|ANU Multimedia Studio|
Wednesday, September 20, 2023
Monday, September 18, 2023
“We are the only country in the world crazy enough to prop up our sovereign research capability with international funds. It produces huge distortions and vulnerabilities in our higher education system."
Sunday, September 17, 2023
|In Clamperdown Park, for the |
Tech Central Sydney consultation.
Tom Worthington CC-BY 2023
I went along today to a consultation in Camperdown park, about the Camperdown Node. The collection of government lanyards, and branding, would rival an episode of ABC TV's Utopia. There was even someone from the Greater Cities Commission, successor to the Greater Sydney Commission. This is worryingly close to the "Even Greater Sydney Planning Committee", which was a comedy sketch on ABC Radio Sydney each Friday, by HG Nelson and James Valentine.
It was a little odd having planning staff of three agencies consulting the public about a high technology precinct. There was a map showing the area, but little in the way of detail of what was proposed, so not much to be consulted on. I was asked about my views, and couldn't resist asking the staff what they would like me to tell them about how to set up a high tech hub, as I had spent a few decades looking into this.
Building Arcadia: Emulating Cambridge's High Technology Success
Old Building and Egg Rolls
Innovating for Health at Your Fingertips
|Oximeter from RPA in Use, |
Tom Worthington CC-BY 2022
Wednesday, September 13, 2023
|Professor Sharon Friel|
The Internet provides a way to virtualize wealth, decoupling it from material goods. As an example, art has very little physical substance, as does money. Marketers can label the same physical goods so they have more value for some people. We can make the wealthy continue to feel wealthy without having so much "stuff". That should make them feel better, and save the planet.
In a series of talks around the region I pointed out how this is routinely done in the automotive industry, selling versions of essentially the same car as a budget and luxury product. This can also be done in education with the same degree offered online in a low cost, low carbon emissions version, and on campus for those who can afford it. Those willing to pay for the on-campus experience will feel better about it, but receive the same learning as the online student.
|Paul Girrawah House, welcome to country,|
|ANU Vice Chancellor, Brian Schmidt|
Friday, September 8, 2023
The Australian Crisis Simulation Summit at the Australian National University has wrapped up after a successful week's hard work. One reason I volunteered to mentor, was to see how this was done. I have done some training at Australian Staff College, back in the days when bits of paper were used, and wanted to see how teaching in this area has evolved. Some of these techniques might be used for computer students.
What was most striking about the ACSS, was the use of video conferencing for a hybrid mode. Base of operations was in Canberra, but with groups of students, and some presenters, distributed around Australia, and a couple of US universities. This format fitted well with the subject matter. The students at each remote site were playing the role of a government agency crisis team. In reality, each team would be communicating with their counterparts electronically. Those in the main venue were in separate rooms, and also used electronic means to communicate.
Conducttr crisis simulation software was used for the simulated news items, and social media. Zoom was used for 24 hour news service. Microsoft Teams was used for team to team video. Google dos was used for group document preparation. It might be worth considering the use of a tool such as Slack, which could incorporate all these functions. However, the use of the tools which are used in the real workplace is worthwhile.
It might be interesting to include specialist technical students in the simulations. This one features cyber security, satellites, submarines and other defence related technology. One of the problems experienced in a real crisis is to quickly get usable, understandable, relevant advice from experts. It would be useful to have teams of law, computer, and engineering students practicing providing time critical advice.
A professional media company, Shoelace Creative, was brought in to produce live TV news for the simulations, using a student with media experience as the interviewer. For smaller scale events, this might be replaced with an AI newsreader.
A difficult question is if such simulations could be incorporated into the curriculum. This requires assessment. There is a risk that assessing the simulation would take the fun out of it for the students, and the external mentors. I suggest this could be handled in a similar way to internships: documents generated as part of the process are used for group assessment, plus an individual personal reflection. Rubrics can be used to reduce the burden of assessment for staff.
Some VR and AR might make the simulations more realistic. One gimmick demonstrated at EduTech 2023 Australia recently was a hologram-like booth, which showed a remote presenter. A simpler form of this could be done by positioning a conventional flat screen behind a podium, so the presenter appears to be standing there.
