It beats the alternative

“Young Aussies to be surveyed about life” – announcement from the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research, yesterday. CMM suspects they will be in favour of it. It’s the annual survey of 10 000 participants for the excellent Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth, which NCVER manages.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning Kelly Matthews (Uni Queensland) on engaging with students as partners. Another essay in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series on what we need now in teaching and learning.

And Tony Peacock (CRC Association)  on  why the patent box is a research and development tax concession we don’t need.

Skills change, learning to learn endures

It’s not what you know it’s how you learn it

You would need a brewery to play a drinking game where the trigger words are “jobs” and “digital skills”. But what may matter more than learning a specific skill is the quick capacity to pick-up a new one, and the one after that.

A new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare explains why, “advanced digital skills, like coding and data visualisation, attract a wage premium (but may become redundant quickly).” AIHW says job adverts mentioning Tableau (data visual software) increased 19 times between 2012 and 2018 but Adobe Photoshop dropped from 10th to 31st.

There’s a message for education and training providers; “while the latest and most advanced technical skills represent a lucrative niche in the labour market, basic digital literacy will be valuable for all workers and job seekers.”

And one for their markets; “a key challenge for current and future workers is to be flexible and able to acquire new skills as tasks within jobs change,

“it is likely that businesses will increasingly look at prospective employees’ skill sets rather than specific occupation titles; and workers will need to be able to work across and outside traditional job descriptions.”

Apparently, advocates of a general education were right all along, it’s learning how to think, rather the skill-set of the hour that will generate jobs.

Uni Newcastle’s bold approach to student-engaged learning

UoN announces a “world-first” university degree, where students follow their passion

The university will offer a new bachelor of public and community health, based on the Big Picture Education philosophy. This engages students by basing learning on their particular interests in a discipline, using research and work-experience to establish the context for the curriculum they study in-class or on-line. “Students are more likely to be more interested in the rest of the curriculum because there is something they have just done or are looking forward to, something they are passionate about,” course champion Interim PVC John Fischetti said in a 2017 Uni Newcastle interview.

The Big Picture method started in schools – Uni Newcastle takes students from two that use it, but this is the first undergraduate degree.

The course will offer eight majors and draw on disciplines including, public health, statistics, health economics, Indigenous studies and business administration. The programme also has embedded externally accredited certificates in public health-related subjects, including first aid, child protection and disaster response.

It will start next year at the university’s new Central Coast Clinical School and Research Institute at Gosford, between Sydney and Newcastle.

What a difference a day makes at Monash U Caulfield

The Monash University Student Union there has changed its mind on how many hours elected positions take

Yesterday MONSU wanted to impose a minimum 22-hour work requirement on the important elected positions – this being two hours more than international student visas permit.

But at 6pm last night MONSU announced that after discussions with university management, the election is cancelled, “due to unforeseen circumstances.”

“We have recognised the information regarding a minimum workload of 22 hours was unclear. The increase of the weekly time commitment was never designed to make any student in-eligible, instead it was in recognition that being a member of MONSU Caulfield is a considerable weekly commitment.”

Yes, there will be a new poll, before which, “the minimum weekly workload will be made clear to ensure all students (international and domestic) are eligible to run.”

Another big win for UNSW

The University of Melbourne continues the top Australian uni, as rated by Times Higher in its annual global league table, announced this morning. But the day belongs to UNSW

UNSW improved 25 places to 71st in this morning’s world rankings. This more than repairs last year’s setback when it fell nine places from 2017, to equal 96th.

The lift follows the university’s improvement in the prestigious Academic Ranking of World Universities, announced last month, when it made the top global 100. And in June UNSW was ranked by the ARWU equal first in the world for performance by discipline, appearing on 52 of the 54 subjects lists of the top 500 universities in the world.

Overall the Times Higher list is largely unchanged, with six Group of Eight universities among the world top 100. This year’s (with 2018 and 2017) positions are;

Uni Melbourne, =32 (=32.=32). ANU, 50 (49.48). Uni Sydney, 60 (=59,61). Uni Queensland, 66 (69, 65). UNSW, 71 (96, 91). Monash U 75 (84, 80).


Of the other two Group of Eight members, Uni Adelaide did well at 120 (=135, 134). UWA lifted to marginally to 131 (134, 111).


QUT had a good result, improving to 179, from the 201-250 band last year. The University of Canberra also made the top 200, at 193 – improving from the 251-300 group. UTS is the other uni to make the top 200, at =194, up from 196 last year.


Universities moving up a band from last year include;

Griffith U, 201-250 (up from 251-300).

Curtin U, 251-300 (up from 301-350). La Trobe U, 251-300 (up from 301-350). Western Sydney U, 251-300 (up from 351-400).

Deakin U, 301-350 (up from 351-400).  U Tasmania, 301-350 (up from 351-400).

Australian Catholic U, 351-400 (up from 401-500). RMIT, 351-400 (up from 401-500). Swinburne U, 351-400 (up from 401-500).

Bond U, 401-500 (up from 501-600). Edith Cowan U, 401-500 (up from 501-600).


Uni SA dropped from the 201-250 group to 251-300.  CQU and Southern Cross U were in the 601-800 group this year, compared to 501-600 last.

More voced, fewer degrees new senator suggest

And the Barnaby goes to …

If the Liberal-National Party had an award for new senators with plenty to say it would go to Gerard Rennick (Queensland) whose first speech in the Senate included opinions on:

* TAFE skills-training which, “should take precedence over non-vocational university degrees

* “too many young people are graduating from university with massive debs but no employment prospects

* universities should underwrite the $60bn in student loans, “why should the taxpayer underwrite this without a guarantee from universities that their graduates will get a job and repay their debts?”

*international students “use infrastructure funded by the taxpayer” and compete against unemployed Australians. “It is time universities, not the taxpayer, funded the economic cost of housing them.”

Senator Rennick’s remarks did not generate denounceathons from HE lobbies yesterday, which was wise. There are people who agree with him and the way to convince them that he is wrong is evidence not outrage.

Conversation starter

Private training lobby the Independent Tertiary Education Council of Australia met with federal ministers and MPs in Canberra yesterday

Training regulator the Australian Skills Quality Authority might have given everybody something to talk about. On Tuesday, it cancelled the registration of 27 VET providers, something critics claim it is does too-lightly.

It’s a subject Liberal MP Andrew Lamming who chairs the House of Reps committee on employment, education and training has firm views on – last month he gave ASQA a comprehensive serve in the chamber, in part suggesting, ““Snuffing out an RTO by simply telling it, ‘If you want to take on this decision, there’s the door to (the) Administrative Appeals Tribunal, and lawyer up,’ is not the conduct of a regulator that is building confidence in our sector.” (CMM August 2).

Appointments, achievements

Monash U announces Guy Geltner will join next year as professor of medieval and renaissance history. He moves from the University of Amsterdam.

Canberra poet John Foulcher wins the $10 000 Australian Catholic University poetry prize.