Wednesday 5 February 2014
Universities should sell and lease back their campuses and physical assets to fund investment in other higher education projects, according to the chair of the government’s Education Investment Fund (EIF) Advisory Board, Philip Clark. The Australian Financial Review analyses the benefits and risks of selling off assets, noting the close association of physical assets with universities’ brand recognition but highlighting that increasing online and blended modes of delivery may shift this brand association to virtual assets such as websites. In other infrastructure investment news, the Australian reports that the EIF Advisory Board is not permitted to spend any of the interest generated from the fund on new projects, with investment earnings "owned" by the Federal Department of Finance rather than the Department of Education. This restriction is highlighted as a key reason for the lack of any new funding rounds, despite the fund still containing around $3 billion.
- http://www.afr.com/p/national/education/universities_no_longer_need_to_own_C5RTxWU66I0GiXmajeAXWJ [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/eif-nest-egg-not-genuine-savings-says-board/story-e6frgcjx-1226817912265 [paywall]
New government data shows demand for undergraduate places softening, particularly for non-school leavers and students from rural and regional areas. While overall demand dropped 1.1% for the 2014 academic year, non-school leaver applications dropped 4%, with rural and regional applications dropping by 2%. However, Indigenous applications soared by 10.8%, and applications from low SES students only slipped slightly by 0.4%. With the report on the review of the demand-driven system yet to be released, universities, employers and vocational providers continue to weigh in on the system’s merits, with the National Tertiary Education Union releasing new figures today showing that casual employment had increased by 17% in 2013. The NTEU attributes this rise in casualisation – the largest since 2010 – to the increase in student numbers caused by the demand-driven system, although Universities Australia has noted that budgetary pressure and changing labour force norms have also impacted casualisation in universities. Vocational providers, including the North Melbourne Institute of TAFE, have proposed that university fees more than double and non-university fees increase by more than $1000 to save the government $18.8 billion. UK academic and education commentator Frank Furedi has labelled the demand-driven system as a "pointless exercise in credentialism" and "social engineering", citing the lack of cultural valuation for technical training and education as a key contributor.
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/demand-for-undergraduate-places-in-decline-indigenous-applications-up/story-e6frgcjx-1226815164255 [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/demand-drives-increase-in-casual-staff-at-universities/story-e6frgcjx-1226817950347 [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/more-uni-places-pointless/story-e6frgcjx-1226814211698 [paywall]
The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership is tightening up requirements for practical placements in early childhood education degrees, with some universities caught by the increase in the number of days required for registration. The Australian highlights that international students have been hit by the change at RMIT, with graduating students at risk of having to undertake further study to be eligible for migration or temporary work visas. The Victorian Government’s plans to enhance teaching quality through expanding its teacher training academies, which partner clusters of schools with universities to cooperate on improving in-school training, have come under fire from teaching experts, who have warned that proposed funding is inadequate.
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/rule-change-trips-up-schools/story-e6frgcjx-1226817905973 [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/teacher-training-model-cant-be-done-on-the-cheap/story-e6frgcjx-1226815207833 [paywall]
The Australian Doctor magazine reports that a new study shows that the intake of female students into the University of Queensland’s prestigious medical degree has dropped from nearly half to just 26% since the scrapping of interviews. The research, led by the school’s former dean, has highlighted significant gender bias favouring males in the GAMSAT test, which had in the past been moderated by the interviews, in which female students tended to perform better. The school is considering reinstating the interviews. In other admissions news, UTS’s alternative entry provider INSEARCH has scrapped the ATAR as a measure for entry into its programs, changing its entry procedures to take students based on average subject scores from their 4 top subjects in the NSW higher school certificate.
- http://www.australiandoctor.com.au/news/latest-news/female-intake-collapses-at-top-med-school#.UvB-AvfqtFE.twitter [no paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/pathway-college-rejects-atar/story-e6frgcjx-1226816895691 [paywall]
Victoria University will trial its own research impact assessment tool, regardless of whether the federal government adopts a measure of research impact to complement the quality audit Excellence in Research for Australia. Victoria University’s tool will involve independent interviewers gathering feedback from industry, community groups and/or government on the impact – including future impact – of VU research projects, and will assess programs rather than individual researchers. In other industry and innovation news, the head of the Cooperative Research Centres Association, Tony Peacock, has argued that academic promotion practices need to be changed to encourage greater links with industry and drive innovation, stating that current indices for academic promotion, including publications and citations, are "essentially anti-industry". Former University of Tasmania VC Daryl Le Grew has also argued that government and business need to invest more in innovation and industry-focused doctoral training to ensure Australia remains competitive. Industry links are also a hot topic in the UK, with Durham University’s Tom McLeish highlighting that strong engagement from universities is undermined by low levels of investment from business in research and development.
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/victoria-uni-to-trial-own-research-impact-assessment-tool/story-e6frgcjx-1226817883238 [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/industry-link-is-vital-to-boost-discovery/story-e6frgcjx-1226817923136 [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/lesson-innovation-leads-to-wealth/story-e6frgcjx-1226817883167 [paywall]
- http://theconversation.com/business-drops-the-baton-in-higher-ed-innovation-22067 [no paywall]
A further four languages – Chinese, Japanese, Hindi and Korean – have been added to the government’s strategic languages list, meaning that universities wishing to close down programs in these languages will require Commonwealth approval. The addition reflects the internationalisation priorities highlighted in the New Colombo Plan and the previous government’s Australia in the Asian Century White Paper. In other international news, Deakin University’s Barry Cooper has suggested Australian universities offer international students a currency hedging scheme to protect them against fluctuations in tuition costs associated with changes to the Australian dollar. Cooper also suggests that universities redirect some funding from international revenues to rebate schemes designed to help reduce cost-of-living expenses for international students.
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/funding-tied-to-four-new-languages/story-e6frgcjx-1226817929778 [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/twinning-way-forward-for-unis/story-e6frgcjx-1226817874767 [paywall]
In appointments news, University of New England VC Jim Barber has announced that he is leaving the institution in mid-2014 to return to Melbourne, less than halfway into his second five-year term. Macquarie University’s Judyth Sachs has also announced her resignation from the high-profile role of Provost, and will not return from her current sabbatical. At the University of Western Australia, current Chief Financial Officer Gaye McMath has been appointed as the University’s Chief Operating Officer.
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/jim-barber-to-step-down-early-as-vicechancellor-of-une/story-e6frgcjx-1226815113317 [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/macquarie-provost-departs-under-a-cloud/story-e6frgcjx-1226815195307 [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/appointments/gaye-mcmath-new-coo-at-university-of-western-australia/story-e6frgckf-1226812165340 [paywall]