Thursday, September 7, 2023
|ACSS Domestic Briefing, |
in the ANU Moot Court.
Photo by Tom Worthington CC-BY 2023
|ANU Moot Court tea urn & banana, |
Photo by Tom Worthington CC-BY 2023
Today is "domestic" with a focus on crisis in Australia, rather than the region. Ominously, the head game-master quoted General Dwight D. Eisenhower's Order of the Day (1944) "You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. ...". Amidst this drama I noticed the ANU's Moot Court was equipped with a tea urn, and a banana. ;-)More drama occurred at the start of the domestic simulation, with a system glitch. This required the team to reschedule, and also was a useful learning experience of what happens when you depend on a computer based system.
Tuesday, September 5, 2023
Greetings from the Australian Crisis Simulation Summit at in the Moot Court at the Australian National University in Canberra. A scripted simulated cyber attack has just happened, and the pretend company representative is being interviewed on the fictional SBC (Summit Broadcasting Corporation). I thought the student playing the role was putting on a fake american accent, but it turns out they are in a team at a US university. Earlier in the day I was interviewed. The fake news channel is being provided by Shoelace Creative, with one of the studnts providing the news anchor.
James Weatherman interviewing
Tom Worthington on SBC. CC-BY
This infrastructure takes a lot of work. A lower effort way to do this would be with a synthetic newsreader, working from a prepared script.
|Briefing in the ANU Moot Court. |
Tom Worthington CC-BY 2023
The Moot Court turns out to be ideally suited to running such an exercise. The main room, which is set up like a mock courtroom is used for briefings, which are sent out via Zoom. The setup resembles the sort of government briefing rooms used for real briefings. The room has a folding wall which has been deployed, so one crisis team can work in half the room. Outside is an area used for breaks. Opposite are two small Harvard style tutorial rooms, being used for smaller mentor briefings, and team work. There is a glass walled kitchen at one side of the tutorial rooms, which the student team is using as their HQ. This way they can look out to see what is happening.
The students are wearing black lanyards resembling those worn by public servants, adding to the authenticity. Some have earpieces and walkie-talkies, looking very James Bond. ;-)
ps: It easy to dismiss the simulation as just a training exercise, and the students as just students. But some of the students work in major government security agencies, and the mentors have experience in various government roles. The scenarios they have prepared are disturbingly close to current regional and world events. At the outbreak of the Falklands War the UK Royal Marines were conducting Mountain and Arctic Warfare training. The class and trainers were sent to the Falklands to put the training into immediate practice. Hopefully a crisis in the region will not require the ACSS participants to do the same.
Thursday, August 31, 2023
Professor Brian Schmidt, Vice Chancellor of the ANU, is reported as suggesting private for-profit colleges will take over educating new professionals. This would leave universities free to research, & educate advanced students, the VC envisaged. However, I suggest specialist colleges, associated with public universities, and TAFE, could provide undergraduate education just as efficiently as the private sector, and should be allowed to do so.
Even a research-intensive university can accommodate undergraduate students. Twenty years ago, I accepted an invitation to be a visiting fellow at one of our universities. I had expected to be conducting research, but within five minutes of sitting down in my new office, I was asked to give "some lectures". This started two decades investigating how to provide professional education, linking universities, vocational education, and industry. I now help a team of researchers, professionals from different disciplines, educators, and people from industry, to provide work-integrated learning to undergraduates, and post-graduates. For my MEd, I investigated how to do this for a mix of domestic and international students, in a classroom, in the workplace, and online. Fortunately, my investigations uncovered the need to prepare to teach online in an emergency, which kept students from campus, and proved useful when COVID-19 struck.
As I wrote in my submission to the Higher Education Review, Australian universities should continue to be funded to focus on educating professionals, and conducting applied research for industry, while supported by fundamental research. A wholesale de-Dawkinsation and privatization of higher education is not needed, and I suggest not in the public interest.
