Pay but no say

People who administer the student services and amenities fee will confer at CQU Sydney on March 23.  But not the people who pay it; “It is not proposed at this stage to open the forum to students or student representatives,” organisers advise.

Free trade in ideas

Another win for open markets, with South Korea and Japan signing the Tokyo Convention, on recognition of higher education qualifications.  They join Australia, New Zealand and China. Good news for the international education industry.

Schmidt sets out ANU objectives

Brian Schmidt asserted the Australian National University’s moral and intellectual leadership in his annual address, yesterday.

“It is our role to innovate in research, to help Australia understand its place in the world, to find solutions to the most pressing problems facing the nation and the world – whether they are current emerging or in the future. That is our responsibility and this is our mandate,” the vice chancellor said.

Professor Schmidt announced ANU’s Reconciliation Action Plan (below) and committed the university to providing intellectual leadership.

“The phenomenon of fake news and alternative facts continues to grow and around the world there is a genuine devaluation of evidence informed by research and what it brings. … In the face of eroding and unprecedented marginalisation of academic expertise, we have to work harder than ever before to bring the world outside of academia with us. As Australia’s national university, it’s up to us to help find a way forward, for Australia, for our region, and for the world,” he said.

Professor Schmidt also outlined ambitions and activities for the year:

A Public Policy and Societal Impact Hub, “will harness the research breadth of ANU, … to offer solutions to some of the nation’s most complex policy issues.”

Appointment of the second VC Enterpreneurial Fellow, inventor of a vaccination nano-patch, Mark Kendall.

Australia’s first interdisciplinary research institute for cybersecurity.

“A substantial expansion and re-imagination” of engineering and computer science, “to help us understand and design solutions to the emerging challenges of modern society in a 21st-century set of engineering disciplines.”

Professor also signalled the university executive would assess the use by ANU academics of the federal National Institute Grant, “it might seem scary, but it is actually an opportunity to think big.”

MOOC of the morning

Sebastian Kaempf’s MOOC, “Global media, war and technology” (UoQ via edX) is getting a third run, starting April 10. It’s about “how the politics of today’s wars play out on and behind the digital screens in our hypermediatized age.” Makes a change for the melange of MOOCs on supply change management. Some 4000 people enrolled the first two times.

AI from the beginning

Coursera founder Andrew Ng has expanded his interests in artificial intelligence – “the new electricity” – announcing yesterday a US$175m AI Investment Fund.   But don’t call them with a pitch. “Our focus will be on building companies from scratch rather than seeking existing start-ups to invest in.”

The case for precision medicine: so good they made it twice

What a coincidence! On Monday Innovation and Science Australia recommended a national investment in precision medicine and yesterday the Australian Council of Learned Academies produced a similar suggestion. “The implementation of a national program of precision medicine will also provide a necessary incentive to expand and improve tertiary education and training opportunities in human genomics and related fields, for which Australia could become an international education centre in our region and more widely,” ACOLA argued. The report is one of a series commissioned by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, who, coincidentally is also deputy chair of ISA.

ANU in running for university press prize

University Presses meet in London in this month to confer on the state of the industry and to vote for the university press redux award. One of the four candidates is the estimable ANU Press, which mainly publishes online. ANUP charges industry-rates for print copies but the entire list is free to download. It’s up against the University of Michigan Press, Liverpool University Press and open access pioneer Frances Pinter.

Another VET advocate

Just not one the TAFE lobby will quote. “Let us open great vocational schools so our future workers can learn a craft and realise their full potential,” Donald Trump, said in his state of the union yesterday.

ANU’s new reconciliation plan

ANU has launched a two-year Indigenous Australian Reconciliation Action plan, to replace the 2009 version, which stalled at a university-wide level after three years. According to the university the new one, “signals an ambitious systemic shift in the university’s culture and its engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

The plan will apply across the university, with specific goals including, making ANU ‘the university of choice’ for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island students and ensuring their completion rate matches the university-wide figure, creating ATSI research fellowships as a means towards an “indigenous professoriate,” nearly tripling ANU employment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people to 2 per cent of staff and ensuring professional development for teaching staff so that they include Indigenous perspectives in the curriculum.

Moves at Notre Dame

Sarah Cordiner is appointed head of the University of Notre Dame Australia’s Broome campus. She replaces Juli Coffin who becomes the university’s first head of Aboriginal Research Programs and Partnerships.

Distance lends no enchantment with SA TAFE head

The Labor-Greens dominated Senate committee chaired by Gavin Marshall (ALP-Vic) examining the South Australian TAFE shambles is holding but one hearing, in Sydney this Friday afternoon. As to what it will hear, who knows late yesterday the programme was not public.

There are undoubtedly many good reasons why– but none of them occurred to Education and Training Minister (and SA senator) Simon Birmingham, who discussed the committee on Adelaide radio yesterday; “The public, the media, have a right to be able see these proceedings, hear these proceedings, participate in these proceedings, not have them a couple of thousand kilometres away, well out of the sight of most South Australians,” he said.

The state of SA TAFE, is certainly a problem for the local Labor government as it prepares for an election. Senator Birmingham has criticised successive local ministers, starting with Gail Gago, who quarantined 60 000 of 80 000 federally funded training places to TAFE, to help the system improve performance. “We are supporting TAFE SA while it transitions to more innovative and flexible training provision that better responds to community and industry needs and is more sustainable in a competitive market,” she said back in 2015 (CMM, May 26).

Sadly, this does not appear to have happened in all areas, with the Australian Skills Quality Authority telling the Senate committee that an audit of SA TAFE; “identified critical and systemic non-compliances across the training examined. Non-compliances related to marketing, training and assessment strategies, assessment systems and trainer and assessor skills.”

This is also a problem for federal Labor, which uses TAFE as a synonym for training and talks of more funding for it. But as SA TAFE demonstrates, it is not just more money, it is how it is spent.