Senators set to dissect Pyne plan

Plus a new ad for the University of Anywhere

Top spin

Murdoch has an opportunity to make a positive difference in the region in a different way than it previously has.” Vice Chancellor Richard Higgott explains ending education courses at the Rockingham campus from September 2015.

What the Senate will allow

Kim Carr declared deregulation was deceased last night. “No matter how much Mr Pyne goes on about his ability to persuade the cross-bench senators to support his plan, the fact is it is fatally flawed and needs to be ditched sooner rather than later,” Labor’s education spokesman said. Senator Carr was responding to Matthew Knott’s Sunday story in Fairfax papers which quoted Senator Jacqui Lambie saying fee deregulation will not occur on PUPs watch and leader Clive Palmer adding that party policy is university education should be free. While Senator Lambie looks locked in I’m guessing this will not stop Education Minister Chris Pyne. PUP would not be the first to accept a deal which is not party policy. Yesterday Mr Pyne again made it clear that he would accept change to pass his package, for as long as the Senate left anything worth passing. The political question is now less what the minister will give senators than what they will allow him. This morning Treasurer Joe Hockey told ABC radio’s AM said “we are dealing with people who are entirely inconsistent,” which is perhaps not the best way of winning senators over to the cause of deregulation.

Panel-beating HE into shape

The Higher Education Standards Panel has released its 12th communiqué reporting on responses to the April draft framework. This is immensely complex stuff, which will define what HE providers are required to do and so the system is very focused on the detail. Overall it appears that progress is being made with TEQSA, which will have to assess institutions against the standards, raising most of the substantive issues. “The question of how 100 plus individual statements are weighted to produce particular decisions has hung over TEQSA from the beginning. The panel in indicating areas of particular import for particular decisions – if included in the final standards – is a step towards resolving the problem.  It cannot be said to hinder TEQSA carrying out its role – since it is there to assess against the standards, including any guidance included within them,” says Innovative Research Universities director Conor King. He adds that new institutions should not call themselves universities but create their own brands, “tough at first but if useful they will do it.” So what next? “The panel has done well to this point. The process needs now to finish,” Mr King adds

A win for the min

After the misery of the Ukraine air disaster finally Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has good news to announce. Ms Bishop says all ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have signed on to the New Colombo Plan, participating from next year.

Eureka achievers

The Eureka Prize short list is out, not that the prize managers will welcome attention – for whatever reason they appear to abhor media interest from outside the science communication club.

The standout award is the science leadership prize, which all three short-listed scientists deserve to win. Hugh Durrant-Whyte from National ICT Australia qualifies not least for still standing. NICTA has had a terrible 12 months – even before the election the conservatives committed to cuts and reduced funding in Victoria led to it reducing research there. Throughout it all Professor Durrant-Whyte stayed focused, always on-message on what NICTA could accomplish.

I became a fan of Professor Michelle Simmons from the University of New South Wales, a decade back when she took time she manifestly could not spare to explain to me, very slowly, what quantum computing is and what it might accomplish. “I was brought up to do things that are really hard. The things that are really beyond you are the one’s that are interesting,” she told me then. As a leadership message it is hard to beat.

Bioinformatician Professor Terence Speed from Walter and Eliza Hall is the third candidate. For 45 years he has worked on ways to make life saving sense of vast amounts of medical data to solve complex biological problems. Professor Speed won the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science last year, which certainly stakes his claim to leading by example.

Source please

The University of Wollongong has assembled a student focused and friendly open-day website and app. But perhaps they could have sourced the claim that; “employers love UoW students. So much they ranked us in the top 100 universities in the world based on our quality grads.”

