There’s more in the Mail

In Features Ruth Bridgstock makes the case for  the 21st century civic university.

And David Myton writes on  data-centred approaches to teaching and learning.

Monash moving to exams on-line

Benefits are worth way-more than the paper they aren’t written on

Monash U is ramping up computer-based exams, with DVC E Sue Elliot reported to have told staff the uni has just delivered 10 400 “e-Assessments” over four days, more than for all of 2018.

Students type, rather than write, these exams in supervised university space and use Monash provided, Wi FI-enabled, laptops.

The university says e-exams “allow for a greater variety of question formats and multimedia to assess your knowledge, notably, multiple choice, images and video and including maths equations, chemical structures, programming languages.” Monash is using the Moodle Quiz format.

The university is said to estimate that once rolled-out the system will annually save 8.5m sheets of A4 paper.

Western civ survives in history courses

Claims history is hijacked don’t cut it but if it wasn’t for academics Aus history would be, history

Conservatives complain the study of history is hijacked by academics who aren’t interested in western civilisation – so Paul Sendziuk (Uni Adelaide) and Martin Crotty (Uni Queensland) asked every ANZ university what they teach. In a comprehensive survey, they separately analyse introductory and advanced courses by content and break out Australian subjects and student data for Group of Eight and other universities.

What they found: The study of race, ethnicity and gender has not replaced the political and military history of the west don’t cut it.

The top five introductory courses by combined enrolment in Australia are Australian, 20th century world history, pre-20th century world history, war-conflict and society and medieval history.

The pattern in upper-level courses is similar, with the top five for enrolments being; war-conflict-and society, Australian, modern Europe, American, theory-ideas-philosophy.

Aus history isn’t popular: But the popularity of Australian history is more apparent than real, due to the number of courses. The average Aus history upper level subject has 49 students, while war and society has 91 and American history, 79. Across the ditch they found, “the teaching of New Zealand and Maori-Pakeha history in New Zealand, in particular is in a precarious position.”

But it should be taught: Sendziuk and Crotty ask, “whether it should be a moral obligation, or an obligation of citizenship, for ANZ history departments/groupings to teach a sufficient number of courses in the histories of their own nations and Indigenous peoples.” Which they then answer; “it is probably fair to say that most academic historians are sympathetic to the teaching of the history of one’s own nation and Indigenous people, regardless of student demand,” they write.

Evans steps down at Uni Newcastle

Darrell Evans is stepping down as DVC E at the University of Newcastle, although he is “working with” VC Alex Zelinsky “to see ways in which I can still contribute to the university.”

I have decided that I would like to explore new and exciting opportunities within and outside of the higher education sector, particularly those focused on strategy and creativity as well as hopefully providing some opportunities to get back to some teaching and scholarship,” biologist Professor Evans says.

He joined Uni Newcastle in April ’17, from Monash U where he was vice provost, learning and teaching for four years.

Tehan urges unis to defend free speech (again)

But the minister does not mention the legislation change the French review proposed

The Weekend Australian splashed with Education Minister Dan Tehan calling for university’s to “stand up and defend free speech and freedom of academic inquiry.”

It was not a hard story to report, quoting the minister’s op ed in the paper that morning. Mr Tehan called on all universities to voluntarily adopt former chief justice Robert French’s proposed free speech code. Mr Tehan recommend the code to universities when the French review was released in April.

But curiously for such a serious issue,  Mr Tehan’s Saturday op ed did not mention other French review recommendations, for amendments to the Higher Education Support Act and the HE Standards, “to distinguish freedom of speech and academic freedom and to define academic freedom by reference to generally accepted elements.”

Mr Tehan ruled them out in April, leaving him in the happy position now of being able to urge universities to act without assisting them do what he thinks they should, (CMM April 9).

UNSW set to reject claims it wants to lower admission standards  

Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald had a screamer of a headline, “top uni’s plan to cut entry standards.” The uni involved is UNSW but in a short statement DVC E Merlin Crossley replies, “don’t believe everything you read in the papers.”

The SMH story reported UNSWwants to lower its entry standards” for Year 12 and international entrants,” “to battle a multi-million dollar revenue shortfall.” It was based on a student recruitment marketing meeting after census date and suggested an alternative entry scheme in engineering, which accepts students with lower than regular ATARs, could extend to other courses.

However, the engineering entry scheme mentioned is a standard ex-ATAR programme which UNSW continues committed to.

UNSW observers also suggest the university will reaffirm its commitment to continuing entry standards that match other Group of Eight elite-entry unis and will explicitly state that marketers do not decide admissions.

Productivity Commission has a bob each way on demand driven funding

But while the PC sees pros and cons it says pressure will continue to expand higher education

The Productivity Commission has given the government the only-line it will ever need to justify it’s destroying demand driven funding of undergraduate places, “university will not be the best option for many. Viable alternatives in employment and vocational education training will ensure more young people succeed.”

The PC’s new report on DDF is far more nuanced than that and provide ample evidence to upset everybody with a dog in the debate, but this is one report that conservative critics of the ever-rational commission will quote.

Critics of the system will like PC points:

* additional students (who accessed university because of DDF) started university with weaker literacy and numeracy and were more likely to drop-out

* expanded access, “increases fiscal costs and, for students ill-suited to higher education, can waste their time, build up debt and cause them to forego alternative job or education options.”

* participation of young people from Indigenous and regional/remote backgrounds “changed little 2010-16.” “Those who grew up far away from a university campus benefited little from the expansion.”

* Overall participation of students from the four equity groups, low SES, first in family, Indigenous, regional-remote, “declined slightly

But supporters will report commission conclusions:

* while there isn’t evidence on labour market outcomes for students from equity groups who went to university because of the demand driven system, all equity group graduates have work outcomes the same as all graduates – with 60 per cent in professional/managerial occupations

* improving literacy/numeracy school outcomes “may” reduce under-representation of equity groups

* 30 per cent of students enrolling in university because of DDF access had previously studied in the VET system

Overall the commission sets challenges to assist equity groups: The PC puts-up three hurdles providers should help equity groups over;* university access, * academic outcomes * labour market transitions

The DDF is gone, but more HE access is set to stay: Overall, expanding higher education is inevitable, the PC states. “The long-run pressure will be to continue to increase the size of the sector given that the historical shift towards jobs requiring complex cognitive skills is unlikely to abate.”

Appointments, achievements

Gabriella Edelstein (Uni Newcastle) has a $46 000 fellowship to fund work in the British Museum on censorship in 16-17th century English plays. The money comes from the Uni Melbourne administered S Ernest Sprott Fellowship which funds research on English literature of that period.

The WA cancer researcher of the year is Gary Lee from UWA.

The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering’s awards are announced.

Innovation: Thorsten Trupke and Robert Bardos (both USW). Solar cell manufacturing

Entrepreneur: Jane Oppenheim (Ego Pharmaceuticals). Sales growth.

Knowledge commercialisation: Anthony Weiss: (Uni Sydney). Synthetic skin for wound care.

Batterham Medal: Michael Milford (QUT). Autonomous vehicles and robotics.

ICM Agrifood Award (i): Lee Hickey (Uni Queensland). Plant breeding and genetics for cereal crops.

ICM Agrifood Award (ii): Lydia Ong (Uni Melbourne). Molecular study of dairy protein and fat.

Ezio Rizzardo Polymer Scholarship: Naomi Paxton (QUT). Biofabrication of body parts.