Ian Jacobs, Caroline McMillen and Paul Wellings
The vice chancellors of UNSW, University of Newcastle and University of Wollongong established a triple entente in May. While a formal brief is overdue they said then the NUW alliance would work “to improve the connectivity, productivity and liveability of our regional cities and coastal communities.” They nominated cyber security, smart cities technology, increased higher education access for rural and remote students, and engagement with health service partners as NUW core interests. While there was no talk of a lobbying role a NUW secretariat was suggested, which would have huge potential. NUW represents the resources of entrepreneurial and investing eastern Sydney and its satellites to north and south.
Emma “everywhere” Johnston is as ambitious for STEM as she is energetic in its service, and she is very busy indeed. She moved from PVC R to dean of science at UNSW in May in November became president of Science and Technology Australia. “It’s my goal that with the leadership and support of Science Technology Australia, Australia’s governments, private sector, academic institutions and the Australian public will agree on, and pursue, an ambitious, courageous, and dogged agenda to build a new knowledge nation on the foundations of science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” she says.
There are far more medical researchers than funding to keep them all happy and allocating resources is the most contentious issue in Australian research. But while National Health and Medical Research Council chair Anne Kelso has not made the community happy there is much less complaining about the council’s new scheme announced in May and scheduled to start in 2020 than there was with the previous one. And while Professor Kelso does not have a policy solution to the endemic gender in-balance among chief investigators, she does have a practical one. Among last week’s grant announcements there was money for 34 projects specifically led by women.
This year was business as usual for the executive director of the Innovative Research Universities group. He was one of the experts working on the ARC’s new assessment metrics and he made a case against the government’s budget proposals on the numbers not the politics. Mr King is a higher education policy veteran who does not say much publicly, but when he does experts take notes.
Professor Krause made some big calls this year. In May, she told the Fair Work Commission that retrenchments at Victoria University had to proceed because the university expected a $30m “shortfall”– an admission no executive would enjoy. She also chaired the expert group which recommended new undergraduate entry standards for all universities. These emphasise transparency and fairness and were universally praised – but how could they not be? Some institutions gamed the previous ad hockery to suit their own interests. However, in less policy-literate hands than Professor Krause, insiders with interests to protect could have stalled the new standards into irrelevance.
There is no embarrassment with riches at Swinburne University, which earned$118m from selling a share of its online teaching operation to SEEK. VC Linda Kristjanson is spending on people and kit as the university expands its research effort and ups its teaching resources. According to DVC R Alexsandar Subic, Swinburne will rate in the global 100 for all “key disciplines in focus areas” by 2020. And Professor Kristjanson says, “we are now looking to grow our provision of new educational technologies to all students, with an emphasis placed on investment in transforming learning for all of our students.”