Teaching tip of the day

“I have discovered that having a near 7ft snake draped over your shoulders helps captivate audience attention,” ANU sociologist Gavin Smith, via Twitter, yesterday.

Where discretion will be the better part of HE regulation

TEQSA thinks Australian providers with off-shore operations, including partnerships should adhere to the Higher Education Standards Framework (CMM yesterday)

Good-o but what would happen if the HESF did not accord with host country standards, say on campus free speech?

HE quality assurance and governance consultant Michael Tomlinson (ex TEQSA director) says the agency has room to move.

Yes, the Framework (5.4.2) makes the home governing body responsible for meeting all HESF requirements. But another clause (6.2.1a) specifies it must also comply with “’the requirements of the legislation under which the provider is established.” This, Mr Tomlinson says, “could take in the legislation of an off-shore campus.”

As to free speech, TEQSA could choose not to insist on the academic freedom clause in the HESF, “in respect of a single campus, which must comply with local laws under the framework.”

Quiet Queensland budget

Maybe the state government got the idea from the feds

The Queensland Budget includes a $350m Industry Partnership Programme will provide “tailored support for SMEs and research institutions for, “maturing industries to adopt new technologies” and “assist rapidly growing sectors and emerging industries.”

Dual sector CQU has $8m for the Training Centre of Excellence at its Rockhampton campus.

And the Queensland Institute of Medical Research receives $568m, in-line with the 2021-21 adjusted budget.

Students think on-line exams made an easy-cheat

They assume epidemic dishonesty last year, by other people

Study support provider (and CMM advertiser) Studiosity surveyed students at Australian universities, who reported they thought 2020 was a big year for academic cheating.

A third of survey responders thought someone they knew had cheated and 69 per cent of that group believed the main reason was on-line exams made it easier. Way more locals thought this than internationals.

But just because they thought their peers were cheating does not mean they would – 82 per cent of the sample said they would not.   Interesting pandemic result – and in-line with a previous Studiosity survey which found no increase in student-stress last year on 2019 (CMM May 18).  People cope, but suspect their peers don’t.

On-line education set to stay


Even before COVID-19 there was no uniform, on-campus learning model that suited everybody

In last week’s IEAA Virtual Forum English Australia CEO, Brett Blacker, shared survey data from his members showing that at the end of Q1 2020 only 1 per cent of EA students were studying on-line or offshore. But by December 2020 that figure had grown to 52 per cent.

While COVID has caused a serious decline in the number of ELICOS students, the shift to on-line and offshore delivery is nonetheless remarkable. According to Mr Blacker, COVID-19 has triggered changes which the sector will build on, not retreat from, including more on-line delivery.

In my view the same is true in both higher education (and more gradually) in VET.

The challenges for the higher education sector are the views of Education Minister Alan Tudge and ensuring the quality of delivery. In media interviews and his keynote speech to the Universities Australia, conference Mr Tudge stated, “we must see a focus in our universities on how to enhance the classroom and learning experience of Australian students. And this must start with a return to the previous face-to-face learning.”

With half of all students in Australian higher education aged 23 years and over; even before COVID-19 there was no uniform, on-campus learning model that suited everybody. University lecture attendance rates have been in decline for years – as students juggle work and study, and as recordings allow students to learn in their own time.

Regardless of delivery mode, students need to be actively engaged in their learning and it needs to be tailored to their circumstances, meaning more face-to-face on-campus learning for new undergraduate students and more on-line asynchronous options for mature-age learners. Universities know this and many are looking at how to “personalise learning at scale” as Deakin University VC Iain Martin put it at the Universities Australia conference.

As with the ELICOS sector, universities will not retreat post-COVID-19 to an “on campus” nirvana. They will continue to pursue more on-line education and as they do they will need to make sure it is highly engaging.

Claire Field is an adviser to the tertiary education sector. In the latest episode of her free ‘What now? What next?’ podcast she discusses the shift to online learning with Professor Claire Macken (RMIT) and Professor Michael Sankey (Charles Darwin U).

