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Analysis and Comment (264)

Working out what’s going on isn’t as easy as it looks. Working out what’s going on isn’t as easy as it looks. Social worker by Shutterstock

Social workers should be paid and trained like doctors

Social workers deal with messy, complex and ambiguous situations where off-the-peg solutions are often irrelevant. Take a mother who wants to feed a hungry baby, but her fridge is empty because she can’t…
Access denied, for some higher education colleges. Access denied, for some higher education colleges. UK passport via xdrew/Shutterstock

Cost of student visa clampdown weighs heavily on colleges

The British government’s recent decision to suspend the licences of one university and 57 private further education colleges to sponsor international students has generated shockwaves across the sector…
Nobel Laureate Professor Joseph Stiglitz says Australia should make sure its international “brand name” is for its high-quality services. Nobel Laureate Professor Joseph Stiglitz says Australia should make sure its international “brand name” is for its high-quality services. EPA/Arne Dedert

Audio Q&A: Professor Joseph Stiglitz on inequality, rent-seeking and Australia’s ‘brand name’

Nobel Laureate and renowned economist Professor Joseph Stiglitz has been packing out lecture theatres in Australia in the past week. During his whirlwind tour, he’s talked about why inequality matters…
Happy at the end - but what about on the way through? Happy at the end - but what about on the way through? pigeonpie

Tick-box surveys aren’t the only way to measure student satisfaction

It’s come as a surprise to many in higher education: students are increasingly satisfied with their experience of English university. A new report published by the Higher Education Funding Council for…
We’re not planning to miss out. We’re not planning to miss out. ISCTE - Instituto Universitário de Lisboa

UK students trailing EU peers on take up of Erasmus exchanges

The Erasmus+ programme, which aims to boost the number of students and staff studying and working abroad across the European Union, started on January 1 2014. It will provide €14bn to 33 countries over…
Should lectures come with a warning label that they may cause drowsiness and hinder learning? Should lectures come with a warning label that they may cause drowsiness and hinder learning? Shutterstock

Are lectures a good way to learn?

Imagine a future where university enrolment paperwork is accompanied by the statement: Warning: lectures may stunt your academic performance and increase risk of failure. Researchers from the United States…
Oxford’s dons need to get ready for some new thinking. Oxford’s dons need to get ready for some new thinking. lukecanvin

After the financial crisis, we need a new way to teach PPE

When it comes to debating the rights and wrongs of public policies, economists have always held a privileged position. While citizens and less respected social scientists must strive to get their voices…
One more coffee, then we’ll get our £1m idea. One more coffee, then we’ll get our £1m idea. jisc_infonet

Why universities are the best places to start a business

Creative ideas and how we turn them into successful business ventures and social enterprises are vital to the UK’s global competitiveness. But how do we best support this? Of course there are many different…
Australia’s education system is comparing well internationally, but has the potential to do better. Australia’s education system is comparing well internationally, but has the potential to do better. AAP

The state of Australia: education

In the lead-up to the budget, the story of crisis has been hammered home, but there’s more to a country than its structural deficit. So how is Australia doing overall? In this special series, ten writers…
If not, you may be left out. If not, you may be left out. woaiss/Shutterstock

Lessons taught in English are reshaping the global classroom

Universities and schools across the globe are offering an increasing number of courses taught in English. Parents and politicians alike are pushing for this change as English is considered a worldwide…
The distinction between public and private universities isn’t always black and white; should the government just fund everyone? The distinction between public and private universities isn’t always black and white; should the government just fund everyone? Shutterstock

Should universities fear non-university providers?

The release of the Review of the Demand Driven Funding System by David Kemp and Andrew Norton has triggered significant interest in non-university higher education providers. The review recommended that…
Do we know where to find the most credible information in an age of digital literacy? Do we know where to find the most credible information in an age of digital literacy? Shutterstock

Navigating the online information maze: should students trust Wikipedia?

Being literate used to be about knowing how to read. In the 21st century it also means knowing how to negotiate through the torrent of information coming at you from all directions. Information Fatigue…
Kashmiris protest against the arrest of 67 students for supporting Pakistan at cricket. Kashmiris protest against the arrest of 67 students for supporting Pakistan at cricket. Farooq Khan/EPA

Expelling Kashmiri students for supporting Pakistan at cricket won’t help them feel Indian

The seven million people living in the Kashmir Valley have a distinctive regional identity. Now the Valley’s continuing estrangement from the rest of India has sparked a peculiar incident on the campus…
Turkey erupts in protest at the death of a 15-year-old boy. Turkey erupts in protest at the death of a 15-year-old boy. Depo photos/EPA

Turkish students and academics treated as state’s enemy within

Demonstrations have broken out across Turkey following the death of Berkin Elvan, a 15-year-old boy, who fell into a coma during last summer’s Gezi park protests after he was struck in the head by a teargas…
If we want to open up the university campus further to a wider community,we could start with removing the physical barriers to people flows. If we want to open up the university campus further to a wider community,we could start with removing the physical barriers to people flows. www.shutterstock.com.au

Rethinking an inclusive university campus

With technology changing the landscape of higher education, The Conversation is running a series “Re-imagining the Campus” on the future of campus learning. Here, Tom Kvan explores how design should make…
Why aren’t there more black professors? Why aren’t there more black professors? bikeriderlondon/Shutterstock

There are fewer than 100 black professors in Britain – why?

It is a shocking statistic that there were just 85 black professors in UK universities in 2011-12. In stark terms, this means that there are more higher education institutions than there are black British…
Higher standards. Higher standards. shutterstock

Facing up to the C word – corruption in higher education

By definition, corruption is any type of deviation from an ideal. Ideals, as well as ideas, are core business for higher education. So when we fall short it matters. Reputation is becoming ever more important…
Four years after mass protests, dreams of going to uni are dropping. Four years after mass protests, dreams of going to uni are dropping. Tim Ireland/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Can we stop worrying about university application rates?

It was clear that recent fundamental changes to the way we pay for university in England would have longstanding ramifications for young people’s plans for their future. Two years into the new fee regime…
First-year university students too often feel alone and unsupported at their campus. First-year university students too often feel alone and unsupported at their campus. AAP/Julian Smith

Student success: why first year at uni is a make-or-break experience

Starting first year at university can be a daunting experience and a big adjustment for new students. Some adjust easily and thrive. As many as one third do not and think about leaving. If first year goes…
Lost in translation. Lost in translation. Gwenaël Piaser

We need to fall back in love with learning languages

The drop in applications to European language programmes at UK universities will not have come as a great shock to anybody teaching languages. For at least the past 15 years, the number of students applying…
Does my £9,000 get me a tablet? Does my £9,000 get me a tablet? BillyONeal

For £9,000, students expect their classes to go digital

Students in the UK are now paying annual fees of up to £9,000 – and they expect more for their money. This is a radical change from the situation a couple of decades ago when student grants provided the…
Academics may find they are increasingly able to use altmetrics in the place of traditional modes of tracking reach. Academics may find they are increasingly able to use altmetrics in the place of traditional modes of tracking reach. Shutterstock

Are universities turning into giant newsrooms?

Like many of my fellow journalism lecturers, I often get asked for tips on turning academic research into journalism pieces. These requests have been getting more frequent. It’s a compliment, but why is…
Laden with bad economics. Laden with bad economics. thisisbossi

Why the government shouldn’t privatise the student loan book

The announcement that the government intends to sell off part of the student loan book is perhaps no surprise, but it is bad economics. Debt from student loans is currently a groaning £46.6 billion on…
Jobs for the girls. Jobs for the girls. By Rhoda Baer, via Wikimedia Commons

Stopping the brain drain of women scientists

You can be forgiven for assuming that gender is not an issue any more in higher education. There are more young women entering universities than ever before and they are graduating each year in their hundreds…
A financially sustainable higher education sector is one that meets costs through a combination of user charges and government revenue. A financially sustainable higher education sector is one that meets costs through a combination of user charges and government revenue. AAP/Paul Miller

Our expanded higher education sector is delivering, but who should pay for it?

Late last year, education minister Christopher Pyne announced a review of Australia’s demand-driven system (DDS) of higher education. Pyne wants to know if it is: Increasing participation (particularly…
How many R&D teams does it take to fix a lightbulb? How many R&D teams does it take to fix a lightbulb? ed_needs_a_bicycle

Business drops the baton in higher ed innovation

There is a tired old mantra that periodically echoes along the corridors of Whitehall. It goes something like: “The UK is great at science but poor at turning it into innovation”. Yet since the Conservative…
Many Australian university students are not satisfied with the quality of the education they are receiving. Many Australian university students are not satisfied with the quality of the education they are receiving. Image from www.shutterstock.com

How can we prepare university students for the real world?

New students entering university this year will embark on a path that will require a great deal of emotional and financial investment. The pay-off they expect is not just the experience or entry-level…
Universities are increasing the number of academics who focus on teaching, not research. Universities are increasing the number of academics who focus on teaching, not research. Lecturer image from www.shutterstock.com

The rise of teaching-only academics: belated recognition or a slippery slope?

In 1988, then-federal education minister John Dawkins almost doubled the number of Australian universities. Dawkins did this by by merging colleges of advanced education and institutes of technology into…
There are now many sites that allow students to “review” their lecturers – but is this a good thing? There are now many sites that allow students to “review” their lecturers – but is this a good thing? shutterstock

Who’s afraid of ‘Rate your Professor’?

A number of years ago as a PhD student, I was told that you must “publish or perish”. The advice was clear: teaching should be secondary in any considerations. Instead, I should prioritise producing as…
We’ve all had good teachers… and bad ones. But how do you define quality teaching? We’ve all had good teachers… and bad ones. But how do you define quality teaching? Lecture image from www.shutterstock.com

What makes a good teacher?

Do you have a good university lecturer? What makes them good? Is it because they make their classes relevant? Are their lectures interesting or challenging? Or maybe they’re just fun to be around? Good…
No patience for mess. No patience for mess. ted_major

No room for sloppiness in online classroom

When your classroom is a global one, filled with well-informed online learners, they don’t cut you much slack. Hundreds of people pore over every element of your course, making well-informed and sometime…
Chalk and talk maths classes are not going to cut it for modern students. Chalk and talk maths classes are not going to cut it for modern students. Maths image from www.shutterstock.com

Who learns in maths classes depends on how maths is taught

Students who are ill-prepared in mathematics are entering university and creating challenges for mathematics departments. There are lots of ideas out there on what to do about this but little evidence…
There’s no one recipe for creating ‘innovation hubs’ but Australia can look to some of the success stories for answers. There’s no one recipe for creating ‘innovation hubs’ but Australia can look to some of the success stories for answers. Technology image from www.shutterstock.com

Could Australia ever have its own Silicon Valley?

