VU management is “replacing senior staff by more entry level ‘juniors’ to cheapen the cost of education,” the NTEU argues


plus an exam free pass at the University of Queensland: you just need a “non-valid reason”

and a new ranking says Australia’s got talent, (just not in training)

MOOC of the morning

UNSW’s MOOC on biosecurity and bioterrorism launches on Monday, via FutureLearn. UNSW researchers Professor Raina MacIntyre, Dr David Muscatello and Associate Professor David Heslop are involved. The MOOC is part of the university’s bioterror training resource. UNSW also offers a five-day course on bioterrorism and health intelligence.

Get out of an exam, free!

The University of Queensland is offering students a free pass out of an exam they do not want to do. This semester undergrads can get an exam deferral for what management calls “a non-valid reason”. Reasons that aren’t actually reasons include losing study time “because of minor events or accidents”, misreading the timetable, inconvenience for people with travel plans, “an exam timetable that is demanding or personally inconvenient,” and “English language difficulties.”

But do not think UoQ has abandoned academic rigour – students can’t apply for an exam they actually did and this is a once-only, don’t-miss-this, offer. Good-o, but as a learned reader puts it, if there are University of Queensland students who have trouble reading English-language timetables, how come they are University of Queensland students?

Happy to help, Will Robinson

Anthony Elliott has two years funding from the Toyota Foundation to study the emerging role of “socially assistiverobots in aged care in Australia and Japan. Professor Elliott is dean of external engagement at the University of South Australia.


Spray of the Day  

Victoria U says it is financially unstainable, that its students are dissatisfied and that the university must change its teaching and course structure, sharpish. The core solution is to improve teaching and learning by creating a common first year, taught by specialist staff. But Paul Adams, campus branch president of the National Tertiary Education Union, says the university just wants to sack 115 academic staff and hire 65 to teach in the new first year, “in order to pursue a ‘McDonald’s’ approach to higher education of replacing senior staff by more entry level ‘juniors’ to cheapen the cost of education.”

“If this model is successful at VU, I have no doubt it will be rolled out more generally across the country as a strategy for the first-year teaching at universities which will fundamentally alter the notion of education we currently have at Australian universities and how first year university will be taught in the future,” Dr Adams says.

The union is launching a community campaign to oppose the proposal as an attack on higher education in Melbourne’s west, warning, “the cuts proposed threaten the viability of Victoria University, as well as VU’s ability to offer meaningful higher education to Melbourne’s western suburbs.”

Coal-fired James Cook

James Cook U is very pleased the QCoal Foundation is funding an undergraduate student scholarship. QCoal calls itself “Australia’s leading independent coal exploration and mining company.” Not that JCU unequivocally approves of fossil fuels. The university says it holds no shares in non-renewable energy companies and is “actively working with its fund manager to ensure its investments meet the university’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles. The university “discourage investments in companies that do not support ESG principles, while not mandating divestment in specific industry sectors.” Good-o, presumably the scholarship is funded by environmentally principled coal.

CMM wonders what Fossil Free JCU will think – a small group held a silent protest at a March graduation.

Deakin different by degrees

Following Marnie Hughes Warrington’s piece on innovation in credentials (CMM yesterday) a learned reader recommends a look at what Deakin U is doing. A talk about Deakin Digital and Deakin Prime is  here.

Optimism in India

India faces a skills-crisis and its national government knows it. Observers of Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham’s mission say there is no doubting that Indian training  minister Shri Rajiv Pratap Rudy wants Australian help to train the 400 000 trainers needed to upskill workers. And Australian universities are optimistic that they can do business with Indian partners. The question is can Australian providers overcome the protectionist culture and bureaucratic burden that will continue to slow things down, whatever ministers say.

There is talk of the Indian Government allowing foreign universities to set up branch campuses and repatriate profits via regulation but a bill to open the country’s universities to foreign competition has never made it out of parliament. Instead Australian universities need to invest time and money, a fair bit of both, in building joint ventures with Indian partners. Watchers of the Birmingham visit say Deakin U’s relationship with The Energy and Resources Institute of India, which focuses on research and postgraduate training, was approvingly mentioned by Indian officials. Deakin has worked in India for over two decades and now has 40 plus research and education partnerships.

But in training, the Indians appear to be looking for results real fast –a good deal of groundwork is already done on standards but nobody is clear which organisations have the resources and culture to put programmes in place. TAFE does not have the culture to do it, VET watchers warn. Public providers prefer premium approaches – small classes being taught standard products created by skills councils and funded by government. This all takes time,  – which India knows it does not have in the train the trainer market. But the private sector will struggle with the initial costs a quick scale up will require. With 400 000 trainers required, quite a scale-up.

Time to try again

Calls for more money for VET miss the point, says training industry expert Peter Noonan. What’s needed first is a new funding model. The Mitchell Institute researcher lays out the case for change today, explaining that the existing system allows the states to cut spending as Canberra’s contribution increases. After 25 years “it is time for a complete overhaul,” Mr Noonan says. The Mitchell model includes the Commonwealth and states agreeing on priority training areas and striking a rate to fund them. While the states would administer training they would work with Canberra to set course caps.

Commonwealth VET funding would then reward states that were prepared to invest in VET, remove the incentive for the states to cost-shift to the Commonwealth, align Commonwealth and state funding in each state and remove upfront fees for students in VET courses. Successful and commercially viable full fee VET courses would also be covered, but without significant and hidden subsidies to providers.”

Until a new model is agreed however the Mitchell Institute suggests governments should agree to at least maintain current funding for the next financial year. And maybe the one after, VET funding has been on the COAG agenda for two years without anything being decided.

Top that! Topped!!

Yesterday CMM reported Herb Marsh from Australian Catholic University is not the highest cited scholar in Australia after all, at least according to H-index scores reported by the Spanish Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas. While Professor Marsh is 228th in the wold his ACU colleague (on a .7 appointment) psychologist Richard Ryan is the 175th most cited researcher. But now the University of Queensland says psychologist Roy Baumeister is 159th and he joined UoQ last year. But yes, his Google Scholar entry does not state this – according to it he is still at Florida State U.

Australia’s got talent!

Australia rates sixth in the world in the new  Global Talent Competitiveness Index from French business school INSEAD. The global first five are, Switzerland, Singapore, United Kingdom, United States and Sweden. The remained of the top ten following Australia are Luxembourg, Denmark, Finland and Norway.

The ranking is based on nations’ capacities in innovation, entrepreneurship, industry creation and attracting, growing, retaining and enabling talent.  Australia’s performance is attributed in part to its strengths in higher education creating a knowledge economy, rating sixth for higher education. In contrast, the overall VET ranking is 25TH. “This may indicate that the country’s structural shift towards knowledge jobs and services is perhaps leaving gaps in the technical/vocational area,” the report suggests. Japan is 22nd, China 54th and India 92nd.