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  • Writer's pictureKane Murdoch

Regulators, mount up

Evening all,

Mrs Guerilla took last week off with the doggos (pictured below) to go on a 1,000 km Odyssey around the NSW countryside, hence no post last week. I'll be making it up to you shortly with a guest post from Shaun Lehmann, whose Platogiarism's Cave many of you seemed to enjoy.

As I was hurtling around the bush (obeying the speed limit at all times, obviously) it gave me time to think about what it is that I actually do at work. Among other things, I've had people claim that I'm a cop (no, fuck off); an "admin" (no, fuck off); and various other things (mostly no, but maybe not fuck off). I've come to the conclusion that I do two things that I care about- I deliver consequences for poor decisions, and I hold my employer to its own stated standards. It seems to me that this is what regulators do, at a high level. It's also made me think of a song which jumped into my head from someone I now know is Warren G.

The consequences part is relatively obvious. Just like everyone else, I've made mistakes. Mostly these mistakes have, as the saying goes, only hurt myself. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't have experienced consequences for making them. So when students make mistakes, sometimes (in our educational context) terrible ones, my job is to deliver the consequences of those decisions in a way that enables students to understand the mistake/s they made, and understand the reasoning for the consequences that follow. My eternal hope is that the students my team and I see learn from their mistakes, and will in time see the value of the lesson.

The hardest part of my job is to get unis to uphold their stated standards and walk their academic integrity talk. For those of you who have read the educational integrity pyramid paper Cath Ellis and I published recently, you would notice that "academic integrity" covers (what most unis assume is) the vast bulk of students at the bottom of the pyramid. Essentially the academic integrity frame relies primarily on students acting with integrity, and rightly so. Most students do. And the actions that occur in this space are the pleasant stuff. It's educative work, it's learning from mistakes, it's poster competitions and prizes, and such. Believe it or not, Foucault enthusiasts, stuff like Turnitin is down there as well, in the second level from the bottom. But, as I mentioned in my last post, unis routinely fail to act on the more serious stuff.

Which brings me to the regulators. The purpose of a regulator (as I understand it) is to set expectations, review events, and hold people or organisations to account. So, in the context of my uni, I'm a sort of regulator, in all areas of my work- complaints, appeals and misconduct. My team and I review what has happened, make decisions about whether students or staff "walked the walk" (as opposed to just talking the talk), and take action if not.

But how do we get unis to stop talking the talk, and start walking the walk? TEQSA, the Australian higher education regulator, recently released a sector alert that, in a relatively gentle way, reminded unis and higher education providers of their obligations when it comes to things like addressing serious and systemic contract cheating. What these statements are saying to me is that the regulator is taking in information from the sector, and growing increasingly concerned about what they see. It also strikes me that their approach is reasonably light touch- at this stage. However, if regulators should decide to bare the teeth, there's a stack of higher education providers which should dash down the shops to buy a bulk pack of brown pants- they will need them. The recently formed Global Academic Integrity Network (GAIN) of national regulators will also be watching with close interest what we do here in Australia.

So, unis. You have some self-regulation to do, before the regulator starts to bite.

Until next time,


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