Plus the conference that asks “what is this thing called love?”

Shake on it

In breaking news researchers at the University of Vienna have found males born in winter are more likely to be left-handed. Why so? The researchers aren’t sure and, what a surprise!, more research is needed.

Private providers vex voced

The National Tertiary Education Union is extending its argument against deregulation, declaring private providers should not have access to Commonwealth Supported Places, specifically in sub degree programs. “The NTEU questions who this policy would benefit and concludes that it is not students and their communities.”

“Such courses are best delivered by public universities and TAFE institutions, which have the expertise and infrastructure to provide students with a quality and well supported education,” the union argues in a new paper. The NTEU makes three points. First market failure in the Victorian deregulation debacle in voced calls into question the ethics of private providers. “This policy framework not only caused an unexpected $400m blow-out in Victoria’s budget, it also meant that a lot of Victorians had undertaken courses which would get them jobs nor not fill the skills gaps. The NTEU also argues the arrival of for-profits will overwhelm the regulator and their students will run up big debts. Nor can the union contain its distaste for free enterprise. “When for-profit providers gain access (to) direct public funding, businesses more interested in making a buck than in providing students with a quality education will flood the market. ”

You’ve got to love it

In conference season scholars’ fancies turn to love, in theory at least. Which is what will be going on in Melbourne from Thursday to Sunday at the International Association for Relationship Research Conference. The program points to three fascinating days covering the how and why of how we bond, or don’t. While the conference covers the range of relationships, there seems to be an emphasis on matters of the heart, and related organs – or maybe that is just what I noticed. Inevitably there are contributions from the centre for the study of the bleeding obvious, including a paper entitled “Sexpectations: the benefits of believing sexual satisfaction takes work,” who knew? But overall there are enough intriguing papers to keep agony aunt and uncle columnists and ABC radio talkback hosts busy for months discussing what social science shows. Let us face it, there is nothing people like taking about more than sex, sorry relationships. Except in Melbourne, where football comes first.

Maybe what the doctor ordered

Macquarie University announced a new faculty yesterday, not that you would necessarily notice given the low-key and not especially informative statement the university put out. Apparently the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, just created by the University Council, “builds on our aspiration to have the nation’s first fully integrated academic health sciences centre under a university’s leadership.” It seems this involves “integrated approaches to patient care, discovery and work force preparation.” Good-oh the university teaches postgraduate medicine and has a flash hospital on campus but details on what the faculty will do that is new are less sparse than non-existent. Especially when it comes to course costs. While international student fees are listed I could find not a word on what local medicos will pay to increase their qualifications, pretty much the same I guess. With a doctor of of advanced surgery costing $47 000 per annum and taking three years maybe the university does not want to discourage inquiries. Whatever, I rang the nominated contact person and I will report what she says – if she ever calls me back.

TEQSA must act

James Cook University announced yesterday, new catfish species ‘hooked’ in North Queensland.” Yet another reason why TEQSA’s should keep enough authority to police headlines – somebody has to maintain standards.

Down, down enrollments are down

According to the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research the number of people doing voced (excluding hobby courses) with publicly funded community providers was up 12 per last year to 108,000 – this is still well down on the 2009 peak of 122,000, but any increase is an improvement. Particularly as public sector training providers overall taught 1,190,000 students overall in 2013, down 5.4 per cent on 2012 and 8 per cent below the 2010 number. In total publicly funded VET student numbers (be they at TAFE, other state supported institutions or private providers) were down 3.4 per cent. There were suggestions last week that students are leaving the training system for higher education – maybe, maybe not. It’s a more optimistic explanation than the alternative, that growing numbers of people are dropping out of the education and training system altogether. We will see the answer in next year’s youth unemployment figures.

The state of training enrolments will give delegates something to discuss at this week’s NCVER conference, Wednesday through Friday at Holmesglen TAFE’s Moorabbin campus. Steve Sargent recently promoted from the Australian operation to run GE Mining globally will deliver the key- note. The conference theme is “no frills” so I suppose it is appropriate that the NCVER has not published the program.

Excellence against attrition

The 17th annual First Year in Higher Education conference is on in Darwin this week and content rich it is indeed, with 100 people presenting papers or commenting on them. Demand driven funding increased the number of first year students who found university a challenge and the expansion of CSP into sub degree programs and private providers will likely mean more students who find first year a shock. Which makes this meeting for hands-on practitioners as important as it useful and from the look of the program it very useful indeed.

The high cost of good taste

The University of Tasmania is offering a course, Contemporary Art for Collectors which, “comprises a series of lecture presentations, gallery visits and studio workshops designed to explore and reflect on diverse models of collecting, the significance of private/public collections, the history and memory embedded in objects, and issues of chance, value, taste and ‘collectability”.” This is a great idea, which I reckon will find an audience among people who are starting, or would like to create a collection. Of course being Tasmania specific necessarily limits the audience but not as much as what it appears to cost. The online course handbook shows that for students in a Commonwealth Supported Place it costs $1500 and for anybody else the price is up to $4 100. You could trust your judgement and just start buying what you like with that sort of money. I wonder if anybody anywhere is doing a MOOC along the same lines?