What’s next for research life

People get research helps us all – the pandemic proved that

But popularity does not set policy and researchers face new challenges of purpose and priorities. Join policy experts and opinion shapers at CMM-Twig Marketing’s on-line conference, starting TODAY, “What’s next for the people who can save the world.”  Details HERE.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Conor King (from Tertiary Education Analysis) suggests the question to ask about graduate employment is not are people doing jobs that need a degree. “The more useful question is what could a graduate bring to the role that would be sufficient reason for the higher level of education.”

plus Cathy Stone (Uni Newcastle), Sharron King (Uni SA College) and Chris Ronan (Country Universities Network) on how metro universities can best present to regional students. This week’s selection by Commissioning Editor Sally Kift for her celebrated series, Needed now in learning and teaching, HERE

and Merlin Crossley (UNSW) asks, “do you really need a committee on volcanoes?

Uni Melbourne casuals underpayment problem drags on

The university was way late in providing its annual report to state parliament. Now we know why

The Victorian Auditor General’s Office reports the university did not meet the statutory timeframe, “because management needed more time to assess the financial impact of underpayments to casual academic and professional employees before providing this information for us to audit.”

VAGO reports that the university investigated underpayment of casuals, “in some cases dating back seven years” during ’21.

“As a result of this exercise, the university became aware it had wage underpayments caused by a misinterpretation of conditions in their enterprise agreements. This meant casual academic and professional staff had been preparing and lodging timesheets for hours less than their minimum entitlement hours.”

And it is not over yet. “There will be further work undertaken by the university in 2022 to finalise the calculation of specific amounts owed to individual staff, and for payments to be made, “ VAGO states.

While VAGO provides no details of underpayments for what, who and where in the university these payments will be, the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union has warned it was occurring for years (CMM June 5 2019 and umpteen subsequent stories).

Skills summit: there or nowhere on policy

The Government’s Jobs and Skills Summit is announced for September.  HE lobbies were quick to put their hands up

According to Treasury, the Jobs and Skills Summit, “will bring together Australians, including unions, employers, civil society and governments, to address our shared economic challenges.”

Issues on the agenda include, * low unemployment, boosting productivity and raising incomes * skills mix * employment opportunities for disadvantaged people  *equal opportunities and pay for women

Submissions to a white paper to follow will be welcome, but, and it is a very big but “summit attendance will be limited and invitation only.”

Universities Australia responded with a statement setting out how its members deliver on the important issues, concluding, “we look forward to bringing practical solutions to the summit table and contributing to the white paper process.”

The Group of Eight did much the same, announcing its members, “have an important role to play in the upcoming Jobs and Skills Summit.  We’re ready to work with closely with the Albanese Government and other stakeholders to help address Australia’s skills shortages and boost the nation’s productivity.z’

In contrast, the National Tertiary Education Union focused on specifics it wants fixed “we look forward to discussing the deeply problematic levels of insecure employment, wage theft, sexual harassment and the gender pay gap in universities.”

Vic unis 2021 financials: better results

Thanks to the feds and investment income

The Victorian Auditor General’s Office reports the state’s public universities improved their 2021 collective net result by $900m on 2020, to $1.2bn. Overall their net margin was 10.9 per cent, up from 2.9 per cent in  2020.

However 80 per cent of the improved result was due to Uni Melbourne and Monash U which particularly benefited from increased Commonwealth research funding, up by $110m (62 per cent) for Monash and $118m (58 per cent) for Melbourne. Both universities also had big investment lifts ($142m for Monash and $255m for Melbourne).

State-wide student numbers fell by 1.5 per cent, with a small increase in domestic EFTS outstripped by a decline in international student enrolments, from 116 000 EFTS in 2020 to 105 000 last year.

Only Uni Melbourne (“students took on more subjects”) and RMIT (more studying off-shore) defied the decline in internationals.

Staff numbers across the system fell year on year by 498 (FTE not heads) – way fewer than the 4036 FTE positions that went in 2020.

As to what’s next VAGO warns international enrolments will be “slow to rebuild and there is a risk they may never return to pre-pandemic levels.

And it counsels against leaning on the feds to fund operational expenditure too hard, for too long, “longer-term financial risks will emerge should this trend be prolonged.”

Ways to avoid this are “addressing Australia’s existing skills gap” and commercialising “research outcomes and discoveries.”

Colin Simpson’s ed tech must-reads of the week

Interactive 360° video stories from 360ViSi

The ability of video to place learners in locations that would otherwise be difficult or dangerous for them to access is one of the technology’s greatest strengths. The next step is for learners to have a full 360° perspective of what is happening in this world. This website documents an EU project with a focus on health education, but the applications in other disciplines are easy to find. It shares a number of case studies as well as a handy explainer for getting started.


“What makes students want to read the syllabus?” from Dr Gabe Willis (Twitter)

As many of us approach the start of a new teaching period, this seems to be a perennial question. The benefits are obvious – better signposting of the purpose and direction of the unit and fewer questions about quizzes and assignments. This discussion thread on Twitter last week walks through this issue and offers some useful suggestions and solutions. Paying Snoop Dogg to record a video asking your students to read it may not be the most orthodox option but it is in there as well.


Academics, we need useful dialogues not monologues from EduResearch Matters (Australian Association for Research in Education)

You’ve been to an academic conference in your field during the mid-year break, seen an engaging presentation and then “one of those people” puts up their hand as soon as there is a call for questions. You know that this is not going to be a question. Ameena Payne (Deakin) and Ashah Tanoa (Murdoch) spun off a Twitter discussion into this thoughtful blog post about what we need to do better when it comes to the Q&A part of academic conferences.


Learning Design Frameworks, Models and Toolkits from Danielle Hinton

A great deal of thought can go into the way that a learning experience is designed and theories, approaches and models abound. This Padlet brings together nearly 50 different resources from a wide range of institutions and organisations. At first glance (and second), it is daunting and could benefit from some kind of community rating system but it is well worth a browse.


Learning Design SIG webinar on entangled pedagogy and learning design – Thursday 14th July, 4pm AEST

When people discuss the use of education technologies, the issue of whether technology drives the pedagogical cart is often featured. Dr Tim Fawns (Uni of Edinburgh) recently wrote an intriguing article that I shared here suggesting that this either/or perspective isn’t necessarily the best one. He will expand on these ideas in a webinar on Thursday for the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education Learning Design SIG.

Colin Simpson has worked in education technology, teaching, learning design and academic development in the tertiary sector since 2003 and is employed by Monash University’s Education Innovation team. He is also one of the leaders of the TELedvisors Network. For more from Colin, follow him on Twitter @gamerlearner