There is a role for specialist educational institutions with expertise in teaching, rather than research. But, despite the views put to government by private sector lobbyists these don't have to be exclusively, or primarily, private for-profit institutions. Professor Schmidt, mentioned on of the lobbyists, former minister Christopher Pyne. Alongside private colleges, Australia's universities could expand the specialist teaching arms they already have, and our major TAFEs can grow into the role. Also, the dual sector institutions, which are both universities and vocational, can do more.
Only a very few students need a research-intensive education. Even fewer need such education at the undergraduate level. Most students are destined for industry, education, or government work. They need to know, in general terms, what research is, but more so they need deep technical knowledge of their field, and broad people and project skills. This is not a new requirement, and Australia's universities were founded to turn out working professionals.
There is a myth that there was a golden age when Australian universities were well-funded to produce pure research, with students whose only aim was to explore new knowledge. However Australian governments established universities to produce working professionals and do research to support the economy. The golden age of Australian universities was more about engineering facilities funded by mining companies needing staff, and better ways to dig up stuff, than fundamental research.
In the Dawkins Revolution of the 1990s, specialist teaching colleges in Australia were merged into universities. To remain accredited, the new university could not specialize in teaching in one field but was required to also conduct research in multiple disciplines. The new universities adapted, by conducting both research and teaching. The for-profit Torrens University was able to be accommodated in this system.
It is a fallacy to suggest that having a generalist university results in high costs, or that in some way academic freedom is expensive. Also, it is untrue that online delivery results in poorer educational outcomes, or that for-profit companies naturally produce better outcomes for students.
Recent experience of expanding funding for vocational education shows what can go wrong. Private for-profit vocational education providers were allowed to accept government funding, with insufficient regulation, resulting in billions of dollars wasted, through poor quality training delivery, and in some cases outright fraud.
Rather than a new education revolution, Australia could have an evolution, with existing universities allowed to establish specialist teaching institutions. Australia already permits for-profit universities, and there could be a mix of not, and for profit, under the one, tight, regulatory framework.
Tuesday, August 29, 2023
|Barrie & Worthington |
in ACSS Control Room, CC-BY 29/8/2023
The game-masters are using Conducttr crisis simulation software, coordinating the release of made up news reports, and social media posts about a fictional future crisis. While all the teams participating share the same simulated world view, they have different scenarios to respond to. These involve cyber and kinetic (stuff blowing up) attacks, and the participants need to work out what to do. There are then scripted events to keep the participants busy.
I have the role of a mentor, pro diving advice to the game-masters and participants. This is a new experience. I have participated in a paper based version of a simulation at what is now Australian War College (AWC), but on a much smaller scale. Next to me providing advice is the patron for the ACSS, Professor/Admiral Chris Barrie.
The scenarios the students have prepared are set about a decade in the future. Even so they reflect current events, to the extent when someone mentioned a Chinese submarine may be missing, I had to ask "Is this real world or exercise?".
I am mentoring, for ACSS, using my experience from working at DoD. But also I would like to see how such exercises can be incorporated as part of student's formal learning and assessment. I talked about "Projects & internships for student employability" at EduTECH, Australia last week. Simulations can provide a form of quicker, work relevant learning.
Friday, August 25, 2023
|David Kellermann from UNSW|
Thursday, August 24, 2023
|EduTech 2023 Australia Plenary|
Wednesday, August 23, 2023
Monday, August 14, 2023
|ANU Hive in action|
Saturday, August 12, 2023
The authors suggest that "Connections are everything" is good advice for new students. If that is the case, why don;t introductory courses devote more time to making connections? Perhaps the reason is that the experience of today's students differs from that of their professors. University marketing shows happy carefree studnts sitting around chatting in a leafy environment. Perhaps that was the case in the professor's day, but today's student is more likely to be rushing from their job to the classroom, then out to pick up their children.
