Australia tenth on the Universitas 21 ranking

plus Monash on the money

Murray Darling Medical School plan still breathing

and the great Green R&D give away

What Glyn Davis is selling in the policy shop is worth buying and watch out for UQ’s big (and CMM means big) announcement this morning

Mover and shaker on the move

A very senior figure in the research community is moving to the University of Queensland. CMM hears there will be an announcement mid-morning. 

Tuesday

Xenophon backs Murray Darling Med School

If Simon Birmingham guessed the coalition could commit cash to a new Gosford campus for the University of Newcastle medical school without upsetting advocates of the Murray Darling Medical School he guessed wrong (CMM May 20). Nick Xenophon has now bought into the issue, supporting the La Trobe and Charles Sturt universities backed MDMS, which is intended to train doctors for rural and regional NSW and Victoria. Senator Xenophon’s candidate for the seat of Calare (central west NSW) is Rod Bloomfield, and with the senator, he reckons the MDMS is a you-beaut idea .

Mr Bloomfield’s day job is at Charles Sturt U where he is supervisor and editor of the student radio newsrooms.

Cue scarey laughter

Australian Catholic U plans to dominate Fitzroy streetscape and create traffic chaos,” a headline in the Melbourne Leader warns. Just why VC Greg Craven wants to dominate Fitzroy escapes CMM. Still every global dominator has to start somewhere.

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Monash on the money

Whatever occurs in the election Malcolm Turnbull has already put on the agenda his ambition for innovative research as an engine of economic growth. Given Australian universities are not exactly redolent with Ayn Rand readers it is quite extraordinary the way the way entrepreneurs are the new campus stars and how universities are encouraging them.

Universities like Monash where  The Generator project provides support and services for aspiring entrepreneurs. Today and tomorrow it’s running a concept hack in life sciences, small business and social entrepreneurship for staff and student with plans to pitch.

If Australia is lucky this is the way of the future, as the marvellous Dierdre McCloskey explains. She argues that what makes nations rich is freedom, equality and respect for people with ideas and the energy to act on them. (She is a prolific writer but this is as good a start as any.) Australia scores better than most, (well just about all) nations on the first two and if the impact agenda in higher education and research gets to critical mass we might just make it out of the resource export cycle the economy depends on.

Cell block vet

Thanks to the learned reader who points out that Victorian training minister Steve Herbert added corrective services to his responsibilities in yesterday’s state ministry reshuffle. Crook for-profit providers be afraid.

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Policy provender

CMM had to drive 5kms in Sydney the other day so he used the 90 minutes in the car to have a listen to the University of Melbourne’s podcast The Policy Shop, hosted by VC Glyn Davis. It was time well spent, the episodes were on teacher education (featuring the university’s John Hattie) and housing policy with Judy Yates (Uni Sydney) and Uni Melbourne economist John Freebairn. Both were excellent.

There is endless on-line opining but a bunch of it is shaped by what the authors feel about an issue rather than the hard economic and political realties that shape practical policy. The Policy Shop is by wonks, for wonks and long may it continue. As a way of branding Uni Melbourne as a serious policy resource this is also not much money well spent.

Quality considered in comfort

For readers who unaccountably missed the news, the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education is meeting this week in Fiji, at the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa. Nothing like “six restaurants and bars, a serene spa, 18 hole championship golf course, 4 swimming pools, kids club, wedding chapel and conference facilities” to encourage learned discussions of quality assurance issues.

Maths in Melbourne makes a difference

“There is no easy answer for women in maths,” Geoff Prince, who leads the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute says. There are no easy answers for anybody in maths the innumerate CMM replies. In this case Professor Prince is responding to last week’s advertisement by the University of Melbourne of three women-applicants senior positions for maths academics. “The issue’s complexity and systemic impact means a range of measures will be needed to drive change,” he says. According to Professor Prince just 9 per cent of maths professorships are held by woman, which rather makes his point. And it is only part of the challenge; “we want to empower women and girls to engage with mathematics at all levels from the classroom through to higher education, research and innovation. We want to grow the number of women in mathematics and by extension STEM.”

