Plus Smallman out of business at UWS

Alarums, Lord Hyperbole approaches!

The University of Tasmanian reports, “Shakespeare revolutionised at Tasmanian College of the Arts.” Apparently students are “taking crucial scenes from five of Shakespeare‘s most brutal plays and sewing them into one cohesive storyline, CROWNS focuses on the tragedy that is the human condition and its lust for power.” Good-oh, but the name needs work. Um, what about, Game of Thrones?


Media management

Just nine days after the Four Corners programme on international student cheating, University of Sydney DVC Tyrone Carlin has got around to telling staff, “there is no tolerance” at the university, “for academic dishonesty or misconduct among either local or international students.” Professor Carlin urges staff who suspect plagiarism or any other academic dishonesty among students to follow procedures in place. But CMM can’t help wondering if the main point of the message was media management. “Any staff member who is contacted by the media on this issue is asked to contact (media chief) Kirsten Andrews.” Bit late now.

Country is counting on him

People in universities and industry talk about the desperate shortage of maths teachers and the way young women do not see mathematics as the basis of a career, but few as effectively as Geoff Prince, from the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute. For years he has patiently and persistently explained the shortage of teachers and its implications for the community.

And it seems his message has got through. BHP has kicked the tin for $22m over five years to fund AMSI’s programme to “turn around public perception of mathematics and statistics as a career choice for girls and young women.”

Clive will chat no more

Admirers of UWS Business Dean Clive Smallman live for his comprehensive Friday briefings on his travels and travails on behalf of the school. Even after UoQ accounting professor Allan Hodgson gave the school a shocker of review in December Professor Smallman remained less upbeat than stratospheric about its potential. But Clive will chat no more about business, with VC Barney Glover announcing he will step aside as of Monday. Professor Smallman‘s departure occurs a year before his term was set to expire. “Clive’s move provides an opportunity for a change of leadership and a renewed focus on further assuring the school’s long term operational and financial sustainability, following the appointment of a new dean”, Professor Glover said yesterday. DVC Research Scott Holmes will be interim dean pending an appointment.

But Professor Smallman is not leaving UWS, moving to assistant VC where, he will have responsibility for the crucial campaign to secure AASCB accreditation of the business school and “major international partnership activities in China and Vietnam,” with the help of the PVC International. I imagine Linda Taylor, PVC I since August, is thrilled.

Royally rewarded research

Ok metrics mavens, how do you score for impact this example of research engagement? The Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography has awarded its Vega Medal to Uni Wollongong geographer Lesley Head. Professor Head received it from King Carl XVI Gustaf, no less. No amount of research office planning can top that.

ANU new 3

Terminated trainers 

Not everybody is pleased with Simon Birmingham’s new apprentice and trainee placement and counselling service. The training minister says the new Australian Apprentice Network will focus on assisting prospective students into the best course for them and counselling those who need help to get through. According to Senator Birmingham this is a big improvement on the old Australian Apprentice Centres, which focused on keeping up to date records of student progress. “They had rooms full of files on every apprentice in their jurisdiction,” he says. Even so, the minister says some suppliers under the old system won tenders for the new one.

But others didn’t and Group Training Australia (“the largest employer network of apprentices and trainees”) is very cross about it indeed.

According to GTA chief executive Jim Barron, the not for profit group training network was “largely shut-out,” of the ASN. “Group training works with thousands of predominantly small to medium sized employers, especially in rural, regional and remote Australia. The impact in these regions is of deep concern,” he said. Mr Barron said he wanted an “urgent explanation” why group training organisations are “no longer supported by the Coalition government.”

“In the lead up to the May budget, we will be reminding MPs and senators of the significant impact that this decision will have on apprentices, employers and communities in all parts of Australia.”

Out too early

It’s league table time and, as ever people, get so excited they don’t notice embargoes. Like the Fairfax website The Brisbane Times which jumped the gun  on the Times Higher list of 100 universities under 50 year’s old by close to 48 hours, publishing at 9am yesterday. The story was gone by late afternoon. For those who missed it, CMM will cover the when the embargo lifts on Thursday.

Subject: success

One ranking that is out this morning is the QS league table of university performances for a range of subjects.

