University beat up II

We covered the ridiculous charges against Steve Keen a few days ago – today The Australian picks up the story.

Professor Keen did not carry out his threat, which he had posted on the university’s central student computer system. …
The university was not able to say whether students in Professor Keen’s course were eventually failed. But it said in a statement that any student who didn’t pass would be “case-managed on an individual basis to ensure (they) can still finalise their degree”.

So UWS management have referred the Steve Keen case to the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) and the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). I would have thought that ICAC might take as long as 20 seconds to decide to not pursue this matter. TEQSA, however, have a far more interesting set of inquiries to pursue.

Before I pursue this – let me say that I have previously argued that TEQSA is a complete waste of time. My opinion has not changed but I do hope to be pleasantly surprised.

I imagine that TEQSA will be asking why UWS has no quality control process to double-check what academic staff place on the “university’s central student computer system”. Even just to ensure that what is put up is consistent with university policy and procedure somebody should be double checking. Irrespective of the merits or otherwise of what Steve Keen did – it would have been picked up if UWS had a quality control process in place.

Then there is a problem of the teach-out strategy. Programs and/or courses are changed and discontinued all the time and in every such situation a strategy is required to deal with the teach-out. Those students in the program or course cannot be disadvantaged by the change. From the report it sounds like UWS had the strategy of crossing that bridge if and when they got to it. I doubt that would be considered good enough by any external observer (indeed internal observers should have raised the alarm – probably too scared to speak up).

It looks to me that Steve Keen was doing a bit more than making a joke at the Administration’s expense or even lodging something of a protest. He has highlighted that UWS actually had no strategy of dealing with students who might fail his subject (as I said before, it shouldn’t happen at third year level but can and does). In that situation failing a student would in fact be a violation of his duty of care to the students.

So it looks like TEQSA has a job ahead of it and it shouldn’t be Steve Keen who is getting rapped over the knuckles.

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37 Responses to University beat up II

  1. Bruce

    I agree Sinc, though when I read the article I thought to myself that Steve Keen had clearly pissed off some bureacrats, as the tactics are classically those of annoyed middle management egoists.

    A cleanout of universities (and also hospitals) of these useless vampiric paper shufflers is well overdue.

    I don’t agree with most of what Steve says, but I always enjoy reading him when he appears at ZeroHedge, where he is something of a patron saint.

  2. stackja

    I have never been to uni the highest I got was Certificate IV so have no way of knowing what this all about. Have heard Keen on radio and he sounds genuine.

  3. Gavin R Putland

    Sinclair Davidson wrote:

    He has highlighted that UWS actually had no strategy of dealing with students who might fail his subject (as I said before, it shouldn’t happen at third year level but can and does). In that situation failing a student would in fact be a violation of his duty of care to the students.

    Maybe that’s why UWS has gone for a closed hearing.

  4. NoFixedAddress

    I thought people from Western Sydney can say and do whatever they like without any hint of repercussions.

    Chop off their heads I say!

  5. kae

    The establishment where I work, part of a large tertiary institution, had major curriculum changes commencing last year. Many degree programs were discontinued and the courses required to qualify for some Degrees were discontinued.

    Students who find themselves in this situation have the option of continuing their current degree program under the old structure with different courses similar to what they would have required when the courses have been discontinued. Or they can continue in the new degree program with credit for all previous coursesso they are not disadvantaged.

    For example, the animal and plant biology courses were combined into one course in S1 (biol101), and there was a separate animal physiology course (phys101). All students had to complete both of these courses in the ten BAppSc programs. These courses are now discontinued, the 2012 offering being the last chance to complete these courses, with the courses only running once each in 2012. Students who have failed either of these courses will need to take one or other (or both if they’ve failed both), of the new courses (Plant Biol 101, Animal Biol 101).

    Whenever there is a curriculum review or program review these things must be worked out before the changes occur, the students must be able to complete their program and substitute courses must be found. They may even be courses offered by another institution.

  6. Louis Hissink

    In that situation failing a student would in fact be a violation of his duty of care to the students.

    Sinc, you are kidding us – that smells like an academic version of the anti-dismissal regime (see yesterday’s Fin). Is there no limit to the definition of duty of care????

  7. Entropy

    Sounds like that is as it should be, Kae. If this is Gatton, are the appsci people now in the same class as the aggies?

  8. Samuel J

    UWS is no university. Keen is no economist. End of story.

  9. Milton Von Smith

    TEQSA will be asking why UWS has no quality control process to double-check what academic staff place on the “university’s central student computer system”. Even just to ensure that what is put up is consistent with university policy and procedure somebody should be double checking. Irrespective of the merits or otherwise of what Steve Keen did – it would have been picked up if UWS had a quality control process in place.

    Great, just what universities need – more bureaucrats to control what academics put on their course websites.

  10. kae

    Ent

    It’s all changing, some good and some not so (but that’s just my opinion).

