Not our Manchurian candidate

Politico reports US president Donald Trump thinks Chinese students there are spies. There is no reason to speculate Mr Trump is an agent of Australian universities tasked with increasing their international enrolments.

Vintage year at UniAdelaide

The University of Adelaide is expanding in the China wine education market, set to offer a joint masters in wine making and viticulture with Shanghai Jia Tong University. Students will take a year of classes at each university and finish with a six-month research project in a Chinese vineyard or cellar. Chinese students already account for nearly 40 per cent of enrolments in UniAdelaide’s wine courses and last year its World of Wine MOOC was published on Tsinghua U’s XuetangX platform.

It’s a corker of an outcome for the uni but given counterfeiting of Australian wine labels in China how long to scammers there start offering courses labelled Grange Uni of Adelide.

UniNewcastle’s high-risk enterprise bargaining move

After long lamenting the toughness of times at the University of Newcastle, management there has sent staff an enterprise bargaining pay offer, which would set the standard for regional unis in NSW. But leaders of the campus branches of the National Tertiary Education Union and the Community and Public Sector Union aren’t impressed.

The university plan is said to offer a better deal than other NSW regional universities, 1.4 per cent per annum over three years plus two $500 increases to base pay at Southern Cross U, 5.3 per cent all up and 6.3 per cent plus a $1000 increase to base to cover five years, translating to 7.5 per cent at Charles Sturt U.

The UniNewcastle unions are not happy with management telling staff that this is a final offer and contingent on adoption of new working conditions. Union leaders are said to consider management’s message to all staff a breach of bargaining, given questions of conditions are still outstanding. However, they are likely to commit to continue talking.

Speculation is Vice Chancellor Caroline McMillen has decided to get a deal done before her successor Alex Zelinsky arrives in November. This management move certainly sets the scene for a standoff which could deliver a quick result. Unless it doesn’t. Unions and university either reach a deal, or UniNwcastle puts the offer to a staff vote, without union support.

The latter is high-risk for both sides. If staff support a university-offer union bargaining power is reduced for years to come. If staff vote it down management will have to keep talking to the unions. A pay offer without union support worked for VC Andrew Vann at Charles Sturt U a few years back but one failed last September at James Cook U.

NTEU members will certainly have plenty to discuss at Wednesday’s half-day stop work.

Birmingham specifies what SA uni merger must deliver  

The discussion paper on merging the universities of Adelaide and South Australia warns a potential problem is, “lack of appropriate support from federal or state government.” Fortunately, federal education minister Simon Birmingham on ABC Radio yesterday set out the “key fundamentals” he will want to see; “the provision of essential services to South Australian students, to prepare them for jobs and economic opportunities in the state, the research undertaking that is so essential, and then the international engagement and particularly those international students. And if it gets a tick across those, that it’s going to provide better outcomes for the state, then all well and good.”

This is an excellent start for the processuni mergers in Adelaide is a perennial for politicians adept at changing subjects. Back in 2014 then premier, Jay “look! it’s giant Tesla battery” Weatherill appeared to be making mischief for then federal education minister Chis Pyne’s deregulation plan by proposing uni mergers CMM August 2 2014).

Mr Pyne and the then three VCs knocked it off quick-smart and the same could easily occur again if the new plan is politicised. That Senator Birmingham has specified what any merger must accomplish is a great way to ensure it is assessed on its merits.

But which cartilage

Deakin University researchers have worked out how to dissolve denim and turn the remains into a low-density aerogel which can work as artificial cartilage for joint reconstruction. At CQU scientists are working on cartilage from crocodiles to help with arthritis and joint injury. So, which to choose? Perhaps the source that does not bite first.


Transformation begins: New Zealand to adopt micro-credentials

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority will register micro-credentials from the end of the month.

“As the nature of employment and education continues to evolve, it is expected that developing up-to-date skills will become an important way to improve and future-proof the employability of individuals and support the productivity of the workforce. The introduction of a micro-credential system will help ensure that the New Zealand education and training system remains relevant in a period of fast paced social, economic and technological changes,” NZQA states.

“NZQA expects that micro-credentials will augment the formal qualification system, but also anticipates that over time employers and learners may well become increasingly comfortable valuing shorter modules of learning.”

This is the shape of things to come which over-time will be a real threat to universities and VET  which stick with traditional course structures. “Micro-credentials should, in the first instance, focus on responses to skill and knowledge gaps not currently catered for in the tertiary education system.”  The key words are “first instance”.

Numbers not to count on

The estimable National Centre for Vocational Education and Research reports publicly funded training and course data for the first quarter – perhaps it should not have bothered. Total students in January – March 2018 are down 3.7 per cent, to 608 500, on 1st Q ’17. But, and it is a but of Himalayan height, the data is less robust than on life support.

The NCVER advises numbers were collected using an update of the national VET MIS and “some jurisdictions have experienced implementation issues, which may affect comparability with earlier quarters.” There are 2 and half pages of notes on “data quality and comparability issues.

Appointments and achievements of the week 

Macdonald Christie is the new associate dean, research at the University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine and Health. His prior appointment was deputy dean, research at the university’s Sydney Medical School.

Another big day for UniSydney mathematician Geordie Williamson, who the university says is the first Australian to address the International College of Mathematicians, meeting in Rio de Janeiro. He spoke on “shapes formed by the solutions of non-linear equations,” described by somebody who understood that as a “crowd-pleaser”. It’s another Williamson win, in May he was appointed co-diector of a new maths research centre at the university, funded by a $5m donation. He was also appointed a fellow of both the Royal Society and the Australian Academy of Science.

Patsy Yates is named distinguished professor by QUT. The head of the school of nursing is just the tenth QUT staffer to be so awarded. In May, she received the 2018 distinguished researcher award from the (US) Oncology Nursing Society.

La Trobe U emeritus professor Judith Brett has won the National Biography Award for her “beautifully researched and satisfyingly rounded picture’ of prime minister Alfred Deakin.

Bruce Northcote is the University of Adelaide’s new PVC Research Engagement. He adds the role to his other jobs, as director of the university’s Teletraffic Research Centre and CEO of mobile comms company TelAri Analytics. The PVC role is for the rest of the year.

Ashlea Wallington joins the University of Sydney Union’s student accelerator Incubate as director of entrepreneurship.

CQU has two new (UK) Higher Education Academy fellows.  Marlene Page is a new associate fellow and Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning, Julie Fleming is a senior fellow.

Pookong Kee is the next BHP professor of Australian studies at Peking University. Professor Kee is now director of the University of Melbourne Asia Institute.

Stephen Winn will join Edith Cowan U in January as executive dean of education. He is moving from the University of Southern Queensland.

Dean Gould is returning to university comms, scheduled to start as marketing head at Southern Cross U. He was marcoms director 204-17 at Griffith U, before moving to the Gold Coast tourism agency.