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Helping overseas academics make the transition

University induction packages are tailored for home-grown academics and fail to address the specific needs of new academics from overseas.

Simple advice, such how to open a bank account, get a tax file number, find a school for dependent children and get a driver’s licence, can make the difference in helping academics from overseas adjust more readily into Australian life.

But universities tend to provide work-related information only in their induction programs, while ignoring everyday practicalities.

To complicate things even further, researchers from Charles Sturt University argue that induction processes and packages are generic in nature, and can leave overseas academics, especially those from a non-English speaking background, floundering in a sea of “cultural assumptions and taken-for-granted local practices”.

Instead, often the most useful sources of practical information, of both a personal and professional nature, are gleaned on an ad hoc basis from well-meaning colleagues.

Writing in the most recent edition of the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, Dr Sue Saltmarsh from CSU and Teresa Swirski from Macquarie University argue that despite the global nature of the academic workforce and assumptions of a seamless transition when relocating, their interviews with 12 participants from four continents did not back that up.

“Most reported their initial struggle with the assumed knowledge upon which induction and professional development activities were reliant, including those whose tertiary education and work histories had taken place in developed, Anglophone countries,” the researchers write.

“Similarly, most experienced initial bewilderment about routine, everyday activities such as arranging banking and finance, driver’s licences, professional memberships and so on, and none had been formally provided with information about locally available support networks and community services.”

Participants spoke of not realising just “how different the higher education system actually is” in terms of class structure, student expectations, assignments and the like.

“No one explains these things to you. You just kind of figure them out as you make mistakes.”

Another spoke of the jargon and assumed knowledge inherent in the higher education sector. “A lot of it has gone over my head,” they said.

And even for those who found the induction and training programs beneficial, the sheer volume of information, from initial induction process to faculty forums to individual inductions in everything from IT to HR, was overwhelming.

“A lot of it just went in one ear and out the other.”

The authors write that “questions of personal, cultural and social identity” emerged as a significant tension, arguing there are significant policy implications for universities in terms of recruitment planning, workplace induction and other programs aimed at staff development and retention.

“Implications of our study include the need to ensure that incoming international staff are provided with adequate information not only about working at the university, but also about government and local resources that might aid in their initial transition,” Saltmarsh and Swirski write.

While the research was conducted at only one comprehensive regional university, they say the lack of information specifically tailored for international staff is common across Australian institutions.

“However … the communication of even seemingly generic information about university services, information sources and so on is culturally specific, and may not be readily understood by those from other linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

“There is thus a need to ensure that induction programs are responsive to cultural difference.”

Even simple steps to amend this could greatly assist in the transition of new overseas academics, they conclude.

Source: Campus Review – 17 May 10 by Julie Hare

Private college numbers soar despite regulators’ crackdown

PRIVATE college numbers have surged by 20 per cent in the past year, defying the federal government crackdown and prompting a warning the sector is still expanding too fast for regulators to cope.

As scores of colleges have collapsed or been wound up in the past two years, another 100 providers have sprung up mainly in key problem states of Victoria and NSW, latest official figures show.

“It’s too much, too fast. It’s exceeding the capacity of the regulators to keep on top of it all,” the University of Melbourne’s Leesa Wheelahan said.

“Education isn’t a quick and dirty business. It takes time to build capacity and expertise.”

Former Australian Council of Private Education and Training chief executive Tim Smith said the figures were unprecedented.

“The new compliance regime is biting and will drive quality improvement. But on balance it’s healthy,” Mr Smith said.

The comments follow evidence to the Senate by federal education department secretary Lisa Paul that 100 new providers had been registered, and Ms Paul expected the sector “to continue to grow”. However, Professor Wheelahan said the growth in private providers had been “so big and fast”, it had exposed problems in regulation and quality assurance. The figures highlighted the potential for “phoenixing”, where businesses close down and re-emerge with a new name to escape debts.

“The various state governments need to explain the arrangements they have in place to ensure that a deregistered provider in one state doesn’t pop up in another guise in another state,” Professor Wheelahan said.

