There’s more in the Mail

In Features this week, Jessica Vanderlelie (La Trobe U) on the why and how of engaging with alumni. It’s a new contribution to commissioning editor Sally Kift’s series on what we need now in teaching and learning.

Western Sydney U in the market for research talent

The university announces $30m to fund 50 “research-focused” fellowships over five years  

The four-year positions are for early and mid-career researchers, have a 70/30 research/teaching split and are offered at either level B or C.  Applications are now open for 19.

The fellowships are part of WSU’s cross-disciplinary Strategic Research Initiative with the first positions for researchers in, * pest and plant sciences, *cultural policy and sustainability/globalisation, * neuromorphic systems, * brain behaviour and development, * health economics, chronic disease management and pharmacology, natural product chemistry * early education and child health and * children’s rights, participatory platforms and civic hacktivism for young people.

In Tasmania, all pedagogy isn’t local

Uni Tas has big capex plans for Hobart, Launceston and Burnie –so what should be in it for Devenport? Depends who you ask

City boosters would like university action but regional newspaper, the Advocate wonders whether Devonportians actually need a campus. Burnie is 35 minutes away and the region “cannot have two of everything and that when we do it often leaves both less sustainable.”

It seems that in Tasmania all pedagogy, as Tip O’Neill didn’t say, isn’t local.

Nursing deans peak body on what education needs

Submissions to Steven Schwartz’s review of nursing education (CMM January 22) include a full and frank statement from the Council of Deans of Nursing and Midwifery.

Chair Tracey Moroney (Uni Wollongong) presents an expansive explanation of challenges in nursing ed including:

* “we are often required to comply with the standard university semesters, and this has impacted on the time students have to explore and develop understanding”

* “mandated content … can overwhelm the student learner and push them to adopt surface learning approaches. There are many content areas imposed on curriculum as discreet subjects, and this together with developing students’ literacy and numeracy skills can be a challenge to deliver.”

* graduate nurse programmes, skills and knowledge are sometimes “re-taught”. Nursing education in health services does not appear to adequately springboard from what is undertaken in Bachelor of Nursing programs.

* “The ever-growing cost and price variations (range from $50-$150 per student per day) of clinical placement is placing considerable pressure on universities.”

Unis wondering what’s in performance funding for them

By Claire Field

Each of the university peak bodies issued media releases welcoming the report of the Wellings Review, aka the Report for the Minister for Education on Performance-Based Funding for The Commonwealth Grant Scheme. However, in the detail of their statements most actually only went so far as welcoming the opportunity to discuss measures further with the government (or words to that effect). No doubt, that is because each university is buried deep in spreadsheets working out how they perform against the proposed measures and what that will mean for them.

It’s been interesting as an outsider to look at what measures are being proposed and how the universities perform against them. In fact, while there is a lot of university-level performance data which is publicly available, it can’t be perfectly aligned to the measures proposed in the report (for example, while data is available on the QILT website on graduate employment rates, the report recommends this measure be contextualised for local employment rates using linear progression).

Noting this, I nonetheless found it interesting to look at each university’s performance on publicly available measures of student attrition, graduate employment and student satisfaction with teacher quality. The information is here.

Claire Field analyses VET and international education


Science headlines of the day from UWA and Uni Wollongong

CMM thought “Elusive excitonic insulator observed by researchers” from the University of Wollongong would be impossible to beat. Until UWA asked “Are laxatives the answer to more powerful mobiles, cars that run better?” According to UoW, excitonic insulators have “novel and useful properties” in “new technologies for low-energy electronics for use in high-performance computing. For people who understand that the research is here.

But UWA comes close, reporting that scientists there, with US, UK and French colleagues have created a “detergent-like substance” after studying the molecular structure of laxatives.” The result opens-up “a whole new way of storing electricity.”

CMM has no clue how this works either, but the science is here.

The mind boggles at what the two teams could achieve in combination, and the headline to explain it.

New VET teaching credential

The Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ACPET as was) announces its own accreditations

“Individuals who are established assessors and trainers able to demonstrate their competency and professionalism within the vocational education and training sector are eligible to apply” for its new certified education practitioner credential, ITECA states. So are registered training organisations managers, “who have a reputation for managing affairs sustainably and in a competent manner.”

Continuing professional development is required to maintain certification.

Given the terrible beating the reputation of all VET private providers unfairly copped during the VET FEE HELP disaster this is a smart move. The scheme will also help registered training organisations meet key regulatory requirements.

But it does not address the broader question of teaching qualifications in both public and private sectors.

There’s a research case for requiring VET teachers to be degree qualified in teaching (CMM June 21 2018) but it does not get much of a run (funny that), with a Certificate Four being the base for teaching in TAFE.


Peter Poulet joins Western Sydney U as professor of practice architecture. Professor Poulet is a former NSW government architect.