Long day’s talking into night

The government’s higher education legislation dominated the House of Representatives yesterday with the bill’s second reading debate taking up most of the sitting day and all of the night. Nothing new was said, but a great many members took hours saying it.

Spin set to high

Received at 7.15 last night; “Latest OECD report confirms Coalition higher education policies out of step,” (from the National Tertiary Education Union)

Received at 7.16 last night, “A new report from the OECD has confirmed the strength of Australia’s education system and the opportunities it offers, (from Education Minister Simon Birmingham).

New Navitas study reports digital degrees matter less than pathways to employment

Students are confident that universities will deliver for them as the digital economy arrives, according to a global study by higher education provider and uni-partner Navitas.

“A common theme running through the student responses was that, by and large, they still have confidence in higher education today,” Navitas reports.

And ed-tech entrepreneurs, including start-ups, focus more on improving rather than disrupting the present university model.

“While they see the potential for new models in higher education, they also see room to refine the current model. For example, by working with universities to roll out digital content, streamline administrative processes and support the student experience – all high priorities for university leaders.

Universities across the globe also acknowledge the need for change, but believe they can manage it within their existing models.

University leaders view digital transformation as a way to improve ‘how’ they do their existing work. Three quarters plan to partly digitise their current operations while creating new digital models in parallel. Very few aim to create wholly new digital models or fully digitise their current model, suggesting they remain confident in the current university model.”

However, students, university managers and entrepreneurs are not united in what they consider most important.

Digital recruitment and admissions are particularly important to university leaders

Digitising student services matter to all three groups.

Neither students or universities are interested in completely abandoning lectures.

Students want new technology integrated in their overall education but do not share management and entrepreneurs’ fascination with new technologies in, for example, gaming, simulation and robotics.

But what students do want far more than universities are “technologies or platforms to support internships and pathways to employment.”

Huge HELP debts beyond saving

New official figures reveal HELP debtors across the country, including extraordinary individual borrowings under the scheme. The federal government shows a higher education loan scheme borrower in NSW has racked up a $462 000 debt, with a second loan to an ACT resident totalling $437 000. All up the top ten individual borrowers have combined study debts to the Commonwealth of just under $3m.

The total outstanding debt (in m) and number of debtors across the country as of June 30 was:

ACT 49,609 $971.5
NSW 810,347 $17,396.3
NT 16,684 $262.2
QLD 595,273 $11,879.3
SA 179,847 $3,406.6
TAS 47,701 $819.8
VIC 705,568 $14,590.0
WA 222,356 $4,084.8

Last night Education Minister Simon Birmingham suggested huge individual debts “highlight that some people have been trying to game the system racking up huge taxpayer-funded loans that they never expect to repay.” He is expected to point to the figures in negotiations with Senate cross-benchers.

“A student loan to get a qualification that improves your job prospects however graduates should expect to repay their loans and our reforms send that message while keeping the system fair,” the minister said last night.

The government’s proposed legislation expands access to student loans to sub-degree courses at universities

Simon Birmingham plays a (very) straight bat

“And the Boycott goes to Birmo”

Simon Birmingham played a straight bat to everything bowled up by Patricia Karvelas on RN yesterday in an interview where he gave nothing away on what he would or would not give up to get his higher education proposals through the Senate. It was like watching Boycott bat (oh come on, Geoffrey, Geoffrey Boycott), technically perfect but not exactly entertaining. Senator Birmingham gave nothing away on what he would do to convince the senators he needs.

Unless of course there was just a hint of light between bat and pad when he mentioned enabling courses that he intends to put to tender and have students pay for via a loan.

“We do believe that in terms of enabling programs it is absolutely worthwhile for us to go out to tender, to actually ensure the places that are there are ones that get the best result in terms of students being able to go on to university afterwards; to increase the completion rate and the transition rate into university, and to make sure that there is still no upfront barrier in relation to those students undertaking those important pathway programs,” he said.

If a crossbencher or three (morning Senator Xenophon and colleagues) could convince him that this policy would create a barrier, perhaps the minister might be prepared to remove it, if it meant other runs on the board. But then again he might not.

Sugar hit

Deakin U researchers found that hiking the price of “sugary drinks” by 20 per cent reduced sales by 27 per cent in a 17-week trial, making it a great way to address the nation’s obesity and dental problems. Good-o but as surveys go this is not the fizziest of findings. The trial was at a (as in one) convenience store at a Melbourne hospital

Staff vote at JCU

James Cook University staff will vote today through Friday on management’s proposed enterprise agreement, which the National Tertiary Education Union opposes. Industry practise is that union and university hammer out a new deal on wages and conditions which they jointly put to staff but at JCU relations between the two sides can be combative and the current round is stalled on wages.

