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									                                                                     Charles Sturt University
                                                        Advancing Quality in Higher Education
                                                              Response to Discussion Papers




            ADVANCING QUALITY IN HIGHER EDUCATION

                  RESPONSE TO DISCUSSION PAPERS


                        CHARLES STURT UNIVERSITY

                                    17 February 2012




 Contact:      Professor Ross Chambers
               Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

 Email:        rchambers@csu.edu.au

 Tel:          (02) 6933 4335

 Address:      Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)
               Charles Sturt University
               Locked Bag 588
               Boorooma Street
               WAGGA WAGGA NSW 2678



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Advancing Quality in Higher Education
Response to Discussion Papers
16 February 2012
                                                                         Charles Sturt University
                                                            Advancing Quality in Higher Education
                                                                  Response to Discussion Papers

Summary

(1)    Principles

       Charles Sturt University (CSU) supports the proposed principles but suggests two
       further elements:

       (a)     Improvement:    there should be a clear commitment to continuous
               improvement as the primary focus of measurement;

       (b)     Diversity: measurement needs to recognise the diversity of missions and of
               cohorts in the Australian university system.

               CSU considers that current and proposed instruments do not adequately
               recognise the learning and teaching experiences of mature aged students or
               students who study off campus.

(2)    UES and CEQ

       (a)     CSU strongly recommends discontinuation of use of the CEQ;

       (b)     CSU supports the use of the UES on the basis recommended in the recently
               released final UES Report.

(3)    GDS

       CSU supports continued use of the GDS but recommends that employment
       outcomes for mature aged domestic students are included;

(4)    Generic Skills

       CSU does not support the proposals to measure “generic skills” of graduates.

       CSU considers that:

       (a)     It is not meaningful to consider generic skills outside disciplinary contexts;

       (b)     The proposed instruments will reproduce social disadvantage and privilege
               and poorly represent the achievement of low SES and indigenous students;

       (c)     The proposed instruments will face significant difficulties in administration.

       CSU considers that assurance of curriculum and assessment standards and related
       benchmarking is more appropriately the role of TEQSA than of DEEWR.

(5)    Retention/Progress

       CSU recommends that Retention and Progress measures are adopted as key
       elements in the AQHE framework.


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Advancing Quality in Higher Education
Response to Discussion Papers
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                                                                   Charles Sturt University
                                                      Advancing Quality in Higher Education
                                                            Response to Discussion Papers

       CSU notes that the objection that the integrity of such measures would be
       compromised if they were linked to reward funding is no longer relevant.

       CSU endorses the recommendation of the Base Funding Review regarding the
       importance of Retention/Progress indicators.

       CSU recommends that Retention/Progress measures be considered as improvement
       measures and linked to cohort characteristics.

(6)    Methodology

       (a)     CSU supports central administration of measures and the use of a survey
               methodology.

       (b)     CSU supports a balance in performance measures between questionnaire
               based measures and more concrete measures such as employment/further
               study and progress/retention.




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Advancing Quality in Higher Education
Response to Discussion Papers
16 February 2012
                                                                      Charles Sturt University
                                                         Advancing Quality in Higher Education
                                                               Response to Discussion Papers


(1)     Principles for Development of Performance Measurement Instruments in HE

 (i)    CSU supports the proposed principles but suggests two further elements:

        (a)    Improvement: the primary focus of measurement should be improvement in
               learning and teaching and the student experience.

               In particular, instruments should provide information which is actionable. A
               major problem with some current instruments, particularly the CEQ, is that
               results are not readily actionable. This is partly because data is not timely
               and partly because there is very poor linkage of responses to particular
               elements in the student experience.

               An emphasis on actionable and improvement instruments will also create
               much better alignment between universities’ internal QA and feedback
               processes and external processes. The former are usually focused on
               improvement and timely and actionable information. Better alignment is likely
               to improve staff engagement with external measures.

        (b)    Diversity: measurement needs to recognise the diversity of missions and
               cohorts in the Australian university system.

