Plus no case for private sector in education says NTEU and separating the Victorian sheep and goats

Min wing mayhem

Christopher Pyne when asked yesterday if he had acted on the prime minister’s orders and released his “inner revolutionary” in pursuit of innovation “It’s out there; it’s running amok in the Ministerial Wing.”


ARC rejects claims universities gaming ERA

There were swift responses last night to Matthew Knott’s  story in the Fairfax papers that the Australian Research Council has “written stern letters to several universities warning them they face punishments for providing misleading data for their research excellence assessments.” The ARC’s Excellence for Research in Australia flagship report is due in December.

ARC chair Aidan Byre told CMM that, “many of the assumptions in the article are simply not correct, including the claims that the ARC has formally written to universities and that any university has ‘coded’ journal articles multiple times to inflate a university’s results.

“Decisions on rating the disciplines for each university are made by independent committees of experts, the membership of which is nominated by Australian universities. While the Excellence for Research in Australia 2015 process is not yet complete, I have every faith in the integrity of the committees and fully support the processes used for ERA 2015 and indeed the decisions made by these committees of experts,” Professor Byrne said.

Scott Bowman, VC of CQUniversity, which is named in Knott’s story, flatly denied that it has received a warning from the ARC. “There is no letter, formally or informally to us from the ARC,” he told CMM last night.

Professor Bowman said the ARC had asked the university why some papers were assigned to a four level, general, discipline code but had taken CQU’s explanation on. “We have made no multiple entries in ERA and there is no threatening letter and no talk of reprimands.”

In an 11pm statement last night Professor Byrne added; “it is not fair that two particular universities have been named. I am concerned that assumptions may be made about these two universities that are not factual.

“it would be inappropriate to comment when a process is ongoing and still to be finalised, i.e. via release of the national report. However, I would like to advise—in an effort to cease speculation—that there can be many and varied reasons why data is queried and it should never be assumed this is about gaming or misconduct by a university. Where our Research Evaluation Committees ,our independent committees made up of discipline experts nominated by Australian universities, have queried data the ARC has communicated with that university.”

Look! Over there, it an innovator

There is no faulting Chris Pyne for enthusiasm. As education minister ehe was focused on universities as engines of national prosperity and now as Industry and Science minister its innovation that’s exciting. As he said yesterday; “boosting innovation and entrepreneurship will create jobs and stimulate growth, and will position Australian businesses to take advantage of new technologies and opportunities.”

But how? He’s glad you asked that; by “investing in key enablers of innovation like science, research, education and infrastructure, as well as providing the right financial, regulatory, and tax settings to enable businesses to experiment, test and market new ideas.”

That should cover everything. It certainly covers the university sector’s push for more research resources. As Universities Australia’s Belinda Robinson said yesterday, “universities are major contributors to Australia’s innovation agenda – as a source of ground breaking innovation through research and as educators of the next generations of innovators. Universities Australia is pleased to see a strong emphasis from both sides of politics on innovation as a driver of Australia’s future prosperity.”

It also provides cover for Education Minister Simon Birmingham as he grapples with increasing university funding without increasing Commonwealth outlays per student. The more money there is for research the easier it will be to justify a cut to teaching funding which universities can make up from students.

ANU Sep 15 3

Blah and bleat

Thanks to a reader for pointing out the career opportunity for a rural researcher on the Victorian Government’s Sheep and Goats Identification Advisory Committee. No, CMM is not making this up.

Help for the powerless

Labor education and training shadow ministers Kim Carr and Sharon Bird have renewed their call for an ombudsman for Australian VET students. It follows Monday’s report from the international student ombudsman that the office has dealt with over 2000 complaints involving VET private providers over four years. So why is the government opposed to an ombudsman for the locals?

Good question. The state consumer protection agencies and the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission have other tasks. And for as long as the Australian Skills Quality Authority only oversights course content and delivery to say the agency is worse than useless for aggrieved students is an affront to the inept everywhere.

Solidarity extended

While Flinders University illuminated a building with the tricolour in solidarity with France on Saturday night, (CMM November 16) Curtin U has extended the idea to other nations that are victims of terror. The university’s stadium was lit up in France’s national colours on Monday night, with those of Lebanon to follow tonight and Iraq on Thursday.

Always available

It’s National Go Home on Time Day which Genevieve Kelly from the National Tertiary Education Union’s NSW branch thinks is a splendid idea, “designed to start a conversation about fair working hours, and highlight the increasing problem of unpaid work and unjust workload.” Just one from another age. University people send CMM messages and answer his across all hours and all seven days.

Catapult misfires

Now that universities and research organisations are all innovators (if they know what is good for them) there should be heaps of hints in Thomson Reuters top 100 innovative organisations. But there aren’t, because just three research outfits make the worldwide list, the French atomic and alternative energy commission, the German Frauhofer Institute, an independent body, which “transforms scientific findings into useful innovations” and another French agency, Energies Nouvelle.

CMM was surprised that the UK is utterly absent from the list, given the way innovation advocates talk up its Catapult collaboration programme. But no, TR says the Brits do not patent enough ideas or spend up on R&D, 1.63 per cent of GDP compared to 3.47 per cent in Japan.

Toast can kill

The UK Food Standards Agency warns research shows that there is an elevated cancer risk from eating burnt toast. We are all doomed.

No place for profit

The Senate has referred the government’s legislation intended to end (well probably reduce) rorting by private training providers to a committee, which gives the National Tertiary Education Union another opportunity explain in detail what it sees as the deregulation debacle in VET.

The union calls on government to align assistance for VET and higher education students but to only loan money to people training in public and other not for profit providers.

However the NTEU goes further and makes a strong case against allowing the private sector in post compulsory education.

“The Australian experience in VET shows that deregulated tertiary education markets result in: the provision of poor quality and in some cases substandard training and qualifications; forms of unethical behaviour on the part of some private providers, or their agents, driven more by the profit motive than any interest in providing education and training; state/territory governments cutting public subsidies to VET and shifting the cost on to students.” On tbis basis the union argues; “education is far too important to be left to the market.”

Just now most people would probably agree with the union.

Music to their ears

University of Canberra VC Stephen ‘renaissance prince” Parker created a poetry prize, funded a font in honour of the city’s centenary, and sponsors a song contest, making him a patron of arts practitioners among VCs. But not now the only one, the University of New South Wales has announced a $5000 prize for composers. Perhaps VC Ian Jacobs is scouting talent to write an oratorio to be performed when UNSW achieves his objective of being a world top-50 research university.

Spaced out Swinburne

“What if you could visit the International Space Station from the comfort of your home,” Swinburne University asks. “You are either barking or live at NASA” CMM replies. In fact the university is spruiking a virtual-reality demonstration to promote its VR educationcapacity.

Thin faster than fat

CMM’s bleeding obvious correspondent reports Norwegian researchers have found fit older adults are more active than the unfit. Who would have thought!