Silicon Valley is a bit like the ancient city of Babylon. A confluence of the right geography, right timing, and the right mix in the melting pot allowed them both to thrive. Even the mythological status…
This year saw turbulent times –from childcare centres to universities. This year saw turbulent times –from childcare centres to universities. AAP Image/Dan Peled

2013, the year that was: Education

For most education watchers, this year has rushed by in a policy blur. So much so that we thought we had better launch our very own shiny Education section just to help you keep on top of things. The launch…
Academics are often accused of political bias – but should your nail your political colours to the mast? Academics are often accused of political bias – but should your nail your political colours to the mast? Colour image www.shutterstock.com

Showing your colours: the good and bad of academics joining political parties

I’ve always thought being an academic is like living in the middle of an endless war where the weapon of choice is words. You could say the same of parliament, so it is perhaps surprising that relatively…
Universities could soon become a Commonwealth responsibility – so why would the states give up the power? Universities could soon become a Commonwealth responsibility – so why would the states give up the power? University image from www.shutterstock.com

Taking over universities: why the states would give up control

State and federal relations are almost always a bumpy ride – you only have to look at the recent stoush over schools funding to see that. So when relations go well and we see a glimpse of that perfect…
Traditionally, states have been responsible for universities while the commonwealth holds the purse strings. But that could all change. Traditionally, states have been responsible for universities while the commonwealth holds the purse strings. But that could all change. Higher education image from www.shutterstock.com

Taking over universities: will the Commonwealth be a better master than the states?

Before this year’s federal election, then-opposition leader Tony Abbott promised an approach to higher education policy that would be characterised by “masterly inactivity”. Since then, education minister…
Australia should adopt a US program that brings students into prisons to learn with prisoners. Australia should adopt a US program that brings students into prisons to learn with prisoners. Prison image from www.shutterstock.com

Inside out: why we need to bring students and prisoners together

Over the past 15 years, a criminal justice professor in Philadelphia named Lori Pompa has quietly grown an innovative education program that brings together university students to learn alongside prisoners…
Heads of Australian university English departments are set to advocate for their discipline. Heads of Australian university English departments are set to advocate for their discipline. oldtasty

Why study English? In defence of a discipline

Last month, heads of English departments in universities across Australia formed a new peak body to advocate for the discipline of English. In part, the Australian University Heads of English (AUHE) group…
Inadvertently, universities may be constructing courses and learning environments that encourage cheating. Inadvertently, universities may be constructing courses and learning environments that encourage cheating. Cheating image from www.shutterstock.com

Universities could be encouraging students to cheat, without even knowing it

A few years ago a group of psychologists from two North American universities ran a fascinating experiment designed to see whether the quality of light in a room influenced people’s willingness to cheat…
Modern diplomacy requires a more delicate touch. Modern diplomacy requires a more delicate touch. Haydn West/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Parlez-vous diplomacy? English won’t serve the UK abroad

A report from the British Academy has warned that a lack of foreign language skills could undermine the UK’s future security and capacity for global influence. The report warns of an apathy towards language…
Students learning the skills to ‘do’ science could be under threat. Students learning the skills to ‘do’ science could be under threat. Science image from www.shutterstock.com

Learning or doing? Science degrees need reform and students can help

Science is as much about knowing, as it is about having the skills to learn. But with time in the lab shrinking as universities try to tighten their budgets, students may be getting the opportunity to…
Udacity’s founder Sebastian Thrun has over-promised and under-delivered. Udacity’s founder Sebastian Thrun has over-promised and under-delivered. Flickr/jdlasica

The failure of Udacity: lessons on quality for future MOOCs

The promise was simple, but the idea couldn’t have been bigger. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) would make courses from Harvard and MIT available free to anyone with an internet connection. The world’s…
Australia’s universities places are increasing rapidly but students could get caught between the universities and their budget bottom line. Australia’s universities places are increasing rapidly but students could get caught between the universities and their budget bottom line. University image from www.shutterstock.com

Capping uni funding would be a lose-lose for everyone

Melbourne University’s Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis has called on the federal government to reform the university funding system and allow universities to “decide their own student profiles within the funding…
It’s not what you know, it’s what you do with it. It’s not what you know, it’s what you do with it. Gold image from www.shutterstock.com

Research is useless, innovation is gold

Most agree that it’s worth knowing more about the world and everything in it. Research, in that sense, is intrinsically valuable. But for pragmatic governments, intrinsic scientific or scholarly worth…
Learning on the job could make a real difference to healthcare. Learning on the job could make a real difference to healthcare. Tricia Wang

Developing countries and the MOOC learning revolution

Universities are being shaken up by a new mode of learning. The world’s elite institutions are opening up courses so thousands of people can learn for free via their laptops, mobiles or tablets. And these…
Does it matter if most Massive Open Online Courses are in English? Does it matter if most Massive Open Online Courses are in English? Language image from www.shutterstock.com

MOOCs and the language barrier: is open education not so open after all?

For many educators, the dream feels tantalisingly close: free, quality education for everyone in the world. The arrival of Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs led to predictions of a great new age of…
Potential changes to the ownership of student loan repayments could make reform of the system more complicated. Potential changes to the ownership of student loan repayments could make reform of the system more complicated. Student loan image from www.shutterstock.com

Don’t sell off HECS: reforming student loans could bring in real savings

According to the budget papers, Australian students and former students could owe the government more than $40 billion in unpaid Higher Education Loan Program debt by 2017. Unsurprisingly, HELP, formerly…
Doing a PhD can feel pretty lonely but online social platforms are here to help. Doing a PhD can feel pretty lonely but online social platforms are here to help. PhD image from www.shutterstock.com

Doing a PhD can be a lonely business but it doesn’t have to be

Completing a PhD is no small feat. It requires both high intellect and a great deal of tenacity. But it can be lonely at the top, with many PhD students struggling with stress, feelings of isolation and…
You might have never heard of them but the Dawkins reforms changed pretty much everything about higher education in Australia. You might have never heard of them but the Dawkins reforms changed pretty much everything about higher education in Australia. AAP Image/National Archives of Australia

Book review: The Dawkins Revolution, 25 Years On

Why is Australian higher education the way it is today? To answer this we must go back to Labor minister John Dawkins, who initiated a radical suite of reforms a quarter of a century ago. His impact on…
Some say the academic book is dead, or at least, dying. But is that true? And is there anything to be done about it? Some say the academic book is dead, or at least, dying. But is that true? And is there anything to be done about it? Book image from www.shutterstock.com

The death of the academic book and the path to Open Access

Is publishing academic books a dying trade? And if so, are free e-books from universities likely to deal the final blow? The future of book publishing in general is hotly contested, but particularly so…
The way we pick which students are let in to university is not a fair system. The way we pick which students are let in to university is not a fair system. School image from www.shutterstock.com

ATARs – you may as well use postcodes for university admissions

For the next couple of months, young people across Australia will be sitting their final Year 12 examinations. For them, it’s the end of more than a decade of schooling looming large. Their soon to be…
Media studies is on offer at top-tier universities. Media studies is on offer at top-tier universities. wayneandwax

Top universities teach media studies, so why brief against it?

Media studies gets a hard time in higher education and the top universities in the UK are not making things any easier by continuing to take a contradictory stance as they advise students on what to study…
Will philanthropy in Australia change because of the recent donation by Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest to Wes Australian universities. Will philanthropy in Australia change because of the recent donation by Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest to Wes Australian universities. Seed image from www.shutterstock.com

Of Forrests and acorns: philanthropic gift may seed other university giving

This week’s A$65 million pledge by Nicola and Andrew Forrest to all five West Australian universities alters the philanthropy landscape in Australia. The Forrests' donation comes less than a year after…
Will the hype around free high quality higher education last? Will the hype around free high quality higher education last? Online image from www.shutterstock.com

From MOOCs to HARVARDs: will online go mainstream?

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) draw a spectrum of responses. Should we be spruiking MOOCs? Spooked by MOOCs? Or hoping the hype will fade and the fad will pass? Most of us know the headlines. Free…
Each time a new ranking is released, universities and rankers dance the international higher education two-step. Each time a new ranking is released, universities and rankers dance the international higher education two-step. Dance image from www.shutterstock.com

The ritual dance of university rankings

Whenever an unfavourable political opinion poll comes out, you can count on one thing: at least one politician saying they never pay attention to polls. And so it goes for university leaders when the results…
Students services could be cut if the new education minister has his way. But what would this mean in practice? Students services could be cut if the new education minister has his way. But what would this mean in practice? University students image from www.shutterstock.com

FactCheck: will axing compulsory uni fees take $300 million away from services students need?

Scrapping student support fees will be “a $300 million hit on some of the most basic systems and amenities that make universities accessible and attractive to students.” - Kim Carr, former Labor higher…
David Willetts: not blue enough. David Willetts: not blue enough. Policy Exchange

Where next for universities under Conservative reforms?

The Conservative Party is in Manchester for its annual conference, a gesture that some in the city view as a provocation. Such a view is informed by more than the historical irony that the Manchester Central…
There’s been outcry over Norwegian right-wing extremist Anders Breivik’s plans to study at the University of Oslo. There’s been outcry over Norwegian right-wing extremist Anders Breivik’s plans to study at the University of Oslo. EPA/Stian Lysberg Solum/Pool Norway out

Anders Breivik and the humanity of education in prison

Anders Breivik ensured his place in history the day he shot dead 69 people on a small Norwegian Island, having earlier killed eight others with a bomb planted in government offices in Oslo. Breivik’s horrendous…
The head of Newcastle University explains why we need to keep our universities open. The head of Newcastle University explains why we need to keep our universities open. University image from www.shutterstock.com

A Vice-Chancellor’s defence of the uncapped university system

As the new government settles in, there has been heated speculation around major changes to the higher education system. Education minister Christopher Pyne’s comments to the media have raised questions…
How will we get a new Hegel without genuine invention? How will we get a new Hegel without genuine invention? Oxymoron/Flickr

How repetition and bureaucracy killed original thought in Australia

Australia’s problem is that we have stopped producing major intellectual figures. Where is today’s Friedrich Hegel? Even more telling, where are the physicians like Edward Jenner, biologists like Alexander…
Much has changed from the first Colombo plan, but Australia’s engagement with Asia should start at home. Much has changed from the first Colombo plan, but Australia’s engagement with Asia should start at home. Asia image from www.shutterstock.com

Colombo II: send students to Asia but don’t ignore the Asian students at home

Now it’s in government, the Coalition says one of its top priorities is international education. Along with policies to encourage international students to study here, Australian students, too, will be…
New education minister Christopher Pyne wants to review the Australian university system because of concerns about declining quality. New education minister Christopher Pyne wants to review the Australian university system because of concerns about declining quality. AAP/Julian Smith