               Current and proposed instruments do not adequately recognise the learning
               and teaching experiences of mature aged students or those who study off
               campus or through flexible learning. They are based on a view of on campus,
               face to face teaching of RSL’s as the norm.

               This is most obvious in the case of the GDS where mature aged students are
               excluded.

               The CEQ and, to a lesser extent, the UES deal with teaching in ways which
               privilege on campus, fulltime, face to face experiences. For instance, in its
               internal feedback instruments CSU has found that responses from off campus
               and flexible learning students differ between items which ask for responses
               simply to “teaching” and items which specify that teaching includes off
               campus and online pedagogies. In other words, many off campus students
               respond to “teaching” by understanding it in traditional on campus terms.
               Their responses indicate that they have not been taught.

               In this context, the UES, with a focus on student engagement activities, is a
               significant improvement on the CEQ.

               As discussed below, the proposed Generic Skills instruments are likely to
               significantly undervalue the achievements of students from disadvantaged
               groups. The instruments place inappropriate weight on a student’s social
               cultural and intellectual background prior to entry to university.

 (ii)   CSU supports a life cycle approach:


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                                                                        Charles Sturt University
                                                           Advancing Quality in Higher Education
                                                                 Response to Discussion Papers

        In this context CSU considers that information on graduate employment some years
        beyond graduation is very useful as is feedback from graduates at such a point in
        time. The University devotes substantial resources to analysing long term retention
        of its graduates in rural and regional Australia.

        CSU would welcome a commitment of the system to such follow up of graduates but
        acknowledges the practical challenges with this.


(2)     UES and CEQ

 (i)    UES: CSU has strongly supported the development of the UES and endorses the
        recommendations of the Final Report which were released on Friday, 10 February
        2012. In CSU’s view the UES is much more substantially based on the research
        literature on student success, particularly student engagement, and on effective
        teaching and support, than the CEQ.

        As mentioned above, CSU considers that some more work to make the UES equally
        as applicable to mature aged and off campus students as to RSL and on campus
        students would be appropriate.

 (ii)   CEQ: CSU has found the CEQ to have very little value or relevance to its QA and
        feedback processes. The CEQ aligns poorly with the principles for measurement
        instruments. The instrument is:

           Not timely, but heavily lagged;
           Poorly aligned with the experiences of mature aged and off campus students;
           Not improvement oriented or actionable;
           Susceptible to volatility and “gaming”/manipulation;
           Overly “consumerist” in focus.

        CSU strongly recommends discontinuation of use of the CEQ.


(3)     GDS

        CSU finds current GDS information useful. CSU supports the extension of graduate
        employment/further study instruments to include information on outcomes for mature
        aged graduates (who were in the workforce whilst studying) and information on
        longer term (eg 5 year post completion) outcomes.

        With regard to the former, it is important to have information on the role universities
        play in supporting a flexible and developing workforce through new or upgraded
        qualifications. In smaller regional and in remote communities professional workforce
        needs are likely to be met by upgrading the qualifications of members of the
        community with paraprofessional or VET qualifications.




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Advancing Quality in Higher Education
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                                                                          Charles Sturt University
                                                             Advancing Quality in Higher Education
                                                                   Response to Discussion Papers

         The current GDS tends to privilege the experiences of those who are able to proceed
         directly to Full Time Study at University from School. It does not give adequate
         recognition to those who develop qualifications over a longer period after leaving
         School.

         With regard to the value of a focus on longer term outcomes, an important measure
         of the success of the university system in meeting professional workforce needs and
         supporting communities is long term retention of graduates in rural and regional
         communities and other hard to fill locations.

         Less than half of CSU’s domestic graduates are covered by the GDS. Thus the latter
         gives an incomplete and inadequate picture of the role the University plays in
         meeting workforce and community needs.


(4)      Generic Skills

         CSU does not support proposals for the introduction of some form of Generic Skills
         Assessment as a Performance Measurement Instrument. CSU considers that the
         introduction of such an instrument would likely have harmful effects on the learning
         outcomes and experiences of students.

