Room at the top

Curtin U students can study in a simulated boardroom  

Curtin U’s business school announces an “interactive and high-tech simulated boardroom.” Apparently, it will “introduce students to the real-world pressures of business decision-making. It’s equipped for case studies, simulations but there is no word if there is a nominated seat for the director who will take the fall when the Australian Securities and Investment Commission knocks.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning, David Myton’s regular wrap on what’s going on in the sector overseas.

It’s the wild-west with unregulated AI

“I’m sorry, show me where it says I must open the pod bay door”

There are no agreed accreditation or standards for AI in Australia, Dave Dawson, Emma Schleiger (CSIRO) and colleagues warn in a new paper for the agency and the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science on an ethics framework for AI.

Designers of algorithms which may have significant impacts on public well-being are operating within a profession with relatively limited guidance or oversight,” they warn.

They also urge researchers and industry to talk more;

Quality research into addressing ethical AI by design and implementation is key to ensuring that Australia stays ahead of the curve. Without methods of accessible transfer of knowledge from theory to practice the impact is lost. Collaboration is increasingly important between researchers and the tech industry to ensure that AI is developed and used ethically and should be prioritised.”

Who does what with the data that AI uses is emerging all-over. As a paper on data analytics in teaching and learning puts it (CMM April 9); ““advanced educational technologies that employ complex learning analytics and AI should not regarded as ‘black box’ tools to be trusted but should be transparent and able to be challenged.”

“Hey Siri, how is that media release coming?”

Deakin U encourages us all to ask Siri, “why is Deakin U investing $33m in artificial intelligence” 

So CMM did, and Siri pointed him to coverage of its Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute.

“Much is made of the potential for AI to replace human intelligence, but AI’s true potential lies in its capacity to enhance human abilities rather than replace them,” – Vice Chancellor Jane den Hollander says. Which should reassure the university’s comms team.

Uni Wollongong to union: see you in court

Uni Wollongong Council digs in to defend western civilisation (of the Ramsay kind)

Since council last met, academic senate has objected to management fast tracking approval of a Ramsay Western Civilisation Centre degree to start next year. And last week the National Tertiary Education Union announced it would ask the NSW Supreme Court to rule the university had failed to follow its own procedures in adopting the degree.

Off to court: However, on Friday Vice Chancellor Paul Wellings told council the approval process was “lawful and in accordance with university policies and procedures” and that it intends “to oppose the action.”

“Full support” says chancellor: Jillian Broadbent backed the degree and its approval, saying she “is comfortable that the decisions taken by the VC … have been in accordance with university policies and in the best interests of the university.”

That the chancellor felt the need to publicly state support appears to indicate how seriously the university’s leadership takes the continuing controversy over accepting Ramsay funding and the content of the course.

Ms Broadbent’s apparently careful choice of words also indicated how the university will respond to union claims in court.

What this is about: The Ramsay course content did not go through the standard academic approval process, being fast-tracked by Professor Wellings, under a rule covering necessary urgent approvals. At 10 4.1 a-b, the university’s course and subject approvals procedures policy states that a course can be pushed-through if , “there is a demonstrated benefit to the university in fast-tracking the proposal without compromising the reputation of the university.

To which the union responds that reputation is precisely what suffers under the arrangement. But the court case will be more about governance; “The university’s use of the fast-track approval process departed from the usual involvement of academic staff at all levels, and ultimately the academic senate. … Best practice academic governance requires universities to take into account and reflect the views of their staff, students and communities. This has clearly not happened,” NTEU Federal President Alison Barnes.

Management has more to lose: This is asymmetrical industrial warfare. If the union case fails in the court, nothing ventured, nothing gained and it demonstrates consistency in reviling Ramsay and promoting proper procedure. But a bad day in court, or even a loss, would be a disaster for the university’s Ramsay plan – it would not be good for Professor Welling’s standing either.

A (very) learned reader reviews the Wollongong’s Ramsay degree  here.

All-star arts advisors

The culturatti have a new approach to explaining the importance of the arts

The Australian Academy of the Humanities has $1.65m from philanthropists to “strengthen bipartisan, business and community support for arts and culture,” through its advocacy group, A New Approach.

The lobby “wants to ensure opportunities are seized for the better realisation of the economic, social, cultural and personal benefits that Australian arts and cultural activities provide.

“New Approach recognises that without an independent voice leading a broad and accessible conversation about the benefits of investing in a rich creative and cultural life, Australia risks missing out.” The group now has a reference group to “provide strategic advice,” (membership in Appointments, below).