Pyne’s higher education policy rethink should keep universities' doors open

On the surface, Australia’s fourth and fifth ministers for higher education for 2013 - Labor’s Kim Carr and the Coalition’s Christopher Pyne - have political views that are many miles apart. Even by the…
Studying law can be confronting and can lead some students to depression or anxiety. But what can be done about it? Studying law can be confronting and can lead some students to depression or anxiety. But what can be done about it? Law school graduate image from www.shutterstock.com

Law school too hard? Why the struggle could be a good one

As law teachers, we have plenty of hopes for our students. Upon graduating, we want them to have a good grounding in legal knowledge and to be creative thinkers. We also hope they will come out of law…
Are mature students being put off study by higher fees? Are mature students being put off study by higher fees? uonottingham

Mature student numbers down 14% as higher tuition fees bite

A report published today by the Independent Commission on Fees shows that the number of mature students applying to study at university has fallen by 14% since the introduction of tuition fees of up to…
From massively open to really massively open. From massively open to really massively open. oxyman

Google and friends put the ‘open’ back into MOOCs

The entrance of Google into the Massive Open Online Courses market this week has the potential to reignite the spirit of openness that saw these alternative routes into higher education emerge in the first…
Unfair working conditions are nothing new in academia. Unfair working conditions are nothing new in academia. chancellorgriffin

Zero-hour contracts shame British universities

Further and higher education institutions have a long and ignoble history of employing staff on zero-hour contracts, so figures released last week by the University and College Union come as no surprise…
What’s in store for the higher education sector under the new coalition government? What’s in store for the higher education sector under the new coalition government? AAP Image/Alan Porritt

What next for universities under Abbott?

As the higher education sector begins to look to life under the 44th parliament, it might pause to consider the words of prime minister-elect Tony Abbott upon claiming victory last Saturday night: “The…
Do the math. Higher education is important to Australian voters. Do the math. Higher education is important to Australian voters. University image from www.shutterstock.com

Is higher education a vote changer?

There are no votes in higher education, right? One former cabinet minister would refer to universities as “the dogs” - because if you kick ‘em, they just roll over. Conventional wisdom has long told us…
Who are the real quacks? Who are the real quacks? Nick Ansell/PA

‘Quackademics’ under fire as critical voices targeted

With independent journalism increasingly under threat, will academics be the next set of critical voices to be targeted? A report calling for research and evidence to have a reduced role in public policy…
Teaching skills: 5, Lab facilities: 3. This is no way to choose a university. Teaching skills: 5, Lab facilities: 3. This is no way to choose a university. stevedotcarter

Don’t fall into the rankings trap when assessing a university

The idea that we should audit universities is, in many respects, a good one. It can be used to keep them accountable and it can be a driver of change. University rankings – such as those offered by Times…
The cost of a degree depends on the colour of your cash. The cost of a degree depends on the colour of your cash. Nick in exsilio

The UK split over tuition fees is bad news for students

The different countries of the UK have very different ideas about a lot of things, and university fees are no exception. With the introduction of £9,000 tuition fees in England, Wales and Scotland both…
The stress of results day. The stress of results day. City of Stoke on Trent Sixth Form College

A Level results are in and the fight for students is heating up

The last-minute hunt for places on university courses that we call “clearing” begins today. The name takes on a particular irony this year for both school leavers and universities, because the situation…
The humanities are in trouble - but what can be done about it? The humanities are in trouble - but what can be done about it? Humanities image from www.shutterstock.com

Why the humanities are in crisis

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal titled Humanities Fall From Favour reveals a further escalation in the crisis affecting the humanities. Harvard University, “a standard-bearer of American letters…
More students are attending university, but how many drop out? More students are attending university, but how many drop out?

FactCheck: are university drop-out rates higher than ever?

“Today’s drop-out rates are higher than ever before, 20% across-the-board, and in some cases one-in-two. And that’s just one side effect of the demand driven system.” National affairs correspondent Heather…
Australia has had a grand experiment in providing greater university access to disadvantaged students. Australia has had a grand experiment in providing greater university access to disadvantaged students. University graduates from www.shutterstock.com

Does equality come at the cost of quality in universities? Let’s look at the evidence

With a new leader at the helm, a new higher education minister and an election not too far away, university policy seems to be up in the air. Since starting his new portfolio, minister Kim Carr has floated…
We need to ask more questions before we plunge academia into a world of free and open journal research. We need to ask more questions before we plunge academia into a world of free and open journal research. Golden book image from www.shutterstock.com

All that’s gold, may not glitter: the harsh reality of open access

A recent article on The Conversation, “Busting the top five myths about open access publishing” is a spirited defense of open access (OA) publishing. The article, by ANU’s Danny Kingsley, outlined “myths…
The increase in medical graduates means there’s not enough internships to allow them to practice. So who is given priority and why? The increase in medical graduates means there’s not enough internships to allow them to practice. So who is given priority and why? Doctor image from www.shutterstock.com

FactCheck: are international medical graduates given priority over Australian doctors?

“At the moment, we’ve got international graduates who are getting preference over Australian doctors in some states.” - Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton, National Press Club Address…
A new report shows that universities that conduct a large amount of research aren’t necessarily better at teaching. A new report shows that universities that conduct a large amount of research aren’t necessarily better at teaching. Lecture image from www.shutterstock.com

Is university research good for teaching?

Australian higher education is dominated by its universities, and therefore by institutions that have dual teaching and research missions. There is a long debate about whether these two activities complement…
Universities just got a little more chilling … Universities just got a little more chilling … emdot

Spying on academics will not help fight terrorism

Universities in this country are under increased pressure to share information about the activities of students and staff whether for immigration purposes, in relation to activism on campus or even in…
Australian universities should look to the American university model of philanthropic funding. Australian universities should look to the American university model of philanthropic funding. Piggy bank image from www.shutterstock.com

Raising capital: the problem of philanthropy and funding in Australian universities

In the last few weeks, we have seen a number of universities begin to push for extra funding from Australian philanthropists. While this move to broaden the revenue base of universities is welcome, to…
There are plenty of myths about open access – are any of them true? There are plenty of myths about open access – are any of them true? Open lock image from www.shutterstock.com

Busting the top five myths about open access publishing

Rather than lock up knowledge in costly journals, increasingly universities and governments are recognising that publicly funded research should be open to all. This past year has seen new open access…
The government is considering changing a fundamental part of its higher education policy – but does it need to? The government is considering changing a fundamental part of its higher education policy – but does it need to? University image from www.shutterstock.com

Searching for equity or excellence in universities – or is it just about the money?

The recent news that higher education minister Kim Carr may reconsider A$900 million worth of cuts imposed on universities at the expense of the demand-driven system for funding undergraduate places has…
MOOCs aren’t the answer to all higher education’s questions. MOOCs aren’t the answer to all higher education’s questions. Kanaka Menehune

MOOCs and the battle to open up higher education

Foundation essay: This article on the rise of massive open online courses by Martin Weller, Professor of Educational Technology at The Open University, is part of a series marking the launch of The Conversation…
New higher education minister Kim Carr is considering a rethink on the opening up of university places. New higher education minister Kim Carr is considering a rethink on the opening up of university places. AAP/Julian Smith

Should higher education student numbers be capped?

Australia may be going through higher education ministers at an extraordinary rate, but they seem determined to use their time in office. First Craig Emerson announced major funding cuts to universities…
We still don’t know what works when it comes to opening up universities. We still don’t know what works when it comes to opening up universities.

Cuts to diversity spending are no great loss for universities

In his spending review, Chancellor George Osborne announced cuts to the universities budget, targeted mainly at funding used to encourage students from under-represented groups to apply for university…
Traditionally, students took exams on site at a university. But how does assessment work with online courses? Traditionally, students took exams on site at a university. But how does assessment work with online courses? Exam image from www.shutterstock.com

Proving knowledge by degrees: MOOCs and the challenge of assessment

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have certainly got higher education folks talking. These free online courses, often from prestigious universities, have prompted one obvious question: why should students…
Universities are increasingly using “aptitude” and “character” tests to admit more students. Universities are increasingly using “aptitude” and “character” tests to admit more students. Test image from www.shutterstock.com

Can aptitude tests pick the ‘right’ students for university?

Since 2007, the Australian government has been evaluating a pilot aptitude test for future university students. The test is meant to help universities select students who might have the ability to undertake…
Prime Minister Julia Gillard is promoting her government’s schools funding plan – but should the same model be applied to university funding too? Prime Minister Julia Gillard is promoting her government’s schools funding plan – but should the same model be applied to university funding too? AAP Image/Dan Peled

Should we copy Gonski in higher education funding?

The Australian Education Bill, introduced to the parliament last week, sets out the government’s Gonski reforms to school funding. One of the reform’s key tenets is that extra money should go to schools…
Despite myths to the contrary, humanities graduates can enjoy their passions and look forward to job opportunities too. Despite myths to the contrary, humanities graduates can enjoy their passions and look forward to job opportunities too. Student image from www.shutterstock.com

Honing the mind and nurturing the soul: why the humanities are underrated

As a vice chancellor, I conducted many graduation ceremonies and welcomed scores of proud graduates to the fellowship of educated men and women. One regular feature of these ceremonies was a queue of students…
The open education movement seems as though it’s here to stay – but why would anyone give away their work for free? The open education movement seems as though it’s here to stay – but why would anyone give away their work for free? Open book image from www.shutterstock.com

Giving it away for free: sharing really is caring in the open education movement

The New York Times dubbed 2012 the year of the MOOC. And for many, the seemingly unstoppable rise of Massive Open Online Courses – courses which are offered for free by prestigious universities – is where…
Universities could be oversupplying graduates in a number of key health fields. Universities could be oversupplying graduates in a number of key health fields. Graduate image from www.shutterstock.com

Too many graduates, not enough jobs: universities, profits and clinical need

What if, after several years of studying in an intense degree program, you graduate only to find no jobs within your field? Since 2012, public universities have been allowed to determine the number of…
Measuring the impact of research in the real world sounds a bit impossible, but Australia is going to do it anyway. Measuring the impact of research in the real world sounds a bit impossible, but Australia is going to do it anyway. Research image from www.shutterstock.com

Research meets the real world – now comes the hard part

So you’re just recovering from the last ERA (Excellence for Research Australia) assessment? Dust yourself off, Excellence in Innovation for Australia (EIA) is heading our way. This is the new paradigm…
A longer academic year would have serious drawbacks for university students and staff. A longer academic year would have serious drawbacks for university students and staff. Academic image from www.shutterstock.com

Idle time? Why we don’t need a longer academic year

This week Coalition MP Alan Tudge wrote a piece in the Australian Financial Review calling for an end to the 26-week academic year. In his article, he said students were spending the remainder of their…
It’s time to move past outdated ideas about porn. It’s time to move past outdated ideas about porn. hansol

Academia needs a porn journal: here’s why

The launch of a new academic journal doesn’t usually grab popular media interest. But the first journal of Porn Studies seems to have bucked the trend. For the most part, media coverage has contained more…
What does your profile picture say about you? What does your profile picture say about you? Academic image from www.shutterstock.com

Posing intellectuals: academic profile pictures reveal more than you think

Just to the left and above this sentence is a picture of me. Like most places on the web where discussion takes place, The Conversation places a profile picture of each author next to their writing. Indeed…
MOOC graduates would throw their laptops in the air instead. MOOC graduates would throw their laptops in the air instead. Chris Ison/PA

MOOCs or campus? In the future, you choose

A napster moment; the end of boring lectures; a tipping point. These are all common responses to the emergence of MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses. Now, simply using a laptop or iPad, hundreds of thousands…
Wayne Swan’s budget has been disappointing for Labor’s education legacy. Wayne Swan’s budget has been disappointing for Labor’s education legacy. AAP Image/Lukas Coch

Does the budget make us a clever country?

