Ratings to revel in: big wins for Australian universities

From old achievers to super starters – the unis rocketing up the rankings

plus Murdoch and union have their day in court

and 11 per cent growth in international education numbers

What a relief

“A University of Queensland expert has confirmed a zombie virus is scientifically and physiologically impossible,” UoQ report yesterday.

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High Times for Aus unis

The big Australian winners in the Times Higher university rankings, released this morning, are Bond U, the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australian Catholic University and Victoria U – all of which break into the ranking of the world’s top 800 institutions. ACU is in the 601-800 band, with Bond and USC in the 501-600 group. Victoria U enters well-up the list in the 351-400 group.

The pinnacle performers remain the same this year with the University of Melbourne the alpha Australian and 33rd in the world, the same as last year. It is followed by the ANU, up five places to 47, the University of Queensland, unchanged at equal 60th with the University of Sydney, which is down four. Monash is down one on last year, to 73rd,, ahead of UNSW, at equal 78, a four pace lift. The remaining members of the Group of Eight are outside the global top 100 – UWA, down 16 to 125 and Uni Adelaide up 7 to 142.

But there is less a gap than a chasm between Uni Adelaide and all the others. The University of Newcastle and QUT both improve a band, from 251-300 to 201-250 this year. Other improvers include Deakin and Macquarie U both moving up from 301-350 to 251-300, and the University of South Australia rising from 351-400 to 251-300. The University of Canberra and CQU both rise from the 501-600 group to the 401-500.

In contrast, U Tas tumbles from the 251-300 band to 301-350 and Flinders U falls from 251-300 to 351-400.

Overall, Australia has 35 universities in the world top 800, making it the number five nation, which Education Minister Simon Birmingham says completes “a hat trick of strong results,” following strong showings in the Academic Ranking of World Universities and the QS World Ranking. However he warned the THE table, “highlights the increasing competitiveness of universities in our region and the need for Australia to continue to foster innovation and excellence in order to continue delivering world-class education for local students and continue being an attractive destination for international students.”

Group of Eight CEO Vicki Thomson also urged awareness of the emerging Asian challenge; “make no mistake, higher education is a highly competitive global market and becoming more so with the rise of Asia in the sector.”

There are 52 Chinese and 69 Japanese universities in the ranking. Overall the top THE list is much the same as last year, with the top 20 mainly coming from the US, followed by the UK, with one European inclusion, ETH Zurich, in ninth place.

International advice

The government has expanded the board of Innovation and Science Australia with two international appointments, GE executive Elizabeth Comstock and Israeli innovation author Saul Singer. The board is chaired by Bill Ferris with Chief Scientist Alan Finkel deputy chair (CMM March 16).

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Federal Court says no to Murdoch U

The Federal Court has dismissed Murdoch University’s request for a ruling preventing the National Tertiary Education making a range of critical comments on management’s position on enterprise bargaining. The union had already indicated it would not continue to make statements the university objected to, although the NTEU did not accept they were false or misleading. Justice John Gilmore denied the university’s request “on the balance of convenience.”

“There is no barrier to the university communicating to its staff its position concerning the negotiations towards an enterprise agreement. This can be done across multiple platforms. Its ability to do so is a strong counter to what it asserts to be the false and misleading representations already made. … The university’s concerns that its staff has been poisoned against it, which might adversely affect it in the result of a protected action ballot likely to take place later this month, is more imagined than real.”

CMM sought, but has not received, comment from the university. However a close observer of the enterprise bargaining battle between the NTEU and the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association, which the Murdoch dispute is part of, suggested last night that the case made clear that the university is not a soft target and that there is a long way to go in enterprise bargaining there, and in negotiations that it sets a precedent for.

Quiet Craven

The Pope has appointed Australian Catholic University VC Greg Craven to the Vatican body that oversees Catholic education around the world. A body where the erudite, acerbic, entertaining Professor Craven will not be the layer down of the law – this CMM would pay money to see.

Strong growth in international ed

The number of international students in Australia is growing strongly, up 11 per cent on the same time last year, the start of second semester. Some 493 600 internationals have already studied in the country this year. This is just 4000 students short of the 2015 year end figure. There is growth across the board, with undergraduate enrolments up 11 per cent and the number of school students up 12 per cent but the big increase is in VET Certificate Three where numbers grew by 20 per cent.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham welcomed the growth; “as well as skilling people from all over the world and building Australia’s reputation abroad, international education provides 130,000 jobs and also represents income for our accommodation, hospitality and services sectors.”  He said the government’s new streamlined student visa system ensures, “we can allow numbers of international students to grow while protecting the integrity of both our education and immigration systems.”

Social media worth reading

Social media platform provider Hootsuite says Australian higher education providers are behind world standard in using social media to communicate with their audiences and provides a bunch of useful information on what is being done, not done and what could be done better. CMM’s only suggestion is to have content which is well written and interesting, but as close observers of higher education social media recognise, this is easier said than done.

Admirable restraint

James Cook U researchers have found “coral reef fish get stressed and lose weight if they are separated from each other, according to new research about the Great Barrier Reef.” And no, there is not a mention of Nemo or Dory in the media statement!

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Appointment in the pipeline

David Norman (ex Royal Dutch Shell) is the new head of the Energy Pipelines CRC. He replaces Professor Valerie Linton who will now consult to the centre.

Protesting just in case

Flinders U staff are warning against budget reductions in the School of Health Sciences before any are announced. But will they come? A spokeswoman for the school says “the school’s dean has met with staff to discuss the budget, and made clear there are no plans to cut courses in Health Sciences. The faculty is supporting the school to make constructive changes to the budget with assistance from the university.”

No pressure

Western Sydney University has launched its long-expected voluntary early retirement scheme (CMM September 1). But while WSU wants staff to go, it is being careful not to appear to pressure anybody. Yesterday HR head Susan Hudson was warning that “early retirement is a significant life decision and staff are encouraged to consider all the information provided.”

First 50

In a remarkable coincidence the QS rating agency has released a new ranking; a list of the best 50 universities in the world founded less than half a century ago. It’s an obviously arbitrary assessment, it’s over and out for any that are 51 but it gives some which do not rate on the THE something to brag about.

This year UTS again leads the locals at 8th in the world, up six spots from last year. It is followed by Uni Wollongong at 12 (17th in 2015), RMIT at 16 (21st), QUT at 18 (20th), UniSA at 24 (25th), Curtin at 27 (down from 23rd, but still up 14 on 2014), Griffith at 34 (37th). James Cook at 36th has done well being in the 51-60 band last year, Deakin is at 39 (36th) and La Trobe at 48th (it was in the 51-60 band last time).

Demonstrating how arbitrary the list is two unis you might expect to see, Flinders and Newcastle are out, being a couple of years on the wrong side of 50.

This is a good national result, with Australia having twice the entries as the number two nation, Spain. It’s due to improved citation rates – which, as analyses by the learned Kylie Colvin from the Higher Education Consulting Group demonstrate, also drove this year’s Aus improvement in the data-heavy Academic Ranking of World Universities.

It’s also a good result for the Australian Technology Network with all members making the cut.

Beyond the land girt by sea, the top ten are from all over, with an emphasis on Asia. Singapore’s Nanyang Technological U is number one, with three Hong Kong institutions and two from Korea in the top ten. The highest-ranking European uni is the Netherland’s Maastricht U (at seven). No US or Canadian institutions made the top ten.

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