Federation U’s slow search for a VC

plus Navitas “absolutely confident” of a new deal with Edith Cowan U

Uni Adelaide spends up on research

and innovation: it can’t be rocket science

Lost in space

In news just in from the parallel universe desk Greens senator Lee Rhiannon has responded to the Group of Eight suggestion that there are too many students at university who would be better off at TAFE.

Greens NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon has called on the vice chancellors of Sydney and UNSW universities, Michael Spence and Ian Jacobs, to break ranks with the Group of Eight and give strong backing to extra funding for public universities.
“At a time when the possible next US president, Hilary Clinton, is backing free education for working and middle class students in the United States, the best we hear from major universities like Sydney and UNSW is to crack down on numbers,” Senator Rhiannon said.”

Um, Professor Spence is chair of the Group of Eight.

Thurs July 28

Worth sharing

CMM was out running with, well trying to keep up actually, the dog yesterday and saw a homemade missing person poster for a young woman, gone from home for a few days. It was starkly written, making plain the fears of her friends and family. It makes the case for helping Cecilia Hammell’s research on how best to help people enduring the unexplained absence of a loved one. The University of Wollongong PhD student’s survey of how people who have dealt with the anguish of absence is here.

Big bucket to fill

Innovation Minister Greg Hunt was out yesterday selling the new $250m Biomedical Translational Fund. This is full-on Malcolm-model innovation, designed to fund the clinical trials and commercial processes required to take a medical discovery from laboratory to market so that “profits don’t go overseas” as Mr Hunt explained yesterday. The cash will come from the Medical Research Future Fund, but not to worry the feds still say the MRFF “will be fully capitalised” by 2019-2020. Good-o, but the 2014-15 budget set that sum at $20bn and CMM wonders whether it will ever happen. For a start, the expected balance at the end of this financial year is $4.7bn, leaving a big bucket to fill in just two budgets. And there always be temptations to hive off money to fund related programmes, like this one.

Mr Hunt also announced Peter Wills will chair the BTF. Mr Wills is founder and deputy chair of medical and health lobby Research Australia.

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Not so fast Fed

It took Federation U just two weeks from announcing (CMM July 18) it was taking over Monash Berwick to launch a campus student recruitment website yesterday.

However hiring a new VC is not so speedy. David Battersby announced a year back he would retire as vice chancellor at the end of 2106 but yesterday Chancellor Paul Hemming told staff the university council’s nominations committee is “yet to conclude the selection process.” Perhaps potential VCs who are “outstanding, visionary and inspirational” are hard to find, although CMM hears at least one strong candidate with an especially appropriate regional education background has withdrawn. The job was listed with Sean Davies of recruiters Cordiner King in February and applications closed in April.

Uni Adelaide spends up on research

The University of Adelaide will announce a $6m boost to research infrastructure this morning as part of the five-year $50m bid by DVC R Mike Brooks to lift its profile and performance (CMM June 8). It follows $9 million for a research fellowships scheme announced previously. Other components of the programme are $6 million for additional PhD scholarships and $4.5 million for global collaboration.

Back in June Professor Brooks committed to Adelaide cracking the top 120 in the Times Higher ranking (now 149) and ARWU (now in the 151-200 bracket) by 2021. He also talked of the need to create the conditions for the university’s best research groups to flourish. Since then VC Warren Bebbington has moved to deliver on that with a plan to reduce the number of faculties and empower schools. “As the national innovation agenda and global priorities develop, the challenge now is to embolden schools to embrace new connections and combine their capacities to interact in ways that maximise their external impact, unobstructed by organisational barriers,” he said last month.

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Honoured elite

The University of Melbourne have honoured nine staff as Redmond Barry professors. Named for a university founding father the awards are based on achievements in teaching, research and/or creative activity. The nine are, Tim McNamara (Arts), Karen Jehn (BusEco), Kim Bennell (Med Dentistry Health Sciences), Leann Tilley (MDHS), Marcia Langton (MDHS), Janet McCalman (MDHS), Lyn Yates (Education), Mike Sandiford (Science) and Barry Conyngham (College of Arts)

Bigger deal

Tuesday’s Navitas result ($1bn turnover and $90m net profit) was regarded as reasonable by analysts, what with the big Australian set-backs over the last couple of years, caused by Macquarie U ending its relationship with the company and Curtin U closing its Navitas managed Sydney operation. But by yesterday the bizoids were looking for newer news and wondering what was happening with the proposed deal with Edith Cowan U. Navitas now provides a pathways programme with ECU but there has long been talk of a larger partnership. There still is, yesterday CEO Rod Jones told Sky News that Navitas and ECU “are right at the end of negotiations … we are moving towards a joint venture model.” Mr Jones said he “was absolutely confident of announcing something in the next couple of months.”

Temple of knowledge

Terrence Froggatt is moving from the University of Wollongong to lead the neighbouring Nan Tien Institute, the first TEQSA accredited institution “grounded in Buddhist values and wisdom.” The Institute teaches Buddhist studies and courses in “health and wellbeing” but plans to teach business are on hold. B Bus (Buddh) now there’s a market no else is in.

Don’t smell the coffee

During the election innovation nation went down like a snake oil app with voters who can’t code and worry that uber is a synonym for the sack – and Greg Hunt knows it. Thus the innovation minister told Jon Faine on ABC Melbourne Radio yesterday innovation is “job security for people from all walks of life and job creation.”

“It’s not just about inventing a new rocket, it’s how you change your business. You might be a coffee roaster developing new different types of pods. You might be a mechanic who’s sending out warnings to clients,” (no CMM has no idea about what) he said. We used to call this ‘productivity’ but apparently now it’s innovation. The government has bet a bomb of money on the innovation agenda and to back off now would bring down the wrath of universities and start-ups but to make it an electoral plus it needs to be about jobs.

If Mr Hunt does not make the argument Labor innovation spokesman Kim Carr will. Senator Carr has lost the higher education portfolio but he is said to be still keen to keep a focus on research funding and to tie it to employment especially in industries that employ people with trade-skills. You won’t get Kim Carr talking about innovations in coffee roasting.

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