High tea at (S Bruce) Dowton Abbey

Plus Uni Wollongong’s very achievable objectives and the Productivity Commission to set evidence agenda in early childhood education

App of the day

Monash University, in cooperation with the beyondblue organisation has developed an app for people contemplating suicide. It lists steps individuals can take themselves when struggling with despair and who to call when they need help. The BeyondNow App is available from the App Store and Google Play.

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Scene: the morning room, Downton Abbey

“Bates?” “Yes milord?” “Invitation in the mail from the Macquarie Graduate School of Management don’t you know.” “Very good milord.” “Yes, they are inviting people to tea – that radio johnnie Alan Jones is talking and oh, so is  the Duchess of York, wasn’t she married to one of the Windsors?” His Royal Highness Prince Andrew I believe milord.” “Yes, that was him – but Bates do you have any idea what this has to do with a university in Australia?” “Perhaps they are endeavouring to raise money milord.” “What from a tea? I thought those business schools were all about mega deals with China and so on – now that would interest me.” Unless milord the invitation is intended for that other gentleman, S Bruce Dowton, he is the vice chancellor of  Macquarie University.”  “Good thinking Bates, what a relief it’s not for me – seems a very expensive way to get a scone.”

Wollongong’s entirely possible plan

The University of Wollongong has updated its strategic plan for the next four years to adjust to the changing marketplace. But it is light-on for performance objectives that the university council will be able to assess in 2020. Certainly there are some, the university commits to graduate destination data and employer reputational data, that “will remain above the top quartile.” And the capex budget will release over $300m over the plan. Vice Chancellor Paul Wellings is also sticking with UoW reaching the top 1 per cent of world universities, a goal he set four years back.

But as for other goals; “UoW’s reputation as a place for outstanding trans-disciplinary research will strengthen,” should not be hard to achieve. Nor will “global standing will be enhanced and evidenced by the number of highly cited academics and the strength of research outputs,” be a stretch.

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Deakin might get away with it

Three days in and it looks like Deakin University is already off the hook over its plan to bail out of Warrnambool and for another provider (hopefully) to take over the campus there. Yes, there is already an on-line student protest (CMM Monday) and the NTEU yet to get involved but the local newspaper, The Standard is writing Deakin off as a lost cause and is focused on the realpolitik of a replacement.

“The fact Deakin has revealed it is talking with other providers about taking over the courses indicates it is as good as gone. While it says it is committed to retaining tertiary education in the region, what if no other provider wants to step in? … This is not about keeping Deakin; the fight is about retaining a university campus in Warrnambool. We have to unite. We need to make a stand now so any potential provider knows it has a passionate community behind it. We owe it to our children and their children,” the paper argued yesterday.

CMM gives it to the end of the week before there are calls for state and federal assistance. Deakin will undoubtedly be very keen to help any institution game to take over.

Define the data, dictate the debate

The feds have tasked the Productivity Commission with  reporting on how to build the evidence base for childcare and early education. This is a big deal indeed for the teacher education industry because whoever decides what data is important and how to collect it gets to shape the debate over what works and doesn’t in schools.

There is no word on when the issues paper that will create a context for submissions will be out but with a December deadline for the final report the big teacher education faculties have no time to wait.

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Williams stick with the law

George Willliams is the very model of a public intellectual. The constitutional lawyer is a prolific scholarly author and an expansive policy commentator, plus he writes about science fiction. While he has contemplated politics in the past he is sticking with academic life, being announced yesterday as the next dean of the University of New South Wales law school.

S Bruce (briefly) speaks up

Is this a first? S (for silent) Bruce Dowton has a media profile less low than subterranean however the Macquarie U VC broke cover yesterday on ABC Radio’s AM to promote a student robot building competition with a medieval theme (bloody Game of Thrones, still at least it wasn’t zombies). The competition is a way of encouraging young women to study STEM. “It’s having role models from the university: female engineering and science and mathematics students; female professors and staff of the university who go out and are very actively involved and show girls in schools across Australia that this can be a very exciting and rewarding career opportunity,” he said.

Frying time

UNSW reports new technology to de-ice power lines. Essential technology in Sydney’s endless summer.

First the good news

Rodd Camm rarely has good news to report, what with the hammering private education and training providers continue to cop due to spivs rorting the VET student loan system. But yesterday started well for the Australian Council for Private Education and Training chief, as he reported positive results for some his members in last week’s national higher education survey where for-profits matched public providers for student satisfaction. It is pleasing to see what benefits are possible in a well designed, structured market,” Mr Camm said.

Sadly the good news did not last long, with the ABC extensively reporting yet another rort in the training market. Yes it is a different education sector but all the public now hear are reports that convince them for-profits have no place in education and training.

It is going to take years before the goods news is heard.

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Danes deliver on open access 

Now that the excellent QILT university information website is up and running the team that built it will need a new challenge so here’s an idea from Denmark – a national database of open access research.

This is a sound scheme, a searchable site linking to work produced at universities and research institutes. And the open access indicator demonstrates academic and institutional attitudes to making work available. Just 4 per cent of publications from the Copenhagen Business School are freely available while 31 per cent of work from the Technical University of Denmark is. Here’s your chance to read research on the pattern for Sarah Lund’s jumper.

A case for country practice

The bid team for the Charles Sturt and La Trobe proposed Murray Darling Medical School will be very pleased indeed with unconfirmed press reports in the NSW north coast town of Port Macquarie that UNSW is looking to scale back a 2013 commitment to a full medical degree there. Not because there is a planned MDMS presence for Port Macquarie – as far as CMM knows there isn’t. But a core part of the MDMS pitch is that a regionally based university medical school will be more committed to the country and that doctors who do all of their degree in the bush are more likely to stay.

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