Cool for chats

“Even a ‘robot’ thinks not only is UniSA up to the task of transforming higher education in this state, but also that we have an obligation to do so.” Uni SA VC David Lloyd is not alarmed by ChatGPT

Rather, he tells staff, “how cool it is that a quasi-sentient on-line tool, built from ones and zeros and manifest by the passage of electrons through human designed circuits in materials of differing conductivity” can make a coherent case for merging universities in Adelaide.

Not as cool as the one he and Uni Adelaide VC Peter Høj will have to make for the merger of their unis, now being considered.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Merlin Crossley (UNSW), suggests supporting great academics is a better plan than preparing to take up arms against the slings and arrows of technological disruption.

and on Monday Diana Tolmie (Griffith U) on preparing students who will need to create their own success at work- vocation prep in music courses shows how. New next week in Commissioning Editor Sally Kift’s series, Needed now in learning and teaching.

UNE caps researchers spends

Word is that staff in the Faculty of Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences and Education are told they can only use 10 per cent of their Academic Pursuits Fund this year

University of New England has long had a policy whereby academics deposit money into their APF, earned from consulting and similar, and spend it on research costs, conferences and the like.

But not on much of anything this year. Word is that management attributes the need to keep the lid on to the budget impact of an enrolment decline in the faculty. CMM asked Dean of HASSE Jane Edwards asked about this and received a response from corporate comms, “UNE will not be commenting on how our faculties manage their annual operating budgets.”

That UNE can cap outlays appears beyond doubt, the APF policy states that accounts are university funds – but staffers respond people have plans to use their accounts now, or they did until this week.

It’s an ominous indication of what could be in store, given enterprise bargaining is about to start. Management’s log of claims and a statement on university financials are both said to be imminent.


Attrition not the issue it was

Used to be that conservative ministers got stuck into universities over attrition – made a change from sneering at humanities research

There was certainly a hurricane of harrumphing in 2018, carefully addressed by Andrew Norton, Ittima Cherastidtham and Will Mackey in a report for the Grattan Institute (CMM April 30 2018).

But now, around  ’18 appears to have been the attrition peak for domestic commencing students. New stats from the feds record attrition from the public uni system at around 12.74 per cent in 2020 down from 15 per cent in 2014.  As to the cause, perhaps the job-eating impact of Covid had something to do with it, then again, ZOOM study was hardly encouraging not especially engaged students to stay.

What’s next for Monash U Business School

It has spent a bunch of time and money, improving student satisfaction and research rankings – now Head of School Simon Wilkie says it’s time for the next act

Professor Wilkie announces an intent to change how government and business see the school, from a “service provider of education or research to that of a trusted partner.”

And so he wants to “leverage our expertise into helping solve the ‘Challenges of the Age,’ particularly those in the university’s overall impact strategy, climate change, geopolitical security and “creating thriving communities.”

The way to do this is with a virtuous circle; “deeper engagement with business and government” which, “leads to greater insight into the pressing problems faced by industry and policymakers.”

“That, in turn, generates new research ideas, which then inform our educational offerings, and drives greater engagement with industry and government, which benefit from the relevance of our high-quality graduates.”

Good o – although staff who worked hard to lift the school’s research rankings may wonder where their super-specialist expertise fits in pitches to industry, mandarins and ministers.

Short and to the VET point

A House of Reps committee is conducting an inquiry into community perceptions, and status, of vocational education and training. It’s early days, but the first submission nails two big issues

Former TAFE official Robin Shreve includes two fundamentals on what needs doing to improve the first objective and lift the second.

“Strategies should not concentrate on comparing VET to Higher Education. Rather they should concentrate on the outcomes and prospects after completing a VET/TAFE program, the quality and reach of VET delivery and facilities and the currency of its industry expertise.”

“Promotion of VET or TAFE should not be messaging about comparing VET to HE but rather about the experiences people will enjoy, what valuable skills they will acquire and the careers their education and training will lead to.”

Appointments, achievements

Stephanie Beaupark (Uni Wollongong) and Michelle Hobbs (Griffith U) receive 2023 Australian Academy of Science Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Scientist Awards. They are for emerging Indigenous scientists at PhD or EMCR levels.

 Deborah Brennan (UNSW) will co-lead a Productivity Commission inquiry into early childhood education and care. According to Treasurer Jim Chalmer’s announcement, she will “will work with the other members of the Commission.

Bindy Taylor is new GM of Media Centre for Education Research Australia. MCERA describes her as a, “highly experienced leader, with not-for-profit CEO experience.”