Plibersek sets out Labor’s agenda: skills and public benefit research



But there was no mention of money in her big-speech at Universities Australia

ANU’s new philanthropy plan:Let front-line staff make great first impressions

 plus UNSW plan for new teaching-only positions takes a big hit

 Medical research chief to set out the future for women researchers 

and John Halsey from Flinders to lead inquiry into regional kids’ engagement with education 

But what’s inside?

“The government’s Innovation Landing Pad in Israel is the size of a cupboard! (Senate) Estimates revealed that no department officers have even visited the site”, Labor’s research spokesman Kim Carr, via Twitter yesterday. Unless it’s a tardis – who knows what those high-tech Israelis are up to.

Plibersek’s big picture: the case for skills and public benefit research

Labor education shadow minister Tanya Plibersek says government, universities and TAFE must cooperate to upskill the economy lest jobs in a changing economy are “a lower quality than the ones they have replaced.”

“We have to face the facts. The construction phase of the mining boom is over and our economy is in transition. Growth is slow. Wages are low. Underemployment is high. Parts of Australia are suffering more than others and policy-makers have a responsibility to include all Australians in our plans for future prosperity” she told the Universities Australia conference yesterday.

“After 25 years of record growth – are we up for this challenge? Can we transition from the resources boom to a knowledge-based, services economy? To do this successfully, we will need: continuous upgrading of skills for the changing nature of work, and to boost our nation’s research outcomes to capture greater value of our creativity and innovation.”

Ms Plibersek emphasised the way people will enter education and training throughout their careers and how “our system should become more flexible in order to allow students to build their knowledge and skills-base through a greater mix of educational offerings that fit the needs of their careers.”

To accomplish this requires “decent, high-quality skills delivered at vocational and higher education levels and she went on to warn about “the sustained stress and anxiety about their future,” colleagues in TAFE are undergoing.

She also warned the UA audience that while job generating research needs “to be better” Australia also needs more public benefit research. “There is a tendency to see research value in dollar terms of intellectual property or patents lodged. That’s important, but the value of research is much greater than that. Research that develops a less intrusive, less costly way to deliver a medical intervention won’t make money for a drug company, but it can be better for patients and better for the health budget.”

But while “Labor strongly opposesabolition of the Education Investment Fund she did not mention if the party would restore it in government.

Perfect pitch

Massey University is hosting a conference on rugby union past, present and future. CMM is sure its new VC, the music-theatre loving Jan Thomas recently joined from the University of Southern Queensland will love it, what with the sport having such a great tradition of songs.

The future for women in medical research

When Anne Kelso speaks on “women in medical research: designing the future today” at the Florey Institute in Parkville  next Friday people will listen very closely indeed. Because this is a topic the chair of the National Health and Medical Research Council is uniquely empowered to do something about. The existing research grant system makes it hard for women who take time out of the lab to meet family responsibilities to catch-up on grant allocation. The NHMRC is looking at the overall system, with advice expected next month (CMM February 20.)

The gift of listening

The Australian National University is expanding staff engagement with fundraising. Deputy Vice Chancellor Marnie Hughes Warrington says 100 members of the student marketing recruitment, admissions, accommodation, administration, services and graduation services teams in her portfolio will become part of building the university’s giving culture.

“The intent is not to train staff to ask for money. They will not be an army of faux fundraisers. Far from it. It is simply a statement of belief in their part in initiating and being part of a campus-wide giving culture, and an affirmation of the value of thinking about that culture both as something here and now, and as part of who we are far into the future,” she writes in an essay published this morning. Professor Hughes Warrington will also discuss her plans at Canberra conference this morning.

The culture she is keen to create is about listening more; “this is not to suggest that those who might give to universities do not respect us for our innovation, our insight and our persistence. But it is a hard lesson to learn that people will not be generous with us if we are not generous to them. And it is as simple as that. If I meet a potential donor with the expectation that I will do the talking, that I am the superstar, and that they want the same thing as me, then I am bound to be disappointed.”

This is why she intends to involve frontline staff; “The building of giving culture therefore begins at the point in which people first give us their names. For most of us, that first point of contact comes when a student registers interest to study with us. … “

A one-time ANU student like Graham Tuckwell, who with his wife Louise, whose gifts to the university are valued at $200m.