    Talk (well, maybe not talk, it’s happening) of implementing a fourth “specialisation” year to be a BSc in the specialisation of the BAppSc, so if they do the three year BAppSc Animal Production, they do an extra year and come out with a BSc Animal Production.

    All the U/G Diploma and Ass Degrees are gone. No feed in for the Degree programs. Very sad.

    Stuff’s happening and it’s not good. BUT there has been a huge crack down on integrity matters. These are now being handled by a single person in the School and she’s across it all. The students are tracked an any infractions (plagiarism, cheating, etc) are noted on their file. Before it was just a lecturer who might know about this and it went no further.

    Other things happening, too. Accademics have been cautioned about marking students higher than they should because then we have students getting higher grades than they should and they then jack up when someone marks them properly.

    There are issues with students paying online about $200 for an assignment to be written and this is concerning as they are original and therefore can’t be picked up by TurnItIn.

    A lot of courses have been ditched. Too many courses offered were too similar. Rangelands is gone.

  11. Chris M

    “UWS actually had no strategy of dealing with students who might fail his subject”

    I think the only other subjects at UWS (PBUI) are various Moslem studies, pretty hard to fail there.

  12. I loved this bit:

    “The university was not able refused to say whether students in Professor Keen’s course were eventually failed.”

    How dare you peasants ask us questions…

  13. Rabz

    UWS is no university. Keen is no economist. End of story.

    Quite so!

    :)

  14. [Let's not go there - read the later chapters of Genesis and you'll find similar stuff. Sinc]

  15. entropy

    cough ” Dawkins” cough.

    PS my brother went there.

  16. Leigh Lowe

    Steve Keen is an A-Grade fuckwit.
    Please tell me what loss it would be if UWS gives him the flick?

  17. Taylor

    Way over his head, unfortunately.

  18. mundi

    My experience of unis today is that they just give you the degree, even if you have failed subjects. This is the one reason while our unis are held in such low reguard, that and the fact you can get a degree while not knowing 50% of the work.

  19. Since someone else brought up the matter of course subjects, I thought I’d share some interesting-looking ones from the US:

    Stanford University, History: Social Democracy from Marx to Gross National Happiness

    Carnegie Mellon University, Economics: Political Economy of Inequality and Redistribution

    It’s hard to see anyone failing a course in either of those, or in Sociology of the 1 Percent, TBH. Unless perhaps they were conservative-leaning.

  20. Studies in Othering: Patriarchal Heteronormative Whites and the Angry Black Queer

  21. Sinclair Davidson

    I have only ever met Steve Keen once (at a teaching economics conference) and he seemed a nice enough sort of person – I disagreed with his presentation and subsequently wrote a scathing review of his book. There is nothing wrong with disagreeing with people and if fact that is to be encouraged.

    What UWS is doing is the antithesis of the market for ideas. They are using coercive intimidation to silence a critic. This is wrong on several levels. It is consistent with the dictatorship dilemma – when people are too scared to tell the dictator there are a problems with their rule the dictator becomes ever increasingly unpopular and their rule fails.

  22. Jim Rose

    Steve Keen runs a subscription website. is he really that interesting?

    see http://antidismal.blogspot.co.nz/search/label/Keen

    maybe keen, coase and the austrians can form a unity ticket. none like maths.

  23. Gavin R Putland

    Jim Rose wrote:

    maybe keen, coase and the austrians can form a unity ticket. none like maths.

    Keen definitely likes maths. His models are numerical solutions of differential equations. The chapter on maths in his book is headed “Don’t shoot me, I’m only the piano”.

    No, I’m not an uncritical admirer of Keen. He’s wet; I’m dry. But he’s also the enemy of my enemy — neoclassical economics — and has done more damage to it than any other single economist.

    Leigh Lowe wrote:

    Steve Keen is an A-Grade fuckwit.

    The standard of debate on this blog is, er, variable.

    Please tell me what loss it would be if UWS gives him the flick?

    UWS will lose the only reason why Joe Public has ever heard of UWS.

  24. Sinclair Davidson

    … has done more damage to it than any other single economist.

    That’s crap.

  25. Jim Rose

    But he’s also the enemy of my enemy — neoclassical economics — and has done more damage to it than any other single economist

    even Paul Krugman makes sense on Keen’s errors
    see http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/02/oh-my-steve-keen-edition/

  26. “and has done more damage to it than any other single economist.”

    I can’t see how he has done any damage to neoclassical economics. As Chris Auld as shown (eg here and here) much of what Keen says is wrong.

  27. Sinc-TEQSA is part of UNESCO’s Quality Assurance program to use accreditation internationally to transform both nigher education and K-12.

    http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/is-accreditation-the-enforcer-for-unescos-vision-of-solidarity/ explains the decision in 1998 to use accreditation and to remake higher ed.

