Sydney too far away

Ratings agency QS ranks Melbourne third best student city in the world and Sydney is eighth

Shame no internationals can get to either, although that was a recently near-run thing for Sydney. Education Minister Alan Tudge told Sky News yesterday, that the NSW universities prop to being international students into Sydney, was a very good one (CMM June 15). “We had looked at that closely and that was almost ready to be executed.” But not now. Still, there is still the South Australian plan for a pilot to bring internationals into Adelaide which also ranks on QS, =35th with Perth.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

James Harland (RMIT) on the on-line lab. It will never replace the real thing but it adds to the learning mix. This week’s addition to Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s celebrated series, Needed now in teaching and learning.

Plus James Guthrie (Macquarie U) analysed the University of Tasmania’s financial statements – here’s what he found.

And Inga Davis demonstrates how hard organising university mergers can be. But it can be done, as an architect of the celebrated Manchester merger explained to her.

Conor King’s Farewell Address

The veteran policy analyst and influencer has seen it all – multiple times – as head of the Innovative Research Universities lobby

In CMM this morning he offers some advice to practitioners, “the arguments we put forward will be self-interested but they should still be credible, take some account of the supporting evidence and avoid gross simplifications that are laughable.

“If I can see a large hole in what we might say then the chances are strong that the person we say it too will see the same hole, if not several others.”

And he suggests what makes things happen, “education follows the big drivers.”

Which makes his point on the “most significant education change” of our times. What that was is here.

Women take the job-loss hit at La Trobe U

La Trobe U tells the university community that of the 404 people who do not have a position in the new structure 62 per cent are women

The split is similar for academics to go, 53 per cent women, and among professional staff, 65 per cent are women.

However, the gender divide on losses is in-line with the university workforce. Just over 15 per cent of all women workers are gone and 16 per cent of men.

Overall, professional staff are taking the hit – with 20 per cent of the existing workforce set for the sack, compared to 9 per cent of academics.

Victoria U plans to power-up

The block teaching model has rejuvenated Victoria U – now it wants to build on success

VU has a new strategy, through to 2028, which works with strengths that a decade ago were sometimes seem as weaknesses, dual-sector coverage and many first in-family post-secondary students.

VU wants to take its teaching transformation and applied research focus and use them to become “a world leading dual sector institution, providing distinctive, innovative and integrated education.

“We want to ensure that learning is matched to people’s lives. By this we mean accelerate when you want to, slow down if you need to, and balance your life and study” the strategy states.

Specifics include,

* cross-sector courses taught “in the same space and time” with “co-designed offerings, which cater to individual learning journeys”

* a VET research capacity aligned to industry needs, including in the west of Melbourne

* focus on five research areas, sport-fitness-health, First Nations knowledge, skills and workforce impact, Green research translation and advocacy/justice

*engaging with Indigenous communities, and;

* “making decisions with students, for students, and informed by students

There is also a goal that demonstrates the university is willing to be measured on really hard-to-reach external achievements. VU wants its block teaching model used in schools, “to create seamless pathways into tertiary education at VU.”

VC Adam Shoemaker, your time starts now.

Needed: a new era for ERA

The ARC commissioned expert analysis of its two major research metrics last year. Frank Larkins is not impressed with the outcome

Given the expertise of the review panel “an opportunity has been missed,” Professor Larkins says. Its members “did not do more to address options for solutions rather than just identifying problems,” he writes in a new paper for Uni Melbourne’s L. H. Martin Institute.

Professor Larkins is a concise critic of the Australian Research Council’s flagship programme, Excellence in Research for Australia and the newer Engagement and Impact.

He points to continuing problems in ERA, including a lack of transparency in setting international benchmarks in some STEM disciplines and “clear inconsistencies between metrics-based and peer review assessment methodologies.”

And he proposes two ERAs to measure research quality separately for STEM and HASS disciplines.  Plus, he calls for benchmarking research performance against only the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand.

And he questions whether the new expert group charged with revising the research engagement and impact measure can succeed. “Comparative acceptable assessment performances between universities and the development of a valid rating scale for EI is elusive and unlikely to be achieved.”

The ARC “has much work to do within a very short timeframe,” he warns.

“The methodological barriers to real success, to restore confidence for the stakeholders in the exercises, may be insurmountable.”

Last year he proposed combining ERA and EI and running the resulting metric every five years instead of three (CMM October 15 2020). The next ERA is due in ’23 and EI in 2024 and he now calls for 12-month delays.

More questions on cyber security bill

The endlessly energetic Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is hearing this afternoon from the Department of Home Affairs and the Defence Signals Directorate

It’s a chance for the agencies to respond to feedback on the cyber-security legislation the committee is considering. The bill does not give Home Affairs power to monitor what people in specified industries watch on Netflix but it does impose an awful lot of oversight on universities (CMM December 1 2020 and February 15). The point was politely made by HE representatives to the committee who explained that universities are on-board with the intent but suggested that the bill was a bit broad in how it applied to higher education (CMM July 12).

Appointments, achievements

The Social Research Centre announces board appointments, Bruce McKay (ANU Enterprises) Missy Nachbar from Uni Chicago social survey affiliate NORC (which insists that is not an acronym) and consultant Helen Swift. The SRC manages the in all ways excellent Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching surveys. It is an ANU Enterprises business.

Uni Melbourne’s David Syme Prize is shared by Marco Herold from the MRI formally known as Walter and Eliza Hall (adapting CRISPR for clinical research) and Fan Wang (UTS-physics research in nanoscale biology). The prize is for original research in biology, physics, chemistry or geology.