All true, but as CMM put it last week (May 19), in writing about the Melbourne plan, “one+one+one = a start.”

Really researched ranking

The Melbourne Institute’s analysis of national higher education systems for Universitas 21 is released this morning, providing a superior version of the QS national ranking, last week (CMM May 19). The Institute’s researchers certainly provide a bunch more detail and more complex methodology to deliver nuanced results. The result delivers far more than bragging rights. As the U21 report puts it; “an important aim of our work is to permit countries top benchmark performance against other countries at similar stages of development.”

Australia rated fourth in the world in QS but comes in tenth in the U21 exercise. This year’s top ten is the US, Switzerland, Denmark, UK, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Singapore, Canada and Australia. The list is pretty stable year on year, except for the UK, which improved from eighth last year and Finland and Canada, which both dropped a couple of spots.

Generous Greens

The Greens R&D policy is out and very generous it is too! The party promises to see all-sector R&D to increase by nearly a third to 3 per cent of GDP by 2025 and close to double, to 4 per cent by 2030. The party specifically commits to $4.698 bn in spending, although it is not clear the proportion of new/existing or reallocated money involved. Whatever the details, or the impossibility of it ever being implemented as is, the policy ticks many research boxes and will do Adam Bandt, member for the university-focused seat of Melbourne, no harm at all.

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Hard acts to follow

Long expected legislation changing the composition of university councils and giving Curtin, Edith Cowan and Murdoch the capacity to make money through commercial activity (UWA’s act already covers this) is before the Parliament of Western Australia. Curtin and Murdoch both have big property development plans (CMM May 6).

Nobody appears upset by this although some are concerned by standardising governing council memberships, which continue to include elected staff, student and alumni reps but not always in the same numbers as before.

But what is exercising postgraduates at UWA is changes to the student service and amenities fee which is collected by the university. Until now, UWA postgraduates say, management handed over half the fees to student guilds but the bill states university council’s can set conditions before all, or some, of the money is handed over.

According to postgraduate student associations president Peter Derbyshire, “the bill puts student guilds at risk of losing their ability to effectively function and represent students.”

Unintended consequences

Perhaps the biggest loser from the VET FEE HELP shambles is the next generation of young people who want a vocational education and their tax paying parents. Peter Noonan from the Mitchell Institute argues Australia needs to provide a bunch more training places (CMM yesterday). And Rod Camm claims that the way not to accomplish this is to respond to rorts by spivs in the private sector by restoring a guaranteed majority market share for TAFE.

“When I see discussions articulating that 70% of funding will go to a government owned provider and that government will choose the courses that will be funded and at what price I can only see another major public policy failure.

“It won’t be long before the headlines are about (again) a failure to meet growing demands, the high costs of training, a lack of innovation, flexibility and growth,” he says.

Given Mr Camm is chair of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training his argument isn’t entirely surprising, but he has a point. The reason why state and federal governments encouraged private providers to get into training was because TAFE systems were slow and often appeared focused on what worked for their managers rather than consumers. As Mr Camm points out, in South Australia a while back sometime training minister Gail Gago gave TAFE an all but monopoly to buy time while it got its act together. “We are supporting TAFE SA while it transitions to more innovative and flexible training provision that better responds to community and industry needs and is more sustainable in a competitive market,” she said (CMM May 26 2015).

It did not deliver, Mr Camm says, “while training numbers collapsed and private providers struggled to survive the guarantee of funding did not produce any performance except now a parliamentary inquiry as to why it is failing. Guarantees, like tariffs protect inefficiency and bureaucracy and do not facilitate innovation.

“Returning to an era of government directing students to what courses they can do, no choice of provider and dictating the price and therefore delivery approach is a bridge too far.”

But it is one we look like crossing – the venality of spivs exploiting VET FEE HELP and the failure of regulators to stop them has seen to that.

 

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