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Marcia Devlin's blog

ARE STUDENTS 'THE PROBLEM' WHEN IT COMES TO UNI SUCCESS?

When uni drop out happens, it can be tempting to balme the student. But this is simplistic thinking at its worst.

The ways in which students from low socio-economic status in Australian higher education are thought about and talked about need some careful examination.

 There are deficit conceptions of students from low socio-economic backgrounds and deficit conceptions of the institutions in which they study. But is there a more useful and progressive framing of the widening participation agenda?

The Australian federal government has set an ambitious target in an attempt to address the under-representation of students from low socioeconomic status (low SES) backgrounds in higher education: that by the year 2020, twenty per cent of higher education enrolments at undergraduate level should be from students from low SES backgrounds.

Free money and help for uni students

The caps are coming off and university administrations are nervous. Just what a demand driven system means for university recruitment, no-one really knows for sure.  What I know for sure is that as well as ensuring recruitment targets are met, we need to be ready to ensure the success of the students we recruit, especially the ones who are from underprivileged backgrounds. 

I think we should give them all schoalrships, bursaries, stipends and all the other versions of free money available.  Lucky I don't rule the university world or we'd be spending a bit of money (and maybe keeping more students to completion...ahem).

We also need to assist those who aren't familiar with the discourses and norms of higher education to understand what is expected of them as university students and to learn to perform in ways that ensure their success.  Easy to type, hard to do.  But some research I led last year has some cool tips.

My University Website

Julia Gillard will today announce the launch of the My University Website.

Social inclusion, ideology, Lady Gaga and higher education

A couple of weeks ago, I read in a magazine that successful Mad Men actress January Jones was told by her ex-boyfriend Ashton Kutcher (now married to the impossibly youthful Demi Moore – do try to keep up) that she would never make it as an actress.  Last week, I heard on the radio that mega successful entertainer Lady Gaga was told by an ex-boyfriend that she would never make it as a singer or win a Grammy (she has won 2 Grammys so far). 

This week, a young academic told me that her line manager had told her she would never get promoted.  (The young woman is extraordinarily determined, feisty, intelligent and, as her manager will see, she will catch him up and pass him before he knows what hit him.)

Performance funding; federal government

The federal government have released their discussion paper on performance funding for universities: http://www.deewr.gov.au/HigherEducation/Documents/HIEDPerformanceFunding...

Overall, it raises lots of pertinent questions and had it not been released just before Christmas Eve to a change weary sector, it might have provided the opportunity for the sector to have genunine input into how teaching perfromance is measured in Australia. 

Alternative university entry: New, fresh, clever and innovative?

There’s a lot of talk about ‘alternative’ entry to university at the moment.  Debate in this area always makes me smile, particularly when arguments about it are presented as if they are new.

The federal government agenda in relation to widening participation in higher education has led to some excited commentary about moving away from the traditional means of selecting students for university based on numerical, relative rankings derived from their senior high school performance.

What will Australian universities look like in 20 years?

What will Australian universities look like in 20 years?

 

I was asked this recently after giving a keynote address at a conference, during which I outlined the federal government agenda in relation to higher education.

 

It’s a difficult question to answer but I thought I’d give it a whirl as most people reading this will forget to check back in 20 years so I’m fairly certain I won’t be a laughing stock in 2029 (always a worry).

 

In 2029, I’ll be in my mid 60s and still working thanks to changes to superannuation laws. My children, now entering their teens, will be in their 30s. It’s hard to imagine.

 

Women and the Academic Profession

I am woman, hear me roar.

A conference last week on the future of the academic profession had, according to the associated website, 20 speakers, only 4 of whom were female.  I would have gone, but as I prepared to register and read through the line up, I became so irritated that I decided to vote with my feet.

The report that informed the conference (written by 6 men and no women) tells a bleak story about the academic profession’s attractiveness to women.

According to the report,  “a higher proportion of women than men have typically been employed as casuals, and a lower proportion have occupied tenured posts”.   This is bad news, right?

What value does university study add?

The federal government has released the discussion paper that will underpin the arrangements for funding for universities for the immediate future.  Mission-Based Compacts for Universities: a Framework for Discussion (http://www.deewr.gov.au/HigherEducation/Pages/Compacts.aspx)

 

The arrangements that result from compact agreements will have far reaching effects on individual institutions and on the Australian higher education sector as a whole.

 

The discussion paper is comprehensive in terms of the areas covered and issues raised. 

 

It is particularly pleasing to see maters of transparency, duration of compacts and, in particular, consequences for failing to meet compact commitments raised.  Without consequences for non-compliance, the whole exercise will be a waste of time and money, not to mention an insult to the intelligence of the Australian people.

 

Student engagement is on the federal government agenda

I have been at two national forums on student engagement in the last 3 weeks - one here in Melbourne and one in New Zealand.  I've been talking about student engagement for about 3 years now and was just beginning to give up hope that it would ever catch on.  But catch on it appears to have done.

 

Its popularity is probably due in part to the federal government's stamp of approval of student engagement as a site of interest.  In 2009, the Australian federal government responded to the Bradley Review of Higher Education report through the May 2009 federal budget.  In their budget summary document, Transforming Australia’s Higher Education System (http://www.deewr.gov.au/HigherEducation/Pages/TransformingAustraliasHESy...), the government indicate the status of each of the specific recommendations made by the Bradley Review. 

 

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