The last Labor budget has seen the top half of the Education Revolution fizzle. The ideals that powered the 2009 Gillard policies are in fragments. Demand-driven higher education will survive until the…
Are students “customers”? The answer is not so simple. Are students “customers”? The answer is not so simple. Piggy bank image from www.shutterstock.com

Students aren’t customers…or are they?

With the rise of mass higher learning, tight public funding and intense competition for students, universities are often encouraged to see students as “customers”. But should they? Commentators who criticise…
Universities Australia Chair Sandra Harding looks at the future of universities. Universities Australia Chair Sandra Harding looks at the future of universities. University image from www.shutterstock.com

National Press Club address: Sandra Harding on the future of universities

Professor Sandra Harding, the Universities Australia chair and Vice-Chancellor of James Cook University addressed the National Press Club in Canberra today. Here is a copy of her speech. In his novel set…
The recent cuts to universities are only likely to make the health problem growing in the academic community worse. The recent cuts to universities are only likely to make the health problem growing in the academic community worse. Stressed academic image www.shutterstock.com

Uni cuts will lead to health problems for academics

The consensus on the recent A$2.3 billion funding cuts to the tertiary sector is they will do more harm than good. Plenty of commentators foresee diminishing quality of teaching and research, possible…
Education used to be about striving towards the light of knowledge but this is increasingly less important. Education used to be about striving towards the light of knowledge but this is increasingly less important. Cave image from www.shutterstock.com

Out from the cave: have we lost the purpose of education?

It’s nothing new to say we have a problem in education. But I’m not here to discuss the usual gripes with teachers and test scores. I believe we have a more fundamental problem with defining what we want…
There’s renewed debate around whether universities need to specialise in research or teaching. There’s renewed debate around whether universities need to specialise in research or teaching. University image from www.shutterstock.com

Research and teaching – what do we actually want Australian universities to do?

“We must give universities more freedom to focus on what they are good at… If that means that some universities want to focus significantly more on teaching, then they should confidently do so… Government…
The institution you come from shouldn’t be the main factor in research funding allocation. The institution you come from shouldn’t be the main factor in research funding allocation. Evaluation image from www.shutterstock.com

The best and rest: why we should fund ‘average’ research

Increasingly, it’s not the quality of the research or researcher that is determining who gets funding in Australia’s universities but the reputation of the institutions they work for. This is now reflected…
Universities should be allowed to focus on what they are good at, Mr Pyne said. Universities should be allowed to focus on what they are good at, Mr Pyne said. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Govt should encourage unis to specialise in teaching or research: Pyne

Government policy should encourage some universities to focus on research and others on teaching, enabling institutions to specialise in certain areas, Australia’s shadow education minister, Christopher…
It’s steady as she goes in Australia’s universities according to a new book on the changing dynamics in higher education. It’s steady as she goes in Australia’s universities according to a new book on the changing dynamics in higher education. Higher education image from www.shutterstock.com

High stakes in higher ed? Campus evolution more likely than revolution

Writing books on fast-evolving topics is a hazardous business. The news can easily overtake a slow-moving publisher’s schedule. Fortunately for Peter Coaldrake and Lawrence Stedman’s new book on higher…
A universal student ID could be on way for Australian students. A universal student ID could be on way for Australian students. ID image from www.shutterstock.com

One student ID to rule them all?

Is a universal (and cradle to grave) identity number on the way for all Australian students? The government is now seeking to create a mandatory universal identifier for all Vocational Education and Training…
Tertiary education minister Craig Emerson yesterday announced significant changes to higher education funding. Tertiary education minister Craig Emerson yesterday announced significant changes to higher education funding. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Should universities suffer to pay for school funding?

Anyone believing new tertiary education minister Craig Emerson was just minding the higher education shop until the election has been proved wrong by this weekend’s announcement of funding cuts. About…
Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz talks with one of our academic experts about the changing role of universities. Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz talks with one of our academic experts about the changing role of universities. Cambridge University

Leszek Borysiewicz and Lynn Meek In Conversation – full transcript

To listen to the conversation between Leszek Borysiewicz and Lynn Meek, please see the link below. An edited transcript is available here. Lynn Meek: Hello, I’m Professor Lynn Meek from the LH Martin Institute…
Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, VC of Cambridge University, discusses all things higher education in our latest In Conversation. Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, VC of Cambridge University, discusses all things higher education in our latest In Conversation. Cambridge University

In Conversation: Cambridge VC urges unis to help third world

Cambridge University’s Vice Chancellor, Leszek Borysiewicz has been a pioneer in developing the world’s first cervical cancer vaccine. But now he’s turning his attention to a much more difficult task…
Universities do have a role to play in helping developing countries. Universities do have a role to play in helping developing countries. University image from www.shutterstock.com

Universities and the poorest billion

The following is based on the Monash Richard Larkins Oration given by Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University last night in Melbourne. You can read and listen to our In…
Red tape could be preventing online education from really flourishing in Australia. Red tape could be preventing online education from really flourishing in Australia. Online learning image from www.shutterstock.com

Rules and regulation could strangle online learning

Regulation has always shaped Australian higher education. Some rules have helped – like extending HELP loans to private higher education providers in 2005. While tougher rules – like the ones to define…
There is a danger that Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) may end up being more about money and less about education. There is a danger that Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) may end up being more about money and less about education. Mouse and money image from www.shutterstock.com

Public good or playing markets? The real reason for MOOCs

The astonishing idealism and energy manifest in the advance of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) has taken the higher education world by storm. Universities have been shaken to their foundations by the…
Last week’s wholesale sackings of TAFE leaders is just another chapter in the chaotic story of the vocational reforms. Last week’s wholesale sackings of TAFE leaders is just another chapter in the chaotic story of the vocational reforms. AAP Image/Joe Castro

Excuses for heavy-handed TAFE sackings don’t hold up

On the eve of Good Friday, in apparent attempt to bury a bad news story, the Victorian government sacked seven of the chairs of its 14 standalone TAFEs and two more were to “retire”. These sackings came…
It would be a mistake to assume that any private money funding research creates a conflict of interest. It would be a mistake to assume that any private money funding research creates a conflict of interest. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Conflicting research: ARC linkages and the tightrope of academia

The research funding world is not often filled with controversy, but the story of indigenous academic Marcia Langton’s research funding has recently garnered a lot of attention. Langton, who in her recent…
There’s lots of “problems” to be fixed in education, but what does the evidence say? There’s lots of “problems” to be fixed in education, but what does the evidence say? Teacher image from www.shutterstock.com

Millions wasted in education? That’s not what the evidence says

Over recent years we have seen a wave of angst about Australia’s school education. The complex issue of teacher quality is, of course, part of the equation, but state governments are also concerned that…
There are other ways to improve undergraduate writing that don’t involve teaching grammar explicitly. There are other ways to improve undergraduate writing that don’t involve teaching grammar explicitly. Writing image from www.shutterstock.com

Grammar lessons not the solution to undergrad writing woes

University students across the nation will be handing in their first assignments of the academic year over the next few weeks. Academic staff will sigh, as they do every semester: “my students can’t write…
Australian universities need to trim down their bureaucracies. Australian universities need to trim down their bureaucracies. University image from www.shutterstock.com

Reform Australian universities by cutting their bureaucracies

Universities drive a knowledge economy, generate new ideas and teach people how to think critically. Anything other than strong investment in them will likely harm Australia. But as Australian politicians…
Online learning offers plenty of opportunities but only if it’s done right. Online learning offers plenty of opportunities but only if it’s done right. Online learning image from www.shutterstock.com

Online students need more face-to-face time, not less

Higher education, we’re told, is rapidly heading towards huge transformation and technological disruption. Advocates of online education promise that advances in online learning technologies – by permitting…
New tests could be in store for trainee teachers to demonstrate their emotional intelligence. New tests could be in store for trainee teachers to demonstrate their emotional intelligence. Emotions image from www.shutterstock.com

Do we need emotional intelligence tests for teachers?

With the newly announced federal government reforms to teacher training announced this week, emotional intelligence is now firmly on the agenda for trainee teachers. Under the proposed rules, prospective…
The announcement this week of funding for Victorian TAFEs won’t make up for previous cuts. The announcement this week of funding for Victorian TAFEs won’t make up for previous cuts. AAP Image/Julian Smith

Napthine falls short: TAFE needs more than a bandaid

There might be a new premier in Victoria, but it seems there’s still no good news for TAFEs. The $200 million in structural adjustment funding announced this week is certainly welcome, but it is simply…
What is it that we’re trying to fix in teacher education? What is it that we’re trying to fix in teacher education? Teacher image from www.shutterstock.com

Teaching standards to fix a ‘crisis’ that doesn’t exist

The past week has been a tumultuous time for university education faculties. First the NSW government announced minimum entry requirements for teaching degrees, and then the federal government trumped…
Many students are confused about grammar and sentence structure – so should universities teach it explicitly? Many students are confused about grammar and sentence structure – so should universities teach it explicitly? Words image from www.shutterstock.com

Back to basics: should universities teach grammar?

Imagine a student turning up at university and not knowing basic multiplication. He or she could be hard-working, bright, enthusiastic but completely unable to answer a basic question like: what’s six…
The Coalition looks set to only tinker around the edges of higher education policy. The Coalition looks set to only tinker around the edges of higher education policy. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Decoding Tony Abbott’s plans for universities

What should universities expect from a Coalition government if Tony Abbott wins the September election? In his address to the Universities Australia conference in Canberra, the signals were fairly reassuring…
In his new role as tertiary education minister Chris Bowen said enroling more disadvantaged students would not drag down quality. In his new role as tertiary education minister Chris Bowen said enroling more disadvantaged students would not drag down quality. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Equality or quality? Measuring the effect of more uni students

Quality in education is something that seems so obvious - until you try to define it. This week the new Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research Chris Bowen said that “the quality…
Copyright law could make the job of creating Massive Open Online Courses more difficult. Copyright law could make the job of creating Massive Open Online Courses more difficult. Legal image from www.shutterstock.com

Legal learning: how do MOOCs and copyright work?

