Cash injection: big push for applied drug research

Plus staying safe in the wild wild West(ern) Sydney U and don’t promote campus with carpark pics

Yes, but

Australian Laureate Fellowship applicants have until tonight to file rejoinders to external assessors reports with the Australian Research Council. Keep it classy people.

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Equitably erasing deregulation

Student activists were warning about $100k degrees yesterday but anybody who heard Education Minister Simon Birmingham answer a question from Greens senator Robert Simms on low income student loans in Question Time will not be expecting them in this budget, or probably the next, even if the government wins the election. Senator Birmingham talked of income contingent loans, the absence of upfront fees and increased access to university for low SES students. And if there are changes he said, “they will apply equitably.”

CMM suspects this is code for a higher repayment rate for income contingent loans to be announced in this year’s budget. As Senator Birmingham said the system has to be “sustainable,” which is also code, for savings. It would be hard for Labor to oppose this if the deficit is as bad as expected. And with the Greens pitching itself as the party of students and unionised university staff Labor does not have much to lose in supporting a hike to FEE HELP repayments.

As to universities looking for high margin growth funding, “equitably” rules out deregulated fees.

 Wild wild west

While UoQ has a new app to put people in strife on campus in direct contact with help Western Sydney University has a video! It sets out the splendid service university security provides and explains why it its needed, what with risks of fires plus chemical spills and snakes, not to mention theft and assault on campus. The recruitment team must love it.

Campus Morning Mail

Cash injection

An early bid in the new CRC round is in, with ANU and Monash, plus the University of Canberra, the Queensland Institute of Medical Research and CSIRO combining in the cause of a CRC for Drug Development.

The bid is carefully calibrated to tick CRC boxes as well as fitting the philosophy of the National Innovation and Science Strategy. Rather than basic research, the centre would speed up clinical trials, by using stem cells and in silico (the flash name for computer based, apparently) testing.

“Innovation, non traditional testing approaches and predictive tools that will help streamline early drug safety assessment programs are essential to addressing clinical pipeline issues, speeding the development of new drugs and the effective translation of new therapies, products and treatments,” the bid team claims.

Good-o but doesn’t this sound like the sort of applied research that the Medical Research Future Fund is supposed to pay for?

Probably, but because the MRFF is a way off generating the sort of income needed for this project perhaps a CRC seemed safer, medical CRCs are already the largest category of centre. In any case, it is an iron law of funding that however much money a programme has medical researchers will want twice it.

Focused Fed U
Federation U
 respects its market. Student recruitment messages are pitched to the university’s audience, emphasising practical courses and plenty of help in learning how to study. The new Starting at Fed Uni website is bang-on message, with practical advice for starting students wondering what they have got themselves into. Some of the committee-speak text on the site could be clearer but overall it shows students that Fed U does what its advertising promises, help students. Makes a change from generic university campaigns that bang on about research and how graduates struggle to decide whether to take a year off before taking over at the UN.

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All politics is local

“It was my pleasure to present local training organisation, The French Beauty Academy with a new Australian flag and discuss the government’s recent changes to legislation that strengthens the VET sector,” Science Minister Karen Andrews yesterday.

Deakin’s best secret

Deakin U is spending $4m refurbishing its Geelong campus management accommodation and conference centre, (CMM January 13). This seems straightforward but it sent the city’s paper The Advertiser off investigating historic links between the centre’s management and university staff. To which the university told CMM, nothing was done in secret but it never had commented and never will. Good-o but what puzzles CMM is why recent occupancy rates at the centre were 22 per cent when it gets consistently great reviews on Trip Advisor. Perhaps they should spend some of the $4m on marketing.

Empty and appeal free

Note to marketing directors; now that term has started VCs are posting social media messages about how glad they are to see students on campus. However you might want to suggest that they don’t attach photos of empty buildings or spaces where there are five students where there is room for 500. It looks sort of sad. And everybody, enough with the photos of car parks. If that is what you think defines your campus the gods of marketing are sending you a message.

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Hope from Faith’s charity

Last week Flinders University farewelled Faith Trent who died over the summer. CMM had never heard of Professor Trent, let alone met her, but reading about her now wishes he had. The child of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother who fled Europe before the war, she had an appalling run of luck in her youth, which she rose above to build an academic career that made a difference to students and the community both. Faith Trent could not have been more Australian – she was game to have a go and repaid what the country gave her many times over.

Job ready is hard work

Apparently employers have the misplaced idea that VET graduates in an occupation should be completely work-ready from day one. Silly old them, as Bridget Wibrow and Laura Jackson explain in a new paper for the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education and Training.

“Graduates cannot be expected to walk straight away into a role from study and be a fully productive team member without further input from the employing organisation,” they write.

One solution is for employers to lay on in-service training. Another is to establish VET graduate entry programmes. But while they might work for a large company they surely aren’t going to happen with the small business bakers, bricklayers or beauticians who hire VET grads.

So the authors suggest VET providers should organise “work integrated learning” opportunities; “activities such as placements, shadowing and workplace projects,” such as universities provide.

Easier said than done, but just as universities are starting to realise that their students expect qualifications to generate jobs, preferably in the industry they trained for, so too will those in the VET sector – which does not always happen now. As Wibrow and Jackson warn, while 70 per cent of VET completers are employed within six months, just 40 per cent of them are working in the industry they trained for.

Know something the world needs to know? Anonymity guaranteed but lots of questions asked, stephen4@hotkey.net.au