A plague on your faculties

“Students experience Black Death,” UWA announces a workshop for trainee teachers at the university’s Centre for the History of Emotions. Apparently, WA schools run a Year Eight depth study of the great plague of the 14th century. Sounds like fun.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning David Myton looks at how new players are busy disrupting the higher education landscape.

UniSydney sets a blockchain snake pace

The University of Sydney claims its blockchain technology is faster than Visa’s transaction processing system. The university says its Red Belly Blockchain can process 660 000 transactions per second on 300 machines in one data centre, compared to Visa’s 56 000 transactions per second and Bitcoin’s seven (that’s seven with no noughts).

Project chief Vincent Gramoli says the RBBC works when using machines on different continents, which makes it unique. The next step is to make it available “to all Internet users.”  CMM asked what this meant and was told by a university spokesperson that “the researchers are exploring different options at the moment.” Good-oh, but the big question remains will the measure of blockchain processing speeds now be the snake?

Glyn Davis’s productive chat with PC chair (just not about uni performance)

Just as the community of wonks was reading the Productivity Commission’s not-especially impressed commentary on universities teaching performance on Tuesday morning PC chair Peter Harris was recording an interview with University of Melbourne VC Glyn Davis for his uni’s Policy Shop podcast.

And a very informed discussion it is too, although a frank exchange on university performance between the pair is sadly absent. Maybe they agreed to differ, or maybe Professor Davis had not got to the bit where the PC buckets universities for ordinary teaching performance when they spoke.

Tech-whiz mayor

Curtin University academic Jemma Green is acting lord mayor of Perth. When not overseeing the city Dr Green researches the blockchain and disruptive technology.

Liberal Birmingham and Labor Plibersek: what they say is what unis will get

Tanya Plibersek’s continues her full-disclosure policy, with yet another statement that Labor wants a bigger role for TAFE, (which she often uses as a synonym for VET). Yesterday she told Fran Kelly on RN, “We want about 40 per cent of Australians to have a bachelor degree or equivalent, but we need to also look at the objectives we have for other types of post-secondary school qualifications. TAFE has gone backwards in funding by 4 per cent while university funding has increased by 45 per cent. The next big piece of reform is making sure that TAFE is not the poor cousin of the university sector.” Unless this means more money for both HE growth will take a hit. Nobody in HE lobbyland will ever be able to say they were not warned.

Simon Birmingham is also clear about what he will do without the Senate numbers to pass his HE funding package. “Given the rate of spending growth in universities over the last few years and its contribution to the budget deficit to date, it is entirely reasonable to continue to expect that universities make some contribution to budget repair with a slightly lower rate of growth in their funding,” he said yesterday. If a deal is not done in a month well, MYEFO is coming.

Really applied finance at ANU

ANU finance students are running a for-credit (as in course and presumably cash) investment fund. They have $590 000 in capital, thanks to contributions from graduates, academics and the university. Great inclusion on a CV.

No more home among the gum trees at Macquarie U

Macquarie University staff who love their campus home among the gum trees will be disappointed, with lemon scented gums on the central courtyard for the chop. Some 120 trees were planted there in July 1968 and learned readers tell CMM that they are much-loved.

But not for long. The university tells CMM the central courtyard was closed when storms were predicted (but did not arrive) the other weekend. However “the threat of falling branches remains and the area will be closed until further notice. The university’s top priority is always the duty of care we have to our staff, students and visitors on campus.”

So “later this year” work on the central courtyard will begin. “ We are still finalising plans and will share details about the project including removal of trees when the plans are finalised. Green spaces will continue to be a strong feature of our campus,” a university representative says. Just not lemon scented spaces in the founding courtyard.

New Vet in Chief

The University of Sydney has a new dean of veterinary science. Frazer Allan will take over in February. He is now DVC Engagement at Victoria University of Wellington.

Griffith U jobs to go

Griffith University wants to restructure its examination and timetabling functions, which will require fewer but higher skilled and more flexible staff. The university says senior staff positions will stay with seven new HEW Six positions created. However, 16 HEW Four and HEW Five jobs are “surplus to requirements.” But not to worry, “all efforts will be made to ensure that staff concerns are given reasonable and fair consideration during the consultation and implementation process.”

UnisAus says nursing students from non-English speaking backgrounds get the language teaching they need

The Nurse and Midwife Accreditation Council is reviewing its standards and Universities Australia has weighed in on whether a specific level of English is necessary to start a registered nursing course.  The council’s discussion paper points to research suggesting that students whose English is not good enough to practise at the start of a course do not necessarily get up to language speed over the length of their study. However, UnisAus says findings from small studies with varying methodologies “need to be treated with caution” and “the current registered nurse accreditation standards also make adequate provision for English language proficiency.”

Universities Australia acknowledges the apparent logic behind aligning English language requirements for commencing study with those for registration however believes there is currently inconclusive evidence to support this as an accreditation requirement.”

Monash distinguished fellowships

Monash U has named its 2017 alumni distinguished fellows:

Greg Baxter, Chief Digital Officer, MetLife

Richard Bolt, Victorian public servant

Anna Burke, former MP and speaker of the House of Representatives

Graham Cunningham, Victorian government financial adviser

Dale Fisher, chief executive, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

Dimitra Manis, HR chief, Revlon

Elaine Rodrigo, chief strategist, Danone

Tang Kim Chuen, president satellite systems, Singapore Technologies Electronics Limited

Greg Vines deputy DG  International Labour Organisation

Former federal minister Bruce Billson and Monash U economist John Nieuwenhuysen were made honorary fellows