 App of the day

Explaining the local rules for international students

A new app provides international students with legal advice on their top four issues, employment, housing, disputes with their uni/college and sexual assaultMyLegal Mate comes from the inner-city Sydney Redfern Legal Centre.  The launch follows last week’s announcement from UNSW and UTS that they would survey international students on housing problems, (CMM April 10).

The business plan is for education institutions to fund the law app, which would then be free to their students-which strikes CMM as fair enough, certainly for UNSW and the University of Sydney which collected around $1.5bn from international students in 2017.  If universities and colleges want to keep internationals arriving they need to do, and be seen to being doing, everything possible to ensure internationals believe their rights are respected.  They don’t need an app to understand what “cash cow” means.

CRC announcement expected today

But it won’t come with a guaranteed rate of return

There is talk around the traps that a Round 20 Cooperative Research Centre will be announced today – presumably because it was signed off before care-taker kicked in. This would be more than a bit rich but well-informed observers say it is so, that CRCs are chosen apolitically and the programme has always had bipartisan support.

If it does happen the winning-bid, will be closely analysed, CRCs are looking ever-better investments since the research block grant cuts were announced. But some universities still like assurances they are investing in a sure thing. Back in 2017 one research-rich institution demanded a specific rate of return (CMM June 28).  A university is said to be doing the same for the next round.

Solidarity forever

The union lines up against the Liberals

The National Tertiary Education Union is reputed to have spent $1m in the 2013 election, supporting (but not donating to) the campaigns of Adam Bandt (Greens-Vic) and Andrew Wilkie (Ind-Tas) both of whom got-up plus Greens Senate tickets, (CMM

But this time the green is more grass-roots than the colour of money. Union president Alison Barnes says “we are generally supporting progressive candidates, in particular ALP and Greens candidates in the ACTU targeted marginal seats, and asking our members to get involved in those campaigns which are being managed by the local trades and labour councils.”

The union’s Victorian division is asking officials and activists to staff a call centre where the message to members is “put the Liberals last.”

The way forward in teaching and learning

Expert’s existing advice sets out what needs be done next

The council of learned elders (in wisdom, not years) that was the Australian Learning and Teaching Fellows is no more. It was just about the last legacy of 30 years of federally funded research schemes that started winding down when funding stopped a few budgets back.

But the ALTF leaves the stage looking forward – with researchers suggesting in a final report what teaching needs now. Some CMM noticed are:

Matthew Allen (Deakin U): “Stronger reliance on discipline knowledge and research in development of effective and authentic teaching, with less formalist educational theory and apparatus.”

Katelyn Barney (UoQ): “Continued Indigenous leadership in this area to further engage in discussions on increasing the number Indigenous students continuing to HDRs.”

Stephen Billett (Griffith U): “The sector needs to identify ways in which students’ experiences in workplaces can be effectively planned for, enacted and then integrated to assist students develop the capacities required for work”

Anne Gardner (UTS): “The scholarship of teaching and learning and educational research are still not regarded as valuable activity in most engineering departments/faculties across the country – they need sector support.”

Kym Fraser (Swinburne U): “The higher education sector needs to mandate and pay for substantive teaching induction for all staff who are new to teaching, including sessional staff.”

Raymond Lister (UTS): “What is needed now are discipline-based, multi-institutional projects led by people who teach.”

Lynne Roberts (Curtin U): “I would like to see training for new honours and coursework supervisors implemented in all universities.”

Keith Willey (Uni Sydney): “Blended learning has helped STEM curriculum move beyond a focus on technical knowledge acquisition. However, developing students’ lifelong learning identity trajectory should also be mandatory”

Appointments, achievements

Julie-Anne White is the new CIO of industry grop BioMelbourne. Dr White has a doctorate in psychopharmacology and broad experience in pharma-med tech start-ups. She starts next month, replacing Krystal Evans who announced her departure last December.

The Australian Academy of Science announces its J G Russell Awards for early career researchers. Giulia Ghedini (Monash University) ecological communities responses to global warming, Yu Heng Lau (Uni Sydney) technology to control chemical reactions on nanoscale, Tatiana Soares da Costa  (La Trobe U) herbicide development strategies for weed management and Qi Wu  (Uni Adelaide) Artificial Intelligence (AI) agent that communicates with humans on the basis of visual input

The Australian Academy of the Humanities announces a reference group for its arts and culture lobby A New Approach;  Rupert Myer (philanthropist) chairs, with members Kim Allom (video games developer), Jane Curry (publisher) John Daley (Grattan Institute), Genevieve Lacey (musician), Shelagh Magadza (Chamber of Arts and Culure WA), Damien Miller (diplomat), Alison Page (designer), Laura Tingle (journalist), Mathew Trinca (National Museum of Australia).