A pain in the premier’s (vibrant) parts

The jet scrammed

Summer school students at the University of Queensland will “simulate” hypersonic flight of 8600km an hour. Simulate is the operative word, what with the university’s scramjet prototype being at the bottom of the ocean off Norway. The launch rocket carrying it failed during a September test.

Consensus at Canberra 

A couple of weeks back the University of Canberra decided to break deadlocked negotiations with the National Tertiary Education Union by putting an enterprise offer direct to staff. But before they had a chance more talks took place with the union and a deal was done. Smart move because it looks like the campus community were willing to accept management’s pay offer of 3.9 per cent for this year (2 per cent of which is already paid), 3 per cent next and 2.4 per cent in 2015. Some 780 staff voted ten to one to accept the agreement in the ballot, which closed last week.

Pain in the premier’s vibrant parts

Everybody was in on the act at the opening of the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute on Friday, which will share a high-powered precinct with the Royal Adelaide Hospital, now under construction. (You can’t miss it, what with the site accounting for just about all the cranes in the city’s skies). The prime minister was in town to launch it and the Premier Jay, “good lord, is there an election soon?” Weatherill was all enthusiasm. “Across the whole health and bio-medical precinct – which will include the new Royal Adelaide Hospital and two new University of Adelaide and University of South Australia facilities – thousands of staff will be employed. They will be working in the high-tech jobs of the future and their presence in the precinct will provide an injection into the city’s economy and vibrancy,” he said. Good-oh but the injection of vibrancy may not be as vibrant as the premier puts it. For start the state isn’t making space for the University of Adelaide’s dental school, which will separate students and teachers from patients. And while the women and children’s hospital is scheduled to move in a couple of years  the university’s related research centre is staying on the existing site. Apparently the state government says it does not have the cash to fund either move. Still, as this will all occur after the election it may not be the present premier’s problem.

Why not ask?

Julia Martin reports for the Council of Humanities and Social Sciences that the number of postgrad theses in science communication grew from nine in 2002 to 48 in 2012. “Further research is required to discover what happens when science communication graduates and post-graduates enter the labour market,” why not just ask them? They’re not that numerous.

 Not in it for laughs, or loot

The team at the National Centre for Vocational Educational Research have no future writing musical comedies, unless you like your songs to come with calculus. But they do essential work in recording training’s economic and social impact in ways, which go way beyond compiling statistics. Over the last few years, for example, work for the centre has analysed assumptions about the relationship between income and years of study to find that credentialism does not always deliver. It’s intel policy makers in education need which is why it is good to see the centre offering a range of scholarships and fellowships for economists and educators interested in researching education and training. The recipients will not get rich but the NCVER is a great name to have in a CV.

Not getting the message

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that 60 per cent of last year’s school leavers are studying. Of the remainder a third are either unemployed or not in the labour force. That’s a lot people with a tenuous link to jobs, now and in the future.

Wisdom of crowds

I’m a fan of crowd funding and impressed with the way it is opening up new streams of research funding. Like Tim Aumann and team’s Florey Institute project that needs $20,000 for experiments on human brains to test drug-free treatments for a range of diseases, from depression through Parkinson’s to drug addiction. With ten days to go their pitch at Pozible has raised half the $20000 they need. Of course this is a classic case of research that is bound to be popular, because its importance is easily understood. But you have to wonder how long before some politician (now who could I be thinking of?) suggests that the wisdom of crowds would do just as good a job as “out of touch academics” in allocating research funding.

At Swinburne its business as usual

What looked like the makings of an enterprise agreement at Swinburne is unravelling with the NTEU imposing new results bans from tomorrow. Graduating students are exempt as are others in a few categories. The union says there is no alternative because, “senior management has started expanding its demands on staff,” although it has nothing critical to say about the pay rise on the table. On the weekend Vice Chancellor Linda Kristjanson emailed students that, “it is common in Australian universities for the NTEU to announce bans which target students, using them as a valuable bargaining chip in the negotiation process.  Many other universities have experienced similar industrial action this year, including Swinburne, with the Semester 1 results ban we experienced in May 2013.”  Which will not make Swinburne students feel any better about being caught up in industrial action for the second time in eight months.

If it’s Saturday this must be Monash

Another day, another university for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. After being awarded honorary doctorates at the University of Sydney, UTS and ANU during last week she received one from Monash on Saturday.

At the Clayton not Tuscan campus

Among all the explanations about how tough times are let’s hope the Commission of Audit misses the program for the Monash University Jazz Festival, on this week at the university’s Tuscan centre in Prato, Italy.

A for activism

Every now and again an NTEU branch urges members and supporters to get behind a cause unrelated to university issues but the alpha of activism it aint. Even the campaigns urging votes for the Greens at the last election were based on the party’s education policy.  Across the Tasman in contrast, the New Zealand Tertiary Education Union gets involved, indeed leads, community campaigns. This week they are urging everybody on the electoral roll to vote in a non binding referendum on whether the government should sell minority shares in a bunch of energy companies plus Air New Zealand. The union was also active in securing the 300,000 signatures required to get the ballot up.

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