The Conversation article accompanies the publication of a book by many of the same authors (Felten, Lambert, Artze-Vega, and Tapia, 2023). Whhile titled "Connections Are Everything: A College Student's Guide to Relationship-Rich Education", I couldn't help thinking a better tile would be "Education for the Rich: Time to Make Connections to Stay Rich". That may sound harsh, but the advice given will be hard for a low SES student from a disadvantaged background to follow:
1. Talk to a professor
If there is a professor for 200 , or more students, exactly when and how long do you talk to them for? As a student if you focus is on passing, as quickly as possible, any interaction with staff has to focus on that. You need exemptions, and extensions. There is no time for an idle chat.
2. Make a friend in class
University is a lonely, frightening experience, and not just for young undergraduates. As a graduate student I had a decade of experience teaching at a university, and was an adult, but even so the old nightmares about assessment returned, and I found I had little in common with the rest of the class. What helped me was where there were class activities devoted to meeting other studnts, and group projects. But even so study was still a frightening, agonizingly lonely experience.
3. Use the resources that are there for you
Universities do have staff and resources to support student learning. But unless you are introduced to these in a course, and told to use them, students are unlikely to do so. As a student you are focused on studying enough to do the assessment. So the use of these resources have to be built into your assessed coursework to be useful. An example of this is the Techlauncher program at the ANU. Rather than suggest students go to see a career councilor before they graduate, the councilor are brought into the classroom to teach the students. In conjunction with the councilors, academic staff administer assessment which requires students to look at what they have learned, and possible futures. This empowers the time poor student to do what would otherwise be an option extra-curricular activity, which they therefore would not do. I will be talking about this at EduTech 2023.
4. Participate in a ‘relationship accelerator’
Internships, undergraduate research, writing-intensive seminars, study abroad, and campus employment are all good, but only if they are for credit. If they are not compulsory, or provide credit to the student's degree, there is little point in providing them.
5. Connect with yourself
Imposter syndrome is a real thing at university. Telling students who feel anxious to talk to a professor will compound the problem, not solve it. Professors are not trained in student counselling, and likely to make the student more anxious, not less. The first step I suggest is to admit that study is a stress inducing experience, not the happy go lucky one depicted in university marketing. This is hard surprising as most of the staff the student interacts with are casual, or on short term contracts. The staff are constantly anxious about their jobs. What can be done is help students cope with the anxiety, or at least understand this is a normal part of the university experience.
Leo M. Lambert, Isis Artze-Vega, & Oscar Miranda Tapia. "Building relationships is key for first-year college students – here are 5 easy ways to meet new friends and mentors", The Conversation, August 11, 2023 10.37pm AES.
Felten, P., Lambert, L. M., Artze-Vega, I., & Tapia, O. R. M. (2023). Connections Are Everything: A College Student's Guide to Relationship-Rich Education. JHU Press.
Tuesday, August 8, 2023
|Nick Thieberger, |
University of Melbourne
Friday, August 4, 2023
The Australian Government has extended study funding of indigenous students to those in urban areas, as part of a package of changes in response to the Interim Report of the Australian Universities Accord inquiry. Professor Andrew Norton has asked if it will make much of a difference? I suggest funding for indigenous students will be beneficial, but only if there are courses, & services, for their needs. As Professor Norton points out, indigenous Year 12 completion rates are low, so bridging will be needed, but the Australian Government is not going to pay for them. I suggest that problem can be sidestepped, by building the needed training into the degree curriculum. This will help all students: urban, rural, indigenous, non-indigenous, domestic, and international.
Professor Norton points out that sub-bachelor programs were excluded from funding previously. But there is an easy workaround which universities use for other studnts, the Professor did not mention: tell the student to enroll in a Bachelor program, then exit early with a diploma (or now the option of a certificate). However, at present such a sub-degree program will likely be just the introductory units of the bachelors degree. What is needed are enabling courses on how to study, and communicate. Such courses would also be of use to non-indigenous, domestic and international students. Particularly in STEM programs, there is a tendency to do the hard science first, and leave the communication and teamwork skills to second and third year. I suggest reversing this for all students, teaching them how to work and learn at the start.
Building what are normally part of enabling courses into degree programs will go some way to solve funding programs. Professors will grumble that all this non-core stuff is at the expect of core subjects. But learning very technical content is of no use if the graduate can't communicate it, can't work in a team, or can't get to graduate because they don't know how to learn. As I have discussed previously in this Blog, these communication, teamwork, and leadership skills are key to the success of any professional.