QS ranks subjects by institution on the basis of 85 000 academics’ opinions about their subject area and 41,910 (not 909 or 911) employers’ view as to which universities produce great graduates in 36 specific disciplines, plus citation analysis.

At a national level there is something for everyone in the results, which rate Australian universities equal third with Germany for share of institutions with top subjects (5.7 per cent), (admittedly a way behind the UK (11.2 per cent) and the US (23 per cent)). Chris Pyne could say how well the country is doing and imagine how much better it would go if student fees were deregulated. Kim Carr could say deregulation will end this outstanding result. And every lobby in the land could announce that this stakhonovite success will never be repeated without more money, lots more money.

Overall, the results are much the same as every other league table – it’s the Go8 and then daylight. ANU is among the world’s top ten universities for four disciplines, followed by Uni Melbourne (two) and Uni Sydney (one).

Among the Australian Technology Network, RMIT is 20th in the world for art and design, with QUT at 25 (media studies) and UTS 44th (communications). Of institutions outside the two leading groups Deakin has one subject at 32nd (education), Murdoch at 38th (vet science), Uni Newcastle at 40th (architecture) and James Cook at 47th (environmental science).

Critics will claim there are problems in the QS methodology but the thing about these and other competitive league tables is that at a whole-of-institution level they are pretty consistent. When was the last time you saw something like this one, which Uni Melbourne  and ANU did not lead? As to this subject specific approach it would be interesting to overlay the results, if only at a macro level with the ERA data when it emerges to see how the two compare. At least it would save Australian Research Council wonks from data withdrawal syndrome.

Blowing his trumpet for him

Good on the University of Adelaide for awarding an honorary doctorate to jazz cat James Morrison. For a start this multi-multi musician is a colossus of cool. I have a CD, (for younger readers, CD: a means of acquiring music by purchase) on which he plays everything in a biggish band, but the drums. And he is a marvellous mentor to young musicians – he discovered Emma Pask when she was still at school and has worked with Uni Adelaide’s Elder Conservatorium of Music. The university does not seem bothered that Mr Morrison has now set up a jazz academy with the University of South Australia. Good call, there are only 1100 jazz lovers in SA, well all Australia actually and they all will dig this award.


NOUS grouse for Griew

Robert Griew, associate secretary of DET for higher education, research and international is bailing after the budget – leaving government to return to consulting in Sydney, with the NOUS Group. The highly regarded Jessie Borthwick will step up until the job is filled permanently.

Union warns of more regulation less respect

The University of Adelaide branch of the National Tertiary Education Union is ropeable at yesterday’s announcement that academic staff so inclined will be encouraged to take on teaching-only roles. The university is also developing performance measures to assess staff performance. “In other institutions, similar expectation documents have been highly contentious, and have often been implemented in a callous, ham-fisted way that fails to take into account any context for performance, or to correctly attribute some performance outcomes to poor management decisions,” the union argues.

According to the NTEU this is all about saving money to make up for declining student enrolments and a better answer “is a conservative loan to get a sound institution through a short-term financial situation.” But, most important, union leaders worry this move will not help VC Warren Bebbington’s small group teaching plan for all undergraduates. “The staff of this university are being forced to carry the quixotic visions and questionable performance of senior managers without resources, support or now even respect,” the union executive warns.

In contrast, Professor Bebbington got a cordial response from hosts and callers when he talked about the plan on ABC Adelaide radio yesterday.

Edginton to advise

Training Minister Simon Birmingham has appointed Paul Edginton, managing director of Adelaide based not for profit trainer SYC, to the Vocational Education and Training Advisory Board. The board, established last August, is two down on its original strength. Former deputy chair Patrick McKendry resigned in February after his Careers Australia Group was reported to have used recruitment agents that pressured vulnerable people to enrol in inappropriate training programmes.

Firstest with the fastest

While the results of the 2014 Course Experience Survey will be a while institutions have their data, to proclaim, explain, or dispose of by legerdemain (sorry) as they choose. (As universities control which of their results should be public there is not much need for explaining or legerdemaining). Griffith U is the first into the field, trumpeting good news about its School of Information and Communication Technology, which moved from 35th for student satisfaction in the last survey to 1st in the new one. It would be interesting to see who went down as Griffith went up but GCA never releases comparative data for every university.