertiary education sector

Appointments, achievement

Uni Queensland deputy provost Tim Dunne is off to the University of Surrey – as of April he will be its provost and senior VP.

Louise Ryan wins Macquarie U’s Moyal Medal for stats research. Professor Ryan is chief investigator at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Maths and Statistical Frontiers.

Susan Robertson will become head of Monash U’s School of Education, Culture and Society. She will arrive from Uni Cambridge in June

Lee Smith will move from Uni Newcastle (PVC Engineering, Science) to become Griffith U’s DVC R, in April

Government goes big on micro courses

Employment and skills Minister Robert announced  $32m through to 2025 for a “systemic approach to deliver micro credentials in the university sector”

The funding includes $8m for industry “to develop up to 70,” “globally relevant MCs for international and on-shore implementation.”

Skills and (acting) education minister Stuart Robert announced the funding in a Sydney speech yesterday.

The funding appears in-line with recommendations by former vice chancellors Martin Bean (RMIT) and Peter Dawkins (Victoria U) in a report on engaging industry in teaching and learning.   “There is a pressing need for closer collaboration between higher education providers and industry to better align the skills and capabilities being developed by the education sector with the changing requirements of industry,” they write.

They propose, industry and HE combine to “build responsive, industry-focused micro-credentials that offer rapid skilling into defined workplace roles.”  Such credentials should be HELP eligible.

reaction: The Australian Technology Network was quick to support Bean and Dawkin’s intent, as backing what its members already do. Although it had one ask, “assurance from the Government for new and recurrent funding so that we can continue to deliver skilling opportunities for thousands of Australians into the future.”

The Group of Eight responded that universities and VET, “must walk in lockstep together if we are going to address the current skills shortages. This requires leadership from government and industry as future employers.”

But quietly commentators suggest that the spending announcement yesterday is born of a coalition backbench and business lobby belief that universities will not work with industry unless pushed and that the micro—credentials announcement is designed to demonstrate the government wants to be seen to be doing something.

What seems strange, a learned reader suggests, is that the MC funding comes as Minister Robert was praising undergraduate certificates, without explicitly endorsing more funding.