Shared principles

The NSW branch of the National Tertiary Education Union has UniSuper in its sights over the fund owning shares in Transfield, which is involved in immigration offshore detention facilities. There was a fuss in February with activists attacking UniSuper over investments in fossil fuel companies, but union interest is much more serious. Not least for NTEU General Secretary Grahame McCulloch, who is a member of the fund’s board. The union acknowledges he is bound to act in members’ financial interests but suggest he could be in a position to call for selling out of Transfield if “a sufficient number” of UniSuper members threaten take their business elsewhere if the fund holds onto Transfield shares. “It is possible, for example, to make arguments that frame human rights abuse and investment in the mandatory detention industry as a financial risk to fund members that can provide the necessary space for superannuation fund directors to advocate divestment,” the union argues. The NTEU has convened a strategy meeting at UTS on Thursday night.

Eureka starters

It’s the same old, same old shortlist spread in the Eurekas. People from the University of New South Wales are involved in seven nominations, followed by the University of Melbourne in five and the University of Sydney in three. After that it is just ones and twos. All up there are eleven universities with nominees out of a total 21 organisations. And as usual, the private sector is scarce among sponsors, with 3M and New Scientist supporting prizes, with public agencies supporting the other 13.

Moves in Melbourne

Paul Duldig only joined the University of Melbourne from Uni Adelaide in June but the Lord High Everything Else is making his presence felt. A raft of staff moves was announced on Friday as part of the plan for an infrastructure services portfolio and operating model. It was all IT heavy, apart from Deryn Vahl-Meyer who becomes Interim Director External Relations. Ms Vahl-Meyer steps up from the same role at the Faculty of Science.

There are also staff changes at neighbouring RMIT, which is advertising for an IT executive director, a business development director and an ED for marketing. Whoever gets that job will take over a very recently reorganised portfolio, with a new structure in place as of today under acting ED Paul Noonan. I wonder what incoming vice chancellor Martin Bean will make of all this movement when he arrives in February.

Ignoring ANU

ANU historian Nicholas Brown is the author of the new A History of Canberra, which “shows Canberra as not just a city of public servants, but one of multiple communities, innovators, and a remarkably progressive and creative population.” Good-oh, but why did the learned Dr Brown (an ANU man for both undergraduate and doctoral degrees) publish with Cambridge University Press when the ANU’s very progressive publishing outfit would have produced a likely cheaper print – on –demand edition and let creative Canberrans read it on-line without charge.

 University of Anywhere

Last year Griffith University launched a brand campaign which I thought was pretty good – the video defined the university identity and the website was named Australian education site of the year by the Digital Customer Experience Index. But somebody must not have like it because the university has a new campaign – launching for Open Day yesterday. It’s straightforward stuff, based around achieving alumni in a TVC explaining, “when you know more, you can do more.” It looks like standard work from agency Brown Beige & Cardigan and does a solid job in promoting the benefits of higher education in general. But not specifically at Griffith, which is a problem, what with Griffith paying for it. The problem is that after decades of Australian universities being required by Canberra to do the same things they are all pretty similar. And in this case it shows.

On-line league

The new edition of the Spanish Research Council’s Webometrics university ranking is out, assessing all, it claims, 22 000 universities in the world. This is done by measuring on-line presence and performance; defined as impact (links to webpages), presence (number of pages) openness (access to rich files) and excellence (10 per cent most cited papers per scientific field). This can provide hours of fun for metricians who delight in doctrinal disputes over inputs and outcomes but for everybody else the results are much the same as other rankings. Harvard (what a surprise) is the world’s number one, followed by, MIT, Stanford, Cornell and the University of Michigan. In fact (who would have thought) the US accounts for 17 of the top 20 (Toronto, Oxford and Cambridge are the other three). Australia only has three institutions in the top 100 (Uni Melbourne at 82, UNSW at 96 and UoQ at 98), although ANU just misses out at 101.

The regional rating is not much use, with Australia included in “Oceania” not Asia But in terms of local competition, the top 10 consists of seven of the great eight – with Auckland, Deakin and Massey the other three. The University of Sydney is the eighth of the eight, coming in at 11.

Not that this matters all that much in terms of trends because the source material means the rankings are very, very volatile – the University of Melbourne was 107th last year.

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