Another university has jumped on the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) bandwagon this month, with the Australian National University joining up with Harvard venture edX. In ANU’s case, it will enable Nobel…
Universities Australia chair Professor Glyn Davis speaking at the Higher Education conference in Canberra. He addressed the National Press Club today. Universities Australia chair Professor Glyn Davis speaking at the Higher Education conference in Canberra. He addressed the National Press Club today. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

National Press Club address: Glyn Davis on a smarter Australia

Universities Australia chair and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, Professor Glyn Davis, addressed the National Press Club in Canberra today. Here is a copy of his speech. In 1970, when Julia…
A PhD is never easy but is there a way to make it easier? A PhD is never easy but is there a way to make it easier? Phd graduate image from www.shutterstock.com

A PhD by publication or how I got my doctorate and kept my sanity

Doing a PhD is a difficult business. Long hours, personal stress, institutional pressure to complete on time – and all this for what? Increasingly a PhD alone does not guarantee an academic career. We…
Are students really paying for their degrees in exchange for sharing their beds? Are students really paying for their degrees in exchange for sharing their beds? Degree image from www.shutterstock.com

Swapping sex for a degree: the myth of the ‘sugar daddy’

This year has already seen a flurry of media commentary regarding the “sugar daddy” phenomenon, much of it self-generated for publicity reasons by sites such as SeekingArrangement.com. Sugar daddies (and…
University textbooks are expensive for a reason. University textbooks are expensive for a reason. Textbook image from www.shuttestock.com

Required reading: here’s why textbooks are so expensive

Although student life at university is generally enjoyable, one aspect that blemishes the experience is the astronomical cost of textbooks. As many students head back to university this year, they can…
The future of higher education doesn’t look so bright. The future of higher education doesn’t look so bright. Higher education image from www.shutterstock.com

University 2060: the brave new world of higher education

Higher education, 2060: academics are out of a job. All the brand name universities have made all their courses free online, easily doing away with one side of the teaching and learning equation. Pretty…
University is no longer just a place for high achievers. University is no longer just a place for high achievers. AAP/Julian Smith

Uncapped uni places may be the death of the ATAR obsession

Each December we celebrate students who achieved an ATAR Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) of 99.95. In January, we are awed by what you need to study subjects such as medicine, or horrified that…
Australian researchers are frustrated with a funding system that makes job prospects unreliable and often ties them to short term contracts. Australian researchers are frustrated with a funding system that makes job prospects unreliable and often ties them to short term contracts. AAP

Australian researchers held back in struggle for jobs, funding

There’s a lot of bitterness, anger and frustration out there in the world of Australian research. A new survey has shown that researchers like their work, but not the system in which they work. It’s the…
Will open educational resources affect all stages of education? Will open educational resources affect all stages of education? Child computer image from www.shutterstock.com

In 2025, will we still be sending our kids to school?

By now, most of you have probably heard of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) – courses by universities like MIT and Stanford that are available for free online. But what about Massive Open Online Kindergartens…
It’s time we looked at the idea of for-profit education in Australia. It’s time we looked at the idea of for-profit education in Australia. EPA/Guillaume Horcajuleo

Do we want for-profit schools in Australia?

For-profit education is something that really doesn’t exist in Australia… yet. But in many other countries around the world it has become a normal part of education and there are now many companies providing…
Some students come into medicine with a fixed idea of what they want to do – but this often changes. Some students come into medicine with a fixed idea of what they want to do – but this often changes. uonottingham

Hate blood but want a career in medicine? Don’t worry, there’s a job for you

Just before I finished high school, my local general practitioner suggested I consider medicine. But the thought of blood made me feel squeamish, so I went to university to do maths and physics, and to…
Academics need to trying new teaching methods in introductory classes if they’re to engage students. Academics need to trying new teaching methods in introductory classes if they’re to engage students. Pirate image from www.shutterstock.com

Kill your Powerpoints and teach like a pirate

Despite my university title, I’ve always thought that someone, one day, will discover that I’m not a “real” academic. This hasn’t been helped by the fact that when it comes to teaching, I’m by no means…
Measuring the quality and impact of university research is notoriously difficult but it’s time to watch this space. Measuring the quality and impact of university research is notoriously difficult but it’s time to watch this space. Measuring image from www.shutterstock.com

The dawning of a new ERA: getting research measurement right

Before this morning’s release of the Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) report, the scheme’s champion Aidan Byrne flagged that it could soon be looking at more than just research quality. Measuring…
There are plenty of misunderstandings about what regional universities do, but they can play a big part in shaping Australia’s future in the knowledge economy. There are plenty of misunderstandings about what regional universities do, but they can play a big part in shaping Australia’s future in the knowledge economy. Flickr/WilLiao

Clever regional unis can form the backbone of a clever country

Most urban Australians don’t tend to think about regional Australia, and when they do it’s often hazy notions of a place blighted by natural disasters, economic gloom and declining population. But for…
The idea of a universities commission has been floated recently – but is it a good idea? The idea of a universities commission has been floated recently – but is it a good idea? Universities image from www.shutterstock.com

Back to the future: do we need a universities commission?

There’s been a push recently in university circles for a new body to help govern the sector and act as a buffer between the universities and government. Champions of the idea point to the Universities…
The research funding system needs to be changed to make it more efficient says coalition member Andrew Robb. The research funding system needs to be changed to make it more efficient says coalition member Andrew Robb. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

In Conversation with Andrew Robb: research must ‘back our strengths’

It’s hard to argue with the importance of research, particularly medical research. It leads to breakthroughs and can change people’s lives for the better. But there are some crucial questions about how…
NSW premier Barry O'Farrell needs to reform the law to give Sydney University more responsibility for its colleges. NSW premier Barry O'Farrell needs to reform the law to give Sydney University more responsibility for its colleges. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Why a solution to the St John’s scandal lies with Barry O’Farrell

Why is the University of Sydney powerless to stop bullying behaviour in what the public sees as “its colleges”? This has been a constant refrain in recent weeks as the controversy surrounding the behaviour…
Free online courses from prestigious universities have caused a stir, but they won’t shut universities down. Free online courses from prestigious universities have caused a stir, but they won’t shut universities down. Online education image from www.shutterstock.com

Online learning glitch: MOOC flaws will be hard to resolve

Last weekend, The Guardian ran an article entitled “Do online courses spell the end for the traditional university?” Had I been the one writing that article, it would have been precisely two letters long…
Despite a government target, students from poor backgrounds risk being left out of higher education. Despite a government target, students from poor backgrounds risk being left out of higher education. University student image from www.shutterstock.com

A low target: enrolling poor uni students remains a challenge

According to the Federal Government, Australian public universities need to be more inclusive, particularly when it comes to enrolling poorer students. They’ve set a target to have 20% of undergraduate…
Research into history of emotions related to suicide is just as important as research which bolsters innovation. Research into history of emotions related to suicide is just as important as research which bolsters innovation. The Rochefoucauld Grail

History of suicide is worthwhile, whatever the Coalition says

How do we feel about death, suffering, and struggle, and how do we react to those around us as they deal with these issues? These questions shape and are shaped by society. They guide individual choices…
Why is it that we no longer teach the big story of how everything came to be? Why is it that we no longer teach the big story of how everything came to be? Universe image from www.shutterstock.com

Big History: why we need to teach the modern origin story

All human societies construct and teach creation myths or origin stories. These are large, extraordinarily powerful, but often ramshackle narratives that try and tell the story of how everything came to…
President Barack Obama addressing a large crowd at University of Wisconsin – could he or his competitor Mitt Romney change higher education in Australia? President Barack Obama addressing a large crowd at University of Wisconsin – could he or his competitor Mitt Romney change higher education in Australia? EPA/Tannen Maury

Why the US election matters for Australian higher education

US presidential elections generally have little direct impact on Australia. And broadly speaking, this campaign is shaping up to be no different. Despite their ideological differences, Barack Obama and…
Australia is all for engaging with India. But are we willing to pay? Australia is all for engaging with India. But are we willing to pay? EPA/Anindito Mukherjee

Australia has to fund the Asian century, whether we like it or not

It will take some time for the full detail of the Asian Century White Paper to be digested by the public and elaborated by the government, especially by Craig Emerson as the designated Asian century minister…
Education academics and teachers should be able to share ideas. Education academics and teachers should be able to share ideas. Seminar image from www.shutterstock.com

No Apple for teachers shows the value of sharing new ideas

Apparently, teachers and principals have no need to hear about research on international education policy and are too sensitive to deal with “controversial” ideas. Last week, the University of Melbourne’s…
The white paper sets high standards for Australian universities in the Asian Century. The white paper sets high standards for Australian universities in the Asian Century. AAP/Paul Miller

Asian century white paper sets tricky targets for universities

In the slip-stream of the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper, released by Julia Gillard yesterday, there is a one-off opportunity to evolve new programs, open up and engage in Asia at scale. Many…
A report recently predicted the end was nigh for many universities – but is this true? A report recently predicted the end was nigh for many universities – but is this true? University image from www.shutterstock.com

The end of universities? Don’t count on it

Ernst & Young’s report on the future of universities made a big splash this week, fuelled by apocalyptic headlines heralding the end of the university world as we know it. No one who has any feel for…
There are still many questions left about the Future of Higher Education, but here’s some thoughts from our symposium. There are still many questions left about the Future of Higher Education, but here’s some thoughts from our symposium. Higher education image from www.shutterstock.com

Video & podcast: Future of Higher Education symposium

Resisting technological change is futile, according to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Chris Evans. So how should Australian universities respond to the technological change of online education? This…
Take part in The Conversation’s Future of Higher Education symposium here. Take part in The Conversation’s Future of Higher Education symposium here. Online learning image from www.shutterstock.com

Live-stream: Future of Higher Education symposium

Five of our authors will today present their ideas on the future of higher education in a conversation with Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans. And you’re invited to take part. For two weeks our authors…
Online platforms need to be well-designed if they’re going to help students learn. Online platforms need to be well-designed if they’re going to help students learn. Online image from www.shutterstock.com

Deeper learning by design: what online education platforms can do

FUTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION: We continue our series on the rise of online and blended learning and how free online courses are set to transform the higher education sector. In the final part of our series…
With free, quality online education from brand-name universities, will overseas students come to Australia? With free, quality online education from brand-name universities, will overseas students come to Australia? Elephant image from www.shutterstock.com

The elephant in the chat room: will international students stay at home?

FUTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION: We continue our series on the rise of online and blended learning and how free online courses are set to transform the higher education sector. Today, Wollongong University’s…
For better or worse, the university experience has changed considerably over the past forty years. For better or worse, the university experience has changed considerably over the past forty years. University image from www.shutterstock.com

The university experience — then and now

Before the second world war, a very small minority of the population in Western societies went to universities. Most were men, most were from the social elite. From the late 1950s that changed. With a…
Online education might not cut it for students who want quality learning and more access to staff. Online education might not cut it for students who want quality learning and more access to staff. Student image from www.shutterstock.com

What students want and how universities are getting it wrong

FUTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION: We continue our series on the rise of online and blended learning and how free online courses are set to transform the higher education sector. Today, Victoria University’s…
Communication is a vital skill for university graduates, but in the move to online education we could be selling students short. Communication is a vital skill for university graduates, but in the move to online education we could be selling students short. Communication image from www.shutterstock.com

A little bit more conversation: the limits of online education

FUTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION: We continue our series on the rise of online and blended learning and how free online courses are set to transform the higher education sector. Today, Shirley Alexander from…
Online education may mean more stress and workload for academics, not less. Online education may mean more stress and workload for academics, not less. Stressed academic image from www.shutterstock.com

Online education at the coalface: what academics need to know

FUTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION: We continue our series on the rise of online and blended learning and how free online courses are set to transform the higher education sector. Today, ANU’s Rod Lamberts and…
Universities campuses need to adapt to the new reality of mobile students and online education. Universities campuses need to adapt to the new reality of mobile students and online education. Flickr/Jill

The university campus of the future: what will it look like?

FUTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION: We continue our series on the rise of online and blended learning and how free online courses are set to transform the higher education sector. Today Victoria University’s David…
Australian humanities subjects need to get on board with MOOCs and develop Australian voices in online learning. Australian humanities subjects need to get on board with MOOCs and develop Australian voices in online learning. World image from www.shutterstock.com

Deadset? MOOCs and Australian education in a globalised world

FUTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION: We continue our series on the rise of online and blended learning and how free online courses are set to transform the higher education sector. Today Ruth Morgan looks at the…
Quality education which is free online may only affect some parts of the higher education sector. Quality education which is free online may only affect some parts of the higher education sector. Laptop image from www.shutterstock.com

Online learning will change universities by degrees

FUTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION: We continue our series on the rise of online and blended learning and how free online courses are set to transform the higher education sector. Today RMIT’s Vice Chancellor…
Some people could be left behind in the digital revolution in higher education. Some people could be left behind in the digital revolution in higher education. Divide image from www.shutterstock.com

Online education: can we bridge the digital divide?

FUTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION: We continue our series on the rise of online and blended learning and how free online courses are set to transform the higher education sector. Today, Tim Pitman writes on who…
Online learning has shown a better way to design courses. Online learning has shown a better way to design courses. University image from www.shutterstock.com

Radical rethink: how to design university courses in the online age

FUTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION: The rise of online and blended learning and the development of free online courses is set to transform the higher education sector. We’ve asked our authors how to remake the…
Squeezing a thesis into three minutes sounds impossible. But it’s an important skill to learn. Squeezing a thesis into three minutes sounds impossible. But it’s an important skill to learn. Lecture image from www.shutterstock.com

A thesis in three minutes: making research accessible

Imagine condensing a thesis – which would normally take nine hours to read aloud – into a presentation just three minutes long. Today at the Australian and Trans-Tasman Three Minute Thesis competition…
Academics and universities might need to be careful of what they wish for with free online education. Academics and universities might need to be careful of what they wish for with free online education. Job image from www.shutterstock.com

MOOC and you’re out of a job: uni business models in danger

FUTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION: The rise of online and blended learning and the development of free online courses is set to transform the higher education sector. We’ve asked our authors how to remake the…
Massive open online education could be the answer to addressing community and industry needs. Massive open online education could be the answer to addressing community and industry needs. Head image from www.shutterstock.com

How Australian universities can play in the MOOCs market

FUTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION: The rise of online and blended learning and the development of free online courses is set to transform the higher education sector. We’ve asked our authors how to remake the…
Are you motivated or do you need a social setting and role models to keep you driven? Are you motivated or do you need a social setting and role models to keep you driven? Exercise bike image from www.shutterstock.com

MOOCs and exercise bikes – more in common than you’d think

FUTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION: The rise of online and blended learning and the development of free online courses is set to transform the higher education sector. We’ve asked our authors how to remake the…
Using technology to tackle plagiarism is important, but universities need to understand why students do it in the first place. Using technology to tackle plagiarism is important, but universities need to understand why students do it in the first place. Student image from www.shutterstock.com

Carrot or the stick? Technology and university plagiarism

Trying to control and prevent plagiarism is a problem for all universities, and nearly all universities these days use some kind of technology to combat it. But in a recent article on The Conversation…
A flexible online learning environment is what Australian university students want, so what’s getting in the way? A flexible online learning environment is what Australian university students want, so what’s getting in the way? Student image from www.shutterstock.com

Online opportunities: digital innovation or death through regulation?

FUTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION: The rise of online and blended learning and the development of free online courses is set to transform the higher education sector. We’ve asked our authors how to remake the…
Ranking universities is useful for only understanding the bigger picture. Ranking universities is useful for only understanding the bigger picture. University image from www.shutterstock.com

Limited numbers: what university rankings can (and can’t) tell us

The release of The Times Higher Education World University Rankings will be welcomed by many people in the Australian university sector. See the full list of The Times Higher Education World University…
Universities need to play closer attention to how they teach students, not just rankings. Universities need to play closer attention to how they teach students, not just rankings. University image from www.shutterstock.com

When rankings and research rules, students come last

The Times Higher Education rankings will be released tomorrow and universities around the world will be clamouring to find out how they place. As all academics know, rankings are closely tied to research…
Academics freedom and university reputations are being tested online. Academics freedom and university reputations are being tested online. Academic image from www.shutterstock.com

Academics behaving badly? Universities and online reputations

Trying to control your reputation online is a bit like trying to clean up wee in a toddler pool. You are much more likely to get your hands dirty than achieve any kind of meaningful damage control. Many…
Universities play a vital role in creating a better understanding of Asia – if it is included broadly in curricula. Universities play a vital role in creating a better understanding of Asia – if it is included broadly in curricula. AAP Image/Julian Smith

Teaching Asia to Australia: it’s not just about languages

Ahead of the soon-to-be-released Asian Century White Paper, Foreign Minister Bob Carr has said Australia needs to “know Asia” in order to prosper. Delivering a speech to the Asia Society on behalf of Prime…
Plagiarism is happening at universities, but technology is not the way to solve the problem. Plagiarism is happening at universities, but technology is not the way to solve the problem. Computer image from www.shutterstock.com

Delusions of candour: why technology won’t stop plagiarism

Plagiarism at university is a time-old scourge. Some would have us believe it can be sought out with ever-improving technology, and with more consistent vetting of student essays with the latest detection…
The role of TAFEs in supporting innovation by anticipating knowledge and skills can’t be easily picked up by universities. The role of TAFEs in supporting innovation by anticipating knowledge and skills can’t be easily picked up by universities. (AAP Image/Joe Castro

TAFE cuts will affect everyone: state governments should think again

TAFE staff are striking today to demonstrate their opposition to unparalleled funding cutbacks totalling almost $300 million imposed by the Victorian State Government. A recent leaked cabinet paper summarising…
Ah, excuse me, I’d like my money back. Ah, excuse me, I’d like my money back. University image from www.shutterstock.com

Are Australian universities being honest with their students?

Would you like to go to a university where “free thinkers from all over the world come together to make a difference” or, if you like getting to know people, you could go to a university where you can…
La Trobe’s reputation could be under threat if humanities cuts go ahead. La Trobe’s reputation could be under threat if humanities cuts go ahead. phil.lees

Sorry Vice-Chancellor, your humanities cuts will hurt La Trobe

The cuts to the humanities and social sciences faculty at La Trobe University have been the source of much debate among the academic community, and anger among affected staff and students. This culminated…
An experienced lab technician is one of the most readily employable people in the R&D-intensive industries. An experienced lab technician is one of the most readily employable people in the R&D-intensive industries. fungiman_MD

Beware: research technicians need more than just a pulse

Earlier this year the American journalist David Plotz wrote in Slate that: America needs a lot more good engineers and scientists, more competent scientists, even more mediocre scientists. I agree that…
How will online courses deal with assessment and accreditation? How will online courses deal with assessment and accreditation? Cloud computing image www.shutterstock.com.au

Credentials in the cloud: how will MOOCs deal with plagiarism?

Many are proclaiming 2012 is the year of the MOOC — Massive Open Online Course — thanks to the arrival of major players, edX, Udacity and Coursera all started by colleagues from elite American universities…
La Trobe’s Vice-Chancellor John Dewar defends his cuts to the humanities program. La Trobe’s Vice-Chancellor John Dewar defends his cuts to the humanities program. ABC News

Vice-Chancellor: La Trobe protestors abused freedom of speech

On Sunday, La Trobe University held its most successful Open Day ever, with more than 19,000 visitors. But the day was disrupted by student protests against recently announced changes to our Faculty of…
Despite online courses available for free, university students still want the experience of bricks and mortar campuses. Despite online courses available for free, university students still want the experience of bricks and mortar campuses. University campus image from www.shutterstock.com

MOOCs will mean the death of universities? Not likely

MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, are gaining a lot of attention. Some commentators believe that these free internet-delivered courses are the future of university education. Others meanwhile argue…
The pressure on academics is becoming too much, there needs to be cultural change. The pressure on academics is becoming too much, there needs to be cultural change. Stressed image from www.shutterstock.com

Cracks in the ivory tower: is academia’s culture sustainable?

The pressure is on. More and more universities and academics are working in a culture that is untenable and cracks in the ivory tower have already begun to appear. The work environment is now characterised…
By deliberately making false historical sources, students can learn to think more critically. By deliberately making false historical sources, students can learn to think more critically. Historical hoax image www.shutterstock.com

Teaching students to lie: historical method through hoaxes

What happens when you teach students how to lie? Answer: they become better historians. More than a decade ago, back in the days of Web 0.5, a student of mine submitted a generally well-written essay on…
The rise of open online courses will affect almost every part of higher education, including the international student market in Australia. The rise of open online courses will affect almost every part of higher education, including the international student market in Australia. AAP Image/Julian Smith

Online open education: yes, this is the game changer

Mass Open Online Courseware (MOOCs) is less than a year old but it is already clear this will be the game changer in higher education worldwide. Right now it is reverberating through Australian universities…
Reading the same book can bring students closer together as a group. Reading the same book can bring students closer together as a group. Students reading image from www.shutterstock.com

A journey with The Boat: students connect over a common story

First-year undergraduate students at the University of Melbourne have been invited to participate in a new initiative. “Melbourne Summer Reading” identifies a book which speaks to some of the big issues…
Asking what higher education students should pay is a deceptively straightforward question. Asking what higher education students should pay is a deceptively straightforward question. University image from www.shutterstock.com

Public vs private benefit: what do subsidies for university fees pay for?

