Plus outstanding branding from Australian Catholic University

In case you missed it

“Did you know we had a violent bombardment history of asteroid collisions 3bn years ago?” Curtin University asked yesterday.

One shorten step for a man

One giant leap for Labor. Bill Shorten bought into the deregulation debate yesterday, after three months post budget slog by the Greens, NTEU and not least Labor’s own indefatigable education spokesman, Senator Kim Carr. Until now it has seemed the Labor leadership has not rated deregulation as an electoral issue. Amanda Rishworth, who handles higher education in the House of Reps, was all but silent in the last parliamentary session, leaving Education Minister Christopher Pyne to make his case unchallenged in just about every question time.

But yesterday Mr Shorten started on AM and then spoke at a Melbourne rally against the Pyne package, pledging Labor will block cuts to university funding, increased student fees and the proposed HECS interest hike. That this occurred just days after PUP’s Jacqui Lambie and Clive Palmer reiterated their absolute opposition to increased student fees is undoubtedly a coincidence. I’m guessing that the cuts Mr Shorten refers to include those proposed by Labor’s Craig Emerson in April 2013, which are still held up in the Senate, where Mr Pyne will be blamed.

Shining stars

The University of Western Australia is very pleased that ratings agency QS has awarded it five stars plus. So pleased that PVC International Iain Watt will go to Prague in September to receive the ranking. According to the university, QS stars; “evaluates an individual institution’s performance against a range of important performance indicators and measures it against pre-set thresholds.”  This must involve a degree of work, which could explain why QS charges universities (as of May) a US$10 500 flat fee plus an annual $7500 for three years. For whatever reason UWA did not mention they had paid for the research and analysis the QS rating is based on, or name some of the other five star institutions. Yes, UWA  was pleased to associate its achievement with MIT and Seoul National University but did not mention ANU, Monash, UNSW and University of Queensland, all of which also earned five stars plus with QS. Closer to home, neighbouring Curtin University is just behind with a straight five stars.

 Small solace

Tony Thomas is South Australia’s scientist of the year. The University of Adelaide sub atomic physicist works on “fundamental questions” that “impact” on everything from climate change to financial markets. The award will be some small consolation for Uni Adelaide following last week’s defection of high-profile physicist Tanya “photon girl” Monro to the University of South Australia. Overall U Adelaide took four of the nine awards, with Flinders taking two and the balance going to school teacher Dr Sam Moyle, plus Dr Luigi Barone, a private sector supply-chain researcher and Dr Josh Hixon from the Australian Wine Research Institute.

The University of South Australia’s only gong went to Dr Stephanie Reuter Lang who was the people’s choice, with 5000 votes. Dr Lang researches the way the body processes drugs and whether weight and age makes a difference. Perhaps she can use her prize in field trials – some genius decided she should receive “a delicious Haigh’s chocolate hamper”.

Vote early but not often

If you are on the roll to vote in the Australasian Research Management Society elections you have until tomorrow night to do it.

Cutting out the middle person

Open access stalwart Colin Steele’s analysis of for-profit journal publishing past and present is available at the Australian National University’s open access repository. It is an excellent guide of how we got to where the publishers want us – paying them to read reports of publicly funded research they paid nothing for. As the ANU Emeritus Fellow, points out, “there is no longer any need for access to information, which is now largely accessed at the individual article level, to be wrapped, not only in a serial format, but also multi-serial subscription deals. It is also illogical that universities continue to pay up to a year in advance in serial subscriptions, allowing publishers long-term use of the money before delivery of the content. This practice is again based on a print model of costings.”

The final version of the paper will appear in the December issue of the Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association – which is published by for-profit publisher Taylor and Francis. But as ANU requires its authors to deposit penultimate drafts in the open-access repository you have to wonder what the publisher actually adds to the process.

Bullshit free brilliance

Australian Catholic University’s student recruitment site was CSS Design Award’s website of the day for August 10 and deservedly so. The site is crisp and clear, setting out the what and how of studying at ACU. But what makes it such a success is it presents existing students talking to prospective students about what ACU has done/can do for them. The videos of students talking about their study and how it relates to work and life are bang-on – an enormous improvement on the usual generic university guff featuring undergraduates who gave up running UNESCO to study at the University of Anywhere. In contrast, ACU’s video vox pops feature students with aspirations that their peers will relate to but are nonetheless inspiring for being within the reach of just about every kid game to have a go. Hence the slogan, “a life less ordinary,” which tells students they can excel in the real world they know and expect to live in. This may not appeal to people with perfect entry scores and the family finances to do double doctorates at Oxford and Harvard, people brought up to think “ordinary” is a term of abuse – but they aren’t the campaign’s audience. ACU knows who its prospective students are and talks to their wants and needs. Kids who aren’t necessarily academically brilliant know when they are being patronised or over-sold and ACU’s campaign will not move the needle on their bullshit detectors.

Students get a say

The push by University of Sydney Senate members for a meeting of convocation to discuss the Pyne package has sort of succeeded. Senate decided not to convene convocation, but to call an open meeting, so students can attend. This does not sound far removed from the consultation process VC Michael Spence has announced. The university says it hopes to announce a date for the event today.