Cash flow for drought hub

The SA Government announces $4.4m for a drought resilience hub, headquartered at Uni Adelaide’s Roseworthy campus. Presumably this is the state contribution to the federally funded drought research hub at Roseworthy announced in April (CMM April 19).


Murdoch U and TEQSA still talking about registration

CMM gave up watching paint-dry – the pace was too frenetic. Instead he took up observing the process for the regulator to re-register the university

The university’s previous registration expired last July and is not yet renewed. The Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency says a university that’s registration is expired is still registered until TEQSA decides what to do, (CMM June 5 2020).

Part of the delay may be due to the agency undertaking a “compliance assessment” of the university following May 2019 allegations on ABC TV’s Four Corners about inadequate standards for international students (which Murdoch U strenuously rejected).

But international issues might already be addressed by the regulator re-registering Murdoch U on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students, subject to it providing “information about its students’ English language proficiency and academic preparedness, management of education agents and student visa requirements at regular intervals over the next two years,” (CMM December 11).

Whatever the reason, the university registration process was still underway in April when the university responded to requests from TEQSA. It also commissioned a consultant to review alignment with the Higher Education Standards Framework, which TEQSA regulates.

Uni lobby calls on government: time for a sign on border opening

The Group of Eight has backed the government’s handling of COVID-19 but CEO Vicki Thomson signals it has had it with criticism from Canberra and no planning for borders to open

In a new Go8 podcast Ms Thomson warns that Australia is now losing international students to the UK. “It’s not just that our borders are still closed it’s the messaging we are sending to potential new students.”

“We’ve always been very competitive but the messaging that is going out is that we are not open for business and we are perhaps not as welcoming as we should be” she says in a Go8 podcast,”

And she calls on the Commonwealth Government to establish a transition plan for the return of international students.

“We are not saying just open the borders and let everyone, in we have to have strategies in place and we have to ensure that the health of our people in Australia is not compromised, but we are looking to the federal government to give us some sign when the borders will open.”

This appears part of a careful shift in messaging by the Group of Eight, which has consistently backed the government on health-policy based border closures. In March Ms Thomson called on the Commonwealth to take charge of the planning process for international students to return. “The problem is we have so many layers we have to work through, health departments, education departments, state government quarantining and Home Affairs,” she said (CMM March 23).

Ms Thomson also signals the Go8 would respond to criticism of universities as being too dependent on overseas students, saying that governments “of both persuasions” had encouraged “international engagement” which was also in the national interest.

“That is the nature of the island country that we are, we have to look outward. Name me a sector that has not relied on strong trading partnerships, with countries in our region and one in particular, China.”

“So, it is quite an interesting conundrum – suddenly we should be diversifying. We are getting a lot rhetoric from the federal government about focusing on the education of domestic students. We never did, we never would  -that is our priority. We are public universities here to educate Australian students.” Educating tens of thousands of international students is a “fantastic by-product,” she says.

Appointments, achievements

Jonathan Carapetis (Telecom Kids Institute) is WA 2021 Australian of the Year in the Professions Category.

 Alexis Kallio becomes Deputy Director R at the Queensland Conservatorium, (Griffith U).

Stacey Mills will join Uni Adelaide as Chief Financial Officer, moving from the same role at UNSW.

At Murdoch U, Kylie Readman becomes DVC Education and Equity and Grant O’Neill, DVC Colleges. Both move-up from the PVC positions covering the same portfolios that were abolished last month (CMM May 13).

The Australian Space Awards are announced, including,

Academic, Sascha Schediwy, UWA. Graduate, Clint Therakam, UNSW. Researcher, Saied Nahavandi, Deakin U. Scientist, Graziella Caprarelli, Uni Southern Queensland. Engineer, Andrin Tomaschett, UNSW. Woman leader, Anna Moore, ANU. Rising Star, Christopher Capon, UNSW. Excellence, Sascha Schediwy, UWA.