First shot in new history war

Not so super securities

Last month UniSuper copped criticism for investing in fossil fuel companies (it gets that a lot). And now it is set to receive another serve from members and others, with demands that it keep clear of Transfield Services, which runs detention centres for the feds on Nauru and Manus Island. I understand the fund has “a small sum” invested in Transfield businesses, still with $40bn under management UniSuper’s idea of  “small” could be quite a bit. The national executive of the National Tertiary Education Union is said to be having a look. Perhaps they could ask national secretary Grahame McCulloch who is a member of the fund’s board.

Go go Gonski

David Gonski, wearing his floppy University of New South Wales chancellor’s hat, as opposed to his many, many others, yesterday announced the schedule to replace Fred “fixed Fairfax” Hilmer yesterday. Professor Hilmer only announced his departure last week but Mr Gonski wants expressions of interest in by the end of the month with council approving a successor in July. The advertisement starts appearing in newspapers (how quaint) today. This strikes me as a tight timeline. Granted there are not many people who can run a business, sorry university, as big as UNSW, but those that can are all over the world and the best of them may not realise they want to move to Kensington, at least without cajoling. I imagine that is why the university has retained head hunters Perrett Laver, who have recruited vice chancellors for Monash University and the University of Sydney. Still, everything is off to a speedy start – unless the UNSW rank and file were not exactly the first to know Professor Hilmer’s news.

Promotion for the birds

“A tree full of King Parrots outside my office window this morning. Reason 527 I love working at ANU”. Said Jane “wizard of the lobby” O’Dwyer on Twitter yesterday. Don’t ask what the first 526 are unless you have plenty of time, because for sure she has a list.

Substance free selling

International alarm bells rang loud yesterday with worried reports on the slugs and slogans US universities have copyrighted. But what I wonder is why universities bother with interchangeable statements which promote the generic benefits of education without bothering to specify what makes the university advertising unique. I used to enjoy showing conference audiences a screen of slogans and asking them which belonged where. Quick, which university is “inspiring achievement”, or “bringing knowledge to life, not to mention the excruciating, “top of our class so you can be top of yours”? Give up? That’s because any of them could apply anywhere – which reflects something scary about universities – when it comes to what they seek to sell and how they present their brands Australian universities are all but interchangeable. Gosh, this isn’t a case of truth in advertising is it?

Of the cloven hoof kind

Murdoch University reports its David Miller is researching how to make goats happy. No, he most certainly does not work in student services.

Committee for enlightenment

The Honest History Committee gives fair warning that it is focusing on WWI, “because Australian history about that period has been highly politicised, for many different reasons.” (It’s in an email this week from the Australian Historical Association). Not, you understand the committee is going to decide who is honest and who isn’t, although promising (to) “robustly call out any history that is tendentious, unjustified, exaggerated, distorted, partial or unbalanced,” does sound like it to me. This is scary stuff. Pointing to the exaggerations of the Aussie-oi-oi-oiers, who demean the memory of the First AIF by presenting them as supermen rather than largely brave men doing their best, is entirely appropriate – but there are ample scholars capable of doing it without a committee’s help. The academic establishment is not much interested in campaign and combat history and I wonder whether the HHC might decide that a focus on fighting in the centenary of WWI is in itself “unbalanced”. Senior scholars Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds, for example, have long criticised “the militarisation of Australian history,” which seems a bit unfair in the case of WWI, what with it being, well a war. Still the presence of Peter Stanley as president may save the collective from upholding the orthodoxy. Professor Stanley (from ADFA) is immensely energetic, and a fine scholar of both war and society and military history disciplines. Still, his own record in debunking myths (notably Japan’s intention to invade Australia in 1942) demonstrates why a committee is as unnecessary as its existence is unsettling. I hope this does not have the making of a history war – it distracts everybody who is happy to read and make up their own mind.

A high time at UofQ

You probably all know that it is the International Year of Crystallography, which the University of Queensland will celebrate next Tuesday night. Dr Colin Kennard will present a public lecture on Max von Laue who won the Nobel Prize for physics for his work in x-ray crystallography.

Education the untried answer

On ABC Radio’s AM yesterday the excellent Chris Uhlmann gave Tasmanian premier Lara Gooding a terrible time by asking fair and balanced questions she could not effectively answer about what is to be done about the state’s basket case economy. The unstated answer involves education, from K to 12, Certificate I to post doc and beyond. Tasmania has tried aluminium and apples, timber and tourism but the biggest earner is cash from Canberra – surely its time to try to lift workforce skills. As Geoff Masters from the Australian Council for Educational Research put it on ABC Radio in Hobart on Wednesday, “many of the (low skilled) jobs which have existed in the past have disappeared.”

No, VC, we receive not give

The Curtin University fundraisers must be delighted with new Vice Chancellor Deborah Terry, whose picture was in the paper donating $40 000 to StyleAid, a fashion charity which raises money for the WA Aids Council. The university gets naming rights and awareness for its sexual health research and teaching but even so that’s a $40 000 donation they have to pick up to get back to the start.

Who, for what?

Following the surprise early resignation of Peter Hall, Liberal MP Nick Wakeling was commissioned yesterday as Victoria’s new minister for higher education and skills. Mr Hall was working to the end, commissioning research on apprentice employment patterns on Wednesday.

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