A couch potato to give us the Halloween horrors

How to get Australians to study in Asia – Universities Australia wants to help the feds

Life changing insight of the day

Macquarie University spruiks an obviously unputdownable paper: “Hatchling lizards are smarter than you think”.

Universities Australia’s “World Class”

The Government has created a secretariat in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to manage its New Colombo Plan and has urged Australian universities to drive the scheme to send students to study in Asia. “It is the Australian universities that are best positioned to promote this program to their students, to encourage them to take up the opportunities,” Senator Brett Mason, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, said last night. Senator Mason was speaking at the Griffith University launch of Universities Australia’s  “micro-site” “World Class” which he described as “a very welcome new means for promoting the value of overseas study, particularly in our neighbourhood, the Asia Pacific region.” “This site will also be a gateway to expanded opportunities for Australian undergraduates through the New Columbo Plan,” he added.
According to the senator, research for “World Class” demonstrates Australian students’ preference to study in Europe and the US rather than in Asia, where they are more likely to have careers. “So good programs and quality experiences promoted by participants are crucial to our ambitions to grow student demand.”
Senator Mason also said Vietnam was keen to join the program after its 2014 launch.

 Flaming pumpkins

Nathan Grills, a public health specialist at Monash and Melbourne (both universities claimed him yesterday), warns of the horrors of Halloween. The “imported American celebration” is being “exploited by confectionary companies,” he says. Just as bad, it brings the risk of allergy issues, food born disease and house fires caused by pumpkins “used as candelabra”. He has a point. For us to celebrate this American occasion makes as much sense as yanks getting enthusiastic about the Boxing Day Test. But why do I have the idea that he is more upset about cultural imperialism than food risk? Here’s why, “Australians should be aware that profit-driven corporate manipulation of our cultural choices could damage our health. Instead, we should promote healthy and family-friendly events that are consistent with our own cultural identity,” Dr Grills says. I’m waiting for a warning about turkey poisoning come Thanksgiving.

Peace in our time

At least in the tropics. I hear the new enterprise agreement at James Cook University was adopted with a thumping majority, something like 90 per cent in favour.

Well at least progress 

I also hear at the Australian National University management and NTEU officials will meet tomorrow to see if they have the basis of a new enterprise agreement. The union has a 30-day extension for industrial action if not but at least the two sides are talking seriously. At the University of Canberra there is still a way to go on salary, and the two issues which were supposed to be key in negotiations across the country this year (but weren’t), teaching only positions and the conditions of casuals. However what one observer described as “constructive dialogue” in fact seems to be actually that and there is hope of an in principle deal within a few weeks.

But not in the golden west

NTEU members at the University of Western Sydney Parramatta campus are out tomorrow morning as part of the bargaining campaign. There is also the prospect of a picket at Bankstown next week if a Thursday meeting does not sort things out. According to the union, there is no agreement on a range workload and conditions issue and although negotiations started in March management will still not discus pay. “The NTEU has been bargaining in good faith and we are fed up with these protracted and unproductive negotiations,” union president Jan Falloon says.
Management’s response is a carefully worded statement to students, outlining what it expects to happen, which is not much, because “the vast majority of staff” will be working. Given, the stop work is only occurring on one of UWS’s 113 (well it seems that many) campuses this is entirely accurate, indeed on the last figures I saw a bare quarter of staff carried a union ticket. However there seems little love lost between management and the union in a negotiation that seems nowhere near ending.

The horror

You want to be really, really appalled by what Americans hope everybody will eat? Have a look at Murdoch University journalism student Rachel Yang’s story of what Ben and Jerry sells in SingaporeCouch Potato Ice Cream. It’s vanilla with caramel plus infused potato chip bits. I think I will stick with the flaming pumpkins.

Who knows what, where

Australians are well trained rather than highly educated according to new numbers from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In 2011 some 27 per cent of people aged 20-64 had a bachelors degree or better with the highest qualification of 49 per cent being a Certificate III or IV. But showing the way an education and training culture has taken hold, it is only among 60-64 year olds where most people (just under 60 per cent) have no post school qualification or the level of education is unknown.
There is a mass of ammunition for interest groups in the stats but there is one, which I am guessing the ever-vigilant Regional Universities Network will seize on, and on, and on – while 27 per cent of capital city residents have degrees and 25 per cent have certificates or vocational diplomas there is a big gap in the bush. Outside the cities some 30 per cent had voc ed qualifications compared to 14 per cent with degrees. For regional VCs keen to expand they are a beautiful set of numbers.

The old firm

Two (not so grizzled) veterans of the comrade’s cause who were with Kim Carr in government are advising him in opposition. Fiona Bastian is managing policy while Fiona Scott will charm the reptiles of the press. (No, not the Ms Scott who Tony Abbott cringe-makingly complimented during the campaign, that lady is now member for Lindsay). Just like old times – except for the absence of fawning DLOs and fast VIPs.

 On the money

Deakin University has launched a new appeal for crowd-funded research. The three new projects are in the same mix as their predecessors – applied research with obvious community appeal. One looks for insights into muscular dystrophy, testing treatments on zebra fish with the disease (human muscle and fish muscle is the same). Another is building a profile of the Melbourne fringe food bowl. The third wants $10,000 to spend on clinicians assessing “lost girls,” whose Autism Spectrum Disorder is undiagnosed “maybe because girls don’t have the same disruptive behaviours as boys that are a problem for parents and teachers and so we don’t notice girl’s difficulties.” These, as with previous Deakin projects are worth watching – I suspect they will provide lots of useful data on what works in crowd sourcing. This isn’t a panacea to replace public funding – projects that require higher degrees in physics or philology to understand will never raise much money. However crowd funding will enrich research and people’s lives. Advocates of impact measures in research metrics take note.

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