The figures come as Education Minister Julia Gillard announced the successful passage of the re-registration of providers bill, which will apply to all providers registered to teach international students. “Only those who have met the strengthened entry requirements will remain on the register from January 1, 2011,” Ms Gillard said.

Yet the peak vocational regulator declined to say whether the 100 new providers would be subjected to increased checks.

Students affected by closures had been supported by consumer protection arrangements, ACPET chief Andrew Smith said.

source: The Australian Higher Education

Universities Australia seeks $881m more in funding

The Australian Higher Education-

UNIVERSITIES Australia is pressuring the Rudd government to immediately boost higher education spending by $881 million and has warned that any large-scale expansion of the sector could jeopardise quality.

In its 2010-11 budget submission UA calls for an immediate 10 per cent increase in teaching funding, as recommended by the 2008 Bradley review, at a cost of $480m.

It also wants an extra $105m for the Australian Research Council to boost grant success rates and a further $140m for the Research Training Scheme.

On top of the $881m, UA is also seeking $450m in infrastructure funding in 2010-11, including the restoration of $200m in promised spending that Treasury put on hold last year. It also wants an extra $250m in disbursements from the Education Investment Fund.

UA says the sector this year had increased main round offers by about 9 per cent in response to the government’s expansion agenda, but warns that government-funded places do not cover the full cost of teaching. It says expansion is only affordable for small universities that can reap efficiencies from increased scale.

“Many of these universities are relying upon commitments for better funding from 2011 and 2012 to justify positioning themselves early through such expanded enrolments, as present per student funding doesn’t necessarily cover costs and the sector has experienced a long period of decline in real funding per student,” UA says in its submission.

“Risk to either quality and/or sustainability are therefore present,” it warns.

In parliament yesterday, Education Minister Julia Gillard talked up the government’s $5 billion, four-year package of reforms for universities. She noted the government would be investing almost $46bn in university teaching and research in the four years to 2011-12, compared to the $28bn spent by the Howard government in the four years to 2007-08.

The Deputy Prime Minister said the government’s policy to gradually uncap places to boost participation was delivering, with the sector expected to expand the number of commonwealth supported places by 7.5 per cent this year.

But while welcoming the government’s budget injections for higher education, UA warns that “there are problems that still are facing Australia on immediate university budget support that deserve attention and redress”.

It notes that spending on higher education generally yielded higher returns than other government outlays and helped to boost productivity. “The pay-off for Australia’s future would be many times this funding allocation,” it says. “Therefore it isn’t a true strain on the budget.”

UA is also lobbying for $84m from a faster phase-in of commitments to boost cost indexation and money for indirect research costs. It wants $30m in equity and performance funding to be brought forward as well, and it wants $42m for a national internship scheme to better integrate work and learning.

Frustrated that infrastructure funding from the EIF is being diluted by the diversion of funds to green research projects and non-university providers, UA wants the $450m infrastructure money it is seeking to be quarantined in a separate fund for expanding universities facilities, and to be fairly distributed under a formula like that used for last year’s Better Universities Renewal Fund.


The Road

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via The Road.

The Road

Jónsi – Go (solo album)

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via Jónsi – Go (solo album).

Jónsi Þór Birgisson of Sigur Rós has begun to reveal his new solo album side project ‘Go’. He’s not giving much away at the moment but I’m sure all will become clear in due course.  In the meantime, there’s a free track available to download on his website atjonsi.com once you’ve signed up to the mailing list. Be sure to click the letters of Jónsi on the homepage, it plays snippets of other songs from the album. The ‘j’ is amazing.

Boy Lilikoi – Jónsi

From the tags on this mp3, it is revealed that the album is to be called ‘Go’ and is set to be released worldwide on or around March 22nd 2010. Unlike most of his songs, the lyrics this time are in English. I’m not sure whether the rest of this solo album will be in English but it could show Jónsi trying to gain a more foreign listening audience.

Go Do
Animal Arithmetic
Tornado
Boy Lilikoi
Sinking Friendships
Kolnidur
Grow Till Tall
Around Us
Hengilas

‘Go’ Tracklist (announced 07/12/09)

Jónsi

I’m Here