Plus Steve Chapman’s new move at ECU and Kim Carr speaks up for internationals

Enough rope

In the Shaky Isles Lincoln University is advertising for a VC with “superior execution skills”. Anybody trying that here would spend months in the Fair Work Commission arguing over the length of the rope.

Thomas to run RUN

University of Southern Queensland VC Jan Thomas is the new chair of the Regional Universities Network, replacing Peter Lee from Southern Cross U. “As chair I want to represent the interests of broad and diverse regions and bring to any discussion the absolute benefits that regional Australia has in terms of its economic, social and environmental capabilities,” Professor Thomas says. The RUNers are certainly a cooperative lot. CMM hears a deal is done between Professor Thomas and nearish neighbor University of the Sunshine Coast VC Greg Hill on transferring SQU’s Fraser Coast campus to USC.


Long, long student placement

“Murdoch students complete decade of free chiro care in the Pilbara,” the university reported yesterday. So now they can graduate?

Job lots

While universities invest in research the quality measure that appeals to undergraduates is the employment opportunities a degree opens for them. It is also a measure that interests the qualitycrats with the draft Higher Education Standards Framework requiring providers to present course learning outcomes, which can include employment skills. So good on Beverley Oliver from Deakin U for using an Office of Learning and Teaching fellowship to examine how universities can demonstrate their courses cover the generic skills needed to succeed at work and set out meaningful grad employment outcomes.

No that this will be easy. One major, among many, challenge she points to is getting staff to understand what defining and implementing outcomes involves. “Creating, finessing and implementing course learning outcomes and standards is a slow, iterative and never-ending process, subject to many influences including the government and regulatory policy, professional bodies and discipline standards, institutional strategic agendas and processes, and faculty and school operations. Encouraging staff to teach and coach each other through the process enables more rapid uptake, and better practice in the context of the discipline,” Professor Oliver argues.

However not everybody is keen on the whole idea; “employability is used increasingly in higher education discourse, but it is not as yet universally accepted by teaching staff.” Understandably so in disciplines without defined vocational pathways; “staff leading and teaching courses that are less clearly defined in terms of graduate employment (general arts, business, sciences) still face challenges in making a clear link with employability,” she writes.

Week of the week

It’s Adult Learners Week, “celebrating lifelong learning for everyone.” The first CMM heard of it was Victorian Training Minister Steve Herbert announcing yesterday local centres help 50 000 people a year learn. The week of this and that is a great way for governments to demonstrate commitment to a cause without actually doing anything

ANU June 2

The whole student experience 

Labor higher education spokesman Kim Carr was fuming yesterday over the Four Corners Report on workplace exploitation of international students. What, the senator asked are the Fair Work Ombudsman and Overseas Student Ombudsman doing, or rather, not? And is there no oversight from the Education Department. Good questions. To which CMM suspects Senator Carr may be asking for answers in the next round of Estimates and woe betide any official who suggests helping exploited international students is not their department.

Quite right too. No Australian institution can assume it has a lock on the international market, which has ample alternatives to Australia and bad news sticks. Remember the Indian media coverage of a string of assaults of students a few years back? If students fear for their safety, believe they are exploited at work and are unhappy with their accommodation word will get around at home.

Nothing to drink to

“Thinking about being in a clinical trial?” the National Health and Medical Research Council asked yesterday. If this sounds like your idea of fun the NHMRC points to a searchable site of all Australian trials that are recruiting. CMM thought he could serve humanity by joining a trial investigating the therapeutic effects of scotch – but, and I know you will all find this hard to believe, no one is researching its benefits.

Change agent of the day

Steve Chapman is not a bloke who mucks around. Just four or so months into the job as VC at Edith Cowan University he is well underway in putting in place the structures and people he wants. A new organisational plan is due this month, he is spending-up on 20 research chairs and yesterday ECU announced a new DVC International, Simon Ridings who returns to Perth (he is ex Curtin U) from a term as DVC Global – no less! at the University of Canberra. Professor Ridings replaces Ron Oliver who after three years acting in the international portfolio can now focus on his day job as DVC Teaching and Learning.

criterion update

CRCs’ smart sell

Despite cuts in successive budgets the Cooperative Research Centres programme is now in favour with the feds who are keen on the applied research CRCs do. And to ensure things stay that way the centres’ astute association has announced the title for its conference next year, which includes the two words ministers use most when talking research, “About the Business of Innovation.” It’s on next March in Brisbane and details are here. The conference leads into the World Science Festival which will occur somewhere other than New York for the first time. Gotham, Brizvegas, hard to tell them apart really.

ACPET unrehearsed

Rodd Camm came on stage at the Australian Council for Private Education and Training as tragedy was descending into farce, with his members copping rotten reviews due to bit players caught out providing low quality courses and collecting government fees under false pretences. But Mr Camm has done his best to turn the show around, with centre stage speeches that admit the industry’s problems and make it plain that he intends to fix them by getting rid of shonks and making the case for a quality competitor for TAFE. And now he has announced two new measures to make his case.

The first is a roundtable to give his members a chance to make their case or shut up. “It’s time for the leaders in our industry to come together and not only ask the hard questions, but to provide the answers,” he says.

The second is a summit on contestable training funding; “what works and what doesn’t? What more should governments be doing in designing and managing contestable training markets so that we don’t see perverse outcomes repeating themselves?”

This is all high-risk, the TAFE lobby is ready to hoot the show off stage but Mr Camm obviously understands that its curtains for his industry if he can not demonstrate it has a credible script. And the early reviews are good – VETerans are starting to suggest that Mr Camm is his industry’s last best hope. Yesterday Labor training shadow minister Sharon Bird, a strong supporter of TAFE, provided him with not a rave but certainly positive review. “I have met with a number of private providers who have suffered because of shonky operators in the sector and Mr Camm has detailed his commitment to helping to clean up the sector. I think this is a positive step forward and I welcome ACPET’s proposal to hold a roundtable summit” Ms Bird said.

Brave Birmo

No one will ever accuse Training Minister Simon Birmingham of not being game to have a go, suggesting at Federation University yesterday there is a case for the Commonwealth taking over training. “I think it could simplify arrangements for major employers who operate across states, for training organisations who operate across states, for universities like Federation University here who are dual sector providers in both higher education and vocational education and would benefit from a more simple national approach to managing all areas of post-school learning rather than the current divided approach between the federal government managing universities and the state governments managing vocational education.” CMM wonders if this would make life any easier for the government – having to deal with the premiers can’t be fun, having to argue with the peak national education unions on the national stage would be worse.