Another way to support indigenous and other studnts is with online and mobile learning. Students learn best when in the community, not on a campus. Universities can provide all courses online, by default. This allows studnts to meet work and cultural commitments more easily, while studying.
The Australian Government has reacted remarkably quickly to the Interim Report of the Australian Universities Accord inquiry, with legislation: "Response to the Australian Universities Accord Interim Report) Bill 2023". This abolished the rule that said a student had to pass 50% of their courses to keep getting government funding. But Professor Andrew Norton has raised concern about the measures added to ensure universities help these at-risk students may be a burden. However, I suggest good course and assessment design can reduce the need to provide special help to students, & better target when needed. For example regular small assessment tasks can be used to identify students needing help, but with a flexible assessment scheme which doesn't penalize them. Also students can be routinely provided with an online option for their studies (failing to do that, I suggest may breach anti-discrimination law).
"Providers must have a support for students policy
(1) A higher education provider must have a policy (a support for students policy ) that deals with the support provided to the provider’s students to assist them to successfully complete the units of study in which they are enrolled.
(2) A higher education provider’s support for students policy must:
(a) include information on:
(i) the provider’s processes for identifying students that are at risk of not successfully completing their units of study; and
(ii) the supports available from or on behalf of the provider to assist students to successfully complete the units of study in which they are enrolled; and
(b) comply with any requirements specified in the Higher Education Provider Guidelines.
(3) Without limiting paragraph (2)(b), the requirements may relate to the following:
(a) requirements for the higher education provider’s support for students policy to include specified information;
(b) requirements about the presentation, format and availability of the policy.
Provider to comply with support for students policy
(4) A higher education provider must comply with its support for students policy.
Provider must report on compliance with support for students policy ..."
Offering help to studnts may be ineffective, if the studnts do not know it is available, don't know they are eligible for it, don't know they need it, or don't want to take it. As an example, it was only long after being a student I realized I fell into several of the disadvantaged categories. It would have never occurred to me to ask, or accept, help. I would have, and did, rather fail a course, than seek help. Later, with more maturity, I realized I could withdraw from a course before failing, but that was a very confronting, lonely experience.
The energy use of AI was discussed by Schwartz, Dodge, Smith, and Etzioni (2020). The authors noted that Amazon AWS was 50% powered by renewable energy. Perhaps Australia could become an exporter of renewable energy embedded in Green AI models.In 2017 my colleagues at ANU initiated a project to cover large areas of northern Australia with solar panels, and export the energy. The university invested $10m in research, and some of it is now being commercialized.
Options investigated included a cable to Singapore, & synthetic fuel in tankers. But an alternative was "Green Steel". The energy would be used to refine iron ore in Australia. The embedded energy would, in effect, be exported in the steel. The steel is much easier to ship than electrons, hydrogen, or ammonia. The same thing might be done with AI.
The world would send AI requests to Australia. These would be forwarded
to data-centers located at high capacity grid connections to solar and wind farms. AI models would be trained using the renewable energy, making an "AI battery", with the embedded energy stored in the models.
Thursday, August 3, 2023
Greetings from the ANU Disaster Solutions Update 2023 at the Australian National University. This event from the ANU INSTITUTE FOR CLIMATE, ENERGY & DISASTER SOLUTIONS is a bit like a disaster move. The part where the scientists calmly tell the decision makers about all the terrible things which are going to happen, which can't be prevented due to previous inaction, just mitigated. We can take measures to lessen the impact of fires, floods, and storms, but we can't stop them increasing in frequency, and intensity.
ANU is also offering a Disaster Solutions Professional Short Course, 16 August.
Wednesday, August 2, 2023
Greetings from First Wednesday Connect in Building K at Canberra Institute of Technology. Normally this is at Canberra Innovation Network's office and I went there finding only two confused students. We found the event at the other side of the city, after a quick number 3 bus ride. We are here to celebrate approval of UNSW's new campus and new CIT courses.