 (i)     CSU does not consider it useful or appropriate (or even meaningful) to attempt to
         consider “generic skills” separate from the context of disciplines and fields of study.
         Generic skills are always contextualised and must be developed and assessed in
         context.

         It is artificial and inappropriate to separate “generic skills” from the broader processes
         of curriculum development and assessment standards.

 (ii)    As a result, performance monitoring should focus on the effectiveness of curriculum
         and assessment processes, including the establishment and monitoring of exit
         standards and consistency with AQF level descriptors. These processes will also
         include professional accreditation where appropriate.

 (iii)   In CSU’s view performance with regard to curriculum and assessment and exit
         standards is more properly a role for TEQSA than DEEWR. TEQSA has clear
         responsibility for Qualification Standards.

 (iv)    The way in which “generic skills” is constructed in the consultation papers, if used as
         the basis of a performance measure, is highly likely to lead to distortion of curriculum
         processes and to manipulation, especially through “teaching to the test”.

 (v)     CSU considers that discourse around generic skills has been overly influenced by
         private sector business employers. Indeed the term “employers” is often used,
         unreflectingly, to mean this group of employers.

         The majority of CSU graduates are employed in community and public sector fields:
         health, community services, education, criminal justice. A significant minority are self
         employed or in small practices: veterinary science; pharmacy; dentistry, etc.

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                                                                        Charles Sturt University
                                                           Advancing Quality in Higher Education
                                                                 Response to Discussion Papers

         These graduates complete programs based on well established processes for
         consultation with the professions and relevant employers.

         These processes have been highly effective in identifying graduate expectations and
         outcomes and in providing feedback on deficiencies in professional preparation.

         It would be harmful and distorting to these processes to seek to overlay them with an
         additional process driven externally.

 (vi)    It is well demonstrated that performance in uncontextualised “generic skills”
         instruments is very heavily influenced by a student’s social, cultural and educational
         background prior to university. The proposed generic skills instruments will merely
         serve to reproduce social inequality and privilege.

         The use of such instruments is at odds with a policy framework which seeks to make
         university education more inclusive.

         What is proposed will reintroduce ranking unrelated to achievement at university.
         The student from a low SES or indigenous background who succeeds in meeting the
         outcomes of a program of professional study will, on the basis of “generic skills”
         assessment be identified as less successful than a student from a privileged
         background.

 (vii)   The proposed “generic skills assessment” is highly likely to undervalue the
         achievements at university of students from low SES, indigenous and other
         disadvantaged communities.

 (viii) “Generic Skills” assessment is likely to prove difficult to administer. There will be no
        positive motivations for most students to be involved. Threats and sanctions will not
        promote engagement.


(5)      Retention and Progress

         CSU uses measures of retention and progress as key indicators in its internal
         monitoring of learning and teaching and the student experience.

         CSU considers retention and progress, if applied within an “improvement” framework
         which recognises cohort differences, to be very robust measures.

         CSU recommends that retention and progress be adopted as performance measures
         and that there be further consultation with the sector to agree on an improvement
         framework and appropriate recognition of cohort differences.

         In support of this recommendation CSU notes:

         (a)    the recommendation in the Base Funding Review for the adoption of progress
                and retention measures;

         (b)    that the objection in earlier papers on the AQHE to use of progress/retention
                was based on the view that the integrity of these measures might be
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                                                                     Charles Sturt University
                                                        Advancing Quality in Higher Education
                                                              Response to Discussion Papers

               compromised if reward funding were attached to them. This objection may no
               longer be relevant.



(6)    Methodology

       (a)     CSU supports central administration of instruments and the use of survey (as
               opposed to census) methods. These are most likely to provide high quality
               data and ensure its integrity.

       (b)     As set out above, CSU considers that there should not be an over reliance on
               questionnaire instruments.    Monitoring of performance should balance
               information from such instruments with more concrete measures such as
               employment/further study and progress/retention.




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