“It makes no sense to close down programs that generate wealth for regional economies,” Belinda Robinson warns

As she leaves James Cook U Sally Kift warns Australia could “quickly lag” on teaching and learning

No, great researchers do not always make great teachers

In case you missed it

“A new year has arrived,” Monash VC Margaret Gardner breaks the news to alumni in her February 10 update.

Case for keeping Education Investment Fund

There was talk last month of a court challenge to the government decision to use the $3.7bn parked in the now dormant Education Investment Fund to pay down debt and support the National Disability Insurance Scheme  CMM January 16 and  CMM January 18 CMM ). But the move requires legislation which makes stopping it in the Senate a simpler solution. This morning Universities Australia and CQUniversity give senators reasons to knock back ending the EIF.

CQU VC Scott Bowman says the EIF funded facilities essential to making his a dual sector institution which is a higher education and vocational training hub for central Queensland. The fund also transformed health care in the region by making possible the $18m Rockhampton Health Clinic.  “The decision to axe this $3.7 billion fund means there won’t be funds to build such game-changing facilities in the future. That would leave a huge gap in our regional economies. …”

“As MPs and Senators start the year, we understand the Budget is a key concern. So it makes no sense to close down programs that generate wealth for regional economies,” Universities Australia CEO Belinda Robinson adds.

New Queensland minister

Queensland state minister Jackie Trad is moving from education to transport to sort out a rail fail. She is replaced by Kate Jones, who has previously held the education portfolio. On Thursday Ms Jones, wearing her previous trade hat  announced a not especially imaginative scheme for international education, which she may not be so keen on now.

Sally Kift is leaving James Cook U: warns Australia could “quickly lag” competition in teaching and learning

James Cook U DVC teaching and learning Sally Kift is leaving. She joined the university in 2012 as inaugural DVC Academic from QUT, where she was professor of law.  Her departure follows that of Angela Hill, JCU’s dean of learning, teaching and student engagement who is moving to Edith Cowan U (CMM January 20). With James Cook U bang on the national average for teaching quality as assessed by students in the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching there is now a big leadership gap which surely will impact on plans to improve. However university management says “Professor Kift has positioned JCU at the leading edge of excellent practice in a number of areas, for which JCU is most grateful.”

Professor Kift tells CMM she is considering a number of options and is keen on a pan-sector teaching and learning role because she fears cuts to programmes and the government’s closing the Office of Learning and Teaching mean, ‘’there is a legitimate concern that Australian higher education will very quickly start to lag behind the international competition in the absence of a whole-of-sector focus.’’

Top jobs

The Australian Association of Graduate Employers has released the results of its graduate survey of the 75 organisations “that provide the most positive experience for new graduates.” The top ten are software developer Thoughtworks, WA Department of Mines, KordaMentha, Laing O’Rourke, Atlassian, AMP, WA Water Corporation, ASIC, accountants ShineWing and Australia Post. No organisation in education made the list.

New research discredits suggestions that universities gamed major research ranking

There was a media beat-up about universities gaming research rankings when the Australian Research Council’s Excellence for Research In Australia came out in December 2015. This was despite then ARC chair Aidan Byrne saying that although 29 field of research units (out of thousands) at seven universities were not classified; “I do not think that any institutions acted with an intent to deceive.”

“The tendency in universities is to align ERA submissions to their academic units, the problem is that this can be at odds with our methodology. Some universities submitted administrative unit data instead of by methodological units, which is where methodologies emerge and where review panels cannot reliably form a rating.” (CMM December 4 2015).

His broad point is confirmed by a new analysis of discipline coding for ERA by Paul Henman (University of Queensland), and Scott D Brown and Simon Dennis (University of Newcastle) in the new Australian Universities Review. They find the problem was mainly caused by universities and ERA assessors having different views on where published research should be categorised. And they argue ARC processes could be clearer, with an appeals mechanism for rulings that are now made on confidential assessments.

“The essential problem of the ERA process is how to assign research inputs and outputs to FoR codes and to do so in a way that facilitates agreement between the institutions doing the assigning and the (research evaluation committee) evaluators,” they write.

Good-oh, but CMM wonders what will happen when the new impact and engagement metrics are rolled out. They will surely involve far more subjective decisions than the right research code for an article.

Monash’s man in Malaysia

Monash U is not rushing to appoint a replacement for Helen Bartlett who has left her post as head of Monash Malaysia to become VC of Federation U. Andrew Walker, who joined Monash Malaysia as VP Academic in November will become interim PVC there and serve until November.

No link between lecture and lab

On Thursday ANU VC Brian Schmidt promised to establish a distinguished educator programme. An announcement is expected March. Teaching-specialists are the go at universities around the country, freeing staff who do not publish from the burden of having to spend 40 per cent of their time in research. But the trend to teaching denies the accepted wisdom that research and great teaching go together.

Accepted, but wrong according to Northwestern University president Morton Schapiro and professor of education and economics there David Figlio. They looked for links between academics’ research performance and the quality of their teaching, measured by students’ performance in subsequent courses and their ability to inspire, assessed by students’ who decide to major in their discipline. And they did not find them.

Top teachers are no more or less likely to be especially productive scholars than their less accomplished teaching peers. … there is no apparent relationship between teaching quality and research quality.” they write.

“This is encouraging for those who fear that great teachers specialise in pedagogy at the expense of research. On the other hand, it is disappointing to observe that weak undergraduate teachers do not make up for their limitations in the classroom with disproportionate research excellence.”

Dean steps down

Michael Adams will stand down as dean of law at Western Sydney U at the end of June. After leave he will return to work at the university in 2018 as professor of corporate law and governance.