The Grattan Institute’s most recent report Graduate Winners by Andrew Norton has generated valuable debate about what financial subsidy government should provide for university students. But before adjusting…
Education minister Peter Garrett along with his state counterparts have agreed upon some pretty big changes to teacher development. Education minister Peter Garrett along with his state counterparts have agreed upon some pretty big changes to teacher development. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Building a profession: teacher performance reviews not just about ‘bad teachers’

Finally, perhaps the time has come. The Australian Charter for the Professional Learning of Teachers and School Leaders and the Australian Teacher Performance and Development Framework, both signed off…
Should the government subsidise university places when graduates gain so much from a tertiary education? Should the government subsidise university places when graduates gain so much from a tertiary education? Flickr/pamhule

University subsidies: do graduate winners need another prize?

After releasing my report, Graduate Winners: Assessing the public and private benefits of higher education, the question I have most been asked is: if university fees go up, will students still come? It’s…
Art history is falling out of favour with universities but why? We need to look at the reasons behind this change. Art history is falling out of favour with universities but why? We need to look at the reasons behind this change. AAP Image/Warren Clarke

Falling for future-porn: the demise of art history and the rise of university marketing

The impending closure of art history at La Trobe University has drawn sharp criticism from academics. They have pointed out that students enjoy art history: it is economical, has enduring value and demonstrably…
The NSW government has made some strong first steps to talk about teaching standards but there’s no policy blueprint yet. The NSW government has made some strong first steps to talk about teaching standards but there’s no policy blueprint yet. AAP Image/Paul Miller

NSW government makes a positive start on reforming teaching quality

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli’s discussion paper on teacher education, Great Teaching, Inspired Learning released earlier this week, could be seen as yet another review for a profession literally…
Avoid the hype – we need to take a realistic look at the changes ahead in higher education. Avoid the hype – we need to take a realistic look at the changes ahead in higher education. Flickr/Stanford EdTech

MOOCs: neither the death of the university nor a panacea for learning

My childhood was influenced in some measure by two great icons that no longer exist. The first was Kodak – I adored my Box Brownie and I still have the wonderful grainy black and white pics. The second…
The government is trying to entice more young people to go to university – but can they do it? The government is trying to entice more young people to go to university – but can they do it? AAP Image/Julian Smith

Creating university places is easy, motivating students to take them is hard

In 1973, the Whitlam Labor government abolished university tuition fees. In 1987, the Hawke Government radically created thousands of extra university places by creating a national system, financing it…
Universities such as Yale need to respect the human rights of their staff and students. Universities such as Yale need to respect the human rights of their staff and students. Flickr/Snap Man

University or business? Yale’s Singapore partnership violates human rights

Yale university’s decision to set up a liberal arts college at the National University of Singapore (NUS) while accepting Singapore’s restrictions on students’ rights to free speech and freedom of association…
Cutting the art history department at La Trobe university is short-sighted. Cutting the art history department at La Trobe university is short-sighted. AAP Image/Julian Smith

Save art history: why La Trobe needs to support cultural life in Australia

La Trobe university’s art history department is set to be abolished, with a consultation period over the changes to the university’s humanities program to end this month. While one art history department…
Universities sell more than just lectures and lessons. Universities sell more than just lectures and lessons. Flickr/Butler University

When courses are free online, what’s left for universities to sell?

When some of the world’s most prestigious universities – including Harvard and MIT in their edX venture or Stanford and Princeton through Coursera – start putting courses online for free, it tells you…
Shadow education minister Christopher Pyne’s latest statements on teacher training are counterproductive. Shadow education minister Christopher Pyne’s latest statements on teacher training are counterproductive. AAP Image/Lukas Coch

Education degrees not ‘cheap and easy’: Pyne is wrong on teacher training

Opposition Education spokesman Christopher Pyne’s comments to the Sydney Institute this week provoked a new debate on teacher training. Most of the educational community would agree, and have for at least…
Paying for expensive textbooks could be a thing of the past for university students. Paying for expensive textbooks could be a thing of the past for university students. Flickr/Abstract Machine

Sick of paying for textbooks? Get them now, free and online

In the same way that free open online courseware is threatening to disrupt traditional universities, open textbook initiatives such as OpenStax College from Rice University threaten to do the same to the…
Much like the development of the railway in the 19th century, the National Broadband Network (NBN) will transform our society. Much like the development of the railway in the 19th century, the National Broadband Network (NBN) will transform our society. Wikimedia Commons

How the NBN will change education: Australia’s “Last Spike” moment

When I grew up in Canada there was a famous painting on the wall of nearly every primary school classroom. It was called “The Last Spike” and it depicted the final railway track connection being hammered…
Getting students hands on experience through a virtual world is the next big step in education. Getting students hands on experience through a virtual world is the next big step in education. Flickr/Mercy Health

Virtual campus: online universities are the future of higher education

In higher education, we’ve been talking about “e-learning” for years. But, in practice, we have mostly been teaching in the same way just through different mediums; that is, delivering one-way lectures…
Physical attendance at lectures may become a thing of the past. Physical attendance at lectures may become a thing of the past. Flickr/Matt From London

Digital dawn: open online learning is just beginning

Universities are traditionally seen as exclusive institutions for the few, not the many. But that is changing as a new wave of online courses throws open the doors of academia to all. Led by world renowned…
Future students need more than rankings to make the best choice. Future students need more than rankings to make the best choice. AAP Image/Julian Smith

University ranking rankles: playing the prestige game

Australian universities compete with providers all over the globe. The stakes are high and it is hard to ignore world rankings. In The Conversation recently, however, University of Southern Queensland’s…
The global movement towards open access publishing has taken another step with the release of the Finch report. The global movement towards open access publishing has taken another step with the release of the Finch report. Flickr/liikennevalo

Finch inquiry’s open access tune won’t resonate in Australia

A committee convened to examine how UK-funded research could be made more accessible released its report this week. The committee, chaired by Dame Janet Finch, was set up last year by Minister for Universities…
There were protests against cuts to the ANU’s school of music, but the changes were sorely needed. There were protests against cuts to the ANU’s school of music, but the changes were sorely needed. Flickr/Orangedrummerboy

ANU music school cuts: Musicians need to keep in time

The current crisis at the ANU School of Music has widely been reported as being, fundamentally, about money. The Australian National University’s (ANU) Vice-Chancellor Ian Young has cut ten academic and…
The traditional academic world has gone, but what has replaced it? The traditional academic world has gone, but what has replaced it? Flickr/Nick in exsilio

What’s up with universities – Whackademia or just grumpy old academics?

When a friend showed me the blurb for Whackademia: an insider’s account of the troubled university, I immediately left the office to buy a copy, solely on the promise in the title. I read it in just two…
How best to quantify the performance of Australian researchers? How best to quantify the performance of Australian researchers? Storyvillegirl

Strength in numbers: do ERA rankings add up for universities?

The Excellence in Research for Australia Initiative (ERA) is the federal government’s latest attempt to quantify the “excellence” (or otherwise) of Australian researchers. And just a few short weeks ago…
A simple desire to understand the way the world works has landed some Iranian researchers in hot water. A simple desire to understand the way the world works has landed some Iranian researchers in hot water.

Particles and persecution: why we should care about Iranian physicists

On a given day, your typical physicist is mainly preoccupied with trying to understand the intimate secrets of the universe. As with most academics, we get to visit one another in parts of the world to…
Real impact is important when considering how to fund research. Real impact is important when considering how to fund research. Flickr/Mozzer502

High impact: how the story of research can be told better

When it comes to engaging with industry, government and the broader community, there is one secret weapon that is often overlooked in the university sector – the humble story. The art of storytelling is…
Cutting TAFE funding effects the people that need education and training most. Cutting TAFE funding effects the people that need education and training most.

Victorian TAFE cuts: an attack on working people

The phrase “class warfare” has been thrown around a lot in the media and within political circles recently – usually without much basis. But in Victoria it is very real; the current Liberal Government…
All cut out to fit the same mould? We can’t assume that all universities are trying to be the same. All cut out to fit the same mould? We can’t assume that all universities are trying to be the same. Flickr/walterh

Universities can’t all be the same – it’s time we embraced diversity

James Cook University drew a lot of attention in the higher education sector recently by publicly “opting out” of the Times Higher Education (THE) World University rankings. Their reason was simple enough…
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has called on miners to accept that the resources they mine belong to the people. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has called on miners to accept that the resources they mine belong to the people. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Mining could invest in a future that belongs to all of us – education

Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivered one of her strongest messages to the mining sector last night, telling mining bosses at a Minerals Industry dinner in Canberra that they don’t own Australia’s minerals…
The ANU music school cannot replace live one-on-one teaching with online lessons. The ANU music school cannot replace live one-on-one teaching with online lessons. Flickr/Orangedrummerboy

ANU should change its tune: why online lessons do not replace live music

The Australian National University (ANU) has recently announced serious changes to the School of Music in Canberra. Students will receive fewer hours of one-on-one performance lessons, and the current…
The Victorian government’s TAFE cuts have shown other states exactly what not to do. The Victorian government’s TAFE cuts have shown other states exactly what not to do. Flickr/Takver

Victorian TAFE chaos: a lesson in how not to reform vocational education

For years, those concerned with vocational education and training have worried about how to lift the public profile of TAFEs. But what has taken many years for some – without much success – the Baillieu…
There’s knowing science, then knowing how to teach it. There’s knowing science, then knowing how to teach it. B Rosen

Teaching the nature of science (and keeping students engaged)

Last week’s Health of Australian Science report, by the Chief Scientist of Australia Ian Chubb, has again highlighted the issue of declining student engagement in science in primary and secondary schools…
Why should freedom of the press trump the right of academics to have their say? Why should freedom of the press trump the right of academics to have their say? Linda Cronin

A vice-chancellor’s defence of academic freedom

There has been much discussion about the role of free speech and a free press since the publication last week of the report from the independent inquiry into the Australian media. The review was conducted…
Women are equally represented in academia, but most professors are still men. Women are equally represented in academia, but most professors are still men. Flickr/Herkie

Why do female academics give up on becoming professors?