This is a high-stakes vote for both sides. A management win will be a big blow to the union’s standing on campus. However if the proposal fails it will be back to negotiations, with the university in a much reduced position – unless JCU does a Murdoch U and asks the Fair Work Commission to cancel the terms of the last enterprise agreement, thus establishing a lower base for wage negotiations. Now that would make for a brawl.

Big FT win

The University of Sydney is the only Australian institution which makes the Financial Times, new masters of management ranking, jumping from 44th last year to 25th this. The big improve might have something to do with its number one spot on the ranking’s new career performance criterion.

What ranking reveals

Ratings agency QS has a new rankingstudent employability, on which the University of Sydney wins the local derby, first in the country and fourth in the world. It is ahead of UniMelbourne (seventh) UNSW (36) UoQ (49), UTS (69) Uni Auckland (75) Monash U (79), ANU (94) and RMIT (97) All up 28 ANZ universities are listed in the global top 500. Those that miss the cut should not feel too bad given the criteria. QS picked winners based on a survey of employer perceptions, alumni outcomes demonstrated by biographies on 100 high-achiever lists, uni-industry collaboration, as revealed by links cited in research on the Scopus database, employers who are active on a campus and the proportion of a graduates per year in employment (this counts for just 10 per cent of the score).

Bargaining briefing

ANU unionists meet tomorrow for a briefing on the state of enterprise bargaining. “We urgently need your feedback relating to proposals for salary increases; senior management employment; redundancy and severance pay; and the span of hours for professional staff,” National Tertiary Education Union official Lachlan Clohesy says. (The “senior management” referred to is union members who are now covered by the enterprise agreement.)

Cheaper but less flexible

TAFE does a better job than it tells us (CMM Monday),with a learned reader pointing to a report by Chandra Shah on transport and logistics industry programmes in the now ended National Workforce Development Fund. In a recent report Dr Shah found that TAFE delivered training for a third less than the private providers employers using the programme preferred.

“This suggests imperfections in the training market, possibly due to information asymmetry,” Dr Shah concluded. Unless it was, “aggressive marketing, which some providers have used in recent years, may also be a factor affecting employers’ decisions.”

Then again, “the flexibility in delivery offered by small private providers may have been a factor influencing employers’ decisions in this regard.”

Dolt of the day

The surname of Monash pharmacy dean Bill Charman was misspelt in yesterday’s issue

Jolly good fellows

The Academy of Social Sciences has elected 46 new fellows. They are:

Xuemai Bai, environment and ecology, ANU. Eileen Baldry, criminology, UNSW, Michael Blakeney, law, UWA. Roland Bleiker, political science, UoQ. Sidney Bloch AM, psychiatry, UniMelbourne. Frank Bongiorno, history, ANU. Peter Bossaerts, finance and neuroscience UniMelbourne. Nicholas Brown, history, ANU. Rebekah Brown, sustainable development, MonashU. Ross Buckley, law,UNSW. Victoria Burbank, social sciences, UWA

Linda Connor, anthropology UniSydney. Kim Cornish, neurosciences, MonashU.

 Megan Davis, law, UNSW. Heather Douglas, law, UoQ.

 Lata Gangadharan, economics, Monash U. Christopher Gibson, human geography, Uni of Wollongong. Cristina Gibson, management, UWA. Katharine Gelber, politics, UoQ. Ross Gittins, economics editor, Sydney Morning HeraldLee Godden, law, UniMelbourne.

Vedi Hadiz, Asian studies, UniMelbourne. Charmine E.J. Härtel, business, UoQ. John Hewson AM, tax and transfer policy, ANU.

 Craig Jeffrey, India studies, UniMelbourne.

 Carol T. Kulik, human resources, UniSA.

 Anne Lillis, accounting, UniMelbourne. Deborah Lupton, media and comms UniCanberra.  Elinor McKone, psychology, ANU. Klaus Neumann, Professor of History, School of History, Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University.

 Melanie Oppenheimer, history, Flinders University.

 Alan Petersen, sociology, Monash Uni, Jane Pirkis, mental health UniMelbourne. Jason Potts, economics, RMIT University.

 Rick Richardson, psychology, UNSW. Garry Robins, psychology, UniMelbourne. John Rolfe, economics, CQ University.

 Louise Sharpe, psychology, UniSydney. Naomi Soderstrom, accounting, UniMelbourne.  David Stanton, public policy, ANU. Adrienne Stone, UniMelbourne, law. Joffre Swait, consumer psychology, Uni of South Australia.

 Stephen Taylor, accounting, UTS. Russell Tytler, science education, Deakin U.

 Beth Webster, innovation Swinburne U. Stephen Zubrick, education, UWA