    What drives UNESCO is the idea of cultural evolution. Julian Huxley who created the UNESCO vision was consumed with the idea. It has always driven what UNESCO pushes.

    I know how hard the accreditors all over the world are pushing the UNESCO vision. So it’s more than a waste. It’s actually a major poison delivery system to the idea that education is about the transmission of a body of knowledge.

    No, to them education is transformation to change mindsets. Who then get to vote based on emotion, not knowledge.

  28. Sinclair Davidson

    Robin – I don’t know about that. TEQSA was set up after the Bradley review (about 2008) and it replaced the previous quality body called AUQA. In general, however, I agree UNESCO is a menace.

  29. Jim Rose

    “and has done more damage to it than any other single economist.”

    to do damage, people must know of him.

  30. Sinc- I do. I have all the paperwork all the way through.

    Including the only time in my life that I got bounced off a server while reading the document. Thank goodness I downloaded first.

    It outlined UNESCO’s takedown of higher ed using accreditation.

    Just wanted to give you a heads up. If you need hard docs at some point let me know.

  31. Jim Rose

    sinclair, where did you write the review of Keen?

  32. Leigh Lowe

    Mr Putland.
    If the evidence that Keen is an A-Grade fuckwit is not apparent to you I suggest you examine his economic predictions for the last 15 years.
    He is always an outlier on the doomsayer end of the spectrum and is spectacularly wrong 90% of the time.
    When he happens to be right about outcomes ( but for the wrong reasons) he becomes the darling of he ABC and their “go to” expert mouthpiece.
    He simply HATES free enterprise capitalism and every bit of half-arsed economic commentary he produces is informed by this bitter myopia.
    And as for UWS “losing the only reason Joe Public has heard of UWS” that is an interesting measure to use to value an academic.
    And I would dispute that his PR stunts are actually of value to UWS. I suspect it simply reinforces the view that UWS is populated by lightweights and is little more than a glorified TAFE.

  33. PoliticoNT

    Sinc

    TEQSA care about three things at the moment. (1) Embedding their legal status and control over the tertiary education provider sector. (Your Quadrant article covers this fairly well. I think you need to revisit just how insidious it is, especially taking into account Robin’s comments above re UNESCO.) (2) The financial health/risk status of providers. (3) Provider adherence to an abstract qualification framework drafted by bureaucrats completely disconnected from the reality of education/training outcomes sought by students.

    The key interest from a student’s perspective is the quality of the education/training they are receiving at the coalface. This is something TEQSA et al. do not understand, and are unlikely to ever understand unless you get some inspired ministerial leadership which forces such a change on both the bureaucratic overseers and (most importantly) the providers. (And if we’re honest we should replace ‘providers’ with ‘universities’ as they are TEQSA’s real focus.)

    The problem is that students experience education from a subjective point of view and provide feedback accordingly. On the other hand university reporting processes and regulatory agency assessment frameworks are if anything extremely hostile to student point of view. Try reading the current Australian Qualifications Framework for Masters courses. It is an immaculate piece of bureaucratic buggery – it is simply not possible for any institution to fail at delivering against the AQF framework because of the way the framework is drafted.

    The social engineering silliness of Bradley aside, the only bloody thing that counts is the quality of instruction. Good instruction = good outcomes. But I am yet to see an Australian university honestly and effectively seeking out the views of its students, and then making change when necessary.

  34. sdfc

    He is always an outlier on the doomsayer end of the spectrum and is spectacularly wrong 90% of the time.

    That’s rubbish. Keen maintained a forecast that has proved to be correct.

  35. Politico-the Qualifications Frameworks are not unique to Australia. I have them from UK and South Africa. The US is moving that way but not saying so yet.

    It comes from the idea of using education to both change the individual and cultural noetic system while gaining control over the economy at the same time. Which is why CAGW as the excuse and Transformational Outcomes bAsed education as the vehicle marry so well.

    Unfortunately there is no prosperity in that marriage. Just bureaucratic power.

    If you have not read up on the Bologna Process (not a cold cut or the makings of a sauce), that is the remaking of higher ed. Furthest along are UK and Scandinavians.

  36. Driftforge

    As one of Steve Keen’s colleagues, I think it is fair to say that his comment to his UWS students was moot from the moment it left his lips because:
    (1) It is well-known (at UWS) that Steve would never pass a student who in fact failed horrendously. Thus his comment was in all likelihood one of his, not entirely uncommon, ‘off the cuff’ or ‘shoot from the hip’ remarks.
    (2) For the most part, economics students who survive to third year are sufficiently motivated and well-equipped to, under their own steam, avoid failure anyway.
    As for UWS management referring Steve to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, that move has now been withdrawn.
    As for the ‘plurality’ of views and specialisations in economics at UWS, there is no doubt that it has taken a very large hit for no other reason than a fair number of senior academic economists of ‘orthodox’ and ‘heterodox’ persuasions working in diverse fields will be leaving.

    From Quiggin’s thread..

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