Clever Chris keeps quiet

Perhaps Mr Pyne could explain the virtues of silence to Murdoch’s VC

Lecture local, reach global

While other institutions sign MOOC MOUs and establishing working parties on scoping studies for committees on digital education La Trobe just pumps out product that fascinate people all over the world – and in humanities disciplines that are supposed to be dead.
The latest hit – number five on I-Times U last week – is by Nicholas Herriman, on the anthropology of witch hunts from 17th century Europe and Massachusetts to McCarthy. It follows the university’s huge hit, Rhiannon Evan’s course on the Roman world, which had 100,000 I tune subscribers. Dr Hellman’s lectures are for an upper-level undergraduate course, “tying larger anthropological theories.” The digital edition of the lectures allows him to flip the course on campus, using time with in-person students to discuss the issues. But while the remote audience is not his primary target market the lectures themselves are sufficiently strong to hold a mass audience. There is an obvious message here for anybody who thinks the humanities do not interest people, (gosh, didn’t La Trobe cut arts subjects last year?).
As of Friday the University of Melbourne was also pointing to the success of its partnership with Coursera, claiming 214,000 enrolments in its  online offerings.

Chris keeps quiet

Anybody heard anything from the minister? No, I did not think so. Every vice chancellor who ever urged the feds to get out of the way has got what they asked for. The question is what will they do with the opportunity.
Despite The Australian’s attempts to extract a comment the Minister is also keeping out of the Jake Lynch controversy. Associate Professor Lynch from the University of Sydney supports the BDS movement that advocates a boycott of Israeli organisation as a means of supporting the Palestinians. A group in Israel, which alleges he has breached the Racial Discrimination Act, is suing him in the Federal Court. According to the paper the Minister is shortly to decide whether Aspro Lynch will receive an Australian Research Council grant, which will come as a surprise to ARC chair Aidan Byrne. But Mr Pyne declined to rule out blocking all research funding, regardless of topic, for BDS supporters. Understandably so, what with universities disliking political interference in research

 Full and frank

Murdoch University Vice Chancellor Richard Higgott speaks his mind, regularly telling staff what he thinks of the National Tertiary Education Union’s ask in enterprise negotiations. This allows the comrades to present as the voice of sweet reason. After Professor Higgott’s criticism of the union’s wage claim in an all-staff bulletin last week NTEU local leaders Christina Ballantyne and Jane Pearce responded, more in sorrow than in anger, “aside from attending one session to deliver a ten minute tirade and walk out, the VC has not attended any of the bargaining sessions.” What’s more, the union is keen to negotiate: “It is also simply wrong of the VC to state that management has not received a response as to whether NTEU is prepared to continue negotiating during the current impasse. Consistently, and as recently as yesterday NTEU reiterated that the parties need to continue to negotiate and attempt to reach a settlement.” The University offered 8 per cent in three annual rises in June and negotiations are stalled but the union is in the happy position of appearing the reasonable party.

More applause please

In the foundation state they care little for federal folderols. So although the prime minister’s science awards were announced on Wednesday, the NSW scientist of the year ceremony was left to Friday night. The winner is Graeme Jameson from the University of Newcastle for his Jameson Cell, a mineral processing technology said to contribute $3bn a year to the national economy. Sounds like ample reasons for a premier award. And more media attention. The Sydney Morning Herald was happy to run Uni Newcastle’s half page advert on Saturday praising Professor Jameson but while the Newcastle Herald ran a story there was not an editorial dicky-bird in it’s stable-mate big city broadsheet. (Or in any of the other Saturday papers as far as I could tell). This is a dreadful example of the way the media ignore science – and the way members of the science communication community talk to each other rather than the press and people who read it. Professor Jameson’s research has had an enormous impact on science and economy both and he should be a hero. I wonder whether he isn’t because his research assists mining, not the media and science spruikers fave area.

One you might have missed

There is another award that merits more attention than it has got. Professor Alan Cowman from Walter and Eliza Hall is the winner of the 2013 Mahathir Science Foundation Award for his work on a malaria vaccine. The US$100,000 prize is administered by the Academy of Sciences, Malaysia.

Sessionals, be afraid

Be very afraid. The Times Higher reports a UK research fellowship on crowd sourcing. And yes the fellow has to raise his/her own salary. Stand by for suggestions that casuals be paid whatever they collect in a plastic bucket at the end of a class. Mind you, they will have to pay the dean for the bucket.

 Need to know basis 

As part of the government’s commitment to getting education up and earning last week officialdom promises to extend streamlined visa processing “to low immigration risk non- university higher education providers”, similar to the arrangement for universities. Like who? Apparently “eligible providers” will be invited to participate this week. But when will aspiring immigrants, sorry students, know which institutions qualify All the Department of Immigration and Border Protection will give away is information will be on its website “closer” to the 2014 implementation date, whatever it is. One to bookmark. It looks like part of the bureaucrats cunning plan to ensure only the smartest self-starters get to study in Australia. Have a look at the application process – straightforward it isn’t.

Hard act to follow

Griffith University is in the market for a new marketing and communications director. The job opened up when Meredith Jackson left to become Minister Pyne’s chief of staff. No word of money.

In service

I don’t think this is what advocates of education as an engine of social mobility quite have in mind. The All-China Women’s Federation reports college degrees in domestic service are the go at the Shanghai Open University. There are 500,00 domestic workers in the city and the authorities want to “standardise and regulate” the industry. Yes I know a job is better than none but you have to wonder what sort of career path this is.

Hearts and minds, but mainly minds 

The State Department has signed Coursera to provide courses outside the US, mentored by American officials and locals who have participated in US programs. It’s a great way to cultivate local opinion leaders in the making and so much cheaper than having to bribe their parents.

Read More

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