Wednesday 2 October

SSAF debate

The Conversation fact-checks former Higher Education Minister Kim Carr’s statement that scrapping the student services and amenities fee would have a $300 million effect on basic service provision, concluding that while the impact would be significant, the figure of $300 million could not be substantiated by available data.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has pulled back from Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s statement that the Coalition would axe the fee, indicating that its abolition is “not a priority”. The Australian has reported that some students feel that the SSAF is disproportionately allocated to student unions whose membership does not reflect the broader student population.

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Student internships

Internships for students are again on the agenda, with a new scheme to offer Australian university students paid internships with French companies as well as free visas. The first round of the scheme, launched in partnership with the Australian Technology Network of universities and the Group of Eight, will offer many as 20 students the opportunity to work first in a company's Australian subsidiary and then for the parent company in France. The lack of paid internships for students is also an issue in the UK, where the president of the National Union of Students has called on Vice-Chancellors to use their influence to end the practice of unpaid internships and act as advocates to end youth unemployment.

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Tertiary education and visas

The Coalition’s plans to further extend the streamlining visa process beyond universities may founder over issues of which colleges and TAFEs should be included, according to the Australian. Size thresholds for numbers of annual student visa applications would exclude some niche providers, while a number of TAFEs were excluded from the previous list drawn up by the Labor government.

The issue highlights the problems that may be caused by splitting tertiary education across two portfolios, with VET now sitting in Industry while higher education remaining in Education. Commentators have suggested that the split may exacerbate red tape and cause confusion about the application of schemes such as income-contingent loans, which are available to both university and VET students.

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Medical training in regional and rural Australia

Greater training opportunities for doctors, rather than new medical schools, are the solution to doctor shortages in rural areas, according to a new opinion piece by the president of the Australian Medical Students Association, Benjamin Veness. Veness highlights that there is demand from medical students to practice in regional and rural areas, but that students are forced to undertake their postgraduate training in areas where there are accredited intern places.

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Research publications

New research has shown that sharing data in a public repository can lead to tangible benefits to researchers’ publication record through increased citations. The analysis of almost 11,000 scientific papers, published by American open access researchers Heather Pinowar and Todd Vision, found that papers that reported on research where the underlying data was made available in a public repository received 9% more citations than similar studies for which the data was not made available.

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Online education

UNE Vice-Chancellor Jim Barber has again called on the government to remove barriers to online-only education, suggesting that a fully online institution without the capital costs associated with running campus enterprises could be more efficient and offer lower-cost education to domestic and international students. Meanwhile, Open Universities Australia has reported strong demand for its free MOOC 'taster' courses, with the Open2Study short courses attracting 38,956 enrolments in their first six months. Completion rates for the courses were around 27% - well above the 7-9% completions for big MOOC providers such as Coursera.

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New university launched

Federation University Australia has officially been launched, with a mission to “dramatically increase” the number of regional students enrolled in university. The newly formed institution, created from the merger of the University of Ballarat with Monash's Gippsland campus, has appointed Professor Marcia Devlin as FedUni's deputy vice-chancellor (learning and quality).

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