Australian higher education is often seen as a female-friendly industry, with overall numbers of both female students and academic staff outnumbering men. Yet women remain a minority as senior academics…
Chief Scientist Ian Chubb’s report, released today, presents some serious concerns for the future of Australian science. Chief Scientist Ian Chubb’s report, released today, presents some serious concerns for the future of Australian science. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

A prescription for healthy science? Chief Scientist’s report points the way

Chief Scientist Ian Chubb’s Health of Australian Science report, launched today at the National Press Club, starts on an optimistic note. Australian science is generally in good health: school students…
Serious, interconnected risks are closing in on the globalised community, from climate change to anarchy. Are we heeding the warnings? Serious, interconnected risks are closing in on the globalised community, from climate change to anarchy. Are we heeding the warnings? AAP/EPA/Daniel Deme

Highway to dystopia: time to wise up to the looming risks

In that world of peripheral vision, essential for business, social and political leaders, it is surprising that the World Economic Forum’s report, Global Risks 2012 has not received greater publicity or…
A British sense of superiority: Australia shows little interest in the Asia, despite its rapid rise. A British sense of superiority: Australia shows little interest in the Asia, despite its rapid rise. EPA/Made Nagi

Australia must overcome superiority complex to learn from rising Asia

There will be no more important piece of policy making this year than the White Paper on “Australia in the Asian Century” led by Ken Henry. It is a rare case of long-term thinking in government, of policy…
“And then there’s this…” Will there be any surprises in store for this year’s budget? “And then there’s this…” Will there be any surprises in store for this year’s budget? AAP

Wish list for Wayne Swan: what the experts want from the budget

Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan will be busy tonight handing down the Federal Budget with all the policy settings we’ll need to ensure Australia’s future prosperity (and not simply as a re-election platform…
My University is a good start, but it needs to be more accessible to succeed. My University is a good start, but it needs to be more accessible to succeed. www.myuniversity.gov.au

Does My University make the grade?

Let’s be clear, anything that demystifies the complex processes of choosing and enrolling in tertiary education is a good thing. With this in mind, the Federal Government today launched the My University…
Forensic police examine the scene where Roberto Laudisio Curt died. Forensic police examine the scene where Roberto Laudisio Curt died. AAP/Paul Millar

Tragic taser death shows we can do better for international students

Sadly the issue of international student security in Australia has never been far from a headline over the past few years. Many remember well the spate of attacks on Indian students in Melbourne, which…
The humanities could be dwarfed in a deregulated university marketplace. The humanities could be dwarfed in a deregulated university marketplace. Shoes on Wires

The marketplace of ideas? What competition will mean for universities

In his recent speech to the National Press Club Glyn Davis, Vice-Chancellor of The University of Melbourne and Chair of Universities Australia, made it clear that from now on higher education in Australia…
Bureaucracy is stymieing academic engagement. Bureaucracy is stymieing academic engagement. StripeyAnne

Untangling red tape to turn academics into public intellectuals

The idea that universities should return to their “core business” of teaching and research has become a favourite mantra of vice chancellors. It is reinforced by increasing evaluations imposed by Canberra…
The University of Western Sydney has a proud history. Now it must compete on the market. The University of Western Sydney has a proud history. Now it must compete on the market. Colt Group

National Press Club address: Glyn Davis on the quiet revolution in higher education

Can anyone recall why Monday 12 December 1983 was such a crucial date in Australian history? It was – of course – the day everything changed for the Australian economy. On that December morning the Australian…
Traditional publishing methods could soon be a thing of the past. Traditional publishing methods could soon be a thing of the past. Unhindered by talent

Academic publishing must go digital to survive

Most forms of publishing across the globe are in a state of flux. But university-based scholarly publishing faces a set of challenges all of its own. How can an industry whose target audience is so highly…
Australian universities must raise their game to compete in the global education market. Australian universities must raise their game to compete in the global education market. Flickr/Reality-check

Sink or swim? Australian universities in the next decade

The world is in a state of transition. The Indian and Chinese economies continue to grow at around 9 and 10 per cent respectively each year, while the North Atlantic economies - the 20th century epicentre…
China’s government has made a massive investment in research, and student funding. Australia can learn a lot. China’s government has made a massive investment in research, and student funding. Australia can learn a lot. AFP/Information Services Department

Keeping up with the Joneses: Why Australia is falling behind the neighbours on higher education

In recent weeks two commentary strands have intertwined and are extremely important to Australia’s future, and with special resonance for the higher education sector. Beginning with the announcement of…
Australia would do better to shed light on Indian affairs. Media coverage of the country is dominated by corruption scandals, terrorism or cultural festivals like Diwali. Australia would do better to shed light on Indian affairs. Media coverage of the country is dominated by corruption scandals, terrorism or cultural festivals like Diwali. EPA/Sanjeev Gupta

Connection with India vital to Australia’s future

CHOGM As Julia Gillard chairs the Commonwealth Heads of Government in Perth, she would do well to pay special attention to her Indian colleague at the table, Vice-President Hamid Ansari. Brian Stoddart…
Working to improve the performance of the resources sector is a challenging, yet important research focus. Working to improve the performance of the resources sector is a challenging, yet important research focus. AFP/Christian Sprogoe/Rio Tinto

Research funding does not have to equal industry bias

There is common assumption that those of us who undertake applied research with the commercial world must be biased. This month the University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI), which…
An Indonesian stamp marking a 1959 Colombo Plan conference. An Indonesian stamp marking a 1959 Colombo Plan conference. flickr/karen horton

Colombo Plan: An initiative that brought Australia and Asia closer

AUSTRALIA IN ASIA: In the sixth part of our series, David Lowe of Deakin University examines an education project which brought us closer to our Asian neighbours. The Colombo Plan for aid to South and…
Today’s students have unrealistic expectations of what university and the workforce requires of them. Today’s students have unrealistic expectations of what university and the workforce requires of them. flickr/Banksy

Gen Y can’t I have everything I want … and now!

Every adult generation in history has worried about the young people following in their wake. Youth have almost always been found wanting, seemingly lacking the attributes and qualities necessary for lifelong…
Universities need to remember why they research: to advance knowledge. Universities need to remember why they research: to advance knowledge. Flickr/Gates Foundation

Forget profits. Universities need morals.

Steven Schwartz, vice-chancellor of Macquarie University, recently claimed that universities should break from being treated as businesses and recapture their moral purpose. He used the example of Jonas…
Universities already stockpile academic papers so they can report their output to the government. But stockpiling the wrong version of the paper can restrict their right to make the paper available on open access. Universities already stockpile academic papers so they can report their output to the government. But stockpiling the wrong version of the paper can restrict their right to make the paper available on open access. Flickr/Gideon Burton

How one small fix could open access to research

Providing equitable access to the findings of scholarly research is an expensive and vexed business, as many recent stories here on The Conversation have highlighted. Open access offers a way to freely…
A new generation of architects is needed to build our cities. A new generation of architects is needed to build our cities. Flickr/MorBCN

Building the future with the next generation of architects

The “future” is something which manifests nowhere more potently than in our cities. Yet a substantial transformation over the past twenty years in the way cities are being made – both in terms of their…
Breaking free of the stranglehold of academic publishers holds appeal – but what are the dangers? Breaking free of the stranglehold of academic publishers holds appeal – but what are the dangers? Flickr

The pros and perils of ditching academic publishers

There are three tensions in the field of academic publishing (1) who pays to publish research? (2) who decides what gets published? and (3) who takes any profits? In the traditional model, based on publishing…
Frustration with copyright restrictions placed on scholarly work in many journals has helped fuel the Creative Commons and Open Access movements. Frustration with copyright restrictions placed on scholarly work in many journals has helped fuel the Creative Commons and Open Access movements. Flickr/TilarX

Copyright or copywrong? How journals control access to research

Back in 1991, in the very earliest days of the internet, a group of high energy physicists began sharing their findings on a Los Alamos-based online archive called Arxiv. Their early experiments in the…
A growing number of academic institutions are building free online databases of their scholarly output. But publication in a big name academic journal still holds cachet for most academics. A growing number of academic institutions are building free online databases of their scholarly output. But publication in a big name academic journal still holds cachet for most academics. Flickr/mandiberg

Explainer: Open access vs traditional academic journal publishers

As the cost of accessing academic journal articles increases, a growing number of academic institutions are building publicly accessible databases of scholarly work. But how much of a threat to the traditional…
How does the high cost of academic journal subscriptions impact the developing world? How does the high cost of academic journal subscriptions impact the developing world? Flickr/Book Aid International

How academic journals price out developing countries

Universities libraries in the developed world are struggling to pay academic journal subscription costs – so how can universities in developing countries hope to pay? In this Q+A, Professor Adam Habib…
Does the cost of academic journals stymie learning? Does the cost of academic journals stymie learning? Flickr/the.Firebottle

Putting a price on knowledge: the high cost of academic journals

The phrase ‘publish or perish’ is familiar to all academics, who face enormous pressure to have their work featured in the top academic journals. Career progression, job security and pay rises can depend…
Exams aren’t the only way to turn out graduates ready for the world of work. Exams aren’t the only way to turn out graduates ready for the world of work. Flickr/Reality-check

Why we should abolish the university exam

The time has come to abolish university examinations. Just because something has been around a long time there’s no reason to assume it’s outdated. But in the case of exams that assumption would be right…
When is comes to research, it seems quantity has become much more important than quality. When is comes to research, it seems quantity has become much more important than quality. Flickr/Iscan

How ‘publish or perish’ is ruining finance education

Imagine the following conversation between a finance academic and his or her supervisor during an annual performance review: Academic: So, do you think I am ready for a promotion? Supervisor: Well, I see…
The best and the brightest put themselves put themselves through an intellectual ordeal to end up here. The best and the brightest put themselves put themselves through an intellectual ordeal to end up here. Flickr/Tejvan photos

Exam ‘over’ at All Souls College, Oxford, your time starts now…

The most feared exam in the world has been dropped. For over a century those hoping to study at All Souls College in Oxford opened an envelope with trepidation to discover just one word inside. They then…
The university funding system discourages research on volunteers like these men who are risking their lives to help their community. The university funding system discourages research on volunteers like these men who are risking their lives to help their community. Flickr/Rob Down Under

In universities obsessed with research here’s what falls between the cracks

In Australian universities at the moment research is everything. They obsess over the rankings in the new ERA system which measures research performance. For academics publishing in the top journals isn’t…
International students are not fuelling immigration as much as first thought. International students are not fuelling immigration as much as first thought. AAP/Tracey Nearmy

International students impaled on (illusory) population spike

If you’re in politics, population matters. Rival studies on what constitutes a sustainable Australian population project wildly different statistics. But behind the figures are real people whose lives…

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Texting in class affects learning

Tertiary students who send text messages during lectures pay less attention and demonstrate lower levels of learning as a…