Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Regional Australia's Universities - student satisfaction rankings

I have been browsing the Good Universities Guide 2007 to see if Regional Australia's universities have maintained their high student satisfaction rankings. The short answer is yes.

If we look at the top rankings for the overall education experience, we find that Regional Australia's universities get 10 of the top 16 places :

  • Five stars - highest ranking: Avondale, Bond, Christian Heritage College (metro), Murdoch (metro), Sunshine Coast, Swinburne (metro), University of New England, Wollongong
  • Four stars: Australian National University, Ballarat, Edith Cowan University (metro), James Cook University, Queensland (metro), Southern Cross, University of Southern Queensland and Victoria University (metro).

If we now look at teaching quality, we find that Regional Australia's universities again 10 get of the top 16 places:

  • Five stars: Australian Maritime College, Avondale, Bond, Christian Heritage Centre (metro), Murdoch (metro), Sunshine Coast, Swinburne (metro), University of New England
  • Four stars: Ballarat, Central Queensland University, Edith Cowan University (metro), James Cook University, Queensland (metro), University of Southern Queensland, Victoria University (metro), Wollongong

If we now look at the educational experience in terms of the acquisition of generic skills, we find that Regional Australia's universities yet again get10 of the top 16 places.

  • Five stars: Avondale, Bond, Christian Heritage Centre (metro), Murdoch (metro), Sunshine Coast, Swinburne (metro), Victoria University (metro), Wollongong
  • Four stars: Australian National University, Ballarat, James Cook University, Newcastle, Queensland (metro), Southern Cross, Sydney (metro), University of New England

Finally, if we look at overall student satisfaction, we find that Regional Australia's universities get 11 out of the top 17 places.

  • Five stars: Avondale, Bond, Christian Heritage Centre (metro), Murdoch (metro), Swinburne (metro), University of New England, University of Southern Queensland, Wollongong
  • Four stars: Australian National University, Ballarat, James Cook University, La Trobe (metro), Queensland (metro), Southern Cross, Sunshine Coast, Victoria University (metro)

I find it interesting that, with the exception of the University of Queensland, none of the best known metro universities appear on these lists.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Why go to a mass university?

On this blog I have often encouraged people to consider the regional option for higher education because I think that it gives a more intense educational experience.

My eldest has just switched to the University of NSW because it gave her a better subject choice. Today was her first day and she is in a state of shock.

In one of her courses, one that she did last year at another place getting a reasonable result, there are 1800 on campus students, many international, with eight parallel lectures and twenty four parallel tutorials.

Like her father, Helen learns from interaction with staff and other students. She also wants to contribute to campus life. She is now wondering just how she might do this.

It's not surprising that the smaller universities located in Regional Australia rank so high on student satisfaction.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The smell of rain on warm earth

Photo: Gordon Smith, Evening Storm

I came out the office building in Ashfield (Sydney) that I have been working in for the last few days to a change in the weather. It was overcast, the temperature was falling and there were irregular drops of rain. Suddenly I caught the smell of the coming rain. But what a difference from my past.

Growing up, I used to sit on our front veranda watching the storms beat in across the valley. I loved the sudden smell of rain on warm earth. But what a difference! Now in Ashfield the smell was a sourer one, of still distant rain on tar and concrete.

I suddenly realised that I had forgotten the original smell. In fact, I do not know the last time I smelled it.

This got me wondering. We already know that an increasing number of metro kids have never been on a farm or seen a farm animal outside shows. So I wonder how many metro kids actually know the wonderful smell of rain on dry earth?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Explnation for Pause in Posts

I apologise for the pause in posts. I have been tied up on a mjor project.

Regular transmission will begin later in the week.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Channel 7's The Real Sea Change

I have been remiss in not mentioning Channel 7's the Real Sea Change program on this blog. I was reminded of this by a request from Jason, one of the producers, asking me if I could put him in touch with people planning to sea/tree change.

The program follows the real life experiences of those making the change.

Summaries of the first thirteen episodes can be found on the Real Sea change blog. The blog also includes an interesting message board where people can post their own experiences, comment on others.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Regional Australia Experience - Tranquility

"A pool in the Styx River.

This scene reminds me of something a co-worker said as I was about to leave Sydney to return to New England after living and working in the City for a couple of years. She said that she couldn’t understand why anybody would want to live outside the City because the City had all that anybody could possibly need or want.

I think this photograph describes why I couldn’t agree with her."

Another great post by Gordon Smith on his marvellous photo blog.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Regional Australia - Olives Update

Photo: Hand Harvesting Olives

Someone asked me why I featured olives on this blog.

It's partly because I like olives, partly because olives and olive growing is a sign of the diversification sweeping Regional Australia as the old monoculture is replaced by a greater variety of local food products. This is progressively transforming regional life, deepening variety and texture. I find this exciting.

I have to thank olives101, still my favourite olives site, for two stories.

In the first, they drew my attention to a new book Producing Table Olives in Australia designed to help those interested in entering the industry. Here I also noticed that the NSW Department of Primary Industry has a useful paper on the Australian olive industry.

Did you know, I didn't, that since the mid 1990s around 30,000 hectares have been planted to olives in Australia? That's actually a lot of olives! At some point I must talk about the problem of feral olives, something that raises the vision of wild olive trees prowling the by-ways of Regional Australia!

In the second story, olives101 drew my attention to a new development by scientists at Charles Sturt University, a university I spoke of in a recent post.

Scientists at Charles Sturt University and the Heart Research Institute have discovered that the dregs of olive oil have anti-inflammatory benefits.

The pulp contains over 100 antioxidants, several of which they believe could be beneficial in halting hardening in the arteries, or atherosclerosis, associated with poor heart health.

At present, only two per cent of the antioxidants in the fruit actually end up in the oil, with 98 per cent remaining in the pulp. The discovery holds out the possibility of using the pulp.

"It's very exciting to discover something that is just raw waste disposal at the moment has properties that could be used to heal," said chemistry scientist Dr Paul Prenzler.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

International Students and Regional Australia's Universities

This short post is directed at overseas students interested in studying at one of Australia's universities and their parents.

The purpose of your study is obviously critical to your choice of an Australian university. Depending on your objective, I would recommend that you or your children should consider studying at a university in Regional Australia for the following very practical reasons.

First, the cost is likely to be less, in some cases a whole lot less, even taking extra travel into account. By all manner of means pay the extra if you believe that the gains warrant it, but if you are like me and trying to do the best you can with a limited budget, then Regional is attractive.

Secondly, you or your children are likely to find it a lot easier to meet and mix with Australians simply because the local proportion of students is higher. This can be very important if you want to improve English, to learn about another culture. In some courses at some metro universities, the proportion of overseas students is now over 50 per cent. That's fine, but it blocks you off from local contact.

Thirdly, Regional Australia's universities on average consistently rate higher than their metro cousins on student satisfaction. Student numbers are lower, campus life more intense, relations with staff better.

Fourthly, if (and this is one of the hidden agenda items for many parents) the objective is to gain Australian permanent residency, then going to a Regional Australia university will do you no harm and may even do you good.

Finally, the actual standard of teaching tends to be higher in part because the student/teacher ratios are better. In some metro universities, tutorials have up to forty people in them, hardly a conducive environment for effective discussion.