The catering for this event was excellent, as Building K is the CIT Hospitality and Culinary School. ;-)
The CSIRO has identified a "triangle super-cluster" of innovation in Canberra (CSIRO, p. 35, 2023). The points of the triangle are Belconnen, Phillip and Canberra Airport, with Civic is the center. Previously in 2015, I identified a much more concentrated "Canberra Start-up Business Boomerang", on the eastern edge of the Australian National University campus.
The report argues that co-location is important, citing Silicon Valley, and Cambridge UK.
"The Canberra triangle super-cluster is the workplace for 19,362 workers in digital occupations representing 3.3% of the national digital workforce. We estimate it contains the headquarters of 2 digital technology companies listed on the ASX with a combined market capitalisation of $60.14 million as of January 2023."
However, the Australian examples are much less concentrated, than the USA, or UK. Segal Quince & Partners (1985) explored in detail the way the concentration of startups around Cambridge University came about. That approach has been applied in Canberra.
ReferenceSegal (1985) The Cambridge phenomenon : the growth of high technology industry in a university town, Segal Quince & Partners, Hall Keeper's House, 42 Castle Street, Cambridge CB3 0AJ, England, 1985, ISBN 095102020X (copy in ANU HANCOCK Library, & summary available)
CSIRO and the Tech Council of Australia, The geography of Australia’s digital industries: Digital technology industry clusters in Australia’s capital cities and regions. 3 Jul 2023. https://www.csiro.au/-/media/D61/Tech-Council-digital-industries-report/23-00311_DATA61_REPORT_DIGProject_WEB_230703.pdf
A few minutes ago, the Australian National University advertised on LinkedIn for a "Manager, Academic Competencies & Digital Capabilities". The job is in the university library, but libraries are not what they used to be, teaching students (and staff) how to use digital technology both to find, and create, information.
Sunday, July 30, 2023
"This study has shown that students have become comfortable engaging with these online materials, and that access to these materials has impacted their decisions to attend class due to tangible benefits such as time savings and convenience. It would appear that these expectations and factors are unlikely to change – indeed, this is likely the new normal." (Cooper, & Cardenas-Vasquez, p. 9, 2023)
However, I don't agree with the researcher's suggestion that an attendance policy be used. The problem is that the paper details why students don't attend, but then frames non-attendance as if it was a problem to be solved, rather than a good thing for students. I suggest online learning as the new normal, except where there is a need to attend in person to meet learning objectives. Most studnts will be graduating into a blended workplace, so it makes sense to teach them in one. Failing students who can't attend class must only be done where there is a very good reason.
Cochrane, T., Birt, J., Cowie, N., Deneen, C., Goldacre, P., Narayan, V., ... & Worthington, T. (2020). A collaborative design model to support hybrid learning environments during COVID-19. ASCILITE Publications, 84-89. http://publications.ascilite.org/index.php/APUB/article/view/412
Cooper, M., & Cardenas-Vasquez, E. D. (2023, June). Is Poor Classroom Attendance a Virtual-Learning Hangover or the New Normal? A Qualitative Study. In 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition. https://peer.asee.org/is-poor-classroom-attendance-a-virtual-learning-hangover-or-the-new-normal-a-qualitative-study
Friday, July 28, 2023
Accord Interim Report
The report argues that "... too few Australians are going to university". In support of this it cites research saying 50% to 55% of jobs in the next few decades will require a degree or other higher education qualifications. However about 40% of the workforce already have a degree, so this only needs an increase of about 10%. Meanwhile only about 30% of the workforce have a vocational qualification, so I suggest that is were the main effort needs to go.
Priority Action 1: More RUCs
"Extend visible, local access to tertiary education by creating further Regional University Centres (RUCs) and establish a similar concept for suburban/metropolitan locations."
As the report notes RUCs, essentially small university shopfronts, have been successful. What is not mentioned is how these can complement online learning. Online studnts feel isolated, and this can be overcome with a local facility.
This is a recommendation which will be politically palatable, being something tangible, and which a politician can cut a ribbon on.
