Plus Murdoch Uni managers should consume saffron by the shovel 

End of the affair

Universities Australia’s annual conference begins today and surely the highest of highlights will be CEO Belinda Robinson’s National Press Club lunchtime address, “higher education’s tryst with destiny.” Tryst huh? While it will be a passionate and persuasive speech I have a terrible suspicion that when it comes to deregulation, destiny, in the shape of the Senate is about to cancel the rendezvous.


A real service from Swinburne

Swinburne people tell me 10 000 people have signed up for their MOOC on autism – which I suspect will grow and grow if the university offers it again. Along with the University of Tasmania’s MOOC on dementia it demonstrates the format’s potential for community information and support programmes – there is a bucket of money to make from government supported courses on all sorts of health, education and welfare issues. Why I wonder is no university teaching a MOOC on the science of vaccination?

Curtin drawn

Curtin University confirms that its Singapore website was down from Sunday to Monday afternoon, after a cyber attack plastered it with an ISIS flag.

Deregulation delayed, if not denied

UTS is demure on deregulation in its submission to the Opposition initiated Senate committee inquiry on the Pyne package. As VC Attila Brungs sees it, the Pyne plan has upset people, cannot be implemented for next year and could have unintended consequences. “The strong and vocal response among students, staff and the wider community, specifically to the funding cuts and full fee deregulation, demands a further examination of the issues and careful consideration of all of the options,” Professor Brungs writes.

He accordingly recommends another review. Not a long one, you understand, just as long as it takes to examine “models of deregulation and mechanisms for transition, focussed on meeting the principles of access, equity, quality and sustainability.” Even if the Senate does agree to deregulate UTS still advocates, “a short amount of time be taken to get this right and to help the community, students, policy makers and higher education providers fully understand the options, benefits and safeguards.”

This could take some time.

AHEHCF 2015 Conference

Mellow yellow

According to Murdoch University (by Twitter yesterday) researchers there say saffron is “a safer alternative to traditional antidepressants.” Given the extraordinary goings-on at Murdoch, with resignations and misconduct inquiries, managers there must consume the stuff by the barrel.

Flinders bets big

There was a fanfare at Flinders yesterday as the university opened its new Tonsley Park campus, on the site of the old Mitsubishi car plant. It’s a big deal for Flinders, which must have bet a big bit of the farm on the $120m STEM campus. It’s a big deal for the state as well. With the car industry going and the future of submarine assembly not assured, education and applied technology is one of the state’s few hopes to create growth industries. It’s a huge challenge for new VC Colin Stirling, who inherits another bloke’s scheme – planning Tonsley occurred on recently departed Michael Barber’s watch. Innovation incubators, commercialising campuses, multifunction polis, whatever the name the landscape is littered with the remains of applied research centres that did not deliver. No pressure, Professor Stirling.

Go go Googler

Wishful old academy thinkers hope the MOOC boom is beginning to bust. But not Google, which provides grants to researchers interested in on-line learning and not Associate Professor Katrina Falkner from the University of Adelaide. The former has just awarded the latter a two to three year MOOC Focused Research Award to investigate “automated analysis of MOOC discussion content to support personalised learning.” The timing for Uni Adelaide could not be better. The university has just launched its first MOOCs, through the Harvard, MIT edX consortium, on human biology. Another on wine making,(well, it is South Australia) follows next month

Clean bill of health

There is disappointment for journalists who believe good news is no news. The Australian National Audit Office reports the national Medical Specialist Trainee Program is working well. Canberra pays specialist medical colleges to fund training places in hospitals and related places at $100 000 to $150 000 FTE. There were around 900 such spots last year. The only significant failing was that some highly rated applicants were not funded because the government wanted to match trainees to population spread. While this was not set out in the guidelines the ANAO acknowledges, this was “not unreasonable in the context of the program’s intended outcomes.” Especially, it seems, to improve the specialist spread in remote and regional areas. So what’s a hack short of a story to do? Hang one on the report’s last line, “it remains unclear to what extent the STP has, or will, contribute to an improved geographical distribution of specialist services to meet community need, over the longer term.

ANU new 3

No temptation

University of Melbourne research finds that huge CEO bonuses encourage an eye on the imminent main chance rather than proper planning. How wise of university councils to just set and forget modest VC salaries.

What’s secrets is secret

The legislation everybody is waiting on isn’t the Defence Trade Controls Amendments Bill but there is a small but significant group of researchers who are watching and worrying about its implications for what they can say about their work and to whom. The bill is required by the defence trade treaty with the United States and follows industry consultations. As such it is generally seen as better than the original draft, reducing the regulatory burden on universities and public sector research agencies. However the National Tertiary Education Union warns a minister can still stop the release of information prejudicial to national security, which can mean whatever a government, wants it to mean. Just what the law will allow, in licencing intangibles, for example, is immensely complex but there will be criminal penalties for breaches so scientists have to be across it.

Hoots the not

According to the University of Queensland, yesterday was World Bagpipe Day – congratulation to all the music lovers who made it through with sensibilities unscathed.

Price of fame

The UK Research Council will pay universities and research institution 22m stg in the new funding year to fund “article processing charges” that journal publishers require for publication in open access journals. The Research Council insists that scholarly articles based on research it funds be available to the taxpayer who, well paid for them. The APC is the publishers’ way of still being paid for content they received for free. A Research Council review of this “gold open access” model is due later this month.

Worse than that

Our bleeding obvious innit! correspondent reports from the US, that Rice University’s Rachel Kimbro has found that low-income urban mothers who are evicted suffer 20 per cent more stress than their peers. Only 20 per cent?