That’s a relief

“I’m loving the new branded @ Charles Sturt Uni commencing student welcome pack, CSU DVC Students Jenny Roberts, via Twitter yesterday. Be a problem for somebody if she didn’t.

There’s more in the Mail

In Campus Morning Mail Features

Maree O’Keefe, (Uni Adelaide) on health curricula in the age of Dr Google.

And the first 2020 issue of Merlin Crossley’s The Crossley Lab.

Mass lecture, individual attention

David Kellermann (Engineering, UNSW) turns a 500-person lecture into individual learning. The tech to do it is now open-source

Dr Kellermann demonstrated how he does it at a Microsoft conference last winter (CMM July 19), showing how students in a lecture can ask a question live on-line and get a direct response from classmates and tutor, using QBot, which he built using Microsoft Teams.

QBot also archives questions and answers to build a course database.

An open-source version is now available.

Uni Adelaide to expand into Melbourne

Partner Kaplan will teach its degrees in Docklands

The university is targeting international students who are happy to study for its qualifications but like to live in Melbourne.

Kaplan staff will teach Uni Adelaide UG and PG degrees at the company’s Dockland’s site from July. University staff will “collaborate” on quality assurance and assessment.

Kaplan has operated a pathway college for Uni Adelaide since 2007.

The university names IT, commerce, accounting, and finance as initial offerings, with capacity for future courses in areas of “specialist knowledge,” including wine and AI.

DVC A Pascale Quester says the university, “is working to attract new students who otherwise might not have been able to study with us.”

“Initially open” to international students, the campus “is expected to attract several hundred new students over the coming years.”

The university’s out-of-Adelaide expansion follows the launch last August of an SA government strategy to attract more international students to the state’s universities, in the state.


Old numbers

What’s with the Department of Education not releasing the 2018 Financial reports of HE providers

Annual figures used to appear the following October-November but a Learned Reader suggests no ’18 numbers by January 2020 is a record.

Early-starts to interest women in engineering

Encouraging young woman post-school is way too late

It’s a key finding in a new analysis by Monash U’s Deborah Corrigan and Kathleen Aikens, for the Engineering for Australia Taskforce.

Their literature review of girls’ engagement with STEM finds the middle school years (ten to 14) are a “critical age for intervention, as overall student interest in school begins to decline and the STEM gap between boys and girls widens.”

But the difficulty in encouraging an interest in engineering then is the discipline, “has an image problem in schools,”

“There is much evidence to suggest that the issue of a ‘leaky pipeline’ in STEM occurs at the earliest ages and continues throughout the career lifecycle,” Corrigan and Aikens warn.

They propose three responses;

*  evaluating the impact of existing engineering (STEM) interventions

* an inclusive vision for STEM and engineering, “beyond providing positive role models”

* “engineering faculties and industries need to work collaboratively with education faculties to build strong STEM and engineering practices within both the initial teacher education sector and the teaching profession

Victoria’s Chief Engineer Collette Burke nailed why this needs be done in her report on the state of the profession;

“fundamentally, we need to challenge cultural and social perceptions and stereotypes, and drive toward a long-term education strategy for parents, teachers and the community. We also need to keep investigating why, despite the many initiatives currently underway, we are not seeing the desired outcomes,” (CMM November 2 2018).

Members of the Engineering for Australia Taskforce are the discipline deans at ANU, Monash U and UNSW.

Protection for academics who speak-up

The government intends to amend higher education legislation covering academic freedom

Education Minister Dan Tehan wants all universities to update their free speech-protections to conform to Mr French’s language (CMM December 2). The government also proposes amending the Higher Education Support Act.

The amendment would replace “free intellectual inquiry” with “freedom of speech and academic freedom” and expand what is covered by deleting, “free intellectual inquiry in relation to learning, teaching and research” and adding “freedom of speech and academic freedom.”

There is also a seven-point definition of academic freedom which includes,

“the freedom of academic staff and students to express their opinions in relation to the higher education provider in which they work or are enrolled,” and;

the freedom of academic staff to participate in professional or representative academic bodies.”

What like university senates? CMM wonders

In combination, these appear to protect academics who speak out against university managements.

The amendments are out for consultation until February 24.

More to western civ than western civ at Uni Wollongong

The university has Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation funding to teach a degree on western civ – it is taking a broad approach

“Right from the beginning of their study, students will be introduced to non-western and under-represented voices and perspectives. … Students will look at examples of how the ideas, ideals, artworks and practices of non-western cultures and civilisations influenced and overlapped with those of their western counterparts,” a course guide states.

Maybe they should have called it a BA in western (and other) civilisations.  

Training to deal with climate change

The fire crisis shows we need a skills effort – it’s a job for VET


Happy New Year and what a summer break it has been.

I know there have been hundreds (thousands?) of articles written about the bushfires and climate change but I do not think we have yet started to reflect as a sector on what it means and what we can do.

Having said that, it was great to see the recent statement from the Regional Universities Network outlining how their staff and students supported communities through the fires and the importance of their research efforts. A letter to Minister Tehan from the Group of Eight outlined the research their universities are doing to help tackle climate change and the support they were offering to affected students and others impacted by the fires.

The research that our universities conduct will be critical if we are to address the threat of climate change.

But it will need to be complemented by a major up-skilling effort focussed on increasing the number of people with skills in sustainability, agriculture, conservation, land management, water, etc.

This is where the VET sector can and will need to play its part.

I know many staff and students in TAFEs, community colleges and private regional-based providers have been out volunteering and fighting to save homes and communities for weeks, if not months, this summer.

I wish to also acknowledge their efforts and I look forward to hearing more about the role they will play in both community rebuilding efforts and in helping Australia combat the climate threat.

On a related note – my What now? What next? podcast will return in February. If you work in a regional university, TAFE, community or private provider and want to discuss what you have experienced and what you are working on to make a difference please get in touch. I would love to record an episode on how the tertiary sector can and is responding to the climate crisis.

Claire Field advises on VET, international education and private higher education. Contact her at [email protected]

UK minister calls on unis to support young academics

The precariat there has powerful friends

A UK higher education union report by Nick Megoran and Olivia Mason warns 67 per cent of researchers are on fixed term contracts, as are 39 per cent of teaching-only staff. “This situation is not an accident of employment and recruitment cycles, but has become a business model on which universities depend,” they write.

Which  alarms Chris Skidmore, minister for universities and science.

“We need to really respect early career researchers … I call on all universities to reconsider very carefully the sustainability and opportunities of early career research system because these individuals doing their doctorates, doing research at an early stage of their career will be the future researchers, the future scientists who we need,” he told the House of Commons, Monday (via Twitter).

Dominic Cummings, policy advisor to PM Boris Johnson, is similarly supportive, warning postdocs are exploited by “successful scientists.” “People in their twenties now have very little power or money in the research ecosystem. Further, they have to operate in an appalling time-wasting-grant-writing bureaucracy,” (CMM December 20).


Appointments, achievements

Historian Joy Damousi is leaving the University of Melbourne for Australian Catholic University, where she will be director of the new Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences.

 Michelle Kelly (Curtin U nursing school) is a new fellow of the Society for Simulation in Healthcare.

Alastair McEwan (Uni Queensland) commences his term as convenor of the Australian Council of Graduate Research

 Josh Pienaar joins Uni Southern Queensland as PVC Students. He moves from CQU where he is PVC Learning and Teaching.