Priority Action 2: Drop 50% pass rule
"Cease the 50% pass rule, given its poor equity impacts, and require increased reporting on student progress."
This change has already been accepted by government. However, a
Introduced as part of the JRG package, the 50% pass rule disproportionately disadvantages students from equity backgrounds. Enhanced reporting on student progress will increase the focus on improving the success rates of at-risk students. While the Review believes other aspects of the JRG package need reform, this change should proceed at the first possible opportunity.
Priority Action 3: Funded places for all indigenous students
"Ensure that all First Nations students are eligible for a funded place at university, by extending demand driven funding to metropolitan First Nations students."
This is a relatively easy and low cost recommendation for government to implement. There should be a higher take-up rate from metropolitan areas, simply because access to university is easier. However, that leaves many impediments in place. Also I suggest the measure apply to Vocational Education.
Priority Action 4: Extend HE Continuity Guarantee to 2025
"Provide funding certainty, through the extension of the Higher Education Continuity Guarantee into 2024 and 2025 ..."
How long can the can be kicked down the read without rethinking these measures?
Priority Action 5: Improve university governance
"Through National Cabinet, immediately engage with state and territory governments and universities to improve university governance ..."
State and national government are hardly in a position to provide an example of good government, given recent scandals. These include Robodebt, involving illegal demands for payment causing deaths, and the cancellation of the Commonwealth Games, due to a multi-billion dollar cost blowout. Universities have had their own scandals, but are these due to a systemic problem? Who are the people with "expertise in the business of universities" who would join governing bodies? Few academics have qualifications in education. I have a MEd in digital education, and would be happy to be on a few boards. ;-)
Part 2: Areas for further consideration
A. Putting First Nations at the heart of Australia’s higher education system
Placing First Nations at the heart of Australian universities would require first removing the discrimination which prevents indigenous studnts enrolling, and graduating
C. Meeting Australia’s future skills needs
I suggest that Australian governments first look to the vocational sector for vocational education, then to universities to supplement that. This requires a transfer of funding from universities to the TAFE system. This also requires incentives for university to train some staff in vocational education techniques. At present proposals such as a national skills passport is not feasible, as university academics lack the skills needed to implement it.
D. Equity in participation, access and opportunity
While well meaning, talk of "encouraging students from underrepresented groups to aspire to higher education and fulfil their potential" is insulting and misses the point. A student from a group barred access to opportunity doesn't lack aspiration, they just know they will be denied a fair chance. That said, there are some easy changes which can be made. The first and simplest way is to provide online access to learning.
E. Excellence in learning, teaching and student experience
It is unfortunate the Review is perpetuating the myth that online learning started with COVID-19. Millions of studnts had studied and graduated online, in the decades before then. Detailed studies had been undertaken to show that students did at lest as well in this environment. The impediment to advancement is a business and marking model for universities to function this way.
G. Serving our communities
Universities play a role in communities, however these should not distract from the university's primary missions of conducting education, and research. If those can have local connection, all to the good, but universities should not be positioned as a form of political pork-barreling.
H. Research, innovation and research training
Australia’s university research is subsidized by international student fees. These have proved remarkably stable, but can't be guaranteed. But this is outside the remit of the Higher Education Whisperer, and I will leave it to the Research Whisperer. ;-)
B. Strengthening institutional governance
University governance might be strengthened by increasing democracy. As an example, a majority of places on university councils, and departmental committees for elected students and staff.
C. Sustainable funding and financing
The Reviews assertion that "The success of the Australian higher education system relies on a secure, predictable, enduring and sustainable funding system" shows a lack of understanding of the real world. Organisations need to be able to survive despite insecure, unpredictable, funding. Australia's universities have had a relatively stable supply of grants from government, and fees from students. Deteriorating geo-political conditions could see this situation worsen. Universities need to ensure they can operate in less certain financial conditions. As an example, in 2016 I suggested universities be ready to teach online in an emergency, if international studnts could not get to Australia due to a regional emergency. COVID-19 gave a small taste of what such an emergency might be like, but it could be much fater, and more severe, next time.