“TAFE”, its Labor for “training”

Before she addressed Universities Australia yesterday Tanya Plibersek was on ABC Radio’s AM, where she talked up TAFE.

“I think a lot of universities have doubts about the quality of a TAFE educationTAFE has been a really central foundational part of the Australian education system for a long time. It’s come under a great deal of pressure over recent years. Over the last decade we’ve seen about a four per cent decline in real terms in TAFE funding. And we’ve seen, around the states, different states, have very substantially put up TAFE fees, really shrunk the opportunities, the variety of courses at TAFE. But I think really looking at the TAFE system, making sure that it’s a top-quality education provider, and then saying to universities, your students will need some academic skills, they’ll need, perhaps, to work in a laboratory in the university to develop their scientific skills, but they’ll need some technical skills too, and there are times when TAFE is the best place to get those technical skills.”

This is in-line with Labor leader Bill Shorten’s National Press Club speech where he emphasised the role of TAFE in the party’s post-school education and training thinking. TAFE can be transformative for people doing it hard. … There should be no futile competition between TAFE and universities. … Not everybody wants to go to university” he said, ( CMM February 1).

This could be good news for the government. Labor talking up training might mean an easier run for the government if it reduces university funding and hikes student course costs in the budget. There were certainly no signs in Mr Shorten or Ms Plibersek’s speeches that they plan to spend-up on higher education. But the way they both used TAFE as a synonym for training, is very bad for private sector providers, already discriminated against in the new student loan system in the aftermath of the VET FEE HELP debacle.

Encouraging country kids to stay in education

Education Minister Simon Birmingham and Deputy PM and National Party Leader Barnaby Joyce have announced an inquiry into remote and regional education at school and post compulsory levels.  A third of regional and remote students do not complete school and they account for just 18 per cent of the undergraduate population compared to 26 per cent of the overall population. “We must drive and better set policy to encourage ambitions among our country students,” Senator Birmingham says.

Flinders U emeritus professor John Halsey will conduct the review, which is due to report by the end of the year. La Trobe University, which has four country campuses across Victoria was quick to applaud the initiative last night.

UNSW plan for teaching-only academics takes a hit

UNSW management is encouraging academic staff to contemplate teaching-only rolesCMM February17). But the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union counsels caution. According to the union, management wants the split to be 80 per cent teaching and 20 per cent service, with only research related to pedagogy permitted so that there are enough people to teach the expanded summer classes. “We have never been aware of a teaching allocation of 80 per cent being genuinely agreed to by academic staff in a workplace unit, and cannot see how management’s proposal would ensure that early career academics would have the opportunity to establish a research profile,” the union warns.

The university also copped a loss this week, when the Fair Work Commission decided it cannot recruit new teaching-focused academic staff. The NTEU challenged the university on this and the FWC has decided that management can advertise roles for teaching focussed academics, engage teaching focussed academics for a defined period and allocate teaching focussed duties to academic staff for a defined period but it can only do any of these things with existing staff, who agree to take on a teaching-only role.

HEADS

winners at work this week

The Australasian Research Management Society is keen to get into the policy fray in ANZ and Singapore, establishing an advocacy comms panel whose members have “specialist knowledge and expertise”. They are Sarah Bascomb, UniTas, David Parrish, RMIT, Tim Payne UniSydney and Paul Wong from consultants ANDS/Squarcle.

Melissa Brown is the new executive dean of the University of Queensland’s science faculty. She moves up from associate dean research and deputy executive dean at the university’s medical faculty.

Hugh Durrant-Whyte, ex CEO of NICTA and now back at the University of Sydney is Engineers Australia’s M A Sargent medallist. The award is for achievements in electrical engineering.

UNSW has hired Ann Mossop to run its “thought leadership” speakers programme. She joins from the Sydney Opera House, where she was head of talks and ideas.

Glen Coleman is moving from the University of Queensland, where he is head of the school of veterinary science, to the University of Southern Queensland where he will be executive dean of health, engineering and sciences.

Tonianne Dwyer is the new deputy chancellor of the University of Queensland. She replaces Dr Jane Wilson who stood down after a decade in November.

Christopher Riley is the new PVC International at Australian Catholic University. He steps up from Executive Director I.

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