Why we should not worry about annual changes 

 Pyne’s key appointment

Meredith Jackson is Christopher Pyne’s chief of staff. Her appointment was confirmed in a one-line statement last night in response to calls to Ms Jackson. She joins the Education Minister from Griffith University, where she is director of external relations. Her previous higher education appointments include six years as Monash marketing and communications director. Ms Jackson also has years of experience in journalism and media management.

It had to happen I

Education Dive asks “MOOCS: is product placement the next frontier?”

ATARS for universities 

The Times Higher rankings are out, accompanied by the usual who’s up and down cut and pasting in the print press from the provided lists and warnings of worse to come without more public money from the pundits. Accountability in higher education is essential, which makes ranking inevitable but to assume the commercial products can track changes from year to year with forensic accuracy is nonsense on stilts. For a start there are all the methodology issues Andrejs Rauhvargers  outlines. Then there is the issue of whether what is measured matters for potential students (an obvious market for advertisers) and whether one ranking captures everything an institution does, which is where the Umultirank model might provide an alternative by comparing like institutions. The rankings are also relative, just because the university of Y overtakes X university one year does not mean the latter is worse than it was. Like ATARS these are a relative measure.  That the University of Melbourne dropped from 28th to 34th in the world on this year’s THE is not an especially big deal. And you have to assume that circumstances change very quickly indeed to make sense of some of the snakes and ladders switches. The University of Wollongong makes it into the top 300 while QUT is out of the top 250. The University of Adelaide is the only Group of Eight institution that is not in the top 200, dropping at least 25 spots. In contrast back in 2009 it was 81st in the world – then again that year it rocketed 25 places up the list.

It had to happen II

Yet another German politician is alleged to have plagiarised a doctoral dissertation. Social Democrat Frank Walter Steinmeier risks following two cabinet ministers who resigned from Chancellor Merkel’s previous governments after being pinged. Mr Steinmeier denies the claim.

 Agenda not on the agenda

The excellent L H Martin Institute asks “a new federal government – what are the implications for research and innovation in Australia?” Good question – one which will not be answered by speakers at its end of the month conference on the subject. Not that they aren’t all experts – the roster includes Ian Chubb and Sandra Harding, Belinda Robinson and Warwick Anderson.  But there is no minister down to explain what the government wants. Perhaps they are still working on it.

Sharp and to the point

I hear that some university marketers looked uncomfortable yesterday during Byron Sharp’s presentation at the university marketers’ conference in Sydney. If so I doubt it surprised Professor Sharp, given the way the excellent author of How Markets Grow has a habit of explaining that much marketing wisdom isn’t and that brands succeed by setting out what they do simply and ensuring their products are easy to purchase. These core laws of marketing apply to universities, the head of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute of Marketing Science at the University of South Australia argues. His message is stark and for any marketing director who thinks a corporate campaign all about “excellence” will deliver, very scary – “you are in a retail business,” Sharp says.

Vote one McClymont

For the first time since I graduated from the University of Sydney in 1865 I will vote in the imminent senate election to cast a ballot for the excellent Kate McClymont. For people outside Sydney Ms McClymont is a journalist on what is left of the Sydney Morning Herald where she specialises in asking shonks and spivs embarrassing questions. Media studies academics bang on about investigative journalism while McClymont gets on with it. It is said that barristers who appear for people called before corruption inquiries bless her name for the work her reporting creates. If elected Kate the curious will make an excellent member of the finance and audit committee.

Jobs improve by degrees

I am also a great admirer of the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, which uses national stats collections to chart the circumstances and experience of young Australians in education and training. Today’s resource is a paper by recently retired NCVER chief Tom Karmel and colleagues on what happens to people who start their post school working lives in low-skilled jobs. The research confirms what you would expect, but common sense is only really sensible when supported by stats. They demonstrate the per centage of university graduates who start work in low skilled work (13.5) is half that of VET completers. And they make the case for a degree, even when it does not immediately pay off in employment. “Holding a university qualification is the biggest factor that leads young people to make the transition from low-skill jobs to high-skill jobs”

What it takes to teach

The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership has charge of three core Labor initiatives, I suspect Education Minister Chris Pyne will make his own; admission guidelines for teaching degrees, developing “a national approach to professional experience,” (whatever that means) and literacy and numeracy assessment for teacher education students. The consultation questions are here and the deadline is tomorrow.

You don’t say

Over the ditch the New Zealand Herald  reports business school researchers at Victoria University in Wellington have discovered, “alcohol is commonly used to facilitate team bonding and for presenting a friendly, informal image when networking with clients.”  Who knew?